Monday, September 26, 2011

Songs I'm Obsessed With: "Ammonia Avenue" by Alan Parsons Project

I know what you're thinking: out of all the Alan Parsons Project songs out there, I picked "Ammonia Avenue". Well, no you're not, because you probably haven't heard of this group. To you, this group is a totally unknown entity that I just pulled out of a top hat. But to me, it's like reaching into the hat and pulling out something I had no idea was there. That is, I'm not familiar with this band, either. I haven't listened to any other Alan Parsons Project songs or albums, and I probably won't, unless someone very, very good argumentation can convince me to buy an album. Yes, I know, I should be intrigued by the quality of this song and want to explore further, but really there are other things I would prefer to spend my money on right now, especially since I'm saving up for the inevitable rush of new video games.

So how did I come across this song? Certainly I had never heard of the group before, never in the media or popular culture. But it was sampled by a popular artist. Can you guess who? No, not simply by listening to the song, you probably wouldn't be able to figure out who exactly sampled it. Not at least until the 2:30 mark, and even then it would be difficult to recognize behind the rapping of the sampler. Got an idea yet? Here's a hint: in November 2010 he released an album that gathered up rave reviews and was loved by virtually everybody who listened to it (including me), earning a 94 by Metacritic, though the song where he used the sample of this song is from his 2008 album.

Have you figured it out? Am I giving you too little credit? Yes? No? Okay, fine, the artist is Kanye west and the song he recorded with the sample is "Heartless". You can hear the sample starting at the first verse: he sampled the calliope-sounding accompaniment from 2:30 in "Ammonia Avenue" throughout the song. I first heard this song in a video explaining the origins of most of West's samples in his song, and this song was mentioned. I remember being more intrigued by the music video they clipped, but when I searched for the song, I found something very different from the piece of song I heard in the video. It was also a lot better.

Why am I obsessed? The song is damn beautiful, that's why. It starts out as an orchestrated accompaniment for the singer, singing about... something, I can't quite put my finger on the meaning of the song. It then moves on to a two-minute instrumental section accompanied by a calliope (incidentally, one of the most awesome instruments forever), and back again to the melody, exhibiting the ABA form stretched out to six-and-a-half minutes (I'm learning all these things in my Music Appreciation class and I just can't wait for opportunities to use what I've learned in my critiquing).

In short, this is an awesome, epic gem of a song that should shine bright instead of fade away. I say that about a lot of these songs, but I'm surprised how little attention this one gets considering its obvious commercial appeal and easily lovable melody. Admittedly, the singer is a little mediocre, but hey, if we always hated all mediocre singers then Owl City wouldn't exist. I'm sorry, I'm wrong. Owl City isn't mediocre; Owl City is just plain bad. But anyway, listen, buy, download, love, etc.

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