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The Alan Parsons Project - Pyramid CD (album) cover

PYRAMID

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.41 | 380 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars Alan Parsons is a pretty fashion-aware kind of guy, particularly when it comes to music. I suppose that’s what led him to pare back the large band of merrymen that accompanied the Project’s first two albums just a bit when he and Eric Woolfson put together Pyramid. Andrew Powell is still around to arrange the orchestral accompaniment, but it is quite a bit more restrained here, with an increased emphasis on rhythm, guitars, and vocals. The result is a pretty decent rock album with slight art rock tendencies, but like so many other progressive-leaning bands of the late 1970s, the sound is more contemporary and less adventurous than their earlier work. This is an album that appears to be centered around the nebulous concept of man’s history, knowledge, and the loss and rediscovery of our awareness of both. Sounds like something a university anthropology professor might write if they had artistic tendencies.

Once again Parsons leads an album off with a spacey instrumental, in this case “Voyager”. And once again he creates some interesting tempos that he fails to fully develop, leaving once again a sense of disappointment as the track transitions into “What Goes Up”. This song is sung by now-longtime contributor David Paton, who also plays some bass on the album. The lyrics here are confusing at best:

“What goes up must come down; what must rise, must fall. And what goes on in your life is writing on the wall.

If all things must fall, why build a miracle at all? If all things must pass, even a miracle won't last.”

True enough I suppose, but kind of depressing. But then Parsons ends with this little proverb:

“What goes up must come down; what goes round must come round. What's been lost, must be found.”

So then if all else fails I suppose we (as civilizations) can at least serve as lessons to others in later civilizations. Somehow that’s not much comfort (to me, at least).

Next up is “The Eagle Will Rise Again” featuring ex-Zombies singer Colin Blunstone in a mild, brooding ballad featuring slightly off-key female backing and acoustic accompaniment, both of which are a bit unusual for the Project. Like the Edgar Allen Poe opening poem for the “Tales…” album, the message here is the ‘dust in the wind’ epiphany:

“And the days of my life are but grains of sand, as they fall from your open hand –

at the call of the wind's command.”

This is really a strange song for this album, which I can only assume Parsons was hoping would emerge as a hit single for the adult contemporary market. It didn’t.

Lenny Zakatek sings on “One More River” with its “keep a-pushin’ on” theme. Zakatek is an interesting guy. He was born in Karachi but grew up in England, and was pretty much an anonymous journeyman musician before Parsons started including him in the Project’s albums. Zakatek would make a bit of a name for himself as the most recognizable voice on “Turn of a Friendly Card” a couple years later. This one also introduces a fairly prominent horn section, including a decent saxophone solo (although really – have you ever heard a bad saxophone solo? It’s just one of those instruments that almost always adds to a song).

“Can’t Take it With You” is a logical sentiment for an album with a theme like this one’s. But the choice of former sixties’ crooner Dean Ford on vocals is an odd choice. This is pure pop rock with only an attempt at art leanings in the minor percussion and sound effects. The beat and guitar licks are right out of 1965, as is Ford’s voice. A really strange tune for a Project album.

The “In the Lap of the Gods”-“Pyramania”-“Hyper-Gamma Spaces” is the highlight of this album. Parsons sandwiches a short vocal piece between two longer instrumentals to create a kind of epic journey-like feel, complete with middle eastern percussion and synthesized reed sounds, along with a bit of flute and heavy organ for added mysterious effect. It’s about a thirteen minute tribute to Egypt and the pyramids, except that the short vocal tracks right in the middle are accented with choppy keyboards and vocals that sound like something the Buggles would have done. Really weird, and I’ve never quite figured out what the point to this was. The two instrumentals would have fit together very well to form a very decent progressive piece were it not for the “Pyramania” track that completely ruins the mood. I especially like the organ on “Hyper-Gamma Spaces”.

The end comes with John Miles doing “Shadow of a Lonely Man”, another track about a man lamenting his morality (and apparently his fleeting fame). This is a heavy orchestrated piece that actually sounds like a Broadway musical work. I’m guessing that’s what Parsons intended, although knowing Woolfson’s penchant for the big stage, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the driving force behind this one. Again, I fail to get the point of its inclusion here, but it’s not a bad tune.

So this is another step slightly down in terms of creativity for Parsons, although again he delivers a technically perfect studio work. There’s just a bit lacking in continuity of the theme, and the wide range of styles (particularly on “Can’t Take it With You”, “Pyramania”, and “Shadow of a Lonely Man”) are actually a bit distracting.

And this is not in any way a progressive music album, probably not even in the realm of art rock. It’s just a halfway decent pop album. And for that it gets two stars (2.5, but that doesn’t really make much difference).

peace

ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |

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