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Vangelis - The City CD (album) cover




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3.31 | 87 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars Conceptual New-Age set in urban environment!

Here we have a nice little concept album from Vangelis. The "story" is just as simple and uncomplicated as the music, and can easily be told in a single sentence: it's about a day in the life of a city, staring by dawn and ending at twilight (and beginning again at the end). The city in question is probably not any specific city but any major city, past or present. This simple story - or better, "event" - is "told" entirely through the inclusion of a few spoken word passages on top of otherwise entirely instrumental music. While not at all comparable in style to his best and most progressive works from the mid 70's like Heaven & Hell, Albedo 0.39 and Spiral, the present album actually contains some of the best pieces of music that I've heard from post-Spiral Vangelis. I'm not a big fan of any era of Vangelis, or of his type of music in general, but to my surprise, I found that I actually quite enjoy some parts of this album!

Given what I have said above, it is not surprising that the album opens with a track called Dawn. It is very easy to picture a rising sun, slowly ascending over a sleeping metropolis while hearing this one. With Morning Papers, we enter the city streets and a man asks for the morning papers but it offered a sandwich instead as it is too early yet for the morning paper! The track could perhaps have been called "Breakfast"! At this point many citizens are probably still sleeping as we hear some soothing flutes over a clock-like beat. With Nerve Centre, the city finally awakens for real and this one is probably meant to depict the morning rush hour. This one is a much louder and rockier tune reminding of some stuff from Vangelis' previous album, Direct, with something sounding like an electric guitar carrying the main melody over an artificial beat. This is for me the climax of the whole album.

These first three tracks are really good, but after this point the album starts to drift off into New-Age land and I tend to lose sight of the concept. Still, we get a decent if nondescript tune in Side Streets with some pleasant, non-electronic instruments over a rather tedious beat. Good To See You is even more unexceptional and feels like mere transportation or filler, the beat is just dreadfully dull! Twilight is slightly better as it avoids any beat whatsoever and this one is pure relaxation. It reminds quite a lot of Vangelis' China album from the late 70's in that it has an Asian sound and feel to it, reinforced by spoken word samples of a woman speaking in some Asian language (Japanese?). Needless to say, this has absolutely nothing to do with Prog or any kind of Rock as it is pure New-Age at this point.

Red Lights once again relies on a tiresome beat, but slightly more interesting stuff are happening on top of it. Still, at this point (if not before!) you are wondering whether it is time to give up on The City. It does, however, get a little bit better again towards the end. The nearly ten minute closing track is a bit slow and uneventful in the beginning, but it builds towards a bombastic ending. At the very end the man from Morning Papers (played by Roman Polanski!) is once again asking for the morning papers, signalling that it has been 24 hours and a new day is about to begin (and judging from its worst tracks, it does indeed feel like a 24 hour-exercise to listen through this album in its entirety!).

With such a strong opening trio of tracks, The City could probably have been a much better album than it is had it only kept a bit closer to its supposed concept. Recommended to Vangelis fans.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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