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Parsons is rock star no one recognizes.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

CONCERT PREVIEW The Alan Parsons Live Project What: Progressive rock and light show with local orchestra When: 7:30 p.m. today Where: Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street Tickets: $43 at the gate

An air of mystery follows Alan Parsons, but he will be the first to tell you it's not intentional.

"It's not something I strive for," said the Englishman, talking by telephone from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. "I don't avoid cameras. I don't avoid interviews."

A large man with a gentle yet imposing stage presence, he's rarely recognized when he goes out in public. But if musical output, radio hits and elbow-rubbing with huge names are an indication, Parsons is a rock star.

His rock show, the Alan Parsons Live Project, complete with 35 members of the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, comes to the Hult Center tonight.

Conductor Larry Baird, who some may know through his work leading orchestras for the Moody Blues, will wield the baton for what promises to be an unusual show for Eugene.

Eugene resident Tad Bartel is a friend to Parsons. Bartel decided to produce the show himself in order to give a Eugene a chance to see the man perform live with his band, which includes Godfrey Townsend on guitar, John Montagna on bass, Steve Murphy on drums and P.J. Olsson singing most of the songs.

Original group didn't play live

There are reasons for the disconnect between people recognizing Parsons' work, but not his name or face. In part, blame it on the fact that from 1976 to 1987 - when Parsons' group, the Alan Parsons Project - was active, the collective of musicians didn't tour.

Also, much of his notable work was behind the scenes as an audio engineer. He engineered Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," which came out in 1973 and went on to become the one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Parsons recently decided he didn't want to talk to the press about working with Pink Floyd anymore. He says his involvement in that project made him very little money, yet people tend to want to focus on it.

Parsons and co-founder Eric Woolfson originally set up the Alan Parsons Project as a rotating collaboration of musicians. There was no lead singer, but each man got his chance in the front. In the studio, they generated progressive rock concept albums that relied heavily on mood, tone and sound quality.

The Project brought us the ubiquitous hit single, "Eye in the Sky," off the 1982 album of the same name. The concept behind that album was surveillance, and the song is still in rotation on such local radio stations as Magic 94.5.

"Games People Play" and "Time" both broke into the top 20 as well, according to a news release.

The Alan Parsons Project also composed and recorded an instrumental track, "Sirius," that the Chicago Bulls used as theme song and was featured in a 2000 IMAX documentary on Michael Jordan.

Unfortunately for Parsons, that's another recognizable tune that didn't earn him much money or notoriety.

When asked if the Orwellian theme of "Eye in the Sky" has taken on new meaning in this age of secret, government-condoned wiretapping, Parsons said, "perhaps." But subsequently, he revealed that his thoughts are not so much on the meaning of the song while performing it.

"When I'm performing it I'm just usually praying I get the words right," he said.

It wasn't until this band got together less than three years ago that the 57-year-old began to think of himself as a musician. Though the Project put out 10 albums, it wasn't until 1993 that Parsons performed before an audience.

He still gets stage fright before the shows.

"A little bit of stage fright is healthy," he said. "It usually goes away at the very moment the applause comes on."

Show will combine new and old

The Alan Parsons Live Project performance tonight won't only be hit songs from the past, but will contain new material from "A Valid Path."

In his press bio, Parsons says his music is taking a new contemporary direction toward electronica. The new album features the Crystal Method, Shpongle and Uberzone, plus a guest appearance by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

To have a show in a new city and play with so many musicians, much of the work takes place during rehearsal.

Parsons and Baird will have one rehearsal, the day of the show, to work out how the show should proceed. The orchestra members are as much the star of the show as Parsons and his band, and as such will be on stage behind Parsons.

"It's a long day for us and for the orchestra," he said. "A lot of the weight is on the conductor."

That weight, it appears, sits on strong shoulders in Baird, a composer, arranger and orchestrator of contemporary music. According to his press biography, Baird "has established a reputation for having a highly creative, intuitive and fresh approach to repertoire."

Baird is fresh off tour with Michael Bolton. He began working as an orchestral music director in 1992, as conductor and arranger for the Moody Blues.

He's also toured with Kansas and worked with Three Dog Night. Right now, he is collaborating with five-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau.

Parsons admitted that he is somewhat of a perfectionist in the studio. But he says when he's performing live, he lets go some of that.

"You can strive for perfection, but there's only one moment. It makes it, of course, very exciting. ...

`People should come. People should not make the assumption that it's sold out and just come and have a good time."

You can call Serena Markstrom at 338-2371 or e-mail her at smarkstrom@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; His music is familiar but his face isn't, and that's not entirely an accident
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 15, 2006
Words:968
Previous Article:MUSIC BRIEFLY.
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