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Friday, April 6, 2012



El catálogo entero del Alan Parsons Project, remasterizado y recargado con material extra. Un poco tarde para la reivindicación de un cantante apellidado Woolfson. Todos los discos disponibles en un solo paquete.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Casablanca, 1976 y 1987)
I Robot (Arista, 1977)

Pyramid (Arista, 1978)

Eve (Arista, 1979)

The Turn Of A Friendly Card (Arista, 1980)

Eye In The Sky (Arista, 1982)

Ammonia Avenue (Arista, 1984)

Vulture Culture (Arista, 1985)

Stereotomy (Arista, 1985)

Gaudi (Arista, 1987) 

The Complete Albums Collection (Sony/Legacy, 2014) 

Crecí sin escuchar la música del Alan Parsons Project hasta una tarde de octubre de 1989, cuando en el programa de TV del gran Gerardo Manuel, Disco Club, apareció un video de la canción "Time". Creo que fue uno de los momentos musicales más importantes de mi vida, porque adoré la canción mientras iba pasando lentamente en frente de mis oídos y ojos. Por alguna razón, la letra en inglés la entendí a la perfección. Sabía que era sobre algo más que el "tiempo" en sí, y estaba bellamente cantada por Eric Woolfson, poseedor de una magnífica y única voz.


Alan Parsons vio cómo el rock británico iba creciendo y madurando frente a su ventana en la sala de grabaciones del estudio EMI (posteriormente Abbey Road), donde empezó como asistente de ingeniero, moviendo los botones de la consola en las últimas sesiones de los Beatles como grupo para aquella maravillosa despedida llamada Abbey Road. Parsons fue contratado por Paul McCartney como ingeniero para el debut de los Wings, Wild Life, y posteriormente trabajó como ingeniero de sonido durante las sesiones de Dark Side Of The Moon de Pink Floyd y fue ahí en donde aprendió las técnicas de producción que le dieron tantos buenos frutos con su discografía.

Fue con Woolfson, pianista, cantante y compositor de perfil bajo, quien estableció el Alan Parsons Project al lanzar el disco homónimo en 1976 con canciones basadas en la obra de Edgar Allan Poe. Poco después, el disco sería rebautizado como Tales Of Mystery And Imagination, al haber la posibilidad de que el grupo, o concepto musical, pudiera seguir sacando más discos. Era el inicio de una bella amistad y una colaboración musical que duraría aproximadamente una década.

Parsons, cual buen productor británico, gustaba de tomarse su tiempo en los menesteres de la materialización de sus ideas. A razón de un disco por año, logró con Eric Woolfson crear excelentes piezas musicales pop desde el inicio, como la fantástica "I Robot," del álbum del mismo nombre. I Robot Fue un disco conceptual sobre el eterno dilema del hombre versus la máquina, cada día más omnipresente. Esta vez Parsons no invocaba a Poe sino al escritor ruso Isaac Asimov cuyo libro de cuentos I Robot, después de ser musicalizado por Parsons, sería llevado al cine con Will Smith en un mamarracho que no convenció a nadie, pero para Parsons fue una oportunidad perdida. Auch.


El siguiente disco, Pyramid, sería sobre el poder de las pirámides y algunos conceptos de la cultura egipcia como la muerte y la vida después de la vida, todo entremezclado con la presencia del fuego redentor. Woolfson escribía canciones sobre la decadencia de la edad moderna, el fin de los setentas, y la lucha de la clase media por evitar convertirse en obrera. Parsons había reclutado a los miembros de la banda Pilot ("Magic") y junto a Woolfson en los teclados empezaba a lanzar una fantástica y asequible música electrónica pop sin parar. "Can't Take It With You" es una apología a la Muerte como la más perfecta justiciera herramienta del universo y "The Eagle Will Rise Again" es una advertencia ante la tendencia cíclica del totalitarismo en Europa, así como en los Estados Unidos.

Eve fue terriblemente criticado por algunos por ser un álbum misógino sobre la mujer, en donde ésta es simplemente una obra del diablo para arruinar los planes del hombre. Nadie en esa época, con excepción de los Punks, podía haber hecho un grupo de canciones tan amargas y acusadoras, con frases como “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” o “I'd rather be a man cause a man don’t crawl like you”, en referencia a la serpiente que tentó a Adán. La cosa era clara: Lenny Zakatek era un excelente vocalista, y Parsons era capaz de hacer que Clare Torry (la de "The Great Gig In The Sky" de Pink Floyd) cante pulidamente en "Don't Hold Back", pero en verdad, con todos estos discos estaba subestimando al mejor vocalista que tenía a mano: Eric Woolfson.

Es increíble que tuvieran que pasar cuatro álbumes para que Parsons deje cantar a Eric Woolfson por primera vez en una canción, la maravillosa, increíble, tierna, apabullante "Time," del primer trabajo notable del Project en los ochentas: The Turn Of A Friendly Card.


El disco representaba la influencia de los juegos de azar en el ser humano, contando vagamente la historia de un hombre que lo juega y pierde todo, para luego lamentarse y esperar a que la suerte le vuelva a sonreir (Carlos Gardel ya había contado una penuria semejante en el tango "Por Una Cabeza"). Friendly Card es un LP majestuoso, aunque fue el primero de Parsons en no tener cubierta doble (reducción de presupuestos por la falta de insumos). "Time" y "Games People Play", cantada por Lenny Zakatek, fueron los caballos de batalla de esta producción, a la que le siguió el excelente Eye In The Sky, la obra cumbre del APP. La canción que abre el disco, la instrumental “Sirius” es la razón por la cual Parsons puede vivir sin trabajar -de proponérselo-, al ser el tema más usado en los estadios de fútbol americano y basquet en el momento que los equipos salen. Los Chicago Bulls aún la siguen usando: aquel cautivador riff de guitarra con ecos y flangers se ha convertido en su cortina musical por defecto. La otra instrumental del disco, "Mammagamma" es considerada por Parsons como la "primera canción completamente sampleada"; es decir, nadie grabó una nota de la canción en ninguna sesión de grupo. Todos son pedazos de sonidos de diversos instrumentos armados para crear una canción que nadie había escuchado antes y que estaba sólo en las cabezas de Parsons y Woolfson. Colin Blunstone canta la balada "Old And Wise" que en Europa se convierte en un súper éxito (es considerada una de las mejores canciones de la historia en Holanda) y la bola de nieve seguía creciendo... Y ahí esta la canción título, que Parsons casi descarta por completo. Es increíble que el mismo Parsons sólo haya utilizado a Woolfson como cantante en los "demos" de las canciones que pensaban poner en acetato, en vez de considerarlo como uno de los vocalistas. La voz de Woolfson es la más carismática de todos los cantantes que pasaron por el Project, y es una de esas melancólicas y suaves que muy pocos crooners logran alcanzar. Al parecer, al ser "Eye" una canción bastante exitosa, Parsons decidió usar a Woolfson más a menudo como cantante principal. Ya había acertado con “Silence and I,” y decidió tragarse su orgullo y apostar por Eric. Un Best Of Alan Parsons Project salió al mercado en 1983 y se llegó a oír hasta en la Unión Soviética. Los dos discos siguientes lo confirmaron: el Ammonia Avenue y el Vulture Culture. Ambos están cargados de Woolfson a más no poder. Y son los más pop de toda la obra Parsons. En algún momento ambos discos fueron pensados en ser lanzados como uno doble (en verdad, carecen de conceptualidad, aunque Woolfson afirme que el primero es sobre la distopia entre los científicos y el ser humano promedio). Chris Rainbow canta “Since The Last Goodbye” que es el himno del nostálgico enamorado y Woolfson responde al maltrato del ser amado en “Sooner Or Later.” “Don't Answer Me” y "Days Are Numbers (The Traveler)" consolidaron la fama del Project a nivel mundial. Ambos discos deben ser conseguidos al mismo tiempo, creo. El primer bajón -severo- ocurrió con Stereotomy, un disco muy flojo sobre la vida del artista y su exposición ante los medios. Habrá sido el peor, pero tiene en mi opinión la mejor portada de toda la carrera del Project, aquella mancha de Rorschach en colores rojos y púrpuras con un forro que permite ver ciertos colores de la funda dependiendo del lado del forro que lo cubra; claro que el disco compacto se limitó a seleccionar una visualización:
Yo personalmente creo el problema de Stereotomy fue un abuso de producción digital. Parsons creyó que con la tecnología binaria muchas pesadillas relacionadas al ruido y a la saturación se habían terminado, pero no contaba con la sensibilidad del oído para detectar la artificialidad del sonido digital. Woolfson no tuvo ninguna canción qué cantar y, salvo "Limelight", la balada sobre la vida pública y un hombre que medita en medio del desierto (quizás Jesucristo mismo a punto de ser tentado por el Demonio), las demás canciones son de relleno e insípidas. El tema título es un rock ochentero entretenido por ratos gracias a la voz intensa y pujante de John Miles, a quien Parsons produjo su álbum Rebel en 1976 y la poderosa "Music" (a buscarlo en YouTube que si les gusta el APP, adorarán a Miles).
Y el fin vino en 1987 con Gaudi, un homenaje al arquitecto que dejó inconclusa su obra maestra. Quizás haya sido una analogía al trabajo de Parsons... porque el disco fue un vano intento por retomar el vuelo de la era 80-84 con Woolfson cantando dos baladas y dando un número roquero a John Miles de nuevo ("Money Talks"). Pero fue la canción "Standing On Higher Ground" cantada por el vocalista de Vitamin Z Geoff Barradale la que hizo brillar el disco. En este tema, Ian Bairnson, sin querer ni intentar, ejecutó uno de los mejores solos de guitarra eléctrica de los ochentas.
La aparición de dos discos compilatorios, Best Of Vol. 2 y The Instrumental Works fueron el anuncio tácito de que el contrato con Arista estaba finalizando y había que renovarlo de seguir continuando... pero esto no pasó. El Alan Parsons Project se disolvió durante la grabación de un álbum excelente llamado Freudiana. Eric Woolfson quería hacer de esta obra un musical para ser exhibido en Broadway pero por motivos de presupuesto nunca se llevó a cabo. Parsons dejó de ser el productor pero el álbum se completó y fue lanzado bajo el sello EMI. Es, definitivamente, un disco muy interesante y complejo a cargo de Woolfson, quien tiene los créditos de todas las canciones. Parsons diría posteriormente que Woolfson era quien escribía todo, y él solo se limitaba a la producción aunque su nombre esté en los créditos de la autoría. Fue una reinvindicación que pasó desapercibida pero 17 años después cobra más vigencia con esta colección remasterizada en donde se muestra con más claridad, y con más material, el talento musical de Woolfson. 
Eric Woolfson falleció en diciembre del 2009, dejándonos un disco interesante, Woolfson Sings the Alan Parsons Project That Never Was. Simplemente, las canciones que Parsons descartó. Algunas, seamos honestos, no eran gran cosa comparadas con lo que el dúo produjo. Otras canciones rechazadas eran para ponerle a Parsons un gorro de "burro" y mandarlo castigado a la esquina de la sala de control, como la estremecedora "Immortal", parte de un musical que Woolfson tenía planeado, y logró hacer, sobre la vida de Edgar Allan Poe. 
UNA ENTREVISTA PERDIDA Y ENCONTRADA DE NUEVO

WOOLFSON y PARSONS: la entrevista
Esto lo encontramos surfeando en la internet hace algún buen tiempo. Alrededor de 1991, Matt Braun, trabajador de Motorola en Illinois, adquirió en una convención de coleccionistas una caja promocional para DJs de 5 vinilos que contiene dos entrevistas a Alan Parsons y a Eric Woolfson (en 3 discos) y los dos últimos álbumes de Alan Parsons Project hacia 1982; es decir, The Turn Of A Friendly Card (Arista, 1980) y Eye In The Sky (Arista, 1981). MENSAJE DEL ARQUEÓLOGO Date: Mon, 14 Oct 91 22:30:05 CDT From: mbraun@urbana.mcd.mot.com Hi folks. AT A RECENT RECORD COLLECTOR'S convention, I picked up a "DJ-only--NOT For Sale" boxed set of vinyl issued by Arista called "The Complete Audio Guide To The Alan Parsons Project." It is a 5 record set, containing two interviews with Alan Parsons & Eric Woolfson (on 3 discs), as well as (vinyl) copies of "The Turn Of A Friendly Card" and "Eye In The Sky." I'm pretty sure that these were supposed to be the basis for "Do It Yourself" radio programs. I figured "what the heck," and I transcribed it all. Both interviews contain conversations with the Alan and Eric, as well as the music that they've worked on. The first interview covers the careers of Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson before the Project was formed, as well as their collaborative work up through the "Eve" album. (I believe that when the interview was conducted, "Eve" had just been released). The second interview is basically just them discussing selected songs from "The Turn Of a Friendly Card" (at the time, their previous album) and almost every song on "Eye In The Sky." The material in brackets [] has been added by me (I've tried to keep this to a bare minimum, usually just describing what songs are being played in the foreground or background.) Start to finish, listening to the 3 interview LPs (and the music included therewith) takes about 3 hours. Reading the interview isn't *quite* the same as listening to it, but on the other hand, this way, *you* don't have to suffer through Steve Harley singing "Judy Teen." Enjoy! Matt Braun -- Motorola, Urbana, IL Design Centre. 1996
LOS INICIOS Y LAS PRIMERAS PRODUCCIONES
[Interview 1: Sides 1-4] [Intro: excerpt from "I, Robot"] ALAN PARSONS: Getting into the recording business was something I really didn't imagine that I would ever do. Although I had all the basic qualifications necessary to do it, because I'd had a musical background of piano and flute at school, and, y'know, I played a bit of guitar, and played with local bands, and at the same time, I had an interest in electronics. I was always building radio sets, and electronic gadgets at home, but it didn't really hit me until after leaving school that I could combine these interests into one part, and make something worthwhile out of it. After leaving school, I spent a short time in a research lab doing development work on television cameras. This was at EMI, in Hayes, Middlesex, and I was eventually moved into a tape production plant, which was devoted to the manufacture of mono quarter-inch tapes of commercially available albums, and this is really where I got interested in hi-fi, because this was the first time I had heard high quality sound systems, and One of the albums that I heard during my time there was Sargent Pepper, and having always been a great fan of the Beatles, I was totally knocked out by this album, and I was determined to find out how they got these sounds, and just how the whole thing went about, but the problem was that I'd heard that to get a job in the studios at Abbey Road was very competitive, and I'd have a very hard time. But, surprisingly enough, I just wrote a letter to the manager, and within 10 days I was working there. [Song: The Beatles, "A Day In The Life", from the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", album] ALAN PARSONS: After I'd had a bit of experience at Abbey Road, operating tapes and running around for people, it wasn't long before my schoolboy dream was fulfilled, and that was of course, to meet the Beatles. And I was sent off to the Apple studios in Savil Row, where they'd been working on their "Let It Be" album, with Ben Johns engineering. They'd had some bad luck with their initial installation of their studio equipment, because it just wasn't performing how they hoped it would, and they rented some stuff from EMI, and I was basically sent down there just to make sure that everything was okay, and to help out on tapes. I never really got to know any of them particularly well at this stage, but I was just so in awe of the situation, of actually being around them, and finding out how they worked. I think it was evident there were problems within..within the group at this time, and the film to a certain extent brought this out. But, for me it was just a great experience to..to actually see them working and recording, seeing how their ideas accumulated. And most of all, the last performance that they ever did in public, on the roof of the Apple building. [Song: The Beatles: "Get Back" from the "Let It Be" album] ALAN PARSONS: Although "Let it Be" was the last album by the Beatles, as a group, to be released, it was "Abbey Road" that was the last to be recorded. My involvement on the "Abbey Road" album, again, as tape operator/assistant engineer/what-have-you, I noticed that during the making of the album, you wouldn't often find all four Beatles there at once. Often it would just be Paul with George Martin, or George Harrison with George Martin. They'd each come in to do their own individual parts of their own individual songs. I think I was enormously impressed by the way that they didn't just use normal conventional musical instruments to make a record, they'd use all sorts of strange ideas, or strange processes with instruments. But, I was just so surprised when I saw Ringo blowing through a straw into a glass of water to get the underwater effects in "Octopus's Garden." And, likewise on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" the banging of the anvil for the hammering effect. [Song: The Beatles, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" from their album "Abbey Road"] ALAN PARSONS: Most other artists at this stage were recording under more conventional time scales. I mean a recording session used to last 3 hours, which usually was from 10:00 to 1:00, or from 2:30 to 5:30, whatever. And, I often didn't know from one day to the next, what I was going to be doing. I mean, I might spend the morning helping out on a classical orchestra session, and in the afternoon, doing a West End musical. And then, the following day, I might be working with some progressive blues band. But it was all very valuable experience to me, to have such a wide range of musical styles, being injected into me. It was this constant learning process, finding out how different people worked, and how different engineers and producers worked. A great deal of Paul McCartney's first solo album was recorded at various locations, such as his own home, and his farm in Scotland. But he did come into Abbey Road to do a couple of songs. One of them was called "Every Night," and the other was, of course, the classic "Maybe I'm Amazed." [Song: Paul McCartney, "Maybe I'm Amazed," from his album "McCartney"] ALAN PARSONS: The "McCartney" album was soon followed by "Ram," and then the Wings' Wild Life LP, which he came to do at Abbey Road. And this was actually the beginning of my career as an engineer, as opposed to an assistant, because every so often he would disappear with the band, and ask Tony Clark, or myself, to make tapes for him to listen to the next day so he could assess the situation, and decide what he wanted to do next. But one of the songs on the album, I actually mixed myself, just purely for his purposes, as a rough mix, so he could decide what he wanted to do with it. And, this was a song called, "I'm Your Singer," which I'm delighted to say ended up being used on the album--the rough mix that I'd done. [Song: Paul McCartney, "I'm Your Singer," from his/Wings? album, "Wild Life"] ALAN PARSONS: Presumably having made some impression on "Wild Life," Paul asked me to do some tracks on the following album, "Red Rose Speedway." Working with Paul as a producer, [as opposed] to engineer, was a whole different thing to just being the guy who sat at the back, rolling tapes backwards and forwards. As a producer, Paul was always slightly doubtful about every sound that was produced. He would say "Make the guitar sound better," or "make the drums sound better," but he wasn't actually able to describe in technical terms what he was after, which actually made the engineer's job very difficult. But at the end of the day, the results were always there. During the making of the album, there was a short pause to go on a European tour, in Holland, Belgium, and Germany. And, I always remember the song "Hi, Hi, Hi" being played in a totally different way, to the way it ended up being recorded. I actually preferred the live version, believe it or not, but millions didn't. [Song: Wings, "Hi, Hi, Hi," from their album "Wings Greatest."] ALAN PARSONS: Although there was some independent production work going on at Abbey Road, a great deal of the sessions that were taking place were actually in-house productions. Although the Beatles were considered an "in-house production," because George Martin was a staff producer for EMI. There were several other full-time producers, such as Peter Sullivan, John Burgess, and Ron Richards, who had success with the Hollies for a considerable time. I got involved with the Hollies around the time that Graham Nash left the group, and Terry Sylvester joined. Among the records that I worked with them on, of course, was the classic "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." And one, that I actually felt was the best record they ever made, "The Air That I Breathe" [Song: The Hollies, "The Air That I Breathe" from their album "The Hollies Greatest Hits."] ALAN PARSONS: I think I got into the recording game at a very exciting time. Once upon a time, there was mono, then there was stereo, then there was 4-track, then there was 8-track, and 16-track, and then the Lord said, "Let there be 24-track," which is where we are now. But it was interesting not only to see the way that the studios evolved, but the way that the musicians evolved with the change. I think one of the bands that made the greatest impression on me in this particular direction would have to be Pink Floyd. [Background Song: Pink Floyd, "Breathe," from their album "Dark Side Of The Moon."] My first encounter with them was on the "Atom Heart Mother" album, which I was asked to mix for them. The album had actually been 8-track, but the amount of special effects and machines we had running--I just couldn't believe. It was like every machine in the whole building had been latched up, so that we could use every conceivable special effect. And, at the same time, it was probably the biggest challenge that I had ever been confronted with: to actually mix that--to mix a Pink Floyd Album. But thankfully, this led on to greater things, and probably the album that gave me the biggest boost to my career--"Dark Side Of The Moon." The band had actually been playing the piece in concert for a considerable amount of time before we went into the studio to record it. But, there were, obviously, some changes made to it in the studio. A lot of the songs themselves stayed as they were, but they weren't recorded quite the same way as they sounded--I mean, we would often just start with just bass and drums, and add endless layers of guitars, and voices, etc. Which is the way virtually that The Floyd have become famous for. I think one of the reasons that the album took so long to record, I mean it did take a whole year from start to finish, was the fact that we'd spend hours, and hours, and hours, just getting a particular sound effect exactly right. I mean, for instance on "Money," we had to get out a ruler, and measure sections of tape, each carrying a particular sound effect, such as a cash register, or a bag of money being dropped, or a piece of paper being torn. We had to join these up, forming a seven-in-a-bar loop, which then formed the basis for the backing track which the band played to. [Song: Pink Floyd, "Money" from their album "Dark Side Of The Moon"]
ALAN PARSONS: When the band had been performing "Time" in concert, it simply started with Roger Waters playing the bass clicks which eventually come out of the introduction that's on the record. But, I came up with this idea for putting a load of clocks and timepieces which I'd recorded a few weeks previously, in a local clock shop. And the idea was that all of the clocks would tick together, which would be virtually impossible to record under normal circumstances, but with a multi-track tape, we managed to sync them all up, so that they would tick for a while and then all started chiming at the same time. And then, out of that came the bass lick, and then went into the tune.
[Song: Pink Floyd, "Time" from their album "Dark Side Of The Moon"]
ALAN PARSONS: I thought it was a little strange at the time, after the phenomenal success of "Dark Side Of The Moon," that The Floyd came in to do another album which was a complete departure from it. It was actually designed to be an album recorded totally without any musical instruments--or any conventional musical instruments. And, we started making this record with objects, such as rubber bands and tin cans, and blowing through bottles, and rubbing fingers 'round wine glasses, and things like this. But the whole thing was just so *painstaking*, I mean we must have spent about a month in the studio, at least, and came out with about two minutes of music. And everybody just said, y'know, "My brain's going! I can't possibly go on any further." So, it's a great shame the thing was abandoned, because it did have a potential to cause a complete revolution in recording, but the effort involved in making it would have just been extraordinary.
That was actually the last time I worked with The Floyd. They went on to do "Wish You Were Here" and "Animals" elsewhere. But at this time, I was beginning to get calls from people wanting to work with me as producer, as well as engineer. And one of the first to come along to ask for me as a producer, was Steve Harley. Steve had scored a fair success with first "Cockney Rebel" [???] album, but it was really the "Psychomodo" album that broke him in England, and the first single that was released, virtually the first thing I'd actually produced, actually made the Top 20 in England, and it's called "Judy Teen."
[Song: Steve Harley, "Judy Teen," from his single of the same name. :-) ]
ALAN PARSONS: It wasn't long before EMI came up with another act for me to produce for them. These were three guys from Scotland by the name of David Paton, Stuart Tosh, and Billie Lyall. They teamed together with another Scot called Ian Bairnson, and became known as Pilot. We made an album, and thankfully again, the single that was released from this album also scored very well, and completely broke them wide open in America. The record reached number two, if I'm not mistaken. The song was called "Magic."
[Song: Pilot, "Magic," from their self-titled album]
ALAN PARSONS: I was in a slightly awkward situation at this point, because I'd had two successful records with EMI, and I was also getting offers from companies outside EMI, which put me in a rather difficult position, because now that I'd been working for EMI for seven or eight years, it was a little hard to make the decision of whether I should go out and work as a producer for another company. Thankfully, things worked out, and one guy who particularly impressed me from the offers that came from outside EMI, was John Miles.
[Background song: John Miles, "Pull the Damn Thing Down," from his album "Rebel."]
I'd just felt that he was an incredible professional--a great voice, and an incredible sense of pitch, and also, probably one of the most underrated guitarists that I'd ever heard. The album we made was called "Rebel," and there was one song called, "Music" which was released as a single in most European countries, even though it was over five minutes long. But nevertheless, it established his name in most parts of Europe.
[Song excerpt: John Miles, "Music (reprise)," from his album "Rebel."]
ALAN PARSONS: I've been lucky enough in the last few years to have been nominated for a few Grammy awards, and while I was in Los Angeles picking up the nomination for "Dark Side Of The Moon," I was fortunate enough to meet a band by the name of Ambrosia, who played me some of their material, which impressed me enormously. I couldn't believe they were American, matter of fact, they had such a British tinge to their music. And before long, I was mixing their first album, which went on to do well, especially the single, "Holding On To Yesterday." And later I worked with them as producer on their second album, which was called "Somewhere I've Never Travelled."
[Song: Ambrosia, "Somewhere I've Never Travelled," from their album of the same name]
ALAN PARSONS: The most successful artist that, I think, I've been involved with, as producer is Al Stewart. I'd actually been familiar with his music for many years, having been a great folk music fan in the past. I spent a lot of time in the clubs of London, going to see people like Stephan Grossman, John Ranborne, The Pentangle, people like that. But it was long after that, of course, that I met Al, and heard some of his material.
[Background Song: Al Stewart, "End Of The Day," from his album "Time Passages."]
The "Modern Times" album kind of established his name for the first time in America, I mean very few people really knew his name then, and it helped develop a new style for him, which re-established him in England, and got him out of the Folk-hero kind of image that he always had. He always tended to base his music around acoustic instruments, mainly because of his folk background. In fact, the only departure from acoustic instruments at this point was to use the electric guitar up front, in solos, etc. But while we were making Al's next album, I made a suggestion to use an old friend of mine, Phil Kenzie, to put a sax solo on the LP's title track. And Al said he'd never heard a sax in his music before, but kind of went along with the idea. And the result was a song which virtually broke Al worldwide: "The Year Of The Cat."
[Song: Al Stewart, "Year Of The Cat" (album version) from the album of the same name]
ALAN PARSONS: Following the enormous success of "Year Of The Cat," Al decided to move to America, and spend a lot more time touring, doing concerts, etc. And I think, "Year Of The Cat" must have had some effect on Al, because he took on on Phil, the sax player, as a permanent member of the band, and two of the songs on the next album featured him quite heavily. One of them was "Song On The Radio," and also, the title track, "Time Passages."
[Song: Al Stewart, "Time Passages" from the album of the same name]
EL ENCUENTRO DECISIVO: WOOLFSON y PARSONS
ALAN PARSONS: In recent years, film directors, such as Ken Russel, and Stanley Kubrick have become stars in their own right, and they're almost more famous that the stars that Appear in them. A gentleman who felt that this idea could be Applied to the record industry, not only with the artists I was working with, but what was later to become the "Alan Parsons Project," was Eric Woolfson.
ERIC WOOLFSON: My musical background was very different from Alan's, but as it turned out, was not incompatible with the training that he'd had. At the time in Britain we're talking about, there had been two distinct rock-n-roll camps: one which had grown up around the Beatles, which Alan was involved with, and the other, which developed around the Rolling Stones. And it was through the Rolling Stones' Manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, that I first came into the business. I had just come down to London from Glasgow, where I was born and brought up, and he signed me to a songwriting contract, and used me as a session pianist. I found myself in very good company: people like Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and later Eric Stewart, and Graham Gouldman. And I went on to become a record producer, myself, though not with any great degree of success. But my production activities brought me into the realm of Abbey Road which was the arena in which I first encountered Alan Parsons.
[Background song: "Dream Within A Dream" ]
I had had an idea about making an album about Edgar Allen Poe's work, for some time, but I didn't seem to have the necessary credibility as a producer or as a writer to carry the project through. However, when I met Alan, I felt his talents were certainly greater than mine in the production area, and he was somebody I might certainly be able to work with and collaborate with in achieving the realisation of this project. Fortunately, the idea Appealed to him, and Alan Parsons Project was born.
My original idea was that the album should be electronic, much in the lines of a Rick Wakeman album. But Alan believed, on the other hand, in order to do justice to Poe's work, we really would have to quote some of his poems and stories. The first track that we recorded, which was based on "The Raven," ironically enough, was sung by a machine.
[Song: "The Raven"]
ALAN PARSONS: I think I only realised when I got into making the "Tales Of Mystery" album the contribution that I was going to be making to it. I'd always felt slightly restricted in the past with other artists. I mean no artist likes having their songs pulled apart. But as the partnership with Eric developed, I found that I was being given much more freedom than I had been in the past. And I was contributing to the records not only as a producer, and injector of ideas, but also as a writer, though, not as a writer in the conventional sense. The album enabled me to get an enormous number of ideas off my chest. and just by--literally--toying with these ideas, I found that a composition would emerge, and combined with the freedom I was given with Eric's material, I think we created something which was totally new.
I think the musicians as well found that they were treading on new territory, because this was probably the first time that they'd performed on somebody else's album, as opposed to their own, and consequently, their careers didn't actually depend on it. And I found that just about everybody who Appeared on the album, most notably the Pilot band, who played most of the rhythm section material, were able to Approach the album with a freshness that they'd never been able to bring out before, because they weren't dictated by the musical styles that they'd been used to in the past. I mean, there could hardly be a greater contrast between `Oh-ho-ho it's magic" and closing track of "Tales of Mystery And Imagination," "To One In Paradise."
[Song: "To One In Paradise"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: We had intended just calling the album "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination," but the record company specifically asked us to have an artistic identification, so we called it "The Alan Parsons Project." And people in the industry and the public Appeared to think of this as being a band. This was quite fortuitous, because during the making of the album, we realised that there was more scope for this kind of musical venture, and we developed many other ideas for making albums, based on different themes. As Edgar Allen Poe had been described as `The Father of Science Fiction' it seemed reasonably logical that we should, perhaps, go into the science fiction area for the next album, and the result was the "I, Robot" album.
[Song: "I, Robot"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: For Alan and I, this was yet more unexplored territory, as we did not have an original work to base our songs or musical passages on, and we had to create our own themes, and our own interpretations of these themes. I'm a great lover of surrealism, and I try and inject this especially into the lyrics, so that you're never absolutely sure exactly what the message of the words is. In fact, Alan and I have a totally different perception of what the song "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" is about. I *thought* the song was meant to represent the point of view of a machine talking to a man. Alan, on the other hand, told me that he felt it was a man talking to a machine. And I suppose that both points of view are equally valid, or equally invalid.
[Song: "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You"]
ALAN PARSONS: I think a lot of recording artists generally are restricted, maybe by the fact that they have only one lead singer, or they have one particular style to follow. We've always been lucky, in that we can change with any particular musical trend, and also we're not stuck with one given set of people to perform on the records. I mean, for instance, on the song "Breakdown" in the "I, Robot" album, we go from the voice of Alan Clark singing to thousands of voices singing at the end.
[Song: "Breakdown"]
ALAN PARSONS: I think through the various albums that we've made as `The Alan Parsons Project,' we've established a couple of sounds that are identified with us, in particular the use of choir and orchestra. I think this identity was helped enormously by Andrew Powell, who has arranged and conducted all the orchestration on all of the albums. And his contribution to the projects has really been substantial, and we regard him as a third member of our team.
[Song: "In The Lap Of The Gods"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: I suppose I really should own up to the fact that although these albums, which are thematic albums, appear to be very carefully planned and set out, that's not always the case. We may start writing with a fixed idea in mind, but it never normally works out exactly the way we intended. In actual fact, although I don't believe an inanimate object can have a life of its own, the projects do have a way of taking their own direction in the recording studio. I certainly had no idea that we'd have a Gilbert and Sullivan type sendup of Pyramid Power.
[Song: "Pyramania"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: We've been accused, as writers, of contradicting ourselves, by both trying to put forward a point a view, for example Pyramid Power, and then sending it up. But in actual fact, we're not trying to preach or teach anything. We see ourselves as observers, and commentators.
[Song: "What Goes Up"]
ALAN PARSONS: It's actually interesting to note that other producers have followed in my footsteps, for instance Glen Johns with his "White Mansions," and more notably Jeff Wayne, with "The War Of The Worlds." And although "Tales of Mystery" did have a very definite concept to it, I think "I, Robot," and "Pyramid" were less clearly defined thematically. On the new album, "Eve," we've made the theme even more elusive. I think if I was pinned down, and asked what the "Eve" album is about, I'd have to say, "It's simply about women."
[Song: "Lucifer"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: When we embarked on the "Eve" album, our original idea was to take quotes from famous women, and build different tracks around these quotes. We did abandon that idea [chuckles] pretty shortly after we thought of it. But one idea we did stick with, was an intriguing quote which we think came from Jean Harlowe, who, when she was asked about the business of women making it in the Hollywood film business, and questions about the "casting couch," she came up with the comment, "You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."
[Song: "Lie Down With Dogs"]
ALAN PARSONS: If there's such a thing as a `typical Project track,' I think "I'm Damned If I Do" from the "Eve" album would have to be one of them. It has the ingredients which we've used in the past, like french horns, [and] the voice of Lenny Zakatek--the one exception: I never thought I'd hear the words `I love you' on a Project song.
[Song: "Damned If I Do"]
ALAN PARSONS: I believe that right from the days of Abbey Road, and the Beatles right up to the Alan Parsons Project, my life has been one long learning experience. I've been lucky enough to learn from the best, and I think I'm still learning.
EL REVERSO DE UNA CARTA AMIGA Y EL OJO EN EL CIELO
[Interview 2: Sides 5 & 6]
[Background Song: "Maybe A Price To Pay"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: "The Turn Of A Friendly Card" album had the theme, obviously, of gambling, and risk taking. The eventual title, was only arrived at some considerable time after finishing the album. We had a series of working titles while we were making it. Basically, I think, we started out with the idea of calling it "The Game Players Of Titan," 'cause it was a different kind of game playing, we had in mind to start with. We moved on to something like "Options," which, although it's an unexciting word, in itself, it had the advantage of, like "Pyramid" and "Robot," of being an `international' word, which was easily translatable, or understood by other territories, and kind of conveyed the idea of taking risks. But in the end, the image that people seemed to be left with, the impression after having heard the album, was based on the fact that they remembered this phrase "The Turn Of A Friendly Card." And although it was clumsy, and didn't translate into foreign languages easily, it seemed to be the right label for the `product' and that's how we got the name.
[Song: "The Turn Of A Friendly Card"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: I've often, in common with many other writers, been inspired at the oddest moments. And, one of the things that did start the creative juices flowing was actually sitting in casinos in Monte Carlo, with the din going on of people with machines, people talking, people moving about, and all the hustle and bustle that goes on there. It stimulated the writing of the track in particular, "Turn Of A Friendly Card," and of course, there was a track called "Snake Eyes"
[Song: "Snake Eyes" ]
[During the instrumental portion of the song:]
ERIC WOOLFSON: The joke about the lyric of "Snake Eyes" is that he's betting on something that you can't possibly win, because snake eyes is a bet which loses if seven or eleven comes up, and seven or eleven is a bet which loses if snake eyes comes up. So he's yelling `Snake Eyes! Seven-Eleven!', he wants any one of the three, and any of the three is gonna wipe him out.
ERIC WOOLFSON: This album dealt with many other aspects of the gambling instinct, and the whole idea of "Games People Play" was based on a psychology book of the same name, which dealt with human relationships in terms of people playing games/playing roles. And, although the lyric has nothing to do with the content of the book, I've often been inspired by titles, by the idea...
[Song: "Games People Play"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: "Time" was yet another form of risk taking. To me, this could have been sung by either one of two people: This could have been sung by an ancient sea captain about to set off on a voyage of discovery, into uncharted territory, or equally, by a modern day astronaut setting off for some destination in space.
[Song: "Time"]
ALAN PARSONS: The "Eye In The Sky" album is, perhaps, an exception to all the other albums we've done in the past. Something that we've always, almost become recognised for is that we've always, is the fact that we've always had some form of theme running through the records we've done. And at the same time, I felt that it was time to break away from that, especially as we'd had so much negative criticism for being pretentious, if you like, for constantly making concept albums. So, this time, we felt, y'know, "Let's just go into the studio and make an album, and then decide at the end what it's all about." So that's what "Eye In The Sky" really ended up being--a conceptless album, but with a similar format to the past albums.
[Song: "Eye In The Sky"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: Children of the Moon is a political statement. The idea of being helpless pawns at the mercy of our political or religious leaders has always struck me. And I find that current political events in the world, make this song, as far as I'm concerned, all the more poignant.
[Song: "Children Of The Moon"]
ALAN PARSONS: For some time now, we've been employing the talents of Christopher Rainbow who has an extraordinary vocal range. And, I think perhaps we used it to its very best effect on a cut on the album called "Gemini."
[Song: "Gemini"]
ALAN PARSONS: The first side of the album closes with a song called "Silence And I," which is sung by Eric. And it was very exciting to make this particular song, because for the first time, we used a really giant symphony orchestra, 95 pieces, all playing at the same time, and it was tremendously exciting for all of us concerned, to have that number of people involved on one of our own efforts.
[Song excerpt: "Silence And I"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: Another trademark of the project is that if one side has an introspective feel to it, we try and make the other side rather more upbeat. And the second side of "Eye In The Sky" starts with one of our old standbys, Lenny Zakatek, singing lead on a song which is not typically Project, it's rather more rock-n-roll, and it's called "You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned."
[Song: "You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned"]
ALAN PARSONS: "Psychobabble" was the first song to be recorded on the "Eye In The Sky" album. It was actually started almost a whole year before any of the other stuff was. We called upon Elmer Gantry, again, to do the vocal on it, and as the title might suggest, for the middle section we used a lot of `musical cliches' normally associated with horror films.
[Song: "Psychobabble"]
ALAN PARSONS: I don't think a `Project' would be a`Project' if it didn't have a couple of instrumental cuts on it. "Mammagamma" is one such piece. What's interesting about it is that it's performed almost entirely by a computer. That doesn't mean to say that the talent of the writer is any way over-shadowed, because it took a great deal of effort to program the computer to play it. But just about every note you hear is entirely performed by a machine, as opposed to a musician.
[Song: "Mammagamma"]
ALAN PARSONS: "Step by Step" is a song that, I think, we all thought at the time we started it was going to be a very commercial-sounding cut. Again, it's Lenny Zakatek singing the vocal. And I think one striking thing about the song is the instrumental section in which Ian Bairnson, our guitar player, gets a really interesting sound by direct-injecting the guitar into the mixing desk--no amplification--and the resulting sound is almost like a cross between an acoustic and an electric.
[Song excerpt, spotlighting the instrumental section: "Step By Step"]
ERIC WOOLFSON: The problem with writing songs like "Old And Wise" is that superficially, they might be interpreted as being downers. That really wasn't the intention here at all--the idea was to be uplifting. The pathos of the lyric actually leaves me with a feeling of contentment, rather than a feeling of despair.
[Song: "Old And Wise"]
end of interview

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