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Alan Parsons - The Very Best of Live CD (album) cover


Alan Parsons


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3.09 | 31 ratings

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3 stars This is a decent best-of compilation, but a mediocre live album. The missed opportunity is obvious when you look at the 1994 setlists and becomes even more glaring when you listen to the one audience recording there is (from the first show). Why did Parsons leave out all the new songs? "Try Anything Once" was a very good start to his "solo" career (which was still reliant a lot on other writers, obviously, just not Eric Woolfson anymore), and the band performed seven songs from it - "Turn It Up", "Oh, Life, "Breakaway", "I'm Talking To You", "Dreamscape", "Back Against the Wall" and "Wine from the Water". Other songs that also got axed are "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" from "I Robot", "The Eagle Will Rise Again" from "Pyramid" (Gary Howard sang this one exquisitely - what a loss to leave it out) and "In the Real World" from "Stereotomy".

So aside from "Vulture Culture" and "Freudiana" (which was never relased under the Project name and was pretty much buried in the advertising for "Try Anything Once", but it has some fine songs and IMHO beats a lot of the Project's output after "Eye in the Sky"), every Parsons album released til that point actually was represented in the setlist.

This editing also affects the flow of the album, which is pretty much nonexistent now ("Old and Wise" should not be in the first half of anything, let alone a live show), and makes Parsons' announcement of "going back to the Eye in the Sky album" nonsensical since the track before was also from "Eye in the Sky". In concert it made sense, since they had played a number of new songs before. This issue was at least fixed on the US release, which however still doesn't represent the live order particularly well.

Aside from all that, it's hard to fault the album. Chris Thompson especially did a great job with the vocals (but why Parsons didn't have him play guitar too mystifies me, since Ian Bairnson has to shoulder a lot of weight here), while Gary Howard's singing varies a bit more - as mentioned in another review, he does Eric Woolfson's songs with a bit too much theatricality, but "Old and Wise" is spot on. You can hear that the band wasn't particularly well-oiled; there are no obvious "mistakes" but some solos don't sound too convincing, Richard Cottle's two sax solos being the most egregious offenders. Parsons' current sax player Todd Cooper is in an entirely different league, and as much as it pains me to say, the whole American band that he has now plays with more gusto than this group of people that still represented, partially, the original Alan Parsons Project. Again, this effect is not as obvious when listening to the audience recording - there are more mistakes in that one but the feeling of performance comes across better despite the subpar sonics. Maybe this is also because Parsons had (to my knowledge) never produced a live album before.

The added studio tracks are not bad at all ("Take the Money and Run" consists of three different ideas that don't quite gel as a whole, but are all very good taken on their own), but the fact that they have never been officially released in Europe is a disgrace. But at least they give the album a bit more purpose than "here's some of the greatest hits played live".

Summary: If Parsons ever came out with a Director's Cut featuring an entire setlist from this tour, I'd snap it up in a heartbeat. As it is, the album - especially in its original European version - is frustrating.

JulesRules | 3/5 |


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