Alan Parsons is fully deserving of all of his acclaim as musical royalty. The British musical maestro and legend of progressive rock has never been afraid to plow his own furrow through audio experimentation, and The Secret is yet another example of this, in all its immersive audio glory. The album is brave and exciting, and, as we should probably expect of Parsons, inventive.
When Alan Parsons released his 2004 electronic album A Valid Path, you probably wouldn’t have believed someone if he told you it would be 15 years until Parsons’ next offering, and that this offering would be something of a concept album around the theme of magic. Yet, here we are. The album is no novelty effort, either, and in its bravery and all-around ‘couldn’t give a damn what the haters think’ attitude, it has a charm to it that is matched by the production skills at play.
Parsons worked with Noah Bruskin and Grant Goddard to bring this album to life, after a meeting with Frontiers Records founder, Serafino Perugino, led to discussions about the musical exploration of one of Alan’s passions: magic. Thus, The Secret was born.
The composer’s take on Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” opens the album, and it is impossible to listen without images of Fantasia and Mickey Mouse flooding into your thoughts. However, the rich orchestration, mixed in surround sound to perfection, compliments the guitar perfectly and drops us into the album in thrilling fashion.
The second track on the album, “Miracle,” has more of a feel we might associate with a Parsons record - spacey guitars and chugging riffs are met with the tender vocals of Jason Mraz, a collaborator on this particular track. The sprawling chorus has an ‘80s vibe to it, and feels like it operates the space between prog-rock and radio-friendly.
The ‘80s feel and driving guitar carry us through “As Lights Fall” and the slightly more jarring “One Note Symphony.” The album feels at times like a Bond theme, at other times like a lost Phil Collins demo, but all the time like an Alan Parsons classic with nods to the albums so many people hold in such high esteem from the musician’s back catalogue.
“Years of Glory” is another highlight as the album slows in tempo towards a close. The grandiose feel of the album is furthered by soulful sax and emotive piano as this track builds to an orchestral close with harmonic vocals, truly highlighting the power of the immersive audio mix and the exceptional work done by the engineers.
The final single from the album is the closer. “I Can't Get There from Here” feels like it should be soundtracking a ‘90s film, as the unmistakable Parsons guitar and huge soundscape have a beautiful cinematic feel.
This is one of those albums where the amazing 5.1 mix does not feel like an afterthought. Through all of the immensely dramatic and otherworldly moments, as well as the triumphant guitars and reminiscent tracks, the mix allows space for each new idea to breathe and create a stunningly cinematic album. It’s as though Parsons had never been away.