May 1976: Alan Parsons Project Debuts with 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination'

'Tales of Mystery and Imagination'
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Mercury Records

Way back yonder on Jan. 29, 1845, a dark and brooding thirtysomething by the name of Edgar Allan Poe first published a poem that would become not only one of the most celebrated works of his career but, indeed, the first single from the first album of one of the most famous Projects ever to sully the pop charts.

We speak, of course, of the Alan Parsons Project, and the single in question - and, by extension, the Poe poem in question - was “The Raven.”

Lest we undersell the Poe content of this piece, however, we should also acknowledge that the album from which this single hails - that would, of course, be the 1976 album Tales of Mystery and Imagination - was, in fact, a non-stop Poe extravaganza from start to finish, offering musical interpretations of some of his best works, including "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Fall of the House of Usher."

It’s worth noting that “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a real doozy, a multi-part epic which runs 16:10 and takes up almost the entirety of the album’s second side. Also of note: in 1987, Parsons remixed Tales of Mystery and Imagination in full, not only adding guitar passages and updating the production but also incorporating narration from Orson Welles! (The legendary filmmaker, who'd died two years earlier, had recorded his parts at the time, but they were unused.)

Although the idea of an album-length homage to Edgar Allan Poe sounds like ‘70s excess at its finest, we can assure you that this is a positively mesmerizing piece of work which still holds up almost 45 years later. If you’ve yet to experience these Tales of Mystery and Imagination, there’s no time like the present.

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