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Vangelis - Opéra Sauvage (OST) CD (album) cover




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3.48 | 93 ratings

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4 stars This was Vangelis' second album of 1979, and was his third album to be released of music for the wildlife programs of Frederic Rossif. It is definitely the best of the three. The music is more varied, better executed, and the sound quality is certainly a lot better. This was partly due to the improvements made in technology during the late seventies, but at the same time, this album feels like a lot more time was spent perfecting it compared to Apocalypse Des Animaux and La Fete Sauvage. The instrumentation is much richer and varied than on the former, and the album is also less repetitious than the latter. This album is certainly as good as any of Vangelis's proper albums of this time, like China and Spiral.

Side one of the original vinyl album contains two of Vangelis' most famous pieces of music. The short three minute opening track, Hymn, is one of them. Sounding like the whole track was done on the Yamaha CS80 with some addition percussion, this is a beautiful and simple piece of music. The melody is almost child-like, and once heard, is never forgotten. The instrumentation is very orchestral. It starts off with the melody played simply with little accompaniment. The instrumentation then gradually builds to a stunning crescendo at the end. A great way to start off the album.

The other famous track is the third track, L'Enfant. This track is often compared to the main theme tune to Chariots Of Fire - indeed, the scenes where that piece of music was used in the film, were originally shot to L'Enfant, and the two share the same tempo. The rhythm of L'Enfant is not entirely the same - while Chariots of Fire is in 4/4, L'Enfant is actually in 12/8. The melody line's rhythm is less regular than Chariots of Fire, as it skips from 9/8 to 12/8. But the instrumentation is undoubtedly similar, and yet it also bears a slightly oriental flavour in places.

In between these two famous tracks is the lengthy track Reve, which is deeply jazzy, laid-back and atmospheric. Dominated by some exquisite fender rhodes piano playing, this is backed simply by a slowly developing percussive sequencer line, and some orchestral flourishes and padding from the CS80. The piece does not get boring at all, as it passes from one theme to another. It evolves naturally, and again has the feel of being completely improvised.

Side one ends with the brief Mouettes, which has the most simple instrumentation of the whole album. Fender Rhodes piano is backed by a single Yamaha CS80 line, to create a soft and delicate kind of feel over its brief three minute duration.

Side two begins with Chromatique, which as the title suggests, contains a highly chromatic melody line, which has a very traditional French feel to it. You could almost imagine the track being played on a musette or accordion. But it isn't, and in its place, is CS80 mixed with Indian tamboura drones, and some beautifully played acoustic guitar, presumably played by Vangelis's engineer, Raphael Preston.

My favourite track on the album is Irlande, which is beautifully simple and spine-tinglingly atmospheric. It has that same haunting and ancient quality that 12 o clock has on Heaven and Hell. This CS80 dominated track starts of sparse and simple, and gradually develops, but never into epic or bombastic proportions. It also has a melody line that sounds strangely familiar, as though its an old folk tune that has been around for centuries. A purely inspirtational piece of music.

The only time this album really shows any bombastic flair is on the epic closing track, Flamants Roses, which features Jon Anderson on harp. The piece is the most progressive on the album, as it jumps from one melodic idea to another, and from one dynamic to another. The opening minutes are dominated by Anderson's harp playing, before Vangelis joins in, with the two playing a simple but effective melody. This then gradually develops as Vangelis's synths yet again create the impression of an orchestra being on the track. The piece ends, with a simple repetitive motif that plays over and over on the harp, with Vangelis providing delicate orchestration underneath. This section reminds me very much of the mid-section of the Yes track Awaken, which again contains Anderson's harp mixed with glockenspiel, and Rick Wakeman's pipe organ playing.

This is undoubtedly a much calmer and serene album than the other Vangelis albums of this period, and this is no doubt due to the fact that it is a soundtrack album. Yet the quality of the music and the performance is far greater than that on Apocalypse Des Animaux, La Fete Sauvage and Ignacio - to me it feels very much like one of Vangelis's proper albums as a result, and probably should be considered as such. Again, another highlight from Vangelis's peak late 1970s period. Definitely worth a listen.

UnearthlyChild | 4/5 |


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