Thursday, January 18, 2018

Alan Parsons Project - Part 2

I Robot (AM7): I took no notice of punk ... I wasn’t even slightly interested in it and had a secret desire that our audience would feel the same way. I think punk was a youth culture that wasn’t particularly anything to do with music. It was an excuse for badly performed and executed hard rock.              
            —Alan Parsons, from the liner notes to I Robot

Pretty harsh for a guy who created the most antiseptic, ostensibly-produced albums in the history of rock 'n' roll. Herein lies the issue.  Alan Parsons wasn't insecure about his place in history or in music (once you've worked on Abbey Road and Dark Side of the Moon (AM10s), you pretty much feel like one of the gods, and deservedly); he'd only made one error in judgment with his sentiment: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, The Slits, whoever, were rock 'n' roll; Alan Parsons was as far removed as Miles Davis. Yet despite how brazen and ill-conceived the remark, I Robot is brilliant.  It worked then, it works now.  Interesting that The Alan Parsons Project wasn't even a group - The Monkees were more legit in that sense - but this was (and is) sensational stuff, whatever it is.

Released in the heyday of punk, it's clear these albums were the antithesis of the back to basics, DIY aesthetic that had become the norm. Alan Parsons was determined to make high quality records with top notch production, and I Robot is a sumptuous sounding album. It is a precursor to the New Age and things yet to come (including, most recently, Pink Floyd's The Endless River).

The future as depicted in I Robot via the album’s ten tracks – six vocal and four largely instrumental compositions, is a rather dark one. The lyrics are more concerned with mood and feeling than advancing a particular story, but are focused on the relationship between man and his robotic creations.  It’s heady stuff and perfectly paired with the excellence in musicianship.

Along the same line and equally conceptual, Pyramid (AM7) is another engineering marvel.  These are the kinds of albums to sound check the quality of your new system.  What the two preceding albums had hinted at, here rises to unparalleled heights. From the meditative to the lyric, the magic and mystery of the pyramids is spanned in the variety of the songs, but more specifically in the [yeah, yeah] production; there seems to be a theme here.

Eve (AM8) is the most moving if formulaic of APP albums. Less conceptual yet simply themed, Eve is the battle of the sexes. Its songs are divided amongst the men and the women, though the men get four and the women only two (the best two songs, but just two). Clare Torry, the genius who didn't know it but gave us "The Great Gig in the Sky," is brilliant again on "Don't Hold Back," and the album's closer and standout is Leslie Duncan's "If I Could Change Your Mind."  The instrumentals are straight forward and undeniably Parsons.  Eve is indeed equal to the critically acclaimed Turn of a Friendly Card (which is where we came in). Addendum: I am always amused how many people do not really look at the album cover. If you have never done so, look closely.