CD Review: The Alan Parsons Project

The Alan Parsons Project
The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980)
Ammonia Avenue (1984)
Stereotomy (1985)
Gaudi (1987)
Arista/Legacy
By David Chiu

Gambling is theme of the Alan Parsons Project’s excellent 1980 album The Turn of a Friendly Card. Certainly it’s more a commentary about the sport as evident on tracks like “Snake Eyes,” “Nothing Left to Lose,” and “I Don’t Wanna Come Home.” While certainly it falls under the genre of progressive rock, one can hear the Project aiming for a broader mainstream audience at the time—the album’s two most popular tracks are the driving rocker “Games People Play,” sung by Lenny Zakatek; and the lovely ballad “Time,” wistfully vocalized by lyricist Eric Woolfson. Tuneful with the usual exquisite musicianship from Alan Parsons and the backing musicians, Turn… ranks up there with I Robot and Eye In the Sky as one of the Project’s best works.

In contrast the final three ‘80s albums certainly didn’t have much of a concept driving theme, nor a sense of identity to distinguish them apart. Some of the music on Ammonia Avenue, Stereotomy and Gaudi certainly reflected that decade’s sensibilities with the glossy production values, hi-tech synths and electronic drums. But to their credit, each of those albums had some strong tracks. The best song hands-down on Ammonia Avenue is “Don’t Answer Me,” a homage to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound; that album’s title track comes in a close second. The highlights of Stereotomy are “Limelight” (featuring Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker) and an uncharacteristic rocker “In the Real World.” Gaudi has some interesting moments as the title track references the legendary Spanish architect’s grand work; on a few cuts Woolfson delivers some strong vocal performances particularly on “Closer to Heaven.”

Watch “Don’t Answer Me” by the Alan Parsons Project on YouTube:

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