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The Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia Avenue CD (album) cover


The Alan Parsons Project


Crossover Prog

2.95 | 222 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars "Ammonia Avenue" is a real slog to get through now that The Alan Parsons Project have settled into commercial AOR territory. By the time this album reared its head the band had already tasted its greatest success with "Eye in the Sky" and the formula was set in stone. While their previous album had some killer tunes, a single that rocketed up the charts and continues to enjoy airplay, and some mesmirising orchestra and a wonderful instrumental, "Ammonia Avenue" has very little that makes it memorable or worth attention. Let's start off with the good, and it is a difficult thing given the albums mediocre contents. The album cover is dynamic and memorable in itself, as most APP covers have been over the years ("I, Robot", "Pyramid" and "Eye in the Sky" are unforgettable). It depicts an chemo power plant reflected in a lake and it is a striking image perfectly capturing the concept on the album of chemical pollution. The album does feature another excellent instrumental driven by the talents of Eric Woolfson, namely Pipeline. It may not have the power to captivate me like other instrumentals over the years from APP but it is a great instalment on an otherwise dull dull album. Mel Collins is always a delight on saxophone but is underused on the album. Finally the album finishes with some prog on the 6 and a half minute title track, but it is too little too late.

Now we move onto the bad and there is unfortunately a lot of it. The album reaks of sugar coated vocals and pop, such as the nauseating Since the Last Goodbye that channels The Bee Gees, except is worse. The opening tracks are usually high points of any APP album but this time round we are inundated with AOR drivel such as Prime Time, and Let Me Go Home. The problem is although musically they can play and the production is squeaky clean, there is little to no innovation, the melodies are forgettable and the songs just go by the numbers sticking to formula.

Don't Answer Me is the song I remember on TV during the 80s as the video clip was played ad infinitum with a Casablanca detective theme and very sweet animation, including the protagonist winning the girl, after punching the thug into the moon, and then he wipes away the moon's tears and the stars say twinkle twinkle as the detective drives off with the broad in the jalopy. The melody is nice, the visuals were nice and that's the problem really; it is all so nice it has me reaching for the skip button almost by default. Funnily enough this song jolted me as I actually remember sitting down as a teen and actually being entertained by the visuals on the clip. It is very gimmicky though in hindsight and does not stand the test of time. Mel Collins is wonderful though on 50s style saxophone. That saccharine coated Phil Spector production is sterile though and just drips like golden syrup down the speakers. It really is dated, but this rocketed up the charts and is the last huge single from the group. Perhaps the album is simply too lightweight for serious consumption these days, but this is one that continues to play on the radio; it really is sentimental pap but done well, sounding strikingly like ELO.

Dancing On A Highwire boasts a cool bassline, but again the sound is mellow, light, airy and devoid of any power, unlike some APP on previous albums. On You Don't Believe we get some disco electro, which makes a nice break from the sappy mellowpop. I don't think the track though will win any fans back to the album as it is so dated it is laughable. The band have just shed their progressiveness like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, except the butterfly has become a moth; nothing on the album moves beyond pedestrian pop and there is no inventiveness at this stage.

Then we get to the last two tracks.

Suddenly the lights go on and the band become great again, though it would take some patience to get to this point of the album after all the mush. Pipeline is an instrumental and definitively shows what the band are really capable of. Woolfson is a master of keyboards and shows it here. Collins is brilliant on sax lifting the musicscape to the stratosphere. It almost makes me cry to hear this track after enduring the ordinary material previous on the album; why couldn't the rest of the album be more like this?

Finally we have Ammonia Avenue, a progressive, yes, I said progressive, track at last. It opens with melancholy piano, soft airy vocals, almost Pink Floyd in style. It moves into a quirky time sig, a glorious lead solo, jumpy heavy guitar strikes, then blossoms out into full orchestra. It is delightful when the strings and horns chime in, so stirring to the emotions, similarly to Silence and I from the previous album. Again, the whole album could have been like this and at least these last two tracks save this album from complete disaster.

This is how the band used to sound when they were awesome; it seems so long ago since their debut now. They have gone the direction of ELP that fizzled out with "Love Beach" after the brilliance of "Brain Salad Surgery". We can all say that APP are justified in their lapse into commercialism because they were victims of chart success, or we could try to justify that they were just interested in commercial sounds, but then why the heck were they so inventive back in the glory days of "Tales of Mystery and Imagination", "I, Robot" and "Pyramid"? Instead we are left pondering on what might have been; so much talent, so much wasted on mediocrity like "Ammonia Avenue".

AtomicCrimsonRush | 2/5 |


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