ALAN PARSONS PROJECT: AMMONIA AVENUE (1984)
1) Prime Time; 2) Let Me Go Home; 3) One Good Reason; 4) Since The Last Goodbye; 5) Don't Answer Me; 6) Dancing On A Highwire; 7) You Don't Believe; 8) Pipeline; 9) Ammonia Avenue.
I honestly did not quite grasp whatever particular social topic Parsons and Woolfson sank their teeth into this time around. Something about a communication breakdown between scientists, industrialists, and laymen — one more serious tragedy of humanity filtered through the Cassandra eye of The Project. Who cares, we're all gonna die anyway. Ultimately, what matters is that this is just another nice little collection of adult pop songs.
It is safe to say that, with Eye In The Sky out on the market, any discussions on the ratio of prog-to-pop on Alan Parsons albums had lost whatever relevance they once might have had. The biting question has now totally shifted to the ratio of bad, cheesy, conventional pop where all that matters is a big, steady beat and a sci-fi attitude represented by the «two fingers on a Casio» principle vs. pop as a combination of intelligent craft and genuine feeling.
As far as I know, even those who loathe Parsons can rarely deny the craft; and as for genuine feeling — what else but genuine feeling could be responsible for choosing 'Don't Answer Me' as the lead single, a song that slavishly imitated, of all things, the classic Phil Spector wall-of-sound style of the early Sixties, additionally empowered only with Mel Collins' sax solo (which, in turn, recalls Phil's work in the Seventies, e. g. with John Lennon)? That a song like that, so drastically out of sync with what was hip in 1984, could have nevertheless gone on to become a big commercial hit, is nothing short of amazing, and, in my opinion, can qualify as one of pop music buyers' finest decisions of the year; one of very few «tribute songs» worthy of occupying the same rank as those creations to which it is paying tribute.
Elsewhere, of course, the sounds are far more «modern», but still very rarely stray away from the typical Parsons formula. Steady beats, smooth keyboards, pretty catchy singing, and the expected pinch of melancholia. Not everything works — Lenny Zakatek's pathos on 'You Don't Believe', another in a series of 'Run Like Hell'-style echo-rock concoctions, and a relatively weak one, is somewhat over the top, and so is Chris Rainbow's sappiness on 'Since The Last Goodbye' (which is nevertheless a damn finely written folk-pop ballad). But never say no to 'Prime Time', with one of the most elegant pop melodies these guys ever had the luck to give us, or to the Bluntstone-led 'Dancing On A Highwire', or to the title track, which summarizes the album on a mournful note very much akin to the one we heard on 'Turn Of A Friendly Card' three years back.
It is hard for me to find instructive things to say about Ammonia Avenue, and this might mean that, by 1984, The Project finally hit stagnation; this is the band's first album on which they did not really manage to find any new twists (discounting the bizarre, delightful Spector tribute). But if they were no longer able to change the face of music, they could at least slap on a few extra beauty marks. Ammonia Avenue is a record to be quietly enjoyed, not wildly revered or deeply analyzed. Its role within the «Big Seven» of The Project's uninterrupted run of artistic successes is graceful, small, and friendly. "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way" — remember that one? Roger Waters pretty much predicted all of this band's career. Thumbs up.
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