I Robot
Eye In The Sky

The Alan Parsons Project

As producer and sound shaper of various Beatles and Pink Floyd albums, including Abbey Road and The Dark Side Of The Moon, Alan Parsons probably knows everything about the latest developments in high definition digital sound. And with that knowledge, you would expect him to be overly keen on remastering and reissuing the rich and diverse catalog bearing his own name to the highest standards possible. At the moment, we can’t rejoice in a surround sound montage from The Alan Parsons Project, but the first ten albums Parsons and singer/lyricist Eric Woolfson made are getting the restoration red carpet treatment as sonically revamped, expanded editions. As each release filters out over the coming months, two of the most successful titles of the batch are available now: 1977’s I Robot and 1982’s Eye In The Sky.

Based loosely on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, Parsons and Woolfson aimed for the old human versus artificial intelligence concept on I Robot, their second album together. The hits gave the record wings, but the meticulous, almost orgasmic production ingrained a profound thump that validated its place in the pantheon of well-structured, conceptual works of art. The opening title track jumps out like a Pink Floyd stealth bomb, taking your mind on a trip (headphones are highly recommended) before lightening up with “I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You,” sounding as delicious as you can imagine. Different tones and shades for each and every track is the idea — breezy acoustic guitars and orchestration for “Some Other Time,” a funky rock beat for “Breakdown,” baroque melancholy for “Don’t Let It Snow.”

Still, others like “Nucleus” zone in on the intuitive ear of Parsons as a producer and engineer. “Total Eclipse” and “Genesis Ch.1 V.32” are thicker and denser as Parsons builds a hotbed of ethereal ambience with a choir and orchestra. The expanded I Robot features five additional tracks from Woolfson’s archive, mostly instrumental mixes of original songs. The zip of “Boules (I Robot Experiment)” and Floydish embroilment of “The Naked Robot” — both outtakes of the title track — are sub-woofer wet dreams, force fields where no iPod would ever dare to tread.

Five years later, Parsons and Woolfson unleashed Eye In The Sky, a look at life under a watchful eye. The team of singers and musicians, which includes Zombies’ vocalist Colin Blunstone and saxophonist Mel Collins, are calculating and in sync as ever, although considerably less foreboding than they were on I Robot. Consequently, Eye In The Sky illuminates its subject in an engaging and sumptuous manner. The title track is The Project’s biggest hit single, peaking at number three. It is proceeded, in grand fashion, by "Sirius," a swirling and ear-tingling instrumental.

The range isn’t too severe, as each sequence is smoothly executed and mapped to the standard of the day, which, at the time, was insipid, sterile, and overtly catering to the masses. That isn't to say that “Silence And I,” “Psychobabble,” “Mammagamma,” and “Old And Wise” aren't steaming with magical flourishes and dashes of brilliance that deserve recognition. Taken as a whole — which is the only way you can fully appreciate a record form The Alan Parsons Project — Eye In The Sky is certainly worth looking into. But hold your applause because the expanded edition has six extra songs made up of demos and outtakes. Naturally, a couple of Parson’s long-form instrumentals made the grade. “The Naked Eye” is a musical collage that combines riffs and bits of each of the album’s songs. “Eye Pieces” is another collage, this time with an orchestra and choir. It’s extras like these that provide a fuller picture of the artist and his capabilities. Altogether, the reintroduction of classic Alan Parsons Project albums provides a closer and more accurate examination of a musical collective destined to leave a lasting imprint.

~ Shawn Perry

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