by Jeff Niesel
If there’s anyone qualified to discuss the quality of digital downloads, it’s British producer Alan Parsons. He’s the guy who engineered Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side of the Moon. Parsons, who got his start at as an assistant engineer at the famed Abbey Road Studios, worked on the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let It Be before forming the prog rock outfit the Alan Parsons Project in 1975. Parsons makes an in-store appearance at 8 p.m. on Monday at Record Den in Mentor and then performs at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the Masonic Auditorium.
“I’m on a quest to make the MP3 go away,” he says. “Seriously. It’s unnecessarily there. There is technology there that allows the consumer a much better quality product if you would only spend a little more time downloading. Most artists are charging a premium for the high quality download. I’m going to reverse that trend and make it cheaper. My new website will have high quality downloads cheaper than MP3s. We’ll see if I can start a trend.”
Parsons was revered as a producer when he started up the Alan Parsons Project in 1975. He says it was the logical outgrowth of his work with Pink Floyd and other acts.
“I was fortunate in that I had early success as a producer,” he says. “My manager was Eric Woolfson. He advised me that I needed a manager and took me on. Very soon after that, it turned into a partnership. He started writing songs based on Poe stories and poems. We thought it would be great to make a concept album with various artists. We had no idea it would be released under the banner of Alan Parsons Project. It wasn’t my intention at the time that I would be branded. It continued to be a frustration of Eric’s that he didn’t get his name on it.”
While the Alan Parson Project’s first couple of albums circulated widely in prog rock circles, the band’s big hits didn’t come until the ’80s when the title track from Eye in the Sky found its way onto commercial radio. The current tour is being billed as a Greatest Hits tour but Parsons says he’s playing deep tracks too.
“We have one new song which has just come out as a single,” he says. “It’s called ‘Fragile.’ You mentioned the word 'deep tracks' and we play the entire piece of The Turn of a Friendly Card. It’s almost the entire side of an album. It’s hardly heard on radio, so it’s not a greatest hit. We love playing it. If we didn’t play ‘Eye in the Sky’ people would be on their way. It’s always been essentially a hits show. The band personnel has changed over the years though and we like to add a new song for a bit of variety.”
While Parsons hasn’t played in Northeast Ohio in years, he says it’s increasingly important to tour.
“With declining record sales, it’s my bread and butter really,” he says of touring. “It’s fun. I enjoy playing live as long as I’m not too long in the tooth. We’re in the final stages of editing a symphonic DVD, which was shot in Colombia. That may well be a TV broadcast as well as a Blu-ray DVD. We haven’t planned a release yet, but I’m hoping it will be this year. It was a huge outdoor free concert. The orchestra was great and the conductor was great. We had a great time. It looks very lavish. It’s a huge audience. It makes us look special. We’ll be releasing a live album, which we recorded in Germany. It’s a double CD. We’ll be offering that as a high quality download. Sony Legacy just released a boxset of the entire catalogue. I Robot was re-released as a 35th anniversary edition on two CDs with bonus tracks.”
And Parsons says he’s overseeing the audio quality of all these projects because, as he puts it, “it’s my job.”