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Alan Parsons

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3 stars This album is, as the name suggests, an album dedicated to the skies and learning how to master the art of flying. The songs vary from greek mythology (the tale of Ikaros shines through in "Too Close to the Sun"), space flight (the electronic instrumental "Apollo" and the song "So Far Away"), Leonardo da Vinci's ideas ("One Day to Fly"), including the dream of flying (also "Blue Blue Sky") and the fear of flying ("I Can't Look Down"). It is also an "airy" album, light and a bit soaring. The sound is rather turned up in the treble section but Parsons manages to even out with a nice, clear bass.

Many of the songs are soft pop/rock ballads; "Blown by the Wind", "So Far Away" and "One Day to Fly" especially, with a wonderful touch of a symphonic orchestra, lifting the musical experience. The instrumental track "Apollo" is somewhat out of place on this album (although the theme is right on spot), with it's programmed drum rolls and electronic synth sounds. A part of the speech made by John F Kennedy (a person who Alan looks up to) on the Apollo project is also sampled on this track. It somewhat reveals where Alan plans to go on his later albums, especially "A Valid Path" (2004). Among the songs is also an incredibly touching and sad song, "Brother up in Heaven", as a way to say goodbye to someone near, but also to look upon a new life. It reminds you somewhat of the feel in the classic Alan Parsons Project "Don't Let it Show" from "I, Robot" (1977), only with a new, more fresh sound.

For those of you who have heard the songs and albums of the Project, these new albums (listed here as "the Alan Parsons Band") are somewhat different but not at all bad. They have a different sound and attitude, but among them I think that this one (On Air) is the one that resembles the Project albums the most. That doesn't mean that you're buying another Project album if you buy this, but you buy something new and different.

I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of nice soft rock, but I wouldn't call it "essential to your prog rock collection".

Included with the album is also a PC CD-ROM disc, somewhat hard to navigate (you have to click moving hot air balloons, getting you different places depending on what you press) but interesting if you want to learn more about the members of the band. It contains much information both on flight and on Alan Parsons' history, and also contains a quiz among other things.

Report this review (#5683)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Featuring John F. Kennedy on vocals

"On air" was the second album by Alan Parsons (without the "project"). It is a somewhat underrated concept album on the theme of flight and the history of aviation, from the hot air balloons on the cover picture through to space travel.

The music is generally of a softer nature and pace, with a number of mid-tempo ballads. There are suggestions of the music of Pink Floyd (DSOTM era) on several tracks, especially the Gilmour like guitar on "Cloud break", and the "Run like hell" start to "Apollo". The latter is a building instrumental which lists the vocalist as "John F Kennedy" (since it includes an extract from one of his speeches on the space race). "Too close to the sun" actually reminded me of the similarly titled Janis Ian song "The other side of the sun", but it also has echoes of APP's "Eye in the sky", and does include some very effective sax.

10CCs Eric Stewart takes lead vocals for the soft ballad "Blown by the wind", and the two "Blue blue sky" tracks which bookend the album. It's Neil Lockwood though who steals the show with his vocal performances on "I can't look down", and the delicate "Brother up in heaven". The former is not one to listen to just before boarding a flight, as it's all about the fear of flying. The lyrics include "I feel so sick with fear", and "what if the engine dies, these are no friendly skies, my head's spinning around".

"One day to fly" is a weaker track, with Graham Dye sounding rather like Billy Joel did on "Honesty". The soft, melodic ballad changes after about 3˝ minutes to become a bit of a plodder, while retaining the Billy Joel similarity.

As a whole, the album sees Parsons leaving erstwhile partner Woolfson's influence further behind, and moving into generally softer, but highly melodic areas. Recommended.

The CD version includes a second disk (except in Canada for some reason), which contains a CD-Rom programme. It is somewhat difficult to navigate, but does contain some interesting information about both the band, and about aviation.

Report this review (#5684)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars For the most part I found the Alan Parsons Band albums to be tepid and sadly shallow remnants of what was once the interesting Project, which itself had become rather pitiful before Eric Woolfson and Parsons finally went their separate ways in the late eighties. The first half-dozen Project albums, whether you liked them or not, are certainly a permanent part of the modern music landscape. And the first two are even arguably prog-related.

But Parsons’ penchant for overt commercialization and method production became irritating by the time the band and their label decided to split ‘Ammonia Avenue’ and ‘Vulture Culture’ into two separate releases in a transparent attempt to milk more sales out of both disks. And the unbelievable number of barely distinguishable compilations and anthologies released over the past twenty years has served to push Parsons’ music into the ‘overexposed’ category despite the fact he hasn’t done much new stuff in at least a decade.

With the Band Parsons seems to take the same creative path he did with the Project: that is, a very good debut album, followed by subsequently poorer and poorer follow- ups. “Try Anything Once” was close enough to the Project sound to be palatable, and the songwriting was decent at least. The Band’s live album was pretty good as well, buoyed though by the fact the songs they were singing were actually Project tunes. Then comes this one, not bad, but too pastiche and predictable to be considered good either. Then came the awful ‘Time Machine’ and lukewarm ‘A Valid Path’, and presumably this branch of Parsons’ career is over now too.

As I said, the tracks here are all derivative, although to be fair at least Parsons seems to mostly be copping himself. “Too Close to the Sun” is centered around a distinctly ‘Eye in the Sky’ rhythm, but the vocals are closer “Damned if I Do” off ‘Eve’. If you can imagine Christopher Cross (“Sailing”, “Ride Like the Wind”) backed by Dave Gilmour, you’ll have a good picture of “Blown by the Wind”. And speaking of Gilmour, there’s a guitar riff in this one that sounds like it was lifted right from the original studio tracks of “Time” off ‘Dark Side of the Moon’. Like I said, Parsons does have a knack for “reusing” things that have been found to be successful in the past. Hmmm. “So Far Away” is the other track that sounds like it came from a Christopher Cross album by the way.

Parsons gets in his obligatory instrumental with “Cloudbreak”, but I have to say this is probably the most bland and uninspiring instrumental I’ve ever heard from him. Interesting lead guitar, but the keyboards and rhythm guitar seem to be taken straight off ‘I Robot’. This thing just doesn’t go anywhere.

Parsons breaks out the clichéd lyrics machine with “Can't Look Down”, a paranoid rant about fear of flying with an undeniable Police motif ala ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’, while “Fall Free” is a surprisingly good impersonation of Ambrosia’s “Holding on to Yesterday” from 1975. Obviously and unfortunately though, neither offers anything new or original.

On the other hand Neil Lockwood delivers a great vocal performance on “Brother up in Heaven”, although the special effects (space ship taking off? not sure…) are a bit distracting. This one is mostly piano and Lockwood’s vocals, not really a very typical Parsons tune, but nice even if it is nothing more than a pop easy-listening tune.

I won’t comment on “Apollo” other than to say that disco supposedly died at least fifteen years before this album was recorded.

The most hilarious track (unintentionally, I’m sure) is “One Day to Fly”. I’ll paint the picture and you take it from there – imagine Billy Joel in drag doing interpretive theatrical versions of Sgt. Pepper’s and Klaatu albums at the Starlight Casino in Las Vegas. Have fun with that visual….

And finally “Blue Blue Sky” brings the album to a close, nothing special and actually not a very Parsons-like tune really. This one falls into that Randy Newman/Harry Nilsson bucket of forgettable ditties written on the back porch during a Saturday morning hangover, albeit a scene I can’t really picture Alan Parsons in. Strange finish to a weak album.

I will say that the technical quality of this high-def CD is outstanding, which is no surprise for anyone who knows Parsons’ work in the studio. It’s just too bad there wasn’t a little better music to justify the effort and expense of the stellar production. Two stars.


Report this review (#123625)
Posted Monday, May 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
2 stars On Air is Alan Parsons' second solo album after the demise of the Alan Parsons Project when Parsons and Eric Woolfson went their separate ways. Unlike his first solo album, Try Anything Once, Parsons seems to rehash old ideas and his formulaic approach seems a bit too tiresome now on his 13th studio album (APP+Freudiana+solo). The music seems even more commercial than ever, even wandering into overt dance music with the Apollo instrumental. Even so, the production is the usual and exceptional work we've always admired of Alan Parsons.

This time, Parsons returns to a theme-based album. As expected from the title, On Air covers the history of airborne exploration, from the mythological flights of Daedalus and Icarus, to Leonardo da Vinci's designs of flying machines, to hot air ballooning, and finally space exploration. The number of guests on this is considerably larger than usual, including Eric Stewart (Mindbenders and 10cc), Neil Lockwood (ELO Part 2), Christopher Cross, Graham Dye (Scarlet Party), Peter Beckett (Player and Paladin), John Giblin (notable session bassist), and orchestral composer Andrew Powell, among others. Guitarist Ian Bairnson plays a much larger and more significant role in this album, having writing credits for 10 of the 11 songs.

Again, like other recent Parsons creations, this is chiefly pop music, with little or no progressive elements to it. APP fans will probably want this, but the rest of you will probably have no interest in this. Two stars. For collectors and fans only.
Report this review (#155841)
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars People are being a bit too harsh on this album, I think. This album is different from all other albums that Alan Parsons has ever made - with the Project or otherwise. This album is softer, more floating, less rhythmic and less commercial compared to the Alan Parsons Project's albums. And it is certainly less hard rocking than what I usually enjoy. But the very good electric guitar work and the highly melodic songs makes it appealing somehow.

This music is more similar to Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield than to the Alan Parsons Project. And apparently some fans of the Project don't like this. Personally, I actually think this album is more enjoyable than many Alan Parsons Project albums. I see it as Parsons finally being able to break free from the formula he followed (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) on the Project's albums throughout the 80's.

I especially like the way this album is book ended by the two acoustic Blue Blue Sky tracks. And I like the consistency of the album - it really feels like a complete piece of music rather than just a collection of songs held together by a concept only (as on most Alan Parsons Project albums).

Report this review (#191562)
Posted Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | Review Permalink

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