Gary Brooker


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1979-2022)

- Gary Brooker (RIP 2022) -- vocals, keyboard

 

  supporting musicians (1979)

- B.J. Cole -- pedals steel guitar

- Stephanie De-Sykes -- backing vocals

- Gonzales -- horns

- Bruce Lynch -- bass

- Dave Mattacks -- drums, percussion

- RIchard Myhill - backing vocals

- Dave Reilly -- backing vocals

- Tim Renwick -- guitar

- Chris Smith -- harmonica

- Clare Torry - backing vocals

 

  supporting musicians (1982)

- Phil Aaberg -- keyboards

- Eric Clapton -- guitar

- Mel Collins -- sax

- Phil Collins -- drums

- George Harrison -- guitar

- Steve Holly -- drums

- Albert Lee - guitar

- Peter Maunu -- guitar

- Dave Markee -- bass

- Scott Matthews -- drums

- Kent Middleton -- percussion

- Tim Renwick -- guitar

- Chris Solberg -- bass

- Henry Spinetti -- drums

- Chris Stainton -- keyboards

 

  supporting musicians (1985)- Robert Ahwai -- gitar

- Dave Bronze -- bass

- Franky Brooker -- backing vocals

- Ronnie Carryl -- backing vocals

- Eric Clapton -- guitar

- Ray Cooper -- percussion

- Matthew Fisher -- keyboards

- Rory Gallagher -- guitar

- John Giblin -- drums

- Matt Lettley -- drums

- Linda Page -- backing vocals

- Phil Palmer -- guitar

- Sola Phillips -- backing vocals

- Tim Renwick -- guitar

- Jena Rich -- backing vocals

- Jannette Sewell -- backing vocals

- Henry Spinetti -- drums

- Jamie Talbot -- sax

- B.J. Wilson -- drums

 

 

- The Gary Brooker Ensemble

- George's Band

- Liquor John Death

- Man Doki Soulmates

- No Stiletto Shoes

- The Paramounts

Procol Harum

- Rockestra

- Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:   No More Fear of Flying

Company: Chrysalis

Catalog: CHR 1224
Year:
 1979

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $20.00

 

In the wake of Gary Brooker's February, 2022 passing I decided I would go back and revisit the first album I reviewed on-line.  1979's "No More Fear of Flying" is also an album I haven't thought about, or listened to in decades - though I still own a copy. 

 

Procol Harum's final studio set "Something Magic" came and went in 1977.   Two years later singer/keyboard player Gary Brooker stepped out into a solo career.  Produced by George Martin, 1979's "No More Fear of Flying" wasn't a major change in musical direction.  As to be expected, the spotlight was clearly on Brooker's voice which remained one of rock's most recognizable vehicles.  It certainly didn't appeal to everyone, but within his narrow performance band, Brooker's dry, raspy voice remained fascinating.  Once you've heard it (in my case as a child, hearing 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' on the radio), it is difficult to forget.  Musically the album offered up a mixture of Brooker originals and covers, including a pair of Mickey Jupp tunes.  Brooker had previously produced parts of Jupp's 1978 album "Juppanese"  Collaborating with King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield, the six Brooker originals were more pop and rock oriented than his Procol Harum catalog, but his voice meant the entire album retained a distinctive Procol-esque feel.  As a solo debut the set wasn't bad.  Nothing here was awe-inspiring, but the ten tracks were consistently enjoyable and it was nice to hear Brooker trying to stretch his boundaries a little.  'Let Me In', Angelina' and 'wiitchboard Susan' all demonstrated he could handle more conventional, radio-oriented material.

 

"No More Fear of Flying" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Savannah   (Matthew Moore - Tom Kosta) - 3:32    rating: **** stars

One of the album's most biggest surprises came in the form of Brooker's choices in outside material - among the most interesting was the opener - Matthew Moore's 'Savannah.'  I can't say I liked the cover more than the Moore original.  The arrangement really wasn't much different, but the combination of Brooker's instantly recognizable voice and Tim Renwick's crisp lead guitar made this one of the album's should've-been-a-hits.  Chrysalis actually tapped it as a single:

- 1979's 'Savannah' b/w 'S.S. Blues' (Chrysalis catalog number CHS 2336)

2.) Pilot   (Mickey Jupp) - 4:31   rating: **** stars

Few singers can get at heartbreak better than Brooker - his dry, choking voice is ideal for the genre.  Coupled with a pretty, keyboard-powered melody, his cover of Mickey Jupp's 'Pilot' was an album highlight.

3.) (No More) Fear Of Flying    (Gary Brooker - Keith Reid) - 5:22   rating: **** stars

Mere speculation on my part, but as the only track to feature a writing collaboration with Keith Reid, the title track may have been a leftover from the Procol Harum vaults.  Skitterish, I'll admit It took a couple of spins for the song to reveal its charms to my ears.  Always loved the catchy chorus.  The title track was tapped as the album's third single:

- 1979's '(No More) Fear of Flying' b/w 'S.S. Blues' (Chrysalis catalog number CHR 2358)

YouTube has a clip of Brooker lipsynching the tune for an appearence on the Dutch TopPop television show: Gary Brooker - No More Fear Of Flying - TROS TOP 50 - (1979) TopPop - YouTube

4.) Get Up And Dance    (Gary Brooker - Pete Sinfield) - 3:35   rating: ** stars

Co-written by longtime Procol Harum partner Keith Reid, was a forgettable two-step number with a chorus that managed to save the song from oblivion.

5.) Give Me Something To Remember You By    (Gary Brooker - Tim Renwick - Pete Sinfield) - 4:20   rating: **** stars   

Brooker would probably disagree, but the dark, slinky ballad 'Give Me Something To Remember You By' was one of the album's most Procol-esque offerings.  Nice melody and co-writer Tim Renwick turned in another awesome performance.  It's one of the tracks I would have picked as a single.

 

(side 2)
1.)
Say It Ain't So Joe   (Murray Head) - 3:47  rating: *** stars

Murray Head wrote the beautiful ballad and released it as a single.  Roger Daltry probably recorded the best version.  Brooker supposedly first heard the tune during a Hollies recording session.  Kudos for deciding to cover the tune, though his remake stayed true to the original and didn't really improve on it.  Tim Renwick on lead guitar.  The song was tapped as a UK single:

 

 

 

 

- 1979's 'Say It Ain't So Joe' b/w 'Angelina' (Chrysalis catalog number CHS 2347)

 

 

 

 

2.) Old Manhattan Melodies    (Gary Brooker - Pete Sinfield) - 4:18   rating: *** stars

Melodically the ballad 'Old Manhattan Melodies' didn't seem like it had a lot going for it, but the chorus was sweet and then there was Brooker's mesmerizing voice.

3.) Angelina    (Gary Brooker - Pete Sinfield) -  4:15  rating: **** stars   

Powered by former Procol Harum member B.J. Cole's pedal steel guitar, the breezy, country-tinged 'Angeliena' was one of the album's most overtly commercial track.   The song was released as a single throughout the Benelux.

 

 

 

 

- 1979's 'Angelina' b/w 'Old Manhattan Melodies' (Chrysalis catalog number 100 001)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.) Let Me In    (Gary Brooker - Pete Sinfield) -  3:13   rating: *** stars

'Let Me In' was the album's most conventional rocker and would have made a better single than the tracks Chrysalis tapped for release.

5.) Switchboard Susan   (Mickey Jupp) - 4:29   rating: ** stars

Like most folks, my exposure to 'Switchboard Susan' stemmed from Nick Lowe covering it on his "Jesus of Cool" LP.  That's going to make tough territory for any other covers.  Brooker's version stuck with the melody, but gave the song a blusier vibe via his "dirty old man" delivery.  Nice, but not essential.  Chris Smith on harmonica.

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:   Lead Me To the Water

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SRM-1-4054
Year:
 1982

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $20.00

 

1982's "Lead Me To the Water" was Gary Brooker's second solo album in three years.   While the collection underscored Brooker wasn't the most prolific artist of the decade, a quick glance at the performance credits indicated he was seemingly friendly with virtually every rock artist I've heard of. Talk about an all-star cast.   Unlike "No More Fear of Flying," Brooker also seemed much more comfortable in his surrounding.  Whereas the debut found Brooker making a determined effort to distance himself from his Procol Harum roots, this time out it appeared he was willing to embrace his musical past.  In addition to handling production, this time around there were no cover tunes - Brooker was credited with  penning all nine tracks.  Admittedly the opener 'Mineral Man' and the conventional rocker 'Hang On Rose' were commercial in a way Procol Harum never approached, but then there was the title track, 'The Cycle', 'The Angler' and the multi-part 'Sympathy For The Hard Of Hearing.'   All would have sounded at home on a Procol Harum release.  Is it Brooker's breakout release?  Nah.  The album had plenty of interesting material and Brooker's voice remained a treasure, but there was no "Gotcha'" performance here.  Mercury Records seems to have realized that as well.  The label tapped the album for a slew of singles, but doesn't seem to have done much to promote the collection (surprising given the all-star supporting cast), and it quickly vanished into cutout bins (where I found my copy).

 

"Lead Me To the Water" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mineral Man    (Gary Brooker) - rating: *** stars

The rocker 'Mineral Man' got the album to a mixed start.  The lyrics were cute, but the tune wasn't particularly memorable.  George Harrison's instantly recognizable slide guitar provided the song's highlights. The track was released as a single in France:

 

 

 

 

- 1982's 'Mineral Man' b/w 'Home Loving' (Mercury catalog number 6837 744)

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Another Way     (Gary Brooker) -    rating: ** stars

The combination of Mel Collin's extended sax work and patented '80s production effects pretty much sank the bouncy 'Another Way' for my ears.

3.) Hang On Rose    (Gary Brooker) -   rating: **** stars

Anyone doubting Brooker could break out of his Procol Harum prison cell should give 'Hang On Rose' a spin.  One of the most commercial things he ever wrote, the track had a great melody and while Brooker's voice remained instantly recognizable, his patented biting vocal edge was gone.  It would have made a strong single.  Personally I would have ditched the vocoder effects, but then this was 1982.

4.) Home Loving    (Gary Brooker) -   rating: *** stars

Pretty, autobiographical ballad apparently dedicated to the joys of a strong family.  Eric Clapton on lead guitar.  When originally released the single listed the song title as 'Homelovin''.  The German and Canadian releases showed it as 'Home Loving'.

- 1981's 'Homelovin'' b/w 'Chasing for the cop' (Mercury catalog number MER 70)

5.) The Cycle     (Gary Brooker) -    rating: ** stars

Were it not for the intrusive, cheesy synthesizers, the pretty ballad 'The Cycle' could have slotted onto a late inning Procol Harum album.  George Harrison plays on this one as well.  Another UK single:

 

 

 

 

- 1982's 'The Cycle (Let It Flow)' b/w 'Badlands' (Mercury catalog number MER 94)

 

 

(side 2)
1.)
Lead Me To The Water     (Gary Brooker) -  rating: **** stars

Usually rockers adding reggae touches to their repertoire don't for much for me.  Perhaps because the influence  was subtle, the title track was one of the exceptions.  The track was tapped as a German single:

 

 

- 1982's 'Lead Me To the Water' b/w 'Badlands' (Line catalog number 6.13.682)

 

Not sure when or where it was filmed (I think it was recorded for the Dutch Festival station), but YouTube has a clip of Brooker lip-synching the tune for television: Gary Brooker - Lead Me To The Water - YouTube 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) The Angler     (Gary Brooker) -   rating: **** stars

Who would have thought a song seemingly about a battle between a fisherman and a fish could be so cool?   Built on a nifty little keyboard riff, I can picture Keith Reid contributing something like this to a Procol Harum album, but this one was Brooker on his own.

 

3.) Low Flying Birds     (Gary Brooker) -    rating: *** stars

Another out-and-out rocker with some sweet backing vocals ...  quite commercial and another tune that had commercial potential.

4.) Symphathy For The Hard Of Hearing    (Gary Brooker) -    rating: **** stars

'Symphathy For The Hard Of Hearing' (Brooker combined the words sympathy and symphony for the title), was a multi-part suite.  The track was reportedly inspired by the experience one of Brooker's neighbors underwent during World War II - captured at the start of the war and forced to endure four years in a German prisoner of war camp.  The anti-war message that was all the better for not charging out the door and beating you senseless with it's message.  YouTube has a nice 2006 performance of the song by a late inning Procol Harum line-up.  The performance was recorded at Denmark's Ledreborg Castle and featured support from the Danish National Concert Orchestra and Choir.

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:   Echoes In the Night

Company: Polygram

Catalog: 42282 46521
Year:
 1985

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: lyric, custom inner sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $20.00

 

My first impressions of 1985's "Echoes In the Night" were disappointment.  I actually liked quite a few of the ten songs, but the all-star list of credits led me to believe this was going to be a Procol Harum reunion.  Technically I guess it was at least a mini-reunion with keyboardist Matthew Fisher co-producing the album and co-writing the majority of material with namesake Gary Brooker and Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid.  Fisher also provided keyboards on several tracks.  You also got former Procol bassist Dave Bronze and in one of his final studio sessions, drummer B.J. Wilson playing on several songs.  In spite of those thoughts and hopes, Brooker's third studio set proved to be his most mainstream and commercial enterprise. That also saw him bringing in an extensive list of friends and support musicians, including Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, and Tim Renwick.  Unfortunately, while the results were commercial, they were also largely undistinguished.  Brooker's rugged, soulful voice remained recognizable, but the pursuit of a mainstream sound rendered tracks like 'Count Me Out',  the ballad 'Two Fools In Love' and 'Hear What You Are Saying' undistinguishable from a host of other mid-'80s entities.  With Brooker and Fisher co-producing, the patented mid-'80s production effects including synthesizer washes, syn-drums, and bleating female backing singers didn't exactly help things.  Among the highlights were two of the most Procol-esque tunes; 'The Long Goodbye' and 'Missing Person.'  

 

Not my first pick for a Brooker solo album, but it has grown on me over the years.

 

"Echoes In the Night" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Count Me Out   (Gary Brooker - Iain Sutherland) - 4:15  rating: *** stars

There's nothing you can do to overlook the dated '80s synthesizer washes and production sound, but the bouncy 'Count Me Out' demonstrated Booker's unique voice remained in fine form.  Probably the most commercial solo track he ever recorded, Polygram released a remixed version of the track as a promotional 12" single:

 

 

 

 

- 1985's 'Count Me Out' b/w 'Echoes In the Night' (Polygram catalog number PRO 386-1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Two Fools In Love   (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher) - 3:52  rating: *** stars

'Two Fools In Love' was a great example of one of those "build-your-own-power-ballads" that seemingly dominated mid-'80s radio.  Pretty enough, but it was hard to avoid the feeling you'd heard this one before.  Something Phil Collins might have released ?   The track was tapped as an instantly obscure single.  The following year the tune was re-recorded and released in Holland as a duet with Amercan singer Lori Spree.  The song was pretty enough, but unfortunately the pair didn't have a lot of chemistry.  Here's a clip of the pair lip-synching the tune for the Dutch TopPop television program:  TOPPOP: Lori Spee & Gary Brooker - Two Fools In Love - YouTube

- 1985's 'Two Fools In Love' b/w 'Summer Love' (Mercury catalog number MER 188)

- 1986's  'Two Fools In Love' b/w 'Enlightened' (Philips catalog number 884 600-7)

3.) Echoes In the Night   (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher - Keith Reid) - 4:36   rating: *** stars

Eric Clapton and Tim Renwick on guitar weren't enough to save this ballad.  Actually Clapton's lead was pretty bland.  The autobiographical song wasn't bad, but the chorus and shrill backing vocalists seemed clunky.

4.) Ghost Train   (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher - Keith Reid) - 4:21   rating: *** stars

The whole gang's here - Brooker, Fisher, Reid and Cole.  If one of these tune's had a Procol feel to it, then it was 'Ghost Train.'   For a lot of folks Cole's drums provided the song's highlight.

5.) Mr. Blue Day   (Gary Brooker - Iain Sutherland) - 3:42  rating: ** stars

The ballad 'Mr. Blue Day' found Brooker accompanies by a couple of friends in the form of The National Philharmonic Orchestra.  Pretty, but hideously overblown and not particularly memorable.  Yeah, the title always reminds me of ELO's 'Mr. Blue Sky.'

 

(side 2)

1.) Saw the Fire  (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher - Keith Reid) - 5:16   rating: *** stars

Another ballad, the 'Saw the Fire' came a little closer to the parented Procol sound which made it one of the album's more enjoyable performances.

2.) The Long Goodbye  (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher - Keith Reid) - 3:48   rating: **** stars

Perhaps because it was stripped of much of the '80s production effects and pushed Fisher's Hammond B-3 into the foreground, the stark ballad 'The Long Goodbye' was one of my favorite performances.  The track was to become a staple in the reunited Procol Harum's live show.   The track was also tapped as a single in the UK, Germany and Holland.

 

 

- 1985's 'The Long Goodbye' b/w 'Trick of the Night' (Mercury catalog number MER 181)

 

No idea when, or where it was recorded, but YouTube has a clip of Brooker performing the track accompanied by a backing tracks: Gary Brooker - The Long Goodbye 1985 - YouTube  

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.) Hear What You Are Saying  (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher) - 5:22  rating: ** stars

Buried amidst shrill female backing singers and waves of synthesizers, 'Hear What You Are Saying ' was a good example of the album's biggest missteps.  Forgettable dreck.

4.) Missing Person   (Gary Brooker - Iain Sutherland) - 3:40   rating: **** stars

Funny how certain sounds can instantly connect you to a time, or place.  That's certainly the case with Fisher's opening organ chords on the ballad 'Missing Person.'  Combined with oen of the set's strongest melodies and Reid's thoughtful lyrics, the results were very Procol-esque.  Nice.  Should have been tapped as a single.

5.) Trick of the Night  (Gary Brooker - Matthew Fisher - Keith Reid) - 2:45   rating: *** stars

Perhaps the album's prettiest number, 'Trick of the Night' showcased how good Brooker's voice was when he didn't try to power through a song.  Added bonus - the late Rory Gallagher featured on slide guitar.  Shame he wasn't more prominent in the mix rather than sax player Jamie Talbot.

 

 

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