Procol Harum

the Pale

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A Whiter Shade of Pale

... in a 'terrifying' version

Pat Keating writes: here is my review of AWSoP on the CD 'Fall in Love' by Mike and Linda Coates (and friends) on Barking Dog Records

First, the songs on this album can best be described (by the artists themselves) as selections for 'romantic, classical guitar.' In one word, AWSoP can best be described (by this reviewer) as 'terrifying.' In another word: 'Ouch!' I listened to this on the first day of my vacation / holiday on the road while driving to Texas, and my brain exploded. I spent the remainder of my vacation / holiday looking for a new (talking) head. (Please, no Monica jokes here.) OK, perhaps I exaggerate just a bit, but this cover of AWSoP is definitely 'terrifying.'

The first version of AWSoP is the standard two verses, sung by one Mr Gary Bitzer (presumably one of the Coates' 'friends,' but with friends like him, who needs enemies?). To be fair, the only redeeming factor of this cover, in my opinion, is some very nice classical guitar work by Mike Coates. Get ready to cringe, jem33, but Coates does a great job arranging Fisher's organ melody on guitar. Gary Bitzer's vocal performance and phrasings leave much to be desired though.

AWSoP is credited to 'Procol Harum / Gary Brooker and Keith Reid.' It is described as 'a great example of contemporary exoticism in the hyper-Romantic tradition of Berlioz.' (OK, if they say so.) The liner notes also state that the 'arrangement includes excerpts from: Air from Orchestral Suite in D Major, Sleepers Awake Cantata (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme), Air for the G String, all by JS Bach.'[In December 2005 Matthew posted a demo of Wachet Auf, using synths and a rhythm machine, at

The AWSoP reprise consists of the third 'mermaid' verse, and is described in the liner notes as 'additional unpublished lyrics sung in concert' with an 'arrangement [that] includes an excerpt from Pachelbel's Canon in D.' Yes sir (or madam), boss, you read that right – Pachelbel has now crept into the AWSoP credits! We know that Procol / Gary did the Love Hurts / Roy Orbison / Pachelbel connection, but now we have AWSoP and Pachelbel? And yes, they do manage to throw Pachelbel's Canon into this reprise arrangement, and it sounds truly awful and 'terrifying.' This reprise includes less guitar, more pretty nice keyboards (organ or synth, I suppose, but probably not a Hammond, and we certainly don't care by this point, anyway), and a much nicer vocal by Linda Coates, instead of Gary Bitzer. Unfortunately, the printed and sung 'unpublished' lyrics start out with:

  'She said she wanted shore leave
Though in truth we were at sea
So I took her by a looking glass
And forced her to agree ...'


(The rest of the lyrics are accurate. I guess that our Gary B. must have had a particularly bad night enunciating the lyrics that the Coateses thought they heard?)

The liner notes also include a snippet from Mike Ober's online interview with Matthew Fisher about his contributions to AWSoP, lack of songwriting credit, wasn't stolen verbatim from Bach, etc., etc. The liner notes then state: 'In our arrangement ... we layered in the original Bach pieces from which Fisher took his inspiration as well as some other surprises in the reprise....' (Presumably, the surprises are the wrong lyrics and the Pachelbel's Canon connection!)

Other unrelated humorous side notes: The cover photo of the Coateses was described by Bill S. of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who turned me on to this CD – thanks a lot, Bill! – as 'two new age, spaced out zombies.' (Very accurate, I might add.)

Another track on the CD is Plaisir d'Amour (The Joys of Love)' by Giovanni Martini (1706 – 1784). Another is a cover of Because by 'The Beatles / John Lennon and Paul McCartney,' described as 'rock's greatest Romantic composers in a Beethoven-inspired vocal extravaganza.' (OK, if they say so.)

Finally, another track is C'est la Vie by 'Emerson Lake & Palmer / Music by Greg Lake, Words by Pete Sinfield,' described as 'rock and roll's most over-the-top Romantics.' (OK, if they say so.) By the way, this is not the same as Chuck Berry's C'est la Vie, which was covered on the Jo-El Sonnier album, which also featured a cover of AWSoP.

Well, I think that is quite enough for now. I can only say that this CD was worth the money, but only for the unintentional humorous aspect of it.

Thanks, Pat. BtP would just like to add that the opinions of its contributors don't necessarily reflect those of The Management, who in this case have not heard the CD under review!

Sound sample available here

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