One Note Symphony: Live in Tel Aviv is the latest live album from Alan Parsons, on CD/DVD and Blu-ray. Coming only a few months after The Neverending Story: Live in the Netherlands and with a large number of live releases before that, the question needs to be asked about whether fans – let alone the world – really need another live recording so soon? Well, after listening to it, I think the answer could well be a ‘Yes’ from me.
As many TPA readers may well know, The Alan Parsons Project (APP) began in 1975, after producer and singer-songwriter Eric Woolfson met engineer and producer Alan Parsons and decided to work on the musical project, that eventually became the wonderful Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976). Using an ever-changing roster of guest musicians, they defined a signature progressive and symphonic rock/soft rock/AOR sound through a series of well-received albums from I Robot (1977) through to Gaudi (1987) before musical differences over the planned Freudiana album/musical led to their split in 1990. Both followed their separate paths, with Eric increasingly focused on musical theatre projects before his death in 2009. Alan released a number of solo releases during this time in the APP-style and has continued to keep the project’s legacy alive in concert since 1999 via the Alan Parsons Live Project – with a notable release of the Alan Parsons Symphonic Project: Live in Columbia in 2016, which featured a collaboration between the live band and a full orchestra from almost three years earlier.
Surprisingly, in 2019 Alan Parsons released his first solo studio release in fifteen years with The Secret, following A Valid Path from 2004. It is fair to say that in general the reaction from fans and critics was rather mixed, but there were still some tracks which did echo of that golden APP period amongst the less successful compositions. It was the subsequent 2019 band tour, featuring this new material alongside the classic hits from the past that saw The Neverending Story: Live in the Netherlands band-orientated live release, and now this latest collaboration with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
The two reasons why I feel One Note Symphony: Live in Tel Aviv is recommended for fans old and new is, firstly, the inclusion of four new pieces from The Secret (five if you include the track Miracle, which is only on the DVD and Blu-ray), and secondly, the extra dimension this particular orchestral recording brings to the sound quality. The new material is really enhanced compared to the studio versions. Compared to the Live in Columbia orchestration, where the orchestra’s contribution was rather held back by the need to hear the band, the Live in Tel Aviv approach means the music is really integrated and enhanced and takes the compositions to somewhere fresh and vibrant. So much of the classic APP material was always predestined to benefit from a real symphonic adaptation, and here the orchestra is not held back. Even the band benefit from this synergy and overall the music, both old and new, gets a nice polish up!
As a result, the robotic vocals of Todd Cooper on the sci-fi One Note Symphony benefit from the lushness of the orchestra surrounding them, whilst Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice gains stature in the live setting and loses some of its ‘Disney Fantasia’ baggage. As Light Falls and I Can’t Get There from Here both have their emotional spirit enhanced by the vibrant strings surrounding them, with Alan’s son-in-law, Jordan Huffman guesting on vocals on the latter.
Of the older, classic material, tracks like Damned if I Do, Breakdown – The Raven, Silence and I, Don’t Let it Show, Sirius / Eye in the Sky, (The System of) Dr Tarr and Professor Fether and Games People Play all benefit well from the orchestral treatment. However, that is not without the band flexing their muscles where necessary. Jeff Kollman delivers some nice guitar playing throughout and Tom Brook’s keyboards add sparkle, whilst conducting the orchestra. The extended Prime Time, with a playful piano solo from Tom and some guitar shredding from Jeff is a real album highlight, whilst I Wouldn’t Want to be Like You retains its funky charm.
The fact that, with the best will in the world, the live band vocals of P.J. Olsson, Todd Cooper and even Alan Parsons amongst others cannot replicate the iconic vocals on the studio versions of many of these songs, the orchestral arrangements do go some way to distance these live versions from them. I’m always going to want to hear Colin Blunstone on Old and Wise, but credit to P.J. Olsson for at least getting into the neighbourhood, as it were. Don’t Answer Me and Time are a touch lethargic to my ears, not helped by a rather plodding drumbeat, but overall, this is a professional and enjoyable concert for APP fans – although with the emphasis on AOR/soft rock than prog rock these days. The DVD/Blu-ray disc obviously enhances the performances considerably. All the onstage activity makes it a nicely immersive experience and it is nicely filmed – with a few animated, space-themed video inclusions sprinkled here and there.
So, if you want to relive the memories you had of hearing these classic songs as you remembered them, then stick to the studio albums and numerous ‘best of’ compilations. However, if you are willing to hear them with a fresh new twist and enjoy how a talented orchestra can add a certain ‘je nais c’est quoi’ to them – then an evening listening to, or watching, this concert is not a bad way to pass the time – until Mr Parsons finally makes it back to the UK: fingers crossed!
01. One Note Symphony
02. Damned if I Do
03. Don’t Answer Me
05. Breakdown/The Raven
06. Miracle (DVD/Blu-ray only)
08. Silence and I
09. I Wouldn’t Want to be Like You
10. Don’t Let it Show
11. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
12. Standing on Higher Ground
13. As Lights Fall
14. I Can’t Get There From Here
15. Prime Time
16. Sirius/Eye in the Sky
17. Old and Wise
18. (The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether
19. Games People Play
Total Time – 103:00
Alan Parsons – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Ukulele, Keyboards
P.J. Olsson – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
Todd Cooper – Vocals, Sax, Recorder, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
Jeff Kollman – Guitars, Vocals
Tom Brooks – Keyboards, Vocals, Orchestral Arranger and Conductor
Dan Tracey – Guitars, Vocals
Guy Erez – Bass, Vocals
Danny Thompson – Drums, Vocals
Jordan Asher Huffman – Guest Vocals (track 14)
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Record Label: Frontiers Music (2CD/DVD, Blu-ray)
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 11thy February 2022