Friday, May 25, 2007

Alan Parsons Project

@ Wiki
The Alan Parsons Project was a British progressive rock and pop group active between 1975 and 1987 founded by Englishman Alan Parsons and Scotsman Eric Woolfson.

Band history
During the summer of 1974, Alan Parsons met Eric Woolfson in the canteen of Abbey Road Studios. Parsons had recently engineered Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and had already produced a number of acts for EMI Records. On that day, Woolfson had been working as a session pianist, but he was also a songwriter and had already composed material for a concept album idea based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

Parsons asked Woolfson to become his manager and Woolfson managed Parsons's career as a producer/ engineer through a string of successes including Pilot, Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel, John Miles, Al Stewart, Ambrosia and The Hollies. Parsons commented at the time that he felt frustrated in having to accommodate the views of some of the artists which he felt interfered with his production. Woolfson came up with the idea of making an album based on developments in the film business, 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 business 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. After the success of their first album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Arista Records signed them for further albums.

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the group's popularity continued to grow, with singles such as "Games People Play," "Time" (Woolfson's first lead vocal), and "Eye in the Sky" making an impact on the pop charts. After the #3 success of the latter, however, the group began to fade from view. There were fewer hit singles, and declining album sales. 1987's Gaudi would be the Project's last release, through they did not know it at the time, and planned to record an album called Freudiana next.

Although the studio version of Freudiana was produced by Alan Parsons (and featured the regular Project backing musicians, making it an 'unofficial' Project album), it was primarily Eric Woolfson's idea to turn it into a musical. This eventually led to a rift between the two artists. While Alan Parsons pursued his own solo career and took many members of the Project on the road for the first time in a successful worldwide tour. Eric 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 Moenchengladbach, Germany).

Parsons released titles under his name (Try Anything Once, On Air, The Time Machine, and A Valid Path), while Woolfson made concept albums named Freudiana (about Sigmund Freud's work on psychology) and Poe - More Tales of Mystery and Imagination (continuing from the Alan Parsons Project's first album about Edgar Allan Poe's literature).

The 'Project sound'
Most of the Project's titles, especially the early work, share common traits (likely influenced by Pink Floyd's 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 opening instrumental was largely done away with by 1980; no later Project album except Eye in the Sky featured one (although every album includes at least one instrumental somewhere in the running order). The instrumental on that album, "Sirius," eventually became the best-known Parsons instrumental[citation needed] because of its use as entrance music by various American sports teams, most notably[citation needed] 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 alternate between Woolfson (mostly for slow or melancholic songs) and a stream of 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. In addition to Woolfson, Eric Stewart, Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, and Colin Blunstone made regular appearances. Other singers, such as Ambrosia's David Pack, Vitamin Z's Geoff Barradale, and Procol Harum's Gary Brooker, have recorded only once or twice with the Project. Parsons himself only sang lead on one song ("The Raven") and can be heard singing backup on another ("To One in Paradise"). Both of those songs appeared on the group's first record, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, an album containing music based on the stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.

Although the vocalists varied, a small number of musicians worked with the Alan Parsons Project regularly. These core musicians contribute to the recognizable style of a Project song in spite of the varied singer lineup. Together with Parsons and Woolfson, the Project originally consisted of the group Pilot, with Ian Bairnson (guitar), David Paton (bass) and Stuart Tosh (drums). Pilot's Billy Lyall also contributed. From "Pyramid" on, Tosh was replaced by Stuart Elliott of Cockney Rebel. Paton stayed almost until the end. Bairnson, along with Andrew Powell (composer and arranger of orchestral music throughout the life of the Project), and Richard Cottle (synthesizer and saxophone) were integral parts of the Project's sound. Powell is also notable for having composed a film score in the Project style for Richard Donner's film Ladyhawke.

Behind the revolving lineup and the regular sidemen, the true core of the Project was the duo of Parsons and Woolfson. Eric Woolfson was a lawyer by profession, but was a classically-trained composer and pianist as well. Alan Parsons was a successful producer and accomplished engineer. Both worked together to craft noteworthy songs with impeccable fidelity, and almost all songs on Project albums are credited to "Woolfson/Parsons."

Members
Alan Parsons - keyboards, production, engineering
Eric Woolfson - keyboards, executive production
Andrew Powell - keyboards, orchestral arrangements
Ian Bairnson - guitar
Richard Cottle - keyboards, saxophone

Notable or frequent contributors
Note that these are not official members of The Alan Parsons Project, but musicians who have made significant studio contributions
David Paton - Bass, vocals
Laurence Cottle - Bass
Stuart Tosh - Drums, Percussion
Stuart Elliott (musician) - Drums, Percussion
Mel Collins - saxophone
Lenny Zakatek - vocals
John Miles - vocals
Chris Rainbow - vocals
Colin Blunstone - vocals
Arthur Brown - vocals
Graham Dye - vocals
Steven Dye - vocals
Steve Harley - vocals

Trivia
In 1981 [1] Parsons/Woolfson and their record company Arista were stalled in contract renegotiations when on March 5th the two submitted an all-instrumental atonal album tentatively titled, "The Sicilian Defense" (an aggressive opening move in chess with three pawns advancing in a gambit that allows for subsequent attack) arguably to get out of their contract. Aristas refusal to release said album had two known effects: the negotiations led to a renewed contract and the album has remained unreleased to this day.

"The Sicilian Defense 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 Defense 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 [2]

On every album there are acknowledgements to Smokey and Hazel, Smokey is Parsons' ex-wife, (he married Lisa Griffiths on April 12, 2003) and Hazel is Woolfson's wife.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination was first remixed in 1987 for release on CD and included narration by Orson Welles which had been recorded in 1975 but arrived too late to be included on the original album. On the 2007 Deluxe Edition release it is revealed that 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 of which are included as bonus material.

In the Austin Powers movie The Spy who Shagged Me, Doctor Evil devised a "laser", calling it "The Alan Parsons Project" after the "noted Cambridge physicist Dr. Parsons." Parsons subsequently incorporated a number of sound bites from the movie into a remixed version of the title track (called "the Dr. Evil Edit") from The Time Machine.

Grandaddy's promo-only single "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" is a humorous cover of the Christmas song Winter Wonderland, with lyrics altered to make the song about Alan Parsons.

Games People Play is featured in the soundtrack of the 1980s themed video game Vice City Stories under the Flash FM station which plays pop music.

Discography
Albums
* Tales of Mystery and Imagination - 1976
Concept: Based on stories by the writer Edgar Allan Poe. The later reissue on CD (in 1987) was remixed from the original master tapes, enhancing some of the tracks and restoring the Orson Welles narration (recorded 1975 but left off the original due to record company 'concerns').

* I Robot - 1977
Concept: The title quotes Isaac Asimov's work, "a view of tomorrow through the eyes of today". Includes minor hits "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" and "Breakdown," as well as the title track, a short instrumental popular among APP fans.

* Pyramid - 1978
Concept: References to pyramid power and ancient Egypt surface repeatedly, the album is called "a view of yesterday through the eyes of today". The theme of rise and fall is prominent throughout.

* Eve - 1979
Concept: Women; this is the only Project album to feature female lead vocalists - and even then only on two tracks.

* The Turn of a Friendly Card - 1980
Concept: Gambling, literally and figuratively. Influenced by the Philip K. Dick novel The Game-Players of Titan. Includes their hits "Time" and "Games People Play."

* Eye in the Sky - 1982
Concept: Surveillance, with the album title inspired by the Eye in the sky cameras used in casinos. Also explores Life and the Universe, but some insist the album is about "forgotten and lost values". Album contains their most famous single, "Eye in the Sky," the ballad "Old and Wise", and their best-known instrumental, "Sirius."

* Ammonia Avenue - 1984
Concept: "The album focused on the possible misunderstanding of industrial scientific developments from a public perspective and a lack of understanding of the public from a scientific perspective" (Eric Woolfson, May 1983). It is their most "radio-friendly" album. Includes "Don't Answer Me", "Prime Time", and "You Don't Believe" (the latter first appeared on a 1983 "best of" collection).

* Vulture Culture - 1985
Concept: A critique of consumerism and, in particular, American popular culture. Includes "Let's Talk About Me."

* Stereotomy - 1985
Concept: The effect of fame and fortune on various people - singers, actors, etc.

* Gaudi - 1987
Concept: Songs inspired by the life and work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

All ten Alan Parsons Project albums have been digitally remastered and are being released throughout 2007 in expanded editions with additional artwork and bonus tracks.

Compilation album(s)
The Best of the Alan Parsons Project (1983)
The Best of the Alan Parsons Project, Vol. 2 (1987)
Instrumental Works (1988)
Pop Classics (1989)
Anthology (1991)
The Best of the Alan Parsons Project (2CD) (1992)
The Very Best of: Live (1995)
The Definitive Collection (1997)
Gold Collection (1998)
Master Hits: The Alan Parsons Project (1999)
Love Songs (2002)
Ultimate The Alan Parsons Project (2004)
Silence & I: The Very Best of the Alan Parsons Project (2005)
The Essential Alan Parsons Project (2007)

Singles
"(The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" (1976) #37 US
"The Raven" (1976) #80 US
"I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" (1977) #36 US
"Don't Let It Show" (1977) #92 US
"What Goes Up" (1978) #87 US
"Damned If I Do" (1979) #27 US
"Games People Play" (1981) #16 US
"Time" (1981) #15 US
"Snake Eyes" (1981) #67 US
"Eye in the Sky" (1982) #3 US
"Psychobabble" (1982) #57 US
"You Don't Believe" (1983) #54 US
"Don't Answer Me" (1984) #15 US (video)
"Prime Time" (1984) #34 US
"Let's Talk About Me" (1985) #56 US
"Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)" (1985) #71 US
"Stereotomy" (1986) #82 US (video) =>>>>>>>>>>>

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