Top critical review
"How much longer is this going on, sonny?"
on 20 March 2013
I was - and still am - a big fan of Alan Parsons, ever since a German pal gave me `Tales of Mystery & Imagination' as a present over twenty years ago. (Where are you now Thomas Asmalsky?) I possess all his studio albums as well as those for the Alan Parsons Project. But `A Valid Path' is, for me, the wrong road to take.
First, the positives. As one would expect the sound quality on this CD is fantastic. You cannot deny Parsons's genius as a producer, which he has extended this time almost wholly into the world of electronica. In the sleevenotes that accompany the triple-CD `The Essential Alan Parsons Project', released in 2006 (two years after `A Valid Path'), Parsons is quoted as saying about it that, "The industry is changing and I feel the need to capture a different kind of audience whilst still keeping my identity." So those expecting amore traditional Parsons album are going to be disappointed. I have nothing against electronica per se, so long as the result inspires and entertains. But with `A Valid Path', I started to get bored.
`A Valid Path' runs for forty-nine minutes. There are nine tracks, five of which are instrumentals. The longest are the opening (nine minutes) and closing (eight minutes) tracks, both instrumentals. Two tracks refer directly to former work by the APP: track three is a tightened up version of `Mammagamma' from the `Eye in the Sky' album probably went down well on the dance-floor but is not as good as the original, whilst track seven - `A Recurring Dream Within a Dream' - is another that does not improve on the originals (including `The Raven') from the `Tales of Mystery & Imagination' album. However, this reworking does have some interest, but is all beat with no depth.
There are only three `traditional' songs in the set: `More Lost Without You', which only highlights that Parsons's production is better than his composition; `We Play the Game', on which Parsons himself sings the lead vocals (but I would advise him not to give up his day job!); and `You Can Run', which is nothing special.
I do not want to appear too negative, but there is precious little to be positive about apart from David Gilmour's playing on the opening `Return to Tunguska', which is (as usual) exemplary. `Tijuanic' sounds more like a jamming session, coming from nowhere and going nowhere too, in the meantime playing with the dynamics that may disturb your neighbours. `L'Arc on Ciel' is probably great for driving on the motorway but has very little else to recommend it.
I am reduced to the prospect of only giving three stars to an Alan Parsons album. So, I am afraid I must agree with John Cleese (sic!) at the end of `Chomolungma', which is also the end of the album. Here, prior to letting us hear the sound of his barking dog, Parsons includes a commentary from Cleese, in which the latter exasperatingly asks Parsons "How much longer is this going on ... sonny?" Alas, the answer is `too long'.