An Alan Parsons album is a project by any name, regardless of how the veteran British artist and studio technician chooses to brand it. From the New World is Parson’s sixth solo release, apart from his 46-year catalog with the Alan Parsons Project. It feels more intimate and reflective, but it has many of the same hallmarks, sonically in spots and with its corps of instrumental and vocal contributors. Parsons, meanwhile, spearheads everything as composer, producer and visionary, conducting and arranging all of the elements into a pristine but still organic-sounding 11-song set that would have worked as easily as the follow-up to 1977’s I, Robot as it does in 2022.
And like most of Parsons’ work, From the New World has a thematic grounding to tie together its 45 minutes. The title nods to Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, aka “New World Symphony,” which Parsons writes in the album’s notes was a favorite of his father’s. In this case, it serves as a reference to the new world that’s come in the wake of the pandemic, but there’s a direct connection, too, in Parsons’ inclusion of “Goin’ Home.” The 1922 song with lyrics by Dvorak’s student William Arms Fisher became the source for Symphony No. 9’s Largo movement, and it’s a deeply emotional elegy for the brink of death (“Mother’s there ‘specting me / Father’s waiting, too / Lots of folk gathered there / All the friends I knew“). Given Parsons’ 73 years and recent news of a “serious spinal issue,” it has profound resonance as the album’s penultimate track.
But the mood lightens when “Goin’ Home” is followed by a faithful take on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” as if that’s the music greeting Parsons’ narrator as he or she arrives on the other side. Before all that, however, “From the New World” is an easily digestible song set that’s generally more gentle and restrained than the Project approach, with nods to Parsons’ prog roots but little of the bombast that comes with it.
“Fare Thee Well” starts things with a ringing guitar pattern that references I, Robot – as well as references to mortality. “Obstacles” finds a common ground between the Beatles‘ “Across the Universe and vintage Renaissance, while “Don’t Fade Now” also mines a folky field with Parsons and P.J. Olsson sharing lead vocals. “You Are the Light” is a joyous pop love song, and “The Secret” continues to express Parsons’ passion for magic, which was the topic of his previous solo album of the same name.
He gets by once again with more than a little help from his friends, too. Styx‘s Tommy Shaw sings lead and plays guitar on the muscular “Uroboros,” while Joe Bonamassa lends nuanced guitar parts to “Give ‘Em My Love” and “I Won’t Be Led Astray,” the latter sung by former Ambrosia frontman David Pack. American Idol veteran James Durbin is also on board, and in addition to vocals, mainstay Todd Cooper accents “Fare Thee Well” with his saxophone. At this point, Parsons is no longer dealing in the “tales of mystery and imagination” of the Project heyday – to everyone’s benefit. Leading with his heart makes this New World a worthwhile place to spend some time.
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