Draped with a diaphanous, David Gilmour-like reverie — fitting, considering the band leader’s connection back to Pink Floyd — “Fragile” illustrates once again how the ever-malleable, at times almost faceless Alan Parsons Project continues through loss.
The newly released song — the band’s first in nine years — points to a new era for APP even as it seems, at least within the emotional lyric, like a coming to terms with the past.
Never settling on a true frontman, the Alan Parsons Project ended up with hits featuring a number of different singers. Lenny Zakatek would sing the tougher, more rock-oriented things like “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” “Damned If I Do” and “Games People Play.” Eric Woolfson, Parsons’ principal collaborator, voiced airy ballads including “Time,” “Eye in the Sky” and “Don’t Answer Me.” Colin Blunstone would stop by occasionally, voicing songs like “Old and Wise.”
This would make the group both endlessly varied, but also very difficult to pin down. Often, successive tracks from the same album would have utterly different feels. Those who liked one, might not like the other. It could be as entertaining as it was frustating.
Ultimately, though, as Parsons has sought to continue past the Woolfson’s 2009 death, that ever-changing schematic might end up working in his favor. Now travelling with vocalist P. J. Olsson and guitarist Maitland Ward, the Alan Parsons Project returns with “Fragile,” a track that doesn’t necessarily sound like their old stuff — unless you’ve dug deeply enough to find, say, “Some Other Time” on I Robot. And yet, after all that’s come before, it works.
It works in the same way that Fleetwood Mac (which might emerge with a songbird ballad one moment, or a wild-hair rocker the next) has always worked. You come into anything from the Alan Parsons Project expecting to be surprised, and — today, just as they always have — this group delivers.
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