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The Alan Parsons Project

Arista AB 4180
Released: June 1978
Chart Peak: #26
Weeks Charted: 25
Certified Gold: 7/24/78

Eric WoolfsonAlan ParsonsI had a hard time deciding what category to file the Alan Parson Project's new album Pyramid under. Moon Rock? Space Rock? Rock Trek? What we need, I think, is a new record bin labeled "Mood Music of the Seventies" for music written, played and recorded by people who like to listen with the utmost concentration and in complete immersion -- who like, in short, to take trips.

With the release of its latest Arista disc, the Alan Parsons Project has clearly earned a top spot in this new category. The song "What Goes Up (Must Come Down)" is getting heavy and much-deserved airplay these days, and it epitomizes what engineer Parsons and co-producer Eric Woolfson can do: combine soaring, lushly orchestrated melodies, intriguing lyrics, good solo instrumental work, choral voices, and a heavy rock beat into a thoroughly absorbing musical experience. No wonder. Parsons' previous credits include the Beatles' Abbey Road, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and other highly acclaimed LP's.

The Alan Parsons Project - Pyramid
Original album advertising art.
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"What Goes Up" follows in the Moody Blues/late Beach Boys tradition, of course, but there are others just as good that won't let you down either. There's "The Eagle Will Rise Again," for instance: the words are incomprehensible -- and unimportant, for the song is almost hypnotically beautiful. "Pyramania" (that's not a misprint -- the title refers to the pyramid fad, not to fires) tongue-in-cheekily suggests that "You can keep the edge of a razor as sharp as an/ Eagle's eye, you can grow a hedge that is vertically straight/ Over ten feet high, all you really need is a pyramid and just a little luck." And the now almost conventional "I'm-a-star-but-I'm-lonely" number called "Shadow of a Lonely Man" can take its place with the best of its kind.

A tendency toward stylistic inconsistency may explain why Parsons' previous effort, I, Robot, was more a technical masterwork than a musical accomplishment: it simply failed to communicate a unified and cohesive musical idea. Only one cut on Pyramid -- "One More River" -- makes distracting noises; it aims for straight rock and ends up breaking the album's mood. But that's just a small quibble. Everything else the Project does this time out they do well. What's more, they've performed some engineering magic that fully measures up to the demands of the mood. Listen especially to the harpsichordish opening of "The Eagle Will Rise Again," or to the space-age, Ted Weems whistling of the opening and closing themes of "Can't Take It with You." There's also a tambourine accompaniment to the latter that is so realistic you can practically hear each "ping" as the metal jingles connect. The more I listen to Pyramid, the more I like it. You can't say that too often these days about anything, so light up, lay back, let go, and listen.

- Edward Buxbaum, Stereo Review, 10/78.

Bonus Reviews!

Lacking the wit and melodic appeal of last year's surprisingly successful I Robot, the Alan Parsons Project's third studio-rock oratorio is a hollow disappointment. Where I Robot was constructed on a nifty riddle -- it's cinematic space rock flaunted the technology its scenario cautioned against -- Pyramid uses the mystery of the pyramids as a jumping-off point for some bombastic musings on the vanity of human wishes and the passing of all things. Producer Parsons' aural style remains impressively three-dimensional, but given musical themes this trite and lyrics this sententious ("And the days of my life are but grains of sand/As they fall from your open hand"), the results frequently echo the kitsch soundtracks of Fifties Hollywood Biblical epics.

The album's one lively moment, "Pyramania," spoofs the recent pyramid fad in a mechanized post-Beatles style. Which suggests that the creators of Pyramid -- Alan Parsons, writer Eric Woolfson and arranger Andrew Powell -- simply chose the pyramid theme because it sounded like a commercial "head" subject, not because it particularly fascinated them.

- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 8-10-78.

All the songs on this LP were composed by Eric Woolfson along with Alan Parsons, but in the end it is pretty much Parson's hand behind the project. The man who created "I Robot" turns his musical attention to the "Pyramid, the last remaining wonder of the ancient world." As in the previous effort musicians are hired to play the instruments and sing the songs while Parsons, the engineer as well as the producer, twirls the knobs. As before, Parsons takes pop melodies and songs and then adds choirs and keyboards for a spacey sound. It is aurally interesting, and while it is neither rock'n'rolI, jazz, nor modern classical music, it is still a valid musical form and, of course, commercially viable. Best cuts: "Voyager," "In The Lap Of The Gods," "Pyramania."

- Billboard, 1978.

Even though it didn't break into the Top Ten like its predecessor, Pyramid was another hit for The Alan Parsons Project, going gold and peaking at number 26. Thematically, it was an exploration of mystic Middle Eastern myths and traditions, particularly pyramids and the like. * * *

- David Jehnzen, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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