Today’s music video is The Cask Of Amontillado and the song is performed here by the English group of musicians The Alan Parsons Project.
This video was posted to You Tube by vzqk50CL
I’m willing to wager that very few people have heard this song.
I find it amazing how the brain works. Sometimes, you don’t even know what the trigger was, but the tune for this song started rolling around in my mind a couple of days back. Now, while this song was rolling around my mind for around an hour, I was trying to put a name to it, and try as I might, it was just not becoming obvious to me who it was or what the song was even. So, eventually I forgot all about it.
Lo and behold, a day later, the tune popped back into my mind, only this time, I remembered a name with it straight away, Alan Parsons. My brain had worked on the problem, and when it found the answer, it sent the message back that the information had been located. Now that made it even more obscure as to why I even thought of this particular song in the first place, because the song was never released as a Single, and I would be very surprised if it was even played on radio at all, only because it was an obscure song from an obscure album, by an artist who only ever had the one hit, even though his name is synonymous with perhaps one of the greatest albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, which he engineered for the band.
Now, even though I had the name to go with the song, I still had no clue as to the name of the song, or even where I remembered it from, so I now had to chase that down. Luckily, I have six of his albums on vinyl, so I just eased them out one by one and looked at each, thinking the title would become obvious as soon as I saw it, but again, that was also futile. I promptly forgot about it again, and about an hour or so later, the thought came to my mind that it was a song from his first album, Tales of Mystery And Imagination Edgar Allan Poe. So now, I looked at that album, and still the title eluded me. I have nearly all of my vinyls now digitized on their own dedicated Hard Drive, so I just fired up that disk in its caddy and played the album through my computer while I worked on other things. There it was, the second track on that album, The Cask Of Amontillado, and seriously, I would never have thought of that title.
Why that song even came to me at all is still a mystery, but I do remember that this song was perhaps one of my favourite songs on the album at that time, and even though this was only his first album under his own name, this album was obscure at the start, and remained so, even as he brought out many more albums. While his second album, I Robot was perhaps his best, and some may even disagree on that, I still liked this first album for the wonderful music it contained, and also for the innovations that Alan Parsons (in his original role as engineer) was so well known for.
The fact that I even have the album in the first place is fortuitous, because when the album was first released in mid 1976, I didn’t even know he had a band of his own, let alone an album, as he was not a recording artist, just an engineer, and probably one of the best of those around at the time, as he engineered so many albums from a variety of well known artists. I perhaps had the idea that I saw his name as engineer on Floyd’s Dark Side album, but that he now had his own outfit, well I didn’t know that at all. My record guy, who owned that tiny record shop in Newcastle knew I was a big fan of Pink Floyd. The first album of theirs I got hold of was Dark Side, and from that, I got my record shop man to get their earlier albums for me, and he located the three (of the seven) albums directly previous to Dark Side which were still in stock, and I eagerly got hold of their next album in late 1975, Wish You Were Here.
I was in his shop as usual on a Friday afternoon, just browsing, and he came up to me, and mentioned that as big a fan of Floyd’s as he knew me to be, perhaps I might like to look at this new album, and he directed me to this one by Alan Parsons. I knew now from long association that I could trust Bruce’s recommendations as he always pointed me to good albums. I got hold of the album without even knowing any of the music on it. When I got back home and played the album, (with the head phones on, as he suggested I should do the first time around) I realised that this was indeed music I liked. The album became a firm favourite of mine, and from that, I then purchased each new album he brought out.
Now, some of you may read articles about this album and see that this song is track number four on side one. Alan remastered the album in 1987, and added some further things to the new release, and this track is in fact track 4 on the CD, although it is not much different from the original vinyl. On that vinyl LP, the first few songs all blend in together with hardly a break at all between them, so that’s why this one I mention here is the second part of track 2 on the vinyl LP. The image you see is of the cover of that original vinyl LP I have in my collection.
The album packaging itself was a revelation as there was just so much information. It was done in gatefold format, and the front and back covers were sparse, but when you folded it out, both sides were packed with text and images. Inside the packaging was the album itself, and also an album sized booklet bound with tissue and also packed with information about the songs on the album. It took almost as long to read the packaging as it did to listen to the album.
The album itself was a concept, structured around a book of (semi) horror stories from Edgar Allan Poe, a famed American writer from the early 1800’s, and known for his poetry and short stories of mystery and horror. Although he wrote his stories as individual stories, a group of them were published into one book in 1908, titled Tales Of Mystery And Imagination, hence the title for this album of Alan Parsons.
This song, The Cask Of Amontillado is based on the short story of the same name. The (abbreviated) story is narrated by the man (Montresor) who lures a fellow of similar social standing (Fortunato) into a cellar. The narrator explains that the other fellow has personally slighted him with an insult to his character, and he is taking his revenge on him for that slight. He gets him drunk, chains him to the wall of the cellar, and then bricks him into the cellar to die a lingering death, a macabre tale if there ever was one. The lure is the cask of Amontillado, which is a form of Sherry, a fortified wine, and the cask is ‘modern’ terminology for what in those days was referred to as a Pipe, and no small amount either, as a Pipe was 130 gallons.
The song itself opens with these lines
By the last breath of the four winds that blow
I’ll have revenge upon Fortunato
Smile in his face I’ll say “come let us go
I’ve a cask of Amontillado”
The song goes on to detail in a summary version of what happens.
Now while it wasn’t really the lyrics which attracted me to the song, as the story itself is pretty horrid, the music is perhaps the best part of it, and that is what I remembered the other day when the tune started rolling around in my head. Alan Parsons, while he was a musician of some sorts, playing keyboards and guitar at times, was a master engineer for other bands and artists, and what he has done here is to use a number of those musicians to produce this fine album. Here, the vocals are sung by John Miles, with Terry Silvester (from the band The Hollies) providing secondary vocals. In fact, there were almost 50 people who contributed to this album, either as musicians or others who provided assistance. Two full chorale groups also provided backing as did a symphony orchestra.
This is the link to the summary of the Edgar Allan Poe story itself, The Cask Of Amontillado.
So, while very few people may have actually heard this song, and as obscure as the song, and the album are, it does not detract from what is basically a wonderful piece of music from a master who knows his trade and gathered together as good a bunch of musicians as there were at the time, and then engineered it to his usual master standard. This is just another of those prized albums in my collection. Sometimes, good music comes from the most obscure of origins.