Pyramid Power in 2014: The Alan Parsons Project

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The ultimate in pop music snobbery may be to admit that you think Alan Parsons Project essentially sold out after releasing Tales of Mystery and Imagination. I can remember hearing that I Robot was a sellout and that Alan Parsons Project’s first album was some kind of anomalous virgin birth of a new kind of music. It was theatrical and showed an understanding of Poe equal to that of many an English professor and, by that standard, the subsequent albums continually failed to be as brilliant as the first. By the time Pyramid was released in 1979 Parsons had a whole new audience in tow. There was never anything like the first album again, but what followed has managed to straddle the line between obscure instrumental and mainstream pop.

It is clear from Tales of Mystery and Imagination that Parsons is a big fan of Poe and knows his work. A big fan of pyramids though? Probably not, based on 1979’s Pyramid.  Alan Parson Project’s music became much more commercial with I Robot and Pyramid and the transition from the esoteric and peculiar to songs like “Time” and “Eye in the Sky” brought the group a much larger audience. And while it is odd to see "Don't Answer Me" and  “The Fall of the House of Usher” in the same pot, it all works well together when you accept it as a whole—for instance, on 2014’s LiveSpan.

Pyramid in 2014?

So how well is Pyramid represented on LiveSpan? “What Goes Up” is it, nothing else from the Pyramid album.  So, the fact that LiveSpan is a live greatest hits aside, what else from Pyramid should have been included? Potentially many, particularly the instrumental works.  It was, though, a transitional album and the  pushmi-pullyu results are an odd beast indeed, from the romping “Pyromania” to the  ethereal instrumentals “Lap of the Gods”  and “Voyager.” 

Between Two Worlds

If you are a fan this is, like all of his albums, a necessity for the collection, with its clear sound and multiple layers of instruments and voices.  “What Goes Up” itself has a range from minimalism to full orchestra, Sgt. Pepper trumpet moments, acoustic and electric melding and contrasting.  It’s exploration, of course, coming from the obscure roots of the group to the AM acceptance they are more widely known for, and it’s a fascinating album from that perspective.  

If you happen to be that snob, however, and prefer Tales of Mystery and Imagination to some of the later works and their hits, then you may prefer the keyboard explorations of The Sicilian Defence (such as “KtxP”) to the more mainstream styling of “One More River.”



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