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Vangelis - Progressive By Default?

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Topic: Vangelis - Progressive By Default?
Posted By: Paul Stump
Subject: Vangelis - Progressive By Default?
Date Posted: November 18 2006 at 18:44
There really shouldn't be too many arguments as to whether the big Greek is a prog artist. But then again... Paul Stump weighs the evidence

Vangelis prog? Hard to argue against it. Why ever should he not be? I sometimes think that cognoscenti place him outside the pale - without denigrating his talents - because he and Yes didn't hit it off. Whether that's true or not is superfluous, because the case is an open-and-shut one, surely. Vangelis is prog - but maybe at one remove.

Tougher nuts to crack would be those - Mr Papathanassiou at their head - who would define Vangelis as a virtual one-man genre, defying all classification. He has refined his hybridising of influences and working methods to such a degree that he almost resembles the Borg - part humanoid, part machine, relentlessly absorbing and processing forever in its own multifaceted, kaleidoscopic image. Jazz, symphonic, folk of all kinds, pop, electronic - it all ends up sounding like Vangelis. As Alan White perceptively put it many, many years ago; 'he was an entity, a sound, and that... was called Vangelis'.

And let's be honest - is there anyone who has a sound, a sonic footprint, remotely like his? Since that ill-fated Yes encounter, he has made only one serious musical collaboration with another artist, the Spanish electronic merchants Neuronium, in 1981. Believe me, I've been looking sedulously  for another Vangelis over 20 years and haven't found anyone yet. I remember that many moons past Kitaro was billed as 'the new Vangelis' when Polydor and Kuckuck were first marketing his LPs in the West. Very, very borderline case; only a faint spicing of ethno-exotica, too many synths and some catchy tunes linked the two men. Kitaro never ventured within a country mile of Vangelis's sterner stuff, the likes of the impressive Beaubourg, the lengthy extemporisations of Soil Festivities and China, not to mention entirely incapable of matching the Greek's uncanny talent for textural atmospheres on Blade Runner and Kavafy. One possible comparison might be Russia's Eduard Artemiev, whose film scores, particularly Solaris and Stalker are vaguely Vangeloid in nature.

Perhaps the best and closest analogue is, tellingly, Jon Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow, which mysteriously credits Vangelis, although most intelligence suggests the Greek never played on the album. Listening to this quite unique artefact, not to mention the pair's four-album collaboration, it's hard to credit that Vangelis didn't do a bit more than suggest what hardware to buy and fit a few pick-ups. Sunhillow is - I am sure nobody would disagree - quite unlike anything else not only in prog, but in popular music per se. Apart from perhaps - you've guessed it - Vangelis. And is Sunhillow prog? I rather think it is.

Vangelis's Heaven and Hell appeared in January 1976 - with Anderson guesting on one track - and the album's modus operandi appears to be similar to that of Olias - which, thanks to a host of technical problems, would have come out considerably earlier than its eventual June 1976 release. That m.o. is simply to utilise available technology (and analogue synthesisers were undergoing what was eventually to become the polyphonic and then digital revolution) and combine it with an array of traditional acoustic instruments of all kinds to enable a true synthesis of styles at all levels, both in terms of compositional and improvisational conception of tone and textural colour, but also of practice. Put simply, it meant the conception of Yes music circa 1974 taken to its technical and harmonic extremes. These notions sound high-flown and a bit silly - and of course didn't always work. There are some quite hair-raisingly overblown pieces of nonsense on Heaven and Hell. Side one starts with one of the most vulgar pieces of wannabe-rock-oratorio ever committed to vinyl (the choral writing throughout is laughably naive, almost as crude as the diabolically kitsch cover art), but the album gradually emerges; side two is excellent from start to finish, preferring to concentrate on atmosphere than flatulent, empty gestures. Albedo 0.39, from later in '76, contains the incongruously insane jazz-prog workout Nucleogenesis, eight minutes of shrieking moogs and Animal drumming (the album as a whole has as much to do with mid-70s Pink Floyd as Yes, and the inclusion of found sound and human voices throughout his work harks back to this LP). This, it must be conceded, is an exception to the Vangelis rule (I know - I own 35 of his albums. I'm sorry, but there you are). Part of the problem for prog purists - and it's not an invalid objection - is that any music driven not by audibly human input - i.e. electronics - must in some way be beyond a given conception of rock popularised in the late 1960s. "It doesn't feel right, man", is the motto. And true, some of those commercially cheesy, coffee-table tunes - step forward, Chariots of Fire - haven't helped either. What's more, Da Big V doesn't play live (much. But when he has done the shows have been so extravagant they make ELP look like a pub band).

Furthermore, there's little doubt from there on Vangelis preferred to concentrate on a symphonic conception of sound based on 19th-century orchestral practice, as opposed to anything to do with rock. Up to and including Spiral (1977), there are attempts to mimic electric guitars and basses; henceforward, scarcely ever, except on the stupendously weird dog's dinner of an album See You Later (1980). The tunes, and ABA song structures still crop up, but the overall thinking behind the music gradually became more and more diffuse, more and more referential to itself first and its manifold influences second.

Yeah, yeah. But the fact remains - none of Vangelis' music could have happened without prog. In terms of the technical kit required for its creation - not to mention a climate of transgression of the boundaries of musical conception and thought, prog was and is central to Vangelis. He is a satellite of the genre, true, but remains firmly within its gravitational field. He's out there - any proghead worth his salt should embrace him into their orbits, too.

Vangelis starter pack:

Heaven and Hell

Albedo 0.39

See You Later (side 2)

Posted By: Australian
Date Posted: November 18 2006 at 22:58

I agree that Vangelis creates a very unique genre of music, especially in his earlier days like Heaven and Hell as you mentioned. He embraced by only a small number of people on Prog Archives, Its rather sad really.


Posted By: tuxon
Date Posted: November 19 2006 at 23:28

I don't like Vangelis, but than again, i just waisted one hour of thinking up a reply to this post ands eventually throwing it away, this means Vangelis albeit not to my liking is worth thinking about.

I remember the mid-eighties when he was rather famous, but for me his fame was derived from his laser shows rather than for his music. Heaven and Hell is still a great piece of music though, and his contributions, or influence on/to Olias from Jon Anderson is disputed, but not unlikely.
anyway good entry Paul, but the tittle threw me off my feat, since Vangelis is progressive per se, not by default.

I'm always almost unlucky _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Id5ZcnjXSZaSMFMC Id5LM2q2jfqz3YxT

Posted By: Ivan_Melgar_M
Date Posted: November 19 2006 at 23:35
IMO his participation in the Epic Conceptual album 666 (He was the main authr) plus Heacen & Hell alone justify his inclusion as a Prog artist.
BTW: I find nothing vulgar in Heaven & Hell, I believe it's a masterpiece from start to end.
Albedo and China are very solid also.


Posted By: Sean Trane
Date Posted: November 21 2006 at 03:31
Hi Paul,
Welcome back!
Vangelis was always a difficult case as prog or not. While I really like his trilogy ap^calypse Des animaux, Earth and H&H, I always considered his music (a bit like Oldfield or Jarre) as not entirely prog .
The fact that he was much more into film music for decades (as the german Popol Vuh has also) always seemed to me that film music (and therefore the Original Soundtrack Album ) could not be really considered as an album format (unless the film's music is the first "raison d'être" of the film >> Floyd's The Wall) as we conservative progheads are considering it.
If it had been strictly up to me, I probably would've placed Vangelis in a side category  (such as our prog-related) for his Aphrodite's Child and nemerous collabs with other prog artistes.

Posted By: Paul Stump
Date Posted: November 26 2006 at 18:39
Hi Tuxon, seriously, thanks - it's nice to know there are people with brains out there! :) Good on you!

Posted By: Paul Stump
Date Posted: November 26 2006 at 18:41

Hi Ivan

Don't get me wrong- I like H&H, but some of it is a bit kitschy. Side 2 is, of course, quite wonderful.





Posted By: Badabec
Date Posted: April 02 2007 at 18:12
Vangelis creates progressive music, no doubt about that. I really like the stuff he made for the amazing Blade Runner film. But all the other music of him I have heard until now is very good too.

Nemo tam liber est, tempus cacandi eligere possit.

Posted By: Bilek
Date Posted: May 16 2007 at 17:25
Originally posted by Sean Trane Sean Trane wrote:

The fact that he was much more into film music for decades (as the german Popol Vuh has also) always seemed to me that film music (and therefore the Original Soundtrack Album ) could not be really considered as an album format (unless the film's music is the first "raison d'être" of the film >> Floyd's The Wall) as we conservative progheads are considering it.
You seem to be forgetting Tangerine Dream's supreme music for "Sorcerer", and "Thief" soundtrack, which is also coherent (the rest are in accordance with your idea)... And what about Master Schulze's great music for Body Love Wink?
Paul Stump, I happen to agree with you... nothing more to say Smile 

Listen to Turkish psych/prog; you won't regret:
Baris Manco,Erkin Koray,Cem Karaca,Mogollar,3 Hürel,Selda,Edip Akbayram,Fikret Kizilok,Ersen (and Dadaslar) (but stick with the '70's, and 'early 80's!)

Posted By: philippe
Date Posted: May 16 2007 at 17:32

^ Actually the Body Love version I've watched didn't feature Klaus Schulze excellent score (stardancer five first minutes is a must)...Vol II is better than the first one

Vangelis Blade Runner, progressive?LOL
I think that we don't have the same definition of things
off course Vangelis is progressive by default


Posted By: Bilek
Date Posted: May 17 2007 at 05:33
^I'm very curious about the actual Body Love movie Tongue (Just because KS composed the music, of course Wink).. How is it possible that another score was used in the version you saw!?!? (actually I know e.g. a different composer was hired for Legend in the American release, but for this film!?!?)
Only the first 5 minutes of Stardancer!?!? The entire piece rocks, even its almost exact copy Stardancer II! And I have to admit that my favorite piece in both volumes is Nowhere Now Here...
My point was that "soundtracks" could have been composed in accordance with the generally accepted guidelines, which make music "progressive rock"... Body Love volumes and Sorcerer (and partly Thief) are good examples. Even Vangelis' Chariots of Fire has its own merit, the side long title track, for heaven's sake! (not very common in soundtracks, eh?)
That "Vangelis is progressive by default" is a very strong assertion... I must agree with that!!!
(and after listening to a couple of tracks from Blade Runner -whatever version it is- I shall agree with the "prog definition" thing as well Tongue)

Listen to Turkish psych/prog; you won't regret:
Baris Manco,Erkin Koray,Cem Karaca,Mogollar,3 Hürel,Selda,Edip Akbayram,Fikret Kizilok,Ersen (and Dadaslar) (but stick with the '70's, and 'early 80's!)

Posted By: docsolar
Date Posted: July 13 2007 at 11:15
I thoroughly enjoy 666, so, what one Vangelis album should I start with, to get introduced with him?


Posted By: Bilek
Date Posted: July 13 2007 at 16:44
Heaven and Hell might be a good starting point. I also like Earth, as well as the two bootlegs (Dragon & Hypothesis), but these are of inferior sound quality. You can still sense the underground & avant-garde side embedded in 666. (caution! don't expect another 666 by any means! it's unique!)
also, if you enjoy early pure electronics, certainly try Albedo and spiral as well. I like all Vangelis albums up to and including See you later (and even partly chariots of fire!), with the exception of Beaubourg, but most of them might sound boring at the first listens because of their atmospheric sound...

Listen to Turkish psych/prog; you won't regret:
Baris Manco,Erkin Koray,Cem Karaca,Mogollar,3 Hürel,Selda,Edip Akbayram,Fikret Kizilok,Ersen (and Dadaslar) (but stick with the '70's, and 'early 80's!)

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