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The Alan Parsons Project - Eye In The Sky CD (album) cover

EYE IN THE SKY

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.35 | 460 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars There are a few things I remember about this album when it was released in 1982. First, nearly everybody I knew was pretty much sick of punk at this point, and a well- produced album with very high-quality packaging and tasteful artwork was quite appealing, even before listening to it. Second, that damn eyeball sketch ended up being graffiti-painted on just about anything that wasn’t moving in my neighborhood (as well as a few trains and busses that were). And finally, I lived in Chicago for a while a few years after this released and got completely sick of hearing “Sirius” every time I watched the Michael Jordan-led Bulls basketball team take the field. Other than that, this turned out to be a pretty decent album.

I will say that my standards were not very high in 1982 considering the general state of music, and that may have played a part in taking a liking to this piece of very shallow but extremely well-constructed pseudo-symphonic music. As an art and symphonic rock fan of the seventies I was tentatively returning to the fold with baby steps after being led astray by both MTV and Jello Biafra. The prog du jour was the Moody Blues’ ‘Long Distance Voyager’, ELO’s ‘Time’, Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon’, and Asia. Pretty tame stuff, but at least it was heading back in the right direction after a few years of misdirection. I think prog fans of my age who had tired of the tome-like dirges of ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’ and ‘Thick as a Brick’ were finally ready to reinvest our energy in prog-like materials, fluffy-light though they may have been. And as always, Mr. Parsons was ready to oblige with just enough tasteful art to hook us.

Prior to becoming permanently allergic to ‘Sirius’ thanks to the Chicago Bulls, I thought this was a very well-done instrumental, and the most prog-related thing Parsons had done in quite some time. The short but interesting guitar riff over the catchy keyboard rhythm and seamless fade into “Eye in the Sky” was an auspicious beginning and raised my hopes for this album the first time I heard it. Eric Woolfson appears as lead vocalist once again and does an admirable job of carrying the mellow notes against a backdrop of a repetitive but pleasant-enough guitar chugging away. The nebulous theme of astral whimsy is rather non-committal but is enough to keep the listener’s attention for the full four minutes or so that the song runs.

I’m not sure if the theme for “Children of the Moon” is the exodus story from the Bible, but it is definitely a condemnation of some sort of similar historical event:

“Follow the pilgrim to the Temple of the dawn; the altar's empty and the sacrifice is gone.

We let the Madmen write the golden rules, we were no more than mortal fools - nothing to live for.”

Pretty harsh methinks, but the orchestral backing (much of it synthesized I suspect) is much better than the previous couple of albums, and the horns offer some interesting variety. This would not have been out-of-place on a late 70’s art-rock album.

“Gemini” sounds like something that might have inspired one of Spock’s Beard’s later cheesy barber-shop harmonies. Pretty much filler and nonsense lyrics, but doesn’t really take anything away from the album.

Woolfson returns on vocals for “Silence and I”, and I find this to be an excellent neo- prog ballad of the highest order. The mood is brooding but not morbid, and the lyrics are vaguely meaningful enough to inspire some appealing speculation as to their meaning. This has a dated feel to it that is kind of charming today.

The tempo kicks up a bit on “Gonna’ Get Your Fingers Burned”, and this is really more of an 80’s pop-rock number that borders on sounding like one of those new-age gospel bands like Newsboys or something, although I gather the lyrics are speaking about deception of some sort. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a radio single attempt by Parsons.

The slightly mad Elmer Gantry returns after a couple years’ hiatus on “Psychobabble”. This is another pretty cool tune with some simple but effective bass/keyboard sequences that evoke an anxious mood. I really latched on to this one back in the early 80’s, but it hasn’t aged well and the cheesy keyboards and shout-response backing vocals sound pretty dated today.

“Mammagamma” is one of those electronic-funk instrumentals that Parsons was so good at putting together, but true-to-form it sets the listener up with anticipation of something more substantial but fails to deliver and peters out far too soon. It’s pretty clear by the time this album rolled around that Parsons was far better at finding catchy riffs than he was at developing them into full-blown, mature progressive works, but it’s a nice little ditty anyway.

Parsons tries to end the album with a deep-thinker ballad in the finest Moody Blues tradition, and he partially succeeds. “Old and Wise” is a touching, sentimental farewell song that I suspect a lot of young people dedicated to friends as they entered adulthood and moved on during those days. The symphonic backing and mild saxophone are touching, and the lyrics are sentimental enough to get to you if you let them. For those who are taken in by the sappy sentiments of Klaatu and their ilk this is a keeper:

“I wanted you to know you've always shared my deepest thoughts, you follow where I go. And oh, when I'm old and wise bitter words mean little to me, autumn winds will blow right through me.

And someday in the mist of time, when they asked me if I knew you –

I'd smile and say you were a friend of mine.”

I was going to give this three stars but I just played that last track in the quiet of the evening and feel the need to bump that up by one. I might revisit that later in the cold light of day but it’s four stars for now. So I’m sentimental – sue me.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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