I’ve always been a sucker for well-crafted soft rock attached to grandiose concepts like adapting the works of Edgar Allen Poe or Isaac Asimov, or album-length meditations on gambling or religion. Throw in some obtuse cover art and I’m yours. But where does one go for such pop fare? Oh, come now. You know it can only be the Alan Parsons Project.
A rotating cast of characters joined engineer Alan Parsons and lyricist Eric Woolfson for several albums of gentle, soft art-rock. Don’t read that as a dig – there’s nothing wrong with mellowing out every now and then, and based on the success of the collective’s “Eye In The Sky” in 1982, quite a few people agreed with me.
Parsons and Woolfson followed up that album’s platinum success with Ammonia Avenue in 1984. Not quite sure what the concept for this one was, but the lead single, “Don’t Answer Me” was a Top 20 hit, and the well-crafted video which combined comic book imagery with stop-motion animation brought the group square into the video age. Parsons followed this with the moody “Prime Time”, complete with a creepy, noirish video that served as nightmare fuel for my teenaged brain.
“Prime Time’s” melody had more than a passing resemblance to “Eye In The Sky”, which would have made it a chart slam-dunk, right? As it stood, “Prime Time” sneaked into the Top 40 for a few weeks, then it was time for the Project to move on to the next, er, project. That would be the unfortunately titled Vulture Culture, complete with an Oroboros on the front cover, just in case you didn’t catch the concept right away. Subtle! Thankfully, the first single, “Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)” was slightly less heavy-handed, although the whole “we’re all just travellers thru life’s days” metaphor was pretty middle school English class kinda stuff. It didn’t hurt that the song was a pleasant, catchy ballad, with a nice synth line throughout. However, “Days” was not a chart success, partly because of its video. Unlike “Prime Time”, the promo clip for “Days Are Numbers” was a mess. Let’s watch the entirely inappropriate video that ruins the integrity of the song together, shall we?
The story behind that one is the video was originally made for another Parsons’ song “Let’s Talk About Me” and the decision was made to release “Days” as a single instead, so they just swapped out the audio. You can hardly tell. Unless you have the sense of sight. Check this out:
To make matters worse, their record company ended up releasing “Let’s Talk About Me”, using THE SAME VIDEO AS “Days”. And you thought you blew off work today.
“Prime Time” peaked at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #10 on the Adult Contemporary Charts in 1984.
“Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)” peaked at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #11 on the Adult Contemporary Charts in 1985.
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