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Vangelis - China CD (album) cover




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3.88 | 175 ratings

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4 stars In 1978, Vangelis released his last album recorded for RCA called "Beaubourg". Everything up to that point had been rather accessible in comparison, however, that album was quite experimental. Instead of being based on melody as his previous albums, this one was based on tones, textures and sounds and many of his fans were turned off by it not expecting to hear something so different from the norm. Even though there were a few albums released after this album ("The Dragon" and "Hypotesis"), these records consisted of earlier music which was improvised and were unofficial, not approved by Vangelis, and as a result, were pulled from the market. His next official non-soundtrack album "China" was released in 1979, and his fans breathed a collective sigh of relief at his return to a more accessible style.

Except for a violin solo on the song "The Plum Blossom" and a recitation on "The Little Fete", Vangelis performs all instruments on this album. Vangelis had never been to China, yet was still impressed with the music and culture for it to have an influence on the entire album, which is a concept album based on China as he envisioned it. The music is made up of shorter tracks this time around and consist of simple melodies influenced by Chinese music.

After a sudden noisy beginning that sounds like a steam locomotive barreling out of your speakers, we are transported to the track "Chung Kuo" which is a lovely melody over the top of lush synths and repeating tones that enhance the melody, which the listener will immediately associate with China. The ending of the track is peacefully taken over by a piano playing an embellishment of the melody which makes up "The Long March". "The Dragon" is much more electronic with cool effects and percussion. "The Plum Blossom" is a bit more organic with a bit of piano supporting a violin solo performed by Michel Ripoche. The violin part is quite playful swinging around the simple foundation provided by the piano, but soon the synths join in providing more sounds and textures. "The Tao of Love" uses an electric keyboard underneath a lovely plucked sting instrument that has a nice oriental flavor to it. Very romantic sound. "The Little Fete" uses woodwinds with an echo effect. Yeung Hak-Fun and Koon Fook Man provide narration for a recitative section on this track which is quite atmospheric. Vibes and keys provide more atmosphere when the recitation starts, which is based on poetry from around the 8th century by Li Bai

The 2nd side starts off with "Yin & Yang" which uses synths and string instruments. It starts off quite distinct and playful, but eventually moves to a more atmospheric feel with a more meandering feel. Then a throbbing synth and percussion gives the track more movement as it goes along. It's quite an exciting track as it incorporates more of a progressive sense to it. "Himalaya" is the longest track of the album at almost 11 minutes in length. This one uses synth effects to paint the picture of lofty peaks and windy snowfields. A dynamic drone in the background conjures up large expanses of land. Percussion marks the passage of time with steady sleigh bell-like beat constant throughout. Improvised piano plays lightly around the louder synth melody lines. "Summit" segues from the previous track and is a more dramatic and darker track than any of the previous ones. It's a nice way to end the album in a pensive mood.

Even though this one is more on the accessible side, this is a lovely album that some may wonder if it is early new age. It isn't that at all. These are beautifully constructed tracks inspired by the music and culture of China, staying surprisingly true to the country's sounds and styles, more along the classical traditions than the modern ones. It is one of my favorites in Vangelis' discography and well worth 4 stars.

TCat | 4/5 |


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