Thursday, March 22, 2007

Alan Parsons Project


Don't Answer Me

The Alan Parsons Project was a British progressive rock and pop group active between 1975 and 1987 founded by Englishman Alan Parsons and Scotsman Eric Woolfson.

Band history
Most of the Project's titles, especially the early work, share common traits (likely influenced by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, on which Parsons was the audio engineer in 1973). They were concept albums, and typically began with an instrumental introduction which faded into the first song, often had an instrumental piece in the middle of the second LP side, and concluded with a quiet, melancholic, or powerful song. The opening instrumental was largely done away with by 1980; no later Project album except Eye in the Sky featured one (although every album includes at least one instrumental somewhere in the running order). Ironically, the instrumental on that album, "Sirius," eventually became the best-known Parsons instrumental because of its frequent use as entrance music by American sports teams, most notably the Chicago Bulls during their 1990s dynasty.

The group was notable for using several vocal performers instead of having a single lead vocalist. Lead vocal duties alternate between Woolfson (mostly for slow or melancholic songs) and a stream of guest vocalists chosen by their vocal style to complement each song. Woolfson sang lead on many of the group's hits (including "Time" and "Eye In The Sky") and the record company pressured Parsons to use him more, but Parsons preferred "real" singers, which Woolfson admitted he was not. In addition to Woolfson, Eric Stewart, Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, and Colin Blunstone made regular appearances. Other singers, such as Ambrosia's David Pack, Vitamin Z's Geoff Barradale, and Procol Harum's Gary Brooker, have recorded only once or twice with the Project. Parsons himself only sang lead on one song ("The Raven") and can be heard singing backup on another ("To One in Paradise"). Both of those songs appeared on the group's first record, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, an album containing music based on the stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.

Although the vocalists varied, a small number of musicians worked with the Alan Parsons Project regularly. These core musicians contribute to the recognizable style of a Project song in spite of the varied singer lineup. Together with Parsons and Woolfson, the Project originally consisted of the group Pilot, with Ian Bairnson (guitar), David Paton (bass) and Stuart Tosh (drums). Pilot's Billy Lyall also contributed. From "Pyramid" on, Tosh was replaced by Stuart Elliott of Cockney Rebel. Paton stayed almost until the end. Bairnson, along with Andrew Powell (composer and arranger of orchestral music throughout the life of the Project), and Richard Cottle (synthesizer and saxophone) were integral parts of the Project's sound. Powell is also notable for having composed a film score in the Project style for Richard Donner's film Ladyhawke.

Behind the revolving lineup and the regular sidemen, the true core of the Project was the duo of Parsons and Woolfson. Eric Woolfson was a lawyer by profession, but is a classically-trained composer and pianist as well. Alan Parsons was a successful producer and accomplished engineer. Both worked together to craft noteworthy songs with impeccable fidelity, and almost all songs on Project albums are credited to "Woolfson/Parsons."

Following the breakup of The Project, Parsons released other titles under his name (Try Anything Once, On Air, The Time Machine, and A Valid Path), while Woolfson made concept albums named Freudiana (about Sigmund Freud's work on psychology) and Poe - More Tales of Mystery and Imagination (continuing from the Alan Parsons Project's first album about Edgar Allan Poe's literature).

Although the studio version of Freudiana was produced by Alan Parsons (and featured the regular Project backing musicians, making it an 'unofficial' Project album), it was primarily Eric Woolfson's idea to turn it into a musical. This eventually led to a rift between the two artists. While Alan Parsons pursued his own solo career and took many members of the Project on the road for the first time in a successful worldwide tour, Eric Woolfson went on to produce musical plays influenced by the Project's music. Freudiana, Gaudi and Gambler were three musicals that included some Project songs like "Eye in the Sky", "Time", "Inside Looking Out," and "Limelight." The live music from Gambler was only distributed at the performance site (in Moenchengladbach, Germany).

A collection called The Instrumental Works (1990; now out of print) includes many of the Project's instrumental tracks.

Alan Parsons - keyboards, production, engineering
Eric Woolfson - keyboards, executive production
Andrew Powell - keyboards, orchestral arrangements
Ian Bairnson - guitar
Richard Cottle - keyboards, saxophone
Adam Lefebvre - keyboards
Notable or frequent contributors
Note that these are not official members of The Alan Parsons Project, but musicians who have made significant studio contributions
David Paton - vocals, Bass
Laurence Cottle - Bass
Stuart Tosh - Drums, Percussion
Stuart Elliott (musician) - Drums, Percussion
Mel Collins - saxophone
Lenny Zakatek - vocals
John Miles - vocals
Chris Rainbow - vocals
Colin Blunstone - vocals
Arthur Brown - vocals
Graham Dye - vocals
Steven Dye - vocals
Steve Harley - vocals

The album Tales of Mystery and Imagination was remixed for release on CD and includes narration by Orson Welles which was specially recorded in 1985, shortly before Welles' death, as part of a general reworking of the album.
In the Austin Powers movie The Spy who Shagged Me, Doctor Evil devised a "laser", calling it "The Alan Parsons Project" after the "noted Cambridge physicist Dr. Parsons." Parsons subsequently incorporated a number of sound bites from the movie into a remixed version of the title track (called "the Dr. Evil Edit") from The Time Machine.
Grandaddy's promo-only single "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" is a humorous cover of the Christmas song Winter Wonderland, with lyrics altered to make the song about Alan Parsons.
In 1983 Parsons/Woolfson and their record company were stalled in contract renegotiations when the two submitted an all-instrumental album tentatively titled "The Sicilian Defense" (arguably to get out of their contract). The refusal to release said album had two known effects: the negotiations led to a renewed contract and the album has remained unreleased to this day.


(contains plot descriptions)
Tales of Mystery and Imagination - 1976
Concept: Based on stories by the writer Edgar Allan Poe. The later reissue on CD (in 1987) was remixed from the original master tapes, enhancing some of the tracks and restoring the Orson Welles narration (recorded 1975 but left off the original due to record company 'concerns').
I Robot - 1977
Concept: The title quotes Isaac Asimov's work, "a view of tomorrow through the eyes of today". Includes minor hits "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" and "Breakdown."
Pyramid - 1978
Concept: References to pyramid power and ancient Egypt surface repeatedly, the album is called "a view of yesterday through the eyes of today". The theme of rise and fall is prominent throughout.
Eve - 1979
Concept: Women; this is the only Project album to feature female lead vocalists - and even then only on two tracks.
The Turn of a Friendly Card - 1980
Concept: Gambling, literally and figuratively. Influenced by the Philip K. Dick novel The Game-Players of Titan. Includes their hits "Time" and "Games People Play."
Eye in the Sky - 1982
Concept: Surveillance, with the album title inspired by the Eye in the sky cameras used in casinos. Also explores Life and the Universe, but some insist the album is about "forgotten and lost values". Album contains their most famous single, "Eye in the Sky," the ballad "Old and Wise", and their best-known instrumental, "Sirius."
Ammonia Avenue - 1984
Concept: "The album focused on the possible misunderstanding of industrial scientific developments from a public perspective and a lack of understanding of the public from a scientific perspective" (Eric Woolfson, May 1983). It is their most "radio-friendly" album. Includes "Don't Answer Me" and "You Don't Believe" (the latter first appeared on a 1983 "best of" collection).
Vulture Culture - 1985
Concept: A critique of consumerism and, in particular, American popular culture. Includes "Let's Talk About Me."
Stereotomy - 1985
Concept: The effect of fame and fortune on various people - singers, actors, etc.
Gaudi - 1987
Concept: Songs inspired by the life and work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

"(The System Of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (1976) #37 US
"The Raven" (1976) #80 US
"I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" (1977) #36 US
"Don't Let It Show" (1977) #92 US
"What Goes Up" (1978) #87 US
"Damned If I Do" (1979) #27 US
"Games People Play" (1981) #16 US
"Time" (1981) #15 US
"Snake Eyes" (1981) #67 US
"Eye In The Sky" (1982) #3 US
"Psychobabble" (1982) #57 US
"You Don't Believe" (1983) #54 US
"Don't Answer Me" (1984) #15 US (video)
"Prime Time" (1984) #34 US
"Let's Talk About Me" (1985) #56 US
"Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)" (1985) #71 US
"Stereotomy" (1986) #82 US (video)

External links
The Alan Parsons Project Website: The Official Alan Parsons Project Website

No comments:

Ad by Google