Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Alan Parsons Project album)

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe) is the debut studio album by British rock band The Alan Parsons Project. It was released on 1 May 1976 in the United States by 20th Century Fox Records and on 1 June 1976 in the United Kingdom by Charisma Records. The lyrical and musical themes of the album, which are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, attracted a cult audience. The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe's macabre stories of the same name.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Studio album by
Released1 May 1976
RecordedJuly 1975 – January 1976
ProducerAlan Parsons
The Alan Parsons Project chronology
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
I Robot
Alternative cover
TalesofMystery- LP alternate.JPG
Singles from Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  1. "The Raven"
    Released: November 1975
  2. "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether"
    Released: July 1976

Musicians featured on the album include vocalists Arthur Brown of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown on "The Tell Tale Heart", John Miles on "The Cask of Amontillado" and "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether", and Terry Sylvester of The Hollies on "To One in Paradise". The complete line-up of bands Ambrosia and Pilot play on the record, along with keyboardist Francis Monkman of Curved Air and Sky.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination peaked at #38 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart. The song "(The System Of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" peaked at No. 37 on the Pop Singles chart, and No. 62 in Canada.[1]


"The Raven" features actor Leonard Whiting on lead vocals, with Alan Parsons performing vocals through an EMI vocoder. According to the album's liner notes, "The Raven" was the first rock song to feature a digital vocoder. The prelude section of "The Fall of the House of Usher", although uncredited, is taken verbatim from the opera fragment "La chute de la maison Usher" by Claude Debussy which was composed between 1908 and 1917.[2] "The Fall of the House of Usher" is an instrumental suite which runs more than 16 minutes and takes up most of Side 2 of the recording.


The album's cover art was made by Hipgnosis. Storm Thorgerson said that Eric Woolfson and Parsons wanted a "classy" design, including a book of lyrics, lengthy credits and a chronology of Poe's life. He described the recurring image of the "taped" man:[3]

Poe was preoccupied with entombment. Many of his characters have been incarcerated in some form or other - in coffins, brick walls or under floorboards. We came up with the 'taped' man - a mummy-like figure who is wrapped, not in bandages, but in 2" recording tape. This motif is partially horror-like, as well as being 'entombed', and the 2" tape appropriately suggests that the album is done by a producer in a studio, as opposed to a band recording material they will play on stage. Although the clients were intrigued by this idea they did not desire a pictorial cover but preferred instead a precise graphic representation. The narrow strip of illustration from George [Hardie] shows a long shadow of the taped man.

The booklet (attached to the inside of the cover) is composed of photos related to the songs, and line drawings which explore the taped man as he thrashes about in his restricted world and strives to unravel himself. The illustrated capital letters continue the idea. The layout and drawings are by Colin Elgie. The sleeve is one of our better attempts at combining photographs and illustration.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [4]
Rolling Stone(mixed)[5]

Critical reaction to the album was mixed; for example, Rolling Stone's Billy Altman concluded that it did not completely accurately reproduce Poe's tension and macabre fear, ending by claiming that "devotees of Gothic literature will have to wait for someone with more of the macabre in their blood for a truer musical reading of Poe's often terrifying works."[6] Nonetheless, the album has still garnered somewhat of a cult status amongst Alan Parsons Project fans. In July 2010, the album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine's "50 Albums That Built Prog Rock".[7]


Originally simply called The Alan Parsons Project, the album was successful enough to achieve gold status. The identity of The Alan Parsons Project as a group was cemented on the second album, I Robot, in 1977.

The original version of the album was available for several years on vinyl and cassette, but was not immediately available on CD (the CD technology not being commercially available until 1982).

In 1987, Parsons completely remixed the album, including additional guitar passages and narration (by Orson Welles) as well as updating the production style to include heavy reverb and the gated reverb snare drum sound, which was popular in the 1980s. The CD notes that Welles never met Parsons or Eric Woolfson, but sent a tape to them of the performance shortly after the album was manufactured in 1976.

The first passage narrated by Welles on the 1987 remix (which comes before the first track, "A Dream Within a Dream") is sourced from an obscure nonfiction piece by Poe – No XVI of his Marginalia (from 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material "Marginalia.") The second passage Welles reads (which comes before "The Fall of the House of Usher" (Prelude), seems to be a partial paraphrase or composite from nonfiction by Poe, chiefly from a collection of poems titled "Poems of Youth" by Poe (contained in "Introduction to Poems – 1831" in a section titled "Letter to Mr. B-----------"; the "Shadows of shadows passing" part of the quote comes from the Marginalia.

In 1994, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) released the original 1976 version on CD (UDCD-606), making the original available digitally for the first time.

In 2007, a Deluxe Edition released by Universal Music included both the 1976 and the 1987 versions remastered by Alan Parsons during 2006 with eight additional bonus tracks.


A variant of the song "The Raven" appears on the Eric Woolfson album Edgar Allan Poe (2009), which contains the complete music from Woolfson's 2003 stage musical of the same name. The variant track does not appear on Woolfson's 2003 CD Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which was a highly abridged version of the stage musical. On the variant, the bass line and keyboard chords of the original Tales of Mystery and Imagination track are heard, but they are quieter, do not feature a vocoder, and instead of an abridged version of the Poe poem being sung, the Woolfson version features a fuller spoken dramatic reading of the poem. The Alan Parsons album A Valid Path includes "A Recurring Dream Within a Dream", a composite of "A Dream Within a Dream" and "The Raven" incorporating electronic music influences.

Slough Feg covered "The Tell-Tale Heart" for their 2010 album The Animal Spirits.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Eric Woolfson and Alan Parsons except "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Woolfson, Parsons, and Andrew Powell.

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."A Dream Within a Dream"Instrumental4:14
2."The Raven"Alan Parsons, Leonard Whiting3:57
3."The Tell-Tale Heart"Arthur Brown (additional vocals: Jack Harris)4:38
4."The Cask of Amontillado"John Miles (additional vocals: Terry Sylvester)4:33
5."(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether"John Miles (additional vocals: Jack Harris)4:20
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."The Fall of the House of Usher
  • "Prelude" – 7:02
  • "Arrival" – 2:39
  • "Intermezzo" – 1:00
  • "Pavane" – 4:36
  • "Fall" – 0:51"
2."To One in Paradise"Terry Sylvester (additional vocals: Eric Woolfson, Alan Parsons)4:46

Orson Welles' narration does not appear on the original 1976 mix of the album. It does, however, on the 1987 remix: specifically on "A Dream Within a Dream", and on the Prelude of "The Fall of the House of Usher".

2007 deluxe editionEdit

Disc 1: Tracks 1–11, original album in original 1976 mix

  1. "The Raven" (original demo)
  2. "Edgar" (demo of an unreleased track)
  3. "Orson Welles Radio Spot"
  4. "Interview with Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson" (1976)

Disc 2: Tracks 1–11, original album in 1987 remix

  1. "Eric's Guide Vocal Medley"
  2. "Orson Welles Dialogue"
  3. "Sea Lions in the Departure Lounge" (sound effects and experiments)[8]
  4. "GBH Mix" (unreleased experiments)


  • Alan Parsons – Organ, Synthesizer, Keyboards, Projectron, Guitar, Recorder, Vocals (Vocoder), Producer, Engineer
  • Eric Woolfson – Synthesizer, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Vocals, Vocals (background), Executive Producer
  • Andrew Powell – Keyboards, Arranger
  • Francis Monkman – Organ, Keyboards
  • Billy Lyall – Piano, Keyboards, Fender Rhodes, Drums, Glockenspiel, Recorder
  • Christopher North – Keyboards
  • Orson Welles – Narrator on A Dream Within a Dream on the 1976 version
  • Leonard Whiting – Vocals on The Raven, Narrator on A Dream Within a Dream on the 2006 version
  • Arthur Brown – Vocals on The Tell-Tale Heart
  • John Miles – Guitar, Vocals on The Cask Of Amontillado and (The system of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether
  • Jack Harris – Vocals on The system of Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather
  • Terry Sylvester – Vocals on The Cask of Amontillado and To One in Paradise
  • Jane Powell – Vocals, Vocals (background)
  • English Chorale – Vocals
  • Smokey Parsons – Vocals
  • Bob Howes – Choir, Chorus
  • The English Chorale and Played Ti – Choir, Chorus
  • Kevin Peek – Guitar (Acoustic)
  • Laurence Juber – Guitar (Acoustic)
  • David Paton – Guitar (Acoustic), Electric Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Vocals (background)
  • Ian Bairnson – Guitar (Acoustic), Electric Guitar
  • David Pack – Guitar
  • Joe Puerta – Bass
  • Les Hurdle – Bass
  • Daryl Runswick – Bass, String Bass
  • David Katz – Violin, Leader, Orchestra Contractor
  • Jack Rothstein – Leader
  • David Snell – Harp
  • Burleigh Drummond – Drums
  • Stuart Tosh – Cymbals, Drums, Vocals, Tympani
  • John Leach – Percussion, Vocals, Cimbalom, Kantele
  • Dennis Clarke - Saxophone, Clarinet
  • 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


Year Chart Position
1976 The Billboard 200 38
1976 UK Albums Chart 56
1976 Canada 81
1976 Spanish Albums Chart 17


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[9] Platinum 100,000^
Germany (BVMI)[10] Platinum 500,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[11] Silver 60,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - September 25, 1976" (PDF).
  2. ^ The Cambridge companion to Debussy, p. 297 n. 100 / edited by Simon Trezise, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  3. ^ Thorgerson, Storm: The Work of Hipgnosis: 'Walk Away René', page 131. Paper Tiger, 1978. ISBN 0-905895-08-8
  4. ^ Mike DeGagne. "Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe – The Alan Parsons Project". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Rolling Stone Music | Album Reviews". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  6. ^ Billy Altman (23 September 1976). "Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination". Rolling Stone website.
  7. ^ Classic Rock magazine, July 2010, Issue 146.
  8. ^ "Sea Lions in the Departure Lounge" uses the same announcement recording as was previously used on Pink Floyd's On the Run from the album The Dark Side of the Moon, on which Alan Parsons was engineer.
  9. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination". Music Canada.
  10. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Alan Parsons Project; 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  11. ^ "British album certifications – Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Tales of Mystery and Imagination in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.