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Vangelis - China CD (album) cover




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3.78 | 134 ratings

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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.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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