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Alan Parsons (born 20 December 1948) is an English audio engineer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. He was involved with the production of several significant albums, including the Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be, and the art rock band Ambrosia's debut album Ambrosia as well as Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon for which Pink Floyd credit him as an important contributor. Parsons' own group, the Alan Parsons Project, as well as his subsequent solo recordings, have also been successful commercially.
In October 1967, at the age of 18, Parsons went to work as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios, where he earned his first credit on the LP Abbey Road. He became a regular there, engineering such projects as Paul McCartney's Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, five albums by the Hollies, and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, for which he received his first Grammy Award nomination. He was known for doing more than what would normally be considered the scope of a recording engineer's duties. He considered himself to be a recording director, likening his contribution to recordings to what Stanley Kubrick contributed to film. This is apparent in his work with Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat", where Parsons added the saxophone part and transformed the original folk concept into the jazz-influenced ballad that put Al Stewart onto the charts. It is also heard in Parsons' influence on the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" and "The Air That I Breathe", sharp departures from their popular 1960s hits "Stay", "Just One Look", "Stop! Stop! Stop!" or "Bus Stop". Parsons was also known to have swapped shifts during the engineering of Dark Side of the Moon so he could work entirely on the project.
Parsons also produced three albums by Pilot, a Scottish pop rock band consisting of Ian Bairnson on guitar, Stuart Tosh on drums, and David Paton on lead vocals, guitars,bass and William (Billy) Lyall, on piano and keys. Their hits included "January" and "Magic".
He also mixed the debut album by the American band Ambrosia and produced their second album Somewhere I've Never Travelled. Parsons was nominated for a Grammy Award for both of these albums.
In 1975, he declined Pink Floyd's invitation to come back and work on the follow-up for "Dark Side," Wish You Were Here, and instead initiated the Alan Parsons Project with producer and songwriter (and occasional singer) Eric Woolfson, whom he had met at Abbey Road. The Project consisted of a revolving group of studio musicians and vocalists, most notably the members of Pilot and (on the first album) the members of Ambrosia. Unlike most rock groups, the Alan Parsons Project never performed live during its heyday, although it did release several music videos. Its only live performance during its original incarnation was in 1990, with Woolfson present but behind the scenes. After releasing ten albums, the last in 1987, the Project terminated in 1990 after Parsons and Woolfson split, with the Project's intended 11th album released that year as a Woolfson solo album. Parsons continued to release work in his own name and in collaboration with other musicians. Parsons and his band now regularly tour many parts of the world.
Although an accomplished vocalist, keyboardist, bassist, guitarist and flautist, Parsons only sang infrequent and incidental parts on his albums. While his keyboard playing was very audible on the Alan Parsons Project albums, very few recordings feature his flute. During the late 1990s, Parsons' career travelled an interesting full circle. Having started out in the music industry at the Abbey Road Studios in London as an assistant engineer in the late 1960s, he briefly returned to run the studio in its entirety. He reportedly managed to combine this role with the demands of a hectic performing and recording schedule. Parsons also continued with his selective production work for other bands.
Of all his collaborators, guitarist Ian Bairnson worked with Parsons the longest, including Parsons' post-Woolfson albums, Try Anything Once, On Air, and The Time Machine.
In 1998, Parsons became Vice-President of EMI Studios Group including the Abbey Road Studios. He soon left the post, deciding to return to more creative endeavours. Parsons remained as a creative consultant and associate producer for the group.
As well as receiving gold and platinum awards from many nations, Parsons has received ten Grammy Award nominations for engineering and production. In 2007 he received a nomination for Best Surround Sound Album for A Valid Path.
Beginning in 2001 and extending for four years, Parsons conceived and led a Beatles tribute show called A Walk Down Abbey Road featuring a group of headlining performers such as Todd Rundgren, Ann Wilson of Heart, John Entwistle of the Who, and Jack Bruce of Cream. The show structure included a first set where all musicians assembled to perform each other's hits, and a second set featuring all Beatles songs.
Since 1999 he has toured under a revised name, the Alan Parsons Live Project (with Woolfson's permission). The band currently features lead singer P.J. Olsson, guitarist Alastair Greene, drummer Danny Thompson, keyboardist Manny Focarazzo, keyboardist Tom Brooks, bass guitarist Guy Erez, vocalist and saxophonist Todd Cooper, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Tracey.
In May 2005, Parsons appeared at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, to mix front-of-house sound for Southern California-based Pink Floyd tribute band Which One's Pink? and their performance of The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety.
In 2010, Parsons released his single "All Our Yesterdays" through Authentik Artists. Parsons also launched a DVD educational series in 2010 titled The Art and Science of Sound Recording ("ASSR") on music production and the complete audio recording process. The single "All Our Yesterdays" was written and recorded during the making of ASSR. The series, narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, gives detailed tutorials on virtually every aspect of the sound recording process. Individual sections of the series are also being released in batches and are available to stream or download at www.artandscienceofsound.com.
During 2010, several media reports, one of which included a quote from a representative of Parsons, alleged that the song "Need You Now" by country music group Lady Antebellum used the melody and arrangement of "Eye in the Sky."
Parsons produced Jake Shimabukuro's album, Grand Ukulele, which was released on 2 October 2012. Also in 2012, he contributed lead vocals and performed keyboards and guitar on the track "Precious Life" by German electronic music duo Lichtmond, and appeared with many other noted progressive-rock musicians on The Prog Collective album by Billy Sherwood, singing lead on "The Technical Divide."
Parsons engineered the third solo album by Steven Wilson, The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), released on 25 February 2013.
In late 2013, a live album with the title Live Span was released, accompanied by a single called "Fragile" with Simon Philips on drums.
Parsons was born in London. He resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife Lisa and her two daughters, Tabitha and Brittni, as well as numerous pets. He has two sons, Jeremy (Jerry) and Daniel, from his previous marriage.