The Turn Of A Friendly Card

The Alan Parsons Project

Arista Records, 1980

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


To be honest, I’m not quite sure why the Alan Parsons Project doesn’t get more play around Casa De Clutterbuck.

Whenever one of their songs or albums gets played, I marvel at the production and their overall strength, since they had perfected a progressive pop sound that converted prog-rock bands like Genesis and Yes couldn't quite reach in the 1980s. Now, fellow reviewer Duke Egbert is probably going to strangle me in my sleep for simplifying the matter thusly, but it’s the truth.

Maybe it was the eye-pleasing album cover of Card which I love, or the album’s theme of gambling -- which to my knowledge really has not been covered much in popular music -- but something about the record called to me. So when I had the opportunity to pick up the vinyl for a few bucks at the local used bookstore, I couldn’t pass it up.

Ok, so maybe The Turn Of A Friendly Cardmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is a weak concept album. After giving it multiple spins, I got the sense that Parsons and Woolfson were forcing the matter. Hell, the entire first side could have placed on any other non-concept album and the songs would have worked. That being said, the first four numbers are rather good.

I’ve always enjoyed the fact that the Alan Parsons Project was not linked to just one vocalist, which allows for variety. The first three songs have different singers, but each seems tailor-made for their song, such as Elmer Gantry capturing a slightly off-beat and intense vibe indicating that indeed, “Something’s wrong in the house today…”

Eric Woolfson, who was the man behind the Project’s bigger hits, delivers a breathtaking vocal on “Time” which has less to do with the album’s theme than any other number. That, of course, doesn’t stop it from being a gorgeous ballad. “Games People Play” has been a favorite of mine for a while now; its driving keyboards and infectious chorus mesh quite well.

Of course, as with any Parsons album, its success hinges on the wide sweeping numbers. In this case, the whole second side of the album serves as the grand statement, and it's here where the record shines. Classic instrumental “The Gold Bug” kicks this off and forces the listener to just sit back, and revel in just how good of a producer Alan Parsons is (as if Dark Side of the Moon hadn't convinced you already).

His albums are clean and focused yet keep from sounding processed and cold. The orchestral arrangements on the title track and “The Ace of Swords” alone place him above many of his contemporaries. In this case, with the record having come out in 1980, the more traditional orchestra weaves seamlessly in and out with what was considered “modern” technology then, crafting a brilliant blend of the old and new.

Lead vocalist Chris Rainbow has the lion’s share of the vocals on the suite and just knocks them out of the park. His work on the different parts of the title track is the highlight of the record for me. Actually, the man at times reminded me of Jason Scheff, who replaced Peter Cetera in Chicago. Rainbow employs his falsetto with tremendous confidence yet never comes off sounding as wimpy.

The Turn Of A Friendly Card will likely turn you on to seeking out the rest of the Alan Parson's Project work. At least, it did for me.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck 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.