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The Alan Parsons Project - The Turn Of A Friendly Card CD (album) cover

THE TURN OF A FRIENDLY CARD

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.51 | 412 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Alan Parsons Project albums are concept albums, although the concepts are always diffuse enough to accommodate hit singles. In this case, that's a good thing, since The Turn of a Friendly Card includes not only the catchy "Games People Play," but the all-time classic "Time."

The album's theme is explained on the-alan-parsons-project.com as follows: "Inspired by the theatricality of casino gambling as exemplified in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo. The concept of 'risk' at the gambling tables has obvious parallels to the risks we take in life." A substantial mental-gymnastics routine is required to fit the songs to each other; I wonder if anyone reading the song lyrics would guess the album theme.

But Alan Parsons Project albums are really more about the sound than the words or the concept, and this is the area in which The Turn of a Friendly Card excels. Parsons himself is perhaps the most celebrated audio engineer in rock history, untangling tape on on Abbey Road, producing The Year of the Cat, and, most famously, engineering the recording of The Dark Side of the Moon. As usual, on The Turn of a Friendly Card Parsons all but ensures a good-sounding album just by surrounding himself with talent and doing his thing behind the mixing board. The bonus is his collaboration with Eric Woolfson, who's responsible for half of the composition and production, as well as playing most of the keyboards. I'll also point out the great guitar work of Ian Bairnson, especially the fantastic guitar solo on "Games People Play."

I've always liked "The Ace of Swords," one the album's instrumental cuts. The opening harpsichord part gives the intro a Renaissance feel, which gives way to the TV-sports vibe of its the two main sections, the second of which (beginning at 1:30) employs a very stereotypical Alan-Parsons-Project sound. Andrew Powell's orchestral arrangements are impressive throughout, but especially in the final minute. The other instrumental, "the Gold Bug," isn't as invaluable as its name implies; it sounds like an outtake with the vocals removed. Nonetheless it was a chart hit in Austria and Germany, while "Ace of Swords" was released only as the b-side of "Games People Play."

"May Be a Price to Pay" is another sleeper, for some reason released as an a-side only in France (as a 3:25 edit), and as the b-side of "The Turn of a Friendly Card" in several countries. A quintessential APP tune, "May Be a Price to Pay" is the only song sung by Dave Terry (a/k/a "Elmer Gantry") - - maybe it wasn't released because of potential consumer confusion. As it is, the two hit singles (in the US and Canada) were already sung by two very different singers, and Terry's voice is unlike either Lenny Zakatek, who sings "Games People Play," or Woolfson, who sings "Time." A third single, "Snake Eyes" was a minor U.S. hit; Chris Rainbow's vocal style on this one is somewhat similar to Zakatek's, although given its bouncy piano undercarriage, it must've been mistaken more than once for a Supertramp song.

Musically, the album holds together well, with enough variation in mood, instrumentation, and tempo - - but not too much. The song which strays the most from the formula is "Time," but who could blame the group for including it on The Turn of a Friendly Card, even it was a bit of an outlier? In my book, "Time" is easily the best Alan Parsons Project song I've heard. It's actually a complex song, though it flows so smoothly that I didn't notice for years. And given how good Woolfson sounds singing it, it's a wonder that he hadn't been the lead singer of any song from any of the group's prior albums. Nor is it surprising that the three biggest Alan Parsons Project hits ("Time," "Eye in the Sky" (1982) and "Don't Answer Me" (1984)) were all sung by Woolfson.

Beyond the first three songs and "The Ace of Swords," The Turn of a Friendly Card is solid, though nothing terribly special. But it's a three-star album on the strength of Side One, especially "Time."

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P.S. The 2008 Expanded Edition of The Turn of a Friendly Card has very good sound, and the bonus tracks are interesting, even if they don't add too much to the canonical album.

patrickq | 3/5 |

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