No holds barred: The Alan Parson Project performs Haifa, Tel Aviv

Much like The Beatles in their later years, Parsons and Woolfson were loath to attempt to replicate the complex instrumentation they were using in the studio in a live setting.

The Alan Parsons Project (photo credit: SIMON LOWERY)
The Alan Parsons Project
(photo credit: SIMON LOWERY)
If you’re talking to Alan Parsons, better be prepared to hear terms like “surround sound” and “hi-definition” being bandied about as swiftly as Roger Federer serves.
The former Abbey Road engineer who worked on The Beatles album named after the studio, a number of early Paul McCartney solo albums and perhaps, most famously, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, before debuting the Alan Parsons Project and joining the rock pantheon, knows all things related to sound, studio boards and digital versus analog.
“I have old school values but still take advantage of new technology. I maintain that people playing together in the studio is better than one person playing on the computer,” says Parsons, who will be performing on November 9 at the Congress Center in Haifa and November 11 at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv on a tour commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Project’s iconic album I Robot.
Following the Project’s 1975 debut album Tales of Mystery and Imagination, I Robot upped the ante in its dense progressive rock meets sci-fi format. As The All Music Guide wrote: “Borrowing not just its title but concept from Isaac Asimov’s classic sci-fi Robot trilogy, this album explores many of the philosophies regarding artificial intelligence … with enough knotty intelligence to make it a seminal text of late-’70s geeks, and while it is also true that appreciating I Robot does require a love of either sci-fi or art rock, it is also true that sci-fi art rock never came any better than this.”
Although they would go on to even greater fame with the more accessible The Turn of a Friendly Card in 1980 and Eye in the Sky in 1982, I Robot stands as the band’s most ambitious statement.
“I think it holds up nicely,” says Parsons. “We’ve played it a number of times this year, and it really works as a live piece of music. Some of it is challenging, like [the instrumental] “Nucleus,” which is quite difficult to play. We had to do some tweaking and use some effects and sequencing from the original tapes, but it feels really good to play live.”
Rather than trying to exactly replicate the sounds and style, Parsons says that he’s attempted to modernize things a little.
“If we played it exactly in the same style it was back then, it might sound dated. Remember, it was the disco era. But I don’t think it comes across anymore as having that disco feel,” he explains.
Ironically, even though Parsons is focusing on performing I Robot, a deluxe 35th anniversary edition of Eye in the Sky is being released right around the time of his Israel performances. It includes the original remastered “hi-def stereo mix of the original analog master tapes,” some bonus material, four sides of vinyl at 45 rpm, “which represents fantastic quality for audiophiles” and a “surround mix.”
“We’ll be doing some tunes from Eye in the Sky in Israel,” says Parsons, adding with a chuckle, “If we didn’t play that title song [the band’s biggest hit], people would ask for their money back.”
Conceived as a free-flowing pool of musicians and singers, depending on the song and the mood, the Alan Parsons Project was a full-on studio creation, where Parsons and his songwriting and recording partner Eric Woolfson could experiment and overdub to their hearts’ content.
Much like The Beatles in their later years, Parsons and Woolfson were loath to attempt to replicate the complex instrumentation they were using in the studio in a live setting. So amid their massive success and popularity in the 1970s and ‘80s until their parting of ways in 1987, they never performed live, a decision that Parsons now has some regrets about.
“I think if we had decided to put a show on the road with those early albums, we could have been immense,” he says. “But we didn’t under the definition that we were a recording unit. When I did start to tour in the 1990s playing that music, I thought that it was so crazy that we didn’t do this before. We created a good sound, everything worked in the live setting and adapted very well to the concert stage. I regret we didn’t do it earlier.”
The 69-year-old Parsons performed in Israel in 2010 and 2015, both times incurring the wrath of his former close friend and Pink Floyd studio colleague Roger Waters, who engaged in a public campaign against Parsons in an effort to shame him into canceling his performances in Israel. Although Waters has been quiet about this year’s shows, Parsons insists that it wouldn’t matter what the outspoken proponent of boycotting Israel said.
“We had a little bit of conflict going on over the Internet. Roger appealed very strongly to me to decline my invitation to come to Israel, and I declined his request,” says Parsons. “I’m a great believer that music and politics shouldn’t mix.”
Alan Parsons and his band will perform on November 9 at the Congress Center in Haifa and November 11 at the Menora Mivtahim Arena in Tel Aviv.