Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Alan Parsons Project

The Alan Parsons Project was a British progressive rock band, active between 1975 and 1990, consisting of singer Eric Woolfson and keyboardist Alan Parsons surrounded by a varying number of session musicians.

 Most of the Project's titles, especially the early work, share common traits (likely influenced by Pink Floyd's The 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 instrumental  "Sirius", eventually became the best-known (or at least most frequently heard) Parsons instrumental. It was used as entrance music by various American sports teams, most notably by the Chicago Bulls during their 1990s NBA dynasty.

The group was notable for using several vocal performers instead of having a single lead vocalist. Lead vocal duties were shared by 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

Woolfson was a lawyer by profession, but also a composer and pianist. Parsons was a successful producer and accomplished engineer. Almost all songs on the band's albums are credited to "Woolfson/Parsons".

 Parsons met Woolfson in the canteen of Abbey Road Studios in the summer of 1974. Parsons had already acted as assistant engineer on The Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be, which was his first project there.

As noted in the interview, Alan Parsons got his start at Abbey Road Studio and one of his early influences was Sgt. Pepper's.

Woolfson, a songwriter and composer, was working as a session pianist; he had also composed material for a concept album idea based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

Parsons was an engineer on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon.

Alan Parsons was only credited as an engineer on Dark  Side of The Moon, but clearly he was a producer as well.  He was the one who brought in Clare Tory so sing on "Great Gig In The Sky"

"She had done a covers album; I can remember that she did a version of "Light My Fire." I just thought she had a great voice. When the situation came up, they started head-scratching, saying, "Who are we going to get to sing on this?" I said, "I've got an idea — I know this girl." She came, and in a couple of hours it was all done. She had to be told not to sing any words: when she first started, she was doing "Oh yeah baby" and all that kind of stuff, so she had to be restrained on that. But there was no real direction — she just had to feel it."

 Parsons also did a lot of his early work with the Hollies. He recalled that he learned from their main producer how to spot a hit, something the Parsons Project did a lot of later in his career.

Parsons asked Woolfson to become his manager and Woolfson managed Parsons' career as a producer and engineer through a string of successes including Pilot, Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel, John Miles, Al Stewart, Ambrosia and The Hollies. 

 Parsons was the engineer for Ambrosia's first album and the producer for their second.

 Pilot's big hit "Magic"

And Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat"

 Parsons commented at the time that he felt frustrated in having to accommodate the views of some of the musicians, which he felt interfered with his production.

Woolfson came up with the idea of making an album based on developments in the film industry, where directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick were the focal point of the film's promotion, rather than individual film stars. If the film industry was becoming a director's medium, Woolfson felt the music business might well become a producer's medium.

Recalling his earlier Edgar Allan Poe material, Woolfson saw a way to combine his and Parsons' respective talents. Parsons would produce and engineer songs written by the two, and the Alan Parsons Project was born.

Their first album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, including major contributions by all members of Pilot and Ambrosia, was a success, reaching the Top 40 in the US Billboard 200 chart. 

The song "The Raven" featured lead vocals by the actor Leonard Whiting, and, according to the 2007 remastered album liner notes, was the first rock song to use a digital vocoder, with Alan Parsons speaking lyrics through it.

Arista Records then signed The Alan Parsons Project for further albums. 

I Robot was released by Arista Records in 1977. It was intended to be based on the I, Robot stories written by Isaac Asimov, and Woolfson actually spoke with Asimov, who was enthusiastic about the idea. As the rights already had been granted to a TV/movie company, the album's title was altered slightly by removing the comma, and the theme and lyrics were made to be more generically about robots rather than specific to the Asimov universe.
This album has strong influences from soul, funk and disco music, especially in tracks like "I Robot", "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" and "The Voice", mixed with some influences from early electro and synth-pop music. It also sounds very close to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon"

Pyramid was released in 1978. It is a concept album centered on the pyramids of Giza. At the time the album was conceived, interest in pyramid power and Tutankhamun was widespread in the US and the UK. Pyramid was nominated for the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Liner notes read "...this album seeks to amplify the haunting echoes of the past and explore the unsolved mysteries of the present. Pyramid...the last remaining wonder of the ancient world."

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