On March 31, The Alan Parsons Project’s many tales of mystery and imagination will come to life anew on Arista Records and Legacy Recordings’ 11-CD box set The Alan Parsons Project - The Complete Albums Collection. This new set marks the first time that the Project’s complete discography has been assembled in one place, from 1976’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination to 1987's Gaudi. Sweetening the pot will be the first-ever release of the APP’s fifth album The Sicilian Defence.
The Complete Albums Collection follows the 2013 Legacy Edition reissue of I Robot, the APP’s 1977 sophomore effort and Arista debut. That album proved that high-concept, progressive art-rock could still impact the charts when it placed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. Further triumphs were still to come for the studio group spearheaded by producer-engineer Alan Parsons (The Dark Side of the Moon) and songwriter-executive producer Eric Woolfson, especially 1982’s Eye in the Sky. The album shot to No. 7 on the Billboard 200, the APP’s first album since I Robot to crack the Top 10, and the Woolfson-written and –sung title track made it all the way to No. 3 on the Hot 100 and the Hot AC chart.
The Scottish band Pilot provided the Alan Parsons Project with its core musicians. Ian Bairnson (guitar) played on every APP album, David Paton (bass and vocals) appeared on all albums except the 1987 swansong Gaudi, and Stuart Tosh (drums) played on Tales of Mystery and Imagination and I Robot before joining 10cc and being replaced by Stuart Elliott of Cockney Rebel. Pilot’s Billy Lyall also played keyboards on those first two APP albums. It was a bit of reciprocity at work; Parsons had produced Pilot’s debut album including the hit single “Magic,” and produced two more albums for the band as well. Vocalists on the APP albums include Woolfson, Lesley Duncan (the contemporary standard “Love Song,” recorded by artists including Elton John, Dionne Warwick, and Neil Diamond), Clare Torry (The Dark Side of the Moon), Allan Clarke of The Hollies, Colin Blunstone of The Zombies, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Lenny Zakatek, John Miles and others.
The main attraction of the new box may be an album that nobody has ever heard. The Sicilian Defence was created by Parsons and Woolfson over a three-day session at France’s Bear Studios and delivered to Arista Records in March 1981 amid tense contract negotiations between the Project and Clive Davis’ Arista label. The title derived from the name of a series of opening chess moves, which was apt considering the circumstances surrounding it. Reportedly a dissonant, atonal collection that was far-removed from what Davis expected of the band, The Sicilian Defence was shelved. The Project remained on Arista through 1987’s Gaudi, its final release. (Parsons and Woolfson resumed their collaboration on the 1990 album Freudiana, the studio cast recording of a Woolfson-composed rock opera.) An edited version of "Elsie's Theme" from The Sicilan Defence was included as a bonus track on an expanded edition of the 1979 album Eve, but the full-length track and the album from which it was derived makes its first-ever appearance as part of this box set.
After the jump: what else can you expect from The Complete Albums Collection?
All of the albums in the box set are presented in their original track listings, with no additional bonus tracks. Alas, that means fans will have to hold onto Arista/Legacy’s past reissues along with Universal’s deluxe release of Tales of Mystery and Imagination. The masters used for The Alan Parsons Project - The Complete Albums Collection were overseen by Alan Parsons (likely for previous remastered editions, though that hasn’t yet been confirmed) and each of the albums is presented in facsimile vinyl replica wallet sleeves reminiscent of those used in Legacy’s similar complete box sets. A 28-page booklet includes notes by Parsons and numerous rare and previously unpublished photographs.
The futuristic sounds of The Alan Parsons Project can be yours to own in one place on March 31 from Arista and Legacy Recordings. You can order the new box set below!
The Alan Parsons Project, The Complete Albums Collection (Arista/Legacy, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Box set contains the following original albums:
- Tales of Mystery and Imagination (20th Century Records, 1976)
- I Robot (1977)
- Pyramid (1978)
- Eve (1979)
- The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980)
- The Sicilian Defence (1981, all tracks previously unreleased except edited version of “Elsie’s Theme” previously included on Eve, Arista/Legacy, 2008)
- Eye in the Sky (1982)
- Ammonia Avenue (1984)
- Vulture Culture (1984)
- Stereotomy (1985)
- Gaudi (1987)
All albums previously released on Arista Records except where indicated.
KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says
I think I already know the answer, but does anyone know if this set will include all of the original packaging elements, like complete credits & lyrics? The majority of these box sets leave off that info, making it much less appealing to me. My APP collection consists of the '80s-pressed CDs (which actually still sound pretty good to me). I never got any of the reissues because, as far I know, those releases didn't include the lyrics (my CDs do). I will gladly buy this box set if I know that everything included in my existing CDs is reproduced AND the sound quality is improved. Hopefully someone will know the answer, or I'll have to wait until it's released. Thanks.
Bruce Padgett says
No SACD, Blu-ray, or vinyl options? Disappointing.
Well, at least Parsons did the CD remastering, and we finally get The Sicilian Defence.
Bill Janowski says
Any hope that Sicilian Defence will be released by itself?? I don't want to have to get the box just for one title I don't already have, and with no extra songs on the others, I have no use for the rest. I DO have Eye In The Sky separately - both original and the later version with extra songs, but that's about it.
Bill Janowski says
Rich, like you, I still like (and will be keeping) the original CD's as well. Apart from the unreleased album, this box set is a wallet-rape. Gee, you think they would've at least left those extra songs ON the box?? But no, that would actually be a GOOD value for the money - apparently the APP thinks otherwise.
KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) says
You're probably right, Bill, but I'll reserve judgment until the box set is released (and the price hopefully comes down). I wish some of the labels who are releasing these "complete" box sets realize that it makes sense to include as close to "everything" as possible, both with music and packaging. There's no point in cutting corners. My fingers are crossed that they'll get this right.
Bill Janowski says
BTW, I just checked my Eye In The Sky reissue - no lyrics, but it does have a nice 11-page booklet with an essay by Jerry Ewing of Classic Rock Magazine (October 2006), plus bonus material notes by Alan Parsons & Eric Woolfson. The 6 extra songs are mostly demo/alternate versions - about 35 minutes of music - so for five bucks, I think it's still a pretty good value and complements the original CD nicely.
Rich D. says
I would be willing to bet that "The Sicilian Defence" will not be available as a standalone CD - otherwise, seriously, why would any APP fan buy this box ?? Or anyone for that matter, as the remastered CD's with bonus tracks can mostly all be found for $5 or less on Amazon ! Doing the math, 10 CD's X $5 comes to a helluva lot less than $146 for a box set with one unreleased album that a casual or new fan might not even care about.......
From Wikipedia: "The Sicilian Defence was our attempt at quickly fulfilling our contractual obligation after I Robot, Pyramid and Eve had been delivered. The album was rejected by Arista, not surprisingly, and we then renegotiated our deal for the future and the next album, The Turn of a Friendly Card. The Sicilian Defence album was never released and never will be, if I have anything to do with it. I have not heard it since it was finished. I hope the tapes no longer exist."
So... maybe the potential profits from those who buy the whole box just for the one album were enough to change his mind?
I've got the remasters... right now I see no reason to buy this box.
Robert J. Spreitzer says
Not having the bonus material on the individual carried over would likely be a deal breaker for me at least in investing in the box set. Certainly interested in the Sicilian Defense album, but that it would eventually be a separate release remains to be seen.
You already bought all the AP albums on vinyl? And then again on CD? And then again in 2008 for an (not terrible, but quite average) remastering and bonus tracks? Well, then buy them all for a fourth time, just to get the SD album. With an flimsy 28-page booklet, no new remastering, no bonus tracks, and at that price (currently €82/$112 in Germany) this is a total rip-off! Just take a look at the price of similar box sets from Nilsson, E.L.O., Byrds, etc. (which all do have absolutely great remastering AND plenty of bonus tracks, btw) …
First impression of the box set, just posted on the Steve Hoffman Music Forum:
"And you are right, it [Sicilian Defense] is really not very good and immediately obvious, why the record company did not release it. It's just a mix of instrumental "demos", some on synthesizers with drum computers, some just played on a piano. There are no vocals and no other instruments, it's very basic. Some synthies sound typical for them, but it's unfinished business lasting for 39 minutes. It's maybe interesting for extreme fans who want to have everything, but it has no artistic value. Quote from Parson's in the booklet: 'I would not have believed that the album would ever be released. It's repetitiveness was the subject of some hilarity at the time.'
The original albums seem to have the same mastering of the 2008 editions - but without the bonus tracks. The thin booklet just gives the line-up on each track of each album plus few liner notes about "the Sicilian Defence". The album Sleeves have no inner bag and are just miniatures of the Vinyl covers (no inner booklet for Tales...) and they are barely readable with out a magnifier. Could have been a nice set but, they chose the cheap way instead. Probably for the option to do it again in some years time with all the bonus tracks and a real exciting booklet....."
I had the set in my hands for a quick listen, and the sound is great.
Actually, I remember at the last page of the booklet it says - remastered in 2013 by Alan Parsons (and some other chap).
The booklet is indeed a bit to the bone, but nicely put together nonetheless, with nice pictures and track-by-track credits, a piece of info that I find quite interesting and that is so rarely made available in other box sets of the kind.
No liner notes except for a page about Sicilian Defence and a last page of acknowlegments by Alan Parsons.
The packaging (carboard sleeves with original artwork but no inner sleeve) is the standard for each and every Legacy box set, so nothing new here.
I can't compare this edition with previous APP reissues, but if you enjoy APP's music and you only own a few of heir album, this is a fine sounding reissue, in my opinion.