Alan Parsons must be the hero of recording engineers everywhere: He made the transition that many of them must dream about, starting out as a studio technician but then becoming a star in his own right.
At the start of his career, the London native worked on albums such as The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Then, from the mid-’70s to the late-’80s, his Alan Parsons Project released a series of popular prog-meets-pop albums, and had hit singles such as “Eye in the Sky” and “Games People Play.”
Now 66, he still takes on producing, engineering and recording projects, and is also an author (his “The Art and Science of Sound Recording” came out last year) and a farmer (he grows avocados on his Santa Barbara, Calif. ranch). But his primary occupation is touring.
“It’s what pays the bills,” says Parsons, who will perform with his Alan Parsons Live Project at a sold-out show at The Newton Theatre in Newton on Jan. 31, and will also appear at the Concert Hall at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York on Feb. 3.
“The world has not been kind to copyright holders, in the current climate. People just do not really stand to make a lot of money from their plays, or their sales, or whatever. It’s actually interesting how vinyl is coming back: People seem to be getting back into listening to music and actually paying good money for it. Unfortunately, it’s a huge minority, though it is on the increase.
“I’m still hopeful that we might get back to a situation where people actually own the music they have at home. It’s not the case, though.”
Parsons calls his touring band the Alan Parsons Live Project rather than the Alan Parsons Project out of respect for his APP partner Eric Woolfson; they stopped working together in 1990, and Woolfson died in 2009. Last year, though, a new boxed set, “The Complete Albums Collection,” came out with all 10 APP albums plus “The Sicilian Defence,” an instrumental album that the group recorded in 1981 to fulfill a contractual obligation, but that its record company declined to release.
“It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s an interesting bit of history,” says Parsons, who adds that fan reaction has been mixed. “Some of the comments have actually been quite positive: They actually quite like it. And other people have said, ‘Well, it’s interesting. But I shall probably only play it once.’
“Everything is out there now. Everything we ever recorded, pretty much, (in some cases) in the form of bonus tracks on re-released albums.”
As one of the rock world’s leading expert in sound technology, Parsons is, unsurprisingly, not happy with the way music is being consumed these days.
“We are in a slump, quality-wise. I mean, MP3 was a disaster. Some of the subscription services do sound better. The worst culprit of all, for quality, is satellite radio. It just destroys the music.
“I try to encourage people not to listen to music on earbuds. Your iPhone is capable of playing good-quality files, wirelessly, into a Bluetooth system that would sound great on a pair of speakers. I have such a system myself at home. It’s amazing what quality can be achieved.
“It’s just education. It’s just getting people to recognize that hi-fi is good and MP3 is bad.”