Genesis Ch 1 V 32

The Alan Parsons Project's CDs Ranked Worst To Best (Oh, Yeah, And Alan's Solo Stuff, Too)

by Duke Egbert

In which reviewer Duke Egbert, returning from a nine-year writing hiatus, breaks all the rules previously set for these collections by including a live album and mashing an artist’s group and solo career together (sort of).

alanparsons_secret_15016. The Secret (2019)

The Paul Dukas And Lou Gramm? Really? Album. A disjointed, flat effort, despite its star-spangled guest list. The only track worthy to be on a Project CD is the soaring, heartbreaking “I Can’t Get There From Here.” Sad, but true.

15. Vulture Culture (1985)alanparsons_vulture

The Where’s The Orchestra? Album. The widescreen, cinematic grandeur of the early CDs is completely gone by this time; Andrew Powell is nowhere to be seen, and there’s a guitar machine (eek!) on a couple of tracks. Only “Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)” saves this one from the bottom of the heap.

alanparsons_timemachine 14. The Time Machine (1999)

The I Was Much Too Kind To This CD On My Initial Review Album; that or it just hasn’t aged well. Once you get past the instrumentals, the songs are mostly trite – and the vocalists just don’t match Parsons’ style (especially Maire Brennan of Clannad). The return of Colin Blunstone and Chris Rainbow is nice, but wasted on poor songwriting.

13. Eve (1979)alanparsons_eve

The Borderline Misogyny Album. Also the Worst Production Ever On A Parsons Album album. The Project’s view of women seems to be skewed towards the negative. When you put an instrumental named “Lucifer” on that CD, it might be viewed as a strong social statement. “Winding Me Up,” a surprisingly Beatlesesque bouncer, helps, as does “If Only I Could Change Your Mind,” but then you have stinkers like “I’d Rather Be A Man” sitting, in the words of the late great Bill Hicks, like ‘a turd in my drink’.

alanparsons_ammoniaave 12. Ammonia Avenue (1984)

The All A&R People Must Die Album. Under pressure from Arista Records to produce another Top Ten hit, the Project delivered a CD that had two Top Forty hits (“Don’t Answer Me” and “Prime Time,” both solid), the driving “You Don’t Believe,” and the haunting “Dancing On A High Wire”. However, NH3AVE also included “One Good Reason” and “Let Me Go Home,” two of the worst Project songs ever. A mixed bag.

11. On Air (1996)alanparsons_onair

The Ian Bairnson Gets Serious Album. Longtime Project guitarist Bairnson was the driving force behind this CD, with its plaintive and moving “Blue Blue Sky” (a tribute to Bairnson’s cousin, killed in a friendly fire incident in Iraq), Bairnson’s blistering, pristine guitar on “Cloudbreak” and its focus on air and space exploration. “Fall Free” has thundering, massive drums, “I Can’t Look Down” is wickedly funny, and “Apollo” has John F Kennedy. However, the overly soft pop sound raises its ugly head again on “Too Close To The Sun” – and Christopher Cross (?!?) is wasted on “So Far Away.”

alanparsons_pyramid 10. Pyramid (1978)

The Hard To Follow The Robot Album. The first release after the groundbreaking I Robot, Pyramid has a lot of good songs, but no great songs – and one song (“Pyramania”) that you will either find cute and catchy or that will make you run screaming. I have found that in my experience, there’s no middle ground. “One More River,” “Can’t Take It With You,” and “In The Lap Of The Gods” are the highlights.

9. A Valid Path (2004)alanparsons_avalidpath

The Moby Parsons Album. On A Valid Path, Parsons teams up with folks like The Crystal Method and Shpongle to produce an electronica album. “Tijuaniac” still makes my head hurt, but “Chomolungma,” “Return To Tunguska,” and “We Play The Game” are stellar, as is Parsons’ revisit to his earlier work, “Mammagamma 04.”

alanparsons_gaudi 8. Gaudi (1987)

The Tapas and Xerez In Parc Guell Album. The last album released under the Alan Parsons Project name, this ode to Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi never fails, but never quite blows the doors off, either. “La Sagrada Familia” is an almost nine-minute piece of magnificent orchestral bombast, “Too Late” is the second-best breakup song Parsons ever did, and “Standing On Higher Ground” is my choice to blast on a car stereo while driving ninety. If the Arista money folks hadn’t keep trying to recapture chart success by adding two more wimpy ballads (“Inside Looking Out” and “Closer To Heaven”) this would be much higher on the list.

7. Stereotomy (1985)alanparsons_stereotomy

The John Miles Sings Rock And Roll Album. The opening track, “Stereotomy,” with John Miles on vocals, is about cutting things into shapes – and this CD is all about the shapes and changes people have to make to survive fame. “Limelight” (with Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker on vocals) and “In The Real World” (Miles again) serve as the yin and yang on that subject, and both are excellent. “Light Of The World” is a soaring examination of  spiritual searching. The only weak track is “Beaujolais;” the gravity of escaping into the bottle clashes with the light, poppy bounciness.

alanparsons_live 6. The Very Best Live (1995)

The Why Didn’t We Do This Years Ago? Album. Recorded during a 1994 European tour (Woolfson never wanted to tour; once he and Parsons parted ways, Parsons and the rest of the Project began touring). There’s a lot to like here, including a version of “You’re Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned” that has all the enthusiasm and passion the album track lacks. “Psychobabble” makes the audience crazy, and “Luciferama” puts “Lucifer” and “Mammagamma” into a blender and improves them both. Add to that three studio tracks, of which one is the best thing in my opinion Parsons ever did (the Stuart Elliot-voiced “Take The Money And Run,” and no, it’s not the Steve Miller Song). A whole lot of fun.

5. Tales Of Mystery and Imagination (1976)alanparsons_tales

The Where It All Started Album. The iconic beginning of the Project, with “The Raven” and all that. Check out “(The System Of) Dr Tarr And Professor Fether” – underappreciated. The prelude to side two (a post-rock work based on “The Fall Of The House Of Usher”) is uncredited DeBussy. GET THE 1987 REMASTER WITH THE ORSON WELLES SPOKEN INTRO. Trust me.

alanparsons_anything_199 4. Try Anything Once (1993)

The I’m Back, Bitches Album. Fierce. Intricate. The album the Project wish they’d put out in the mid-eighties. “Mr Time,” “Turn It Up,” “Back Against The Wall,” “Oh Life (There Must Be More)” – this is where the rarified air starts.

3. Eye In The Sky (1982)alanparsons_eye

The Bleakness Of Greatness Album. Depressing, true. That’s what happens when Parsons and Woolfson turn their gaze to the cold sterility of the early ‘80s. They’re songs about death and madness, true, but they’re great songs; “Old And Wise,” “Psychobabble,” “Children Of The Moon,” and of course that Chicago Bulls song.

alanparsons_irobot 1 (tie). I Robot (1977)

The Nominate This For A Hugo Album. Parsons and Woolfson decided to look at artificial intelligence, even getting Isaac Asimov’s blessing on I Robot. (The comma came out to avoid a contractual issue.) I’m not going to pick on an individual track – just listen to it. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Tied with ToaFC because…

1. Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)alanparsons_toafc

The Never Draw To An Inside Straight Album.

Here’s why Turn Of A Friendly Card is a worse album than I Robot; I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing “Time” again. Also, “Nothing Left To Lose” is kind of lame.

Here’s why Turn Of A Friendly Card is a better album than I Robot; the high points are higher. “May Be A Price To Pay,” “Games People Play,” and “Turn Of A Friendly Card (Parts I and II)” are three of the best songs Parsons ever did.

Here’s why it doesn’t matter: they both kick ass.

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