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Aphrodite's Child - 666 CD (album) cover

666

Aphrodite's Child

 

Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 270 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ignore anything the name Vangelis may mean to you (or even Demis Roussos if you're familiar with his later work); this album is really something unique and special. It's difficult to believe that the band had nothing more than "sahlep" (kinda like tea or coffee) to fuel this wild creativity, but I imagine the entire world was getting a contact high in the late 60s. "666" is a sonic riot of 60s rock styles spiced with Greek influences, extended noise and tone poems, vocal narration and snippets. The concept is quite unique; a circus stages a production of the Apocalypse of St. John not knowing the actual Apocalypse is occurring outside the tent. The audience believes everything to be a part of the show until the real and the theatrical collide.

We start with an opening crowd chant, the Abbie Hoffman-inspired "The System", and the exuberant acid rock song "Babylon". "Loud, Loud, Loud" swaps the carnival barker's biblical narration for that of a diplomat's child, over a soft piano and choral backing. "The Four Horsemen" deepens the biblical narrative with some eerie, atmospheric verses and a memorable psychedelic refrain that becomes the backing for some tasty guitar soloing at the end. "The Lamb" demonstates a clear proto-progressive improvisational structure, upon which the Greek influence emerges- a trend that increases for the instrumentation that accompanies the narrative of "The Seventh Seal". "Aegian Sea" is a more FLOYD-ian mellow jam, with additional muffled voiceover. "Seven Bowls" is a disturbing chant (one could say, a Greek Chorus) that trails off into the atmospheric noises of "The Wakening Beast". The quiet muezzin sound of "Lament" explodes into the mediterranean fanfare of "The Marching Beast", which suggests avant-garde classical influence. "Battle of the Locusts" returns us to rock and segues into the contagiously pounding Jerry Rubin-inspired jam, "Do It" (I would have loved an extended version of this). We're exposed to more avant-garde sounds on the brass-textured "Tribulation" before getting funky with the suprisingly Zappa-esque "The Beast". Finally, "Ofis" quotes a popular Greek drama to close out the first disc.

The second disc opens aptly with "Seven Trumpets", returning us to both the circus and the bible. "Altamont" brings some uncanny prescience- could they have had some glimpse of the all-too-real Apocalypse that the Stones would encounter there a year later? Nevertheless, it's a rolling, dense rock jam with a very interesting voiceover. "The Wedding of the Lamb" combines "Ummagumma"-era FLOYDian atmospherics with Greek flavors over pounding tribal percussion, and "The Capture of the Beast" increases tension with glassy percussion and unnerving synth effects. "Infinity" is a ritual orgasm, which caused much contoversy; originally 39 minutes long, it had to be truncated before the record company would even consider releasing the album (to continue the "Ummagumma" comparison, this is their "Several Species of Small Furry Animals..."). "Hic Et Nunc" brings us back to the rock with a catchy, dramatic "Jesus Christ Superstar" flavor. The exotic acid rock improvisation on "All the Seats Were Occupied" slowly builds to a climax, chaotically combining elements of the preceding songs (much the same way as PINK FLOYD did later in the "Atom Heart Mother Suite") to illustrate the armageddon conflict. It goes on a bit too long for comfort (I would have trimmed this piece and added some length to the "Locusts/ Do It" passages, but nobody asked me) but it does succeed in giving you a vivid impression of the end of the world, especially at the crashing, moaning finale. "Break" brings you back from the depths with some homey piano, bluesy fuzz guitar, and simple lyrics.

Anyone with any interest in the psychedelic era progenitors of progressive rock must give this album a try; fans of the COMUS sound and attitude should be able to take to this with little difficulty. It is a bit long, and requires some dedication to listen from start to finish-it's as hard to imagine the full 4-disc album that was originally planned as the patently impossible script Salvador Dali penned for the premiere. The playing is generally competant rather than spectacular, and the more familiar rock sections are less frequent than the forays into experimental sounds. The transitions are well done, however, and the sense of humor and exuberance, as well as the Greek influence, distinguishes the music from the typical noisy freak-outs of the era. "666" is simultaneously disturbing and funny, spacey and primitive, retro and timeless, sacred and profane- and much less pretentious sounding than you'd guess. I'm a little shaky about giving it the full five stars, as a fair number of people are likely to be turned off by the 'controversial' element and hippie-era sound, but this is a unique and impressive landmark in the birth of progressive rock, and should be heard at least once by anyone seriously interested in the genre.

James Lee | 4/5 |

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