Procol Harum

the Pale 

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

The Aardvark Connection

June 2002: Under the Mystic Moon, a new record from Michigan Mark Depree, following in the unique, gentle mould of the two CDs alluded to below. 

As well as some highly-effective originals on which Mark sings (and croaks!) and plays guitar, bass, percussion, bottle, knife and various automobile parts (specified in detail on the liner), there are covers of California Dreaming (superb!) and songs by John Hiatt, John Cale, Singer and Zaret, and a splendid piece, Dark Wind, by Andy Willey, who is among the great pool of players, from many disciplines, who contribute to the backing. 

Good record! Good cover picture (by Michigan Mark) as well! Contact

Hi was released in 1998 and For A Friend in 2000: click on the pictures to read the track listing and musician credits

"The other day I decided to put a record on the turntable," says Michigan Mark DePree at the start of the liner notes of his CD, Hi. "Like usual, I was going to listen to some tunes while I did some work-related activity. Well, it wasn't more than about seventeen minutes and I had to stop what I was doing and flip the record over. That got me thinking ..." The upshot of this cerebration is that he wants us to take life at a leisurely and considered pace, with the help of "the kind of recording that you should just kick back, grab a Popsicle or something, relax and enjoy"

Such a laid-back philosophy does indeed characterise 1998's Hi, which will be of interest to BtP visitors chiefly for his languidly-soulful A Whiter Shade of Pale, which makes very interesting use of accordion and mandolin: it's one of the few cover-versions that sounds as though it was sung because the artist truly liked the song, rather than because it was so famous: see Mark's comments below, about seeing a very early Procol Harum show.

He wrote to BtP:
[AWSoP] is truly a classic in the deepest sense of the word. When I decided I wanted to record it I tried to just fall into the song and see where it took me. I came up with the arrangement and feel for the song and then layered the instruments accordingly. I purposely did not use organ. I figure that the use of organ would be getting too close to Procol Harum's version and why would I want to do that? No one can really come close to what they did without trying to copy and that of course would be pretty futile. BUT the organ part had to be there so I thought "mandolin and accordion" (Jean Neal and Dave Molinari of Smash The Windows a traditional Celtic band were nice enough to play the parts for me). It gives it more of a street musician sound. And the first half of the song I wanted to be very acoustic and then have the song swell into the more electric, full band sound and then bring in the acoustic instruments again at the end. On the guitar solo I rode the digital delay in the mix-down to get kind of whale sounds in the background (headphones are suggested here). Don't listen to intensely or you'll get feelin' kind of seasick. It's a wonderful song and I hope people enjoy my version of it. The drummer (Steve Smith) is a friend who plays in a garage, punk kind of band called The Cheeztones. I love mixing musicians together who play different styles of music.

Other great songs included are Donovan's Catch the Wind and Merle Travis's Dark as a Dungeon, and these are interleaved with DePree's own instrumentals, among which Zebra Mussel Tangle uses the delightful sounds of Lake Michigan as an introduction. DePree is the main player on the album: his collaborators are fellow folk- and blues-persons from the Grand Rapids area.

For a Friend is the more sophisticated collection, with a greater variety of guest artists and instruments (including 'space sax'); it continues the very laid-back approach and the mixing of standards (Hickory Wind, 500 Miles, Not Fade Away) with DePree's own, highly effective compositions. The playing is tasteful and unpretentious: it makes very agreeable, bluesy listening.

DePree runs his own eight-track digital recording studio, Aartvark Productions, in Grand Rapids; he also works as a furniture-carver, and has a fine art degree from Grand Valley State University. He writes to BtP about his CDs as follows:
They're both pretty eclectic but that's just the kind of guy I am. I have two bands going right now but neither band sounds like my CDs. The trio I'm in is called The Aardvark Conspiracy and the quintet is called Michigan Mark and The Blue Aardvarks. The music is eclectic but leans toward the blues. 

The 'aardvark' connection goes back to my college days when I stayed in a house with six other people. The house was called Aardvark Acres. It sounded funny and it kind of stuck with me. Aardvarks are mostly nocturnal and slow moving. When they do run they often bang into things. It describes most musicians at 2 am after a long night of gigging. Anyway, many friends were involved with both CDs. They are now all Aardvarks whether they like it or not.

If anyone is interested in buying my CDs they are $15 each, which includes shipping (I think. I haven't checked the price of mailing these overseas yet). My e-mail is - they can e-mail their address and I'll send the CDs. I don't have any credit card stuff yet. I guess a "US Funds" cheque would work. 

I did see Procol Harum at The Saugatuck Pop Festival in the summer of '69 or '70. I don't remember a lot of what the music was like that day. I do remember the sound wasn't very good for Procol Harum where I was sitting and I was very disappointed because I really wanted to enjoy Procol Harum. They did do A Whiter Shade of Pale and I enjoyed that very much. 

There were many bands there and I do remember a relatively unknown performer who scared the hell out of everybody. No one had heard of him before so his show was a real shocker. It was Alice Cooper. Pretty darned scary, that was.

Thanks and take care,

Michigan Mark


For those who want to hear Mark performing A Whiter Shade of Pale live, read on:
The Blue Aardvarks will be playing a festival in Grand Rapids on Saturday 18 August 2001. The festival is part of an arts & crafts show and musical event which includes: Jam on the Grand (on the Grand River), arts & crafts, an acoustic music stage and then we will be headlining the Riverstock portion of the festivities. It all starts around 10AM and will end about 9PM. The Jam on the Grand is an interactive acoustic jam led by local musicians Beats Settin' Home. People bring instruments, lunch, frisbees and whatever and make a whole day out of it. There will be some food for sale at the Arts & Craft show. The festival is located at Riverside Park on the banks of The Grand River on Monroe St. South of Knapp St. Admission is free. We promise to play A Whiter Shade of Pale at this event. For more information please contact Bear Berends at

To buy the above CDs online, Hi is at and
For A Friend is at

The CDs are $15 each. CDBaby also charge postage which is $6 to Europe and $2.75 in the United States. If people prefer to save some money, just send a cheque for $15 per CD to

Mark DePree
1536 Walker Av. NW
Grand Rapids, Mi. 49504

Mark will send the CD out within two days and you should receive it within a week. Pleaese write "US Funds" on any cheque that is sent from outside the United States. That way the bank that cashes it will transfer at the monetary rate.


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