The Time Machine

Alan Parsons

Horipro Records (Japan), 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


It's always fun to see an artist experiment. Sometimes it falls flat, sometimes it works, but knowing that someone is going outside the envelope of their past work is worth a few bonus points in my book. Alan Parsons' post-Project career has been a lot of experimentation. Some of it worked, some of it didn't, but it's all been different, varied, daring, while still keeping the layered sound that his production is known for. His new CD, The Time Machine, is no different.

Once again, the central core of Parsons' post-Project work remains the same. Guitarist Ian Bairnson and drummer Stuart Elliot have been with Parsons since the mid '70s. Bassist John Giblin and vocalist Neil Lockwood return for their second go-round. In a pleasant surprise, former Project vocalists Colin Blunstone and Chris Rainbow return after many years' absence. The vocalist corps is rounded out by Parsons semi-regular Graham Dye, and three new guest vocalists, all of whom are an interesting variance from Parsons' normal sound: Tony Hadley, formerly of Spandau Ballet, English singer-songwriter Beverly Craven, and in a very strange twist, Maire Brennan, formerly of Clannad.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Needless to say, this is a departure for Parsons. But it works; it may work, in fact, better than anything he's done since the 1987 breakup of the Project. Brennan's vocal work on "Call Of The Wild" is delicate, breathy, and the full undertones of her ethereal voice are brought out by Parsons' production. Tony Hadley slides into the Parsons sound as easy as if he'd been bred for it on "Out Of The Blue," and Craven's "The Very Last Time" is minimally produced and arranged, with brilliant piano by new keyboardist Robyn Smith. Craven's voice is not at all what you expect on a Parsons CD; it's bluesy, expressive, and the song itself is acoustic. It's a long way from "Sirius/Eye In The Sky", but it works.

The regulars respond as well. In the instrumental department, "H.G. Force Part I & II" is a brilliant piece of work, the Jarre-like synthesizer and drums sandwiching the album neatly. "Rubber Universe" may be the catchiest vocal-free piece on a Parsons CD since "Hawkeye" on 1985's Vulture Culture. Both of these show the excellent writing ability of Bairnson and Elliot, performers who are heavily underappreciated both as composers and as guitarist and drummer. (Ian Bairnson, for example, got bored a few years ago, so he learned how to play saxophone -- well enough he provides all the sax lines on this CD. This is what the guy does when he's bored.)

And in vocals, "No Future In The Past," the Beatlesque "Press Rewind," and Blunstone's "Ignorance Is Bliss" all excel. Special note should be given to the first two; both are unusual for Parsons, the first hard rock, the second an almost guitar-band sound. Only on "Call Up" does the sound falter, and that a minor consideration. (Another guitar line or a bit more musical complexity would have solved it nicely.)

In short, Parsons has deviated from his standard sound, taken some chances, and come out a winner. Parsons is still trying to secure an American label for this release; meanwhile, go break your piggy bank and order the Japanese import (with English liner notes) from Thoughtscape Records. It's worth every penny.

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 Horipro Records (Japan), and is used for informational purposes only.