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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alan Parsons Project: Ammonia Avenue


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.

Check "Ammonia Avenue" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Ammonia Avenue" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. I assume after you're done with the project you'll continue with Parson's solo records but will you be reviewing any of Woolfson's solo stuff? "Freudiana", for instance is a solo album pretty much in name only as it's got just as much Alan Parsons on it as it has Eric Woolfson despite giving the credit solely to Eric.

  2. Yeah, "Freudiana" is actually far more true APP record for me than something like Vulture Culture...

  3. Interesting, I always saw "Don't Answer Me" as Adult Contemporary with a VENGEANCE, which made it much better than normal A/C. It actually reminded more of ABBA ("Winner Takes it All") than Spector, but I can definitely see the Spector connection now that you mention it.

  4. This is where Al blows it for me. Oh, this is really due to the fact that it contains the two stupidest tracks ever to cross the mind of Alan Parsons: "Let Me Go Home" and "One Good Reason". Don't get me started... but the rest is okay-to-great. "Prime Time" is a minor-key clone of "Eye in the Sky", "Since the Last Goodbye" is gorgeous (really?), "Don't Answer Me" I still really haven't made up my mind about, "Dancing..." is also pretty (UGGHHHH), "You Don't Believe" is interesting, "Pipeline" is the DISAPPOINTING instro, and the title track (a better "Silence and I") is really something special... a TRULY gorgeous ballad mixed with a rockin' proggy section. This is the worst album, though... but that is NOT due to the fact that it has the most Eric vocals!

  5. It's kind of a strange album, showing the Project in flux. It does have quite a bit of variety."Prime Time" is indeed "Eye in the Sky, Part 2", but with stronger, atypically optimistic lyrics from Woolfson. "Don't Answer Me" is, as you say, Spector via Parsons, but Phil would NEVER have let such downbeat lyrics become attached to one of his compositions. Eighties production touches begin to infest -- the drum programming on "One Good Reason"; the noodling "Pipeline"; and the especially out of place Eurodisco of "You Don't Believe" (although that's probably because it was actually recorded a year earlier for the first "Best of.." album). And then there is the proggiest song, the title track, with perhaps the most perplexing lyrics in the whole Project catalog. A comment on religion, maybe?

    Although the rest of the ballads are sort of generic, I do like this one better than the last one.