The Alan Parsons Project

Arista Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Since I was a young boy listening to the radio, I have always liked the Alan Parsons Project. I remember many of their songs being played on the radio, especially from their Eye In The Sky album, probably the only one people know anymore. But the band, led by the legendary engineer from Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon album, was much more than the band who "wrote" the music that the Chicago Bulls take the court to.

With an anthology due out in the coming weeks, it's safe to say that this band is one that's due for a rediscovery - and is very deserving of it. Let's kick that process off today by looking at the band's third release, 1978's Pyramid.

The theme of this album deals, as the title suggests, with the remaining wonder of the ancient world - but it covers more than that. It also delves into a bit of the ancient Egyptian religion, as well as the "pyramid power" fad that was around in the mid-'70s (the pet rock having proven to be a bust by then). While the songs all somewhat loop around the theme, Pyramid as an album is a very pretty work that could have stood on its own.

Parsons and crew start things off with a short instrumental, "Voyager," which builds up the intensity by adding instruments as the piece progresses, then brings the mood back down in order to meld with the first vocal track, "What Goes Up...". I can't claim I know for fact that this is what the track is about, but it seems like this one is sung by a pharoah and a skeptic in the time of the building of the pyramids, and questions about whether these would truly be structures to last for the remainder of time ("If all things must fall / Why build a miracle at all / If all things must pass / Even a pyramid won't last").my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As the life of the pharoah begins to ebb away, as heard on the track "The Eagle Will Rise Again," the first image of Egyptian mythology comes forth in the image of the phoenix. The gentleness of this track impresses me, as does the vocal delivery. (I'd love to credit the vocalist by name, but seeing that six different vocalists are featured on this album, I can't be sure which person sang on this one.) The religious connotations continue on the more uptempo "One More River," as the pharoah makes his way towards his soul's final journey towards the river Styx. The final song on the side, "Can't Take It With You," shows our hero having second thoughts after discovering he must leave his earthly possessions behind. Too late for him, he eventually will have to board the boat for his jouney on the river Styx. This track is one of my favorites for the vocal work, performances, and the tempo of the track. There's a reason this track made it onto one of the two "best-of" discs released by the Alan Parsons Project.

Side two prepares us for a shift in theme with the instrumental "In The Lap Of The Gods," where the attention shifts from ur now-deceased pharoah to a gentleman in 1978 England who is caught up - maybe a little bit too much - in "pyramid power." (The belief was that anything under a pyramid would be positively affected by the pyramid's mystical power - that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee.) This manic belief in the unknown is the basis of the track "Pyramania," a cute, peppy number which is enjoyable to listen to - though, as the song lets us know, our new hero's fascination with pyramids is causing unhappiness at home with the wife.

Following another instrumental ("Hyper-Gamma-Spaces"), our hero finds himself losing everything that mattered to him - in this case, his wife - on "Shadow Of A Lonely Man." Like the pharoah looking to achieve immortality and lost everything he had accumulated, the modern-day man loses love and everything that mattered in this life, and left him a shell of what he used to be. Kind of a lesson in there for all of us.

Sure, Pyramid can be a real heavy listen if you sit there and study the lyrics. But, even without the pyramid-related themes on both sides, this album is a solid effort that includes some very enjoyable music to listen to. Even 19 years after it was released, this album hardly has aged a day.

So why wasn't Parsons and his group more famous in their heyday? Truth is, I dunno. But for the sheer quality of songwriting and musical performance, they deserved more fame and longevity than they earned.

Pyramid is an excellent light-pop album that allows the listener to either enjoy it for the album it is or take a moral away from it. Either way, it's worth investing the few dollars it costs for an enjoyable 40 minutes.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+


This was an enjoyable review. Good stuff!

© 1997 Christopher Thelen 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.