Alan Parsons Project
Eye in the Sky
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2007, Volume 14, #3
Written by John Metzger
Songwriter Eric Woolfson learned his craft at the hands of former Rolling Stones manager and pop music producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Recalls Woolfson in the liner notes for the recently refurbished rendition of the Alan Parsons Project’s Eye in the Sky, "Oldham took me to his offices, sent me into a room with a piano, and told me not to come out until I’d written a song for every artist in the Top 10." While such a strategy works well for comprehending the cornerstones of a given music scene, failing to move beyond such mimicry carries with it the risk of sounding unoriginal. This simple statement, then, highlights the problems that lie at the heart of the bulk of the Alan Parsons Project’s catalogue. Despite Parsons’ shimmering production flourishes and the ambitious concepts that were envisioned by Woolfson, the material itself increasingly was forced to fit within the framework of whatever was perched at the forefront of the mainstream. While Woolfson’s ability to blend into the fabric of popular culture was remarkable, it also was plagued by a cold, calculated sterility that has become more apparent with each passing year.
Just as the Alan Parsons Project had turned the futuristic paranoia of I Robot into the superstitious reflections of Pyramid, its 1982 endeavor Eye in the Sky flipped the gambling theme of its predecessor Turn of a Friendly Card into a commentary on western society’s political and spiritual value systems. This time, however, the thematic arc that had held the band’s earlier efforts together was deployed in a flimsier fashion. While this was the band’s intention — a consequence, no doubt, of the demise of the progressive rock genre — the resulting lack of cohesion further undermined the set by leaving the melodies and arrangements to find their own way.
Unfortunately, the music on Eye in the Sky was, for the most part, untenably limp. You’re Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned and Step by Step were weak replications of Billy Joel’s forays on Glass Houses, while Psychobabble was a laughable impression of The Who. Elsewhere, the Pink Floyd-ian aspects that crept into Children of the Moon and the instrumental Mammagamma found the Alan Parsons Project returning to its comfort zone but failing to find any forward momentum. Only the title track continues to hold any semblance of durability, though this has had more to do with its candy-coating than with its less-than-satisfying aftertaste.
Considering that Eye in the Sky hasn’t aged terribly well, it’s not surprising that the six bonus tracks that have been affixed to it — a demo (Sirius); an outtake (Any Other Day); two early, alternate versions (Old & Wise and Silence & I); and a pair of recently crafted overtures that were made from an array of recording session snippets (The Naked Eye and Eye Pieces) — also are, at best, pleasantly forgettable. Fans, however, might find the more musical theater-minded arrangements intriguing, considering that they hint at the direction in which Woolfson would head after the Alan Parsons Project disbanded.
Eye in the Sky is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box