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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Pop > Jazz > Adult Contemporary > Concept Album > The Alan Parsons Project – Tales Of Mystery & Imagination (Deluxe Edition CD Set)

The Alan Parsons Project – Tales Of Mystery & Imagination (Deluxe Edition CD Set)


Sound: C+/B     Music: B



It may have made a good joke in the Austin Powers films, but in real life, The Alan Parsons Project was a series of ambitious pet project albums the landmark producer Alan Parsons took on.  As part of the Progressive Art Rock movement, Parsons' list of achievements as engineer included landmark work on The Beatles Abbey Road, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and the self-titled 1974 album by The Hollies featuring the ever haunting and enduring hit, The Air That I Breathe.  At the time he was about to put Al Stewart on the map, he formed his own group and began a series of very ambitious projects.


Tales Of Mystery & Imagination (1976) was a concept album that attempted no less that to make many of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic works into music adaptations that were not Musical so much as they were grandly interpretive.  It was quite a launch and for the most part, it is an amazing album.  The tracks include:


1)     A Dream Within A Dream (Instrumental)

2)     The Raven

3)     The Tell-Tale Heart

4)     The Cask Of Amontillado

5)     (The System Of) Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether

6)     The Fall Of The House Of Usher (Instrumental – Three Parts)

7)     To One In Paradise



Exceptionally imaginative and effective, the album only appreciates in value and makes you want to read the original books.  The vocals are impressive as shared by four vocalists over the tracks, with Parsons singing through a vocoder on The Raven.  John Miles gives the most aggressive Rock vocals on The Cask Of Amontillado and (The System Of) Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether, while Arthur Brown handles The Tell-Tale Heart and Terry Sylvester gives it an almost Floydesque ending with To One In Paradise.


I really like the album and think it is one of the most underrated concept albums ever made.  For some reason, there is a shallow backlash against such works, but when people attack such albums (starting with idiotic revisionist thinking on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper) this is one of the many albums along with Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Yes’ Tales From Topographical Oceans and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk as the epitome of ambition and albums that were not afraid to be albums.  This is suddenly more important and valuable than ever in the era of MP3s.


Another thing I always compared the album to is the old radio drama days, as if it were a progression and extension of them uninterrupted by the advent of television.  That can be said of the best concept albums and their layered richness and imagination.  Parsons obviously agrees and has no less than Orson Welles participating in a variation of the original with his added narration included here as a bonus CD containing the 1987 remix of the album.  It is an interesting alternate version, but as much as I really like Welles, the music stands up just fine without it.


The sad surprise is that it sounds much better than the original 1976 version, which sounds shocking rough here despite a much cleaner, clearer and smoother 24K CD release from Mobile Fidelity (long out of print, sadly) from a decade ago.  The note4s tell us that this is from the original analog stereo magnetic master, which would be the same case with the MoFi version, but this is harsh, shrill and makes no sense why it turned out so bad.  This is also why I wish this were a 5.1 SACD, as the makers would have been forced to do a new 2-channeol mix guaranteed to be a successor to the MoFi version.


Because of this, I would recommend you hear the bonus version first so you can hear how good the album is, with its PCM 2.0 16/44.1 Stereo sound much more like it.  Even the bonus material sounds better, including the great demo versions of The Raven and never used, finalized or issued song Edgar, the Parsons/Eric Woolfson interview from 1976 (!) and Orson Welles radio spot on CD 1.  In addition to the second version of the album, there is Eric’s Guide Vocal Medley, Welles Dialogue, Sea Lions In The Departure Lounge – Sound Effects & Experiments and GBH Mix – Unreleased Experiments.  The usually excellent notes/illustrations booklet all Universal Music Deluxe Editions carry is included here.  Except for the bad sound transfer for the original album itself, this is a terrific set and still worth getting.


Considering HDCD 192kHz/24Bit editions of their follow up albums I Robot and Pyramid are in print, you’d think this would have been an SACD considering Parsons made it in 24-track, but I guess we’ll have to wait for that version sometime down the line.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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