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Alan Parsons Live Project
35th Anniversary Tour of Eye in the Sky
June 7, 7:30 p.m.
To say that in the field of music Alan Parsons has done it all would be an extreme understatement. Raised in a very creative family (his mother and father were both musicians, and his cousin was actor Oliver Reed), he began playing in bands in England when he was a teenager. At the tender age of 19, he became an assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios. As if working on albums by The Beatles, Al Stewart and Pink Floyd wasn’t enough, he went on to team up with Eric Woolfson to create The Alan Parsons Project, which created a series of innovative and hugely successful albums, beginning with 1976’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, songs such as “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” “Eye in the Sky,” and “Don’t Answer Me,” formed the soundtrack for many of our lives, and the concepts explored in APP’s albums (often drawn from literature and other artistic areas) made the group unique among musical artists of the era.
For those of us who remember hearing songs like “Sirius” on the radio when they were first released, and for younger generations just now discovering the APP catalog, there’s an especially exciting way to experience the hits from classic albums such as I Robot and Ammonia Avenue: Alan Parsons Live Project.
Currently based in California, Parsons tours with a group of seasoned musicians, with whom he also records, and he is able to perform the hits from his groundbreaking albums just the way the fans remember them. Asked how he chooses the material for the tour, he remarks, “We have to extract certain songs. We just pull out the ones that we think are best suited to play live, and also consider their commercial success.”
But given that a number of his albums have recently marked milestones, you may even hear an entire one played at the concert. “We have been performing the entire I Robot album,” Parsons says. “I think if we have no time restrictions at the Fox Theatre we’ll be doing that. It’s just turned 40 years old, so it’s appropriate. “
Long heralded for his technical skills as an engineer and a producer, Parsons has definite opinions on how the process of recording an album has changed in 40 years. “I think the transfer from analog tape to digital hard disc has been nothing but a timesaver for me. We used to spend very long periods of time rewinding a tape to the point where we wanted, or we’d have to change the tape to go to another song. Nowadays we can find any point in a song with just a click of a mouse. It really does save a lot of time.”
However, he finds that the fundamentals still apply. “There’s been a huge amount of progression technologically, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need a good song and a good performance to create a good record. I’ve continued over the years to just follow those principals, rather than use technology for technology’s sake.”
With so many stand-out albums in the Alan Parsons Project catalog, is there one that Parsons himself would call his favorite? “They are all special in their own way, but when asked about them, I always pick Tales of Mystery and Imagination. That was the first in the series; it was like a newborn child. I just managed to get a lot of my frustrations as a producer resolved because I didn’t have an artist to answer to. It was just Eric [Woolfson] and myself at the helm. I felt really satisfied with that record and what it achieved. It was the first producer’s album essentially.” It also inspired some unusual radio play. “We had one radio station at the time where the DJ read ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ while the album was playing in the background. That worked pretty well.”
Parsons released a number of albums in the ’90s (including Try Anything Once, On Air and The Time Machine) under just his own name, as well as 2004’s A Valid Path, which featured contributions from icons such as David Gilmour. Not content to rest on his laurels, he continues to create new albums today. “I am currently recording,” Parsons reveals. “I just recently built a studio in an outbuilding on the property where I live in Santa Barbara. We’ve already got four tracks in the can. We’re hoping to complete it by September or October at the latest, and probably release it in the new year. Essentially, it’s my live band on the album, but I will be looking to have guest singers and artists as always,” he concludes, leaving fans with a final bit of teaser info. “It is a concept album, but I prefer not to divulge more than that until the very last moment when it comes out.”
Fox Tucson Theatre. 547-3040. http://foxtucson.com/presents/alan-parsons-live-project. http://alanparsonsmusic.com.