39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
The definitive edition of "Tales" was released (at least the original mix)by Mobile Fidelity on CD. This edition although definitive in terms of content, is far from it in terms of sound. While I liked the 1987 remix with Orson Welles' narration, I prefer the 1976 version because that's the version I grew up listening to. Alan Parsons has gone back and remastered the original analog tapes for this edition for the 1976 and the 1987 from the digital remix tape for that edition as well.
This edition does lack the dynamic range of the original CD (and record for that matter)and does suffer from some compression issues but the content is still five star material. If you want the original mix of the album and can't find the Mo-Fi, this is the only way to find it just be aware that this is louder than the older editions and sounds harsh. It's a pity that Parsons didn't go with his instincts and master this the way it should have been done.
Although the bonus tracks are hardly essential, it does show where Eric Woolfson (who came up with the concept, was an essential part of the Alan Parsons Project--as Parsons pointed out it could as easily have been called the Eric Woolfson Project but Parsons was better known, Woolfson acted as Parsons manager and co-wrote the bulk of the material with him except for one song that Woolfson wrote solo)developed many of the ideas that ended up on the final album. The first disc is the 1976 edition and the 1987 is the second with each having bonus tracks. Some of the bonus tracks consist of Welles' unused narration, the radio spots, a compilation of Eric's guide vocals for each track, various sound experiments and Eric's original demos for "The Raven" and "Edgar" (which wasn't used). We also get a very good 8 minute interview that says much of what is written in the booklet.
The booklet has all the lyrics (and much of the original artwork from the 1976 booklet), credits, mention of what's different about each track (some were just digitally remixed while others have additional instruments recorded or new guitar solos). There's also an essay about the making of the album, biographies of both Parsons and Woolfson as well as a brief mention of what each of the musicians are best known for outside of their contributions to the APP.
This is far from the definitive remaster I was hoping for but it is the only way (outside of the Mofi) to get the original mix of the album AND the remix in one place.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2007
I have three copies of the Mobile Fidelity version of this CD from 1994 (because it's so great and I got a couple of them used), but aside from that, you couldn't get the 1976 version of this album on CD until now. I'm amazed that it took so long to release this version. The remastering job that was done on this entire package is amazing, and the booklet and photos show how much care was put into this edition. Doesn't matter whether you prefer the '76 or '87 versions, they both sound phenominal.
As for me, I prefer the '76 version because it sounds much more haunting, especially "Fall of the House of Usher". I would never argue with what Orson Welles' narration brought to the newer version, it's great. I just feel that the older version was more organic and more intense. This is one of those albums to put on headphones after midnight and listen start to finish. It doesn't even seem like separate songs, it's one whole piece with so many different moods that set up each other.
For example, after the "Prelude" to "Fall of the House of Usher", cracks of thunder, an ominous organ, and then a deceptively pleasant melody for "Arrival", and then Intermezzo, which sounds eerie enough itself before "Pavane". This is such a gentle piece with mainly harpsichord and harp that sets up and gradually segues into the brutal "Fall". This part is so much more frightening on the '76 version, and part of it is due to the way it begins creeping through in the last 30 seconds of "Pavane". I'm sure you'll get a chill from "Fall", especially if you've closed your eyes and imagined the story of the "Fall of the House of Usher" through each part. Finally, after that, "To One in Paradise", which sounds like Poe's biography in four minutes. Or, as Eric Woolfson put it, an epitaph.
With some Alan Parsons fans who are only familiar with the albums from "I Robot" on, you might not know about this one because it was originally issued on another label and took so long to be released on CD (at least, the original version was). Also, it didn't really have any hit singles, even though a couple were released and didn't chart all that high. Don't miss out on this new reissue. In addition to getting both versions, you get some great bonus tracks that feature an informative interview with Parsons and Woolfson, some demos, and the great original Orson Welles voice parts.
Finally, I need to take a minute here. Kudos to a classic rock station in Kansas City, I think it was KYYS. I was there in 2004, and they not only played "System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether", but they played the original version!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2007
The very concept might be daunting to most musicians...but then, Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson aren't (and never were) most musicians. For a first effort from such an outfit, they don't come much better or more ambitious than Tales of Mystery & Imagination. Putting works of literature to music is a task not everyone is up to--Camel attempted something like this with Paul Gallico's novel "The Snow Goose," but their work was entirely instrumental (and gave the record company fits for that very reason, although it has truly stood the test of time). Here, the APP adapt the words of these works as lyrics; we hear Alan Parsons through Vocoder on "The Raven" along with Leonard Whiting (actor best known for his role as Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli's filmed version of "Romeo and Juliet" from 1968) delivering that poem detailing the events of a "midnight dark and dreary." We get Arthur Brown's ("Fire," his big from 1968) tortured delivery of "The Tell-Tale Heart," and the quieter (yet no less tortured) John Miles on the always-chilling "The Cask of Amontillado." "The Fall of the House of Usher" is the true tour de force here, a genuinely scary piece of music. Both that track and the album opener "A Dream Within a Dream" are plenty chilling even without Orson Welles' narrative on the original 1976 album, but Welles' narrative adds something that is undeniably dramatic and certainly adds to the atmosphere on the 1987 remix.
Add here the 8 bonus tracks--4 on each disc--that give some insights into the creative process behind the album, and you've got a Deluxe Edition truly worthy of that appellation. Highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2008
I'll never forget the first work by Edgar Allan Poe I ever read: it was "The Tell-Tale Heart," and Poe's short story about a madman who kills and dismembers an old man by whose "evil eye" he feels haunted soon outgrew the high school class assignment it had originally been for me; and the narrator's nightmares began to haunt me, too. (Yes, I was an impressionable 16-year-old, but Poe really *was* the master of horror for all ages.) Alan Parsons's rendition of the story on the third track of "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" does full justice to its sense of lunacy masquerading as clairvoyance, and the urgency of the narrator's acts, driven by the sound of the old man's beating heart, hidden below the floor boards of his room, and symbolized here by the steady bass and drum beat underlying the entire track -- except for the deceptively serene bridge ("And he won't be found at all, not a trace to mark his fall nor a stain upon the wall"), after which it returns with all the greater force, accentuated by the grating sound of an electric guitar which, along with the bassline and drums, causes some to describe this song as more of a traditional rock song than the other parts of this album.
The album starts with an instrumental based on the poem "Dream Within a Dream," to which the brief Poe quote from 1846's "Marginalia," where "Dream Within a Dream" was also published -- spoken by Orson Welles -- was added on 1987's remastered CD (the second CD of this re-remastered edition). In many ways, this quote sets the theme for the entire album, and for Poe's work in general: "There is ... a class of fancies of exquisite delicacy which are not thoughts ... These fancies arise in the soul, alas how rarely ... at those weird points of time, where the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams. ... I captured this fancy, where all that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream." (I owned and loved the vinyl version of this album long before the CD was released; but for the life of me I cannot understand why this quote was not included from the start -- unlike others I don't find it an intrusion but an enrichment. This double CD, however, now even affords listeners the long-awaited opportunity of a direct comparison between both the original and the 1987 recording.) And like the quote, the entire track weaves around the listener's thoughts and thus, leads us into the rest of the album, at the end introducing the drum-enforced bassline which also dominates the next two tracks on what used to be the vinyl original's first side.
Thus, "Dream Within a Dream" blends seamlessly into the interpretation of Poe's classic "The Raven" -- the epitome of a story about a nightly visitor from hell, come to torment the narrator and to leave Nevermore. (Parsons maintains the poem's gloomy mood, although he makes little to no references to its more explanatory parts.) And like the "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," the album's fourth track deals with a soul damned forever, setting to music the tale of "The Cask of Amontillado," that bait used by its narrator Montresor to lure and immure alive in his palace's labyrinthic vaults one pointedly named Fortunado. The song's heavily textured vocals layer Fortunado's pleas for help with Montresor's gloating, while gentle keyboard and string tunes contrast his horrifying act. Horns, guitars and a choir emphasize the story's somber end.
The tales then move on to the chillingly hilarious account of the madhouse reigned by the inmates themselves (insufficiently "soothed" by the prior system and now partying wildly) and the "System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether," administered on their former guards.
The orchestral suite "Fall of the House of Usher," the centerpiece of the vinyl album's second side, puts to music Poe's ghastly tale of an ancient mansion causing the ruin of its owners. Here again, on the 1987 CD, Orson Welles lends his voice to Poe's words, written in 1831, eight years before the tale itself but foretelling it with its references to "[s]hadows of shadows passing," "colour becom[ing] pallor, man becom[ing] carcase, home becom[ing] catacomb, and the dead [who] are but for a moment motionless." (Again, I fail to understand why this was not already included on the vinyl version of the album -- but, again, I think proponents of both editions will be equally pleased with the direct comparison offered by this CD.) The suite's individual movements mirror the breadth of emotions contained in Poe's tale, with (alternatively and conjunctively) wailing strings, sinuous guitars, and thundering, hard-driving drums and bassline.
And as in anyone of Poe's tales, there simply cannot be an upbeat ending -- the album's last track is a melancholy interpretation of the ode "To One in Paradise," mourning the death of the speaker's love.
"Tales of Mystery and Imagination" is a quintessential concept album; the auspicious debut of that "anonymous outfit that never play[ed] gigs," as Parsons wrote in the liner notes of the remastered CD; a "project" whose name was initially not intended to be the name of the band but rather their product, the album itself. In addition to close contributor and keyboardist Eric Woolfson, Alan Parsons recruited a talented group of individuals: conductor Andrew Powell, who later produced Kate Bush's first albums, scored Richard Donner's Ladyhawke and worked with artists as diverse as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Leo Sayer, Chris de Burgh, Kansas and the Philharmonia Orchestra; guitarist Ian Bairnson (now known for his cooperations with George Martin, Mick Fleetwood and again, Kate Bush); actor Leonard Whiting (Romeo the 1968 Zeffirelli film), Elton John's bassist David Paton, 10CC drummer and Bairnson ex-co-Pilot Stuart Tosh, Tina Turner sidekick-to-be John Miles, and Terry Sylvester, Graham Nash's replacement in the Hollies.
In addition to both versions of the album, this double CD offers bonus material such as excerpts from (spoken) interviews and an extensive booklet which contains, inter alia, the lyrics to all songs, reproductions of the original album's artwork, artist biographies, as well as a detailed essay.
If you didn't know this is Parsons's and his "Project"'s first album, you certainly wouldn't be able to tell this from the record's tight, first-rate production and musicianship. I am not the world's greatest fan of electronic music -- but this album has so much more to offer than synthesizers and vocoders. It has been one of my all-time favorites ever since its 1975 release, and I still listen to it with great regularity.
Essential Alan Parsons Project
Edgar Allan Poe : Poetry and Tales (Library of America)
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2007
This set caps the re-release of the first four AP-supervised remastered titles (three more to follow in September '07, and the final three in December).
For this edition, for the first time on CD, we finally get the original 1976 mix of the album that started it all. While I definitely prefer the '87 remix, there are passages in the original I also enjoy, so it's great to finally be able to compare the two, especially in glorious, remastered form.
In the additional material, there are two excellent spoken-word pieces: One, Orson Welles' entire original recitation, sans music/effects, and also a very enjoyable 8+ minute 1976 radio interview with AP and EW.
The booklet is a wonderful, detailed labor of love, with a great essay.
If you're an APP fan, this is an absolute must-own.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2009
What makes the first "Project" so amazing is that there had been nothing like it before and there has yet to be anything quite like it since. When I asked Alan Parsons how he saw his artistic legacy, he replied that his partnership with Eric Woolfson was somewhat trend-setting at the time. There had been producing songwriters like Lee Hazelwood who would write material for Nancy Sinatra to sing, but the concrete partnership between a producer and a songwriter was a bit of an oddity in 1975. The result was the first "producers' album" (please note the location of the apostrophe) in modern recording history. Eric Woolfson's affinity for not only the prose and poetry of Edgar Allan Poe but for the author's humanity as well culminates in the closing epic To One In Paradise which was written and sung from the point of view of troubled writer himself.
When I listened to the demos that Eric Woolfson created on his own prior to meeting Alan Parsons, it occured to me just how fortuitous their then-friendship would become. The songs that Woolfson composed were catchy, clever, and even witty at times, but they lacked a much needed refinement to make them appeal to a larger audience. The bonus material in this deluxe edition is every bit a testament to Parsons' ability to hone a diamond in the rough as it is to Woolfson's songwriting prowess. As an ardent fan of both artists, I'm just really thankful these two gentlemen bumped into each other in the cafeteria at Abbey Road and managed to see eye to eye.
The original liner notes from 1976 failed to mention The Fall Of The House Of Usher: Prelude was Andrew Powell's orchestral arrangement of an unfinished composition by none other than Claude Debussy called "La chute de maison Usher" from the French. Parson's liner notes from the 1987 remaster corrected this oversight, but these new liner notes focus almost entirely on the artistic identity of The Alan Parsons Project. I wonder if any casual fan would even bother to read these, but ardent fans certainly will. In short, I think a schism can be avoided if one considers how similar the artistic identity here mirrors the artistic identity of the works of William Shakespeare. Many, like myself, believe Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, actually wrote the Sonnets, Histories, and Tragedies while William Shakespeare wrote the comedies that together comprise the Shakespearean canon. However, that analogy falters somewhat in that the identity of Edward de Vere was genuinely hidden from the rest of the world whereas Eric Woolfson's was not.
For those reluctant to spend the sum necessary to purchase the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab release of the original 1976 mix, this package does offer a nice alternative. Most audiophiles will almost certainly prefer the dynamic range of the aforementioned MFSL release as well as the 1987 remix, but for those who listen to music on smaller portable systems, in the car, or on headphones this version will likely be more than satisfactory. While I do wish that this deluxe edition was available on Sony's Super Audio CD, I'm not about to give up hope that it may someday. To hear this work of art in quadraphonic surround with the Orson Welles narrations occupying the center channel would be a A Dream Within A Dream come true!
Largely misunderstood by the vacuous music press of its day, Tales of Mystery and Imagination gained the recognition it so richly deserved over time. That this work of art would be so bedevilled with such bad press seems almost too appropriate given all the misconceptions that surrounded Poe throughout his life and even more so after he died. I would strongly recommend any ardent fan of The Project also take a look at Eric Woolfson's finest musical Poe: More Tales of Mystery & Imagination for a closer look at the man who would become the single most influential writer that America ever produced.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The team of Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons - the heart of The Alan Parsons Project (APP) - produced what is arguably one of the best string of rock/pop concept albums ever. And, "Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allen Poe" was the album that got it all started.
This offering includes both the original version of the album released in 1976 and the remastered version released in 1987.
I was introduced to APP music in early 1977, mere months after the original version of this album was released. Having read a good deal of Edgar Allen Poe's work, I thoroughly enjoyed APP's adaptations of several of Poe's stories. APP's mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks has become, at least for me, their trademark.
The album includes hard driving rock (e.g. The Tell-Tale Heart, and Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether), moody instrumentals (e.g., Fall of the House of Usher - in 5 parts), and calm, reflective songs (e.g., To One in Paradise).
The 1987 remastered and revised version of the album includes Orson Welles narration as part of "A Dream Within a Dream", and the addition of heavier duty guitar licks to some of the other tracks.
I bought the vinyl LP when it came out, followed by an audio cassette of this album (1976 version). Then I kept an eye out for this music to be released on CD. When it was in 1987 I snapped it up, not knowing about the additions and revisions to many of the songs. It was, but was not my old friend. That is why I find this 2-CD set to be such a great option. It provides both the original and the revised versions of this great album.
I believe that even if you are not a fan of Poe's work, you will enjoy APP's music.
By the way, APP relies heavily on electronic manipulation to achieve the desired result in this album, and it is used to very good effect.
If you are just testing the APP water, I suggest that this is the best place to start.
5 stars all the way. I've had this music in one format or another for over 30 years now, and it still finds its way into my music playlists!
Alan Holyoak - 30+ year APP fan
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2008
'Tales of Mystery and Imagination', a concept album based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, first appeared on LP in 1976, reappearing (in remastered form) on CD in 1987. This 2-disc remastered resissue contains both the 1976 and the 1987 versions, together with a great deal of interesting bonus material. Hitherto, the 1976 version had never appeared on CD.
Inclusion of the original 1976 version makes this a particularly welcome reissue because, in my opinion, the 1987 version was significantly weaker than the original, lacking much of the bite of the 1976 production. Originally intended not as the name of a band but, rather, as a one-off exercise, the Alan Parsons Project went on to become one of the most successful and original of prog rock acts, but this is where it all began. From the very first cadences to the end, this is a gripping and enjoyable album of remarkable originality and power. Superb stuff, and the sonic quality of this reissue is excellent. Enjoy!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2007
I really like the Alan Parsons Project. Parsons himself is an engineer extrordinaire, and I especially appreciate Ian Bairnson's guitars.
I remember getting the CD of "Tales" when it first came out. What I especially remember is hearing the new additions (like the guitar solo in "Telltale Heart") and thinking, "Why did they do that???". I liked the buildup of the song on its own... I though the addition was unnecessary.
I realize that just because I like it one way it doesn't mean that the composer liked it that way, too. So it is an extra treat to be able to have it both. So you can have Orson Wells introduce the album and still have the solo-less buildup in TellTale Heart as well. I'm glad both are now avaiable.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The first of The Alan Parsons Project albums set the footprint for his career to follow: choose a concept and then base progressive, highly structured and immaculately produced music around it. In the case of "Tales Of Mystery," it was Edgar Allan Poe. My original copy of this was on vinyl, a reissue of the 20th Century Records release with a second version of the cover, depicting a bust of Parsons somewhat wrapped in mummy-bandages. (The long shadow on the CD cover minus the mummy photos was the original cover.) Featuring several of APP's soon to be regular cast, collaborator Eric Woolfson and members of the groups Ambrosia (Parsons produced the debut "Ambrosia") and Pilot, it was the kind of album that got labeled "head music" in the seventies. Perfect for listening to with headphones or while hanging out with friends in a room full of black light posters while probably not 100% sober.
Some 30 years later and more often sober while listening to CD's, this album holds up well for its first half. The trademarks of APP appear in songs like "The Raven" and the instrumental "Dream Within A Dream." There was even a minor hit single as "The System Of Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather" slipped into the lower reaches of the top 40. The album's final Beatlesque ballad, "To One In Paradise," sounds worthy of Abby Road and is indicative of hits to come - think of "Time."
On the other hand, the 15 minute "The Fall Of The House Of Usher" is a soundtrack in search of a video accompaniment. While a younger and more - ummm... - 'stimulated' imagination might have filled in the picture, it now just sounds like background buzz. While I don't mind the stentorian narration Parsons added from Orson Welles for the 1987 CD release, the additional synthesizers and solo guitars are an irritant. They could have left well-enough alone, but since CD technology was the shiny new thing at the time, I don't blame Parsons for wanting to tweak the new version.
Now, however, you have both versions in one box. This ups my original rating from 3 stars to four, as the sonic enhancements make the twin discs sound even better. For the first time since a long OOP Mobile Fidelity Disc, you can hear the version of this album in its original context, minus the extra guitars and synths. The demos add little to the package, but the bare narration from Orson Welles (and the radio spot) are worth a smile. As soon as I saw this at a domestic price, I knew I'd have to own it, and it was worth the investment.
As far as its place in the APP discography, I probably prefer "I Robot," "Pyramid" and "Eye in the Sky" ahead of "Tales Of Mystery." But for shear audacity (mixing classics of literature with rock music was considered pretty risky in 1976), the Alan Parsons Project debut still can stimulate.