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More Tales, But No Mystery and Little Imagination
on 27 December 2012
This is a review of the shorter (forty-seven minute) studio album, but all the tracks featured here also appear on the longer `musical' album in some shape or form. Some of these songs also feature on the late Eric Woolfson's last collection, the imaginatively titled `Eric Woolfson Sings the Alan Parsons Project That Never Was.'
This album opens with an instrumental in the shape and style of former Alan Parsons Project (APP) albums, but beyond that there is unfortunately precious little to merit this CD as a worthy successor to the original 1970s APP `Tales of Mystery & Imagination'. This is partly because it has been really conceived from the start not for the studio but for the stage.
Having said that, there is still a lot here to admire, in particular Woolfson's arrangement of two of his songs for choir. The first of these, `The Bells', takes Poe's poem word for word to create a well-conceived and well-arranged crescendo; the second, `Goodbye To All That' also works well as a song, despite it seemingly having very little to do with Poe's life and work.
But Woolfson's arrangement of Poe's story `The Pit and the Pendulum' is crass. Reminding me of amateur Deep Purple, the arrangement objectifies the story rather than makes us empathetic with the horror. The following `The Murders In The Rue Morgue' is certainly clever and can be admired for its lyrics, but its format clearly betrays a stage-musical setting.
The last song, `Immortal' is arguably the best, but it receives a far better rendition with Woolfson's own voice on the aforementioned `Eric Woolfson Sings the Alan Parsons Project That Never Was' album. (I give it five-stars in my review of that CD.) On this album, though, the lead vocalist is someone called Steve Balsamo. His is a good strong voice but it lacks subtlety; it is a stage voice.
Because of the stage-musical feel to this album, it lacks the frisson of the macabre that imbued the original APP album back in the 1970s. There is nothing like the darkness to be found in Alan Parsons's production of `The Raven', for instance, or `The Tell-Tale Heart', `The Cask Of Amontillado', or `The Fall Of The House Of Usher'. (I consider the original `Tales of Mystery & Imagination' to be the best that the Alan Parsons Project ever did.) Instead, Woolfson's solo part two is tame and folksy.
Woolfson's CD, then, possesses some competently-performed, well-written songs. They come with a competent production but lack Alan Parsons's innovation, imagination, and finesse. The package comes with generous sleevenotes.