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Aphrodite's Child - 666 CD (album) cover

666

Aphrodite's Child

 

Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 284 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
2 stars After the Beatles-inspired psych-flavoured albums 'End Of The World'(1968) and 'It's Five O'Clock'(1969), the Greek outfit Aphrodite's Child went for the grand move with this ambitious, double-sided concept piece. Although it would prove to be the their final release, fans and critics alike have hailed 1972's '666' as the group's defining moment, and one of the most important examples of European psychedelic rock. A trio, Aphrodite's Child would prove to be the springboard to later success for two-thirds of it's membership. Demis Roussous(vocals, bass) would become a highly-respected producer, songwriter and solo artist, enjoying European success throughout the upcoming decades, though even his popularity as a performer would be surpassed by that of keyboard-player Evangelio Papathanassiou, who, under the universally-recognised pseudonym Vangelis, would become a household name during the 1980's thanks to a series of electronically-coloured solo releases, two progressively-inclined albums with Yes front-man Jon Anderson(under the moniker Jon & Vangelis) and for his hugely popular soundtrack that accompanied the oscar-winning 1981 movie 'Chariots Of Fire'. However, before these later excursions, Roussos and Papathanassiou, along with drummer Lucas Sideras, were known as some of the most exciting and experimental purveyors of psychedelic music outside of the dominant USA and UK set of groups such as Tomorrow, The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane, thanks partly to their merging of modern rock elements with traditional Greek and European sounds. 'End Of The World' and 'It's Five O'Clock', plus a handful of popular singles, had seen the threesome build up a strong following throughout Europe, and a series of concerts in Germany, France and the UK led to a major- label deal with the French arm of Phillips. With the short-lived psychedelic phenomenon beginning to make way for more experimental forms of rock music, as pioneered by Pink Floyd, E.L.P. and Gentle Giant to name but a few, Aphrodite's Child were keen to follow suit. Their first two albums had made good use of the limited studio gadgetry available to them, with special effects, sound collages and tape splicing adding a bustling sonic layer to their quaint, folk-inspired acid-rock sound. However, the recording environment for '666' would prove far superior. Recorded in Paris, at the technologically-advanced Studio Europa-Sonar, '666' would be Aphrodite's Child's first - and only - stab at the concept album. Ostensibly, and thematically, the album was an attempt-of-sorts to musically adapt various passages from the bible, interspersed with psychedelic rock songs, more sound collages, strange and ethereal effects and, during the latter stages of side two, some seriously bizarre 'performance' art courtesy of sixties bohemian actress and fellow Greek Irene Papas, which took the form of manic chanting whilst the female performer was seemingly in the throes of sexual hysteria(!). These moments aside, the group did find time to add some actual songs to the album. 'The Four Horseman' is possibly the most popular track from '666', featuring a slow and carefully-composed keyboard-orientated build-up followed by a catchy, acoustic- guitar-accompanied chorus that hinted towards more progressive leanings. The song was a minor hit single in the UK, France and central Europe, and is one of the few stand-out moments on what is essentially an experimental psychedelic/progressive art-rock album from a trio of talented musicians who were, at the time at least, having virtually every creative whim indulged thanks to first-rate facilities and the moderate success of their previous two albums. Other tracks, notably 'Break', 'Lament' and 'Babylon', do showcase the trio's more restrained side, with the traditional Greek elements that graced 'End Of The World's stronger moments juxtaposing nicely with the albums jagged, Beatles-and-Tomorrow- styled psych-rock sound, though, ultimately, these moments are just too far apart to maintain interest throughout. There are far to many strange interludes, with talking voices, clanging bells, tribal percussion and atonal sound effects effectively filling up a large chunk of the album's lengthy running time, and the number of actual compositions is surprisingly small for a double-album. Encased between these tedious episodes are genuine moments of impressive beauty, with 'The Four Horsemen''s Crosby, Stills & Nash-esque harmonies and Pink Floyd-ish strains making for a wondrous, and rare, moment of clarity amongst all the manic stream-of-conciousness sonic craziness and experimental fiddling. However, despite the obvious care and craft, and many, many hours of labour that has gone into this epic release, too much of it has been spent on the least-accessible - and enjoyable - moments. 1969's debut 'End Of The World' is a far more compressed example of just what Aphrodite's Child were capable of, and those yet to hear a note of this Greek rock group are advised to start their study of the group there. A highly-creative album this 1972 effort may be, yet, unfortunately, most of the creativity seems to have been expended on virtually everything but the music. To put it lightly, this is very much a flawed gem, though one that demands a cursory listen at least from those interested in such things. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011
stefro | 2/5 |

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