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Vangelis - Albedo 0.39 CD (album) cover




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3.68 | 182 ratings

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3 stars Newcomers to the melodramatic synth-rock of Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou couldn't ask for a more polite introduction than this album: solid entry-level Vangelis, for better or worse. It might have been designed that way as well. There's something almost calculated in the diversity of music on display, from the big cinematic gestures of the two- part "Nucleogenesis" to the nervous electro-jazz jamming of "Main Sequence" to the boilerplate space drift of "Mare Tranquillitatis", complete with Apollo moonwalk transmission samples.

Maybe the different moods were intended as a calling card to Hollywood ('Soundtracks Made to Order!'). Certainly anyone familiar with the old PBS show "Cosmos" won't be able to hear the album without recalling the beatific smile of Carl Sagan as he navigates his Spaceship of the Imagination through the outer solar system. Or perhaps all the variety was meant to fill an audition tape for the keyboard seat in YES, insecurely held by Patrick Moraz at the time.

In either case, the quality of the music varies widely between four-star Progressive Electronic excellence and synthetic two-star tackiness. Quintessential wide-screen workouts like "Pulstar" and "Alpha" flaunt a brash lack of subtlety and taste that sounded invigorating in 1976, but have dated badly since then.

And finally there's the near-ambient title track, with its calm HAL-2000 recitation of astronomical data: a minor miracle of atmospheric understatement. The album cover helpfully defines the title for all you non-geeks in the audience (a small minority among Vangelis fans, I'm sure). And the rear sleeve photo shows the viewing stand for a Cape Kennedy rocket launch, like the individual track names (and like the music itself) exploiting the somewhat trite association that existed in the 1970s between synthesizers and space exploration.

This style of music always had a limited shelf life, and was even then becoming a stale cliché. But Vangelis was setting the bar for the mainstream popularization of synth rock, with both ears keenly tuned to the sound of commercial success.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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