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The Alan Parsons Project - Pyramid CD (album) cover


The Alan Parsons Project


Crossover Prog

3.42 | 388 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars My first album expereince from APP was the slick but lackluster "Ammonia Avenue". My feelings for APP have always been dead-center ambivalence; I regard their place on the prog spectrum to be in the neighborhood of THE MOODY BLUES (especially the Moraz era) and ELO- i.e., more pleasant and approachable than novel or challenging. While I have a deep nostalgic appreciation for the Moodys, APP strikes me as more synthetic, more crisply and emotionlessly produced. When I was an over-exciteable pre-teen, I could enjoy ballads like "Don't Answer Me" and low-key creepers like "Eye in the Sky", but a friend who was a fan begged me to listen to one of the earlier albums to get a better feel for the depth of the band. I considered "Tales" and "I Robot" but my experience with musical adaptations of literature convinced me that "Pyramid" might be a better choice.

"Voyager" is a nice opening, a non-threatening fanfare laced with airy tendrils of synths, setting the stage perfectly for "What Goes Up". This song will tell you almost all you need to know about the band's sound: spartan, moody verses and surging choruses, sung in a flat European style, with almost characterless guitars and familiar early synth sounds. A powerful classical backing adds emphasis in places, without ever feeling out of place or tacked-on; the best compliment I can give is that every element is necessary and appropriate to the compositions. "The Eagle Will Rise Again" is more lush and mournful, and sounds suprisingly like a power ballad of the Euro-metal variety (except that it never bursts into distorted power chords...but this is '78, after all). "One More River" tries to be more funky and up-beat, perhaps with a nod to the "disco-prog" designs of ELO. The wailing synths in the background strike an eerie counterpoint to the eager drums and sax parts, and the vocals have more character than elsewhere...but it fails to add up to a good song, unfortunately. And "Can't Take it With You" continues the trend; pop that would love to be prog, or vice-versa. It does seem admirably ahead of it's time- it wouldn't have sounded any more dated in the mid-80s (it's not too far from several songs by Adrian Belew's THE BEARS, for instance, without the wonderful guitar work), but neither would it have been any more memorable.

The second side starts up promisingly: a pseudo-eastern atmosphere with portentious bells and millitary drums. The prog listener can't help but be tantalized by the title "In the Lap of the Gods", and for the most part the Dunsanian/ Arabian Nights feel fulfils the promise. Too soon, however, the slightly silly, bouncy rhythm section saps the possible strengths of the "O Fortuna" style chorus and orchestral bursts. Sad...this track could have been a winner! The same cannot be said for the dully goofy "Pyramania", which again presages some of the lower moments of the upcoming 80s, as does the burbling synth bass of "Hyper-Gamma-Spaces". Was Alan Parsons trying to combine Giorgio Moroder influences and PF instrumentals as "On the Run"? The finale is the over-the-top sentimentality of "Shadow of a Lonely Man", which begins in a very MOODY BLUES vein, almost an homage to the segways of "Days of Future Passed." The song itself is pretty...almost a Broadway feeling with the orchestral elements and reflective, though occasionally mawkish vocal. It's a little too obviously the "slow song", just as the two songs that ended the first side were transparently the "upbeat single" material, but as APP never really pretended to be anything but a commercial venture, we can perhaps forgive the blatant intentions.

For such a well-produced and smoothly progressing disc, the album is really a mixed bag. After the muddled wash of sound that Alan Parsons had lent to mid-period PINK FLOYD, I was impressed to hear how clear and detailed the recording was. Unfortunately, that may have robbed the album of some possibility of mystery; one can clearly hear the lack of any soulfulness. Because they are two completely different bands, I hate to make too close a comparison...but the funky blues and murky neurosis of PF is sorely lacking here. I would call it prog for radio, but even bands like STYX and SUPERTRAMP managed to achive a distinctive and occasionally quirky signature, whereas APP's "Pyramid" is truly forgettable...not bad, really, but I'll be willing to eat my shorts if anyone out there wants this album among their "desert island" collection.

James Lee | 2/5 |


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