Monday, December 7, 2009


Alan Parsons Project/1978

How many Pet Rocks does it take to build a pyramid? Such were the heavy philosophical questions being contemplated by those with expanded consciousness back in the 1970s – a time when pyramids, Pet Rocks, Rubik's Cubes and healing crystals were all the rage. While Steve Martin sang about King Tut, the Alan Parsons Project delved into the intrigue and mystery of ancient Egypt on their third concept album, Pyramid. Basically more of a partnership than a project, APP was built around the songwriting/production duo of Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson. The twosome would enlist an ever-changing lineup of guest vocalists and musicians to execute their progressive-leaning musical visions. Parsons was no stranger to success, having cut his teeth as an engineer on several albums you may be vaguely familiar with – Abbey Road and The Dark Side of the Moon – graduating to full-blown producer on a few others. Scotsman Woolfson on the other hand, introduced the world to that iconic generational anthem, “Kung Fu Fighting,” by Carl Douglas. However, it would soon become clear that Woolfson was no slouch in the songwriting/arranging/orchestrating department. After securing a huge hit with previous album I Robot, APP set their musical sights on I Mummy. Not really progressive in the grand style of, say, a Genesis or a Yes album, tracks on an APP album tended to be shorter, with ample pop hooks surrounded by smart, sophisticated arrangements and orchestrations. Pyramid is, not surprisingly, heavily influenced by the Beatles ­– it’s not hard to imagine Paul McCartney singing lead vocals on melodic tracks like "What Goes Up" or the gorgeous closing ballad "Shadow of a Lonely Man." John Lennon's more acerbic vocal take would fit quite nicely (and ironically) on "Can't Take It With You." Unfortunately, at that particular time Paul was flying high with Wings and John was preoccupied with baking bread. So, APP drafted a different cast of supporting characters, including Colin Blunestone (whose sweet voice you’ll recall singing “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” by the Zombies in the previous decade). His soft, spooky vocal performance on "The Eagle Will Rise Again," is one of the highlights of the album. Sprinkled throughout this elegantly produced prog/pop landscape are several keyboard-based instrumentals to help round out the “progressive” side of things (the MO of most APP albums). Not quite the commercial (or some might argue artistic) success of I Robot or subsequent hit-laden albums like Eye in the Sky and Turn of a Friendly Card, Pyramid lacked the heavy radio airplay of those albums and might well be considered the “lost” APP album. But for inquiring minds seeking to excavate ancient ‘70s musical artifacts, this particular Pyramid is well worth exploring. (Ed. Note: Review dedicated to the memory of Eric Woolfson, 1945-2009.)

Essential Tracks: “What Goes Up” “The Eagle Will Rise Again” “Can’t Take It With You” “Shadow of a Lonely Man”


  1. I played the crap out of this album back in 78. Ironically, I didn't recognize any of the tracks you mentioned. That means my mind was warped when I was listening to it, or my brain is fried from all the years since the last time I heard it.

  2. Great memories. I've been kicking myself for not seeing his tour this past year at DTE. Did anybody go?

  3. A really strong prog/pop album. Kind of got lost in the shuffle between I Robot and the later commercial successes (Eye In The Sky, etc.)