I, Robot

The Alan Parsons Project

Arista Records, 1977

http://alanparsonsmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/10/2004

You know, it has to just be a real downer to have your critical benchmark come on your second release.

In 1977, The Alan Parsons Project released I, Robot; and it's probably not too hyperbole-laced to say that progressive rock was never quite the same. A stark and thoughtful tale of man versus machine, the vision of I, Robot was a world where man attempts to create in his own image, and thusly falls from his pinnacle. (And this, folks, was years before Terminator.) Big topic, big risk, big vision -- and quite often, visions this big fail because they're too big. Thankfully, Parsons managed to avoid this trap, and turned in what is certainly one of the highlights of his long career.nbtc__dv_250

I, Robot is a study in contrasts. The album's vocals are, for the most part, lush and melodic -- but the instrumentation is alternately stately and serious (with liberal use of Andrew Powell's orchestral arranging skills) or electronic and impersonal. This develops a powerful dynamic of the organic versus the mechanical that contributes to the vaguely unsettling nature of the CD. I, Robot is not casual listening; it rather demands you pay attention to it. Thankfully, Parsons' flawless production and engineering, along with Eric Woolfson's stellar songwriting, makes that attention a pleasant thing to pay.

There are a couple of AOR radio staples on I, Robot, and they're both quite acceptable -- the guitar-driven, almost funky "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" and the driving, intense "Breakdown," with its triumphant choral ending. But the real gems are the tracks you probably haven't heard. "Some Other Time" is elegant, breathtaking, a massive rise and fall of sheer energy. The instrumentals are excellent, especially the almost trance of "Genesis Ch.1 V.32." My favorite, however, is the simple, heartfelt, and beautiful "Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)" -- the best song on the topic of just moving on with your life until Queen's song of the same name. There are a couple of slight miscues on the CD -- I admit to never quite warming to "The Voice," and I think its vocoder-laden vocals sound dated as hell -- but overall, this is the first sign of true brilliance from Parsons and Woolfson, and it is -- or should be -- required listening for anyone who is at all interested in progressive rock. Far from being the latest Will Smith movie, I, Robot is much, much more complex.

Rating: A

User Rating: A


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© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.