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Album review

Vangelis 

Heaven & Hell, Albedo 0.39, Spiral, Beauborg, Direct

added: 30 Dec 2013 // release date: 30 Dec 2013 // label: Esoteric
reviewer: Andy Snipper

Vangelis - Heaven & Hell, Albedo 0.39, Spiral, Beauborg, Direct - Printable version
If you are not a fan of Greek electronic wizard Vangelis then you may as well stop reading now – this is a Christmas feast of his works and it could just leave you feeling stuffed and blown out. On the other hand if you are into electronica and Vangelis in particular then these may just be the cure for all the crap ion the box this year – all remastered by the man himself and sounding fresh and alive.

Vangelis first surfaced in Greek psychedelic band Aphrodites Child and they sold over 20 million units before their masterpiece ‘666’ was released in ’71. The band actually broke up before ‘666’ was released and with Demis Roussos going off to play for the mums of the seventies Vangelis went in a more complex direction.

Most famous for the appalling ‘Chariots of Fire’ his music has elements of classical and hymnal in it as well as touching on other forms such as Musique Concrete and even jazz from time to time but at heart he writes anthems for the soul and the music at its best is uplifting and soaring with huge soundscapes and a real audio-widescreen presentation.

The first of the albums is ‘Heaven & Hell’ from 1975 which features just two tracks – ‘Heaven & Hell Pt 1’ and ‘Heaven & Hell Pt 2’ and kicking off with furious keyboards, pounding tympani and a vaunting chorale section. Yes’s Jon Anderson supplies lyrics and vocals and the chorale is supplied by the English Chamber Choir. Powerful and huge, it really needs to be heard at volume to make sense.

He followed that up with ‘Albedo 0.39’ (the Earth’s refractive index number) and he moved a great deal further into computerised music and sounds with a concept album that kicked off with ‘Pulsar’ – a number that has been the theme for a number of news and current affairs programmes. One of his most satisfying albums, he performed all the instruments and delivered something that, in 1976, sounded utterly fresh and new while harking back to producers like Joe Meek and their experiments with electronics.

‘Spiral’ was the third of the albums he recorded at his Nemo studio in London. Once more he was in conceptual mode with an album based on the teachings of Lao Tsu. The music has a more spiritual basis and has emotional depth that he always strived for but rarely achieved, Some of the themes on the album feel as though they have a folk influence as well as the electronic phrasing and one can clearly hear a musician who is growing and developing his ideas.

‘Beauborg’ took Vangelis in a new direction altogether in that it was influenced by the architecture of the Pompidou Centre in Paris and touches strongly on the avant garde with elements of Musique Concrete. It was on of the few pieces that he performed live and personally I find it to be the most satisfying of the five albums. There is a delicacy as well as an underlying strength that, musically, is beguiling and satisfying.

Vangelis recorded ‘Direct’ in his childhood home of Athens and when it was released in 1988 it was seen as taking a step back to his earlier forms. The music is inspired by the motion of the stars as seen from the country of his birth and there is a great sense of wonderment in the early tracks. There are also themes of complexity and confusion underlying the headline tracks and the album serves well in placing his emotions on disc.

Vangelis has been highly prolific and these 5 albums serve to show the breadth of the mans talents. The remastering is superb and the music – especially ‘Beauborg’ – has a great life and freshness to it.


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4 stars

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