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Alan Parsons (UK) - 1999 - "The Time Machine"
(56 min, "HoriPro")


****+
Tracklist:
1. HG Force I 4:55 (inst.)
2. Temporalia 1:01 (inst.)
3. Out of the Blue 4:56 
4. Call Up 5:15
5. Ignorance Is Bliss 6:46
6. Rubber Universe 3:52 (inst.)
7. The Call of the Wild 5:23
8. No Future In the Past 4:46
9. Press Rewind 4:21
10. The Very Last Time 3:42
11. Far Ago & Long Away 5:15 (inst.)
12. HG Force II 1:47 (inst.)
Bonus track:
13. Beginnings* 4:31 (inst.)

All tracks by Ian Bairnson,
except 1, 8, 9, & 12: by Stuart Elliott;
& 2 - by Alan Parsons.

13*: previously unreleased
(exclusive for Japan only) - by Elliott & Parsons.

Orchestral arrangements
by Andrew Powell - on 1, 5, 7, & 11.
String arrangements on 10 - by Ian Bairnson.

Line-up:

Ian Bairnson - guitars; keyboards; saxophone
Stuart Elliott - drums & percussion; keyboards
Robyn Smith - keyboards & piano
John Giblin - bass 
Alan Parsons - organ

With: London's Philharmonic Orchestra
- conducted by Andrew Powell

Guest musicians:

Neil Lockwood - lead vocals - on 4 & 8
Colin Blunstone - lead vocal - on 5
Tony Hedley (of Spandau Ballet) - on 3
Maire Brennan (of Clannad) - on 7 & vocalize - 
Beverley Craven - on 10
Graham Dye - on 9
Chris Rainbow - on 3, 5, 8 (backing vocals)
With:
Richard Cottle - additional keyboards - on 1, 11 & 12
Julian Sutton - melodeon
(sounds like the accordion) - on 7
Kathryn Tickell - whistle - on 7
Julia Singleton - violin - on 10
Jackie Norrie - violin - on 10
Claire Orsler - viola - on 10 
Dinah Beamish - cello - on 10

Produced & engineered by Alan Parsons.
The band recorded mainly at "Parsonics", England.
Orchestra recorded at "Olympic" studios, London.
Mastered by Chris Blair at "Abbey Road" studios.

Prologue. This Japanese edition of the latest Alan Parsons album "The Time Machine" I received from Thierry Sportouche, the editor of Acid Dragon magazine. After "The Time Machine" CD was released, Alan's permanent associates, multi-instrumentalist Ian Bairnson and drummer Stuart Elliott, who worked with him from the very beginning and since 1978 respectively, left him. As you can see above, Bairnson and Elliott were creators of this album. In that way, I am inclined to think that "The Time Machine" was the last album released under the name of Alan Parsons. Though, IMHO, all three of his latest albums: "Try Anything Else" (1993), "On Air", and the hero of this review should have been released under the vehicle of The Alan Parsons Project as well, and not under his own name. Why? IMHO, it should be clear to anyone. In any case, "The Time Machine" is the only real concept album that Parsons' Project released under the name of Alan Parsons. By the way, the keyboard player Robyn Smith is the only novice among the 'staff' members of the line-up of this album.

The Album. IMHO, the last album by The Alan Parsons Projects, "Gaudy", was the first album that was out of Project's very own stylistics laid on "I Robot". (Certainly, the debut and the best TAPP / Alan Parsons album, "Tales Of Mystery & Imagination", is very different from all of Project's further productions.) Surprisingly, unlike both of the previous 'Par-sonic' albums, "The Time Machine" is for the most part very much about that unique (really unique, whatever one may say) stylistics which was typical for The Alan Parsons Project. Musically, it is definitely better than "On Air", but is inferior to "Try Anything Else". Both compositionally and stylistically, "The Time Machine" is somewhat average between "Eye In the Sky" (1982, which, in my view, was the last excellent album by Woolfson / Parsons) and "Vulture Culture" (1984-2). Four out of the five instrumental pieces and five out of the seven songs on "The Time Machine" are filled with a distinctive spirit of The Alan Parsons Project. (I am just shooting my eye to the 1-minute temporal paradox-nonsense called Temporalia, track 2, which was 'penned' by Parsons and consists of only a couple of very slow and monotonous passages of synthesizer and narration.) All four of the following compositions: HG Force-I, Rubber Universe, HG Force-II, and the previously unreleased (bonus) track Beginnings (1, 6, 12, & 13), are much in the vein of Project's classic instrumentals, such as Lucifer, Pipeline, and Mammagamma. (Nevertheless, I would never say that they're on par with Project's classic instrumental pieces.) By the way, (guitarist) Ian Bairnson's saxophone solos are here hardly worse than those by Mel Collins. One of the five songs that remind me of those by Project, Ignorance Is Bliss (5), is a beautiful ballad, the 'origin' of which can be immediately recognized as well. The two of the four songs of the same stylistic character, Call Up and No Future In the Past (4 & 8), are very rich in sound and feature more diverse instrumental arrangements than those on Out of the Blue and Press Rewind (3 & 9). Of course, the presence of Andrew Powell and his orchestra on "The Time Machine" gives a distinctively nostalgic sound to this album as well. Well, it's time to draw attention to the three 'atypical' compositions that are present on "The Time Machine". Two of them, Call of the Wild and The Very Last Time (7 & 10), feature angelic female vocals, and Far Ago & Long Away (11) vocalizes of the same quality, etc. The latter of them represents kind of a dark space music, though a female vocalize that soars over the slow passages of synthesizers clearly reminds me of tunes of East. The Very Last Time is a ballad, which is different from the classic Project ballads both vocally and instrumentally. Here, the beautiful female vocals have a slight folksy feel to it, while instrumental arrangements are of a symphonic character and consist of diverse interplay between passages of acoustic piano and solos of various violins. Call of the Wild (7) is a wonderful song, the contents of which are about a blend of a light Classical Music and Opera. Undoubtedly, this song and two instrumental compositions, HG Force-I and Rubber Universe (1 & 6), are the best tracks on this album.

Summary. Although "The Time Machine", as well as most of Project's and 'Par-sonic' albums, is instantly accessible, the majority of the compositions that are featured on it are, nevertheless, not only beautiful and charming, but also in many ways progressive. In any case, I value the creation of The Alan Parsons Project much higher than that of most of the Neo Prog bands and almost all the performers of New Age, Ambient, etc, not to mention any sound designers and sound sculptors. (As for the latter, I very wonder what the hell they so persistently force their friendship upon the Progressive Music movement?) Finally, I'd like to mention that my rating scale is currently looking a bit differently: no more "satisfactory" albums! Here it is.

- Six stars - masterpiece: ******
- Five stars - excellent album: *****
- Four stars - good album: ****
- Three stars - mediocrity: ***
- Two stars - weak album: **
- One star - poor album: *

VM. September 27, 2002


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