Album: Alan Parsons Project
– Tales of Mystery and Imagination

For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words, with even more distinctness than that with which I conceived it. (…) There is, however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt to language. (…) [These fancies] arise in the soul (alas, how rarely!) only at its epochs of most intense tranquility — when the bodily and mental health are in perfection — and at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with (…) the world of dreams. [And so I captured this fancy, where] all that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream.
Edgar Allan Poe, adapted from “Marginalia – Part V” and the poem “A Dream Within A Dream”.

Alan Parsons Project, The - Tales of Mystery and Imagination

The “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”, Alan Parsons Project’s first album for me captures the essence on their creative career1, and weaves together a dense tapestry of synthesizer and guitar sounds with some of Poe’s writings.

Even more than the quote above, which forms the introduction to the record, the lyrics sung in each song are not exactly Poe’s words. The song’s lyrics use phrases and expressions from the works they reference, but otherwise are shortened retellings of the originals. Nevertheless, in the confines of a Prog Rock song, they capture the essence of Poe’s imagination.

Each track on the record references one of Poe’s works: The Raven, The Tell-tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, (The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, and The Fall of the House of Usher.

The record is a classic example of progressive rock albums of the early seventies, experimenting with elements of classical music as well as introducing synthesizers, and generally loosening up the structure of songs, borrowing again more from classical pieces than the more rigid and simpler structure of rock’n'roll.

From the perspective of today, the most striking aspect of this record is it’s timelessness. Listening closely, you can hear a little that it’s not of modern production, but that’s not the point. Far more importantly, it represents what the name of the genre stands for, a progression from what was previously known. Nowadays, I get the impression that regular rock bands that somehow incorporate a synthesizer into their music are considered progressive.

Progression implies an evolution, a step forward in the development of something (in this case music). It’s fine to borrow elements of what was previously mastered — one can argue that doing anything else is impossible. Merely copying a sound of a revolutionary band or recording does not make you progressive yourself.

Ah, well, now I’m ranting — I couldn’t describe the music on “Tales…” very well, anyway. But if you’re interested in what progressive rock was when it was born, what coined the term — then this record is one of a handful that can truly show you.

  1. Though mere statistics would prove me wrong. Other albums of theirs are rather different. []