Hear Orson Welles Read Edgar Allan Poe on a Cult Classic Album by The Alan Parsons Project

If some­one asks whether you like Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion, you’d bet­ter clar­i­fy which Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion they mean: the first com­plete col­lec­tion of hor­ror and sus­pense sto­ries by mas­ter of psy­cho­log­i­cal unease Edgar Allan Poe, or the first album by pro­gres­sive rock band The Alan Par­sons Project? But if you like one, you might well like the oth­er, giv­en that Par­sons based his group’s debut, which con­tains such tracks as “The Raven,” “The Cask of Amon­til­la­do,” and “The Fall of the House of Ush­er,” direct­ly on Poe’s work.

Not only do Par­sons’ com­po­si­tions use Poe’s themes, they use Poe’s words. “How impor­tant the Poe con­cept is is ques­tion­able,” declared the con­tem­po­rary Bill­board review, “but the LP as a whole holds up well as a viable musi­cal work.” It hav­ing been 1976, the writer does note its “strong FM poten­tial,” but time has much increased Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion’s sta­tus in rock, pro­gres­sive or oth­er­wise. All Music Guide’s Mike DeGagne more recent­ly called the album “an extreme­ly mes­mer­iz­ing aur­al jour­ney” and “a vivid pic­ture of one of the most allur­ing lit­er­ary fig­ures in his­to­ry.”

Of course, those two reviews don’t eval­u­ate quite the same pro­duc­tion, since, in 1987, Par­sons, a born stu­dio tin­ker­er, went back and remixed Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion. He added a good deal of not just 1980s-style reverb, but new gui­tar bits and pieces of Poe recital, this time per­formed by no less an ide­al read­er than Orson Welles, who’d sent Par­sons a tape of his Poe per­for­mance short­ly after the orig­i­nal album appeared. You can hear his con­tri­bu­tion on the tracks “A Dream With­in a Dream” and “Fall of the House of Ush­er.” Both above. The com­plete album is avail­able below on Spo­ti­fy.

You might won­der what work of Poe’s, exact­ly, you hear Welles read­ing from, since none of it sounds like the writer’s best-known pas­sages. The words spo­ken in “A Dream With­in a Dream” come from a reflec­tion Poe wrote in his Mar­gin­a­lia, and those in “The Fall of the House of Ush­er” per­form some­thing of a remix them­selves, com­bin­ing more non­fic­tion from the Mar­gin­a­lia with the intro­duc­tion to his Poems of Youth. Only a ded­i­cat­ed Poe enthu­si­ast indeed would rec­og­nize all these pas­sages, but sure­ly such a per­son would love both Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion and Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion. If you, per­son­al­ly, don’t go in for Poe in the prog-rock treat­ment, might I sug­gest Par­sons’ take on Asi­mov?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Read­ings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

James Earl Jones Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Iggy Pop, Deb­bie Har­ry, Jeff Buck­ley & Oth­er Celebs Read Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee

Watch the 1953 Ani­ma­tion of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Nar­rat­ed by James Mason

Down­load The Com­plete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Sto­ries as Free eBooks & Audio Books

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­maFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • DArkstar says:

    Actu­al­ly it was Eric Woolf­son who did the com­pos­ing and was co-cre­ator of the Alan Par­son­’s Project. Woolf­son was the one who came up with idea to use Poe and in fact wrote a sec­ond “Opera” called Poe with more songs based on Poe’s sto­ries and life.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.