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CHINA

Vangelis

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richardh
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This has long been one of my favourite instrumental albums.Vangelis is a remarkable composer and has a great knack of combining electronic sounds with percussion to perfection.The music here captures the spirit and feeling of this great country perfectly.There is not a single poor track.The only reason I don't give it 5 stars is that it is not a prog album BUT please note this is not 'New Age' either! If you just like brilliant instrumental music and wonderful melodies then check this out.
Report this review (#34849)
Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice thing about this album is that Vangelis interprets different aspects of Chinese music and culture in his own unique way, without trying to imitate Chinese music. Thank goodness this is not just another boring world music recording! The overall atmosphere is deeply romantic and nostalgic, the feeling I get when I watch "The Last Emperor". If this is about China, then it's about China of the old days. The most overtly Chinese piece is "The Little Fete", but Vangelis manages it not sounding like a cheesy imitation. The compositions are all wonderful, brimming with beautiful arrangements and melodies. Occasional symphonic bombast with explosive percussion, Vangelis' trademark, is present as well on this album. The soundtrack side of Vangelis is well represented with Himalaya/Summit, a sweeping, ominous 15-minute epic. Fans of Vangelis will not be disappointed - I'd have to rate this among his best works.
Report this review (#34850)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Another of my favorite Vangelis albums. It starts off with a classic, "Chung Kuo", which was actually used in a Mercury TV commercial (I remember a letter to the editor of Parade magazine asking who did that wonderful music)! Like all Vangelis albums, it has some filler, but there are some really nice tracks on this album, and the sound quality is great.
Report this review (#34851)
Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is a very good album created by a Greek musician doing very good compositions with arrangements that made them sound like "authentic Chinese music", I think. He also used some Chinese instruments in the recording of this album. "Chung Kuo" ( "The Long March") was also used in one TV ad in my country (for cars, too!). "The Little Fete" has a funny poem recitation done by a Chinese person (in English). "Himalaya/Summit" sounds to me like being played in a Chinese mountain while seeing the fog. I prefer the music in Side One of the L.P. (tracks 1 to 6). A fine album.
Report this review (#34853)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars WOW! Vangelis really masters the modern keyboards here! Welcome to the realm of Asiatic music. As the titles reveal, the Chinese influences are omnipresent. Very charming and beautiful, this music will transport you into an Oriental world. There are miscellaneous instruments: piano, violin, delicate percussions, exotic string instruments. There are absolutely NO ordinary tracks! Vangelis succeeds very well here on fitting together traditional acoustic instruments and modern, floating, rhythmic & melodic keyboards.

On side 2, you are invited to participate to the ascension of an Himalaya peak! Absolutely delightful, especially when you reach the "Summit": I LIKE the scattered volume effect on keyboards at the very end!

rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#39290)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars You could call this one another concept album, although the conceptual nature here is less obvious than in other Vangelis' works like "The City", but still, this is another great one. The subject here is Chinese music, and Vangelis performs an excellent construction based in the mix between his synthesizer atmospheric trademark sounds with an Asiatic instrumental baseline. And the result is pretty good, of course.

This record has generated some Vangelis' classics like "Chung Kuo", a pulsating and magical instrumental work, "Himalaya" (another classic) or "The Tao of love", where you can see the beauty of Chinese music surrounded with electronic atmospheric textures. There are also other interesting pieces, like "Ying & Yang", which you might consider as a sister of "Himalaya", although more orientated through the Asiatic side than her homologue. There are also little pieces of charming beauty, like "Long March" or "The Dragon" (maybe a recall from his ancient album of the same name?)

So, again Vangelis demonstrates that he is one the best composers of the recent era, providing us with another magnificent musical experience, maybe a bit slow sometimes (a problem in most Vangelis' records) but still very, very enjoyable.

Report this review (#59400)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I am going out on a limb here and giving China a solid five stars. This was Vangelis at his absolute peak in the late 70's. All the great works of Heaven and Hell, Spiral and La Fete Sauvage culminated in this climatic masterpiece. Progressive music at it's best. Naturally the album has a China feel and theme to the music not to mention climbing himalays and plumb blossmes and love taos. There was a great spiritual revolution closing off the 70's and Vangelis has captured all that on China. I think he achieved similar with Jon Anderson on Short Stories as well.

The album commences with the great ' Chung Kuo', typical Vangelis soundscapes but with the ' tao' feel. ' The Dragon' is a great Eastern upbeat song followed by the beautiful ' Plum Blossom' song, nostalgic and very moving.' The Tao of Love' follows with some great recitation by Koon Fook Man. All the spiritual themes of ' I Ching' alive and well, plenty of karma to reflect upon. Side 2 is more epic landscape sound as the album builds to the " Himalaya' and classic ' Summit' end piece. This is one of Vangelis's top three or four masterpieces. He managed about one a decade so far and this was his 70's number one album.

Report this review (#108907)
Posted Thursday, January 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is regarded by many fans of Vangelis, as one of the composer's greatest achievements. I would certainly agree - China is a magnificent and powerful album, and is possibly the archetypal Vangelis album in many ways. His first proper album for Polydor, China did not sell very well at the time of his release, but has since gone on to be a stronger seller on CD. The original vinyl album looks magnificent though, and again contains artwork designed by Vangelis himself. The artwork was created using a Polaroid SX-70 camera. The photographs - which are of Vangelis in a swimming pool - were taken and then smudged by hand while the pictures were developing. The same process was used to great effect for the cover of Peter Gabriel's third album.

The music contained within the enigmatic sleeve is just as imaginative. As the title suggests, the main influence on the music is the traditional sounds of China. An eastern influence can however be heard throughout Vangelis's recorded output. Tracks like Alpha and Freefall off Albedo 0.39, bear similar eastern influences. This album is merely the culmination of this particular slant. Although the material is in some ways, similar to the contemporary output of Japanese composer Kitaro, particularly with the track The Tao Of Love, the music on China is far more energetic and harder edged. China is also the culmination of Vangelis's electro-acoustic period, that is; the period in which Vangelis effortlessly fused electric and acoustic instruments. On this album you get to hear the Yamaha CS80 polysynth throughout, mixed with traditional Chinese instruments such as the koto, together with lots of the usual percussion. There is even spoken word and violin on one track. The music is varied and diverse, and yet comfortably sounds unified together.

The album opens with Chung Kuo which alludes to the political situation of China at the time in its chaotic intro, which utilises helicopter blade-like sequencer synths with crowds cheering. This settles into a peaceful and calm simplistic melody, played on a Chinese-sounding synth patch, played over a four note slow sequencer line. This leads into The Long March, which is only two minutes long, but contains some of Vangelis's most breathtaking piano playing. He certainly gives Keith Emerson a run for his money! But the melodic material here is similar to that of Chung Kuo - as though the two tracks could be part one and part two. The melody here is beautiful.

The Dragon follows, which is swift and energetic, with lots more trademark Vangelis synth sounds mixed with a similar Chinese-like synth patch performing the melody. The rhythms are choppy, particularly due to the 7/8 meter of the song. There is also lots of percussion banging away throughout, but not in a conventional rock way. This energetic track leads into the three more serene tracks that close side one of the album. The Plum Blossom mixes simple oligato bass piano playing with virtuosic Chinese violin, with gradually building synth lines adding to the dramatic nature of the simple piece. This is followed by the soft and delicate Tao Of Love which mixes koto with fender rhodes, backed with orchestrative synth parts all played on the CS80. Side 1 ends with The Little Fete which has atmospheric synths backing the recitation of an old Chinese fable about a man, the moon, and his shadow.

Side 2 starts off with Yin and Yang which is all over the place, like The Dragon. Kotos, percussion and synths are flying about all over the place creating a cacophonous mix of sounds spiralling about the place. This piece sounds especially good through headphones, as does the whole of side 2. This energetic track leads directly into my favourite track on the album, Himalaya, which really does feel like a treacherous trek up a snowy mountain. The underpadding of the piece is an old drum machine, partly masked by tibetan chanting bells. Over the top of this is beautiful simplistic piano, swooping and swishing synths, and lots of wind effects. This piece gradually builds in tension over its eleven minute duration until it collapses at its climax - the four minute Summit, which is simple and pure atmospherics. It is the end of quite a journey of sn album. Again, I could not imagine living without this beautiful and majestic album. It has that Vangelis-stamp all over it, and yet the tracks on it would not fit onto any of his albums before or after it. 4.5 stars

Report this review (#160057)
Posted Monday, January 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars The first "New-Age" album ever?

Having just heard Vangelis' previous album, Beaubourg, hearing China is truly a relief for the ears. In sharp contrast to Beaubourg, China is harmonic and melodious (though not melodic). This might perhaps be called New-Age music and if so it must be one of the earliest examples of that genre (maybe the first such album ever?). It is thus not a Prog Rock album by any means, but it might perhaps be called "progressive" in some other sense?

Mixed in with Vangelis' electronic synthesisers, we have some "natural" instruments this time; the most prominent being violin but there are also grand piano and some flutes. Also, in line with the title of the album (and the inspiration behind it?), there are some Asian sounding instruments and harmonies. These are very pleasant to listen to, but the music never rises above mere background music, for me anyway. This is not to say that there are no things happening in the music, there is. But it is not interesting enough to warrant repeated listens; hearings maybe, but not listens.

While China is great when you compare it with the abomination of sound that was Beaubourg, it is hardly a great piece of work in its own right. I think it is fair to say that Vangelis' relation to Prog (if there ever was one!) was over by the time of this release in 1979.

Since I was generous when I gave a couple of his earlier album Heaven And Hell and Spiral three stars (each!), and Beaubourg I "generously" gave one star (wishing I could give it zero stars!), I will be similarly generous here in giving China two stars.

For Prog fans who are newcomers to Vangelis, I would recommend to start with Heaven And Hell and Spiral which are his best albums. Albedo 0.39 has some weak parts but it too is preferable over China.

Report this review (#257279)
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars A return to form after the rude interruption that was Beauborg.

The end of the seventies was an active period of time for Vangelis. In 1979 alone he had released one oddity of a film soundtrack and one rare gem of collaboration with a fellow Greek expat and two classics. China is one of the classics. Vangelis' sense for melody takes a far eastern edge here. The theme here is the magnificence of ancient Chinese culture. The opening, Chung Kuo, begins with a flourish, a rush of sound that awakens one to something like the creation, and is then taken down to the earth. The name is the ancient name for China. The piece moves into its main section, regular and melodic and damn near transcendent. This blends into The Long March, a tasty piano piece commemorating a march of the modern Chinese army: they marched 235 out of 368 days, several at night, fighting a skirmish a day, fighting several pitched battles and covering 6,000 miles halting only every 114. A beautiful piece for such an arduous experience. The Dragon is a dynamic piece, followed by the sweet Plum Blossom, and then by the Tao of Love, perhaps his best short composition. The Little Fete puts a Li-Po poem to music, recited by Yeung Hak-Fun and Koon Fook Man: "I take a bottle of wine and I go to drink it among the flowers. We are always three . . . counting my shadow and my friend the shimmering moon. Happily, the moon knows nothing of drinking, and my shadow is never thirsty. When I sing, the moon listens to me in silence; When I dance, my shadow dances too. After all festivities the guests must depart; This sadness I do not know. When I go home, the moon goes with me and my shadow follows me." The second set begins with the back and forth of Yin & Yang and concludes with the magnificent combination of Himalaya and Summit. Himalaya has a regular beat to it, like a Sherpa plodding up the steep mountain heights. This piece builds up in grandeur and arrangement, with rising and descending bursts of sound which parallel the towering of mountainsides and the vertigo inducing drop of deep canyons. All this eventually blends into the cold adamantine peacefulness of Summit. By this time, all bets are off, and we are in another world, one of transcendence and mystery. We only get a glimpse of it through the frozen clouds before it drifts away from us into the aether. But that glimpse is enough. We have seen the source of the world. We have danced with the dragon and lived to tell the tale. We have traversed Chun Kuo. We have traversed China.

Essential Vangelis. Overall better than Spiral and Albedo 0.39. On par with Heaven and Hell, although most of the Vangelis fans I know, including myself, prefer H&H. Don't hesitate. Just buy it.

Report this review (#288167)
Posted Friday, June 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After the dreadful "Beaubourg" experience, Vangelis could only do one thing: to release a better album. And it is definitely the case.

We are far from these unbearable and experimental moments which we had to slick in his previous album. The artist provides again some fine electronic prog music as if "Beaubourg" was only an accident.

This work is still far from the best ones like "La Fęte Sauvage" or "Spiral". The first side is made of mainly short tracks of which "The Tao Of Love" develops some Chinese patterns and is the best achieved together with the opener "Chung Kuo". The closing part also shares the Chinese feel, but the spoken words sound quite flat. This track would have sound better if it had remained a pure instrumental.

The second side was more "Chinese" oriented and this ethnic flavour is not too bad at all. It is the case while you're listening to "Ying & Yang". I am not so enthusiast about "Himalaya" though.

In all, this is a another good album released by Vangelis. Three stars.

Report this review (#305017)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Vangelis took 3 years and 4 albums before releasing another big one after Albedo 0.39.

Effectively "Chung Kuo" (it means China, the ideograms who compose it are "House" and "Man", so China means "the House of Man") starts very similar to Albedo 0.39 before losing the percussions. Even if inspired to China this is not the kind of music that can be found as background in a Chinese Restaurant. "Chung Kuo" is very melodic and evocative. It gives the idea of Chinese Heights without being folky. A great start for a very good album. The theme is reprised by the piano solo in "The Long March". There's continuity. We can't speak of a concept album but all the tracks are inspired to the same idea and the music is evocative so it's not too far frome being a concept album even if instrumental. A good short piano piece.

"The Dragon" is back to electronic. Nothing to do with the omonimous album and the omonimous title track. A fantastic electronic track even though it's the less "chinese".

"The Plum Blossom" and its violin are more Greek. The piano which accompanies the violin has some of "sirtaki". By the way, the violin is played by Michel Ripochewho did the same on "The Dragon" and "Hypothesys".

Fully in China with "The Tao Of Love". Peaceful and solar, it's probably the most famous track of the album. Short and sweet.

"The Little Fete" is opened by a pan flute that reprises the last notes of "The Tao", then a gong and a harp. It's like being in a temple until a voice with a chinese accent tells the story of a bottle of wine. "When I go home, the moon moves with me...." this is one of the sentences that I can catch. A Tao story, maybe

Speaking of Tao, "Ying & Yang" is very appropriate. Here the music is very chinese. Of course it's almost all electronic, but what matters are the sounds. The track is dualistic. The first half is different from the second, but they are the same track. Two faces of the same song. "Ying and Yang are the opposites, but they are not "black and white".

"Himalaya" is the longest track. It's the most complex. Like many track of this kind is based on repetitions and little variations. Peaceful also this, even when the orchestral accents give it a dramatic touch.

"Summit" is a good closer of an album which is not an absolute masterpiece but deserves to be hosted in any discography. After Heaven and Hell and Albedo 0.39, it's at the third place in my heart in the huge discography of Vangelis.

4 totally deserved stars

Report this review (#366186)
Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ex Aphrodite Child, Vangelis gave us beautiful albums, sometimes agonizing, grandiloquants, synthesizer sounds powerful. "Chung Kuo" (this means that China, ideograms that compose it are "House" and "Man", and China means "house of men") begins very similar to Albedo 0.39 before losing percussion. Even s it is inspired by China is not the kind of music found in the background in a Chinese restaurant. "Chung Kuo" is very melodic and evocative. It gives the idea of being in China but not here nor offering Chinese folk music. A very good album. The theme is taken up by the piano solo in "The Long March." There is continuity. We can not speak of a concept album, but all tracks are inspired have the same idea and the music is so evocative that it is not too far from being a concept album, although instrumental. A good short piano piece. "The Dragon" is return to electronics. Nothing to do with the album omonimous and the title song omonimous. A fantastic way mail, even if it is the least "Chinese". "The Plum Blossom" and his violin are Greek. The piano accompanies the violin has an influence "sirtaki." Incidentally, the violin is played by Michel Ripochewho did the same thing about "The Dragon" and "Hypothesys." "The Tao Of Love." Pacific and the solar energy
Report this review (#367966)
Posted Thursday, December 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Vangelis really shows his genius here. 1979 was a particularly productive year for this artist and China turned out to be one of his finest, most creative works. Think orchestral and synth harmonies with many Eastern flavours. The opening "Chung Kuo" has plenty of grandeur while still maintaining a calm, relaxing vibe. "The Long March" is the second piece and it is a really lovely piano solo which follows with the same melody. There is a hint of sadness in this track. It's one of my favourite moments, as is "The Plum Blossom" with its folk violin, piano and synthesizer backing. Another one to listen out for is "The Tao Of Love". It is a stunning piece and very catchy as well. "Himalaya," is the best of all though. It paints a chilling, swirling picture, just as you can picture yourself ascending the Himalayas, but this is one of the most calming compositions I have heard from Vangelis. It is worth listening to this album with headphones on to get the full effect. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#585056)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Vangelis makes a great artistic statement in his tribute to China, an album that uses both electronic and world instruments to create a uniform and decorated sonic landspace picture. The opening "Chung Kao" is a great combination of these sounds and a very majestic and regal piece. "The Dragon and "The Plum Blossom" are also highlights, along with "The Little Fete", which is a great poem in it's own right. The prize of the album, though, is in it's second half, where Vangelis uses his keyboards to great effect to make a more spacey blend of the instruments. All 3 of the songs on Side Two are truly original masterpieces of combined electronic and world instruments. "Yin and Yang" has a one of a kind structure, with beautiful, shimmering synths, and "Himilaya" and "Summit" are kind of a connected two-part tribute to the himilayas, with the longer, steadier song being the climbing one, and the second song being a bright, visionary piece that's great for complimenting a great view.
Report this review (#603709)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2012 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Full of eastern promise

After apparently losing the plot completely with 1978's "Beaubourg" album, Vangelis quickly returned to the studio later that year and recorded this concept album for release in 1979. The album's concept is as simple as its title, focusing on various aspects of the the Asian country of that name. Once again, Vangelis takes total control of the project, although he does indulge in the services of a trio of guests on a couple of the tracks.

Over the years, there has been considerable confusion and debate surrounding the opening two tracks, which merge together to form a 7+ minute piece. The official timings indicate that "Chung Kuo" (which actually means "China") forms the bulk of the track, but there is a strong argument that the natural division of the piece is where it moves from the "Beaubourg" like rhythmic noise of the first couple of minutes into the melodic synths which some evidence suggests are entitled entirely confined to "The long march". Musically, the marching beat which prevails also suggests that "The long march" is indeed the longer part of the piece. Part of the problem is that there are actually three distinct sections, not two. The debate is of course largely academic, as the album is in any event intended as a complete suite. Here, and throughout the album, Vangelis attempts to ensure that the album's concept is clear, through the creation on synths of oriental sounds and textures.

The guests on the album are Michel Ripoche, who adds Grappelli like violin to the brief "The plum blossom" and the (schoolboy sniggering) amusingly named Yeung Hak-Fun and Koon Fook Man who add spoken word to "The little fete". This latter track is based around an old Chinese poem by Li Po, translated by J.C. Cooper and recited here in English. The words of the brief ode are helpfully included in the CD notes, but I cannot help but feel that it would have sounded better if kept in its native language. In English, it sounds phonetic and lifeless.

The feature track is the 11 minute "Himalaya" (singular), which combines with the following "Summit" to form a 15+ minute closer. The extra space afforded by the tracks length is used to spread things out rather than cram things in (to put it rather clumsily). There are some nice "Chariots of fire" type synth bursts along the way though.

Overall, a reassuring return to form by Vangelis. "China" holds few surprises in the context of his discography, but it does make for a pleasant if largely unexciting listen.

Report this review (#798422)
Posted Thursday, August 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you did not know the title, it sounds like China.

This is the album I like best by Vangelis and it has been awhile since I played this until today. He inserts a little more power into this effort as I think the subject matter requires those grand, majestic, and climatic moments. However, there are also the lovely compositions that bring out the image of the peaceful, contemplative side of that land.

The opening track, Chung Juo starts us off on a grand note full of synths that have a slicing oriental sound throughout. The Long March is a beautiful piano melody with some background synthesizer. The Dragon brings us back into a power mode and is one of the strongest songs on album with heavy keyboards and some nice percussions.

Now back to the beauty side, The Plum Blossum is a delightful violin playfully dancing around a methodical piano melody. It also mixes in some strong well placed synths. Very nice.

Continuing into the peaceful side of things, the next three songs mix some traditional oriental instruments with keyboards and spoken meditative words in one song, The Little Fete. The Tao of Love has a wonderful melody.

Now the epic and my favorite, Himalaya. Power synthesizer filled journey up the mountain. It winds and builds its way up to a climatic peak, which fits into the next song, Summit. It gives you that atmospheric feel that you accomplished the climb and now you soak it all in.

Excellent album, 4 plus stars but will keep it at 4.

AEProgman

Report this review (#838898)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2012 | Review Permalink

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