The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976)

Tales of Mystery and Imagination is the debut album by the Alan Parsons Project, released in May 1976 on 20th Century Records (US) and June 1 on Charisma (UK).


Tales of Mystery and Imagination features three lead vocalists: psychedelic icon Arthur Brown, rising star John Miles, and Hollies guitarist/singer Terry Sylvester.

Arthur Brown

Brown sings the side one centerpiece “The Tell-Tale Heart.” He emerged a decade earlier as the frontman of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. That band released a 1968 album and scored a hit with the theatrical “Fire,” a psychedelic anthem noted for Brown’s dramatized vocals and madman performance antics. Crazy World launched the careers of drummer Carl Palmer (Emerson Lake & Palmer), keyboardist Vincent Crane (Atomic Rooster), and bassist Nicholas Greenwood.

Brown cut three 1971–73 albums as the frontman of Kingdom Come, an art-rock band noted for its early adaptation of electronic arrangements. He launched his solo career with the 1975 release Dance. Soon after Tales of Mystery, Brown partook in another ensemble recording, the 1977 sci-fi concept album Intergalactic Touring Band.

John Miles

Miles sings “The Cask of Amontillado” and “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” the climactic pair on side one. Parsons produced Miles’ debut solo album Rebel, released two months prior to Tales of Mystery in March 1976. Before their association, Miles issued eight non-album singles between 1970 and 1974 on Orange Records. He first fronted The Influence, a late-’60s Tyneside act with (future Roxy Music) drummer Paul Thompson.

They teamed again on the 1978 APP release Pyramid, where Miles sings the closing ballad “Shadow of a Lonely Man.” Parsons, in turn, produced the singer’s 1979 fourth album More Miles Per HourMiles returned to APP for the 1985–87 albums Stereotomy and Gaudi.

Terry Sylvester

Sylvester is the primary vocalist on the closing ballad “To One in Paradise.” He was the veteran of two mid-’60s beat groups, The Escorts and The Swinging Blue Jeans; his 1966–68 stint with the latter post-dated their British Invasion hit “Hippy Hippy Shakes.” In 1968, when Graham Nash left The Hollies for Crosby Stills & Nash, Sylvester joined on guitar and vocals, which he split (high-end) with group co-founder Allan Clarke. Sylvester’s run with the Hollies produced the transatlantic evergreens “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1969) and “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” (1971).

Parsons first worked with the Hollies on their 1972 Polydor release Romany. In 1974, he engineered their 14th UK studio album Hollies, noted for the Albert Hammond-penned ballad “The Air That I Breath.” Also in 1974, Parsons engineered Sylvester’s debut solo album, released on Epic. Around the same time as Tales of Mystery, Sylvester cut his second album I Believe, on which Parsons produced two cuts: “Cable Car” and the title track, a cover of the Stevie Wonder/Syreeta classic “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).”

Parsons’ use of Hollies talent (and beat-era singers) continued on the next APP release I Robot, which features Clarke as vocalist on the track “Breakdown.” Singer Colin Blunstone, the frontman of Hollies contemporaries The Zombies, sings select tracks on the later APP albums Pyramid, Eye In the Sky, and Ammonia Avenue.

Cover Art

A1. “A Dream Within a Dream (Instrumental)” (3:43)
A2. “The Raven” (4:00)
A3. “The Tell-Tale Heart” (4:42)
A4. “The Cask of Amontillado” (4:27)
A5. “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” (4:19)
B1. “The Fall of the House of Usher (Instrumental)” (15:05)
—i. “Prelude
—ii. “Arrival
—iii. “Intermezzo
—iv. “Pavane
—v. “Fall
B2. “To One in Paradise” (4:33)


  • Alan Parsons – EMI vocoder (A2), Projectron synthesizer (A3, B1), recorder (A5), additional vocals (B2), synthesizer (A3-4 on 1987 remix), cathedral organ (A5 on 1987 remix) producer, engineer
  • Eric Woolfson – keyboards (A1-3, A5, B1), backing vocals (A2, A4), harpsichord (A4), organ (B1), additional vocals (B2), synthesizer (9 on 1987 remix) executive producer
  • Andrew Powell – orchestral arrangement (A2-4, B1), orchestral conductor (A2-4, B1), keyboards (B1), organ (B1)
  • Francis Monkman – organ (B1), harpsichord (B1)
  • Billy Lyall – keyboards (A1, A3), recorder (A1), piano (A4-5), Fender Rhodes electric piano (B2), glockenspiel (B2)
  • Christopher North – keyboards (A2)
  • Orson Welles – narration (A1 and B1 on 1987 remix)
  • Leonard Whiting – lead vocals (A2), narration (B2, A1 on 2006 remaster)
  • Arthur Brown – lead vocals (A3)
  • John Miles – lead vocals (A4-5), electric guitar (A5)
  • Jack Harris – additional vocals (A3, A5)
  • Terry Sylvester – additional vocals (A4), lead vocals (B2)
  • Jane Powell – backing vocals (B2)
  • Smokey Parsons – vocals
  • Bob Howes & the English Chorale – choir (A2-4)
  • Westminster City School Boys Choir – choir (B2)
  • David Paton – acoustic guitar (A1, 11), backing vocals (A1), bass guitar (A3-5, B1, B2)
  • Kevin Peek – acoustic guitar (B1)
  • Laurence Juber – acoustic guitar (B1)
  • Ian Bairnson – electric guitar (A1, A3-5, B1, B2, A2 on 1987 remix), acoustic guitar (A1, B2)
  • David Pack – electric guitar (A2)
  • Joe Puerta – bass guitar (A1-2)
  • Les Hurdle – bass guitar (B1)
  • Daryl Runswick – double bass (B1)
  • David Katz – violin, orchestra leader (B1), orchestra contractor
  • Jack Rothstein – orchestra leader (B1)
  • David Snell – harp (B1)
  • Hugo D’Alton – mandolin (B1)
  • Stuart Tosh – drums (A1-5, B1, B2), timpani (A3), backwards cymbals (A3)
  • Burleigh Drummond – drums (A2)
  • John Leach – cimbalom (B1), kantele (B1)
  • Dennis Clarke – saxophone, clarinet

Production staff

  • Gordon Parry – engineer
  • Tony Richards – assistant engineer
  • Chris Blair – assistant engineer
  • Tom Trefethen – assistant engineer
  • Pat Stapley – assistant engineer
  • Peter Christopherson – photography
  • Aubrey Powell – photography
  • Storm Thorgerson – photography
  • Sam Emerson – photography
  • Hipgnosis – design, cover art
  • Colin Elgie – artwork, graphic design, layout design


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