Though I reviewed the original release of this album quite a while back, this is the remastered and expanded version issued by Sony after its acquisition of the Arista back catalog. Over the years I’ve waffled a bit on what my favorite Alan Parsons Project albums are, but Pyramid and Eve are the two I keep coming back to, because the melding of theme/concept and music are just about perfect. In its remastered form, Pyramid is quite literally loud and clear, though it’s worth noting that I really didn’t have any complaints about the album in its original form. The remaster adds some alternate takes and backing-track-only mixes – essentially, the musical equivalent of DVD deleted scenes – of ther material that’s already available. There aren’t any unreleased tracks from the Pyramid sessions – or at least, not any that anybody wanted to put on this CD.
The original album tracks have aged gracefully, and if anything – at least to my ears – Pyramid has only gained potency with time. The album’s theme, concerning itself with human mortality and the idea of attempting to attain immortality through what one leaves behind, was quite clearly on display when I first heard Pyramid as a teenager, but with the benefit of 20+ years to think on those topics and to revisit the music, it’s more meaningful now. The entirety of Pyramid is one of the most cohesive concept albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, and even with the grandiose, sprawling cinematic arrangements, not a note is wasted. “What Goes Up…” remains one of the Project’s all-time best tunes, while I’ve grown to appreciate “Can’t Take It With You” and “One More River” more as the years have gone by. This is a Concept Album with a capital C and a capital A, an organic entity that needs to be heard all in one sitting, despite most of its individual songs being strong enough to stand alone.
The bonus tracks kick off with a lengthy instrumental suite spanning much of the first side of the album (for those who are old enough to think in terms of albums having “sides,” that is), giving you a clearer listen at the intricate arrangements of “What Goes Up…” and “The Eagle Will Rise Again”. The latter is gorgeous even in instrumental form, with Chris Rainbow’s overdubbed-and-overdubbed-again background harmonies being especially worthy of praise. A frequent collaborator with the Project, he often built the entire backing vocals himself, though his contributions have remained largely – if you’ll forgive the awful pun – unsung by many fans and music historians.
A very early demo version of “Voyager” is paired with “Little Voices”, a song that underwent a major reworking to become “What Goes Up…”; you can hear Eric Woolfson experimenting with many of the melodic and harmonic twists and turns that would eventually feature in “What Goes Up…”, as well as messing around with still only vaguely formed lyrics that clearly were in their infancy. Another early demo shows the early evolution of the instrumental “Hyper-Gamma-Spaces”, though the churning background synth line that became that song’s trademark is completely absent, this demo concentrating instead on the main synth melody. A demo and an orchestra-free backing track show the evolution of the epic instrumental “In The Lap Of The Gods”, which always seemed like a soundtrack cue sitting around waiting for a movie to happen.
If there’s a jaw-dropping shocker in Pyramid‘s bonus tracks, it’s an early demo of “The Eagle Will Rise Again”, showing that song’s early life as an acoustic rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place on any pre-Monster R.E.M. album. In fact, the thought struck me that this instrumental tryout of “Eagle” would segue beautifully into “Losing My Religion”. I’ll admit that I never once heard the finished song and thought of it as being a candidate for this treatment. I almost wish now that it had been finished out in this form at some point, just as an experiment. It’s the same tune, but radically reformatted.
Those wondering where to find the latest trio of remastered Project albums in North America will have to brace themselves for paying import prices. Apparently the two remasters which saw general release in the States (I Robot, Eye In The Sky) slid under the radar for most music buyers, and apparently the label suspected they would, with the remaster of Vulture Culture hitting shops in the U.K. and Europe only. (Fortunately, you can click our link and get an imported copy at a not-completely-unreasonable price.)
Pyramid is still one of my all-time favorite rock albums, and hearing it with these various “deleted scenes” just helps me to appreciate its strengths and quirks all over again. Definitely one of the better Alan Parsons Project remasters.
- Voyager (2:14)
- What Goes Up… (3:40)
- The Eagle Will Rise Again (4:22)
- One More River (4:16)
- Can’t Take It With You (5:06)
- In The Lap Of The Gods (5:30)
- Pyramania (2:43)
- Hyper-Gamma-Spaces (4:20)
- The Shadow Of A Lonely Man (5:44)
- Voyager / What Goes Up / The Eagle Will Rise Again (Instrumental Version) (8:55)
- What Goes Up / Little Voice (Early Version Demo) (4:07)
- Can’t Take It With You (Early Version Demo) (1:45)
- Hyper-Gamma-Spaces (Demo) (2:21)
- The Eagle Will Rise Again (Alternate Version – Backing Track) (3:20)
- In The Lap Of The Gods (Part 1 – Demo) (3:14)
- In The Lap Of The Gods (Part 2 – Backing Track Rough Mix) (1:55)
Released by: Legacy
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 63:33