Martintox Presents: His Retro Reviews
On Air by Alan Parsons
Released in: 1996
Produced by: Alan Parsons
Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Digital Sound
My Favorite Songs: Blown By The Wind, Apollo, So Far Away
About The Artist
If you happened to have lived during the 70's and 80's or if you are a person like me who likes everything older than they are and absolutely hates everything recent with a burning passion, you would at least know of The Alan Parsons Project, a band active during that time. Simply put, they were one of the kings of the concept album, a staple of the progressive rock genre that consists of making an album centered around a certain subject.
With albums like Pyramid, which speaks of how monuments of the past affect the present (which explains why the title is named after the pyramids of Giza, the last remaining wonder of the ancient world), and Freudiana, which centers around Sigmund Freud's life and work, it's no surprise that either of the two mascot members of the band, Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, would keep doing albums of the sort in their solo careers.
This held true for Alan Parsons, who made two concept albums up to now. One of them is The Time Machine, which you can probably guess the theme of, the second is this one.
About The Album
On Air explores the history of flight, from Icarus and Daedalus' flight with wax wings in Close To The Sun to the space race in Apollo, going through various stages of flying such as hot air balloons in Blown By The Wind and Leonardo Da Vinci's attempt to create a flying machine in One Day To Fly, though I prefer to think that it talks about the Wright Brothers. As stated by Alan Parsons and Ian Bairnson, a guitarist featured in every Alan Parsons Project album who provides guitar, bass and synthesizer in this one, On Air is to be a work focused on creating art instead of a commercial success. I certainly can't disagree with that.
While the songs vary from good to really good, none of them are mediocre, which makes this album one of the few that remain good from beginning to end. Like most Alan Parsons Project albums, this one contains a large cast of artists, including 5 lead singers and even an entire goddamn orchestra. The various instruments, however, manage to all sound like they belong there, and highlights include the saxophone solo in Too Close To The Sun and the piano and horns in One Day To Fly.
In terms of vocals, most of the lead singers are excellent, though if I had to pick favorites, I'd take Eric Stewart, Neil Lockwood and Christopher Cross (check the staff listing at the end of the review to see what songs they sing in). The album itself perfectly progresses, beginning and ending with two versions of the song Blue Blue Sky. The only track I don't really like would be Brother Up In Heaven (dedicated to Ian's dead cousin, a helicopter pilot who died in Iraq due to a friendly fire incident), but it isn't completely bad in itself.
On Air is probably one of the best albums that Alan Parsons has created up to now. It's artsy but still accessible to casual listeners, complicated but not frustratingly difficult to listen to, if that makes sense. It's varied but still has the same great atmosphere. All in all, pick it up if you have the chance.
Track Listing & Staff Listing
1. Blue Blue Sky
2. Too Close To The Sun
3. Blown By The Wind
5. Can't Look Down
6. Brother Up in Heaven
7. Fall Free
9. So Far Away
10. One Day To Fly
11. Blue Blue Sky
Alan Parsons - keyboards, mixing, engineering
Andrew Powell - orchestral arranger and conductor
Ian Bairnson - guitars, bass guitar, synthesizer
Stuart Elliott - percussion, drums
Eric Stewart - lead vocals (tracks 1, 3, 11)
Neil Lockwood - lead vocals (tracks 2, 5, 6)
Steve Overland - lead vocals (track 7)
Christopher Cross - lead vocals (track 9)
Graham Dye - lead vocals (track 10)
Peter Beckett - backing vocals (track 6)
John Giblin - bass guitar
Richard Cottle - saxophone
Gary Sanctuary - keyboards
Christopher Warren-Green - orchestra leader
Storm Thorgerson - cover design
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