Band members Related acts
line up x (2019)
- Ian Bairnson -- guitar
- Tom Brooks -- keyboards
- Pat Caddick -- keyboards
- Carl-Magnus Carlsson -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Vinnie Ciesielsk -- trumpet
- Vinnie Colaitua -- drums, percussion
- Todd Cooper -- sax, vocals, percussion
- Nathan East -- bass
- Andy Ellis -- keyboards, backing vocals
- Guy Erez -- bass
- Michael Fitzpatrick -- cello
- Lou Gramm - vocals
- Steve Hackett -- guitar
- Jordan Huffman - vocals
- Jefff Kollman -- guiatr
- Jared Mahone -- vocals
- Mark Mikel -- vocals
- Jason Mraz -- vocals
- P.J. Olson -- vocals
- Alan Parsons -- guitar, keyboards, vocals, percussion
- Jeff Peterson -- bass
- Angelo Pizzaro -- keyboards
- Doug Powell -- backing vocals
- Tony Rosacci -- guitar
- Jake Shimabukuro -- ukelele
- Danny Thompson -- drums, percussion
- Dan Tracey -- guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Oscar Utterstrom -- trombone
- Alan Parsons Project
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: The Secret
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: sealed; gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 30994
Hearing 2019's "The Secret" probably marked the first time I'd thought about, let alone listened to an Alan Parsons album since the mid-'90s. Not a swipe at Parsons, but when you have a stressful job and a busy family life, what little spare time you find, just doesn't lend itself to pulling out one of his records.
Alan Parson's first release since 2004's "A Valid Path", the self-produced "The Secret" was of course a concept piece. Like many Parsons projects, the plotline wasn't particularly clear, but the majority of tracks were apparently inspired by his love of magic. I found this online quote: "Magic has always been a passion of mine, I am a member of The Magic Castle in Los Angeles. I've also worked with the Japanese magic company Tenyo, writing instruction books and catalogs for their tricks. I dabble with magic myself in my free time, so an album with magical influences was a natural progression." While magic may have been the underlying theme, there didn't appear to be a cohesive plotline across the eleven tracks. Material like 'One Note Symphony', 'As Light Falls', 'Miracle' and 'Soiree Fantastique' all referenced the topic, but in different ways. Musically it made for a collection that was very much a throwback to prime mid-'70s Alan Parsons Project territory. As a big fan of those albums, this set readily reminded me of "I Robot", "Pyramid" and "Turn of a Friendly Card". The big difference this time around was the inclusion of some big name collaborators. Admittedly former Genesis lead guitarist Steve Hackett (lead guitar on the instrumental 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice') and former Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm (vocals on the power ballad 'Sometimes') probably didn't make much of an impact with the under twenty crowd. In contrast, Jason Mraz's participation on 'Miracle' probably did attract some under 20 attention. If I had one criticism of the album it has to do with the sheer number of big ballads. By my count there were six with side two closing with three in a row. Too many ... I guess it's a minor thing. You see the phrase "nice comeback" all the time, but I'll argue that this was the real deal for Parsons, though outside of his core fans, nobody seemed to be paying much attention. Shame. Their loss.
Secret" track listing:
1.) The Sorcerer's Apprentice (instrumental) (Paul Duka - arranged by Tom Brooks - Alan Parsons) - 5:47 rating: *** stars
Well, I'm a big fan of "Fantasia" and I like Steve Hackett era Genesis. That said, this collaboration on a cover/reinterpretation of Paul Duka's classic composition just didn't do much for me. It might have something to do with the images of Mickie Mouse and marching brooms that still occasionally haunt my dreams. I will admit that the track sounded amazing on a pair of quality headphones, or good '70s speakers.
2.) Miracle (Guy Erez - Andy Ellis - Alan Parsons) - 3:25 rating: **** stars
I'll admit I wasn't expecting much from a collaboration with Jason Mraz - Shame on me for being a skeptic. Mraz's lightweight voice was a perfect compliment to this breezy, radio-friendly pop ballad. And the damn refrain was like aural crack cocaine. Hard to believe it didn't return Parson's to the top-40. Oh wait; there was no mindless rap segment and no auto tuning ... I found brief interviews with Parsons and Mraz where they talked about recording the tune.
“I met Jason two years ago through a neighbor who grows coffee on his ranch. Jason wanted to grow coffee himself and our neighbor, Jay was kind enough to introduce us since we had mutual musical interests. For 'Miracle’, Jason recorded his vocals in Dallas while I listened in Santa Barbara and we sent files back and forth, resulting in this song. Thus proving that you don't necessarily have to be in the same studio with someone to create music." - Parsons
"I loved it. It sounded like a song right off of 'Eye In The Sky'. As if no time had passed, proving time might just be a construct after all" - Mraz
3.) As Lights Fall (Dan Tracey - Alan Parsons)- 3:59 rating: **** stars
With Parsons handling lead vocals, I had to wonder why he was always reluctant to take the spotlight. He certainly sounded good to my ears. Musically 'As Lights Fall' was very much a sonic throwback, recalling the sound and feel of his mid-'70s catalog. Hopefully the lyrics weren't meant to be taken literally - "this will be my last call ..." Parsons even did a cute, career spanning promotional video for the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qImCjQ4K988
4.) One Note Symphony (Alan Parsons - Todd Cooper - Tom Brooks) - 4:43 rating: **** stars
'One Note Symphony' should send science and space geeks into aural ecstasy. Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the title is based on the Schumman Resonance which is the universal sound the Earth makes as it travels through space - 7.83 hertz (you can hear the tone at the start of the song). With Todd Clark on lead vocals, musically the song reflects a classic Parsons arrangement and song structure. It could easily have fit on "I Robot". The spoken word snippet is a nice nod to author Arthur C. Clarke with the words "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" nicely tying the track back to the "magic" theme). YouTube has a promotional video featuring Parsons and company performing the tune with the Israel Philharmonic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kaGwuGwsZQ
5.) Sometimes (Pat Caddick - Alan Parsons) - 5:08 rating: ** stars
Having recovered from prolonged health issues, admittedly former Foreigner front man Lou Gramm sounded quite good on 'Sometimes'. A big, somewhat anonymous, radio-friendly power ballad, the tune would not have sounded out of place on a Foreigner album. It actually wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Billy Joel album. The problem wasn't Gramm's instantly recognizable voice (though he sounded like he was trying to make up for not liking the tune by powering his way through the performance), rather the bland and forgettable song ...
1.) Soiree Fantastique (Todd Cooper - Doug Powell - Tom Brooks - Alan Parsons) - 5:27 rating: **** stars
Beautiful ballad with nice, if somewhat stereotype French musical touches - Paris back street accordion flourishes... Todd Cooper's finest moment and worth hearing for the gorgeous vocal harmonies ...
2.) Fly To Me (Mike Mikel - Jeff Kollman - Alan Parsons) - 3:45 rating: **** stars
The ballad 'Fly To Me' featured Mike Mikel (of Dark Ocean Colors and The Pillbugs fame) on lead vocals. Initially the track struck me as yet another pretty, but forgettable ballad, but after a couple of spins it struck me that Mikel's performance bore more than a passing resemblance to John Lennon with the guitar solo reflecting kind of a George Harrison vibe. Extra star for the first rate influences.
3.) Requiem (Todd Cooper - Doug Powell - Bob Cooper - Alan Parsons) - 4:02 rating: *** stars
'Requiem' found Parsons and company dipping their toes into a big band arrangement ... Another one that initially didn't do a great deal for me. Echoes of Michael Buble crossed with the late George Michaels ... It actually sounded like it was written for some kind of movie soundtrack. And while it isn;t my favorite performance, I'll admit that Todd Cooper turned in a killer vocal on this one.
4.) Years of Glory (P.J. Olson - Alan Parsons) - 4:05 rating: **** star
Olson's inspiration for 'Years of Glory' came at least partially from the loss of his son. Knowing that, as a parent I found the song almost painful to listen to. The song was stunning beautiful with Todd Cooper's sax solo reminding me of a good Al Stewart song. The subject matter is one of those life events we all pray we never have to endure ... Longtime Parsons sidekick Ian Bairnson provided the blazing guitar solo.
5.) The Limelight Fades Away (Jordan Huffman - Dan Tracey - Alan Parsons) - 3:36 rating: *** stars
And just when I thought I'd gone into ballad overload the chorus of 'The Limelight Fades Away' hit my headphones. Nice AOR tune that had quite a bit of radio potential. Can't say I know much about Huffman other than he toured with Parsons and is Parsons' son in law.
6.) I Can't Get There From Here (Patrick Johnson - David Russo - Jared Mahone - Alan Parsons) - 4:38 rating: *** stars
Johnson apparently wrote the song after Parsons and long time collaborator Eric Woolfsen ended their partnership. It then made it into his film "5-25-77" (the day the original "Star Wars" film was released). This version featured Jared Mahone who sure sounded like The Zombies Colin Blunstone. Another sweet ballad which sadly pushed me over the edge into a diabetic coma. Built largely on clips from Johnson's film, there's a video for the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciptb2f8Awo
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