Record #5: The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination, 1976

I will tell you right now: I love The Alan Parsons Project.

While many a music snob has slammed progressive rock for its penchant for concept albums and 13-minute keyboard solos, I love me some prog, and APP’s debut, a concept album based on the writings of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe, definitely delivers.

Although Pink Floyd had already released the progressive masterpieces The Dark Side of the Moon (engineered by Alan Parsons) and Wish You Were Here, Tales…still sounds fresh in comparison, using many of the same techniques, such as instrumental interludes and seamless transitions. But because of Parsons’ vision of using different musicians in the studio, the tracks are saved from becoming buried underneath the rest of the prog-rock heap.

Musically, it doesn’t always have the macabre feel of Poe’s source material (see: the vocoder-filtered verse of “The Raven,” verbatim the poem), but thanks to the organs, moody bass, angry piano, and dark electric guitar, it rarely strays into the light–even if it meanders into a sort of dark-disco.

The instrumental passages (including the 16-minute “Fall of the House of Usher,” which is appropriately depressing, even if its orchestral-only prelude feels a little out of place) and reprises of melody lines from earlier songs showcase Parsons’ skill as composer and arranger, which would be seen even more clearly in albums to come (like the three I have next in line).

Long live prog.

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