Santa Barbara resident Alan Parsons is set to release his fifth solo record, one that will take fans down a progressive rock memory lane
Fifteen years after releasing his last solo studio album, renowned record producer, sound engineer and rock musician Alan Parsons will soon release his fifth solo record, “The Secret.”
The producer and Santa Barbara resident said in an interview that his latest album, scheduled for release on April 26, will “harken back to the traditional Alan Parsons Project sound,” referring to the progressive rock band he led with late songwriter and musician Eric Woolfson from 1975 to 1990.
This return to the trademark sound that Mr. Parsons described as “good songs, big sound, and heavily orchestrated” comes after the electronic sound of his 2004 solo album “A Valid Path” failed to capture an electronic dance music audience.
“It didn’t really do incredibly well,” Mr. Parsons admitted of his last record.
In the intervening years, Mr. Parsons has spent his time performing live around the world with his band The Alan Parsons Live Project, as well as producing and engineering albums by other musicians. The impetus for hitting the studio as an artist again came when Mr. Parsons’ label, Frontiers Records, appealed to him to record a new studio album. In 2010 the label released the live album Eye 2 Eye: Live in Madrid, documenting one of his concerts in Spain.
“The Secret” continues the Alan Parsons tradition of showcasing different singers on each track. Notable vocalists Mr. Parsons recruited for the album include Jason Mraz, who is featured on the single “Miracle.” This collaboration came about after the two were introduced through a mutual friend, local coffee maker Jay Ruskey, who the “I’m Yours” vocalist was in contact with due to his desire to start growing coffee.
Though Mr. Parsons said he “got on very well” with Mr. Mraz, the two were not actually in the same room when recording the vocals for “Miracle.” Taking advantage of modern recording technology, Mr. Mraz recorded his part live over the internet while he was in Dallas, Texas. Other vocalists featured on “The Secret” include former Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm, who recorded his vocal parts for the song “Sometimes” via the same method while he was in New York.
When it comes to choosing which voice should deliver one of his songs, Mr. Parsons said it’s all down to him visualizing which singer would be most fitting for the material.
“It’s just a matter of picking a voice out of thin air and seeing in my mind how it works,” he said.
Mr. Parsons has lived in the hills above Winchester Canyon since 2000 and visited Santa Barbara off-and-on since the 1980s before moving to the town. Though he spoke highly of Santa Barbara and feels “very privileged to live in such a wonderful place,” he hasn’t yet written about the town in any of his songs and has thus far chosen different lyrical topics for his music
Asked about the album’s title, the producer said that “The Secret” fit the album’s songs, which are based on several aspects of magic and “what goes on in a magician’s mind.” Magic has been a passion for Mr. Parsons since childhood, one he continues to cultivate by learning new card tricks and frequently visiting The Magic Castle, an exclusive magic club in Los Angeles.
His favorite tracks on “The Secret” include “As Lights Fall” and “I Can’t Get There From Here,” both of which have been performed live by the Alan Parsons Live Project on its recent tour. A music video for “I Can’t Get There From Here” dropped on March 20 and a video for “As Lights Fall” will soon be released.
Mr. Parsons and his band have just finished a nine-month concert tour of the East Coast and the Caribbean and opened its concerts with new track “One Note Symphony.” Mr. Parsons said the song, along with the rest of “The Secret” numbers, has gone down well live, despite audiences being “slightly taken aback by hearing something brand-new as the first song.”
Looking back through his decades-long career, Mr. Parsons said his biggest highlight as a producer is his work on the 1976 top 5 charting Al Stewart album “Year of the Cat.” As for a career highlight as a sound engineer, he chose his work on Pink Floyd’s seminal 1973 concept album “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Having always seen himself as principally a producer and an engineer, performing live is the only time Mr. Parsons’ “artist side” comes to the forefront.
“I’m no virtuoso. Other people do the musician stuff better than I do,” he said.
That said, he does enjoy playing live and feels more confident as a performing musician and singer than he used to. On Thursday Mr. Parsons performed at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, kicking off another leg of touring that will go across the U.S. West Coast and Europe.