Procol Harum

the Pale

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AWSoP • something new to hear about this great old song?

Well yes! says Charlie Allison, for BtP

Imagine – the Holy Grail – the first (nearly) true stereo mix of the original A Whiter Shade of Pale! (all Procol Harum fans have to look into this!).

This all started with listening (by chance but with amazement) to a stereo mix of AWSoP on YouTube: click here.

I found this was not the alternate AWSoP version in stereo, but said to be a mock-up of the original master track we know and love, said to be by Tom Moulton (who worked on the 30th Anniversary Procol boxed set).   After listening to the song right through – very strange with Gary's vocal on right over one channel – I scrolled through comments to read Tom Moulton's explanation of how he did it.

Procul [sic] Harum – A Whiter Shade Of Pale – 1967 (Stereo)
This is a true stereo mix of the original take found at the end of one of the 4 track master tapes by Tom Moulton.
[the YouTube clip is now annotated with 'This is a stereo sync-up mix made by Tom Moulton (ignore the earlier description, the hit version multi still has yet to be found :( )]

Tom says:
I worked on the Procol Harum Box several years ago and put on it the backing track to the mono mix. This is a synch up of the two. The problem with it is the phasing used in the original mix. When you sync the two of them up you will always get the phasing sound more on one side. I mixed an alternate version which was pulled from the original session tape (they saved the wrong take). Still a great song.

Then I went to the truly fascinating "Both Sides Now" website (for stereo freaks) for an interesting flow of speculation and analysis.  click this link for the full and wonderful five-page discussion about AWSoP.

Anyway, and here’s the important piece of information, they mentioned a better stereo version of AWSoP on Dick Bartley Presents: Classic Oldies 1965-1969 – whatever that is!  I ordered a copy through Amazon (click here to go straight to this version) from a UK dealer. On the Amazon USA site AWSoP is described as a "stereo début"): click this link.

The blurb reads:

"Dick Bartley, the best-loved oldies DJ in America, presents 18 tracks from the Golden Age of Top 40 – Classic Oldies 1965–1969 has been digitally mastered in true stereo wherever possible. Many songs, such as the Ides Of March's You Wouldn't Listen (released years before their best-known hit, Vehicle) are sought-after rarities, and one track, Peter Rabbit by Dee Jay and The Runaways, makes its CD début. Two other tracks, Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale and the Troggs' Love Is all Around although widely released, have never been available in STEREO in the original versions – until now!"

I bought the CD  It is a  strange record, with many great tracks – and for AWSoP it's not the usual frequency split – in fact the left channel is both bassy and yet very detailed for the backing track (guitar very well heard at points I hadn’t heard previously)

Gary’s vocal is predominantly towards the right of centre (not as far right as the YouTube example) and Matthew’s organ seems to be just left of centre ... maybe one's imagination plays a part.  But the vocal is separate and really clear and it is the original version, no doubt.

It would seem two guys who produced the stereo mix for this CD were Mark Matthews and a guy with the nom de plume of StereoScout on the BSN website. Haven’t had any luck tracking them down, in contrast to Tom Moulton, (quite famous remix engineer). You can see from these communications that these guys are responsible (images supplied with this email)

“BJMarsh”  I have the "Both Ears" version and just picked up the Dick Bartley version of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'.  The Dick Bartley (on Eric) is FAR superior IMO.  It's got some punch and has a lot more detail that any version (mono or stereo, DES, DCS or sync) I have in my collection.  And God knows I've got a zillion copies of this song.  You can hear the piano in the Eric version a little in some spots.  Tom Daly and Tom Moulton did a great job on this as well as the entire CD.  Go buy it.

“Stereoscout” Just an FYI:  The stereo 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' with the vocals centred and the 'Love Is All Around' were the remixing work of Mark Mathews and yours truly.   

(further contribution from another)  I agree, I never cared much for the song until I heard the stereo version. It sounds so much more alive.

Stereoscout    Thank you.

It seems they have got further material from the original AWSoP sessions – in order to do this mix. It is not the same as the faux stereo we had years ago.   I don't think it can ever be true stereo unless each channel had two inputs [sic] at the recording.

I don’t know how they “synched” these recordings but somehow they have dropped a vocal containing track on top of a instrumental track.  I suppose the digital age has made this possible.

There's even talk the On Both Sides Now site of a version with Gary Brooker's piano mixed forward as never before, then speculation that this has been added by a mystery musician to create a real fake!  (I have not located this). 

Quote: Originally Posted by Matt
This mix is different, Tom has mentioned that it is a sync-up with the backing track as they never found the 4 track master for the hit take.

We need to straighten out the truth about the stereo hit versions of this song since I was involved in the production of that song on the Bartley CD.
When Tom made that sync-up it is true that the vocal track had not been located yet. And this why the hit version in stereo was never included in Westend
[sic] 3CD box set that Tom produced. Shortly after the box set was published as fate would have it the vocal track was given to him. So on the Bartley CD the newly found vocal track was mixed with the 3 track backing track to produce the stereo hit version with the vocals centred.

... And if somebody is going to argue the fact the it wasn't mixed from the original 4 track that was on one piece of tape but "re-assembled" from a 3 track and a one track vocal tape remixed all together, well then you might as well be happy with the mono mix and "pretend" that stereo hit version couldn't and never will exist.

The above suggests they have a 3-track master backing track (maybe the instrumental AWSoP from Pandora's Box) and have now got the original Gary vocal to create this near-stereo AWSoP on this disc. If it is all true, then ...

1. It is the nearest to stereo we are going to get
2. It needs publicising so Palers can buy this version on the CD
3. It needs to be communicated to the management so that a stereo AWSoP can be included on an official Procol release.

I think that despite the flaws (echoes on the right channel) it does give clarity of instrumentation: organ at 11 o'clock, Gary at 1 o'clock, and bass drums guitar etc all heard v clear to the left of Matthew.

There is even a third stereo version of AWSoP on "You still need 'em both for this one" by 2 Mikes Productions (released in 1999). In that mix Gary Brooker’s piano is featured more prominently and clearly separated from the other instruments. Does anyone know anything more about this version.

(Reply) I read that the piano was what is on the fourth track of the master tape and was completely mixed out on the 45 single version.

And in passing an interesting critique of AWSoP by “Twodawgzz”, who obviously is familiar with the band’s output:

I think I'll troll just a little.  I personally fail to understand all the long-term interest in 'AWSoP'.  Since it came out, I always found it to be a dull, drab dirge that sounded like a Sunday morning church service (not black baptist, however).  Lyrics may be interesting, and I do like Booker's voice and Trower's guitar generally, but this song just never did it for me.  And what's-his-name the lyricist was always writing dark, sick stuff like 'Still There'll Be More'.  When I used to put that one on the stereo, my wife was ready to divorce me.  My personal favorite PH tune is 'Memorial Drive'.

All worthy of reading ... in addition there's fascinating explanations of the Beatles' stereo vinyl LPs where the vocals where on one channel, reportedly from George Martin! (the home stereos had speakers very close together and they wanted the vocals to stand out, then they didn't sound quite so clever when we got speakers which went to the corners of the room!  When put on CDs they released mono only for the early Beatles albums.

So do explore further at the website for some fascinating stuff on many other records/artists and the desire to find/produce stereo – the posts on the Beach Boys and the Beatles are fascinating for a start.  Interest that two iconic 60s tracks AWSoP and She Loves You (or SLY) were only available in mono coz some clod lost the original masters ... or did they? And did Brian Wilson’s deafness play any part in the mixing of Beach Boys' records?

Then I found the Two Mikes record with another stereo mix of AWSoPclick here.

(Funny how I was looking at this on the same day as you are posting about the Fly Salvo CDs. One of the best tracks I have heard recently was when I bought their new stereo version of the Move's Flowers in the Rain – missing a Visconti woodwind part at the end of the middle 8, but with an extended fadeout – a thrill to hear it – on the extended first Move album.  I have not bought the extended MOVE box-set yet [recommended by RC at BtP].

For my own part, the best version of AWSoP I have had from 1967 up to now, in 2009, is re-channelled stereo on Decca's The World of Hits Volume 1 – this vinyl disc is still available on certain sites like eBay and has a lot of really good tracks on it, in addition to AWSoP.  It has been a favourite of mine since the late 60s and is better re-channelled stereo than the US Procol Harum vinyls)

AWSoP page



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