What is there to say about Alan Parsons? He remains one of the foremost figures of not only prog, but rock and roll at large. He helped engineer two of the most famous pieces of popular music ever made: Abbey Road and The Dark Side Of The Moon, the latter of which would have been very different without him. Since then, he has founded a great 70s prog-fusion act, The Alan Parsons Project, and produced a great many albums, including Steven Wilson’s classic The Raven That Refused To Sing. I knew that, if nothing else, this album would have a lush, big 60s/70s sound, and I’m happy to say that the songs more than live up to their production.
First up is a rock arrangement of Paul Dukas’ classic tone poem, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Featuring an all-star cast that includes Steve Hackett, Vinnie Colaiuta, and the very underrated Nathan East, this is quite possibly the best version of this piece ever recorded. Hackett’s emotional, one-of-a-kind guitar technique is on full display, and Colaiuta’s subtle, powerful drum performance is as solid as anything he did with Sting or Zappa. The moment when the song transitions into the main theme is the most exciting on the album, and it acts as a thrilling overture to this record.
“Miracle” is a great progressive pop tune, featuring a sick palm-muted riff and an unlikely vocalist: Jason Mraz! It’s a fantastic collaboration between a great musician of the past and a great singer of our times, and the sound is clearly a blend of 1970s and 2010s. It’s catchy, but there’s a lot of great stuff happening here. The bassline is also quite funky. (Send this to your friends who don’t like prog.)
“As Lights Fall” features Alan himself on lead vocals, and it’s a great psychedelic piece reminiscent of his 70s work. The melody and riff are instantly hummable, and Alan’s vocal performance suits it perfectly. “One Note Symphony” has a dark, ominous vibe, produced by steady drums, a melodic bassline, and orchestral crescendos. In the manner of the great prog songs, the more you listen to it, the more you notice. Todd Cooper’s vocals are layered and overdubbed, contributing to the strange feel of the song. Unfortunately, the spoken-word bits are a bit annoying. “Sometimes” is a solid pop ballad featuring Lou Gramm of Foreigner-easily the strongest voice on this album. The melody is perfect for his voice. “Soirée Fantastique” is another odd song tonally, and features some nice vocal harmonies between Cooper and Parsons.
“Fly To Me” is possibly the most “Beatles” song I’ve ever heard not by the actual Beatles. Mark Mikel’s vocal performance is very McCartney-esque, and the chords and melody remind me of Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s a really cool, trippy pop song. “Requiem” is an okay blues song. Not great, but okay. Cooper’s vocal performance really makes the song, in much the way Greg Lake’s voice redeems most of In The Wake Of Poseidon. “Beyond The Years Of Glory” is a fantastic prog ballad involving some very left-field chords and a nice sax solo. It has a very “Pink Floyd” feel to it, I think. “The Limelight Fades Away” has a more “modern” pop feel to it, and includes possibly the best guitar solo on the album. The bass tone is also excellent. “I Can’t Get There From Here” is a good closer, resolving the musical and lyrical themes of the album.
I do have one complaint about this album. The theme here is magic. There’s nothing wrong with the theme, nor is there a problem with concept albums as a whole, but it often feels like he is going out of his way to sneak in lyrics about magic, and it doesn’t always work. Regardless, this is a well-written, beautifully-produced progressive pop album that will please any fan of Parsons and serve as a good introduction for those unacquainted with his body of work.