The Alan Parsons Project

  • British progressive rock band formed in 1975 from London England. The core membership was Alan Parsons (keyboards, guitars, production, engineering, songwriting, vocals) and Eric Woolfson (vocals, keyboards, songwriting, executive production). Over the years, Parsons and Woolfson surrounded themselves with contributing musicians on their albums and tours – notably, they would feature different vocalists on the various songs on their albums, though Woolfson handled lead vocals on numerous songs, especially in the 80s.
  • In 1967, at 18 years old, Parsons got a job working as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios, recording home of the Beatles. He earned his first engineering credit on Abbey Road by the Beatles in 1969. His engineering skills were in demand, and his breakthrough came when he was the engineer for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album in 1973, for which he earned a Grammy nomination (his first of 8 nominations in the Engineering category in his career). He frequently went beyond the duties of a recording engineering, contributing ideas to the sound of a record, and in the mid-70s, he received credit as producer for albums by Pilot, Al Stewart, Ambrosia and others.
  • Woolfson moved from Scotland to London in 1963 at the age of 18, and he found work as a session pianist. Soon, he was signed as a songwriter for a record producer, and he wrote songs for various British artists. By the late 60s, he started producing records for artists, but found that it was difficult to make ends meet, so he decided to get into artist management. His first client was Carl Douglas (of Kung Fu Fighting fame).
  • In 1974, Woolfson met Parsons at Abbey Road Studios. Parsons asked Woolfson to be his manager. Parsons was frustrated that the artists that he was supporting with his engineering work were not receptive to his production ideas. Woolfson suggested that they form a partnership, where their output was recognized for the production and engineering work, and not on the artists that were performing the music. Woolfson had written some music based on the stories and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, and Woolfson and Parsons started recording an album in 1975 that was released the following year – Tales of Mystery and Imagination. They labeled their collaboration The Alan Parsons Project. Their debut album was moderately successful, reaching #38 on the Billboard 200 album chart, with 1 single, (The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether sneaking into the top 40. It is a cult favorite for fans of the band (including me).
  • Encouraged by their success, they released their breakthrough album, I Robot, in 1977. Another concept album, it explored the theme of artificial intelligence, drawing from Isaac Asimov’s Robot trilogy. As with their first album, each song features a different lead singer. I Robot was certified platinum, reaching #9 on the album chart. The song I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You reached #36 on the Hot 100, while Day After Day (The Show Must Go On) peaked at #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • Two more albums in the 70s – Pyramid and Eve – had moderate success. Their bigger hits came with their first 3 albums of the 80s. The Turn of a Friendly Card had 2 singles break into the Top 20 – Games People Play and Time – and the album was certified platinum. Eye in the Sky also reached platinum status, and the title track was their highest charting single, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. Their final hit was from the Ammonia Avenue album – Don’t Answer Me reached #15 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • Three more albums were released from 1984 to 1987, but The Alan Parsons Project had lost its popularity, as progressive rock fell out of vogue in the mid 80s. In 1990, Woolfson wrote a rock opera called Freudiana, based on the life and works of Sigmund Freud. The album for the show originally was to be the 11th album for the group, but creative differences between Parsons and Woolfson got in the way, so it was credited as an album by Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons. The rock opera itself was considered successful, with 380 performances in Vienna Austria.
  • A final album, titled The Sicilian Defence, was released in 2014. It was recorded in 1979 and was shelved at the time – Parsons and Woolfson considered it a throw-away piece, recorded solely to fulfill a contract obligation with their record company.
  • No longer recording as The Alan Parsons Project, Parsons released 5 solo albums from 1993 to 2019. Woolfson continued to write musical theater, developing 4 more shows, until his death in 2009 from kidney cancer. Parsons, after receiving 12 Grammy nominations, finally won his first Grammy award in 2018, for Best Immersive Audio Album, for Eye In the Sky – 35th Anniversary Edition. Now in his 70s, Parsons still tours, calling it The Alan Parsons Live Project.
  • As a teenager who loved progressive rock, and also a fan of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, I got hooked on The Alan Parsons Project right from the beginning. See my blog on the I Robot album, written on August 9, 2017, to learn more about that album. Here is a live clip of The Alan Parsons Project performing Eye in the Sky – the song is typical of what they performed, with plenty of orchestration, synthesizers, and a “prog rock” feel. That’s Eric Woolfson on the lead vocals.

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