Alan Parsons Project + Mix

When Alan Parsons first heard “Eye in The Sky,” he hated it. “I was ready to drop it,” Parsons recalled. “Eye In the Sky,” written and sung by Parsons’ partner Eric Woolfson, turned out to be the Alan Parsons Project’s most successful single to date, and their only US top ten hit. Parsons was no more supportive of Woolfson’s voice. He thought it worked fine as a guide vocal for the demos, but insisted on an ever-changing array of vocalists and brought in Allan Clarke of the Hollies, Colin Blunstone of the Zombies, Procol Harum’s Gary Booker, and a string of lesser-known singers. Parsons later admitted that his dismissals of Woolfson were some of his biggest mistakes.

Woolfson’s talents had been recognized years before he met Parsons. After a failed attempt at an accounting career, Woolfson left his Scottish home for London, and paid a visit to Rolling Stones manager and Immediate Records label-boss, Andrew Loog Oldham. Oldham called him a “fucking genius,” gave him a publishing deal, and paired him with Immediate act Chris Farlowe (Woolfson wrote the B-side to his #1 single “Out of Time”), Two of Each, the Poets, Frank Ifield, and Marianne Faithful (he wrote her “Tomorrow’s Calling” for Decca in 1966). In 1971, he teamed up with the soon-to-be members of 10cc, who produced his solo single (under the name Eric Elder) for Philips. By the time Woolfson had met Alan Parsons, an engineer at Abbey Road Studios with Dark Side of the Moon under his belt, he had moved onto artist management. Parsons expressed an interest in having Eric Woolfson act as his manager, and their business relationship soon evolved into a creative partnership they named the Alan Parsons Project. 

Despite selling over 50 million albums world-wide, Alan Parsons Project was panned by critics, ignored in their home country of Britain, and huge in Germany. Hardly an ideal combination. Albums were patchy and produced with what many considered a bit too much precision. No matter how progressive and conceptual they claimed to be (one album was based on “the possible misunderstanding of industrial scientific developments,” another on Edgar Allan Poe), the easy-listening, radio-friendly elements (and perhaps their fondness for sax solos) turned off prog-rock purists. They didn’t exactly fit in with the mainstream either. They refused to play live and employed rotating vocalists to avoid having an official frontperson. Alan Parsons likened the group to filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock, emphasizing the director/ producer over the actor/ artist.


Eric Woolfson + Alan Parsons 

Listening to any of the Alan Parsons Projects ten LPs is an unsettling experience. Just as you’re easing into say, the ethereal “Silence & I” (from the Eye in the Sky LP), an outrageously wild and weird orchestra comes crashing in, fast and furious, and sticks around for two VERY long minutes. It’s infuriating, and you’re practically cursing the group for ruining such a beautiful song and making you get up out of your chair to fast-forward through the madness. But then play “Old & Wise,” “Don’t Answer Me,” “Eye In the Sky,” and “Some Other Time,” and it’s impossible to understand why anyone would dare overlook a group capable of such melodic bliss. Alan Parsons Project at their best nailed the combination of imaginative, genre-bending, forward-thinking concepts and production with melodies to make you melt. “Old & Wise” may be one of the most moving songs written about death, and has been played at many funerals (Note to my loved ones: Please play it at mine). “Don’t Answer Me” is a blatant re-creation of the Spector sound. Zero prog, pure-pop, with a vocal so subtly crying out for comfort. That’s Eric Woolfson’s voice, the one that Alan Parsons rarely wanted to use, and which critics called “weak.” It is one of my favorite voices, and what makes “Eye in The Sky,” “Don’t Answer Me,” and “Time” so appealing. Woolfson is at once able to communicate warmth and sincerity, whilst sounding so weary, sad, and detached. Perhaps it’s the conflicting emotions that add so much depth to everything he sings. You can practically hear Eric Woolfson even when he’s not singing; his guide vocal on the demos clearly influenced all who contributed vocals to the group. 

Woolfson passed away in 2009, and still his legacy is fairly unknown. He insisted that his name be kept quiet throughout his time with Alan Parsons Project, a decision that allowed him to lead a relatively hassle-free life of anonymity, but it also meant, as he later admitted, that “few people have any idea who I am or what I do.” 

My brother made this Alan Parsons Project mix for me years ago, and I have yet to better it. Enjoy!


1. Sirius
2. Eye in the Sky
3. Some Other Time
4. Breakdown
5. You Won’t Be There
6. Don’t Answer Me
7. Gemini
8. Silence & I
9. Step By Step
10. Time
11. Old & Wise
12. Mammagamma
13. Genesis Ch. 1, Vol 32

5 Responses to Alan Parsons Project + Mix

  1. Pingback: Record of the Week #9 | Sheila B

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *