Released in 1985, and carefully crafted to fit in snugly with the post-new-wave synth-rock sound of the day, I’ll confess up front that the Alan Parsons Project’s Stereotomy, after all these years, remains my least favorite of the group’s string of albums from the 1970s and ’80s. Of all the Project albums, Stereotomy has almost no discernable theme, breaking a long string of nicely-thought-out concept albums, and at least two of its songs – the title track and the rambling instrumental “Where’s The Walrus?” (a title reportedly coined by an associate of the band complaining that the album didn’t sport anything as instantly catchy as “I Am The Walrus”, and you know, he was right!) – just waffle on too long for the sake of being too long, and long after the band had shed most of its prog rock credibility in exchange for short, catchy singles too.
So does Stereotomy reveal anything new in remastered form? Maybe. I’m still a bit underwhelmed by the original album program, and this time around, even the bonus features are a bit thin, with the liner notes booklet pointing out that Parsons had gone to all-digital recording by this time, which made it easier – and, due to the expensive nature of the equipment and recording media, necessarily more economical – to just roll back over outtakes rather than hanging on to them. As a result, most of what we get here are the same songs we already know, except either with no vocals or with an early guide vocal long since mixed out of the released version. There’s one legitimately new song here, “Rumour Goin’ Round”, which is an interesting rock number not too far from the sound of “In The Real World”. It has no lyrics, so it’s presented here as a bit of a rough-hewn instrumental, and one wonders what the finished product would have been like. The liner notes point out that Parsons and songwriter Eric Woolfson felt that the album was full and ready to deliver to the label without finishing out this song, and I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. In any case, as it appears here, it’s not exactly the undiscovered gem that “No Answers Only Questions” was.
I was hoping for some mention of the infamous unreleased ’80s instrumental album The Sicilian Defense, and the controversy which surrounded it as Parsons and Woolfson tried to get out from under their demanding Arista contract, but the liner notes of these releases have steadfastly stayed away from that topic, despite this being a perfect opportunity to separate fact from rumor (were the Sicilian songs mined as material for later albums, or is there really an entire Project album we’ve never heard?), and that whole vetted-by-the-label safe approach has left me disappointed. The liner notes booklets in the Project remasters play it very safe, and even recycle the same liner notes about the post-Project careers of Parsons and Woolfson, word for word. It’s not like Sony’s ELO remaster series opened the vaults and told all in its accompanying literature, but at least one didn’t get the sense that those essays were being phoned in; here, one gets precisely that impression.
Stereotomy, even in shiny remastered form, doesn’t get out from under the position of being my least favorite Alan Parsons Project album, and truth be told, it’s one of the weakest remasters from a standpoint of bonus material too, making it a completists-only item.
- Stereotomy (7:16)
- Beaujolais (4:28)
- Urbania (5:00)
- Limelight (4:38)
- The Real World (4:21)
- Where’s The Walrus? (7:33)
- Light Of The World (6:17)
- Chinese Whispers (1:01)
- Stereotomy II (1:23)
- Light Of The World (instrumental backing track only) (6:14)
- Rumour Goin’ Round (5:01)
- Stereotomy (rough mix with Eric’s guide vocal) (6:39)
- Stereotomy II (rough mix) (1:22)
Released by: Sony / Legacy
Release date: 2008 (original album released in 1985)
Total running time: 61:13