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Alan Parsons - The Secret

Alan Parsons
The Secret
by Santiago Puyol at 11 June 2019, 6:13 PM

There are artists who do not need introduction; Alan Parsons is one of them. A giant of Prog, one of the big names on the more pop rock side of the genre, producer (including engineering work on emblematic albums like "Abbey Road" and "The Dark Side of the Moon" or more recently “The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)” by Steven Wilson), and multi-instrumentalist. Parsons also counts almost two dozen studio albums upside down between his band ALAN PARSONS PROJECT and his solo records, plus numerous live and compilation releases.

"The Secret" is his first studio album in fifteen years, and the fifth official studio release he has made as a soloist. Faithful to the most impeccable side of his pop sensibilities, this is a nostalgic record that appeals to a sound rooted in the 80's and 90's, without ever coming off as outdated. The album opens with a splendid rendition of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", a symphonic poem by Paul Dukas that some will remember for its presence in Disney's film Fantasia. With Steve Hackett from GENESIS as guest on guitar, this pompous cover serves as an overture, being the only instrumental here, and distancing itself from the rest of the album that opts for a more Soft Rock path, even while retaining several of the elements presented in this long introduction.

One of the most interesting tricks of the album, which prevents it from becoming boring even when some songs are a little similar, is the use of multiple vocalists to provide different tonalities in the vocal melodies. "Miracle" feels like a pop ballad from the eighties, something that perfectly suits the sweet voice of Jason Mraz, while the robotic effects on Todd Cooper's vocals in "One Note Symphony" accompany the dramatic and tense sound reminiscent of the most psychedelic moments of THE VERVE or OASIS.

The use of many vocal harmonies, playing between voices and orchestrated instrumentation, all contribute to provide a sophisticated sound to these little pop gems. "Soirée Fantastique" is a perfect example of the use of background vocals to generate an interesting dynamic. The use of accordion gives a fairytale-like touch to the song as well. An interesting chord progression that leads to a powerful chorus turns "Years of Glory" into a song that makes you wander. P.J. Olsson's airy voice and the beautiful cello melody in the intro are other details that bring this track to life.

The album's warm and friendly production is another of its great strengths. Some decisions, like the fuzzy tone of the guitar solo in "Sometimes" or the layering of acoustic and electric guitars in "As Lights Fall" to create an enveloping atmosphere, are clear examples of how songwriting can be enhanced with small details. "Requiem" is one of the big surprises in "The Secret", with a very jazzy, almost show tune-like sound. Todd Cooper stands out in vocals as in the epic sax soloing throughout this song, being a highlight of the album. The 1:48 minute bass breakdown is extremely fun, with everything and fingersnaps!

The album closes with the power ballad "I Can't Get There from Here", intimate and powerful. Jared Mahone's soulful voice swings between the piano, orchestra, synthesizer and rock band melodies. It is a perfect ending to the album with the fade-out making it feel like it could last forever. All in all, it might not be Parsons’ best album, and it is definitely one you should stay away if Soft Rock is not your thing. Nevertheless, “The Secret” has many charms and is certainly worthy of attention.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
2. Miracle
3. As Lights Fall
4. One Note Symphony
5. Sometimes
6. Soirée Fantastique
7. Fly to Me
8. Requiem
9. Years of Glory
10. The Limelight Fades Away
11. I Can’t Get There from Here
Lineup:
Alan Parsons – Guitars, Synth, Keyboards, Vocals
Jason Mraz – Vocals
Todd Cooper – Vocals, Saxophone
Lou Gramm – Vocals
Mark Mikel – Vocals
P.J. Olsson – Vocals
Jordan Asher Huffman – Vocals
Jared Mahone – Vocals
Steve Hackett – Guitar
Jeff Kollman – Guitar
Dan Tracey – Guitar
Tony Rosacci – Guitar
Ian Bairnson – Guitar
Andy Ellis – Synth, Keyboards
Tom Brooks – Synth, Keyboards
Dan Tracey – Synth, Keyboards
Pat Caddick – Piano
Angelo Pizzaro – Piano
Nathan East – Bass
Guy Erez – Bass
Jeff Peterson – Bass
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums
Danny Thompson – Drums
Carl Sorensen – Drums
Michael Fitzpatrick – Cello
Record Label: Frontiers Records
     


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Edited 19 June 2019
 

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