The Band That Used Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Horror To Create Their Best Album

April 19, 2017

|Cultura Colectiva

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the best horror writer of all times. His tales have become so important in our culture, to the point of inspiring one of the best albums of the twentieth century, Tales of Mystery and Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project. This mash-up allowed stories like "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart," or "The Fall of the Usher House" to become a sound media discourse where the gloomy atmosphere is accentuated by symphonic harmonies and progressive rock melodies.

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Alan Parsons began his musical career as a sound engineer at the EMI Studios and later on worked at Abbey Road Studios. There he met The Beatles and had the chance to work on their album Let it Be. After the FabFour broke up, he collaborated with Hollies and Pink Floyd, even editing the masterpiece that is The Dark Side of the Moon.

By that time, Alan discovered that with his creativity and abilities he could create things beyond engineering.  In 1976, together with the pianist Eric Woolfson, he decided to release his own material. As a result, he created his most important album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's horror stories.

According to The Alan Parsons Project' official website, the idea of creating an album based on Poe's texts was Eric Woolfson's idea, who has always been inspired by masterminds of history. Eric stated that Poe is probably his most important inspiration, not only because of his fascinating texts but also because he was an intriguing man with a mysterious personality.

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This conceptual album starts with "A Dream Within A Dream," a song referring to the 1849 poem by Poe with the same name. The text questions that thin line between dreams and reality. In a similar way, the Alan Parsons' song uses this theme as a door leading to the fantastic world of his music.  Through a unique use of synthesizers, piano, and string instruments, "The Raven" –named after Poe's most popular and iconic poem–begins. 

The lyrics of the song are a faithful recount of the poem: "The clock struck midnight,/ Then through my sleeping,/ I heard a tapping at my door. [...]/ To my amazement,/ There stood the raven." Through its lyrics and use of symphonic rock, the song successfully manages to evoke that anguish of the poem.

These literary references appear in most of the songs. The lyrics take the most important themes of the stories, adapting them into progressive, symphonic, and experimental rock structures. The only song that breaks with this structure is "The Fall of the House of Usher," in which the musician creates a piece divided into five parts: 'prelude', 'arrival', intermezzo', 'pavane', and 'Fall'.

The last song, "To One in Paradise," is a ballad that works as a gleam of serenity among the sinister darkness of the past songs. This is one of the poems where Poe left aside his usual gloom to create a romantic story. The original poem reads: "And all my days are trances,/ And all my nightly dreams." With that romantic vibe, Parson closes Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

Since its release in 1976, Tales of Mystery and Imagination has become a treasure for the fans of Romantic and Gothic art, and also for those music lovers who appreciate symphonic and progressive arrangements. From that album onwards, The Alan Parsons Project gained fame and success, but this exquisite formula of creating fantastical worlds, became a unique work that transcends the passing of time.


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The Alan Parsons Project

Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Cultura Colectiva

Cultura Colectiva