Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for October 14, 2011

[The Art and Science of Alan Parsons Recordings] -- If you read the Flashback of July 29, 2011, might recall how ... (ahem) instrumental ... Alan Parsons has been to the recording industry. Before launching the band that bears his name, Parsons was involved in some rather seminal records: he was an assistant engineer on The Beatles' Abbey Road (1969) and Let it Be (1970), and he engineered Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973). While working as a producer at EMI, Parsons met Eric Woolfson, a self-styled composer and songwriter who was working as a session pianist.

From 1976 to 1987, Parsons and Woolfson released 10 studio albums, eight of which were certified Gold, and 28 singles. Their recordings were covered a wide range of topics from mystery (Tales of Mystery and Imagination) to science fiction (I, Robot and Eye in the Sky), and from the occult (Pyramid) to the impact of industrial technology (Ammonia Avenue). The Alan Parsons Project was never really a hit-making machine, but five of their singles broached the top 25 in the US Hot Adult Contemporary charts, and eight ranked in the top 50 the US Billboard Hot 100. And even if you did not care for the vocals or lyrical content of a particular song, every one of The Project's records were finely engineered for maximum audio enjoyment.

Which brings me to the reason I am featuring Alan Parsons and his colleagues in this week's Flashback.

On Monday, GeekDad posted an interview with "veteran music geek" Alan Parsons (Veteran Music Geek Alan Parsons Talks iPad Recording, ‘Irreversible’ Loss of Fidelity). This was the first time I learned of the three-DVD set that was released this year: Alan Parsons' Art and Science of Sound Recording. After reading the interview (which I highly recommend; you did see I linked it for you, right?), I immediately put the DVDs on my wish list. So, to celebrate this amazing DVD set, I chose three songs from the Project's 80s catalog. We've already featured one of the band's biggest hits in a previous flashback. And you know I tend to avoid the obvious selections when assembling a retrospective. So make the jump to see what is featured this week.

Flashback #1"Where do we go from here | Now that all of the children are growing up?"

The Alan Parsons Project entered the 80s with their fifth studio album, The Turn of a Friendly Card. The story behind this concept album is that of a middle-aged man who, in a fit of restlessness, takes his chances by betting all he has in a casino ... and loses it all. No song on the album better captures this dynamic -- or that of the "games" that are played in interpersonal relationships -- than our first flashback which was the second single off this album. "Games People Play" was released in the US in December of 1980 and it charted at number 16 on the Billboard pop chart. Fast forward to 2006, and we find the song featured in the soundtrack for the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories video game.

Flashback #2"Autumn winds will blow right through me."

Eye in the Sky (1982) was one of three records that achieved Platinum sales for the Alan Parsons Project, and it is usually cited as their best overall selling album. I myself have owned this recording in cassette, vinyl and CD formats. So you know it ranks among my personal favorites. This album is a bit all over the place stylistically. And at first blush, it doesn't seem to have an overriding concept that neatly fits the songs together. But I will go out on a limb and say that goodbyes, regret, and a longing for clarity inform a few songs, particularly our second flashback, "Old and Wise." It was released in 1982, and it reached #21 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. There is much wisdom in this song.

Flashback #3"Turn me to stone | Do anything you want with me."

Released in 1985, Stereotomy was the penultimate studio album by the Alan Parsons Project. Here, we witness a band declining in popularity, which is ironic because the title track is meant to be a metaphor for the way famous people (musicians included) are shaped by the demands of fame. The word  "stereotomy," as taken from Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue, refers to the cutting of existing solid forms into different shapes. Although the album underachieved commercially, it earned a 1987 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Where's the Walrus?" And it also spawned this seizure-inducing video for the title track, our last flashback of the day.

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

I'll see you in seven!

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