Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Alan Parsons Project album)

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Tales of Mystery and Imagination
TAPP-TalesOfImagination.jpg
Studio album by The Alan Parsons Project
Released 1 May 1976
Recorded July 1975 – January 1976
Studio
Genre
Length 42:38
Label
Producer Alan Parsons
The Alan Parsons Project chronology
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
(1976)
I Robot
(1977)
Singles from Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  1. "(The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether"
    Released: July 1976
  2. "The Raven"
    Released: September 1976
  3. "To One In Paradise"
    Released: October 1976
Alternative cover

Tales of Mystery and Imagination is the debut studio album by the British progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project, released on 1 May 1976 by 20th Century Fox Records in the United States and on 1 June 1976 by Charisma Records internationally. The lyrical and musical themes of the album, which are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, attracted a cult audience. The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe's macabre stories of the same name, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1908 and reprinted many times since.

Musicians featured on the album include vocalists Arthur Brown of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown on "The Tell Tale Heart", John Miles on "The Cask of Amontillado" and "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether", and Terry Sylvester of The Hollies on "To One In Paradise". The complete line-up of bands Ambrosia and Pilot play on the record, along with keyboardist Francis Monkman of Curved Air and Sky. Tales of Mystery and Imagination peaked at #38 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart, and the song"(The System Of) Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether" peaked at No. 37 on the Pop Singles chart.

Composition[edit]

"The Raven" features actor Leonard Whiting on lead vocals, with Alan Parsons performing vocals through an EMI vocoder. According to the album's liner notes, "The Raven" was the first rock song to feature a digital vocoder. The prelude section of "The Fall of the House of Usher", although uncredited, is inspired by the opera fragment "La chute de la maison Usher" by Claude Debussy which was composed between 1908 and 1917.[1] "The Fall of the House of Usher" is an instrumental suite which runs 16 minutes plus and takes up most of Side 2 of the recording.

Artwork[edit]

The album's cover art was made by Hipgnosis. Storm Thorgerson said that Eric Woolfson and Parsons wanted a 'classy' design, including a book of lyrics, lengthy credits and a chronology of Poe's life. He described the recurring image of the 'taped' man:

Poe was preoccupied with entombment. Many of his characters have been incarcerated in some form or other - in coffins, brick walls or under floorboards. We came up with the 'taped' man - a mummy-like figure who is wrapped, not in bandages, but in 2" recording tape. This motif is partially horror-like, as well as being 'entombed', and the 2" tape appropriately suggests that the album is done by a producer in a studio, as opposed to a band recording material they will play on stage. Although the clients were intrigued by this idea they did not desire a pictorial cover but preferred instead a precise graphic representation. The narrow strip of illustration from George [Hardie] shows a long shadow of the taped man.

The booklet (attached to the inside of the cover) is composed of photos related to the songs, and line drawings which explore the taped man as he thrashes about in his restricted world and strives to unravel himself. The illustrated capital letters continue the idea. The layout and drawings are by Colin Elgie. The sleeve is one of our better attempts at combining photographs and illustration.[2]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Rolling Stone (mixed)[4]

Critical reaction to the album was mixed; for example, Rolling Stone's Billy Altman concluded that it did not completely accurately reproduce Poe's tension and macabre fear, ending by claiming that "devotees of Gothic literature will have to wait for someone with more of the macabre in their blood for a truer musical reading of Poe's often terrifying works".[5] In July 2010, the album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine's "50 Albums That Built Prog Rock".[6]

Reissues[edit]

Originally simply called The Alan Parsons Project, the album was successful enough to achieve gold status. The identity of The Alan Parsons Project as a group was cemented on the second album, I Robot, in 1977.

The original version of the album was available for several years on vinyl and cassette, but was not immediately available on CD (the CD technology not being commercially available until 1982).

In 1987, Parsons completely remixed the album, including additional guitar passages and narration (by Orson Welles) as well as updating the production style to include heavy reverb and the gated reverb snare drum sound, which was popular in the 1980s. The CD notes that Welles never met Parsons or Eric Woolfson, but sent a tape to them of the performance shortly after the album was manufactured in 1976.

The first passage narrated by Welles on the 1987 remix (which comes before the first track, "A Dream Within a Dream") is sourced from an obscure nonfiction piece by Poe – No XVI of his Marginalia (from 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material "Marginalia.") The second passage Welles reads (which comes before "The Fall of the House of Usher" (Prelude), seems to be a partial paraphrase or composite from nonfiction by Poe, chiefly from a collection of poems titled "Poems of Youth" by Poe (contained in "Introduction to Poems – 1831" in a section titled "Letter to Mr. B-----------"; the "Shadows of shadows passing" part of the quote comes from the Marginalia.

In 1994 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) released the original 1976 version on CD (UDCD-606), making the original available digitally for the first time.

In 2007, a Deluxe Edition released by Universal Music included both the 1976 and the 1987 versions remastered by Alan Parsons during 2006 with eight additional bonus tracks.

Remakes[edit]

A variant of the song "The Raven" appears on the Eric Woolfson album Edgar Allan Poe (2009), which contains the complete music from Woolfson's 2003 stage musical of the same name. The variant track does not appear on Woolfson's 2003 CD Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which was a highly abridged version of the stage musical. On the variant, the bass line and keyboard chords of the original Tales of Mystery and Imagination track are heard, but they are quieter, do not feature a vocoder, and instead of an abridged version of the Poe poem being sung, the Woolfson version features a fuller spoken dramatic reading of the poem. Alan Parsons album A Valid Path includes "A Recurring Dream Within A Dream", a composite of "A Dream Within A Dream" and "The Raven" incorporating electronic music influences.

Slough Feg covered "The Tell-Tale Heart" for their 2010 album The Animal Spirits.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "A Dream Within a Dream"   Instrumental 4:14
2. "The Raven"   Leonard Whiting and Alan Parsons 3:57
3. "The Tell-Tale Heart"   Arthur Brown 4:38
4. "The Cask of Amontillado"   John Miles and Terry Sylvester 4:33
5. "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether"   John Miles and Jack Harris 4:20
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "The Fall of the House of Usher (Parsons, Woolfson, Andrew Powell)
  • "Prelude" – 7:02
  • "Arrival" – 2:39
  • "Intermezzo" – 1:00
  • "Pavane" – 4:36
  • "Fall" – 0:51"  
Instrumental 16:10
2. "To One in Paradise"   Terry Sylvester 4:46

Orson Welles' narration does not appear on the 1976 mix of the album. It does however on the 1987 remix of "A Dream Within a Dream" and the Prelude of "The Fall of the House of Usher".

2007 deluxe edition[edit]

Disc 1: Tracks 1–11, original album in original 1976 mix

  1. "The Raven" (original demo)
  2. "Edgar" (demo of an unreleased track)
  3. "Orson Welles Radio Spot"
  4. "Interview with Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson" (1976)

Disc 2: Tracks 1–11, original album in 1987 remix

  1. "Eric's Guide Vocal Medley"
  2. "Orson Welles Dialogue"
  3. "Sea Lions in the Departure Lounge" (sound effects and experiments)[7]
  4. "GBH Mix" (unreleased experiments)

Personnel[edit]

  • Alan Parsons – Organ, Synthesizer, Guitar, Keyboards, Recorder, Vocals, Producer, Engineer, Projectron
  • Eric Woolfson – Synthesizer, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Vocals, Vocals (background), Executive Producer
  • Orson Welles – Narrator
  • Dennis Clarke - Saxophone
  • Leonard Whiting – Vocals, Narrator
  • Arthur Brown – Vocals
  • John Miles – Guitar, Vocals
  • Jack Harris – Vocals
  • Francis Monkman – Organ, Keyboards
  • Kevin Peek – Guitar (Acoustic)
  • Terry Sylvester – Vocals
  • Laurence Juber – Guitar (Acoustic)
  • Andrew Powell – Keyboards, Arranger
  • David Paton – Guitar (Acoustic), Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Vocals (background)
  • Ian Bairnson – Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
  • Chris Blair – Assistant Engineer
  • Peter Christopherson – Photography
  • David Katz – Violin, Leader, Orchestra Contractor
  • Burleigh Drummond – Drums
  • English Chorale – Vocals
  • Bob Howes – Choir, Chorus
  • John Leach – Percussion, Vocals, Cimbalom, Kantele
  • David Pack – Guitar
  • Smokey Parsons – Vocals
  • Joe Puerta – Bass
  • Tony Richards – Assistant Engineer
  • Jack Rothstein – Leader
  • Daryl Runswick – Bass, String Bass
  • David Snell – Harp
  • The English Chorale and Played Ti – Choir, Chorus
  • Stuart Tosh – Cymbals, Drums, Vocals, Tympani [Timpani]
  • Tom Trefethen – Assistant Engineer
  • Pat Stapley – Assistant Engineer
  • Aubrey Powell – Photography
  • Storm Thorgerson – Photography
  • Hipgnosis – Design, Cover Art
  • Sam Emerson – Photography
  • Colin Elgie – Artwork, Graphic Design, Layout Design
  • Billy Lyall – Piano, Drums, Glockenspiel, Keyboards, Recorder, Fender Rhodes
  • Gordon Parry – Engineer
  • Jane Powell – Vocals, Vocals (background)
  • Les Hurdle – Bass
  • Christopher North – Keyboards

Charts[edit]

Year Chart Position
1976 The Billboard 200 38
1976 UK Albums Chart 56
1976 Canada 81

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Cambridge companion to Debussy / edited by Simon Trezise, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  2. ^ Thorgerson, Storm: The Work of Hipgnosis: 'Walk Away René', page 131. Paper Tiger, 1978. ISBN 0-905895-08-8
  3. ^ Mike DeGagne. "Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe – The Alan Parsons Project". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-03-11. 
  4. ^ "Rolling Stone Music | Album Reviews". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 2012-03-11. 
  5. ^ Billy Altman (23 September 1976). "Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination". Rolling Stone website. 
  6. ^ Classic Rock magazine, July 2010, Issue 146.
  7. ^ "Sea Lions in the Departure Lounge" uses the same announcement recording as was previously used on Pink Floyd's On the Run from the album The Dark Side of the Moon, on which Alan Parsons was engineer.