The Alan Parsons Project
November 18, 2016
By Justin Press
Photos by Justin Press
An Evening Of Space Aged Love Songs
Anyone who's ever owned a copy of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon readily admits its one of the best sounding records ever laid to tape. It sequences immaculately, the playing throughout is nuanced and balanced and the atmosphere of the album alone has made it a cornerstone of pop music. But upon closer inspection of the credits of that record, one name jumps out, Alan Parsons, the engineer for what is arguably the record that took progressive rock music from a niche to the Billboard Charts and global stardom. Once he turned his talents to his own musical projects, that ear and skills for creating sweeping, epic songs that sounded both organic but also pinpoint sonically, he was no longer to remain a credit on an album sleeve, a faceless name. Or was he?
After 45 years of recorded material, Parsons and his band have surfaced for a long-awaited tour touting all of his hits (yes, he had many that are AOR radio staples) and his own take on "prog," a mix of Brian Wilson's honey-dewed choruses doused in progressive time signatures and tales of Poe, space and medieval journeys. Friday evening with a capacity audience at the Majestic Theater, Parsons kept his low-key persona and sky blue blazer perched atop his riser along with his Yamaha synth and array of acoustic guitars. A very stoic Englishman much like mentor Dave Gilmour's distinguished calm and acute attention to every note being played by his band mates. Unlike most progressive shows, which delve into fantastical light shows and film backdrops, this was a stripped down show focusing 100% on the strength of the songs themselves.
Opening with the futuristic "I, Robot" into "Damned If I Do" and "Don't Answer Me," this was going to be the method of the evening, synth-laced metal machine music coming up against oxygen-lite pop numbers that made AM radio soar in the 70's. Manicured playing against a tapestry of drums, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, organs, pianos and drums along with 4 and 5 part harmonies is not for the weak of heart and what the show lacked in stage persona, it more than made up for it in sonic excellence. You could have closed your eyes for 120 minutes and not missed a thing visually but would have sworn your hi-fi stereo was on. Now this could be perceived as cold and sterile, but that is what Progressive fans expect and anticipate, to be wowed with talent and not showmanship. Of course you could always send up an inflatable pig to keep the punters happy but why bother when you have 23 songs to knock out.
A foray of volleys from the Turn Of A Friendly Card album were the centerpiece as the "Nothing Left To Lose" was the missing song Crosby, Stills and Nash have been searching for that went missing. And that is the sweet perplexity of Alan Parsons, his ability to concoct these swirling concept albums built upon computer-age aura but wrapped in sweet harmonies that are like dreamscapes for the mind. And what Parsons may have lacked in name recognition he's more than made up for in musical acceptance on a grand scale as the greatest sports arena theme of all-time 'Sirius" led us into the 1-2 of "Eye In The Sky" and "Games People Play" conjuring up the reality that our parents and older siblings had "all the best music". Hearing "Eye" in surround sound with those sweeping harmonies layered upon that steady playing underneath was like having spherical beings dodging about your head and whispering to you "isn't this splendid".
It was indeed, an evening of splendid music created by a man who lived in the shadows, a name on the back of an album, then the front of many albums, yet still remained a mystery, and that's it tale to tell... (see what I did there).
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