The Alan Parsons Project is known for producing formula records---every album is produced and arranged in the same style and format (except maybe Tales). This can be good and bad. If you are a fan of the Parsons space/art sound, it is a very good thing. Although it can get very old, it provides a base for consistency. Eye in the Sky is the creative peak of the Project, following the format, yet giving us new songs with the great lyrics and spotless engineering of Alan Parsons.
In the Parsons tradition, it opens with a short, upbeat instrumental. “Sirius” is a timeless classic, featuring the trademark intricate clean guitar, which often plays at sports events (along with “We Are the Champions” and “Welcome to the Jungle”). This falls into the background as the lead crests into a climactic solo. Soon it all diminishes into a four beat chord progression, the guitar being the only instrument playing at the end of the piece. The next piece in the Parsons mold would be the main radio hit (while there may be many depending on the album), the single, which is in this case “Eye in the Sky”. This is a song you can really get your teeth in, from the open, clean tone singing of Eric Woolfson to the trademark electric piano. This is truly a space rock masterpiece.
The next big radio hit (kind of out-of-form) is “Children of the Moon”. This song is sung by the guy who sings “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” on I, Robot (the guy with the lisp). The Project uses great melodies and lyrical hook to catch the listener’s eye:
“Pay no attention to the writing on the wall / The words seem empty because there’s nothing there at all / We let the wiseman beat the drums too soon / We were just children of the moon”
“Gemini” showcases excellently arranged background harmonies. It’s a short, mellow tune with a pedal steel guitar. The next track is the best of the record. “Silence And I”. Definitely a prog song, it features a full orchestra, several key changes, and a catchy minor chord progression. It starts out a depressing (formula!) ballad in a key similar to “Hotel California”, but a new dimension is added as the orchestra steps in with a 2 minute spotlight feature with a major-to-minor key change. This is as progressive as the Project will ever be after this. Then the depressing ballad steps back in. Eric Woolfson’s vocals fit the picture of a ponderous loner.
The tone changes into the pompous “Don’t Get Your Fingers Burned”. Definitely a classic rock track, along the lines of the Eagles (“Life In the Fast Lane”) and Bad Company. “Psychobabble” is a great song, featuring a nice bass line from David Paton, who rarely played anything noticeable along the lines of technicality. This track sort of reminds me of The Who. Next is “Mammagamma”, the second instrumental (format: compare to “Nucleus” on I, Robot and “Hyper-Gamma Spaces” on Pyramid) which sounds oddly disco. Longer and better structured than “Sirius”, this piece carries on a rhythmic background before cresting into a guitar melody. It ends up settling into a nice funky groove at the end.
Next is another ballad (format) sung by a singer I call ‘guy with lisp #1’, “Step By Step”. Great vocal casting by Parsons and Woolfson. The record closes with another ballad, “Old and Wise”, which is sung by the calm chords of ‘guy with lisp #2’ (the guy who sings “Some Other Time” on I, Robot). A great closing track.
Eye in the Sky is a great addition to every Parsons fan’s collection, Floyd fan’s collection, or any rock fan’s collection. Not the cream of the Parsons crop, but a great work nonetheless. The production is perfect---it’s a very structured, well-written/performed record, very consistent. You know what to expect from any Parsons record.