Earlier this year, Arista Legacy began reissuing the original Alan Parsons Project catalog in sparkling new remastered and expanded versions, beginning with I Robot and Eye In The Sky. As part of that same process, they will also release The Essential Alan Parsons Project, a two disc, career spanning, retrospective anthology on May 15.
Touted as the final, definitive word on the career of APP, this set essentially replaces earlier, less complete compilations like the The Best of The Alan Parsons Project. The main difference here is that the longer album tracks are represented right alongside the shorter radio hits.
For my money, the first three albums by the Alan Parsons Project remain their three best. As such, Tales Of Mystery And Imagination, I Robot, and Pyramid are everything someone looking to discover APP for the very first time really needs. But thats just my opinion. And you know what they say most opinions are like…
Even though it is also my opinion that on latter APP albums like Turn Of A Friendly Card and Eye In The Sky, the Alan Parsons Project traded in prog for pop, each of those latter day records still have their share of great moments. For example, before the instrumental “Sirius” from Eye In The Sky became standard music at professional sports events, it was still a damn good instrumental track in it’s own right.
The other thing about the Alan Parsons Project is that whether you prefer the progressive rock of concept pieces like I Robot (as I do) or the poppier, more radio friendly fare of something like Eye In The Sky, there is simply no getting around the fact that these records are immaculately recorded, engineered, and produced. Hence the need for a single collection gathering all of the best, most essential tracks–rather than just the hit singles–together on one, or in this case on two discs.
Hardcore fans will no doubt still quibble over the choice of tracks actually included here. The exclusion of “Breakdown” from I Robot for example is a curious one. But for the most part, the folks at Arista Legacy got it right.
“Breakdown’s” mysterious exclusion aside, I Robot is represented with four of that album’s strongest tracks including the breakthrough hit “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” and the spacey instrumental title track. From the Edgar Allen Poe concept album Tales Of Mystery And Imagination we get “The System Of Dr. Tarr & Professor Feather,” “To One In Paradise” and the classic rock radio staple “The Raven.” Parsons’ third album Pyramid gets similar treatment here with the inclusion of “What Goes Up,” “The Eagle Will Rise Again” and the instrumental “In The Lap Of The Gods.”
Fans of Parsons’ latter, more pop oriented works will also be happy to know that hits like “Eye In The Sky” and “Games People Play” from Turn Of A Friendly Card show up as well. Turning to those longer album tracks, the entire “Turn Of A Friendly Card Suite,” which was that album’s original centerpiece is also here. There is also one brand new, previously unreleased track, “No Answers, Only Questions.”
It’s interesting to take note of all of the various vocalists and musicians used on Alan Parsons Project recordings over the course of it’s career. These include everyone from the rock group Ambrosia to vocalists like Colin Blunstone and John Miles. But the thing which unifies the group’s work is again the pristine quality of the recordings themselves.
On this collection, this is maintained in all of it’s original, meticulous, virgin quality. Most telling is how crisp these recordings still sound some twenty to thirty years later.
Whether you are a fan of APP’s earlier, more prog-rock oriented offerings, or the more commercially driven pop of the bands albums in the eighties, The Essential Alan Parsons Project is the most complete representation of this album rock staple’s work to date. Bravo to Arista Legacy for getting it right.