The best, weirdest and worst instrumentals by The Alan Parsons Project

Over the course of its ten albums, The Alan Parsons Project released 20 instrumentals, though more on their first five albums (four of which start with an instrumental and the fifth, The Turn of a Friendly Card, starts with a pseudo instrumental that runs about two minutes before the vocals begin).

What follows are lists, because I love lists!

Top 5 Favourite Instrumentals

  • In the Lap of the Gods (Pyramid)
  • Lucifer (Eve)
  • The Gold Bug (The Turn of a Friendly Card)
  • Pipeline (Ammonia Avenue) and Paseo de Gracia (Gaudi) (tie)
  • Secret Garden (Eve)

Honorable Mention: Sirius (Eye in the Sky). This song is probably indelibly tied to sports team introductions now, but it’s still a terrific and dramatic intro to Eye in the Sky. “Mammagamma” from the same album is also very good, if a bit slick.

What all of the above songs have in common is atmosphere. “In the Lap of the Gods” is mysterious, soaring and melodramatic (see more here). “Lucifer” starts with somewhat unnerving strings and sound effects (including Morse code), fades, then comes back with a staccato drum and ringing guitar, before adding in the requisite choir. “The Gold Bug” does feature vocals without words, but these really serve as another instrument in a lovely, layered song. “Pipeline” is perhaps the most conventional on the list, but it’s so incredibly smooth it feels wrong to omit it. “Paseo de Gracia” ties–this closing instrumental is the only one to have a Spanish flavour, with horns and more fine guitar work by Ian Bairnson. “Secret Garden” also features worldless vocals (again by Chis Rainbow) and has a sunny, almost Beach Boys sound to its harmonies.

Top 3 Weird Instrumentals:

  • Total Eclipse (I Robot)
  • Chinese Whispers (Stereotomy)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (Tales of Mystery and Imagination)

Honorable Mention: The two instrumentals from I Robot that aren’t “I Robot”.

“Total Eclipse” is the only Project song solely credited to conductor Andrew Powell, and it’s this weird, almost discordant song that sounds like a portent of doom, perhaps reflecting how ancient people feared eclipses. “Chinese Whispers” is an odd, short piece featuring a vaguely Asian-sounding acoustic guitar, with Eric Woolfson’s daughters providing murmured vocals. “Usher” is the longest song the Project did at over 15 minutes, and it’s divided into movements that encompass sound effects of a storm, the house collapsing, choirs and everything else. It sounds entirely different from everything else on all ten of their albums. The two “I Robot” instrumentals, “Nucleus” and “Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32” are largely mood pieces.

Probably the Worst Instrumental:

  • “Hawkeye” (Vulture Culture)

It’s not bad, per se, it’s just very bland. Without any orchestration, it leans heavily on sax and keyboard, which also helps date it as a very 80s song.

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