Review Summary: "All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream" The Alan Parsons Project have created the soundtrack to the mind of the man it is based on.
Edgar Allan Poe was an interesting man to say the least. Haunted by his past and by his own mind he wrote some of the most acclaimed poems and short-stories in history. Anyone who has been through high school knows his name; better yet they have probably read his most famous works such as “The Raven” and “The Cask Of Amontillado”. His impact on poetry and gothic literature has become immortalized in the minds of many who have read his bizarre and creepy tales of the darkness of the world. His way of conveying themes, both subtly and prominently, is basically unmatched in the field of poetry. So how then, could someone possibly add to his works; tear them from the ground up and rebuild them in the form of music, and have them actually be as strong if not greater than the original?
A man named Alan Parsons set out to accomplish this task with his band of sessions musicians known as The Alan Parsons Project. Together they make a breed of easily digestible progressive rock with elements of classical music playing at the strings. The bands first work “Tales Of Mystery And Imagination” was the lucky contender to carry this hefty weight and hike it to the top of the mountain. “Tales Of Mystery And Imagination” is named after a collection of Poe's works published in 1908 and features adaptations of seven of his works across eleven tracks. The result is an almost perfect progressive rock masterpiece that gets less attention than it deserves.
As stated before, these are not just abridged versions of his writings put to music, they are more of a complete re-imagining of them. Taking the themes of these stories and poems and working them into music as if they wrote them themselves. “The Raven” is the best example of this and is arguably the greatest song Alan Parsons has conjured up to date. After the seemingly brisk intro track “A Dream Within A Dream” it carries the ending bassline over and begins with the vocoded voice of Alan Parsons pseudo-singing the first two verses that follow no form other than what feels natural. Once the vocoder is replaced with a soulful human one the song takes off into a spree of twists and turns, soaring choruses and a chilling bridge in between them. All closed with the powerful repetition of the line “Nevermore, nevermore, never!”. A perfect song to compliment its predecessor.
The following three tracks follow suit in a series of intelligently crafted progressive rock songs that combine elements of classical music such as flutes, horns, and string arrangements. “The Cask Of Amontillado” incorporates these after a quietly beautiful chorus which lead to one of the catchiest hooks from violins and horns this side of “Eleanor Rigby”. The song itself tells the grim tale of a ruined man who was once betrayed by a friend for money. He lures him into a basement with the promise of wine (amontillado to be specific) before chaining him up and sealing him in a tomb of bricks. Quite dark wouldn’t you agree? “Tell-Tale Heart” is fronted by the aggressively soulful singer Arthur Brown from The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown who is backed by just as aggressive and hungry lyrics and instrumentation. The ambient section in the middle helps boost these parts to make them feel even more dramatic and powerful.
The only link in the chain that is weak is the five piece pseudo-classical movement in the second half “The Fall Of The House Of Usher”. It features no lyrics ,which is a shame since the story is quite fantastic, except for an adapted quote at the beginning of the first part and the whole composition lasts for over 16 minutes. The first two acts are haunting classical works which then transition into more synthetic progressive rock movement with a seductive bassline backed by the clitter and clatter of synthetic chymes. These parts are phenomenal but parts III and V are purely just a minute of noise each and do nothing to add to the song whatsoever. This five piece act while the weakest part of the collection also offers the most macabre and chilling darkness that Edgar Allan Poe is known for on the entire album.
“Tales Of Mystery And Imagination” offers a totally new perspective on Poe’s greatest works. They lose some of their atmosphere and eerie vibes in trade of bombastic and powerful ones which compliment them perfectly. This album is arguably Alan Parsons greatest work outside of producing “Dark Side Of The Moon” featuring brilliant soundscapes and revitalizing Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of darkness and horror with a new light, a new way to marvel in his creative genius. To any who are inspired by his works this is a must listen, for fans of progressive rock it is one too. The Alan Parsons Project have successfully crafted the soundtrack to the mind of gothic literature's largest figurehead, and arguably one of the greatest poets of all time.