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The Alan Parsons Project - Eye In The Sky CD (album) cover

EYE IN THE SKY

The Alan Parsons Project

 

Crossover Prog

3.33 | 381 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars "I am the Eye in the Sky looking at you, I can read your mind, I am the maker of rules dealing with fools, I can cheat you blind, and I don't need to see anymore to know that I can read your mind (looking at you)".

This catchphrase will likely jam itself into your brain after hearing the monster single from The Alan Parsons Project's much heralded "Eye In The Sky" album. The single certainly is melodic and infectious and of course captures the signature AOR sound of the early 80s radio airplay. I had heard this on the radio playing in the background as a teenager and I remember thinking who the heck are those wimpy crooners? Of course back then I was too busy to listen to soft rock or AOR as I was obsessed with my Kiss, Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Pink Floyd and Sweet albums. The radio sound never interested me and I am still ummoved by radio hogs these days with a similar radio friendly sound.

But people change and so do their tastes in music. I still love Kraftwerk, Numan, Sweet, Ultravox and Pink Floyd (not so much Kiss) but I have opened my ears to the sounds of The Alan Parsons Project, particularly their first 3 albums. My ears are now atuned to the infectious melodies of "Eye In the Sky" and the single sung so well by Eric Woolfson, following on so brilliantly from Sirius, the standard instrumental APP opener. Sirius has become synonymous with sporting arenas over the years, such as the Chicago Bulls games, and was even well used on TV. Ricky the Steamboat used it as he made his way to the arena in Wrestling arenas, then it would be played again if he won the bout, and I always wondered where the heck that music came from. It is similar to ELP's Fanfare for the Common Man in the way it has been used to accompany sports events.

Children of the Moon is another melody driven catchy thing, and has some high quality production with ratatat marching percussion and a killer hook musically. APP do not leave any space to contemplate on the depth of the lyrics or to admire songs on their own merit, as the album flies by in mere moments, every song seamlessly moving into the next and soon before you know it you will be caressed by Gemini. It is a sweet sugary sound but it appeases the ears and I couldn't help thinking how much better this album is than the disappointing "Eve" or "The Turn of a Friendly Card".

The next track drifts along on a feather weight musicscape of strings, flute and very soft processed vocals. Silence and I seems to have a lot to say about isolation and loneliness and it does so in a way that is not so much depressing as uplifting thanks to some delightful woodwind. Mel Collins is always a delight on saxophone and Eric Woolfson is unbeatable when his keyboard is allowed to dominate. The orchestra conducted by Andrew Powell is simply beautiful and stirring to the emotions. The track builds with a crescendo of symphonic majesty, a plethora of orchestrated melodies that change time signature and move into classical music dramatis. Then the lead guitar break augments the sound; a masterpiece of music that is then joined by another verse. The early demo vocals of Woolfson are worth listening to on the bonus tracks also. Silence and I was certainly a journey clocking 7:17 and I was quite astonished at the quality of such a track after hearing the mediocrity of "Eve" and "The Turn of a Friendly Card" recently. This type of music on "Eye in the Sky" is definitely from another universe; at polar opposites to the 2 previous albums prior to this release.

The next track You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned, is a solid rocker, not the high point of the album but it has a decent rock feel and breaks up the ambience and symphonic layers on previous tracks. Ian Bairnson's lead guitar work is excellent and the track flys by quickly with an AOR feel. Next up is Psychobabble, a tantalising title, and it has a strong bassline and electric piano intro. The vocals are echoed and forceful as it builds with an uptempo beat into a melodic chorus hook. It sounds like the early 80s of course but it drives along with some inventive diversions on keyboards.

Mammagamma is another absolutely brilliant APP instrumental, and as soon as it began I knew it from somewhere, as I listened to a lot of synth albums over the years. You know the ones where a synth player plays a bunch of famous covers such as Equinoxe, Oxygene Part IV, Toccata and er? Mammagamma. This tune sounds like my more preferred Hyper Gamma Spaces of course, but I can never get enough of Eric Woolfson's inimitable keyboard style; he never disappoints in his instrumentals. The way he plays here with staccato key stabs and a blazing guitar accompaniment is awe inspiring. It sounds similar to the rock side of Jean Michel Jarre or Mike Oldfield, but definitively APP all the way. Again it is the instrumentals that really draw me to the band more than anything else. This track is found on most APP compilations along with Eye in the Sky.

Back to vocals and a straight forward AOR sound follows with Step By Step, with a cool keyboard motif and catchy chorus well performed by the harmonised singers. Next up is Old and Wise and it was a delight to return to the flute and symphonic orchestra again. The song softly crooned and has lovely piano and gentle melodies. The ballad sounds similar to ethereal Pink Floyd vocally but that suits me fine. The saxophone work of Collins is mesmirising, lifting up the sound with emotional resonance. It is a melancholy way to end the album, but it works to cap off one of the greatest releases from The Alan Parsons Project.

The bonus tracks are endearing on their own merits. Sirius (Demo) is similar to the album version though has raw edges, but it is great to return to those haunting melodies. Old And Wise is interesting with Eric Woolfson's vocals, and a more pronounced piano treatment, and no orchestra or sax, though misplaced on the album as it has been too soon since we heard this song on this release so it gets a little dull to hear it again at this stage; it would have been better to place this at the end of the album. Any Other Day (Studio Demo) is very rough without vocals, and a bad studio mix, but interesting to hear how it developed from this version to the final album release. Silence And I is a piano driven version, though has the fretless bass, solid drumming, and very nice vocals from Woolfson, but you kind of miss the studio version, with multilayered vocals and full blown orchestra.

The Naked Eye is almost 11 minutes of new material that is always welcome as a bonus track, though it actually a medley of all the album tracks given an instrumental treatment. As such it is like the karaoke version of the album, and I could recognise the music from the actual album without vocals. Mammagamma is there too though without Woolfson's keyboard lead, joined by orchestra, making it sound very different in comparison, but quite interesting. There is also a lead solo and some other unused material worth checking out including acoustics and dramatic distorted guitar, and another saxophone solo to delight in. Eye Pieces (Classical Naked Eye) ends proceedings with 8 more minutes of unheard material during the making of the album, in this case the orchestral sections by themselves. They sound very ethereal without the rock elements or vocals but it is relaxing music and well executed by the orchestra; showcasing the awesome quality of the music on the album.

Overall this album was perhaps the last great Alan Parsons Project, certainly the last time they received any glowing accolades such as a Platinum record. The Hipgnosis designed gold embossed Egyptian eye cover art is recognizable and I remember it well during the 80s proudly displayed in record stores, an album that I tried to ignore, though it wasn't easy as that image was everywhere. It is difficult to rate this album now 30 years on, as it is a product of the times, but the 80s were so lean of prog that it has to be commended that at least APP injected some prog elements into their music on such albums. It was definitely designed for radio airplay, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that, and this will have some prog reviewers reaching for the skip button no doubt. However, held on its own merits, "Eye in the Sky" delivers some great music and boasts at least 4 classic tracks worthy of attention. Though not quite up to the standard of the first 3 albums, it buries "Eve" and "Turn of a Friendly Card," so 4 stars is warranted.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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