ALAN PARSONS -- On Air (River North)

The first time I heard this disc, I was less than impressed. The last Alan Parsons CD, Try Anything Once, had a few good tracks on it, but it headed straight for the cutout bins. I thought sure On Air would be right behind it. After two or three listens, though, the songs started to grow on me. On Air has more of a 'Floydian' feel to it than other Parsons albums--due in part to the added use of sound effects. The CD begins with a 46-second track called "Blue Blue Sky." As the track segues into "Too Close to the Sun," a jet roars across your speakers. The sound is so realistic that at high volumes, you'll swear it's flying right over the room.

The instrumentals have always been a high point on Parsons' earlier albums, and On Air carries on the tradition. The first one, "Cloudbreak," is superb, and ranks up with the best of them. "Fall Free" is one of the CD's better cuts, and it lightens the mood a bit after "Brother Up in Heaven." "Apollo," the second instrumental on the CD, features excerpts from a speech by John F. Kennedy and is almost techno at times. The crunching power chords toward the of the song bear a strong resemblance to "Where's the Walrus?" from the 1985 album, Stereotomy.

As a special bonus, Parsons and multimedia producer Ken Rose joined forces to produce a CD-ROM. Packaged together with the audio CD at no additional cost, it includes an interactive game, plus exclusive graphics. Parsons is currently busy working on a new 'surround sound' version of the CD, using the new High Definition Surround technology. On Air marks a return to form for Parsons, revisiting the sound of earlier works like I Robot and Pyramid. This disc takes a few listens to really appreciate, but that's usually the sign of a good CD. Parsons probably isn't going to win over any new fans with this one, but anyone who has liked them in the past will probably enjoy On Air.

© 1996 Steve Marshall