classical & world / music / pop / reviews

To the Stars: Sarah Brightman – “A Whiter Shade of Pale/A Question of Honour”

a whiter shade

Coming in the form of an Enhanced CD, which pretty much means it includes a screensaver and a music video (“La Lune”), the single for “A White Shade of Pale/A Question of Honour” is kind of a generous release. It features five versions of each song, including the radio edits and four remixes.

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” originally comes from La Luna, as “A Question of Honour” is taken from Fly. Obviously those scoring at home know that “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is a cover of the Procol Harum tune and may be the most-covered tune in existence, having been recorded an estimated 1000 times. Don’t believe that? This guy has a whole website dedicated to the topic, so drink it in.

What we get first is the radio edit of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which is pretty close to the album version. Up next, though, is where the real fun begins.

Remixed by German DJ Andre Tanneberger, known mostly as ATB, this version is buoyant and has a pretty solid beat tearing through it. For an extended period of time, ATB lets the beat run and abandons the melody altogether. It’s a fine touch and a radio edit of this remix follows as the fifth track on the single.

The “Ecstasy mix” slows the track down, perhaps to play with the original sexual connotations, and matches the original’s gait a little more closely. This one is remixed by Dutch musician Junkie XL and Canadian producer Rhys Fulber, the latter of whom was a member of both Front Line Assembly and Delirium. It’s a pleasant version of the cut, a pretty calming and tenderly melodic remix.

Paralyzer handles the next one, bringing it back to the club with more throbbing synth and bass-heavy beats. The German producer saw success with “happy hardcore” artist Blümchen recently and here he seems to take some of the same tricks, using a slashed-up synth to glide the melody through. He doesn’t completely deconstruct the original, but it’s a change of pace nevertheless.

“A Question of Honour” follows with its requisite set of remixes, starting with a radio edit and the “Pech remix.” This version kicks off with voiceover from Michael Buffer, setting up the boxing theme. It’s hard to get much of a read on it, but the remix is pretty decent overall. The use of Buffer is well-placed and the German trance vibe sequences through it even if the melody is almost completely in absentia.

A “Knock Out mix” is up next. This is remixed by Merlyn, who I presume is DJ Merlyn or Oliver Heydt and not the Florida break-beat artist. I could be wrong. Nevertheless, Merlyn spends the first four minutes of the eight-minute track pumping a pretty basic club beat. Sarah’s operatic stylings come in about halfway through and are followed by an odd bit of Frankenstein vocals that just repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat…

The “Damage Control mix” flows right into the song and finds Brightman in the verse, stretching the last note out a bit in a way that is quite strange. Damage Control builds it into an aggrotech beat and even veers into some dark electro, propelling a speedy beat through and looping the “two men collide” bit along with interspersing some of Sarah’s vocals. It’s a rabid but somewhat fun remix.

Finally, the single ends with a remix from Tom Lord-Alge. This is controlled well by the producer and mixer, whose proficiency at handling vocals really comes to bear here. More than any of the other remixes on the entire single, Lord-Alge seems focused on Sarah’s vocals and draws them into the mix elegantly while enhancing the integrity of the original edit. It’s probably the best cut.

So there you have it, a rambling exploration of what’s exactly on this single. It is, as mentioned, a generous release if you’re into dance remixes of the two tunes here. It’s not an essential recording to hold on to, but completists will want it and others may be interested in firing up the strobe lights for a little disco party. Just be careful; I hear interesting things happen when two men collide.

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