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The Alan Parsons Project - Tales Of Mystery And Imagination CD (album) cover


The Alan Parsons Project


Crossover Prog

4.06 | 668 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars (Fall of the House of 3.5)

So basically, if you're going to create a "project;" no, not a band, but a "project," you better sure as shit have something pretty damn impossible to achieve set up for your first album. And, hey, Alan Parsons does JUST that!

Because, in layman's terms, Alan Parsons' Tales of Mystery and Imagination is hardly the sprawling epic of Gothic horror that the mummy on the cover wants you to think. This ISN'T Powerslave. It's an art pop gem, for the first half. For the second half, it's some kind of dull ass art pop...thingy. It also has very little to do with Poe by the second side. But, hey, what about that first side, huh?

MY version opens with "A Dream Within a Dream," which is some pleasant narration by Orson Welles, followed by some pleasant, layered synth riffage (I say "MY version" all pretentious like because some folks don't have this narration. So there). This spills quite nicely into "The Raven," which follows with the same droning synths, bass and drums, but adds...Alan himself on vocorder! There's also a pretty good guitar solo afterwards. Toss in some cool changes in the riffage, and some over-the-top vocals, and you get an instant highlight.

But it's not "The Raven" that claims top song on this album: no, that falls squarely on the humble shoulders of "The Tell-Tale Heart."First off, it's sung by one of the few men in rock actually qualified to portray one of Poe's doomed protagonists, crazy Arthur Brown. Secondly, the tune is both catchy as hell, and manages to take as many twists and turns as Brown's delivery, moving from a stomping, almost funky rocker, to sweeping orchestral dips and twists and back.

Not quite as pleasing is "The Cask of Amontillado," which tries to mix some almost Beach Boy type vocals with calm, then swooping, orchestral movements. All in all there's nothing wrong with it, but it ends up sounding like an imitation of a Peter Gabriel mini-opera. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd rather hear Pete's version somehow. No real complaints with "Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" though; it's loads of fun, another funky art popper packed with vocal hooks (and I dig the reference to "The Raven" riff).

The BIG letdown comes on the second side, which is mostly devoted to this "Fall of the House of Usher" thing, which is essentially one long symphonic piece split amongst several tracks of varying size. "Prelude" is the longest, and also the least interesting. Admittedly, it does start with some more classy Welles narration, but beyond that it sounds just like a film score for an old Roger Corman American International Poe movie! And I have no problem with those long as they're accompanied by images of Vincent Price raiding the Arkham cemetery for bodies. "Prelude" can't do that...without the aid of illegal substances of course...

It actually picks up a little with "Arrival," in which some rain sound effects and cheesey organ actually enhance the horror mood. Toss in some door knocking sound effects that turn into percussion, and hey, I'm sold! "Intermezzo" is basically a minute long orchestra sting, but "Pavane" is an actual SONG! You know, with, like, a melody. Okay, so it's actually a harpsichord riff, but whatever. It's nice enough, and I can actually tap my foot to it and everything.

Unfortunately, "Fall" is a fairly unimaginative conclusion to the whole affair. Fifty seconds of orchestral crescendo? That's not that scary. Doesn't sound so much like the "Fall of the House of Usher" as it does "A Wall That Fell Down in the House of Usher," or maybe, "Someone's Been Throwing Rocks at the House of Usher's Windows Again" or something. And finally, "To One in Paradise" is a pretty poor place to end the album; a lackluster pop ballad that has nothing that I can tell to do with Edgar Allen Poe.

So what's wrong with our album Alan? Well, it doesn't really work as a dank, despairing, endlessly depressing look into the lives of various Poe characters. At least, it doesn't in a certain way; when it tries to be all artsy and expressive, it fails miserably. Writing epic orchestral suites is definitely NOT Alan Parsons' cup of tea. And, honestly, I know that "Fall" is a classic Poe story, but the suite doesn't have a lot to do with the story it seems. I TOLD you Dark Side of the Moon was overrated...

However, dressing up pop songs in one way or another, there, THAT'S Parsons' specialty. When he sticks with the art pop route, it usually works. And, if it's dark you want, there IS a sort of darkness to this album...a kind of proto- Cure darkness sort of, found at its best in things like the manic "Tell-Tale Heart," or the pretty "Cask of Amontillado," or even the weird "Raven." In fact, "Raven" is pretty cool, showing that Parsons can be spooky, catchy and experimental all in one, and in such a way as to not bite off more than he can chew. Tales is not a bad album; it just had the mistake of having a very dull second side.

It also isn't very epic or heartfelt or contains any soul shattering solos, but hey, what do you want? It's got Orson Welles! True enough, Jeff Wayne got Richard Burton...who actually acted and everything...but Welles is Welles, and I think that's enough.

The Whistler | 3/5 |


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