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The Alan Parsons Project - I Robot CD (album) cover

I ROBOT

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.79 | 496 ratings

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patrickq
3 stars I Robot is well-classified as a 'crossover prog' album. It's good, solid 1970s pop-rock with occasional progressive flourishes. Most notably, the album contains four instrumental pieces (although each includes a choir or chorale).

One of the more superficial prog embellishments is the notion that this is a 'concept album.' According to the-alan-parsons- project.com, this album "originally was intended to relate to Isaac Asimov's classic story I Robot, but as Asimov had sold the rights some years previously, it was adapted to a more general theme of human versus artificial intelligence." To argue that the lyrics relate to this concept requires the theme to be stretched beyond any reasonable interpretation. The words to "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" echo the title phrase in variations (e.g., "if I had time to / I wouldn't want to talk to you;" "If I hit a mother lode / I'd cover anything that showed"). "Some Other Time" might be about a robot ("Like a mirror held before me / large as the sky is wide / and the image is reflected / back to the other side"), but I don't see "theme of human versus artificial intelligence.' And 'Breakdown' ends with these repeated lines: 'Freedom! Freedom! / we will not obey! / Freedom! Freedom! / take the wall away!' Again, maybe robots, but you'd never infer that without the album cover and title. So to me, the lyrics belie the idea that I Robot is a concept album; it's a collection of songs like most other rock albums.

But as long as prog-rock fans don't approach this album with expectations of deep progressiveness, I Robot will probably be enjoyable for many. To begin with, it sounds great (I'm reviewing the 2007 'expanded' remaster; I Robot was re- released, probably not for the last time, as a 35th-anniversary 'deluxe edition' in 2013). Alan Parsons was marketed as an engineer par excellence, and he lives up to the billing. The vocals and instruments are crisp, and they're mixed expertly. Audio effects are used all over the place, but they're deployed so as not to call attention to themselves - - except when they become part of an instrument, as on 'The Voice.'

The performances are good, although I would've appreciated more spontaneity in their execution. Eight of the ten songs feature an orchestra, a choir, or both, and generally these are integrated well with the rock instrumentation. And overall, the lead vocalists are good. In particular, Steve Harley nails 'The Voice.' Amazingly, lyricist, keyboardist, and executive producer Eric Woolfson - - one-half of the Alan Parsons Project - - is credited only once as a vocalist, as one of five backing singers on 'Day After Day (The Show Must Go On).' This is the guy who sang 'Don't Answer Me,' 'Eye in the Sky,' and 'Time.' But for whatever reason, he and Parsons selected well-known vocalists for each of the lead spots.

I Robot's compositions are good, though not great. There are several catchy pop tunes (e.g., 'Breakdown' and the melodious 'Don't Let it Show') intermixed with instrumental pieces. There aren't any classic Alan Parsons Project songs here, although 'I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You' hit #36 in the US and #22 in Canada, making it their biggest hit until 1979, and ensuring its inclusion on every one of the band's greatest-hits albums.

I Robot is a solid sophomore effort. While not the band's best, it's a pretty good representation of the Alan Parsons Project's work. Three stars.

patrickq | 3/5 |

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