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.
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.
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:
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.