THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT: EYE IN THE SKY (1982)
1) Sirius; 2) Eye In The Sky; 3) Children Of The Moon; 4) Gemini; 5) Silence And I; 6) You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned; 7) Psychobabble; 8) Mammagamma; 9) Step By Step; 10) Old And Wise.
This might probably be the most seductive album ever recorded about Big Brother — and a clever one at that. We are well used to imagining Orwellian worlds as chilly nightmares, but they were never really intended to look like that. People don't like nightmares. They do, however, like nice guys singing catchy melodies with warm, silk overtones, and as Eric Woolfson steps up to the mike again and sings "I am the eye in the sky, looking at you, I can read your mind", with all the lulling cuteness he can muster, it might dawn on you that this might not really be such a bad thing. Big Brother — he is, after all, your brother, supposed to care about you. What's so awful about having your mind read by somebody who cares?
If there is an «angle» to Eye In The Sky, The Project's most blatantly pop-oriented album so far and, coincidentally, their hugest commercial success, it is hiding somewhere in that kind of logic. Smooth-sounding, nerve-calming, spirit-lowering pop album on anti-Utopian subjects; quite a bizarre contradiction. 'Eye In The Sky' is really the kind of rhythmic ballad for which you'd expect a generic love lyric — and it would still be a finely written piece at that, but it is the jarring contrast between the words and the music that generates pizzazz, and it works.
The band's «progressive» attractions, this time around, are strictly limited to one track, seven minutes of the multi-part 'Silence And I', with an out-of-nowhere jiggy instrumental section disrupting the melancholy wails of the first and last parts; but even here, a few whacky melodic changes in the middle and the overall length are about the only «prog» aspects of it. The instrumentals, in the meantime, have totally lost their significance: 'Sirius' is but a mere chunk of atmospheric intro (and has, moreover, been since then appropriated by the mainstream as the theme for sports talk shows — «progressive» my ass), and 'Mammagamma'... well, Parsons had to try out his brand new Fairlight CMI computer, so he programmed some disco rhythms on it, added echoey synth guitar in The Wall-style, and, for some reason, smelled art in it. The basic groove is actually cool, but overall, it is the band's most throwaway-ish instrumental up to that point.
Throughout, the album mostly relies on the strength of modest soft-rockers — 'Psychobabble', 'You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned', and 'Step By Step' all groove by without a lot of staying power, but neither do they annoy; only 'Children Of The Moon', with Parsons' favorite trick, the martial brass arrangement, packs a bit more ambition than the rest.
Arguably the most surprising development will be seen on 'Gemini', a serious exercise in dreamy vocal harmony arrangement, led by Chris Rainbow and most closely reminiscent of the Beach Boys' late Sixties work. The Project were always suckers for a good vocal, but never before did they pay such detailed attention to the voices — and it can hardly be said they did this out of any sort of commercial drive, either. Come to think of it, Eye In The Sky, for an album that came out in 1982, is about as much commercially oriented as it would be were it to come out today, in an era when straight, well-written, melodic, and relatively humble pop music has no chance of selling. Nor did it have a lot of chances in 1982.
But in 1982, somehow, it sold. You know why it sold? Because 'Eye In The Sky' — the song — is really a great song. With New Wave, dance-pop, and heavy metal ruling the charts, it would never have sold if it weren't really a great song. Not sure if people actually listened to the lyrics (maybe if they did, they would have recoiled in horror), but the music alone is hypnotizing enough; in a different world, I'm sure Parsons would be well off making a living as the court composer for The Inner Party. Thumbs up, or we'll all end up in Room 101.
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