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Alan Parsons Project Reissues

07/04/07 | by Adam | Categories: Music

This isn't a review per se as it's just a look at the new reissues of three Alan Parsons Project albums: "I Robot", "Eye In The Sky" and "Vulture Culture". Besides, if you've reached this second sentence, the chances are you already know the original versions and I see no need to cover them again. So, on with what's different.

The first thing that's common across all three is that the sound is noticeably clearer than from the original Arista releases. That would make these three worth buying simply on that. However, what the reissues really bring to the table are a bunch of rarities and alternate cuts as well as a few authors' notes.

First up: "I Robot".

  • "Boules" - This is just wacky; it uses the sound of bowling balls hitting each other over the "I Robot" bass line. It's an oddity, not music.
  • "Breakdown (Early Demo Of Backing Riff)" - It's what the name says. It actually works as a standalone piece though.
  • "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You (Backing Track Rough Mix)" - Meh.
  • "Day After Day (Early State Rough Mix)" - Not helped by the fact I don't particularly like the song, this is an ok instrumental version of it.
  • "The Naked Robot" - A so-so compilation of parts of the album's song. Also Meh.

Then there's "Eye In The Sky":

  • "Sirius Demo" - This manages to sound almost as if John Carpenter wrote it. It's even more sparse and electronic than the album versions, and it's still far too short.
  • "Old And Wise (Eric Woolfson Vocal)" - Without the classic Colin Blunstone vocals, it sounds a bit off. It's not helped by the fact Eric Woolfson's vocals are rather mannered. This is all a bit sad as I think the overall arrangement is a bit nicer with some extra piano at the end.
  • "Any Other Day (Studio Demo)" - It's basically unfinished; a nice throwaway ditty but nothing special.
  • "Silence And I (Eric Woolfson Vocal)" - Although he also did the vocals for the final version, his take on it here sounds a bit strained. There's a lovely bit of piano accompaniment where the orchestral section is in the album cut. Overall it's less lush, but not in a bad way. Too bad about the weak vocals though.
  • "The Naked Eye" - This is functionally a composite of the opening of the various songs from the album in a dub format. The different arrangements don't hurt. Sections of music fading in and out over the beat of "Mammagamma" and then moves to the synth base of "Silence And I" later. The appearance of "Sirius" towards the end opens with just a heavy guitar hit before the typical synth chime fades in and out. And it's still too brief, even with the animal noises (could be with a pict grooving in a cave.) Then it transitions into "Old And Wise" with the sax going full blast.
  • "Eye Pieces" - This is the counterpart medley; the sections are from the orchestral sections of the album rather than the rock or synthesizer driven chunks. It opens with "Children Of The Moon" as a trumpet fanfare (although that darn angelic choir makes a reappearance.) Later on "Silence And I"'s coillery band makes an appearance and it fits rather well in this slower and sadder context which -- and I may be reaching here -- appears to be the string section as perhaps rearranged by someone channelling Samuel Barber's Adagio.

Finally, "Vulture Culture":

  • "No Answers Only Questions" - This is the sterotypical hidden track; introspective, short, mostly acoustic and basically disposable. Colin Blunstone does a decent job with what's a fairly dull track.
  • "Separate Lives (Alternate Mix)" - Where it differs from the original, it's the disco remix. Stick to the album version.
  • "Hawkeye (Demo)" - This sounds just like the album version except with thinner production, almost echoey. It doesn't really add anything except make the Alan Parsons Project sound like a poor APP-covers band.
  • "The Naked Vulture" - This is the medley track with instrumental sections of the various songs interspersed with someone pretending to be an air traffic controller. The latter is a bit lame but it does fit in well with the voice snippits from the original album on "Let's Talk About Me". The medley is less effective than the ones from "Eye" but all the same it's worth having.
  • "No Answers Only Questions (The First Attempt)" - Same comment as earlier; I'd have to listen to it more to figure out how it varies from the finished version earlier.

Are the reissues worth it? Well, based on the my earlier comment on sound quality, yes. Do the extras improve or wreck the flow of the albums? To be honest, I'd much prefer that the extras be put on a separate disc within the collection. No doubt cost is an issue which is why they aren't but I like the thematic separation that achieves. Still, easy enough with an MP3 tagging tool now... I particularly like the two medleys at the end of "Eye In The Sky" which work remarkably well, certainly more so than the alternate takes or the demos. "Eye" is clearly the best of the extended versions but the others have their points too. At $10 to $12 apiece they're sufficiently cheap that it's worth picking them up as a matter of course.

That would be a "yes, buy them" by the way.

(All cover art is taken from the Amazon.ca site where I bought the CDs; I've not got around to scanning in my own versions yet.)


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