Take 5: Eric Woolfson

One of the great studio-only aggregations of the 1970s and early ‘80s was the Alan Parsons Project. Producer/musician/songwriter Parsons didn’t act alone, though; along with a core group of musicians (including members of the pop group Pilot), he worked closely with songwriting partner Eric Woolfson. In the group’s later years, Woolfson would take a greater role on lead vocals. That’s him you hear singing “Time,” “Don’t Answer Me” and “Eye in the Sky,” all among the outfit’s biggest hits.

Parsons’ project would ultimately prove too limiting to contain all of Woolfson’s creative ideas. So across the year he embarked on a thriving – if lesser-known career beyond the confines of the Project, one that explored his love of musical theater. Woolfson passed away in 2009; he would have celebrated his 78th birthday on March 18. Here are five Eric Woolfson solo tunes you should know.

“San Tokay” (single, 1971)
Before launching the APP with Parsons, Woolfson cut a non-charting single with members of quirky art-pop group 10cc. The song features an opening that sounds very much out of its time, but the track soon develops into a style that hints at some of the musical values to be explored by the Alan Parsons Project beginning with its 1976 debut, Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

“No One Can Love You Better Than Me” from Freudiana (1990)
After the APP’s Gaudi, Parsons and Woolfson began work on a new work, based in part on the life and work of Sigmund Freud. The project developed into a musical theatre production, but litigation between the duo and theatrical producer Brian Brolly caused delays, and ultimately the recordings were released to little fanfare. The production featured several singers, and on this track, all of them – Kiki Dee, Gary Howard, Marti Webb and Woolfson – played a role.

“Green Light Means Danger” from Gambler: Das Geheimnis der Karen (1997)
Eric Woolfson would continue working in the musical theatre idiom with this late ‘90s project based on songs he had written for the Alan Parsons Project album The Turn of a Friendly Card. Inspired by a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel, the work was presented by a German cast, featured on this release. Long out of print, the CD is an expensive and sought-after rarity.

“Angel of the Odd” from Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination (2003)
For this early 2000s project. Woolfson returned to subject matter first explored on the debut Alan Parsons album release a quarter-century before. Poe’s short stories provided inspiration for 10 new songs designed to follow on from the seven on the debut APP album. Though not a Project project, the album featured many APP-like textures, and – like many Project albums – was highlighted by an atmospheric, evocative instrumental number.

“Train to Wuxi” from The Alan Parsons Project That Never Was (2009)
A standout track from Eric Woolfson’s final release prior to his passing at age 64, this collection of songs features material that had been written for various Alan Parsons Project releases. In each case, the song would be rejected or recast into something different. The original arrangements – often far more pop-leaning than the mildly progressive APP catalog – are featured on this record. On “Train to Wuxi,” Woolfson takes the only recorded electric guitar solo of his career.