The Alan Parsons Project were known for their refining of the concept album with their ten albums released between 1976 and 1987. The second of those albums, I Robot, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a newly expanded 2-CD Legacy Edition.
Following the success of the band’s debut, 1976’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe, the Alan Parsons Project came to the attention of Arista Records founder and president Clive Davis. He travelled to London to personally sign the group in Arista’s third year of existence.
Having devoted themselves to the works of Poe, Sally Woolfson and Alan Parsons next turned their attention to the writings of science fiction great Isaac Asimov. The inspiration was I, Robot, Asimov’s 1950 book of short stories. The book was optioned to a television/film company, hence the deletion of the copyrighted comma in the group’s title. Nonetheless, Asimov encouraged the musicians with their concept. The album, as the new liner notes explain, “to some extent looks at the questions and the extent to which, as human beings, we may or may not be pre-programmed and act in a robotic fashion, as well as the dangers of uncontrolled development of artificial intelligence.”
As they had done before on Tales…, for I Robot the group took the unusual route of utilizing various guest lead singers to suit each composition, artists who were relatively well-known but not superstars out of the producers’ reach. These guest vocalists included Lenny Zakatek of Gonzalez (on I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You); Jaki Whitren (on Some Other Time); Allan Clarke of the Hollies (on Breakdown); Dave Townsend (on Don’t Let It Show); Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel (on The Voice); and so on.
Principal musicians on I Robot comprised Pilot band members Ian Bairnson (guitars), David Paton (bass), and Stuart Tosh (drums), with Woolfson taking over for Pilot keyboardist Billy Lyall (who had become terminally ill). The album employed many technical advances, such as the EMS Synthi-A ‘suitcase’ synth sequencer (heard on Dark Side Of The Moon), a portable electronic pipe organ, an analogue keyboard instrument called the Projectron (predecessor to ’80s digital samplers), and more.
The first disc is a remastered version of the original album while the second has bonus tracks including such exotica as the sounds of the French version of metal pool balls on Boules (I Robot Experiment). An early demo of a slower backing riff for Breakdown is heard, as well as a backing track rough mix of I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You, before Ian Bairnson’s explosive guitar solo was added. Another early stage rough mix is unearthed for Day After Day. Finally, The Naked Robot is a ten-minute medley of early stage mixes of instrumental pieces on the album.
“I have a fond memory,” Parsons recalls in his liner notes, “of going to see the movie [Star Wars] during a promotional trip to Chicago for the album with our good friend at the label, Dennis Fine, who ran Arista’s publicity department. The buzz for the movie was at its height and I remember hearing the loud and enthusiastic cheers of the crowd from inside the theatre at the end of the previous screening. It was clear that our timing was impeccable − there was a whole new generation of Sci-Fi lovers. I was right there with them − Star Wars is still in my top three all-time movies. I know it was a big favourite of Eric’s too.”
- I Robot (2nd single B-side)
- I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You (1st single, Hot 100 #36)
- Some Other Time
- Don’t Let It Show (2nd single, Hot 100 #92)
- The Voice
- Nucleus (1st single B-side)
- Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)
- Total Eclipse
- Genesis Ch.1 V.32
- U.S Radio Commercial for I Robot
- Boules (I Robot Experiment)
- Hilary Western Soprano Vocal Rehearsal
- Extract 1 from The Alan Parsons Project Audio Guide
- Extract 2 from The Alan Parsons Project Audio Guide
- I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You (Backing Track Rough Mix)
- Some Other Time (Complete vocal by Jaki Whitren)
- Breakdown (Early demo of backing riff)
- Extract 3 from The Alan Parsons Project Audio Guide
- Breakdown (The Choir)
- Don’t Let It Show (Eric Woolfson demo)
- Day After Day (Early Stage Rough Mix)
- Genesis Ch. 1 V. 32 – Choir Session
- The Naked Robot