Multiple choice time on Popdose, kids. Make sure that pencil is a #2 and don’t forget to fill your circles completely. Your future depends on how you do on this test (snicker, snicker.) Okay, let’s begin!
1. The Alan Parsons Project was:
a) a pop / prog band from the late 1970s to the early 1990s
b) an adult contemporary band from the same time period that your parents thought were “neat”
c) a punchline in an Austin Powers movie
d) all of the above.
The correct answer is “d” – Although the loose collective known as The Project recorded conceptually based albums, their mellow and relaxed sound tended to appeal to an older audience. Hits like “Time” and “Old And Wise” employed Beach Boys’ like harmonies, a languid pace and lush orchestration. While not exactly slick, it certainly was the smoothness. At the same time, songs were interspersed with instrumentals and effects-laden soundscapes, prompting comparisons as “The Light Side Of The Floyd.”
2. True or false – The band ended with the Gaudi album, based on the work of architect Antonio Gaudi.
The correct answer is true and false. While Gaudi is the last album attributed to The Project, another album came out with the core musicians intact, Parsons in production mode and longtime driving-force Eric Woolfson writing the material. It had that distinctive sound associated with the group, was congealed around the life story of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and was titled Freudiana (1990).
3. Most Americans no nothing of Freudiana because
a) it was never released as a US domestic
b) it had no indications of being a Project album
c) it was one of two versions of the material
d) America had moved on to the edgier sounds of Celine Dion by then
e) all of the above
The answer, again, is all of the above. Freudiana is actually the score of Woolfson’s stage musical and both the Project’s pop version and an original cast recording were released. The Gaudi album produced no hits and therefore no attempts seem to have been made to break the new recording into the US market. We were on to bigger, smoother things like Michael Bolton’s soul screaming and the Spice Girls. The test has ended. Your final score reveals that you will never be elected to public office. Sucks to be you.
The Freudiana album has most of those touchstones we associate with The Project and, truth be told, is vastly better than Vulture Culture and Stereotomy, both fairly attributed releases. You get the understated guitar work of Ian Bairnson and the bass of Laurie Cottle, who had taken the job for the latter APP albums when David Paton became Elton John’s regular bassist. You get Parsons’ concise production and keyboard flourishes, both mannered and not flashy. You also have a strange array of vocalists, itself a tradition among the group, ranging from John Miles, Eric Stewart (10cc), Kiki Dee and Leo Sayer. The distinctive hush of Woolfson’s own voice is present on four tracks, most notably the extremely pretty “Dora”
A light comedy approach to “Funny You Should Say That” performed by the Flying Pickets, a British a’capella group, firmly establishes the album as a stage musical transfer as does the multi-vocalist bit of exposition “No One Can Love You Better Than Me.” The one-two combination of the closing “Destiny / There But For The Grace Of God” offers the grandeur of a finale, but also gives mainstays Miles and Chris Rainbow a powerful farewell to this unit’s endeavors, whether they knew it or not. “Destiny” is short, but potent with Rainbow running through multiple harmonies stacked one on another.
After Freudiana, Woolfson followed his stage impresario role, offering up a version of Gaudi, The Gambler which was based on Turn Of A Friendly Card, and he revisited some tales of mystery and imagination with Poe. Parsons continued on strictly under his own name with varying degrees of musical success (his recent electronica foray, A Valid Path, was only mildly diverting) and little to no recognition sales-wise. He has, however, been touring which is a newer wrinkle in his career. For those who have followed this music, the real hope is that Woolfson and Parsons would come together for one last proper Project release.
4. The odds of this happening are
1) slim to none
2) less likely than Bon Scott returning from the dead to stop the upcoming AC/DC Wal-Mart release
3) possible if they were offered Police-sized wads of cash to do it
The answer, I suppose, depends on your appreciation for The Smoothness.