Vulture Culture

The Alan Parsons Project

Arista Records, 1984

http://alanparsonsmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/18/2004

I don't know if you remember 1984, but 1984 was a very style over substance time. Everything seemed to be about image, flash, and flair. Not a good time to put out a progressive rock CD, but Alan Parsons and company found a neat way to get around that.

They didn't.

Don't get me wrong. I have some soft spots in my heart for the 1984 release from the Alan Parsons Project, Vulture Culture, but if the gods came down and threatened me with a lightning strike unless I gave up one Project CD, I'd fling this one in the divine dustbin so fast it would leave skidmarks. Vulture Culture is, fundamentally, a flawed work with only a few good bits. For the first time, APP takes on a theme they can't manage to handle; that of the fact that we all feed off one another, that all societies are, at their heart, parasitical. Deep -- so deep, in fact, that the album's shallowness leaves the theme beached like a whale who left the map at home.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Production and engineering is, as always, crisp, clear, and flawless. Sad fact is, though, that that flawless production reveals the flaws in the compositions themselves. Songs like "Separate Lives" and "Sooner Or Later" end up sounding like the unholy mating of Parsons' immaculate synths with bubblegum pop. The word I keep coming back to is shallow; I can only assume that continued pressure from Arista Records after the modest chart successes of Eye In The Sky and Ammonia Avenue resulted in a more pop-oriented sound -- a sound that just doesn't work. Andrew Powell's orchestral sound is completely absent on Vulture Culture, and the traditional Project sound goes right out the window with it.

There are a few good moments. "Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)" is one of the greatest songs the Project ever recorded, a brilliant, textured, and complex ballad in the middle of a field of mostly banal lyrics and uninspired arrangements. "Let's Talk About Me" has a few good moments, mostly in the pounding percussion of Stuart Elliot. "The Same Old Sun" is a Broadway-style ballad, similar in feel and in quality to "Shadow Of A Lonely Man" from Pyramid. Unfortunately, that's only three tracks, and even if you count the instrumental ("Hawkeye", which for being somewhat average still has a great saxophone part) that's only half a CD. It's not precisely that Vulture Culture is bad, it's just that Parsons could do much, much better. (I do still wonder how much of the CD's sound is record company meddling.)

Vulture Culture can only be recommended to the completist. In the end, the record company may have fed off itself, and killed any chance the Project had of three CDs with American chart success.

Rating: C-

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.