Parsons, Alan - The Time Machine

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Miramar
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:41:00

Having been a fan of the Alan Parsons Project for some time, I'm interested everytime I hear he's produced another release. This time was no exception. However, most of the first third of the album is rather uninspiring, rather generic pop rock beautifully produced. "Call Up" is a suggestion that it is time to bring back some of the millennium's dead - Einstein, Presley, Keats, and even, yes, Jesus (though, um, that was two millennia ago). A listen to this song will bring to mind both Paul McCartney's "Let Em In" (if it were sung by Stevie Wonder) and Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire," without the fire.

Many vocalists participate in this project called The Time Machine, including Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, Maire Brennan of Clannad, and Beverley Craven. On "Call Out" it's Neil Lockwood, with whom I'm not familiar. There's also a blues-gospel feel to this track, a nice sounding brass section, but ... well, that's what the song is - nice. It has no teeth, and otherwise passed by unremarkably.

The title track comes in two parts, opening and closing the disk. Both sections are instrumental and recall a techno Tangerine Dream. Although it sounds nice, the processed high-hat sounds way too processed, too precise, flattening the track. It's well produced, of course, and the orchestral parts make this track much better than it would otherwise be. The track does contain a sense of movement, suggesting we are moving through time ... like we're watching the Guardian of Forever display the passage of time for us - for those non-Trekker's, that's a reference to the classic episode "The City On The Edge Of Forever." In fact, a look at the cover will reveal a picture of the Enterprise D (Star Trek: The Next Generation). Also getting "name checks" are The Time Tunnel, Dr. Who, and Back To The Future among others.

Interestingly enough - maybe I never noticed before - Parsons actually penned only one track on this album ("Temporalia") and plays on only two (same again and "No Future In The Past"). The other writers on this album are Stuart Elliot (penning 4) and Ian Bairnson (penning 7).

"Ignorance Is Bliss" has recaptured that smooth, slow song played on soft rock or soft hits radio ... which may a uniquely American thing. Lights low, radio playing, just you and your guy, slow dancing. Does that even happen anymore? It sounds great, it's a nice song, but ... oh so saccharine. And yet ... with lyrics that suggest a place of peace - safe from the outside world - this sounds all very perfect. Great for coming home after a stressful day... in fact, as the song closes, you'll think of Bread's "If."

I'm finding the instrumental "Rubber Universe" one of the more interesting tracks - there's diversity in its sound. Keyboard washes, jiving guitar, jazzy bass, driving percussion ... think a jazzier version of The Who's "Eminence Front." It's all multi-instrumentalist Ian Bairnson except for the drums, which are Stuart Elliot. There's a good sax solo here, too, that is maybe a mite too squeaky.

This kicks off the more interesting middle third or so of the album, and is followed by the haunting, ethereal "Call of The Wild" which features the vocals of Maire Brennan ... as expected, her tones are warm, inviting. While its message is familiar: "we are all of one nation, all of one creed/We are all out of nature, all of one seed..." it says quite a bit about ourselves that we keep having to remind ourselves of these things. "But those who believe we are head of the chain/May wake up to find we're all that remain." Simple and yet profound. Think about this for a good, long while.

"No Future In The Past" has an almost modern country feel to it, without the twang. It also features great harmonies by Lockwood, Chris Rainbow, and Elliot; Lockwood sounds like a less country Garth Brooks (and I don't mean "Chris Gaines"). One of the few tracks with a bit of life to it, it'll make you both sing along and tap your toes. And, it's one of the few with a more modern sound to it - odd in an album that is often looking back.

Squeeze meets Billy Joel is how I hear "Press Rewind." Vocals here are by Graham Dye, who during the verses has a circa-78-Joel tone to his voice; and during the choruses, the track takes on a very quirky Squeeze like feel.

Make no mistake, this is far from being a bad album, and over time even the first third will grow on me. This is worth getting for that middle third alone; the final tracks fall somewhere in between.

The Time Machine (part 1) (5:08) / Temporalia (1:10) / Out of the Blue (4:59) / Call Up (5:13) / Ignorance Is Bliss (6:49) / Rubber Universe (3:59) / The Call Of The Wild (5:33) / No Future In The Past (4:48) / Press Rewind (4:15) / The Very Last Time (3:40) / Far Ago And Long Away (5:14) / The Time Machine (part 2) (1:53)

Ian Bairnson - guitars, saxophones (4 5), bass (7, 11), keyboards (3, 7, 11), mandolin (6), backing vocals (10) and string arrangement (10)
Colin Blunstone - vocals (5)
Maire Brennan - vocals (7)
Richard Cottle - keyboards (1, 11)
Beverley Craven - vocals (10)
Graham Dye - vocals (9)
Stuart Elliot - keyboards, drum programming, percussion (3) drums, and additional vocals (8)
John Gilbin - bass
Tony Hadley - vocals (3)
Neil Lockwood - vocals (4, 8)
Alan Parsons - keyboards (2) and organ (8)
Chris Rainbow - backing vocals (3, 5, 8)
Robyn Smith - keyboards (3, 4, 8) and piano (5, 10)
(plus additional musicians)

Alan Parsons Project:
Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Alan Poe (1975)
I Robot (1977/2001)
Pyramid (1978)
Eve (1979)
Turn of A Friendly Card (1980)
Eye In The Sky (1982)
The Best of... (1983)
Ammonia Avenue (1984)
Vulture Culture (1985)
Sterotomy (1985)
Gaudi (1987)
The Best of... Vol 2 (1988)
The Instrumental Works (1988)
Anthology (1996)

Alan Parsons Band:
Try Anything Once (1993)
The Very Best live (1995)
On Air (1996)
The Time Machine (1999)
A Valid Path (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: October 26th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1379
Language: english


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