ALAN PARSONS PROJECT: EVE (1979)
1) Lucifer; 2) You Lie Down With Dogs; 3) I'd Rather Be A Man; 4) You Won't Be There; 5) Winding Me Up; 6) Damned If I Do; 7) Don't Hold Back; 8) Secret Garden; 9) If I Could Change Your Mind.
Up until 1979, The Alan Parsons Project had not only exercised a total ban on «love songs», but, in fact, the issue of male/female relationship was almost conspicuously absent from their art as a whole — so much so that it is highly likely that many must have been questioning the nature of the relationship between Parsons and Woolfson themselves. Of course, there is a formal justification — that issue was not of central importance to their concepts — but, after all, neither Edgar Allan Poe, nor Isaac Asimov, nor, least of all, the Egyptian pharaohs were ever above «getting some», neither in their writings nor in their actions.
Then, in 1979, they released Eve, and the people's worst fears came to life. Song after song after song, Parsons and Woolfson push forward the idea that «getting some» is an understandable temptation, but, in the long run, it's simply not worth it. Look at the string of song titles from track 2 to track 6: it may be the single longest-running, most expertly and intelligently crafted assault on the female sex ever committed to vinyl. Move over, Bernie Taupin, tell Mick Jagger the news. She lies down with dogs, she's winding me up, she won't be there anyway, so I'd rather be a man, but damned if I do and damned if I don't no matter what.
The concept was that long-awaited catalyst for critical oxidation — most of the pen-holding brothers never loved The Project all that much anyway, but at least the previous three albums, with their immaculate execution, never provided them with a strong enough excuse to torpedo them right to the bottom. And it did not help matters either that Eve was, unquestionably, the most lightweight «pop» album from The Project so far. Individually, there are no songs here that pander to tastes even simpler than those that demanded 'Don't Let It Show' and 'One More River', but collectively, Eve is almost exclusively remembered for its catchy pop choruses rather than dense arrangements or breathtakingly complex «progressive» instrumentals.
So there is nothing really surprising in the fact that Eve fell through the cracks. It must have disgusted women, feminists, and liberal critics (and conservative critics weren't listening to the band in the first place); it must have betrayed the expectations of the dwindling, but still present, prog-rock crowd; and at the same time, it was not that much of a sellout — because the one thing that was definitely not on the Project's mind when making the record was making it sell à la Styx or Journey or the Bee Gees.
Too bad. Eve is a pop album, for sure, but it is one of the best and, in this writer's opinion, least dated pop albums of 1979. Yes, the points that most of the songs make are certainly debatable, but, as with all kinds of art, it is not the substance of the points that counts, but the coefficient of success with which they are made. Your woman may not lie with dogs neither literally nor metaphorically, but if 'You Lie With Dogs' manages to be Biblically-angry enough to convince you — for that one particular moment! — that she does, then the song is a respectable piece of art. And Lenny Zakatek sings it in quite a convincing manner, not to mention the trivial, but unforgettable guitar riff that goes along with the singing.
Likewise, 'I'd Rather Be A Man', with its 'Run Like Hell'ish echoey guitar, brims with misogynistic paranoia so much that lead vocalist David Paton must have understood he was running certain career risks there; 'You Won't Be There' is an excellent send-up of a typical BeeGees-style Seventies ballad that ends up demeaning its object rather than glorifying it; 'Winding Me Up' subtly conceals its anger behind bouncy rhythms and Vivaldi-colored interludes; and 'Damned If I Do' does a good job of conveying a mesmerized lover's desperation. It all works, right down to the sleeve cover on which two females of suspicious occupation are busy unsuccessfully covering their herpes sores with stylish veils. Symbolism, what?
Nevertheless, it is sometimes forgotten that women are given a fair chance to rebound on the album: in fact, Eve is the only record by The Project that actually features female lead singers: Clare Torry of 'Great Gig In The Sky' fame ('Don't Hold Back') and Lesley Duncan, an occasional hitmaker and Elton John backup vocalist ('If I Could Change Your Mind'). The former gives poor men an optimistic perspective on things, the latter sort of admits that, whaddaya know, these cold heartless bitches have feelings, too. And, once again, both make good points: 'Don't Hold Back' is catchy and uplifting, while 'If I Could Change Your Mind' is a fine example of a cheese-free Seventies ballad that, in a reasonable and refined society, should and would have been a much bigger hit than — oh, I dunno, 'More Than A Woman', for one thing.
Anyway, do not be misled by the inappropriate application of political correctness and do not be afraid of liking this record if it is its subject matter, not its music, that seems off-putting to you. There are all kinds of women in the world, and some actually «lie down with dogs» (want it or not, my spam inbox reminds me of the fact every few days), and it doesn't sit well with some men — that's the kind of situation Parsons and Woolfson are playing around with, but it doesn't mean they are forcing the listener into making some absurdly generalizing misogynistic conclusions. Proof? No true woman hater would have let his patented woman-hating album end up with a song as gorgeous as Lesley Duncan's ballad, which, on its very own, makes one forget all about the female transgressions so vividly depicted on Side 1.
As for the watering-down of the progressive style in which the band initially started out, well, I would say that mixing «progressive» and «pop» is a very difficult art in itself, and whoever succeeds in making the final results not come across as overtly dumb and cheesy deserves recognition per that success alone. Pink Floyd had set that standard on Dark Side, and Parsons, as their #1 disciple, would be expected to follow suit. I would say that on Eve, for the first time ever, the band's instrumental compositions — 'Lucifer' and 'Secret Garden' — while still immaculately arranged and produced, no longer show us the band's true heart; they are intended more as a lure for old-school fans, an obligatory tribute to tradition. But I don't think it's a problem at all.
Anyway, the intrigue, controversy, and originality alone make Eve a standout in Parsons' discography — and what's wrong with having a bunch of good melodies finalize the picture? Ani DiFranco will, no doubt, want to rip me to shreds for this, but a powerful thumbs up all the same.
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