Alan Parsons

The Secret

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Whether on his own or with his Project, Alan Parsons vacillated between arch artiness and immaculate soft pop. With The Secret, his first album in 15 years, he veers decisively toward the former. The opening pomp of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" -- which is indeed the Paul Dukas composition, here presented as a collaboration with Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett -- is a bit misleading. While Parsons doesn't avoid other old-fashioned prog tropes -- parts of Todd Cooper's lead vocals on "One Note Symphony" are delivered through a robotic effect -- he certainly dresses these affectations in adult contemporary threads. Often, the clean surfaces, warm synths, and generous melodicism feel like an intentional throwback to the soft rock heyday of Alan Parsons Project, when they were scoring Top Ten hits with "Games People Play" and "Eye in the Sky." Certainly, this vibe was re-created for the album's highlight "Miracle," which contains an inexplicable appearance by Jason Mraz, but it's also evident throughout the album, cresting with "As Lights Fall" and "Fly to Me." Whenever Parsons pushes AOR too hard, the record feels forced -- Lou Gramm feels out of his element on "Sometimes," "Requiem" seems stilted -- but fortunately, most of The Secret glides easily, an unexpected revival of Parsons' mellow side.

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