The Alan Parsons Project consisted of two core members–Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons–as well as various session musicians and a few repeat performers. Woolfson was a songwriter, composer, and pianist while Parsons was a producer and engineer. In fact, Parsons had worked with a few big artists at the time The Project was formed, including The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
While I like basically everything I’ve heard by The Alan Parsons Project, my favorite album will always be their first, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. It was my introduction to the band. I can remember being very young, not even school age, and my mom putting on the record. We used to dance around the living room to “The Raven” with her singing along. She now recalls that that was the song I always requested by The Alan Parsons Project, which more often than not led to us listening to the entire album.
So, if you didn’t know, Tales of Mystery and Imagination consists of songs that retell certain stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe. The track list on the original album is as follows:
1. “(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether”
2. “The Fall of the House of Usher” (instrumental)
3. “To One in Paradise”
In 1987, The Alan Parsons Project “revamped” the album to be released on compact disc. Two of the most notable additions are the new guitar passages in “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
I can’t really describe this album. It has a bit of everything, but overall can be categorized as rock. Orson Welles narrates “A Dream Within a Dream” and as the passage comes to an end, a simple bass line begins. Bom, bom, bom … bom, bom, bom … bom, bom, bom … This transitions straight into “The Raven,” and the moment that song starts, I get chills. The song quickly progresses from that repeating bass line and vocals performed through an EMI vocoder into an epic piece of rock music, complete with an orchestra and a choir. It’s just fantastic!
“The Tell-Tale Heart” opens with a bloodcurdling scream, which sets the tone for the entire song. The way the vocals are handled, you can practically hear the storyteller losing his mind. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a piece full of piano and beautifully haunting vocals, contributed by John Miles, and then, there is “(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.” This is my favorite track on the album. A funky guitar riff is intertwined throughout the entire song, then emphasized in the short solo near the end. The music is fun with a great beat, and the rhyming lyrics make singing along easy and enjoyable.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is a sixteen minute, ten second instrumental divided into five parts–“Prelude,” “Arrival,” “Intermezzo,” “Pavane,” and “Fall.” With nothing but music, this track shares the story of the weary traveler approaching the House of Usher, the storm that wails outside, and the destruction of the house itself as the traveler rides away, glancing back once to see the house sinking out of sight.
The album closes with the slower tempo and gentle lyrics of “To One in Paradise.” Some have theorized that this song is more about Poe himself than any of his works.
This is an album that everyone should definitely listen to at least once.