Alan Parsons is a name familiar to most who follow classic prog rock. Parsons was a producer and engineer who worked on such albums as The Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” Al Stewart’s “Time Passages,” and of course, the album many consider the greatest rock album of all time, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Shortly after DSotM, Parsons, with songwriter Eric Woolfson, put together The Alan Parsons Project. They created a number of albums through the 70s and 80s, some of them achieving gold with several songs becoming Top 20 hits.
I’d like to focus on his first album, 1975’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Based largely, or loosely, depending on your perspective, on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the album is a stunning aural achievement that begins with a narrative monologue by Orson Welles. from the opening instrumental of “A Dream Within A Dream.” It introduces us to Parsons vision of music as a lush, complex wall of sound.
The drumbeat of “A Dream Within A Dream” takes us into “The Raven,” a song that combines Poe’s words with lavish vocals of a boys’ choir and synthesizes it into a rock anthem.
This is followed up, on the album, by “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a descent into madness from the opening scream to the final beating of the old man’s heart. I believe the singer on this is Arthur Brown of 60s “Fire fame.
“A Cask of Amontillado” has always intrigued me, both as a story of vengeance and as a song created by Parsons Project because at times it sounds more reminiscent of a love song then a tale of revenge and murder, which I find rather ironic.
“(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” is probably the closest to a typical mainstream rock song. Still, don’t hold that against it. It’s still infectious fun.
“Fall of the House of Usher” opens with narration by Orson Welles, his voice sets the dark mood for this piece. The oppressive mood intensifies with the use of a full orchestra. Soon the Parson Project gets into full swing, creating a dazzling atmospheric epic.
This is part 1.
And here’s part 2, which moves to more traditional rock sound, but with the addition of a glockenspiel.
The album ends with “To One With Paradise.” A Beatlesque ballad that seems to harken back to Parsons years as an engineer and yet foreshadows the music yet to come.
This is an album that was an engineering masterpiece, a worthy tribute to the greatest American horror writer, and just a flat out rockin’ fun concept album. Its still one of my all-time favorite albums and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.