Happy Birthday, Alan Parsons!
Although he built his later success on the foundation of the Alan Parsons Project, Alan Parsons had a rewarding professional career well before he turned his attention to the ambitious ensemble that would later bear his name. In 1967, at the age of 18, he was hired as an assistant engineer at London's famed Abbey Road Studios, where he earned his first production credit for the Beatles Abbey Road album. Throughout the remainder of the '60s and early '70s he would lend his talents to some of the most renowned albums of the era, including Let It Be, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, a pair of Paul McCartney's early efforts, several records by the Hollies, Al Stewart's hit "Year of the Cat" and various projects by the bands Pilot, Cockney Rebel and Ambrosia.
At first, Woolfson assumed the role of Parsons' manager, but once
Parsons was ready to step out from behind the boards, the two men began
collaborating on a series of sophisticated albums that were created
around themes that were both cinematic and conceptual. Utilizing
Parson's knack for infusing lush arrangements and rich instrumental
embellishment, they recruited a revolving cast of vocalists and
musicians to flesh out their grandiose narratives. Their first
initiative under the Alan Parsons Project banner, Tales of Mystery and Imagination,
was based on a theme Woolfson had conceived based on the writings of
Edgar Allan Poe. The album hit the Top 40 on Billboard's album charts
and paved the way for the further successes achieved by I Robot, Pyramid and Eve.
Ironically, for an outfit that crafted albums as an art form, Parsons
and Woolfson's most consistent success was found on the singles charts,
thanks to songs like "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You," "Games People
Play," Damned If I Do, "Time," "Eye in the Sky" and "Don't Answer Me."
Consequently, the Alan Parsons Project became radio staples and a
genuine representation of progressive art rock in the mid to late '70s.
It's also worth noting that for an outfit that eschewed star billing -- most of their early songs were sung by different guest vocalists -- they achieved a rarified cultural connection that found them name checked by several different sources. In the Mike Myers film, The Spy Who Shagged Me, the clueless Dr. Evil unwittingly appropriates the band's name for his new weapon of mass destruction, much to the amusement of Scott, his skeptical son.
"Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
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