The Alan Parsons Symphonic Project: Live In Colombia album/DVD review

In every imaginable format, the night The Alan Parsons Project went symphonic.

Alan Parsons Symphonic Project album art for Live In Colombia

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The irony is not lost on Alan Parsons that an album series that remained resolutely studio-bound during its halcyon run is now regularly celebrated on stages worldwide. The Projects did not regularly transmute into a live entity until the 1990s, long after the conclusion of their 11-year, 10-album manifestation on disc. With the obvious but important caveat that the latter-day touring band navigated by Parsons is manned with younger, entirely accomplished, personnel, the group has become an adept representation of an august and unique body of work.

Now, the APP goes symphonic and multi-format. Or, if not quite now, then one summer night in 2013 in Medellin, Colombia, when the group were joined on a vast stage by the city’s 70-piece symphony orchestra and a resonant choir. The occasion is now delivered to posterity in DVD, Blu-ray, double CD digital, triple vinyl and download formats, all desirable mementos of a night that honoured a singular catalogue.

An adept representation of an august body of work.

To clip out individual tracks from the APP’s highly-conceptualised albums may seem incongruous, but the group’s many incarnations always delivered bite-sized singles. So the programme here jumps nimbly between projects with all of the sonic intricacy you would expect from one of Britain’s finest studio masters.

After an atmospheric scene-setter in I Robot, the band’s adaptability is emphasised in a sequence of three songs with three lead vocalists. The animated P J Olsson takes Damned If Do, Parsons himself sings the Phil Spector-referencing Don’t Answer Me and Todd Cooper leads on Breakdown.

That’s not to say that one doesn’t miss such great vocal contributors to the oeuvre as Colin Blunstone, Lenny Zakatek or the late, laudable Chris Rainbow and co-founder Eric Woolfson. But with Parsons steering the ship with reassuring authority, one never feels that coals are being reheated.

It’s sometimes strange to see and hear segments of never-performed classic albums come to life, never more so than when the sonorous tones of Orson Welles signal the arrival of The Raven, a tantalisingly and sadly solitary nod to the record that started it all, 1976’s Tales Of Mystery And Imagination.

But it’s a set list that not only embraces the best-known APP songs – also including I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You, Eye In The Sky and Old And Wise – but magnifies less-exposed pieces such as Sirius, Snake Eyes and the particularly momentous Eye In The Sky track Silence And I. It’s one of the group’s many moments of South American symphony.

Prog Magazine contributor Paul Sexton is a London-based journalist, broadcaster and author who started writing for the national UK music press while still at school in 1977. He has written for all of the British quality press, most regularly for The Times and Sunday Times, as well as for Radio Times, Billboard, Music Week and many others. Sexton has made countless documentaries and shows for BBC Radio 2 and inflight programming for such airlines as Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. He contributes to Universal's uDiscoverMusic site and has compiled numerous sleeve notes for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and other major artists. He is the author of Prince: A Portrait of the Artist in Memories & Memorabilia and, in rare moments away from music, supports his local Sutton United FC and, inexplicably, Crewe Alexandra FC.