In my junior year of high school way back in 1988 I discovered The Alan Parsons Project’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. My 11th grade English teacher is actually to blame…well I shouldn’t say blame. She had it on her desk and I inquired about it being that I saw the words “Edgar Allan Poe” after the title. She let me borrow the cassette and I completely fell in love with this album. I let her borrow one of my cassettes just to be fair. I gave her Slayer’s speed metal classic “Reign In Blood” to check out. I have a feeling I got the better end of the deal because she was in no way a fan of anything of Slayer’s nature.
Right from the start the first track sets the mood for the rest of the album. Orson Welles reads from Poe’s “Dream Within a Dream” which is also the name of the first track. Welles voice is perfect of course and the music has a dreamlike quality and subtle but still driving bass line which leads into “The Raven”. This track is pretty unique because Parsons actually sings on this song. Something he usually never does on any APP album. The album now takes on a progressive rock type feel and moves on into “The Tell Tale Heart” which is a more “rock” tune. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a slower song which mixes fine melody with the macabre subject matter of murdering your rival by walling them up to slowly die.
“The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” returns to the progressive rock mode and features some great vocal work by John Miles and Jack Harris. The album takes a completely different turn on “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Narrated again by Welles, the song is presented in five sections; Prelude, Arrival, Intermezzo, Pavane and Fall. The song also features some wonderful orchestral work arranged and conducted by Andrew Powell.
The last track is “To One In Paradise”, a slow and dreamlike piece of work that has that Alan Parsons Project “sound”. It’s the kind of song that can lull you to sleep as your mind harkens back to days gone by. At least that’s what it does for me.
For a debut album this is a brilliant and huge undertaking to put the feel and atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe’s work to music. The Alan Parsons Project nails it! So thanks to my 11th grade English teacher, Linda MaColl for turning me on to this incredibly awesome album and to those who haven’t encountered it yet; take a listen to some of these youtube grabs! Great October listening indeed!