Great Rock Bible
Gary Brooker iTunes Tracks

Gary Brooker

Singer-songwriter/pianist and founder of 60s/70s prog-pop outfit, PROCOL HARUM (and its embryonic supply team, The Paramounts), GARY BROOKER has also released a handful of solo sets, as well as being part of the ERIC CLAPTON band, WILLIE AND THE POOR BOYS and the connective BILL WYMAN’s RHYTHM KINGS.
Born 29th May 1945, Hackney, London, Gary was raised in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, where he learned to play trombone, cornet and piano. Together with long-time compadre and lyricist, Keith Reid, they fashioned PROCOL HARUM, introducing a psychedelic-cum-prog-rock cut, `A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, to an unsuspecting public in the summer of 1967. For the next decade, the ever-revolving-door outfit released a raft of major-selling albums, while re-formations in the early 90s and 00s, caught the attention of their loyal fanbase, if not the public itself.
In between times, GARY BROOKER, MBE (honoured so for his charitable services), issued three studio LPs, the first coming in the shape of NO MORE FEAR OF FLYING (1979) {*6}. PETE SINFIELD was on hand to add lyrical contributions (Reid had set up his own self management team, Full House, in the meantime); his words had functioned nicely for PROCOL HARUM’s contemporaries KING CRIMSON and P.F.M. While the song `Say It Ain’t So, Joe’ was better known to fans of ROGER DALTREY and MURRAY HEAD, Gary’s version was touching and evocative; check out also: MICKEY JUPP’s `Pilot’ and other outsider track, `Savannah’, a pop flop.
Featuring a stellar cast of guest figures such as his near-neighbour ERIC CLAPTON, GEORGE HARRISON, PHIL COLLINS, ALBERT LEE, Mel Collins, Tim Renwick and Chris Stainton, LEAD ME TO THE WATER (1982) {*6}, was equally introspective; but once again accompanying 45s (`Homelovin’’ and `The Cycle’) failed to register chart-wise.
Prior to jetting off all over the world as a member of ERIC CLAPTON’s band, BROOKER left behind probably his best set, ECHOES IN THE NIGHT (1985) {*7}. As close a PROCOL HARUM reunion as one could imagine, the addition of Keith Reid, organist Matthew Fisher and drummer B.J. Wilson (plus the National Philharmonic Orchestra), produced an effortless sheen of class; `Ghost Train’, `Mr. Blue Day’ and `Saw The Fire’, coming in for the most praise. The ALAN PARSONS PROJECT would duly invite Gary on to the “Stereotomy” album that same year.
As a subsequent member of RINGO STARR’s All Starr Band, Gary was in good company, but it was inevitable that PROCOL HARUM would him draw him back. From “The Prodigal Son” (1991) to “The Well’s On Fire” (2003) and a handful of concert sets, the combo continued to play out for PROCOL acolytes everywhere. Piecing together The GARY BROOKER ensemble (consisting of The PRETENDERS’ Robbie McIntosh and BIG COUNTRY’s Mark Brzezicki), the classically-infused WITHIN OUR HOUSE (1997) {*6} – recorded live at St. Mary and All Saints Church – was worthy of bigger distribution and promotion. Not exactly a rock or pop album, BROOKER bring backs to life his perennial, `A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ and other PH beauts `A Salty Dog’, `Nothing But The Truth’ and `The Long Goodbye’.
Since then, he’s appeared in the Evita movie musical (singing `Rainbow Tour’ alongside Antonio Banderos and Peter Polycarpou) and for the GEORGE HARRISON tribute concert. A supporter of the odd charity, BROOKER contributed songs in aid of the Tsunani appeal in 2005, with Messrs ANDY FAIRWEATHER-LOW and Paul Jones (formerly of MANFRED MANN). A British Invasion revival tour was set to go ahead for a re-formed PROCOL HARUM, when Gary had to pull out after suffering from a fractured skull injury in May 2012. One wishes him well and hopes for a further PROCOL HARUM reunion/album in the new year.
© MCS Oct2012

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