The Alan Parsons Project launched in 1976 with Tales of Mystery and Imagination, an album devoted to musical interpretation of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Originally intended as a one-time project, the work led to nine more studio albums in just over a decade’s time. ”Between 1975 and 1987, ten Alan Parsons project albums…sold over 45 million copies worldwide” (Poe-cd.com). The Project was helmed by its namesake alongside singer, keyboardist and co-writer Eric Woolfson and backed by a slew of rotating vocalists and other session musicians.
When the Project split in 1987, “Woolfson was eager to write for musical theatre, and in 1990, a new career began when his first musical Freudiana, was premiered in Vienna” (Poe-cd.com). Freudiana “offers…various interpretations of [psychiatrist Sigmund] Freud's works, studying all his most famous cases (Wolfman, Ratman, Dora, Little Hans, Schreber and the Judge)" (Garcia).
Much of the Project’s work suffered from songs with an eye for radio that were loosely tied to vague themes studying the nature of man. Woolfson’s single-minded purpose to craft a musical freed him from the burden of crafting songs that had to stand alone out of context while also tying the songs more closely to an overall theme. The result is the most focused work on Woolfson’s resume since the Project’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
The music here also works in that it is a Project album in all but name. Not only does Woolfson enlist longtime Project players Stuart Elliot and Ian Bairnson on drums and guitar respectively, but vocalists Chris Rainbow, John Miles, and Graham Dye, all of whom had worked with the Project. Of course, the most important connection is the presence of Alan Parsons himself. While the Project albums were fairly collaborative efforts between Woolfson and Parsons, this album is the brainchild of Woolfson. Parsons, however, still produces and engineers the album and even wrote one instrumental (Beyond the Pleasure Principle).
As a result, it is no surprise how much the album serves up “obvious reminders of the Alan Parsons Project (most noticeably Dora)" (Garcia) on which Woolfson handles the lead vocals, as he did on Project songs such as “Eye in the Sky,” “Time,” “Don’t’ Answer Me,” and “Prime Time.”
The title cut, also voiced by Woolfson, is the ultimate conclusion of the Project’s years of attempting to merge a great song with a big concept. The song would have been the logical choice as a leadoff single, but in its unwavering commitment to songs that all sound the same, radio would have never given it a chance.
Where this album veers most from the Project is through some more diverse vocal performances. Woolfson enlists well known singers such as Leo Sayer and Kiki Dee alongside the aforementioned Project alumni as well as singers Eric Stewart, Frankie Howerd, Marti Webb, Gary Howard, and the quirky vocals of The Flying Pickets. With such a cast, the album can’t help but have a more varied sound than anything the Project released, and this proves to be a good thing.
"The strongest performances are by Leo Sayer (I Am a Mirror) and the Flying Pickets (on the strange, yet incredibly powerful, Funny You Should Say That)" (Garcia). The latter song, along with No One Can Love You Better Than Me, show that “the rest can be progressive at times…and the whole is very creative and intelligent" (Garcia).
"Some songs (like Little Hans) are reminiscent of the Beatles — which shouldn't be too surprising, considering Woolfson used to be a member of Herman's Hermits" (Garcia).
The album concludes with John Miles singing There But for the Grace of God, a song that easily ranks amongst the best works of the Alan Parsons Project. Miles did vocal duty on Project singles “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether,” and “Stereotomy,” as well as the fantastic album cut “La Sagrada Familia” from the Project’s final album Gaudi in 1987.
Woolfson would go on to create three more musicals. “Gaudi, which premiered in 1995 and has run for over five years in several German productions” (Poe-cd.com), was an extension of the Project’s 1987 album of the same name. “Gambler, Woolfson’s third musical also premiered in Germany in 1996 and had a first run of over 500 performances” (Poe-cd.com). In addition, it “has had five productions in Korea, one of which also toured Japan in 2002 (the first time a Korean language production had been staged in this way)” (Poe-cd.com).
In 2003, Woolfson’s career came full circle when he premiered fourth musical Poe, an extension of the same theme as the first Alan Parsons Project album. None of Woolfson’s work would come close to the success of the Project, but Freudiana was a logical progression for Woolfson and one that breathed new creative life into an already distinguished musical career.