Weekend Listening

If I were to list my favorite musicians of all time, Alan Parsons would rank in the top five, not as much for his musical playing — piano/keyboards, guitar and flute — as for his understanding of modern musical forms, and their composition, arrangement and production.  He was, and is, the complete package.

As a producer, he probably ranks only a little behind the legendary George Martin (unsurprisingly, as he learned his trade at EMI’s Abbey Road studios);  but for all Martin’s genius behind the desk, he was of the previous generation, while Parsons belonged to the next.  (It’s difficult to imagine George Martin creating Pink Floyd’s milestone Dark Side Of The Moon  album, for instance, which was Parsons’s breakthrough into the top ranks of record producers. )

And it says much about Parsons that when asked to produce Floyd’s followup Wish You Were Here, he turned them down in order to create his own works, with co-producer/-composer Eric Woolfson, which could truthfully be described as modern classical music through the medium of “concept” albums.

Which brings us to our weekend listening project:  the Alan Parsons Project.

I discovered the Project back in the 1970s through Lead Guitarist Kevin, who had turned me on to many other artists I would otherwise have missed (Kate Bush, Hudson Ford, Christopher Cross and Earl Klugh, to name but some).  Given the stature of Parsons in the music business, it’s unsurprising that was able to surround himself with a wonderful array of talented musicians.

What I’m going to do is list my favorite Alan Parsons Project albums in chronological order — and for those who’ve never heard his music before, I’ll link to a single song, just as a taste for each work should you not have enough time to tackle the entire album.

Tales Of Mystery And Imagination — sets Edgar Allen Poe’s dark, broody prose to dark, broody music.  My favorite is Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether  (because we used to play it) but Cask Of Amontillado  is an absolute gem.

I, Robot — dystopian future (this time, based on Asimov’s writings), full of gloom and anxiety, set in songs of catchy brilliance.  Try Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You.

Pyramid — hey, it was the Seventies, and people bought into that “pyramid-power” jive.  The album, however, is outstanding, with Shadow of a Lonely Man  (John Miles on vocals!) being my favorite.

Eve — all about broads.  The standout is the bitter I’d Rather Be A Man.  So would I.

Eye In The Sky — the surveillance state (produced, it should be remembered, in the early 1980s).  The first two tracks should suffice.  From this point on, by the way, the Project albums became markedly more commercial-sounding.

Turn Of A Friendly Card — cynical look at gambling, in all its forms.  Time  could easily have been a Pink Floyd song.

Ammonia Avenue — probably the most commercial of the Project’s albums.  Prime Time  (the first song on the album link)was the big hit, although the turgid ballad Since The Last Goodbye  became a chick favorite.

I must confess to losing interest in the rest of the albums, because the commercial sound sounded like they’d all been produced by ugh  David Foster and not Alan Parsons.  Nevertheless, here they are:

Vulture Culture Sooner Or Later is indicative of the direction the Project was moving…

Stereotomy — not as commercial as the others, featuring longer, more complex songs instead of pop ditties.  This one is worth listening to in its entirety.

Gaudi — last of the Project’s “canonical” output.

Enjoy.

5 comments

  1. Parson’s is one of those “subdued” artists which never seemed to stand out. I like his work very much but even I must specifically listen to him when I think of him cause, well, I hardly ever think of him. I’m not sure why that is. I first heard him in the mid 70’s.

  2. Thanks for dredging up memories (we are about 2 years apart in age) My thought on the opening to Eye in the Sky is whether Alan Parsons influenced Mike Oldfield or vice versa (Tubular Bells album). Mind I have zero musical skills, just a lifelong appreciation for music listening and where I lived at the time was Brit centric as opposed to US centric.

  3. Have them all, but am most partial to Pyramid and I, Robot.

    In the Air Force I was once part of a team that went around to local Jr High schools and presented a (for the early 80’s) pretty good multi-media program to encourage the kids to start looking at technical career fields. (not a direct recruiting effort, we did this in civies and never directly mentioned the military as a career, but if you want to play with high tech…).

    I got tasked to revamp the sound track which had a lot of instrumentals. They didn’t want anything “pop” 40 or commercial stuff. I exclusively used sections of Alan Parsons instrumentals.

  4. I’m a fan. Wouldn’t have minded hearing your cover of Dr. Tarr…there’s a lot going on in that track. The bridge of Ammonia Avenue has always been a favorite. Never quite could figure out if it was just really syncopated or there’s a time change happening. It’s tough dredging up long buried theory & composition knowledge which haven’t been used in decades.

Comments are closed.