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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

ALAN PARSONS PROJECT - TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (UMC/Virgin 3 x CD, 2 x LP, Blu Ray Box Set).

They don’t make records like this anymore. Originally released in 1976 on the “famous” Charisma label and and part of Prog Rock’s last stand against the oncoming tidal wave of late 70s Punk and Metal/Heavy Rock bands, The Alan Parsons Project’s debut album Tales Of Mystery And Imagination will soon be reissued as a lavish 40th Anniversary deluxe edition box set. Recorded at Abbey Road with a budget that modern day Prog bands can only dream of, Tales Of Mystery And Imagination comprises of eleven tracks based on the works of the great American gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe and at the time was remarkable in its ambition and execution as well as in its uniqueness as Alan Parsons, previously known as an engineer and producer, and Eric Woolfson orchestrated an ever-changing line-up of crack session players and vocalists that included actor/singer Leonard Whiting, John Miles, Terry Sylvester (Graham Nash’s replacement in The Hollies) and the great Arthur Brown. For the princely sum of around £70 you get 3 x CDs, 1 Blu-Ray with a 5.1 surround sound mix from the original multi-tracks and remastered 2 x vinyl LPs plus a 60-page coffee table book with photographs and new interviews about the making of the album, an original album poster, replica 1976 press kit and tape-man sticker. The 3 CDs present the original 1976 mix, the 1987 remix with narration by Orson Welles plus a whole CD of over 70 minutes of previously unreleased bonus material.

Musically, the album is very much of it’s time………………..mid 70s Pop Prog in the lush and expansive style of 10CC, Pink Floyd and Kate Bush (many of the musicians on this album played on The Kick Inside……..a guilty pleasure down in the Psychedelic Basement, we don’t care what anyone says…….Kate Bush is a Prog Goddess). It’s beautifully produced and recorded by Alan Parsons, as you would expect from someone who had worked on Beatles and Pink Floyd albums and the record still sounds great 40 years on………. ‘A Dream Within A Dream’, ‘The Raven’ and with a tour de force vocal performance from Arthur Brown ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ have aged reasonably well after all this time, although with four decades of hindsight the epic, heavily orchestrated  instrumental, ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher (suite)’, that took up most of side 2 on the original album smacks somewhat of the excess that had blighted progressive music by the mid 70s. Now considered a “classic” album for fans of 70s Prog Rock, on it’s initial release of Tales Of Mystery And Imagination, housed in a Hipgnosis designed sleeve, Charisma no doubt saw a place for the album alongside Genesis and Peter Gabriel records but it hardly made a dent on the UK charts, although it was massive in Europe and the U.S.A. laying down the foundations for a series of successful APP albums that abandoned the intriguing, ambitious scope of their debut for something more commercial sounding. Although serious fans of this album will love this box set, it’s a blast from the past that may not be that relevant to today’s Prog and PsychHeads, but in the context that it’s music from 40 years ago, file along with The Original Soundtrack, The Snow Goose, Wish You Were Here, Then There Were Three and The Kick Inside etc, etc., all solid, inventive Pop/Prog records that still have their charms.

If you have a spare 70 quid or are looking for a Christmas present for a hardcore Alan Parsons Project fan (they exist), Tales Of Mystery And Imagination 40th Anniversary deluxe edition box set is due for release on 2/12/16.  The Blu-Ray with a 5.1 surround sound mix will be released separately on the same date by Universal and both are available from the APP website and the usual online traders (Amazon etc.).


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