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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Time Machine/Alan Parsons

Alan Parsons' third solo effort following the dissolution of The Alan Parsons Project was called The Time Machine, released in 1999. Clearly Parsons was referencing H.G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine, but the fan site The Avenue says that "while it was inspired by the H.G. Wells story of the same name, the album is not a musical interpretation of his book. Instead, the album looks at time travel as a generic subject, as well as looking into other aspects of time and space."

Parsons was reportedly interested in exploring the theme of time travel on an album since the 1970s and wanted to devote the second Alan Parsons Project release to that concept. At the time his partner, the late Eric Woolfson, was more interested in the robot stories of Isaac Asimov, and the result was the album I Robot. As discussed previously in these pages, that album is very loosely associated with Asimov's book I, Robot (the placement of the comma is key).

Images on the cover of The Time Machine make sly references to time travel--for example, a photo of a London police box suggests the time-traveling TARDIS of Doctor Who fame, and a picture of a Delorean refers to the time machine of choice in the Back to the Future films.  The tracks on the album have titles such as "No Future in the Past" and "Far Ago and Long Away," and the song "Press Rewind" explores the idea of going back and doing your life over. The title of an instrumental called "Rubber Universe" refers to astronmer Edwin Hubble's theory that since galaxies are moving away from us, the universe must be stretching like an elastic band. Another instrumental, "Temporalia," interpolates physicist Frank Close talking about how looking at the stars is, in effect, looking back in time. (Interestingly, the audio of Close is taken from a documentary called The Rubber Universe, which aired on the British television show Equinox. It was directed by graphic designer Storm Thorgerson, who also designed the album cover art for The Time Machine. Also worthy of note is the band Rubber Universe, which has associations with The Alan Parson Project.)

The song that most closely captures the spirit of H.G. Wells's novel is "Out of the Blue," which seems to be specifically about a time-traveler:

Out of the blue
I come sailing
Through the years
Through the years
What can I do?
Now that I've seen
All our hopes
All of our fears

This "man from out of the blue" also states: I travel far/Yet no distance/I'm still here/Always here--as if he does not move through space at all, but only through time.

One other reference to Wells may be found on the Japanese release of The Time Machine, where the title tracks (Parts 1 and 2) were redubbed "H.G. Force."

The Time Machine (Kindle Edition)
I, Robot (Kindle Edition)

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