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THE CITY

Vangelis

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Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
4 stars Vangelis is in urban feelings here. It's also conceptual in a way, "a day in the city" type of thing, beginning with dawn and ending with late night. A good finely produced album that definitely can be recommended, though not quite among my biggest favourites. Well, nearly enough.

'Dawn' is beautiful and atmospheric still-half-sleepy opener, reminiscent of some tracks in Blade Runner. 'Morning Papers' starts with footsteps, street sounds and director Roman Polanski (for whom Vangelis composed Bitter Moon soundtrack) asking for a morning paper at a kiosk. Still the intimate sensual feeling... which is then taken over with some more hectic city life in 'Nerve Centre' and 'Side Streets' (both least enjoyed by me). 'Good To See You' is another tasty one, it has a delicious lush beat and voice of a giggling girlfriend speaking to phone. 'Twilight' and its gloomy atmosphere sets in. I might prefer it without Japanese woman speaking - it sounds nice at first but when you don't understand a word... :( I don't recall 'Red Lights' well, probably didn't like it much. 'Procession' is a gorgeous closing track that slowly increases the tension. The City is very cinematic album without being a soundtrack - it is music for the mind's eye - and those who enjoy e.g. Blade Runner will most likely enjoy it. Never mind the boring cover art.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#48661)
Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've been a fan of Vangelis since I was a child, and this was one of the records I had yet to listen. After doing so, I have to admit that this is another proof of this composer's talent, and a really enjoyable set of relaxing and well performed songs

This record might be considered as a 'concept' one, revolving around an urban atmosphere. It is quite curious how you can find as something smooth and friendly an entity so complex, dangerous and dark like a city can be, listening to this record. Vangelis explores a set of nice 'city' moments, giving them a melodic and sensitive nature in a quite delicate and tender way. There are songs here that have quite emotive moments, specially the first ones, like "Dawn" or "Morning Pieces", my two favourites. There are a lot of saxo pieces here, all of them very, very nice, as always.

I would have given this record the score of a masterpiece with its five stars, but I won't do it for the simple reason that it seems to lose strength as we are approaching to the end of the record. In the end, it is a bit too slow and dense for my taste, but only a little. Anyway, I have really enjoyed this record and I invite all the prog fans out there to give it a try.

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Send comments to shyman (BETA) | Report this review (#58187)
Posted Sunday, November 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This has a great theme, how many artists say.." Right there is the canvass, now I am going to paint a picture of The City with my music.....". None probably! Therefore one has to give credit to the artist Vangelis in creating an extremely credible piece of work. The city pulse is there, exercise, driving, riding, sunsets, industrial sensuality ( OK I made that one up) but hopefully you get my drift. Musically and mood wise The City is dark, perculiar and plain lovely. Surreal at times yet always reaching out and touching the human basics within us all. An excellent work and one of his highlights of the 90's, not his best but very close.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#108928)
Posted Friday, January 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Bang in the middle mediocrity ,Vangelis can chuck this stuff out by the gallon load if it suits him.Clearly he was trying to make an 'accessible' album without dumbing down to much.What you get is quite colourfull and 'chirpy' music that lacks any real depth or flow to it.Exceptable and just about listenable but remarkably unremarkable by Vangelis standards.I think part of the problem is that the idea itself ''The City'' is unfocused and lazy.The music largely reflects that although Vangelis has a bit of fun here and there that makes it entertaining at least.

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Send comments to richardh (BETA) | Report this review (#110781)
Posted Monday, February 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Life in the city, isn't pretty (Tom Nicol c. 1978)

This 1990 release by Vangelis offers a thematic observation of a day in the life of an unnamed city (possibly Rome or Paris where the album was recorded). Perhaps not the most inspired concept ever suggested, we are rather predictably taken from Dawn through to Twilight and the Red lights of the night.

After the ambient introduction of Dawn some footsteps and a voice (Roman Polanski) seek the Morning papers, but unfortunately they have yet to arrive. We are therefore treated to some further musak type sounds to soothe us as we await them. The rhythm of the city, represented by a ticking clock type sound, becomes progressively intrusive as we move towards Nerve centre where the mechanical sounds of the computer age are cold and emotionless.

Side streets examines a different aspect to the city, away from the commuter populated wealth centres, the jazz orientation of the piece, and what sounds like genuine violin, offering a vivid contrast through a glimpse of humanity.

A move to side two involves a lengthy break if you have the cassette version, the sides being some 5 minutes different in length. We are greeted there with Good to see you, a relaxed piece of smooth jazz played out on a sax like synth. Kathy Hill adds some conversational voicing at various points, perhaps (despite the title) pointing towards one side of a telephone conversation rather than a face to face meeting.

Japanese voices are added to both Twilight and Red lights, suggesting that the city in question could be Tokyo. The atmosphere of Twilight remains downbeat with little hint of a vibrant city, a while Red lights takes us to the heart of the evening rush hour with what sounds like a TV theme.

At 9 minutes, the closing Processions is the longest track on the album. This piece appears to be at odds with the rest of the tracks which are clearly linked by the album's concept. Here we have what is effectively a stand alone track of credible but pretty standard Vangelis fare. Processions appears to feature unaccredited violin, the main theme building through synthesised voice and rhythmic percussion to provide a satisfactory end to the album.

In all, not one of Vangelis best album by any means, the accent being a little too much towards the ambient and new age. An enjoyable listen nonetheless.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#156921)
Posted Friday, December 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
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.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#291827)
Posted Saturday, July 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Vangelis stays with the electro-prog sound of Direct, but this one is more expansive, meaning that he includes lush atmospheric pieces like Dawn, soft pieces like Twilight, and the grand march which is Procession. In the interim, he paints a tone poem in several sections of the city. This is a concept he had visited before with Beauborg, but here the music is listenable and enjoyable. One of the odd aspects of the album is a sequence where a man, played by Roman Polanski, comes into the city too early for the morning papers. He asks if the city is open, if there any papers, and when he is told there aren't any, he orders a sandwich. We hear him walking up and walking away. This sequence follows Dawn, where the music aptly fits its title. The next piece, Morning Papers, introduced with the Polanski sequence, is a moody piece and is reminiscent of the thought patterns of someone not quite awake yet. Nerve Centre is an intricate piece depicting the inflow of commuters and visitors, and their goings about in the city. Side Streets moves in mid- tempo as if we were on a motorcycle, sound included, cruising around. I particularly like the melody on this one. Good to See You is kind of rhythmic and kind of ambient as the music underlies a young woman talking on the phone. We only hear her side of the conversation and her voice is slightly distorted through an echo or something like that. We can understand her clearly, but she sounds distant. Twilight is soft as said before, and is based around a simple rhythm patter. Red Lights depicts the night life, but its high pitched Japanese vocals and discoey beat doesn't go along with the rest of the album well. Procession ends the cycle. It builds up to a climax, which is the completed complexity of orchestration all following the same melody for eight minutes, and fades out with a reprise of the Polanski sequence. The amazing thing about this music is that it is so evocative of the things it is supposed to represent. Dawn sounds like dawn. Side Streets is a great soundtrack for cruising around town. Everything works. Even though it is more diverse than Direct, the pieces all fit together to make a complete whole. Direct is just a collection of tunes. This is essentially a suite of music. It was also created and recorded in the direct technique. Somehow, though, I do not like it as much as Direct. I would put it a notch below. This is not to say it is a bad album, because it isn't, nor is it to say that I don't like it, because I do. It is different from Direct, and it is different from any other albums he's done (an ongoing quality). The underlying concept may be the same as Beauborg, but the execution is completely different. A good one to have, but not essential, but that is really a matter of opinion. I have read some reviews by fans who were shocked and greatly disappointed, but then again, I have read other reviews by people who liked this album and were shocked and disappointed by Vangelis' more lush works ? all a matter of taste, really. I was a bit shocked myself when I first heard it, but I was not turned off by it. Not at all.

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Send comments to Progosopher (BETA) | Report this review (#294559)
Posted Saturday, August 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I wasn't thrilled with the last few albums from Vangelis, but when I listened to the opening track, I thought that there was maybe a positive change in his production. "Dawn" is quite a wonderful and ambient track which fueled me a lot of energy while listening to it.

Unfortunately, this is the one and only tune of interest on this whole album. What is left is just a bunch of tedious tracks without great interest to say the least. I can't really depict any other song that could raise the quality of this album to a decent (or good) level.

There is absolutely no reason to write a track by track review here: each of the tracks are just below average and as such, I can only rate this work with two stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#306824)
Posted Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars The concept of this album is very "Terrestrial": a day in a city, starting from the dawn but the music is very spacey, as in some of Vangelis' first and most progressive albums. Many people speaks of "New Age", maybe because of the lack of rhythm and percussions in some parts of the album even though it's not surely the first time that Vangelis makes music like this, since his first works for Frederic Rossif.

"Dawn" is a typical Vangelis' instrumental, very chill-out with the melody carried on by a sound similar to that on "Blade Runner Blues". (well, the Blade Runner OST will be released later, but the movie gave Vangelis a big popularity since from the 80s). This track recreates effectively the athmosphere of a city dawn. This, and the following "Morning Paper" remind me of very clear sensations, like walking in an airport at the dawn after a trans- continental flight, a bit stoned by the jet-lag while the shops around are opening and the voices from the speakers are like a soft wake-up call. Listen to those two jazzy/chill-out tracks. This is what I call "evocative".

"Nerve Centre" is everything but newage: percussions and a (virtual) distorted guitar for a melody that seems taken from Heaven and Hell. I can imagine the distorted voice of Senmuth over this base even if Vangelis will never be so hard, effectively.

"Side Streets" is opened by a motor. Then a bass line quite similar to "Another brick in the wall" is the base for a cello and a flute (all virtual of course). I don't like the orchestral accents but the track is not bad.

"Good To See You" has some noises from a city street. It's another chill-out track. It should be lunchtime or just after work. It's another relaxing track. The chill-out effect is provided of the regular tempo and the repetitive bass line. All the sounds are carefully chosen. The asian girl's voice above the music, regardless what she says, fits well into the track.

"Twilight" starts with winds and a voice speaking probably Japanese (I'm not sure). The music which follows is slow and the minor chords give it a sad flavour. It may represent tiredness after a working day, or a moment of rest when one has time to think more deeply.

"Red Lights" seems to be about night life. Women speaking over a rhythmic bass line. Orchestral accents and not a clear melody as in the previous tracks. I see a bit of funk here.

"Procession" is the longest track of the album (below 10 minutes). I don't know what's the meaning of this title. The music is slow and based on minor chords. The melody is played by the cello and has a folk (Greek) influence. Later the cello is replaced by a concertina but the music doesn't change. There's a crescendo. It's like this track has been added to the album without being part of the concept. It's a solid track on which the repetitions are varied by the crescendo like in Ravel's bolero. When the music ends a military drum is what remains until the end. The last minute is a coda of voices and noises. Bells, sirens, speakers, like in a movie soundtrack, then steps going away and the album is over.

It's the best Vangelis' album of the decade. The 80s were opened by the very poor "See You Later" that I consider his worst album ever. The 90s start with this excellent album that I rate with 4 stars.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#371422)
Posted Monday, January 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sheavy
COLLABORATOR
Progressive Electronic Team
1 stars Good grief. Worse than Direct.

Wow. This is one I cannot for the life of me find anything interesting in. Boring "concept" ( if we can even go so far to call a day in random, generic, city a concept), even less interesting music, that bores you to death, and some positively annoying spoken/sung things stuck in. Even the more uptempo tracks are utterly terrible. The "hard rock" guitar in Nerve Center sounds like pure 80's cheese, as does most of this album.

I am just going stop here and warn you to not waste money buying this, even if it is a dollar at some thrift store. A horrible album by one of the greatest composers of music ever. Very sad.

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Send comments to Sheavy (BETA) | Report this review (#470946)
Posted Monday, June 27, 2011 | Review Permalink

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