The Alan Parsons Project consisted of Alan Parsons, Eric Woolfson, and an ever-evolving line of session musicians and vocalists. Active between 1975 and 1990, they never made too much headway in their native UK, but enjoyed greater success in the US with hit singles like Eye in the Sky, Time, and Old and Wise. Over the course of their career, they released eleven studio albums, many of which are considered to be prog rock classics. Here, we look back at some of their finest moments with our pick of the 10 best Alan Parsons songs of all time.
10. Ammonia Avenue
Ammonia Avenue, the band’s seventh studio album, became one of their most successful records on its release in December 1983, breaking into the top 10 in numerous countries and certifying gold in the US. It’s known mainly for its lead single Don’t Answer Me, which reached number 15 in the US and the top 20 in numerous other countries. But as myrockmixtapes.com highlights, its true strength lies in the quality of the deep cuts, not least the dramatic, hugely enjoyable title track.
9. (The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether
For their debut album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe), the band took their inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre tales. It was a strange concept for an album, and it’s a strange album overall…. but not one without its charms. It got slated by music critics on its release, but quickly developed a cult audience, with Classic Rock later naming it as one of the “50 Albums That Built Prog Rock.” One of its highlights is (The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, which reached number 37 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1976.
8. The Raven
Up next is the band’s first single (and, incidentally, one of the very first songs to utilize a vocoder as a means of distorting vocals), The Raven. Like the rest of the songs from the band’s debut album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe), its reference point is the gothic works of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a little bit weird, even by the album’s wacky standards, but approach it with an open mind and a willing ear, and its innate charms will soon become apparent. Released in November 1975, it reached number 80 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
7. Don’t Answer Me
After building their reputation as prog-rockers, the Alan Parsons Project stepped away from their usual style in 1984 with Don’t Answer Me, which was developed using the Wall of Sound technique made famous by Phil Spector. It was a risky move, but a rewarding one – released as a single from their seventh studio album Ammonia Avenue, it hit number 15 in the US and number 58 in their native UK, becoming the most successful single of their career in their homeland.
6. I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You
After mining gothic literature for their first album, the Alan Parson Project turned their attention to Isaac Asimov’s science fiction I Robot stories for their second, creating a collection of songs that explore the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding AI. I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You, which was written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson and sung by Lenny Zakatek, is one of its highlights. Released as a single in August 1977, it climbed to number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Technically, Sirius and Eye in the Sky are meant to be listened to one after the other, as Sirus segues into Eye in the Sky on the original recording from the band’s sixth studio album. But considering each has its own charms, they can also be listened to separately without affecting the overall listening experience. The two-minute instrumental Sirus might have been eclipsed by Eye in the Sky in the charts, but it’s made the biggest impact on the sports fields, becoming a staple feature at numerous sporting events and a regular fixture at Chicago Bulls games.
Ranked one of the best Alan Parsons Project songs by Return of Rock, Time is the first of the band’s songs to feature Eric Woolfson as lead vocalist, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that his gentle, hushed delivery makes the piece what it is. An emotive, poignant gem, it’s one of the chief highlights of the band’s 1980 album, The Turn of a Friendly Card. Released as a single in 1981, it became one of the band’s most successful releases, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 10 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and number 14 on Cash Box. Listen out for the rare treat of hearing Mr. Alan Parsons himself on backing vocals.
3. Old and Wise
Written from the perspective of an old man looking back on his life and remembering those he’s shared it with fondly, Old and Wise ranks as another dazzling offering from the album, Eye in the Sky. Former Zombies singer Colin Blunstone delivers an astonishing vocal performance, but the poignant, heartfelt lyrics are the real star of the show. Released as a single in December 1982, it reached number 21 on the US Adult Contemporary chart and number 74 in the UK.
2. Games People Play
Lenny Zakatek stepped in as lead vocalist on numerous songs by the Alan Parsons Project, but Games People Play might well be his best performance of the lot. His impressive vocals and the incredibly strong songwriting combine to make one of the band’s most memorable and best-loved songs. Released as a single from the 1980 album, The Turn of the Friendly Card, it reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 18 on Cash Box.
1. Eye in the Sky
In at number one on our list of the 10 best Alan Parsons Project songs of all time is Eye in the Sky. Released as a single from the album of the same name in August 1982, it became the biggest commercial success of their career, climbing to number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100, topping the charts in Canada and Spain, and charting highly in various other countries. It’s since been covered by various other artists, but the original remains the definitive version.