Alan Parsons Bemoans the Death of the Concept Album
Even if he’d never released a single note of his own music, Alan Parsons would have been a part of rock history. As engineer on the last two Beatles albums, he presided at two noteworthy sessions — the last ever Beatles live show (on the roof for Let It Be) and the last session all four were in the recording studio at the same time (Abbey Road).
“Nobody wanted to see the demise of the Beatles,” says Parsons. “[The EMI staff] didn’t really talk about it, but it was obvious the Beatles were happier working separate than together.”
And of course, there is his engineering work on Dark Side of the Moon (no, I didn’t ask him, he thinks the whole Wizard of Oz synchronization is “a complete load of eyewash.”)
But Alan Parsons became a household name for around the world via the succession of gold and platinum albums that began with Tales of Mystery and Imagination in 1976, which were credited to The Alan Parsons Project. Although his partnership with co-founder Eric Woolfson ended in the ’90s, it did allow for us to finally enjoy the music the duo made in concert, starting with a 1995 European tour. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you ... The Alan Parsons Live Project!
“I do wish we’d done it sooner, the circumstances weren’t right,” Parsons says. “Eric wasn’t interested in touring, and it was only [when] we parted company after making the Freudiana album [a rock opera about Sigmund Freud] and all the legal wrangles that ensued after that, that we decided to put another band together to support another album that year called Try Anything Once [Parsons’ first solo album].” Rightly or wrongly, the success of I Robot, Turn of a Friendly Card, and Pyramid earned Parsons his rep as the master of the concept album. Who better to ask if the overriding concept suggested the songs, or did the individual songs when collected form the overall concept? “I think a bit of both. Certainly with Tales of Mystery the concept came first and I Robot the concept came first. Pyramid, there was one song called “Pyramania” that suggested a concept. That was originally going to be a witchcraft-based album, all things to do with voodoo, then we just zeroed in on pyramid power and the history of pyramids as being a really good concept.”
Concerning his highest charting album and single, “Eye in the Sky,” Parsons jokes, “I move to suggest that it is not a concept album. The title track is about hidden cameras and Big Brother is watching you, helicopters doing weather reports over a city, but the songs on that album really don’t relate to that subject at all.”
“[Concept albums] have become unfashionable, which saddens me in some ways, but it did become a little bit pretentious,” he muses.
“It’s a different culture. People don’t have the time to listen to 40 minutes of music anymore. They download a song by this person or that person, stick their ear buds in their ear and listen while riding a bicycle or going on the treadmill,” he says.
Has that changed the way Parsons approaches making new music? Nevermore!
“I still think I have a faithful few who will sit down and listen to an album from start to finish. We’re very hopeful, with the vinyl resurgence, that will continue to be something we feature,” he says. “This summer we’re re-releasing the original Tales of Mystery vinyl album on four sides of vinyl cut at 45 rpm, the highest vinyl quality.”
Will the Live Project ever test the fans’ devotion to see if they can digest an entire album in sequence live, without a break to flip record sides and get some concessions beer?
“If we had an orchestra date, we might do the whole of Tales of Mystery,” Parsons says. “Anything’s possible.”
The Alan Parsons Live Project is scheduled to play Friday, March 25, at Celebrity Theatre.
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