Why the Alan Parsons Project Began to Fade on ‘Ammonia Avenue’
Conventional wisdom suggests that middle-of-the-road soft rock and highbrow intellectual conceits shouldn’t make for happy bedfellows.
That was before they converged in the Alan Parsons Project, which built a remarkably successful career by applying pop music of many stripes to Steely Dan’s studio-bound perfectionism and Pink Floyd’s dreamy progressive rock signature.
The group’s sixth album, 1982's Eye in the Sky, had already capitalized on past accomplishments by crashing the U.S. Top 10 and delivering a No. 3 hit with its title track. So once Pink Floyd dissolved following the next year’s Final Cut LP, all conceivable commercial lanes seemed cleared for the Alan Parsons Project to find even greater success with their seventh studio effort, Ammonia Avenue.
And things couldn’t have looked rosier when the album arrived in February 1984, as its lead-off single, "Don’t Answer Me," promptly raced into the Billboard Top 15 — even though it broke with many of the familiar Alan Parsons Project sonic hallmarks, and took the ensemble down a unique and nostalgic trip back to Phil Spector’s vaunted “Wall of Sound” aesthetic.
The follow-up single, "Prime Time," fared nearly as well while returning to more familiar sounds, and, along with a solid batch of album tracks, ranging from punchy rockers ("Let Me Go Home," "You Don’t Believe") to weepy ballads ("Since the Last Goodbye," the title cut), and even an evocative instrumental in "Pipeline," pushed Ammonia Avenue near the top of the charts in numerous countries.
Unfortunately, Ammonia Avenue still failed to match the platinum sales of Eye in the Sky, earning a Gold certification instead. One can’t help but wonder whether the Alan Parsons Project's sudden incompatibility with the new, image-conscious marketplace dominated by MTV – clearly no fit place for balding old men sporting studio tans – wasn’t partly to blame for this shortfall.
Whatever the real cause, the Alan Parsons Project’s commercial profile continued to fade with their follow-up album. Vulture Culture arrived a mere five months later and had, in fact, been intended to constitute a double LP, alongside Ammonia Avenue. Instead, it contributed to fatigue among the record-buying public, and the ending of the group’s chart dominance.