Stereotomy

The Alan Parsons Project

Arista Records, 1985

http://alanparsonsmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/08/2000

The work that the Alan Parsons Project is best known for spans the period from 1976 to 1982, from Tales Of Mystery And Imagination to their only American Top Ten hit, 1982's "Eye In The Sky". Despite a bit more chart success after that ("Don't Answer Me," a Top Twenty from 1984's Ammonia Avenue), most of the Project's mid-eighties work is forgotten except by serious fans, and by 1987 the band was history.

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That's a bit of a shame, really. While the three CDs in this period didn't have the grandeur of the seventies' work, they're interesting CDs in their own right, full of experimentation and flashes of genius. The best of the three, by far, is Stereotomy.

Unlike earlier CDs, Stereotomy is stripped down, less orchestral, harsher in some ways. Ian Bairnson's guitar really cuts loose on several tracks, and guest vocalists include Gary Brooker of Procol Harum. There is a sense of urgency to the CD, an almost industrial sound in some places, and Parsons' elegant engineering gives the sound real impact. This is definitely a headphone CD.

At least four tracks bear special attention. The title track is a hard-hitting, syncopated, powerful rock song, about as far from the remote coolness of "Eye In The Sky" as you can imagine. The intro keyboard line and bass riff creates a tension that the song never really relieves, pulling you into the CD effortlessly. The pairing of "Limelight" and "In The Real World" provides an odd musical yin/yang, the idealism of desiring fame and fortune contrasted sharply with the cost of being something other than what you are. And "Light Of The World" is a soaring ballad about faith and what it costs. Stereotomy is a thinking CD, the kind where you sit and listen and puzzle over what it means and listen again and again.

As a bonus to the mental exercise, Stereotomy also contains two of the best Parsons instrumentals ever recorded, "Urbania" and "Where's The Walrus." Both are popcorn for the ears, addictive and rhythmic.

If there is a weak song on Stereotomy, it's "Beaujolais." Colin Blunstone's paean or lament about avoiding one's problems with drink is a little too light and bouncy for my tastes, and clashes with the intensity of the rest of the disc.

Stereotomy is a tight, well-done piece of work from a group of very talented musicians in an experimental phase, and is well worth checking out.

Rating: A-

User Rating: C


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© 2000 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.