While I Robot has seen many days out of its sleeve, the rest of Alan Parsons’ discography has not seen nearly as much. In fact, I believe this is the second time I have listened to this record at all.
And within the first several minutes, I can tell why.
While it’s still focused around intelligent pop songs and follows much of the same formula that worked so well on “I Robot,” the songs fail to grab the listener as tightly.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still better than a lot of the rock music coming out in 1980 and avoided the tendency to make bad new wave, but the songcraft is weaker and the instrumental-intro-into-angry-disco-into-ballad-into-prog-anthem flow seems a bit pastiche this time around.
I haven’t heard the two critically panned albums between I Robot and this, but The Turn of a Friendly Card seems a bit more like an attempt to regain the critical success of I Robot than an attempt to make another good record.
Even side 2’s run of tracks grouped together as the “Turn of a Friendly Card Suite” (released as one track on the CD reissue) don’t sound as cohesive as the whole of I Robot. In fact, the only thing that groups these songs together is the reprise of the first song in the set at the end. The rest of the songs don’t even flow from one to another–they have full stops, and hearing them all together doesn’t seem to add much that would be missing if they were played out of context.
In summation, while The Turn of a Friendly Card is mildly better than other prog-tinged pop-rock from the early 80s, it doesn’t stand up to Parsons’ previous masterpiece at all.