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Alan Parsons Band - A Valid Path CD (album) cover

A VALID PATH

Alan Parsons Band

 

Prog Related

2.57 | 74 ratings

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Stellar Jetman
2 stars Track-by-track analysis:

"Return to Tunguska"

Odd, Middle Eastern-tinged techno that opens up with a female voice somewhere between Plavalaguna's wailing from The Fifth Element and Neo's scream from the "liquid mirror" scene in The Matrix. Has a rather neat sound and atmosphere, but, given that it's techno, there's little in the way of substance underneath the endless layered synthesizers, drums, and sound effects. An impressive technical exercise, and one of the more interesting techno songs that I've heard, but hardly something that I'd associate with Alan Parsons.

Apparently, David Gilmour contributed the electric guitar accompaniment in this track. It's good, but it isn't nearly as interesting or structurally important as it needs to be. They could have had anybody do it, and it wouldn't have made much difference.

"More Lost Without You"

Cheap pop drivel. Coming from the man behind "Eye in the Sky" - possibly the best pop song ever recorded - this is just embarrassing. What was Parsons thinking here? He was far past his early-'80s glory days; there was no way that this was going to make it to Top 40 radio. And, if it somehow had, it wouldn't have measured up to even that mediocre standard of music.

"Mammagamma 2004"

One of two remixes on this album, this version of "Mammagamma" (the original being a track on Eye in the Sky) is almost completely unrecognizable as such - which is odd, considering that the original was already a techno song. The original melody is all but buried under excessive synthesized harmonies and drums, with a strange, clucking sound playing over the whole thing. If I hadn't been actively looking for the tune, I wouldn't have noticed the "Mammagamma" connection at all.

"We Play the Game"

More techno-pop, but with the slightest hint of The Turn of a Friendly Card to give it some character. Again, though, that shouldn't be the case if it's supposed to be by the guy who made that album!

"Tijuaniac"

Techno, but boring. I don't know what it is about it, but this song puts me to sleep.

"L'Arc en Ciel"

This instrumental tries to create the atmosphere of a rainbow after a storm (hence the title's French meaning), but that doesn't go far beyond sampled drops at the beginning. I like the way that the drops start to fall in a sort of rhythm before they're replaced by the song proper, but it still doesn't compare to the genuine imagery of "The Fall of the House of Usher: Arrival" (from Tales of Mystery and Imagination), another song that used the idea of calm after (or, given the context, during) a storm, and one which pulled it off far more effectively. (As nice as those raindrops sound, they're far closer to simple drops than they are to rain.) A guitar pops up after a while, but it isn't enough to really distinguish it from the thousands of other techno songs out there.

"A Recurring Dream Within a Dream"

Speaking of Tales of Mystery and Imagination (an album that I would very much prefer to be thinking about), here's the other remix. Opening up with a dishearteningly promising narration, it combines "A Dream Within a Dream" and "The Raven" into one techno-flavored track with none of the vibrant atmosphere of either original song, completely lacking the lushness of the first and the energy of the second. It ends up being little more than a weird, anachronistic mash-up of 21st-century synthesizers and '70s tunes, and it doesn't work at all. What was the point of this song? Out of everything in The Alan Parsons Project's extensive musical output, they picked the one album that would benefit least from a techno remix. Why do something if there's no way to do it right?

"You Can Run"

Pop. Yawn.

"Chomolungma"

Yet more techno, and somewhat in the vein of "Return to Tunguska". Again, well-engineered (the finale will push the limits of most sound systems' clarity), but musically uninteresting, even with the weird, Asian chants and sound effects that suffuse it. The tune, such as it is, is a pair of arpeggios that sporadically surface from the mass of harmonies and effects, and it's little more than a device to keep the song from growing stale as it builds for seven straight minutes. There's a weird little monologue by John Cleese at the end, followed by scattered dog barks; both feel tremendously out-of-place at the end of a song with such ostensibly mystic aspirations, and they would be far more appropriate on, say, a Pink Floyd album. The song is nice enough as far as techno goes, but it doesn't have an ounce of the traditional Alan Parsons character.

Overall assessment:

Ugh. Parsons brought in several techno groups on this outing to help update and reinvent his signature sound, but he went too far - I can't hear anything but techno on this album! I like techno as much as the next guy, but it isn't exactly one of music's better genres - if Parsons wanted to go electronic this time around, he should have done something more in line with Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre (shades of which do shine through on the opening track); he certainly had the talent for it, and it would have been much more worthwhile than what we ended up with.

A Valid Path is a terrible Alan Parsons album, and the pop numbers and Tales of Mystery and Imagination remix spoil what could have at least been a decent techno album. What's left is a pitiful collection of songs with exactly three bright spots, and those only in comparison to the garbage that they neighbor. Two stars, because I'm feeling exceptionally generous.

Stellar Jetman | 2/5 |

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