Album Reviews

1982: Alan Parsons Project - Eye In The Sky

This year, until the year 2000, every week a special album will be reviewed. By doing that we're counting out time ... until 2000.

The albums which will be reviewed are either milestones in the history of progressive rock, or good examples of the catalogue of a certain band. Of course, we cannot review every special album and we cannot satisfy everyone's taste with our choices, which will be revealed over the year.

Our goal with this list of albums, is to show the quality and the diversity of different groups and different styles. So you won't find 6 Pink Floyd-albums, or 5 Genesis-albums, even though these bands have recorded many classics.

On this list, (almost) every week a new year is reviewed. For some years we will use two weeks, but at the end of December we will have reviews of every year, including the "dark" eighties...

We hope you will have lots of fun in the coming weeks with this selection of special albums that had been selected by the DPRP-team, especially for you!

After the success of the platinum Turn Of A Friendly Card, The Alan Parsons Project released their 6th album in April 1982.

The album again featered most of the people who had formed the base band on previous albums; Alan Parsons (song writing, production, engineering, keyboards and fairlight programming), Eric Wolfson (song writing, keyboards, vocals), Andrew Powell (orchestra and choir conducting), David Paton (bass and vocals) - Paton used to play in Pilot in the seventies and would later play with Fish in the nineties -, ex-Pilot guitarist Ian Bairnson (who has appeared on every Parsons album) and drummer Stuart Elliot (of Steve Harley's Cockney Rebel). Vocalists on the album were all 'Project veterans'; Eric Woolfson, David Paton, Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, Elmer Gantry and Colin Blunstone.

Eye In The Sky was the first APP album which was not hooked up on a certain theme like the previous albums (which had Edgar Alan Poe, robots and science fiction, women, pyramids and gambling as themes).
Alan Parsons: The 'Eye in the Sky' album was perhaps an exception to all the other albums we had done in the past. Something we had almost become recognised for is the fact that we have always had some form of theme running through the records we've done. At the same time I felt that it was time to break away from that, especially as we had so much negative criticism like being pretentious for constantly making concept albums. So this time we felt 'let's just go in and make an album and then maybe at the end decide what it's all about'. So that's what 'Eye in the Sky' really ended up being; a conceptless album but with a similar format as the previous albums.

Eye in the Sky was also the first digitally mastered APP album and new techniques were used as well, such as the Fairlight. This piece of equipment had a keyboard connected to a computer in which all kinds of sounds could be stored, like breaking glass. The keyboard could then be used to play the sound in different tones. With the modern sampling machines this might not seem like a big deal, but it definitely was back in 1982.

As most of the early APP albums, Eye in the Sky also opens with a short instrumental; Sirius. Even if you have never heard the album you probably know this tune, since it has been used as background music on radio and TV numerous times, like so many other APP instrumentals. For instance, the Chicago Bulls basketball team used it to introduce their players.
The mysterious and bombastic tune is a perfect opening theme and also worked very well as a tension builder during Alan Parson's live appearances in the nineties.

When the music of Sirius fades, the bass keeps playing and goes into the bass line of the catchy title track, thus merging the two perfectly.
The single of Eye in the Sky reached the third position in the US charts. Especially for the discos a Disconet Remix was made with a length of almost 10 minutes. The vocals on the song were done by Eric Woolfson.
'Eye in the Sky' has a double meaning; it's both a name for satelites and video camera's in casinos. Alan: Interestingly in some ways it was an extension of the gambling theme [of Turn of a Friendly Card], because Eric started to spend a lot of time in Las Vegas during this period. He had a certain fascination with the hidden cameras that were there watching the tables, taping the games and what have you. It was more than just the hidden cameras. It was also kind of 1984 syndrome. It covers the fact we can never be left to our own devices; we will always be watched. The 'eye in the sky' can be many things. It could be the satallite that can read the newspaper in your back garden from 100 miles in space. Or, it could be the helicopter that flies over when there is a crime incident. Just the general observation that we can never be so isolated that people don't know who we are. Every time we buy something with a credit card our names and addresses are circulated to another 1000 places. There's no such thing as privacy anymore.

The next song, Children of the Moon is wonderful versatile piece of work, complete with choir and string & brass orchestration. The vocals are done by bass player David Paton. When the song fades away the etherical backing vocals go on for a couple more seconds before the song merges into the short Gemini on which Chris Rainbow does one of his stunning vocal performances. Besides some quiet instruments in the background the song fully drifts on Rainbow's lead and backing vocals and echoing vocal effects.

Alan Parsons also used a complete symphonic orchestra on his albums in a song called The Silence and I. Alan:It was very exciting to make this particular song because for the first time we use a really giant symphony orchestra of 95 pieces all playing at the same time. It was tremendously exciting for all of us concerned to have that number of people involved on one of our own efforts. The orchestra was conducted by Andrew Powell.
The result is one of the best orchestrated songs the Project ever made. The song opens and closes as a ballad with Eric Woolfson singing. The middle piece however is an enormous energetic sequence using the full capability of the symphonic orchestra.

The next track, the straightforward rocker You're Gonna Get You're Fingers Burned which opens the B-side of the album stands in strong contrast with the closer of the A-side and shows the diversity of Eye in the Sky. The vocals are done by Lenny Zakatek. The song was often used as an encore during Alan's concerts in the nineties.

Psychobabble is one of those APP tracks with an extremely simple but effective bass line. Combined with the raw vocals of Elmer Gantry and the spooky middle piece with the wailing sirens made this another APP classic. The song also turned out to be a live favourite in the nineties.

Next up was another instrumental which is often used as background music in documentaries.
Alan: I don't think a Project would be a Project if it didn't have a couple of instrumental cuts. 'Mammagamma' is one such a piece. What's interesting about it is that it was almost entirely performed by a computer. It took a great deal of effort to actually program the computer to play it. During live performances Mammagamma was played as a medley with Lucifer from the Eve album, aptly retitled Luciferama.

For Step by Step a very interesting guitar sound was created for Ian Bairnson's solo. Alan got the idea to plug the guitar straight into the mixing desk without any amplification. The result was a sound which lay in between an acoustic and an electric guitar. The vocals for the song were done by Lenny Zakatek.

The vocals on Eye in the Sky were done by people who had already sung with The Project before, like Colin Blunstone (Zombies) in Old and Wise. The song became a mega-hit although it 'only' reached the 17th position in the Dutch charts in January 1983.
The song also features a string orchestra and an amazing saxophone solo by Mel Collins.

Strange enough, although three songs from the album were released on single (Eye in the Sky, Psychobabble and Old and Wise) no videos were ever made for these tracks, while the band did make certain clips for singles from the I, Robot, Pyramid and Turn of a Friendly Card albums.
Eye in the SKy became the most successful Project album ever. Especially the title track and Old and Wise are very well-known pieces from the album. The latter was often performed by various artists, like recenlty by Gary Chandler (Jadis) and Martin Orford (IQ) during a duo performance.
The album was recorded and mixed in the Abbey Road Studios where Alan has started his career in the tape library.
Alan received his 9th Grammy nomination for 'Best Engineered Recording' with The Eye in the Sky.

By the way, ever wondered why the Camel albums The Single Factor (released one month after Eye in the Sky) and Stationary Traveller sound so much like the Alan Parsons Project ? It's because some of the session musicians played in both bands in the first half of the eighties. Chris Rainbow: I think it was because Parsons and Latimer were both recording at Abbey Road Studios at that time, and Andy was impressed with the players on Alan's Project. Paton was the first conscript, then me and the others.

Paton and Chris Rainbow ended up on The Single Factor, while Mel Collins appeared with them on Stationary Traveller. Paton would later return on Dust and Dreams to do some vocals.

Written by Ed Sander

Album Reviews