Saturday, July 16, 1977

Alan Parsons Project I Robot released

I Robot

Alan Parsons Project


Released: July 16, 1977


Peak: 9 US, 30 UK, 11 CN, 10 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.06 UK, 1.56 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: progressive rock lite


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. I Robot (instrumental) [6:06] (20 CL)
  2. I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You [3:19] v: Lenny Zakatek (8/13/77, 36 US, 27 CB, 35 HR, 9 CL, 22 CN)
  3. Some Other Time [4:05]
  4. Breakdown [3:50] v: Allan Clarke (10 CL)
  5. Don't Let It Show [4:21] v: Dave Townsend (11/26/77, 92 US, 65 CB, 58 HR, 20 CL, 71 CN)
  6. The Voice [5:21]
  7. Nucleus (instrumental) [3:35]
  8. Day after Day [3:43] (2/78, 49 CL)
  9. Total Eclipse (instrumental) (Powell) [3:05]
  10. Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32 (instrumental) [3:37]

All tracks written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson except where noted.

The ‘v’ after the song listing indicates who does lead vocals, if known.


Total Running Time: 41:02


The Players:

  • Alan Parsons (keyboards, vococoder, backing vocals, acoustic guitar)
  • Eric Woolfson (keyboards, vocoder, backing vocals)
  • Ian Bairnson (guitar, backing vocals)
  • David Paton (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals)
  • Stuart Tosh (drums, percussion, backing vocals)
  • Allan Clarke, Steve Harley, Jack Harris, Peter Straker, Jaki Whitren, Dave Townsend, and Lenny Zakatek (vocals)
  • Duncan Mackay (keyboards)
  • B.J. Cole (steel guitar)
  • John Leach (cimbalom, kantele)

Rating:

4.207 out of 5.00 (average of 18 ratings)


Quotable: A “collage of well-crafted songs [that] leaves the listener with much to contemplate.” – Mike DeGagne, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

I Robot has been a staple in the playlists of stereo shops around the globe since its release in 1977. You could always count on an Alan Parsons album when you wanted to test a stereo system. Parsons is a true master of the studio, and to many, this album was (and still is) his finest hour.” SM

“The second of former Beatles/Pink Floyd engineer Parsons' long string of prog-rock concept albums was also his commercial breakthrough.” SS "With its title originating from an Isaac Asimov novel, I Robot’s main concept is one that deals heavily in the field of science fiction.” MD The theme of the album is, "according to the liner notes, a meditation on ‘the rise of the machine and the decline of man.’” SS Parsons uses this as his platform for voicing his "concern with the onslaught of machinery and its inevitable takeover of man, both in a physical sense and a spiritual one.” MD He envisioned a "world where man attempts to create in his own image, and thusly falls from his pinnacle…quite often, visions this big fail because they're too big. Thankfully, Parsons managed to avoid this trap, and turned in what is certainly one of the highlights of his long career.” DE

I Robot is a study in contrasts.” DE It showcases a “wise blend of keyboard-dominated instrumentals” MD that are “alternately stately and serious (with liberal use of Andrew Powell's orchestral arranging skills) or electronic and impersonal.” DE These more robotic instrumentals are then “partnered with the warmth of the vocals during the lyrical songs” MD that are “for the most part, lush and melodic.” DE “This develops a powerful dynamic of the organic versus the mechanical that contributes to the vaguely unsettling nature of the CD.” DE

“The pulsing instrumental electronics” SM of “the mechanical-sounding title track is the opening song, setting the tone for the album's futuristic motif.” MD

“Man's regret for his mechanical creations sweeps through I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You.” MD “The guitar-driven, almost funky” DE song was "an unlikely but catchy hit” SS featuring “a passionate Lenny Zakatek singing lead.” MD

“The human being’s rebellious nature is the theme behind Breakdown, sung by ex-Hollies member Allan Clarke.” MD It is a “driving, intense” DE song with a “triumphant choral ending” DE that solidified a place alongside “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You” as an album rock staple.

“The real gems are the tracks you probably haven't heard. Some Other Time is elegant, breathtaking, a massive rise and fall of sheer energy.” DE

“The strength of the human will is the focal point of Don’t Let It Show, a heartening ballad performed by Dave Townsend.” MD

“The most infectious track” JF is “the simple, heartfelt, and beautiful Day After Day (The Show Must Go On).” DE This “spontaneous excursion into optimism and urban boredom” JF is “the best song on the topic of just moving on with your life until Queen’s song of the same name.” DE

“The almost trance of Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32DE closes the album; “the promising tempo and air of this song invoke hope for all mankind.” MD

Through “Parsons’ flawless production and engineering, along with Eric Woolfson’s stellar songwriting” DE and “the sonic wizardry and immaculate musicianship that would become the Project's trademark through the ‘80s,” SS this is a masterful “collage of well-crafted songs that aren't easily forgotten.” MD "As a final product, I Robot leaves the listener with much to contemplate;” MD it “is not casual listening; it rather demands you pay attention to it.” DE In the end, “this album still remains one of this band's most accomplished pieces.” MD “What all this boils down to is that I Robot is a rose amid the concrete gray of the Metropolis.” JF


Notes: A 2013 reissue added more than a dozen rehearsals, rough mixes, and demos.

Resources and Related Links:


Other Related DMDB Pages:


First posted 3/24/2008; last updated 8/27/2021.

Thursday, July 7, 1977

Yes Going for the One released

Going for the One

Yes


Released: July 7, 1977


Peak: 8 US, 12 UK, 8 CN, 16 AU


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.1 UK, 0.6 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: progressive rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Going for the One (Anderson) [5:30] (11/3/77, 24 UK, 20 CL)
  2. Turn of the Century (Anderson, Howe, White) [7:58]
  3. Parallels (Squire) [5:52]
  4. Wonderous Stories (Anderson) [3:45] (9/7/77, 7 UK, 10 CL)
  5. Awaken (Anderson, Howe) [15:38]


Total Running Time: 38:43


The Players:

  • Jon Anderson (vocals, harp)
  • Steve Howe (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Chris Squire (bass, backing vocals)
  • Rick Wakeman (keyboards)
  • Alan White (drums, percussion)

Rating:

2.486 out of 5.00 (average of 13 ratings)


Quotable: “Perhaps the most overlooked item in the Yes catalog.” – Ross Boissoneau, All Music Guide

About the Album:

Going for the One is perhaps the most overlooked item in the Yes catalog.” RB It was “a return to shorter song forms after the experimentalism of Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans, and Relayer.” RB It was also the longest period the band spent between albums up to that point. From their 1969 debut to 1974’s Relayer, the band had released seven studio efforts, never taking more than a year between releases. After Relayer, band members engaged in a variety of solo projects, making for more than a 2 ½ year wait before they reunited for their next studio endeavor.

“In many ways, this disc could be seen as the follow-up to Fragile.” RB “After constructing epic tracks for the last few years, Yes felt inspired to scale things back a bit and recorded some of their most direct and concise material since” WK that album. “Its five tracks still retain mystical, abstract lyrical images, and the music is grand and melodic, the vocal harmonies perfectly balanced by the stinging guitar work of Steve Howe, [Rick] Wakeman’s keyboards, and the solid rhythms of Alan White and Chris Squire.” RB

Going for the One also “marked Rick Wakeman’s return to the band.” RB He had departed after Oceans, replaced on 1974’s Relayer by Patrick Moraz. For his comeback, Wakeman “varied his sound by using the new polyphonic synthesizer out from Moog at the time – the Polymoog (largely forsaking Mellotron and RMI Electra Piano) – and using church pipe organ on Parallels.” WK This was “the album’s big, pompous song, so well done that in later years the band opened concerts with it. Wakeman’s stately church organ, recorded at St. Martin’s Church, Vevey, Switzerland, sets the tone for this ‘Roundabout’-ish track.” RB

“The concluding Awaken is the album's nod to the extended suite.” RB Here Wakeman uses the church organ again, “forsaking the Hammond organ that was a major part of both Yes’ and Wakeman's sound).” WK “Again, the lyrics are spacy in the extreme, but Jon Anderson and Squire are dead-on vocally, and the addition of Anderson’s harp and White’s tuned percussion round out this evocative track.” RB Anderson has even “indicated in some interviews that he considers it to be Yes’ most complete composition.” WK

“The title track features Howe on steel guitar (he’s the only prog rocker who bothers with the instrument). Turn of the Century and the album's single, Wonderous Stories, are lovely ballads the way only Yes can do them.” RB

“After many successive album covers with Roger Dean, Yes (who also produced the album entirely by themselves) instead commissioned Hipgnosis (known for designing album covers for Pink Floyd) to create the artwork for Going for the One. The album cover features the Century Plaza Towers in Los Angeles.” WK


Notes: A 2003 reissue added rehearsal versions of “Going for the One,” “Parallels,” and “Turn of the Century” as well as an early version of “Awaken” (known as “Eastern Numbers”) and the cuts “Montreaux’s Theme,” “Vevey (Revisited),” and “Amazing Grace.”

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 6/7/2011; updated 7/25/2021.

Styx released breakthrough album The Grand Illusion

The Grand Illusion

Styx


Released: July 7, 1977


Charted: July 30, 1977


Peak: 6 US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. The Grand Illusion (DeYoung) [4:36] (5 CL)
  2. Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man) (Shaw) [5:29] (2/18/78, 29 US, 6 CL)
  3. Superstars (DeYoung/Shaw/Young) [3:59]
  4. Come Sail Away (DeYoung) [6:07] (9/24/77, 8 US, 1 CL)
  5. Miss America (Young) [5:01] (15 CL)
  6. Man in the Wilderness (Shaw) [5:49]
  7. Castle Walls (DeYoung) [6:00]
  8. The Grand Finale (DeYoung/Shaw/Young) [1:58]


Total Running Time: 38:59


The Players:

  • Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards)
  • Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar)
  • James “J.Y.” Young (guitar, vocals)
  • Chuck Panozzo (bass)
  • John Panozzo (drums)

Rating:

3.941 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)


Quotable: “Led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock” – Greg DeGagne, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Styx formed in Chicago in 1971. They signed a deal with Wooden Nickel and released their debut album a year later. Three more albums followed, but the band were definitely not taking the world by storm. However, in 1975, radio picked up “Lady” from the band’s second album two years earlier and it became a top-ten hit. Styx subsequently signed a deal with major label A&M and their next two albums, Equinox (1975) and Crystal Ball (1976), produced top 40 hits “Lorelei” (#27) and “Mademoiselle” (#36).

Their seventh album, appropriately released on 7/7/77, “led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock.” MD They blended “the progressive, keyboard-oriented intellectualism of primitive Yes with the gritty CroMagnon sense of guitar mania that used to be equated with such third-generation bands as Grand Funk…Styx also possesses a strong sense of musical dramatics” JF and imagery with “simple, effective noise for the teenager in search of a progressive thrill.” JF

“Built on the strengths of Come Sail Away’s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis…and on the high harmonies of…Tommy Shaw throughout Fooling Yourself,” MD The Grand Illusion became a top ten album and the band’s first platinum seller. MD It “introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom” MD as it went on to become the band’s first of four consecutive multi-platinum albums.

Dennis DeYoung appeared to be the clear star considering he’d sung lead on the band’s two top-ten hits to date: “Lady” and “Come Sail Away.” In fact, he helmed most of the band’s future top-ten hits, including the #1 song “Babe” as well as “The Best of Times,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Don’t Let It End,” and “Show Me the Way.” However, Shaw was also becoming a force in the band, writing and singing “Fooling Yourself,” and future top 40 hits “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade” and top-ten hit “Too Much Time on My Hands.”

Shaw had joined the band while they were touring in support of Equinox and became a full-fledged member on Crystal Ball. “He’d now clearly settled into his role in the band and his guitar work, along with James Young’s, is full and extremely sharp where it matters most. Even the songwriting is more effluent than Crystal Ball… shedding their mystical song motifs for a more audience-pleasing lyric and chord counterpoise.” MD

Young gave the band a rare triple threat, showcasing his chops on the hard-charging Miss America, a tune which garnered decent airplay at album-rock stations. The song’s “pulverized growl [also] reveals the group’s guitar-savvy approach to six-string rock.” MD The song was intended as a “scathing attack on the Miss America pageant” WK although at least one critic felt it accomplished the opposite of its intention, saying it “reeks of misogynistic misdirection. What Styx thinks is a compliance with current feminist fashion turns out to be nothing more than a spiteful acquiescence to sexual bigotry and impotence.” JF

The song’s intent, however, fit with what DeYoung described as the album’s theme: “the struggle to overcome self-deluding superficiality in order to affirm one’s genuine value. This theme was reflected in the lyrics of the album’s title track: ‘So if you think your life is complete confusion/ ‘Cause your neighbor’s got it made/ Just remember that it’s a grand illusion/ And deep inside we’re all the same.’” WK

The song Castle Walls has an interlude inspired by Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, which served as the theme for the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. It has been noted that John Carpenter’s 1978 horror movie Halloween used a musical theme which had similar characteristics to the interlude of “Castle Walls.” WK

Granted, Styx has never been a critics’ favorite. I am a firm believer, though, that personal taste should always be about what one likes just because one likes it. I argued this point in more depth in my June 27, 2010 blog entry/essay called, appropriately, “The Styx Defense.” So go ahead and pull out the album again and listen to it without shame. I’m certainly playing it again for the umpteenth time.


Notes:

A 2012 DVD featured Styx performing The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight albums live in their entirety.

Review Sources:

First posted 3/24/2008; last updated 5/18/2021.