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Vangelis - Heaven And Hell CD (album) cover




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3.84 | 219 ratings

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5 stars One afternoon of 1981 a friend gave me a home recorded cassette of a Greek guy named Evangelios Odysseus Papathanassiou about whom I had never heard, this friend also told me an elaborate story that he was an old monk, who lived alone in a Greek mountain and played all the instruments.

Of course when I recognized Jon Anderson's voice I knew it was an urban legend, but after a first listen to the whole tape, was so impressed that started to have some doubts because nobody except a religious hermit could create such an elaborate and clear vision of Heaven and Hell.

Even the idea of Jon Anderson with his mystic delusions meeting this hermit crossed my mind, so I started to investigate, but on those dark days without Internet, the recollection of data took more time, but soon found the truth and asked my mother who was casually in USA to bring me all the albums by Vangelis (also found he used this artistic name).

But lets go back to our theme. The album is an outstanding mixture of religious and pagan influences that make easy for almost anybody to decipher his nationality or more properly his ethnicity because the Greek Orthodox pomp is present all along the album, his technique with all the instruments is simply amazing but obviously his strongest point are the keyboards in which he reaches the status of virtuoso.

The album is divided in two parts and various sections or movements, division that really has small importance because as in any conceptual album the essence is in the whole story, plus the fact that the division in two parts is only a consequence of the limitations of the vinyl format, because the album was designed to be listened from beginning to end.

It's futile to describe the album part by part because of it's complexity, but I'll do my best.

Part one starts with Baccanale which has a calmed introduction of keyboards and chorus but changes in an instant to one of the most complex songs that I ever heard, sounds, keyboards, choirs, Orchestra attacking the listener as it was some sort of war between good and evil that starts, stops and then starts again for a couple of times, almost like a brainstorm of music, splendid way to start the album.

"Symphony to the Powers B" is the second movement and central section of the first side or or part, starts with a piano intro that soon is followed by choirs with some lyrics apparently in Latin, rhythmic and pompous, almost as a religious ceremony.

But then begins a kind of contra punt between the male and female chorus like another confrontation between angels and demonic forces all supported by magnificent piano and Orchestra. Clearly inspired in Carmina Burana by Karl Orff.

For several minutes the piano and Chorus keeps surrounding the listener with unusual strength that goes in crescendo until the end of this movement

Almost with no interruption starts "Movement 3" a melancholic section for piano, synths and choir that many people should remember clearly because it was used in the brilliant TV show by Carl Sagan called Cosmos, incredibly beautiful song hard to describe with words.

Part I ends with "So Long Ago, So Clear" that works as a relief after the instrumental aggressiveness of the first part, Jon Anderson's vocals never sounded so appropriate as in this song, totally sweet and relaxing, the only section with vocals.

Part II is even more mystic than the previous, starts with "Intestinal Bat" a collection of sounds, bells and harps that honestly still scares me very much, a mysterious and frightening intro that ends with a shocking and distorted violin.

After this bizarre introduction, is the turn for "Needles and Bones" a rhythmic but still mysterious section of clear Greek influence played with chords, keys and bells work as a preparation for the most shocking passage of the album.

Suddenly the music fades and "12 O'clock" starts with a semi Gregorian Choir enhanced by very low toned percussion, some ghostly sounds surround the listener with a tense calm, interrupted by sudden and short chaotic musical explosions that vanish as fast as they appeared allowing the mystical choir to start again, but this time as a preparation for Vera Varoutis and her immaculate voice that gives us an idea of how an angel must sound, almost brings tears to my eyes, her voice keeps gaining volume as the minutes pass until she joins a male chorus that covers her voice and progressively vanishes.

But when the listener thinks it's all calmed is the turn for "Aries" an explosive section with full orchestra (played all by Vangelis as in the whole album), splendid and powerful passage that morphs into a soft melodic section called "A Way" that closes the album in a soft and nice way in contrast with the strong start of the album.

I know that simple words can't describe this album, but I hope I was able to give a rough idea of it, but still we have a couple of problems.

The first one is how to catalogue Heaven & Hell? This is a question that after 22 years can't answer, sometimes symphonic, others atmospheric with a great touch of Greek music, but definitely 100% Progressive, a strange and beautiful experience never repeated by Vangelis.

Now I must decide how to rate it, well this is not really a problem, because it's so unique, well developed and rich in music and pomp that it's essential for any Progressive collection, five stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 5/5 |


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