Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Album of the Day--April 8, 2008

Alan Parsons Project
Turn of a Friendly Card
Arista Records
Produced by Alan Parsons

The Alan Parsons Project has often been called "the poor man's Pink Floyd," which I hardly find fair, as there are really no similarities--intended or unintended--between them to speak of. The only tenuous connection is that Parsons was the award-winning engineer of Dark Side of the Moon. The Project was hatched in the mid-1970s as a collaborative venture between Parsons and Eric Woolfson, and it was intended solely as a one-off...well, project (the name "Alan Parsons Project" was simply the term used on record company paperwork and it somehow stuck), namely, a musical tribute to Edgar Allan Poe. The resulting album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, is one of the classics of progressive rock, and was actually a hit in 1975, to boot. Parsons and Woolfson subsequently decided to keep working, and put together a more or less stable band (which never played live, by the way) and a revolving cast of vocalists. Over the course of 12 years, The Alan Parsons Project would release 10 albums, each of which encompassed a particular theme or cocnept (OK, kind of like Pink Floyd), which included robots (I, Robot), pyramid power (Pyramid), alienation (Ammonia Avenue), mistreatment of women (Eve), etc. 1980's Turn of a Friendly Card tackled gambling, and the album is almost a straightforward narrative. The hit single "Games People Play" (the one with the wobbly keyboard intro) sets up the story of a midlife crisis in the brewing, "Where do we go from here/Now that all of the children have grown up?/And how do we spend our time/When there's no one to lend us a hand?" The character bemoans the passage of "Time" (the other hit single) and decides to go to Vegas and gamble (side 2's "Turn of a Friendly Card" suite). It's a great record, with strong songs and sterling production.

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