Saturday, February 20, 1988

Alan Parsons Project: A Retrospective, 1976-1987

Alan Parsons Project

A Retrospective: 1976-1987


The Alan Parsons Project formed in 1975 in London, England. It wasn’t initially intended as a group, but a one-off project. Alan Parsons, known for his engineering work on classics like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and the Beatles’ Abbey Road, wanted to do a musical interpretation of the works of writer Edgar Allan Poe. That became Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the first of ten Alan Parsons Project studio albums.

The group’s sound “was a bold concession to early 70s art-rock and progressive rock, fusing the expansive (and often lengthy) compositions of such acts as Yes with the conceptual cohesion of Pink Floyd and Emerson Lake & Palmer.” LB The Project crafted a more commercial, lite-rock sound that got them played on album rock and adult contemporary alike. “Most of their titles…share common traits…they were concept albums, started with an instrumental introduction fading in to the first song, had an instrumental piece in the middle of the second LP side, and concluded with a quiet/sad/powerful song.” FI

In a continued commitment to Parsons’ original vision to “to dispense with the focus on the performers and place the emphasis entirely on the concept,” LB the Project enlisted more than 40 players over the years, particularly “a stream of guest vocalists seemingly chosen by their vocal style, to complement the style of each song.” FI

Parsons still relied on a core of regulars, most notably Eric Woolfson, “a musician, songwriter and vocalist in his own right who was serving as Parsons’ manager in 1975.” LB Woolfson’s biggest claim to fame had been working with Herman’s Hermits; as Parsons’ collaborator, the pair ”worked together to craft noteworthy songs with impeccable fidelity.” FI

Andrew Powell, who arranged and conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra, was also a Project regular. While groups such as “the Moody Blues…and Electric Light Orchestra had fused classical instrumentation with rock numbers,” LB none did so as elaborately as the Project.

Other longtime members included guitarist Ian Bairnson, bassist/vocalist David Paton (both from Pilot, a mid-‘70s band produced by Parsons), and drummer Stuart Elliott. The Project relied on a vast number of vocalists over the years, but turned most frequently to Lenny Zakatek, Chris Rainbow, Colin Blunstone, and John Miles.

The group disbanded in 1987. They have sold at least 45 million albums worldwide, PC landing “gold and platinum awards from nearly every country in the world.” AO-P Parsons, who had ”ten Grammy nominations for engineering and production,” AO-P also ”started a company…devoted to improving the sound quality of film and video. He has also turned his hand to directing music based TV programmes…and he was instrumental in the creation of Music Box, the European music cable service.” AO-P

Parsons continued to release work under his name and Eric Woolfson released more stage-oriented works, including some reworkings of Alan Parsons Project albums, until his death in 2009. The pair also collaborated on 1990’s Freudiana.

The Most Prominent Players:

  • Alan Parsons (engineering work; k/v/g: 1975-87; Keats: 84)
  • Eric Woolfson (v/k – Herman’s Hermits; v/k and executive producer for Alan Parsons Project: 75-87)
  • Andrew Powell (conductor for the Philharmonia Orchestra: 1975-87)
  • Ian Bairnson (g – Pilot; Alan Parsons Project: 1975-87; Keats: 84)
  • David Paton (b/v – Pilot: 75; with Elton John; Alan Parsons Project: 75-86; Keats: 84)
  • Stuart Elliott (d: 1977-99; Keats: 84)
  • John Miles (v: 1975,78,86-87)
  • Lenny Zakatek (v: 1976-85,87)
  • Colin Blunstone (v – The Zombies: 63-67; Alan Parsons Project: 1978,82-85; Keats: 84)
  • Chris Rainbow (v: 1979-87)

v = vocals, g = guitar, b = bass, k = keyboards, d = drums

On the Web (Alan Parsons Project):

On the Web (Alan Parsons):


Awards (Alan Parsons):

The Studio Albums:

Hover over an album cover to see its title and year of release. Click on the album to go to its dedicated DMDB page.


Under each album snapshot, songs featured on the anthologies are noted. If the song charted, the date of the song’s release or first chart appearance and its chart peaks are noted in parentheses. Click for codes to singles charts.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976):

“In 1974 [Parsons and Woolfson] started adapting selected works of Edgar Allan Poe to music. Two years, and thousands of feet of tape later, the Alan Parsons Project was born: The highly acclaimed Tales of Mystery and Imagination album was the first in a series of award-winning albums.” AO-P

  • The Raven [4:01] v: Alan Parsons (10/16/76, 80 US, 20 CL)
  • (The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether [4:15] v: John Miles (7/24/76, 37 US, 54 CB, 62 HR, 36 RR, 15 CL, 62 CN)

I Robot (1977):

After Tales of Mystery and Imagination, ”Parsons and Woolfson began work almost immediately on their next Project, which was intended to be a similar literary-musical survey of the works of Isaac Asimov…For various reasons, both conceptual and legal…I, Robot had nothing to do with either Asimov or his writings [by the time it was recorded], merely offering…as the publicity material at the time put it, ‘a look at tomorrow through the eyes of today.’ I, Robot introduced Lenny Zakatek and Eric Woolfson as recurring vocalists, and continued the tradition of handing at least one number – usually orchestra-heavy - over to Andrew Powell.” LB

  • 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) B1
  • Don’t Let It Show [4:21] v: Dave Townsend (11/26/77, 92 US, 65 CB, 58 HR, 20 CL, 71 CN) B1
  • I Robot (instrumental) [6:06] (20 CL) B2

Pyramid (1978):

Next up was 1978’s “superb Pyramid [which examined] the themes of mortality and achieving immortality by what one leaves behind.” LB

  • What Goes Up… [3:31] v: David Paton (9/23/78, 87 US, 20 CL) B2
  • Pyramania [2:45] v: Jack Harris (45 CL) B1
  • Can't Take It with You [5:06] v: Dean Ford, Colin Blunstone (47 CL) B1

Eve (1979):

1979’s Eve [offered] a musical view of the battle between the sexes, complete with female guest vocalists alternating with the Project’s now-regular stable of male singers.” LB

  • Damned if I Do [4:50] v: Lenny Zakatek (9/29/79, 27 US, 30 CB, 28 HR, 25 RR, 10 CL, 16 CN) B1
  • Lucifer (instrumental) [5:09] (3/80, 50 CL) B1

The Sicilian Defence (recorded 1979, released 2014):

To satisfy Arista Records demands for quick releases, Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson responded with this hastily assembled collection of instrumentals. The record company opted not to release it and regotiated the Project’s contract. The album finally saw the light of day in 2014 when released as part of the 11-CD The Complete Albums Collection.

  • P-QB4 (aka “Elsie’s Theme”) [6:22]

Turn of a Friendly Card (1980):

Around this time, Parsons had “moved to Monaco - an event that clearly influenced [1980’s] The Turn of a Friendly Card, a meditation on gambling” AO-P “and games of chance which also bore the Project’s first two major hit singles, ‘Time’ and Games People Play.” LB

  • Games People Play [4:17] v: Lenny Zakatek (12/6/80, 16 US, 18 CB, 13 HR, 12 RR, 8 CL, 9 CN, 95 AU) B1
  • Time [5:05] v: Eric Woolfson (4/18/81, 15 US, 14 CB, 13 HR, 7 RR, 10 AC, 20 CL, 30 CN) B1
  • The Turn of a Friendly Card (Part Two) [3:12] v: Chris Rainbow (44 CL, 90 AU) B2

Eye in the Sky (1982):

The next album, “1982's Eye in the Sky, was their most successful effort to date, and notched a top three hit with its title track.” AP The album “reflected George Orwell's 1984 strongly.” LB Sirius, the instrumental that opens the album would become one of the Project’s most recognizable song when used to “introduce the Chicago Bulls basketball team” LB during the Michael Jordan glory years.

  • Eye in the Sky [4:33] v: Eric Woolfson (7/3/82, 3 US, 2 RR, 3 AC, 11 AR, 1 CN, 22 AU) B1
  • Psychobabble [4:50] v: Elmer Gantry (7/10/82, 57 US, 54 AR) B1
  • Old and Wise [4:52] v: Collin Blunstone (1/15/83, 21 AC, 74 UK) B1

The Best of

Alan Parsons Project

Released: October 1983

Covers: 1976-1983

Peak: 53 US, 99 UK, 49 CN, 25 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US

Genre: progressive rock lite

Tracks: (1) I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You (2) Eye in the Sky (3) Games People Play (4) Time (5) Pyramania (6) You Don’t Believe (7) Lucifer (8) Psychobabble (9) Damned if I Do (10) Don’t Let It Show (11) Can’t Take It with You (12) Old and Wise

Total Running Time: 51:30


3.811 out of 5.00 (average of 15 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About The Best of:

“With the last two Project albums having spun off substantial hits, Arista wanted Parsons to get to work on his seventh project immediately. Exhausted from turning out an album a year for several years, Parsons and Woolfson responded…by turning in an album of instrumentals under the title of The Sicilian Defense. Arista rejected the album, repeating its insistence for more radio-friendly rock numbers with Woolfson vocals, and upon the rejection of that album, Parsons and Woolfson considered themselves released from the contract with Arista and began shopping around for a new label. Arista promptly filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit for breach of contract…The label’s demand for a new album…was, however, met by a Best Of collection featuring one new song, You Don’t Believe.” LB

Tracks Not on Previously Noted Albums:

  • You Don’t Believe [4:26] v: Lenny Zakatek (10/31/83, 54 US, 12 AR, 43 CN) B1

Ammonia Avenue (1984):

1982’s Eye in the Sky gave the Alan Parsons Project the biggest hit of their career with the #3 title cut and the top-10, platinum-selling album. The follow-up, Ammonia Avenue, was a drop-off commercially, but was still a top-20, gold-selling album in the U.S. and featured the top-20 hit “Don’t Answer Me.” The song “You Don’t Believe,” which was initially featured on their 1983 Best of compilation, was also included.

  • Prime Time [5:03] v: Eric Woolfson (3/31/84, 34 US, 33 CB, 33 RR, 10 AC, 3 AR) B2
  • Don’t Answer Me [4:11] v: Eric Woolfson (2/28/84, 15 US, 17 CB, 10 RR, 4 AC, 15 AR, 58 UK, 22 CN) B2
  • Ammonia Avenue [6:30] v: Eric Woolfson B2

Keats (1984):

This wasn’t an Alan Parsons Project album per se, but it featured members Colin Blunstone, Ian Bairnson, David Paton, and Stuart Elliott – and it was produced by Alan Parsons. It was conceived by Eric Woolfson as a way to give the members a chance to create music outside the Project. It didn’t take off, but it makes for an interesting addition to the APP catalog.

  • Turn Your Heart Around (single, --)

Vulture Culture (1985):

Vulture Culture marked a significant drop for the Project in terms of commercial success. Unlike its predecessor, it missed gold status and peaked at a measly #46 on the U.S. charts. It was the Project’s first album since Pyramid to fail to produce a top-40 hit.

  • Let’s Talk About Me [4:22] v: David Paton (2/9/85, 56 US, 10 AR, 89 CN) B2
  • Days Are Numbers (The Traveller) [4:02] v: Chris Rainbow (4/27/85, 71 US, 11 AC, 30 AR) B2

Stereotomy (1986):

Although the Alan Parsons Project were still embraced by album rock, the trend of Vulture Culture failing to go gold or produce a top-40 pop hit continued with their ninth album, Stereotomy.

  • Stereotomy [7:15] v: John Miles (1/18/86, 82 US, 5 AR) B2
  • Limelight [4:39] v: Gary Brooker (4/86, --) B2

Gaudi (1987):

“1987 saw the release of Gaudi, an understated album concerning the life and goals of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, but what no one knew at the time was that it was officially the last Alan Parsons Project album.” LB

The Best of, Volume 2

Alan Parsons Project

Released: February 20, 1988

Covers: 1977-1987

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: progressive rock lite

Tracks: (1) Prime Time (2) Let’s Talk About Me (3) Standing on Higher Ground (4) Stereotomy (5) Don’t Answer Me (6) Limelight (7) I Robot (8) What Goes Up… (9) Days Are Numbers (The Traveller) (10) Ammonia Avenue (11) The Turn of a Friendly Card, Pt. 2

Total Running Time: 48:25


3.106 out of 5.00 (average of 12 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About The Best of, Volume 2:

Unlike its companion, 1983’s The Best of, this second volume failed to chart. It focused largely on the latter four Project albums, although it included a few cuts from earlier albums. It certainly didn’t have the same clout as the earlier compilation when it came to the chart success of its featured songs, but this one highlights plenty of shoulda-been hits, including “Let’s Talk About Me,” “Stereotomy,” “Standing on Higher Ground.”

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 12/2/2009; last updated 7/7/2022.

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