Thursday, June 29, 2006

Keeping an 'eye' on Alan Parsons

Don't rush Alan Parsons.

You'll remember him as the namesake of the Alan Parsons Project, with credits including "Eye in the Sky," a number three smash from 1982.

When the song appeared you had to be content playing it on your home stereo, or catching it on the radio.

That's because Parsons didn't create a video for the song or tour to support it.

Parsons spent 15 years in the music business before he came to record "Eye in the Sky." He spent that time with the likes of the Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Hired as a staff engineer by record label EMI in 1967, Parsons worked at the famed Abbey Road studios while the Beatles recorded "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." By the time the group recorded "Let It Be" and "Abbey Road" Parsons was credited as assistant engineer. He was present at the famous "rooftop concert" when the Beatles performed live for the last time.

Parsons impressed Paul McCartney who hired the young sound technician to work on three of his early solo albums, including "McCartney," "Wildlife" and "Red Rose Speedway."

When he landed a gig to engineer Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," also recorded at Abbey Road, Parsons added significantly to his resume. Released in 1973, the album has been lauded as a brilliant achievement by critics and fans alike, selling tens of millions of copies worldwide.

Work on Floyd's sonic masterpiece as well as Al Stewart's concept album "Time Passages," led Parsons to form his own band, sort of.

While the Alan Parsons Project maintained a steady presence on the charts for a decade beginning in 1976, it wasn't even a proper group. Actually, Parsons used a rotating group of musicians and singers in the studio.

Parsons' many albums feature his work on guitar and keyboards, and although he's an accomplished vocalist, he rarely sings. He serves as his own engineer and producer, as you might expect.

During his most productive period, Parsons worked with lyricist Eric Woolfson, who sang lead vocals on "Eye in the Sky."

Their biggest hit, "Eye in the Sky" was one of the industry's first digital recordings. Recorded at the familiar Abbey Road studio, the album opens with an instrumental track, "Sirius," which the Chicago Bulls use as their theme song.

London-born Parsons related his experiences working with Pink Floyd and the Beatles, as well as his Project efforts, during a fan convention my wife Sue and I attended at Chicago's Hyatt Regency O'Hare Hotel during the weekend of Aug.16-18, 2002.

The amiable musician told stories from the earliest days of his career and answered questions from the audience.

Parsons was content to concentrate on recording in the Seventies and Eighties, creating a number of memorable concept albums, but opted for a solo career in 1993. At that point, he finally decided to tour extensively.

Years after his records fell off the charts, fans finally got to hear live versions of Parsons' work.

To cap off his appearance at the convention, Parsons performed the 20-year-old "Eye in the Sky" before an enthusiastic crowd, adding "Games People Play," from the popular "Turn of a Friendly Card" LP, and other hits as well.

His most recent compact disc,"Valid Path," appeared just two years ago and at age 56, Parsons continues to record, now nearly four decades into his musical endeavors.

All told, Parsons has had an enviable career, including numerous smash albums and 17 hit singles under his own name, not including his work as an engineer or producer for other acts.

Now, next time you hear it, you'll know the history that came before and after "Eye in the Sky" struck gold for Alan Parsons.

1 comment:

Bud Lemire said...

A Very well written piece on Alan Parsons. I enjoyed it very much. For those who don't know much of their history in music, Alan Parsons played a very important role, and in the end did well themselves. Thank you for one of the best articles I've read in quite awhile. Of course I am partial to it, as I'm a big Alan Parsons Project fan. ~Bud~