Obsessive Procol Harum collectors—and there are bound to be one or two of them out there—will find this an essential...

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PROCUL HARUM

BEYOND THE PALE

A Danish fan’s notes on the baroque British pop band that turned a talent for quoting Bach into a worldwide hit record.

Procol Harum—whose name does not come from some pseudo-Latin sorcerer’s tag, as some desperate critics have said, but was instead borrowed from a pet cat—made it big early in its career, charting a weeks-long number-one record in 1967 with “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” (In its first incarnation, as a blue-eyed-soul quartet called the Paramounts, the band toured with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones—but their recorded covers of such tunes as “Poison Ivy” and “Turn on Your Love Light” have not stood up well to the passing of time.) Led by classically trained keyboard players Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher, and backed by guitar wizard Robin Trower and a tight rhythm section, the band turned in several albums that are regarded as art-rock classics, including “Shine On Brightly” and “A Salty Dog.” It eventually fell apart under the strain of vaulting egos and mind-altering substances—only to reunite, of course, in the 1990s to capture its share of the nostalgia market. Indisputably fine and influential though Procol Harum was in its day, the band made its share of dogs; as Johansen writes, toward the end of its life in the late 1970s the band “did probably the worst thing anyone could have done . . . they released a weedy progressive rock album.” Johansen’s book does a serviceable job of charting the band from glorious rise to inglorious fall, but it suffers from the author’s reliance on contemporary press clippings and generally unrevealing interviews with surviving members of the original lineup and from his failure to connect the Procol Harum story to larger themes in pop-culture history.

Obsessive Procol Harum collectors—and there are bound to be one or two of them out there—will find this an essential acquisition.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-946719-28-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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