When your CV includes ‘assistant engineer’ on the last two of The Beatles’ albums and ‘engineer’ on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, you are surely made for life. If you like Parsons’ earlier Project work, you should enjoy this one.
Label: Frontiers Records
Time: 11 Tracks / 49 minutes
Parsons went on to work with Paul McCartney and The Hollies, and produced Steve Harley’s “Make Me Smile” as well as Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat.
When he teamed up with Eric Woolfson to form the studio-based Alan Parsons Project, his name became well known and loved. Since Woolfson’s death, he has dropped the ‘Project’ moniker, toured his music live and released symphonic versions.
This new work echoes several of these career highlights: there is a definite, deliberate psychedelic Beatles sound to “One Note Symphony” and Mark Mikel’s vocals on “Fly to Me” are remarkably Lennonesque; while the instrumental opener – a rock-classical version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" – doffs its hat to Parson’s recent symphonic re-inventions of his work.
Ironically, Parsons also included members of Pilot as the backbone of his project team after producing their chart hit “Magic,” but is not using them in this line up, where the theme is... magic.
So much for the career connections – is this release any good?
The answer is a confident ‘Yes’. While for me, none of Parsons’ work has matched his short 1977 opus I, Robot, where virtually every track was pretty essential and appealed at gut-level, this one has something for everyone, from the orchestral track and psychedelia already mentioned to the gutsy “Requiem,” which swings with some big band backing. In between are a few safe tracks for the middle-of-the-road market – although even the balladry of “Fly to Me” will be pleasantly in your ears for some while after it stops.
Offering the soft rock of “Sometimes” to one person and the psychedelia of “One Note Symphony” to another risks neither being completely satisfied, but the overall quality is still good enough to keep them both on board, whatever the style – as long as you enjoy polish, which many Parsons fans clearly do.
Parsons always favours a smooth vocal, and there are eight separate singers on this release. The first vocal track “The Miracle” – featuring sweet-toned Jason Mraz – sounds very like Foreigner, but Foreigner singer Lou Gramm appears on the musical-theatre-like “Sometimes.”
While this album is a tad more easy-listening than it could be, songs like “Years of Glory” would not be out of place on I, Robot, its super-soft vocal enhanced by strings, a sax break and guitar solo.
The album has songs that no one else is making, such as “One Note Symphony,” where the melody is a single note that everything else plays around. That note is the Schumann Frequency of 7.83 Hz, often known as the Earth’s pulse. Parsons has been commissioned to play the song at the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, near the Kennedy Space Center.
Equally unusual is their scored take on “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” featuring Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and the excellent drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who certainly helped make Jeff Beck’s Live at Ronnie Scott’s so stunning.
In short, if you like his earlier work, you will probably enjoy this project, which is mainstream enough to draw in new listeners.