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Alan Parsons Project - I Robot CD (album) cover

I ROBOT

Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.75 | 349 ratings

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Isa
Prog Reviewer
4 stars |B-| An excellent, diverse, and slightly commercial prog album - with great orchestration!

I Robot is the second album by the line-up of musicians known as Alan Parsons Project, after their acclaimed debut album Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Most progressive listeners seem to have a more favorable view of the debut album and mark this one as a step in a more commercial direction. While I still have yet to hear the debut, I would say that this album still has a lot of cool, creative material to offer, and while the commercial-isms do cause some amount of a "dated" sound that hasn't aged as well, they hardly impede the ingenuity that is offered in this work. The orchestration is always effective and great, and for me is the best aspect of the music in the album. Lots of different styles clearly influenced the sound of the album, lending to a tasty album with lots of variety. This is probably not surprising considering the huge line-up of musicians that collaborated for this Project, and Eric Woolfson's evident skill at composition.

Track Commentary: The proggy first track has a neat, progressive sort of intro moving into an almost funk-like grove with touches of choral ensemble and solos from a variety of instruments. This track moves into the catchy and very 70s sounding "Wouldn't Want to be Like You." This track is really good, especially the guitar solo section, but hasn't aged too well, admittedly, and mostly because of the silly 70s pop singing style. Some Other Time is one of my favorite tracks on the album, sounding a bit like a whimsical symphonic prog ballad sometimes, alternating with a synth-heavy hard rock section. I love the orchestration on the song; it adds color and richness, and just works. And what a great vocal melody! My only complaint it how short it is, but this might be personal bias from listening to so much long-winded prog over the years. Breakdown is a cool track with a lot of variety of textures in a very short amount of time, and the orchestration with the choir and orchestra is great, bringing out the esprit de cor of "freedom" and "take the wall away." Perhaps a reference to the iron curtain and the Berlin wall? Maybe. Don't Let it Show is a pretty song, once again with nice orchestration, though with enough 70s pop-isms to dampen the timeless feel that the track might otherwise have. I like the move from the orchestra texture to the rock texture toward the end of the song, very well done. The Voice has a very repetitive bass line leading into electric keyboards and orchestrations that kind of remind of Supertramp or perhaps Steely Dan. This moves into a really interesting "orchestra strings solo" which is very interesting; I think it was really cool of them to experiment with combining orchestra and rock timbres in the way that they did with this track, and it worked great. Nucleus is sort of an interlude instrumental between The Voice and Day After Day, and is quite beautiful, with what sounds like a lot of creative, lush synthesizer material that might remind one of a beautiful rain forest. This leads delicately and nicely into Day After Day, which is a quite Pink Floyd sounding track, with a somewhat less psychedelic sound but quite beautiful, and with a very similar lyrical theme as Pink Floyd's Time. The next track is one of the most interestingly placed tracks in perhaps prog history; Total Eclipse is basically a dissonant and haunting atonal piece of music (like a lot of Schoenburg's material) though one which is creatively done and leads into the final track, Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32.

The last track is a haunting, synth-heavy piece which no doubt is paired with the theme of the album. Evidently, according to my NRSV Bible, there is no V. 32 in that chapter of Genesis. However, if there were, it would be between the sixth day of God finishing his creation of the world and then God resting on the seventh day; perhaps this has something to do with the liner notes: I Robot... The story of the rise of the machine and the decline of man... and a warning that his brief dominance of this planet will probably end, because man tried to create robot in his own image." Perhaps the creators are making a thematic implication with the last track regarding the widely known about (but now somewhat old and perhaps worn out) hypothetical prediction of Robot dominance as man technologically advances. Kind of a cool theme - if only it had lead into some sort of follow-up concept album, but alas.

This album pretty much fits the description of "Crossover Prog" perfectly; thus, if you love diverse textures and instrumentation in your music and don't mind a little commercialism mixed in, this album is a must, and is a fun, cool album for anyone regardless. For those of us who are repelled by any hind of commercialism in music (and understandably so...), perhaps not.

Isa | 4/5 |

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