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Alan Parsons - On Air CD (album) cover


Alan Parsons


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3.10 | 86 ratings

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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.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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