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

I ROBOT

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.79 | 509 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After the huge, somewhat unexpected success of the "Tales" album, Parsons and Woolfson decided to go beyond their producer's album experiment and make it a permanent producer's album recording career. So, after the statement of APP as a proper 'band', the duo went for another concept, this time a somber perspective of the conflictive relationship between humans and robots, with the former divided between their roles as masters and dominated, and the latter gaining some kind of self- awareness that motivates them to toy with the idea of becoming autonomous once and for all. Musically speaking, the rock factor is more enhanced in comparison to the "Tales" album, though the orchestral thing still remains undoubtedly crucial in the making of the APP sound. Another notable element is a major presence of synth layers and effects, properly conveying the future ambience for the robotic-centered conflict in the concept. The namesake instrumental opener is a catchy electronic based number, sustained on a funky-like rhythm pattern, where the combination of electric piano, synth, choir, and ultimately the kantele and cymbalom, grows fluidly and naturally interconnected. The funky stuff remains consistent in 'I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You', this time on a rockier basis (great singing by Lenny Zakatek, soon to become a regular collaborator for Parsons & co.). 'Some Other Place' replaces the previous number's insolence with a sense of confused vulnerability, properly made more dramatic by the solemn orchestral stuff. The same feeling, in a more overwhelming degree, is conveyed in the emotionally charged 'Don't Let It Show': the moving claim for an extra effort to keep the secrecy of secrets during the sung part finds a proper counterpart in the pompous, explosive instrumental finale - one of the finest APP songs ever! Between the two is 'Breakdown', which is basically a funky-rocky piece (one more) that meets its full splendour after the last chorus, when the epic choral/orchestral climax bursts out, spreading itself all along the fade-out: a weird idea that works really beautifully. So far the listener may notice that APP is basically a song-based rock band with progressive tricks and odds, more than a genuine prog act per se. Their more recurrent merit in the "I, Robot" repertoire is based upon the introduction of prog oriented shifts, and/or electronic ornaments, and/or classy (almost OST) orchestrations, in some specific parts of attractive ballads and catchy rock tunes. The vinyl side 2 starts with the wicked 'The Voice', an R'n'B number heavily reconstructed through an air of mystery thanks to the presence of steel guitar licks, eerie string arrangements, bass guitar overdubs, vocoderized warnings and synth stuff. The resulting ethereal ambience works as a proper musical portrait of the subtle tension in a robot guarded society: the same goes for the spacey instrumental 'Nucleus', before the human touch reappears in the candid acoustic-based ballad 'Day after Day (The Show Must Go On)', a self-pitying hymn to the long lost dreams of a long lost youth. Then comes the 'Total Eclipse', a chaotic collapse of disturbing dissonance (anyone remembers the last space flight in '2001: A Space Odyssey'?. well, you may have an idea of what 'Total Eclipse' is all about). Once this sinister storm is concluded, a new dawn of life and hope is announced in 'Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32', the beautiful closure that lowers the album's curtains with elegant solemnity. Conclusion - a very good album that pretty much anticipates better things to come in albums such as "Pyramid" and "The Turn of a Friendly Card".

(Review gratefully dedicated to Alan Parsons and his supporting band, who gave a very exciting concert in Lima, Jan 19 2005)

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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