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Vangelis - Heaven And Hell CD (album) cover

HEAVEN AND HELL

Vangelis

 

Prog Related

3.81 | 160 ratings

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UnearthlyChild
5 stars This is one of my all time favourite Vangelis albums. I picked this up from a second hand vinyl market stall back in my early teens and it was one of the very first records I bought. To me, everything about this record is special, from the packaging, to the music within. It represents Vangelis at his most grandiose and theatrical, fusing elements of jazz fusion (Bacchanale), Rachmaninov- inspired classical pieces, (Symphony To The Powers B), to some of the most beautiful and heavenly music you could ever hear, which manages to sound both ancient and modern at the same time, (12'o'clock).

The CD, as with some of the later pressings of the vinyl, confusingly came without a track listing, save for a Heaven and Hell Part 1, Part 2 and So Long Ago, So Clear in the middle. The original pressings of the record from 1975 however came with a full track listing. The album starts off bombastically with Bacchanale, which features Vangelis pounding away on the drums backing himself on beautifully warm-sounding monophonic synthesizers and incredibly jazzy fender rhodes piano playing. His playing here is not far away from that of Chick Corea with Return to Forever, or some pre-Head Hunters Herbie Hancock. Topping all this jazz fusion cacophony however, is a large chorus of all things, creating a sense of a huge celestial celebration. A truly uplifting introduction.

Next comes, Symphony to the Powers B which comes confusingly in three movements. Only two of them are really distinguishable from each other. The whole section of the album here is dominated by Vangelis's highly virtuosic piano playing. It makes one wonder how Relayer would have turned out if Vangelis had become Yes's keyboard player instead of Patrick Moraz. What is particularly incredible about this piece of music is that it sounds completely improvised, (slight mistakes here and there and all). This improvisational ability, something that he to some extent shares with Moraz, is what makes Vangelis so special for me. Backing the piano is some more monophonic synths, a string synthesizer, and the beautiful choir, following his piano playing note for note. The music very much sounds like a nineteenth century piano concerto, with the synths providing the orchestration. The choir adds even more depth to the virtuosic piece.

This eventually all breaks down into what is probably the most famous section of the album; the piece of music used as the title music for Carl Sagan's Cosmos programs. Again its piano dominated, but supported beautifully by more of Vangelis's brilliant orchestration of synthesizers. One of the synths meanwhile seems to shadow the main melody that would later evolve into the main theme of Chariots of Fire. The side ends with the first collaboration between Vangelis and Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. A beautiful unearthly and celestial piece, So Long Ago, So Clear features wistful lyrics from Anderson backed by Vangelis's soft fender rhodes and string synths, and that beautiful monosynth used throughout the album, which sounds vaguely like a french horn.

Side two for the most part, sounds like the Hell section of the album. Intestinal Bat is very eerie, with weird synth sounds, Stravinsky-like chords on the fender rhodes, and sporadic and spasmodic percussion. This atmospheric side opener is followed by Needles and Bones, a highly rhythmical piece with a vaguely Eastern European feel to it. The piece is dominated by tuned percussion, clavinet and synth, and returns to the virtuosity of Symphony to the Powers B. This track is followed by the dark and atmospheric 12'o'Clock which is my favourite track on the album. It has one of those melodies that you are certain you've heard somewhere before. The music could have come out of some haunting biblical epic. It has the air of the conclusion of an epic adventure. Vangelis's synth orchestration is at its most beautiful here, as it jumps from clashing atonal sections with demented and tortured solo voices, to sections of pure unrivalled beauty. The solo vocalist, Vana Veroutis, is truly incredible on this track.

The album ends with the bombastic Aries - all brassy synths and pounding percussion, sounding almost like battle music, followed by A way - literally soft, static music that fades away into nothingness, much in the same way Neptune does in Gustav Holst's The Planets. An incredible end to one of Vangelis's greatest albums. This album should appeal to the prog fans out there who like their music bombastic and powerful and melodic, although those who prefer complicated time signatures would much prefer his next studio album proper, Albedo 0.39. I recommend this album purely on its beauty and its imagination - I could simply not imagine my record collection without it.

UnearthlyChild | 5/5 |

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