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Released: Sept. 24, 1996

Rating: 3.695 (average of 11 ratings)

Genre: progressive rock lite


” 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” – Steve Marshall,

Album Tracks:

  1. Blue Blue Sky [1:32] v: Eric Stewart
  2. Too Close to the Sun (Bairnson/Elliott/Parsons) [5:06] v: Neil Lockwood
  3. Blown by the Wind [5:25] v: Eric Stewart
  4. Cloudbreak (instrumental) (Bairnson/Elliott/Parsons) [4:39]
  5. I Can't Look Down [4:38] v: Neil Lockwood
  6. Brother Up in Heaven [3:54] v: Neil Lockwood
  7. Fall Free (Bairnson/Elliott/Parsons) [4:33] v: Steve Overland
  8. Apollo (instrumental) (Bairnson/Elliott/Parsons) [5:59] speech by John F. Kennedy
  9. So Far Away [4:04] v: Christopher Cross
  10. One Day to Fly (Elliott/English) [6:16] v: Graham Dye
  11. Blue Blue Sky – Reprise [4:29] v: Eric Stewart
Unless otherwise noted, songs are written by Ian Bairnson. The ‘v’ after the song listing indicates who provides lead vocals.

Total Running Time: 50:50


sales in U.S. only --
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated --


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart --
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • none

On Air
Alan Parsons
On his second post-project release, Alan Parsons hands over writing duties to longtime Project guitarist Ian Bairnson, who pens or co-pens all but one track on the album. Bairnson was supposedly “spurred on following the ‘friendly fire’ death of [his] cousin in Iraq” (Thelen). The album’s “concept deals with the fascination of flight and the yearning people have to become one with the sky” (DeGagne). Unlike most Project albums, a quick perusal of the song titles makes the theme obvious. When you listen to the music, you also hear a “light, breezy feel that carries each song, simulating an effortless flight through the clouds” (DeGagne).

However, “as beautiful and imagery-filled as this idea is, its potential never…get[s] off the ground. Most of the songs…lack the intensity…necessary to establish any concern for the main idea. Instead, they consist of metaphorical lyrics that go off on strange tangents, misconstrued and long-drawn-out stanzas that seem empty, and a slight pretentiousness…usually absent from this band's material (DeGagne). Basically, the album’s ”sound is smooth and gentle but has difficulty in holding interest” (DeGagne). After listening to the album you may find yourself easing back in your chair and letting out a relaxed sigh, but nothing will leave you tapping your fingers on the arm of the chair.

As always, Parsons maintains “complete mastery of the recording studio” (Thelen), and now that he is with a smaller label, Parsons has more control over the work.

”From the opening notes of Blue Blue Sky, man looks up and dreams of being able to break the bonds with earth” (Thelen).

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 (Marshall). ”Parsons captures all the power of the jet's flyby and sonic boom. The…myth of Icarus is put to music…featuring a powerful lead vocal from Neil Lockwood” (Thelen).

”From the development of balloons which are, for the most part, out of human control (Blown by the Wind) to dealing with people's fear of flying (Can't Look Down), Parsons and crew choose not to dwell on a history of aviation…but rather focus on the poetry of developments and modern-day situations” (Thelen).

”Interspersed is Cloudbreak, one of two instrumentals…and proof positive that Parsons and crew have lost nothing over the course of 20 years of creating music” (Thelen). It "is superb, and ranks up with the best” (Marshall) of Parsons’ instrumentals.

The highlight…is Brother Up in Heaven, Bairnson's tribute to his cousin. Unlike some of the other songs, the theme here is less on flight and more on dealing with the loss of a loved one and the process of grieving. Sample lyric: "I still see his shadow / His laugh lingers on / When I dream, we're all back together / When I wake, he's gone" (Thelen).

"Fall Free is one of the CD's better cuts, and it lightens the mood a bit after ‘Brother Up in Heaven’" (Marshall).

”Now that humans have made it into the realm of soaring with the birds, Parsons looks at the natural progression of our thinking - thinking which led us into space. The instrumental Apollo "features excerpts from a speech by John F. Kennedy and is almost techno at times. The crunching power chords toward the end of the song bear a strong resemblance to ‘Where's the Walrus?’ from the [1986 Project album] Stereotomy” (Marshall). ”Both instrumentals…are appealing, and capture the essence of the album more so than any of the vocally inhabited songs” (DeGagne).

’Apollo’ “serves as a mood-setting piece that brings things up to speed, leading the way to So Far Away, another track that speaks of the dangers one faces when they defy gravity. Christopher Cross takes over the role of lead…and voices it perfectly (with all due respect to Britons, I don't think anyone but an American could have sang a lyric about the Challenger disaster” (Thelen).

This song and ‘Too Close to the Sun’ “are the album's finer points, but even these songs fall short of the domineering style that once surrounded the Alan Parsons Project” (DeGagne). ”Most of the songs contain well-established harmonies and a fair amount of guitar and keyboard mingling, but it's the lack of depth and assertiveness that holds this album back” (DeGagne).

”But while boundaries continue to be broken and experiments in flight occasionally still fail, man still finds himself dreaming about the next levels of flight, bringing the listener to One Day to Fly. Not surprisingly, the song captures the dream that…we all wish we could fly without the man-made gadgets and high-technology” (Thelen).

The album closes with a reprise of the opening song. “The way the album returns to Blue Blue Sky, featuring some beautiful guitar work from Bairnson, is a very smart move” (Thelen).

In the end, “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 (Marshall). “This disc takes a few listens to really appreciate, but that's usually the sign of a good CD” (Marshall).

Review Source(s):

Related DMDB Links:

previous album: Try Anything Once (1993) Alan Parsons Project’s DMDB page next album: Time Machine (1999)

Last updated April 4, 2008.