Alan Parsons Project
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2009, Volume 16, #3
Written by John Metzger
Wed March 18, 2009, 05:30 AM CDT
When Andrew Loog Oldham, a former manager of the Rolling Stones, challenged songwriter Eric Woolfson to write a song for every artist currently sitting at the top of the pop charts, itís doubtful that he knew he was providing the impetus that soon would drive the Alan Parsons Project. Although it is common for outfits to feed from the ideas of their peers, the Alan Parsons Project soon would take musical aggregation to an entirely different level. As the band developed and refined its template, each of its albums inevitably became a reflection of the era in which it was created. While the group enjoyed increasing success with this formula, its brand of instant gratification never translated into long-term durability.
Today, itís hard to imagine an outfit that could succeed with a plan to create albums that are devoted to the works of Edgar Allen Poe or Isaac Asimov, as the Alan Parsons Project did with Tales of Mystery and Imagination and I Robot. In effect, the Alan Parsons Project essentially built a career that extended almost to the end of the 1980s upon the notion of tying a string of songs around a single, thematic concept. In what was, perhaps, a sign that it was beginning to push too hard, the bandís third album Pyramid revolved around the mystical qualities possessed by the geometric shape that leant the set its title. Considering that the effortís lyrics trace an arc from ancient Egypt to the space program, the collection is, in a sense, the final chapter in a trilogy of endeavors that dealt with life and death as well as mankindís past, present, and future.
Although the Alan Parsons Project made adjustments to its style as it moved from one album to the next, the basic blueprint that it repeatedly followed was established firmly by its second outing I Robot. Much like its predecessor, Pyramidís opening half was devoted primarily to potential hit singles and lyrical narratives, while the sequence of songs that appeared on the albumís flip side focused upon ornate instrumental passages that not only established moods but also provided additional contextual backdrops for the setís overarching theme. In the Lap of the Gods, for example, acted as an overture of sorts for Pyramidís second act, while the percolating rhythmic pulse of Hyper-Gamma-Spaces conjured images of travelers moving through time and space.
It hasnít aged particularly well, yet there are moments when Pyramid still manages to escape, at least in part, from the ravages of time. Canít Take It with You begins as a pop tune that bears faint hints of Ringo Starrís solo work. Yet, once Ian Bairnsonís angular guitar solo begins to slice through its superficiality, the song veers closer to the output of Pink Floyd. On What Goes Up, Bairnson takes a different approach, and his guitar interlude ultimately pays homage to Steely Danís Walter Becker. In addition, much like Electric Light Orchestraís endeavors, touches of The Beatles and The Beach Boys abound throughout Pyramid, and its pseudo-title track Pyramania brings them together in a rather peppy fashion. Unfortunately, tracks like the tepid ballad The Eagle Will Rise Again and the Elton John-meets-Styx posturing of One More River scuttle any momentum the ensemble manages to achieve.
Regardless, because the Alan Parsons Project, at least initially, was so good at scripting indelible melodies and fusing them with dense, symphonic arrangements, the majesty of its space-rock had a tendency to become overpoweringly intoxicating. Likewise, producer and engineer Alan Parsonsí unique knack for crafting richly textured arrangements that possessed deep, sonic depth was unparalleled. The dimensionality of his work not only remains a godsend for anyone with even a passing interest in the heady possibilities of rock ínĎ roll, but it also makes it easy to overlook his bandís foibles.
As always, the production of Pyramid was incredibly pristine, and the outing now sounds even better in its newly remastered state. In addition, the revamped collection has been retrofitted with an abundance of bonus material, though most of the extras are demos and backing tracks. Consequently, these cuts will appeal only to the Alan Parsons Projectís most fanatical followers, though anyone who happens to pay close attention to them likely will glean some insight into how meticulously the set was pieced together.
Of Further Interest...
Pyramid is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2009 The Music Box