"I don't care, what you do, I'd really like to be like you."
What do The Beatles' Abbey Road and "The Dark Side of the Moon" have in common? For any Prog fan that may not know this elementary fact, the answer is Alan Parsons. Orignally one of the most gifted studio engineers ever, Parsons eventually began dabbling with music, instrumentation, and developing his own projects and the rest is, as they say, history.
In 1976, I heard a landmark album that was the new buzz around the entire neighborhood. The oddity that blasted from car cassette players and tower speakers from nearby stereos was "Tales of Mystery and Imagination Edgar Alan Poe". The now infamous "Bomp...bomp...bomp, bomp, bomp..." bass line clarified and identified the latest rage: The Alan Parsons Project. This first LP really kind of blew me away, even though it didn't have the A-typical Prog quality of wildly brilliant musicanship. The album instead was a rather polished thematic style that still fit the Prog profile. In short, the world was about to experience the magic of The Alan Parsons Project.
Many fantastic opuses have come from APP, but my favorite record of all from them was "Pyramid" followed closely by "Eve". The first release "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" was an incredible achievement and probably the best example yet of what I feel Alan was after. The album is a true "project" in every sense of the word. Compared to the other releases, which are not really thematic projects, Tales"remains a phenomenal package. "The Fall of the House of Usher's" prelude was inspired by La chute de la maison Usher" by Claude Debussy. Collaborator *Eric Woolfson seemed to be the Paul McCartney to Parsons' Lennon, and the two made an unforgettable team. I was never fortunate enough to see The Alan Parsons Project in concert. This I feel, is something truly lacking in my 70's experience.
I was always a little bummed that the song "Voyager" from the "Pyramid" LP wasn't longer. The Alan Parsons Project sometimes embellished the first side of their albums with a rather protracted Moody Blues-esque opening sequence, ie "Sirius", Voyager", "A Dream Within a Dream". The haunting chord structure of "Voyager" really needed to be longer. "The Eagle Will Rise Again" is still high on my Prog playlist. It's faux out of tune strums remind of something on the order of cobwebbed hallways of an old forgotten attic. Almost dreary, the song meanders with a strange calm, reminiscent of past classics such as King Crimson's "Moonchild" and Camel's "Spirit of the Water." Though the album came out in 1980, "Turn of a Friendly Card" was beautiful. I clearly remember our local FM rock station at the time playing "Time" on a regular basis, and everyone had the album! Like "To One in Paradise" from the "Tales" LP, "Time" was the perfect ambient gateway to an ethereal dreamland where the AP Project has tread so expertly in the past.
*Here's a laugh: In my hometown, an identity thief was arrested claiming to be Eric Woolfson. When asked why he chose Woolfson to impersonate, he replied "I figured he was kind of well known, but obscure enough for people to believe that he'd be down on his luck."
Feel the Giant, Hear the Giant...
My first experience with Gentle Giant came in 1974 with their first album. I always considered the song "Nothing at All" a masteripiece. Gentle Giant was one of the tightest Prog bands ever with an all-star family cast featuring Schulman brothers Derek, Ray and Phil. Over the years, I sort of lost touch with GG, and I think it's because they maintained their integrity, and stuck to their original game plan, and that was to offer the worl their brand of experimental rock no matter what the cost to them personally. In other words, "live free, or die." The styles seemed to change tremendously over the years, and I had a bit of difficulty holding an interest. However, Gentle Giant is probably one of the most honorable Prog bands ever. They did not give in to FM pressure, but kept their own style. Their fan base is loyal, and any Gentle Giant head I ever met was willing to lay down in front of a train for them.
My first exposure to Jethro Tull was in 1971 with a bootleg album called "My God". I thought this to be a very unique band and another song on the album "Sossity, You're a Woman" stayed with me for a long time. I classified Tull as a sort of Medieval-Folk-Prog band. The extremely talented multi-instrumentalist front guy Ian Anderson reminded me of a leprechaun bouncing across the stage. In essence, there was a strong Peter Gabriel quality about his presence, but not to the point of resembling Gabriel in any way on stage. Anderson was an original.
It wasn't until I heard "Thick as a Brick" that I became interested in Tull as a Prog band. I believe it was in the summer of '74 that I was listening to this album on a daily basis. I was also listening to Deep Purple's "Made in Japan" quite heavily. I had a friend who was an excellent all over "air musicican" and could do "Thick as a Brick" in its entirety. I think I drew as much energy from him as I did the band.
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