The Alan Parsons Project
Eye in the Sky


4.0
excellent

Review

by ProgJect USER (31 Reviews)
August 17th, 2010 | 116 replies


Release Date: 1982 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The pinnacle of APP's success, and also one of their most accomplished works.

Engineer, producer and musician Alan Parsons and his colleague, songwriter, pianist and lyricist Eric Woolfson, formed The Alan Parsons Project in 1975. At that time, Parsons had already acted as engineer on The Beatles’ Abbey Road, recently engineered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and had produced several acts for EMI Records. Woolfson was working as a session pianist at Abbey Road Studios. He also composed material for a concept album, based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Tales of Mystery and Imagination and 'The Project' were born.

Throughout its career, The Alan Parsons Project recorded concept albums employing a rotating cast of session musicians to do most of the performing, and a bunch of guest vocalists whom they felt would be appropriate for a particular track. The band hit its commercial peak with Eye in the Sky, the only album other than I Robot to reach the top ten. Its songs have grabbing hooks, and are dominated by a lush sound. The songwriting team of Woolfson and Parsons should be mentioned for their versatility and knack for creating great melodies. The Alan Parsons Project is commonly referred to as one of the most commercial artists in progressive rock history, so it is not surprising that they are seen as guilty pleasure by a big amount of prog fans. However, the exquisite and symphonic orchestrations, as well as the tasteful arrangements, keep the band from being discarded as being too pop. Andrew Powell (orchestral arranger, who joined in 1976) served as the ultimate guardian of artistic richness for the APP material. Eye in the Sky’s title track was the group’s greatest success, charting in the top ten on the pop chart. Although they weren’t able to repeat that success, the band maintained a devoted cult audience. The album’s theme revolves around a cautionary tale about the loss of individualism. It’s all about the emergence of the ‘Big Brother’ idea, previously touched upon in works such as George Orwell’s famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The album starts with the well-known Sirius, a short haunting, bombastic instrumental. The song segues in the hit title track (one of the best pop rock songs of the 80’s), which hit #3 in the US charts. It’s a ‘eight note pumping bass’ format with repetitive, but pleasant enough guitar chugging. The song has a very pleasant aura and an instant catchy melody, and great vocals by Eric Woolfson. Maybe overplayed, but not outdated at all. Children of the Moon is a mid-tempo rocker that is taken to a proggier dimension thanks to Andrew Powell's exquisite orchestral arrangements. It’s a wonderful versatile piece of work, complete with chords and strings and brass orchestrations. When the song fades away, the ethereal backing vocals go on for a couple more seconds before the song merges into the short Gemini which has stunning vocal performances.

On Silence and I (the most prog-oriented here), the band used a complete symphonic orchestra conducted by Powell. The song opens and closes as a ballad (with Woolfson singing). The middle piece is however an enormous energetic sequence using the full capability of a symphonic orchestra. The result is one of the best orchestrated songs APP ever made.

The tempo kicks up a bit on You’re Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned, and this is really more of an 80’s pop-rock number that borders on sounding like Electric Light Orchestra. Pretty catchy number that could have been a single. Psychobabble is a classic, built on a rhythm section, plus the addition of pounding keyboards. APP is well known for their huge use of synth layers and effects, mainly some state-of-the-art digital sampler add-ons. It's one of those APP tracks with an extremely simple but effective bass line.

Mammagamma is an ethereal instrumental, almost entirely played by a computer (programmed keyboards). Repetitive and patterned, but nevertheless very good. It is reminiscent of some electronic artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis or Tangerine Dream, and a very good example of Parsons’ engineering style. For Step by Step, a very interesting guitar sound was created. Parsons got the idea to plug the guitar straight into the mixing desk without any amplification. The result was a sound which lay in between an acoustic and an electric guitar, and while the idea is interesting, it is the album’s weakest track.

Eye in the Sky concludes with the rhapsodic ballad Old and Wise, a return to APP’s slow-paced, melodic style. Sung with breathtaking melancholy by ex-Zombies vocalist Colin Blunstone, he makes the sentimental lyrics go straight through the heart. His appearance is in fact so defining that the song is a classic because of him, and Eye in the Sky’s most touching moment, skilfully concluded with a saxophone solo by Mel Collins.

‘As far as my eyes can see
There are shadows approaching me
And to those I left behind
I wanted you to know
You've always shared my deepest thoughts
You follow where I go

And oh, when I'm old and wise
Bitter words mean little to me
Autumn Winds will blow right through me
And someday, in the mist of time
When they asked me if I knew you
I'd smile and say you were a friend of mine
And the sadness would be lifted from my eyes…
Oh when I'm old and wise.’


While APP had a natural ability to enhance their good musical ideas with very good arrangements , it’s pretty clear by the time this album rolled around, APP was far better at writing catchy song than they were at developing them into full blown, mature progressive works. Eye in the Sky represents perhaps the pinnacle of APP creativity, and certainly the last time they could balance their pop and progressive tendencies so well. Even if there is enough innovation and experimentation to keep it attractive to any classic prog lover, don’t expect to find the actual style here. The Alan Parsons Project were sort of in-between the clashing genres of pop and progressive, and Eye in the Sky is a fantastic example of how the two could co-exist.

Classics:

Sirius
Eye in the Sky
Silence and I
Psychobabble
Old and Wise




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user ratings (191)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgJect
August 17th 2010


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ProgJect once again marches forward, this time with this highly underappreciated gem of a record. 16 votes lay this album to shame.

Nagrarok
August 17th 2010


8656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is truly excellent, needs more votes people.



Note to Jethro: I didn't know you were going to do a tbt this time, it was harder to edit because of that, although as you can see I added some more for Old and Wise, I felt you underappreciated it. I'd prefer if we do an overall next time again.

accompliceofmydeath
August 17th 2010


4921 Comments


The only reason I've ever heard of this is because of Austin Powers. Doesn't look like something I'd enjoy though.

Schizophrenik
August 17th 2010


848 Comments


"laser"

Jethro42
August 17th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanx for your usual magic touch on the review Nag. I'm naturally tempted to do tbt (sorry), and this time I've succumbed. I first wanted to go right to the point, but I felt I was short of ideas. I know, 'Small is beautiful', but the review seemed too short otherwise. In the future, if you don't feel comfortable with a review, just let me know before posting it. Cheers!!

And YES, this album needs moar love.

ReturnToRock
August 17th 2010


4805 Comments


Must...resist...Austin Powers...joke...

Nagrarok
August 17th 2010


8656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Something a bit more on-topic than references in Austin Powers would be welcome.

Jethro42
August 17th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCR85u9QngQ

I guess this is the Austin Powers thing. the song was, is and will remain omni-present.

Nagrarok
August 17th 2010


8656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No, this.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Duj2oZIC8U

Jethro42
August 17th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha oh well...

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2010


10698 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

underappreciated gem of a record



not quite.



In fact, this is their most known record.



I mean, there is frequent coverage of this record in the world music press, from time to time.

Nagrarok
August 17th 2010


8656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I meant more as in underappreciated on sputnik.

ReturnToRock
August 17th 2010


4805 Comments


Operation Wang Chung would have been the best name ever.

Jethro42
August 17th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

'Silence and I' and 'Old and Wise' are delightful for a proghead like me.



@Nag: Pretty good idea to have added the lyrics excerpts and stuff to 'Old and Wise' btw.

The old and wise person I became often shed a tear while listening to this song ;P

Plus it's a good sing along one, like any other songs on here.

Nagrarok
August 17th 2010


8656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I still can't get over how ridiculously catchy the title track is as well.

Jethro42
August 17th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn straight man, so catchy and heartfelt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK-_2G7MMgc

This is my favorite post Eye in the Sky one. It wouldn't be out of place on here.



EVedder27
August 18th 2010


6088 Comments


really like Tales of Mystery and Imagination so might get this

Jethro42
August 18th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

really like Tales of Mystery and Imagination so might get this




Yes, you can't go wrong with this. 'Tales' > 'Eye in the Sky' = 'I Robot' > 'The Turn of a Friendly Card' > 'Ammonia Avenue'. All the rest is good to average. 'Tales' and 'I Robot' are definitely the progger's favorites.

Jethro42
August 18th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ProgJect thank you, Lakes. This is a pretty good way to get into APP. Like I said to Vedder, their first two are also fantastic.

edit: According to your profile, you might like it.

Jethro42
August 19th 2010


18274 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Where have all the prog lovers gone...?



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