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The Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia Avenue CD (album) cover


The Alan Parsons Project


Crossover Prog

2.97 | 263 ratings

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3 stars This was one of the most commercially successful Project albums, but it surely benefited from the previous successes of ‘Turn of a Friendly Card’ and ‘Eye in the Sky’. If considered solely on its own merits it is really no better than those albums, and I would consider it not quite as good as either of them (although it has its moments).

I’ve read this was originally supposed to be the first of a two-disc set along with the tracks that became ‘Vulture Culture’. If you listen to the two albums back-to-back you can definitely hear a lot of similarities, but then that could just as easily be said of any two Project albums except maybe ‘Tales…’. The overriding depressing lyrical theme on this, ‘Vulture Culture’, and even ‘Stereotomy’ is definitely consistent. I’ve also read this album deals with the theme of addiction, and specifically alcoholism. Alternately it is said to be all about the seven deadly sins in general. Not sure which is true – frankly most of the songs seem to deal with personal relationships gone sour. In any case, Eric Woolfson once again does a lot of the singing which is nice since his voice seems to be the most agreeable for the Project sound.

The opening “Prime Time” was later acknowledged by Alan Parsons to be a blatant attempt at recreating the hit sound of “Eye in the Sky”, and the chugging guitar riffs and bouncy tempo are heavily reminiscent of that song. That said, Woolfson’s vocals are in top form and the rhythm is quite catchy, so overall this is a pretty decent tune, although like the rest of the album is far closer to artsy pop than to any kind of progressive genre.

Lenny Zakatek sings on “Let Me Go Home”, which is pure pop-rock of the highest 80s order. Like some of his other Project tunes, the vocals are a bit awkward and the instrumentation if rather plain for a Parsons production. A rather mediocre track.

Woolfson sings again on “One Good Reason”, a rather meandering tune with a pretty odd guitar/keyboard accompaniment that might be pretty good or might be crap – even after all these years I can’t really decide. This is pretty sparse instrumentally for a Parsons tune. The lyrics could refer to a person questioning the relevance of a substance abuse counselor, or a person struggling with an inner-demon, or just someone having a fight with their partner, so they don’t do anything to help reveal the point of the album.

I think “Since The Last Goodbye” is probably the most controversial track on the album. Some people I knew back in the 80s thought this was a really classic art rock ballad, and others found it to be schmaltzy pop in the vein of Eric Carmen or Barry Manilow. I kind of like it’s plain and understated charm, although Chris Rainbow’s vocals are a bit distracting since he’s about a half-register above his comfort zone.

“Don’t Answer Me” starts off sounding all the world like a Jeff Lynne tune ala ELO’s ‘Time’. In fact back in the 80s I thought this was ELO until I actually bought the tape myself. Anyway, it’s mellow, well-constructed, and endearing. Again, not progressive – just pop, but a very nice tune for its time. As an aside, I believe this was one of the very last 8-track tapes I ever purchased. Selah.

The goofy, 70s throwback drums and bass on “Dancing On A Highwire” combined with Colin Blunstone’s vocals make this sound like an old Neil Young or Quicksilver Messenger Service song. I would say that’s a compliment, but it is also a bit odd for a Parsons tune.

“You Don’t Believe Me” is the other Zakatek song, and it’s indistinct pop-rock just like “Let Me Go Home”. Nothing much more to say about this one.

The only instrumental on the album is “Pipeline”, very much in the same style as “Mammagamma” from ‘Eye in the Sky’, and one of the few places where the orchestra is rather prominent. The liner notes credit the Philharmonia Orchestra of London with orchestral arrangements but I can’t really hear them as much as the strings on previous albums.

The closing title track is perhaps one of the strongest Project songs since its debut, and again is sung by Woolfson, and the lyrics make the strongest case for ‘Ammonia Avenue’ as a pseudonym for ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, although again I have nothing to base that on beyond scurrilous rumors, so take it for that if you will. Woolfson’s voice is a bit strained, and he actually sound more like Chris Rainbow here. The mild tempo and slightly gloomy acoustic guitar and piano accentuate the mood and make for a peaceful ending to the album.

Like I said at the beginning, this isn’t quite as good as the two previous Project albums, but it’s not as bad as Eve or Pyramid either. The first and last tracks are solid if poppish; “Don’t Answer Me” is an artistic number that still pops up on FM radio occasionally even today; and the instrumental “Pipeline” is at least serviceable in Parsons’ terms. So overall this is probably a 3.25 album, so three stars it is.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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