The Alan Parsons Project

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The Alan Parsons Project
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Background information
Origin London, England
Genres
Years active1975–1990
Labels
Associated acts
Website www.The-Alan-Parsons-Project.com
Past members Alan Parsons
Eric Woolfson

The Alan Parsons Project were a British rock band active between 1975 and 1990, [1] whose core membership consisted of Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson. They were accompanied by a varying number of session musicians and some relatively consistent session players such as guitarist Ian Bairnson, arranger Andrew Powell, bassist and vocalist David Paton, drummer Stuart Elliott, and vocalists Lenny Zakatek and Chris Rainbow. Parsons was an audio engineer and producer by profession, but also a musician and a composer. A songwriter by profession, Woolfson was also a composer, a pianist, and a singer. Almost all the songs on the Project's albums are credited to "Woolfson/Parsons".

Contents

The Alan Parsons Project released eleven studio albums in its 15-year career, including the successful I Robot and Eye in the Sky. Some of their most notable songs are "The Raven", "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether", "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You", "Games People Play", "Time", "Snake Eyes", "Sirius"/"Eye in the Sky", "Old and Wise", and "Don't Answer Me".

Career

1974–1976: Formation and debut

Alan Parsons met Eric Woolfson in the canteen of Abbey Road Studios in the summer of 1974. Parsons acted as Assistant Engineer on the Beatles' albums Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970), engineered Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), and produced several acts for EMI Records. [2] Woolfson, a songwriter and composer, was working as a session pianist while composing material for a concept album based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. [3]

Woolfson's idea was to manage Alan and help his already successful production career. This was the start of their longstanding friendly business relationship. He managed Parsons's 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. [2] Woolfson came up with the idea of making an album based on developments in the film industry -- the focal point of the films' promotion shifted from film stars to directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. If the film industry was becoming a director's medium, Woolfson felt the music business might well become a producer's medium. [4]

Recalling his earlier Edgar Allan Poe material, Woolfson saw a way to combine his and Parsons's talents. Parsons produced and engineered songs written and composed by the two, and the first Alan Parsons Project was begun. The Project's first album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976), released by 20th Century Fox Records and including major contributions by all members of Pilot and Ambrosia, was a success, reaching the Top 40 in the US Billboard 200 chart. [2] The song "The Raven" featured lead vocals by the actor Leonard Whiting. According to the 2007 re-mastered album liner notes, this was the first rock song to use a digital vocoder, with Alan Parsons speaking lyrics through it, although others such as Bruce Haack pioneered this field in the previous decade.

1977–1990: Mainstream success and final releases

Arista Records then signed the Alan Parsons Project for further albums. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Project's popularity continued to grow. However, the Project was always more popular in North America, Ibero-America, and Continental Europe than in Parsons's home country, never achieving a UK Top 40 single or Top 20 album. [5] The singles "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You", "Games People Play", "Damned If I Do", "Time" (the first single to feature Woolfson's lead vocal) and "Eye in the Sky" had a notable impact on the Billboard Hot 100. "Don't Answer Me" became the Project's last successful single in the United States; it reached the top 15 on the American charts in 1984. After those successes, however, the Project began to fade from view. There were fewer hit singles, and declining album sales. 1987's Gaudi would be the Project's final release, though it had planned to record an album called Freudiana (1990) next.

The musical Freudiana

Even though the studio version of Freudiana was produced by Parsons (and featured the regular Project session musicians, making it an 'unofficial' Project album), it was primarily Woolfson's idea to turn it into a musical. While Parsons pursued his own solo career and took many session players of the Project on the road for the first time in a successful worldwide tour, 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 Mönchengladbach, Germany.

The Sicilian Defence

In 1979, Parsons, Woolfson, and their record label Arista, had been stalled in contract renegotiations when the two submitted an all-instrumental album tentatively titled The Sicilian Defence , named after an aggressive opening move in chess, arguably to get out of their recording contract. Arista's refusal to release the album had two known effects: the negotiations led to a renewed contract, and the album was not released at that time.

The Sicilian Defence was our attempt at quickly fulfilling our contractual obligation after I Robot, Pyramid, and Eve had been delivered. The album was rejected by Arista, not surprisingly, and we then renegotiated our deal for the future and the next album, The Turn of a Friendly Card. The Sicilian Defence album was never released and never will be, if I have anything to do with it. I have not heard it since it was finished. I hope the tapes no longer exist.

Alan Parsons [6]

In interviews he gave before his death in 2009, [7] Woolfson said he planned to release one track from the "Sicilian" album, which in 2008 appeared as a bonus track on a CD re-issue of the Eve album. Sometime later, after he had relocated the original tapes, Parsons reluctantly agreed to release the album and announced that it would finally be released on an upcoming Project box set called The Complete Albums Collection in 2014 for the first time as a bonus disc. [8]

Parsons and Woolfsons's solo careers

Parsons released titles under his name; these were Try Anything Once (1993), On Air (1996), The Time Machine (1999), A Valid Path (2004) and The Secret (2019). Meanwhile, Woolfson made concept albums titled Freudiana (1990), about Sigmund Freud's work on psychology, and Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination (2003); this continued from the Alan Parsons Project's first album about Edgar Allan Poe's literature.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976) was re-mixed in 1987 for release on CD, and included narration by Orson Welles recorded in 1975, but arrived too late to be included on the original album. For the 2007 deluxe edition release, parts of this tape were used for the 1976 Griffith Park Planetarium launch of the original album, the 1987 remix, and various radio spots. All were included as bonus material.

Sound

The band's sound is described as progressive rock, [9] [10] art rock, [10] [11] progressive pop, [9] and soft rock. [12] "Sirius" is their best-known and most-frequently heard of all Parsons/Woolfson songs. It was used as entrance music by various American sports teams, notably by the Chicago Bulls during their 1990s NBA dynasty. It was also used as the entrance theme for Ricky Steamboat in pro wrestling of the mid-1980s. In addition, "Sirius" is played in a variety of TV shows and movies including the BBC series Record Breakers, the episode "Vanishing Act" of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and the 2009 film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs .

Vocal duties were shared by guests to complement each song. In later years, Woolfson sang lead on many of the group's hits, including "Time", "Eye in the Sky", and "Don't Answer Me". The record company pressured Parsons to use him more, however Parsons preferred to use polished proficient singers; Woolfson admitted he was not in that category. In addition to Woolfson, vocalists Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, John Miles, David Paton, and Colin Blunstone are regulars. [2] Other singers, such as Arthur Brown, Steve Harley, Gary Brooker, Dave Terry a.k.a. Elmer Gantry, Vitamin Z's Geoff Barradale, and Marmalade's Dean Ford, recorded only once or twice with the Project. Parsons sang lead on one song ("The Raven") through a vocoder and backing on a few others, including "To One in Paradise". Both of those songs appeared on Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976). Parsons also sings a prominent counter melody on “Time”.

A variety of session musicians worked with the Alan Parsons Project regularly, contributing to the recognizable style of a song despite the varied singer line-up. With Parsons and Woolfson, the studio band consisted of the group Pilot, with Ian Bairnson (guitar), David Paton (bass) and Stuart Tosh (drums). [2] Pilot's keyboardist Billy Lyall contributed. From Pyramid (1978) onward, Tosh was replaced by Stuart Elliott of Cockney Rebel. Bairnson played on all albums, and Paton stayed almost until the end. Andrew Powell appeared as arranger of orchestra (and often choirs) on all albums except Vulture Culture (1985); he was composing the score of Richard Donner's film Ladyhawke (1985). This score was partly in the APP style, recorded by most of the APP regulars, and produced and engineered by Parsons. Powell composed some material for the first two Project albums. For Vulture Culture and later, Richard Cottle played as a regular contributor on synthesizers and saxophone.

Alan Parsons Live Project, Congress Centrum, Ulm Germany. May 21, 2017. Photo by Tabitha Parsons. Alan Parsons Live Project.jpg
Alan Parsons Live Project, Congress Centrum, Ulm Germany. May 21, 2017. Photo by Tabitha Parsons.

The Alan Parsons Project played live only once under that name during its original incarnation because Woolfson and Parsons held the roles of writing and production, and because of the technical difficulties of re-producing on stage the complex instrumentation used in the studio. In the 1990s, musical production evolved with the technology of digital samplers. The one occasion the band was introduced as 'The Alan Parsons Project' in a live performance was at The Night of the Proms in October 1990. The concerts featured all Project regulars except Woolfson, present behind the scenes, while Parsons stayed at the mixer except for the last song, when he played acoustic guitar.

Since 1993, Alan Parsons continues to perform live as the Alan Parsons Live Project to be distinct from 'The Alan Parsons Project'. The current line up consists of lead singer P.J. Olsson, guitarist Jeffrey Kollman, drummer Danny Thompson, keyboardist Tom Brooks, bass guitarist Guy Erez, vocalist and saxophonist Todd Cooper, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Tracey. In 2013, Alan Parsons Live Project played Colombia with a full choir and orchestra (the Medellin Philharmonic) as 'Alan Parsons Symphonic Project'. A 2-CD live set and a DVD version of this concert were released in May 2016.

Members

Official members
Notable contributors

Discography

Studio albums

Compilations

Related Research Articles

<i>Tales of Mystery and Imagination</i> (Alan Parsons Project album) 1976 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

Tales of Mystery and Imagination is the debut studio album by British rock band The Alan Parsons Project. It was released on 1 May 1976 in the United States by 20th Century Fox Records and on 1 June 1976 in the United Kingdom by Charisma Records. The lyrical and musical themes of the album, which are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, attracted a cult audience. The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe's macabre stories of the same name.

<i>Ammonia Avenue</i> 1984 album by The Alan Parsons Project

Ammonia Avenue is the seventh studio album by the British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project, released on 7 December 1983 by Arista Records. The Phil Spector-influenced "Don't Answer Me" was the album's lead single, and reached the Top 15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts, as well as the fourth position on the Adult Contemporary chart. The single also reached the Top 20 in several countries and represents the last big hit for the Alan Parsons Project. "Prime Time" was a follow-up release that fared well in the top 40, reaching No. 34. "You Don't Believe" was the first single in November 1983, reaching #54 on Billboard Hot 100 and "Since The Last Goodbye" was a minor hit.

Eric Woolfson

Eric Norman Woolfson was a Scottish songwriter, lyricist, vocalist, executive producer, pianist, and co-creator of The Alan Parsons Project. Together they sold over 50 million albums worldwide. Following the 10 successful albums he made with Alan Parsons, Woolfson pursued a career in musical theatre. He wrote five musicals which won awards, have been seen by over a million people, and have been performed in Germany, Austria, Korea and Japan.

<i>I Robot</i> (album) 1977 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

I Robot is the second studio album by British rock band The Alan Parsons Project, released on 1 June 1977 by Arista Records. The album draws conceptually on author Isaac Asimov's science fiction Robot stories, exploring philosophical themes regarding artificial intelligence. It was re-released on vinyl and cassette tape in 1984 and on CD in 2007.

<i>Eye in the Sky</i> (album) 1982 studio album by the Alan Parsons Project

Eye in the Sky is the sixth studio album by English rock band the Alan Parsons Project, released in June 1982 by Arista Records. At the 25th Annual Grammy Awards in 1983, Eye in the Sky was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album. In 2019, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Immersive Audio Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

<i>Pyramid</i> (The Alan Parsons Project album) 1978 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

Pyramid is the third album by progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1978. It is a concept album centred 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.

<i>Eve</i> (Alan Parsons Project album) 1979 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

Eve is the fourth studio album by British rock band The Alan Parsons Project, released on 27 August 1979 by Arista Records. The album's focus is on the strengths and characteristics of women, and the problems they face in the world of men. It had originally been intended to focus on "great women in history", but evolved into a wider concept.

<i>The Turn of a Friendly Card</i> 1980 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

The Turn of a Friendly Card is the fifth studio album by the British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1980 by Arista Records. It is a concept album that revolves around the theme of gambling and of the inherent effects that arise from gambling addiction. The title piece, which appears on side 2 of the LP, is a 16-minute suite broken up into five tracks, with the five tracks listed as sub-sections. The Turn of a Friendly Card spawned the hits "Games People Play" and "Time", the latter of which was Eric Woolfson's first lead vocal appearance.

<i>Stereotomy</i> 1985 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

Stereotomy is the ninth studio album by The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1985.

<i>Vulture Culture</i> 1984 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

Vulture Culture is the eighth studio album by The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1984 via the Arista label.

<i>Gaudi</i> (The Alan Parsons Project album) 1987 studio album by The Alan Parsons Project

Gaudi is the tenth album by The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1987. Gaudi refers to Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan Spanish architect, and the opening track references what is probably Gaudí's best known building, the Sagrada Família.

Pilot were a Scottish rock group, formed in 1973 in Edinburgh by David Paton and Billy Lyall. They are best known for their songs "January", "Magic", "Just A Smile" and "Call Me Round".

David Paton

David Paton is a Scottish bassist, guitarist and singer. He first achieved success in the mid-1970s as lead vocalist and bassist of Pilot, who scored hits with "Magic", "January", "Just a Smile" and "Call Me Round" before splitting in 1977. Paton is also known for his work in the original lineup of The Alan Parsons Project (1975-1985), and for working with acts such as Kate Bush, Camel and Elton John.

<i>Freudiana</i>

Freudiana is a rock opera by Eric Woolfson. It was to be the 11th album by The Alan Parsons Project, but during its development, Eric Woolfson had creative differences with Alan Parsons. The production, released in 1990, utilizes the Project's personnel as well as many guest vocalists. Alan Parsons later began his career as a solo artist with his 1993 album Try Anything Once, which was musically in a direction more or less continued from that of the Project's 1987's Gaudi.

"(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" is a 1976 single by The Alan Parsons Project which first appeared on their album Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe. The single reached number 37 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 62 in Canada. Like the other songs on the album, it is based on a story by American author Edgar Allan Poe, in this case "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (1845); the song was written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, and was originally recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London in September 1975. The 1987 reissue featured a "cathedral organ".

"The Raven" is a 1975 song by the Alan Parsons Project from their album Tales of Mystery and Imagination, and first song of the band. The song is based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same name; the song was written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, and was originally recorded in April 1975, at Mama Jo's Studio, North Hollywood, Los Angeles and Abbey Road Studios, London.

<i>The Essential Alan Parsons Project</i> 2007 greatest hits album by The Alan Parsons Project

The Essential Alan Parsons Project is a compilation album released by English progressive rock musician Alan Parsons and The Alan Parsons Project on 6 February 2007. It was released through Sony BMG as part of The Essential album series.

<i>The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was</i> 2009 studio album by Eric Woolfson

Eric Woolfson sings The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was is an album by the progressive rock musician Eric Woolfson, co-creator with Alan Parsons of The Alan Parsons Project, as well as main songwriter and manager of the band. Released in 2009, this was Woolfson's final album before he died of cancer in December of that year. The album includes songs that remained unreleased since the Project time for various reasons; however, as Woolfson himself remarks in the booklet, Parsons' dislike for some of Woolfson's compositions would have often caused them to be excluded from a Project album in its very early stages - such as, for example, "Steal Your Heart Away", an "unashamedly commercial" song with a conventionally sentimental lyric, which Parsons, in Woolfson's words, would have absolutely detested. "Somewhere in the Audience" and "Immortal" are slightly re-arranged and re-recorded versions of two of Woolfson's demos for his 2003 musical about Edgar Allan Poe; the final versions of these songs, sung by the musical's protagonist Steve Balsamo, are featured on the album Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination. "Train to Wuxi" was the original version of "Train to Freedom", which is also included in the Poe musical and features Woolfson's one and only guitar solo.

I Wouldnt Want to Be Like You 1977 single by The Alan Parsons Project

"I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" is a song by the British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project, featured on their 1977 album I Robot. Written by band leaders Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" was sung by pop singer Lenny Zakatek, who would go on to sing many of the band's songs. In the United States, the song was a moderate success and charted at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100.

<i>Alan Parsons Live</i> 1994 live album by Alan Parsons

Alan Parsons Live is the first live album by Alan Parsons, recorded in May 1994 during his European tour, and released late that year by Arcade Records in Europe. RCA/BMG added three new studio tracks and changed the cover art when releasing the album in the rest of the world in 1995, renaming it The Very Best Live; stylized on the cover with "The Very Best" in a smaller font between Alan Parsons and Live. The live performances on the album are all songs from his years with The Alan Parsons Project.

References

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