Friday, February 7, 2014

Alan Parsons Project - Ammonia Avenue

Today (February 7th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Ammonia Avenue, the seventh studio album from the Alan Parsons Project. This 1984 release went to number 29 in Canada, number 24 in the UK, number 15 on the US Billboard Album Chart (it spent twenty-six weeks on the chart), number 8 in Sweden, number 5 in Austria and Norway, and number 1 in Germany and Switzerland.

Side one begins with the mid-tempo “Prime Time”. As the second single, it went to number 34 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 10 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 3 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Eric Woolfson has the lead vocals here. I like the variety of textures to the opening instrumental as well as the vocal harmonies of the chorus on this one.

Lenny Zakatek is the lead singer on “Let Me Go Home”, a rocking song about a guy who just needs to retreat from the world for awhile.

“One Good Reason” is next. It bounces along at a pleasant tempo while Woolfson seeks out a reason to stay in a relationship.

The heartfelt ballad “Since the Last Goodbye” features guest Chris Rainbow on lead vocals.

“Don’t Answer Me”, the lead single, reached number 58 in the UK, number 15 on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock chart, and number 4 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The music video, the first for the band, was done in an animated comic book style with art by Mike Kaluta (who did a good bit of work for DC Comics, particular on horror books, from the 1970’s on). I definitely recall this one being played a lot during the spring and summer of 1984. With a memorable saxophone solo by Mel Collins, this is easily my favorite track on the album.

Side two opens with “Dancing on a Highwire”. Colin Blunstone, a member of the Zombies, is guest lead vocalist on this track. I like the way this one opens with the guitars and percussion; it has a very 70's soft rock sound to it. I am pretty sure the local album-oriented rock stations would play this track now and then as it has a distinct familiarity to it.

“You Don’t Believe” was the B-side to the first single. It actually first appeared on The Best of the Alan Parsons Project in 1983 before graduating to this record. It changes things up rhythmically to create a bit of urgency. So far, side two is off to a very solid start.

The instrumental “Pipeline” is next. The piece creates a calm, efficient industrial mood. The saxophone adds a human element to the mix.

The album closes with the title track “Ammonia Avenue”. This is the longest track on the album, clocking at over six and a half minutes. The music and lyrics set up a somber exploratory scene; it is cautious as if the answers sought might be more than one bargained for. A third of the way in, it switches up with an instrumental interlude before returning again to the previous movement.

As I was not a regular listener to the Alan Parsons Project back in the early 80's, I knew the tracks from Ammonia Avenue only from radio airplay. So, this really was my first time hearing them all together in original sequencing. I liked the record well enough and have identified a couple track (outside of the singles) that I want to add to my collection.

Both singles from Ammonia Avenue were songs I heard a good bit back in 1984, both on radio and MTV as well as around campus; they capped off the top 40 chart run that the Alan Parsons Project would have here in the US. The rest of the album was a new experience with doing this review.

For 1978’s Pyramid, click here.

For 1980’s The Turn of a Friendly Card, click here.

For 1982’s Eye in the Sky, click here.

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