“Audiophiles don’t use their equipment to listen to your music. Audiophiles use your music to listen to their equipment.”
– Alan Parsons
Alan Parsons AKA ‘the man with the golden touch’. His production and engineering works have been hailed as legendary by musicians and his fellow sound engineers. His meticulous style of capturing minute details, clarity, and also the vibe during the recording process reflects in some of the most important albums in history.
In our new series, World’s Greatest Sound Engineers, we will feature legendary international sound engineers.
First up the man with an ‘Eye In The Sky’ – Alan Parsons.
Term him old school but Parsons doesn’t believe that the use of technology is the end goal of recorded music. To achieve the best possible sound, he goes at lengths for a particular song, Parsons believes that focusing too much on the recording technology can produce a song devoid of emotional connection.
“I think that great records come from great moments and not great equipment.”
– Alan Parsons
The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Let it Be’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Atom Heart Mother’, and Al Stewart’s ‘Year of the Cat’, are just a few of the albums Parsons recorded.
The George Martin Influence
Born in Britain on December 20, 1948, Alan Parsons studied piano and flute as a child. He played the guitar in his early teens as a soloist as well as with various bands at school. But it were the gadgets that intrigued him the most.
One of his first jobs was at an EMI tape duplication facility in West London. During his time here, he got to experience the master tape recording of the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album which made him determined to become a recording engineer. Parsons soon landed a post at the then not-so-celebrated Abbey Road Studios.
“I was 17 and just learning what high fidelity was, what good sound was, and learning the mechanics of tape machines. It was a real education, going right from the consumer end to the record factory.”
– Alan Parsons
Under producer George Martin’s tutelage, he garnered invaluable experience on the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ album, and also participated in the famous Apple rooftop session. He also worked with the Beatles on their Abbey Road album. The recording and production techniques he learned from Martin and the Beatles would serve as the foundation for his later endeavours.
Parsons had already made his mark with the Fab Four, although he was only an assistant engineer at that time. Even after the Beatles split, he went on to work as a full-blown engineer with Paul McCartney on his solo albums like ‘McCartney’, ‘Wings Wild Life’ and ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and also the singles ‘Hi Hi Hi’ and ‘C Moon’.
Parsons then worked on a number of hits with The Hollies like ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ and ‘The Air That I Breathe’.
The ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ Milestone
“The Dark Side of the Moon is a fine album with a textural and conceptual richness that not only invites, but demands involvement. There is a certain grandeur.”
– Alan Parsons
His reputation was totally solidified with his engineering work on Pink Floyd’s legendary ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, which earned him the first of his staggering 13 Grammy nominations. Parsons’ work with Pink Floyd was the defining moment in his career. It gave him the confidence to become a producer and he went on to produce albums for the Hollies, Al Stewart, Cockney Rebel, Pilot, and Olivia Newton- John, among others.
It was during this period that Parsons met singer-songwriter and producer Eric Woolfson and went on to form ‘The Alan Parsons Project’. Woolfson donned the lyricist’s role while Parsons was on his home ground with the music, engineering, and production. The Alan Parsons Project’s ‘Tales of Mystery’ and ‘Imagination’ were released in 1976 after nearly two years of effort. The seminal progressive rock albums which The Alan Parsons Project released are exceptional for their wide ranging approach to songwriting, arrangements and production.
The Project featured a wide range of lead vocalists (including Woolfson) on songs with long, lushly orchestrated instrumental passages and immaculate production.
The Alan Parsons Project soon signed a contract with the record label Arista. The Project went on to release eight Top 40 singles including ‘Games People Play’, ‘Don’t Answer Me’, ‘Time’, and ‘Eye in the Sky’ and seven Top 40 albums, as well as several Grammy nominations.
The Alan Parsons Legacy
Parsons, who is also a renowned vocalist, keyboardist, bassist and guitarist, has been highly praised for the group’s classic albums such as ‘I Robot’, ‘Pyramid’, ‘The Turn Of A Friendly Card’, and ‘Tales Of Mystery’ and ‘Imagination’.
Alan Parsons has been nicknamed as the ‘Hitchcock’. He has played many cameos on the guitar or keyboard and contributing an odd vocal here and there.
Parsons’ most recent project is British rocker Steven Wilson’s new album ‘The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)’. He served exclusively in an engineering capacity for the critically-acclaimed progressive rock disc. Parsons was also chosen because of Wilson’s desire to record his band performing live in the studio and sound just like the old days.
More recently, Parsons has begun exploring the world of electronic music with the album A Valid Path. The album features a number of leading names in the genre including The Crystal Method, Shpongle, and Uberzone. The album also features a guest appearance by Pink Floyd guitarist, David Gilmour.
Did you know?
A long-standing fan of Alan’s Music, Mike Myers as Austin Powers in ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’ decided to name his Dr Evil character’s Death Ray “The Alan Parsons Project”.