Try Anything Once

Alan Parsons

Arista Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


You probably missed the best album of 1993. I'm not a betting man, but given how many music fans there are out there and how many copies of Try Anything Once were sold, you probably didn't buy one.

Your loss. I completely admit to being a huge Alan Parsons fan; I was hooked by "Eye In The Sky" in 1982, and over the eleven albums that the Alan Parsons Project did between 1976 and 1987, I thought they were the best thing going in symphonic rock. In my opinion (and let's face it, that's what I give here) they beat bands like Pink Floyd hollow. Their career was rocky at best, signed to a record company that didn't appreciate them and unable to achieve the breakout success they deserved. When vocalist/collaborator Eric Woolfson and Parsons parted ways in 1987 after Gaudi, I mourned.

And I still remember the day in 1993 I walked into a record store and saw listed on their new releases an Alan Parsons album. I think I grabbed a clerk in a head lock and cried, my voice full of surprise and wonder, "Is that a my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 new Alan Parsons CD?" And lo, I wasn't disappointed. Two weeks later, I was there when they opened to take Try Anything Once home with me.

This is Parsons without Woolfson but with the rest of the Project, including guitarist Ian Bairson and drummer Stuart Elliot -- and if I can express heresy, it's better. While Eric Woolfson was an excellent singer and a good lyricist, the fact he was the lead vocalist on several of the Project's biggest hits meant Arista kept trying to make him sing, and therefore put constant pressure on the band for more soft rock hits like "Time" and "Eye In The Sky." Without that pressure, Parsons and his band proved to be more adventurous, more lyrical, and deeper, a multi-layered sound that bears repeated listening and exploration; good enough, in fact, that it was promoted as "The CD To Test The Limit Of Your Sound System."

The weakest track on the CD, "The Three Of Me," is still good... and after it's out of the way, it just gets better. "Turn It Up" has a surprising edge to it, laced with Bairnson's precise guitar, and to me there is no better proof that Ian Bairnson is underappreciated as a guitarist and a musician. The CD flows seamlessly from track to track, hitting multiple styles and feels, weaving together a full colour picture of moments of transition and rites of passage.

(To the Projectologist who will argue that Alan Parsons says TAO has no theme, unlike the Project's CDs; tough. I think he's fibbing.)

But Parsons hits the gold full center with two tracks, strong and powerful enough to leave one breathless. "Mr. Time" is an ominous, throbbing, complex paean to death and immortality (reminiscent of "You Can't Take It With You" from the Project's Pyramid). "Oh, Life" is in many ways a triumphant denial of the same theme, bringing the CD full circle as its closing track. Special note should go to David Pack's vocals on the last, from a near whisper at the beginning to defiance and power at the end. Very few CDs make me shudder. This one does.

Parsons has continued recording since this return, with 1995's Live CD and 1997's On Air, but this was when he came back and hit the ground running with a vengeance. Anyone with any interest in symphonic rock, stop thinking that the sound died in 1979; get out and appreciate recent work from one of the masters of the genre.

Rating: A

User Rating: B+



© 1999 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.