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The Alan Parsons Project - Eye In The Sky CD (album) cover

EYE IN THE SKY

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.32 | 407 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Alan Parsons Project and the album "Eye in the Sky" have an important place in my personal history of popular music appreciation. Somewhere around the ages of ten or eleven, I began listening to popular music and deciding that I actually liked some of the songs. It was no longer background music for me. I remember asking for Christmas to get a cassette called "Rock '82" that contained, among others, latest hits by Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Kim Carnes, REO Speedwagon, .38 Special, and Rush. A friend of mine had a similar compilation that included a very beautiful song called, "Time" by a band called Alan Parsons Project. Coincidentally, shortly after I heard it, the same band released a very catchy song called, "Eye in the Sky." I liked the song a lot, but once I heard it played on a rock radio station together with the instrumental, "Sirius" I was really hooked. My friend managed to record it onto cassette from the radio for me.

Soon, however, I was into heavy metal, first with AC/DC and then soon after came Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and lots of other big acts of the early eighties. It was the time of staying up late to watch "Friday Night Videos" and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "Good Rockin' Tonight" on Saturdays, hoping that after Michael Jackson, Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, The Thompson Twins, Wham!, Madonna, Prince and other top 40 fluff, I might get to see a Motley Crue or Quiet Riot video. Some artists and songs weren't so bad. The Police, Genesis's "Mama", "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes, Asia, Toto, and a few others were alright. But I never bought their albums because I was into metal.

It took a few years before I got round to becoming a fan of Pink Floyd, and that got me thinking about Alan Parsons Project and "Eye in the Sky". If I could appreciate a non-metal artist such as Pink Floyd ("A Momentary Lapse of Reason" quite impressed me and I went to see the concert in Vancouver), then why not go out and buy "Eye in the Sky" on cassette. This in turn was for me an important stepping stone toward getting into The Moody Blues. Thus, Alan Parsons Project and "Eye in the Sky" (I also bought "I, Robot" and "Turn of a Friendly Card") were key players in getting my interests shifted towards prog early on, though I had never heard the term "progressive rock" and had no inkling of artists doing anything other than creating their kind of music.Some songs were simple, others were more complex. My first encounter with the term was while watching an Austin Powers movie. Dr. Evil talks about his laser that he has called the "Alan Parsons Project" and Scott chides, "The Alan Parsons Project was a progressive rock group in the eighties." Progressive rock? I guess. Their music was different. It was somehow more intelligent, more sophisticated than much of the pop music out there. The next time I would encounter the term was when I read the Wikipedia article about Rush in 2010.

So, how about this album then? My impression is that it is still a very sophisticated album though not without pop tendencies. The opening instrumental, "Sirius" is not particularly complex but it is very effective at setting a mood. It's no wonder that the sporting world has picked this tune in many instances as a theme for arriving power and impending excitement. "Eye in the Sky" is basically a pop song but that melody and Eric Woolfson's vocals never fail to capture my emotions. I still love that song 32 years later!

"Children of the Moon" delivers the kind of progressive music you can hear on older APP albums. A liberal use of piano and synthesizer, a horn section, ooh-ooh harmony vocals, and some proggy beats allow the band to shift away from the standard pop/rock song structure. "Gemini" uses vocals to greater effect here with a soft, relaxed atmosphere. I always liked side one of the album because of the diverse approaches to each of the songs.

The real stand out track of side one is "Silence and I". It's a beautiful slow song with strings and an oboe and Woolfson's laid back, soothing vocals. In the middle we get a contrasting musical ride with an exciting and vibrant piece performed by an orchestra of horns, strings, and various percussion instruments. This is perhaps where the progressive music reaches its apex on the album.

Side two begins with a simple pop rock song, "You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned" with Lenny Zakatek on vocals, and I have to say that, even though he does a good job for the style of music, this song and his other lead vocal track, "Step by Step" are the least enjoyable songs on the album, being nothing more than standard pop rock fare.

"Psychobabble" and "Mammagamma" are more interesting with the former having a cool piano and bass intro and short musical interlude that sounds like part of a soundtrack for a suspense movie, while the latter is another simple but effective instrumental on keyboards and guitar with a steady beat on electric drums that I find unusually enjoyable. The bassline deserves mention, too.

Another highlight for me here is the album closer, "Old and Wise". I never realized that this album has six lead vocalists contributing, and it is Colin Blunstone who takes the lead vocal here with great suitability to the music. I used to try to emulate his singing style when I was younger when I sang along to the cassette, or later to the CD in the nineties. This is a beautiful song for string orchestra and piano, with the rock band only joining in at the end, and a sax solo (the first one I ever appreciated) takes the song out with the fade. A very powerful piece.

The 2007 reissue comes with bonus tracks that include demos and early takes on songs. I am surprised at how clean and powerful the sound is. It is almost a shame that a few demos that were not meant to be good enough for the album have such a clean and rich sound. "The Naked Eye" is a little interesting because it's a patchwork of music from the album not always it the exact same form as on the album and in between there are also bits of music that didn't end up on the album. The final bonus track is a medley of the orchestral music used on the various songs.

Once again, this is for me a very important album and one that has remained a delight to listen to now and again for nearly 30 years. I'd give it a very solid four stars for myself. However, I am aware that Alan Parsons Project was writing even more sophisticated prog earlier in their career and that there is also much more advanced progressive music out there. I therefore give it three stars for this site.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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