Between A Rock And A Prog Place: ALAN PARSONS On If THE BEATLES Created Prog Rock – “'Prog Pop' Maybe – Not Prog Rock”
July 11, 2022, 11 months ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, we speak to Alan Parsons, whose latest album, From The New World, arrives on July 15, and features quite a few special guests – Tommy Shaw (Styx), David Pack (ex-Ambrosia), and Joe Bonamassa. Here, Alan discusses the new album, the Beatles (for whom he worked as a tape operated once upon a time), and recently being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Let's discuss the new album, From the New World. I understand it was inspired by the music of Antonín Dvořák.
"I grew up with that piece in my household. My father was a big classical music fan – that was one of his favorite classical pieces, and it became one of mine, too. Of course, Dvořák had a good reason to call it From the New World, because he was living in New York at the time he wrote it. The other reasons for the title are the pandemic – that's made it a new world for everyone. And I just wanted to express that, as well. And like Dvořák, I've lived in America for the last 22 years."
The song "Uroboros" features Tommy Shaw of Styx.
"Tommy apparently has said publicly on TV shows that he's a big Alan Parsons Project fan. I met him many years ago and I'm familiar with Styx's music. He is a chum of the guitar player in my band, Dan Tracy, so they put it together. The song was presented to me by Todd Cooper, who is the second singer and saxophonist in the band. He works with a guy named Doug Powell, and they made a couple of submissions to the last album, as well. We just played around with it with the band. At the time we were recording the tracks, we hadn't thought about getting Tommy. But as is often the case, we choose singers and soloists pretty much at the last minute – when the track is almost there. You somehow sense the kind of voice that's needed for each song after it's recorded."
Something I wasn’t aware of until recently, are you also a magician?
"I am. I've never earned a penny doing it – it's a hobby. I have a lot of friends who are magicians. I love going to the Magic Castle in LA. I used to translate magic instructions for a Japanese manufacturer back in the day. Not that I speak Japanese – I just turned their appalling English into good English. One of my favorite magicians is Ricky Jay – who sadly died just a few years ago. He was an amazing authority on magic, and had a huge magic collection. I'm pretty keen on the majors – Copperfield, and so on. Another fairly major one is Jeff McBride."
As you were working at Abbey Road Studios at the time, are you in the Beatles’ Get Back film?
"I am in the new movie – I was not in the Let It Be version. I met Peter Jackson about a year ago and he showed me some clips – which I was delighted about. He not only played those clips in the movie, but he put my name on the screen and the credit as 'tape operator.' Fame at last on the Beatles! There are some scenes when I'm in the basement with a tape machine, and other still shots when I'm on the roof [when the Beatles perform]."
What did you think of the Get Back film?
"I think the new film is great. I think it's too long. We saw a screening that Peter Jackson had put together in Hollywood before the release, and I thought that was perfect – about an hour and a half and had all the highlights and the whole concert on the roof. It was perfect."
Do you agree that he Beatles were the first-ever prog rock band?
"I haven't heard that. 'Prog pop' maybe – not prog rock. They were very much pop stars, not rock stars. The second side of Abbey Road was progressive and inventive. But I don't think the Beatles would normally get branded with Genesis, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Yes, and so on. But they were clearly revolutionary. Pretty radical ideas about what pop music should be."
Are there any touring plans?
"There was to be a European tour starting ten days from now, but I unfortunately suffered a somewhat serious spinal issue, and I had to cancel it. I'm having surgery on Monday. So, I'm not in the best of health right now. I'm terribly disappointed that we're not going - I was quite looking forward to the tour. This just happened a couple of weeks ago and I've got to get it fixed. I can hardly walk – but I'm comfortable sitting down, and fine doing interviews."
Lastly, congratulations on being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) last year. That must have been quite an honor.
"For a Brit, it's a big honor, yes. And the presentation just happened a month ago at Windsor Castle. They had a big backlog because of the pandemic. So, it' s a full year between me finding out I was going to get the medal and actually getting it several months ago. Prince William gave it to me – he pinned it on my lapel. He's the king to be – he will one day be the king."
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Sons Of Apollo (and ex-Dream Theater) keyboardist Derek Sherinian is back this month with his latest solo effort, The Vortex, who is joined on the recording by such fellow exceptionally talented players as Tony Franklin on bass and Simon Phillips on drums. Is 'prog cocktail music' a fitting description for the album's second single, “The Scorpion”? View it for yourself below and be the judge. It won't be until September 2 that Blind Guardian will issue their latest album, The God Machine, but the music video for the track “Blood Of The Elves” is already prepared for your peepers.
Iranian prog metal trio Heterochrome recently issued their sophomore effort, From The Ashes, which features lyrics sung in both Farsi and English – click here for a sampling. Philosophobia (which features current/former members of Kamelot, Pain Of Salvation, Wastefall, etc.) recently issued a self-titled debut, and a video for the tune 'Between The Pines' is all ready to go.
King's X has finally announced the title of their thirteenth studio album, Three Sides of One, which will arrive September 2, and for which a preview track has been issued, “Let It Rain,” which is viewable below. Los Angeles-based symphonic prog metallists, Anthea, have a sophomore effort due on August 26, entitled Tales Untold, and the video for the album's title track has already been unveiled.
The latest album by Swedish prog metal veterans Evergrey, A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) is a hit in their homeland, reaching #3 on the official album charts. So…what better way to celebrate their accomplishment by viewing their latest video, “Save Us,” unboxing video.
The newly-formed New York City-based band Migliori Amici & Co issued a video, “Glasgow Reel,” from their forthcoming EP, Best Of Friends, which is chock full of vintage prog sounds and tricky musical maneuvers, and can be viewed below. Another newly formed band, A-Z, features a few familiar faces to prog metal fans – namely Ray Alder and Mark Zonder of Fates Warning – and will be issuing their self-titled debut album on August 12, and have already debuted a video for the track 'The Machine Gunner.'
Paris-based proggers, Spheres, will be issuing their sophomore full-length on September 23, titled Helios. But you can already enjoy their music video for the track “Spiritual Journey” here. Progressive deathcore rockers Enterprise Earth have announced Travis Worland as their new vocalists, and in late July will be undertaking a U.S. tour. In the meantime, enjoy the video for their light and breezy tune, 'Psalm Of Agony.'
Described as a 'historical modern power metal outfit,' Sweden's Civil War certainly take their metal and history seriously, as heard/seen in the video for the title track off their just-released LP, Invaders. Quebec-based progressive/orchestral avant metal act, Contemplator, will be issuing their sophomore full-length this month, Morphose, for which a video for the ditty 'Zero Mask' is streaming on YouTube.
Finnish folks metallists Korpiklaani recently issued a lyric video for the song “Interrogativa Cantilena,” which turns out to be an English version of the tune “Pidot” off their latest album, Jylhä – and can be viewed below. Israeli symphonic metallists, StormbounD (yes, they capitalize the 'D' at the end) will be issuing their new album, December, on August 5, from which they have already issued several videos, including 'Flying High.'
July 2022 New Albums
The Dear Hunter: Antimai
Derek Sherinian: The Vortex
Farpoint: The Journey
Prog Collective: Songs We Were Taught (including members of Yes, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, etc.)
Alan Parsons: From the New World
Voivod: Forgotten In Space (box set)
The best-known (and certainly most majestic) track of this month's interviewee, Alan Parsons, is “Eye In The Sky” with the instrumental “Sirius” intro tacked on. Back in 2013, both tunes were performed on stage with a full symphony (and included as part of the Live in Columbia release), and can be enjoyed right here: