Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eric Woolfson Sings The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was


My favorite tracks from the collected Alan Parsons Project CDs are nearly all sung by Eric Woolfson. However if you’re expecting a lost Parsons Project CD (as the title implies,) you’ll be sorely disappointed here.

I’d expected to find at least an alternate version of “Time,” an acoustic version of “Don’t Answer Me,” or like Alan did on his CD A Valid Path; an electronic version of “The Raven.” What I got instead in my opinion, were under/over produced original album discards and show tunes that gave me nothing that even vaguely resembled The Project, except for that long craved-for voice.

In addition The Alan Parson Project CDs at least had an underlying concept, which is completely lacking here unless you consider songs recorded over the years but rejected for cause as a valid theme. APP CDs also had that infamous wall of sound that carries you thorough from the beginning to the end of each song that’s sorely lacking here. On some tracks of this CD you can actually feel the empty space between the words

Any casual fan (despite a sort of doubting bitter denial in the liner notes) knows of Eric Woolfson’s essential contribution, voice and name to the APP since it’s inception with Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

From the liner notes:
Interviewer: “As you are the creator and writer of The Alan Parsons Project, and sometimes lead singer, why is it not called ‘The Eric Woolfson Project’? Or perhaps the ‘Parsons/Woolfson Project’?"

Woolfson: “I describe the decision to call it ‘The Alan Parsons Project’ as both the best and the worst decision of my career. The best, because I have enjoyed the benefits of the APP success without having to deal with public recognition and media attention. The worst because outside my family and friends, few people have any idea of who I am or what I do, which is a price, I have always felt, was worth paying.”

The above makes Woolfson come off as a bitter ex-wife, and this CD is a perfect explanation as to why they were called the Alan Parsons Project. Any fan would resent the fact that the above implies that Alan had nothing to do with the creation of the band by the use of "the creator" instead of "one of the creators." If he’d simply titled this CD Eric Woolfson… My Latest Solo Effort instead, I wouldn't have anticipated another version of the Parsons Project and maybe it would be more readily acceptable… or at least palatable. But getting my hopes up for the "Alan Parsons Project that never was" in my opinion is at best false advertising.

At least when Alan continued on, after Eric left in 1990 to write stage musicals, Parsons re-branded the band simply Alan Parsons. You knew his new efforts would be similar, but you weren’t expecting the same essence you’d previously become comfortable with.
As you listen to this compilation, one thing will quickly become crystal clear; The Alan Parsons Project without either Parsons or Woolfson is like being asked to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without one of the two essential ingredients between the bread. While you’d be willing to eat either without the other, and both are digestible, it’s just not as good if you’ve tasted both together previously. To be fair, I thought the exact same thing about Alan Parson’s CD A Valid Path. The majority of that CD is great until he tried to re-imagine such classics as the aforementioned “The Raven” by subtracting Woolfson’s contribution to it.

Woolfson has presented here instead (as the liner notes make clear) a studio version of a high school produced stage play entitled, “Applaud me, for I am the unsung hero!” Instead of envisioning the music in your head as you listen to it, in its place you see Woolfson standing alone on an empty barren stage with no one in the audience. No more so than on the track “Someone In The Audience” where the request is made to ring the curtain down on him in the middle of his performance.

So let’s get down to the particulars:

The first thing that hits you within seconds is that Eric’s voice isn’t being “doubled” as it was on the APP CDs, which means every wavering, strained or struggled note that he sings stands out like a sore thumb. Doubling is the studio effect of the singer singing with himself smoothing out the rough edges. Because of the lack of this one single effect that warm comforting and beautiful voice of his that you loved and instantly recognize comes off as just old and tired.

For example, on “The Golden Key” I actually winced in pain when his voice cracked twice delivering the line “…no one promised me an island in the sun”. Some songs are delivered in a pace that is so slow; you can almost imagine the track being dragged across the floor with a 200-pound concrete block chained to it. On several tracks he tries to sing either far above or far below his vocal range. “Along The Road” is delivered with the strain of a first tenor trying to sing the part of a second bass. The effect is so distracting that it’s impossible to distinguish that it's actually Woolfson singing it, making it difficult to enjoy or comprehend the song.

In fact it’s nearly impossible to enjoy or comprehend this entire body of work. If you’re planning to purchase this CD because you’re a fan of Woolfson’s post APP work and/or his stage musicals, you’ll probably be delighted.

All music and lyrics here are by Eric Woolfson. He produced this compilation too and it shows because without the balancing influence of Alan Parsons to refine it and apparently his ego, it in my humble opinion falls flat on its face.

My general response to this volume of work would be to re-title it, The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was… and for truly good reason!

A classic and long-gone cartoon series called BLOOM COUNTY had a penguin named Opus who did movie reviews for the local paper. I’d like to think he would’ve used his famous tag line on this CD: “…Well, maybe it wasn’t THAT bad, but Lord it wasn’t good!”

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©-2009 by Jet Gardner/

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