Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Vangelis
Earth


Released 1973 on Vertigo
Reviewed by gogmagog, 19/11/2007ce


Earth (1973) Vangelis O Papathanassiou

Sounding for all the world like a third disc to the leviathan that was Aphrodite’s Child’s ‘666,’ Vangelis’ ‘Earth’ is an oft-unheralded masterpiece of Grecian atmosphere and drama. After his disappointing experience in England recording what would become, sans his blessing, the ‘Hypothesis’ and ‘Dragon’ releases; it is clear that, for this LP, Vangelis would again take control of his destiny. And it truly shows! After the unfinished messes of the aforementioned Marquee recordings (which didn’t lack potential, but remain unreleased on CD - vinyl copies are easily available for next to nothing); the ‘Earth’ LP really does capitalise stylistically from Vangelis’ experiments in progressive and World music’s - the true lineal successor to ‘666,’ and much more closer to that than the keyboard maestro’s subsequent electronic odysseys. The album mixes experimental, progressive, soundtrack, world, and more pop-orientated styles, into a compellingly satisfying gestalt.

Starting with the thunderous apocalypse that is ‘Come On’ (nixing the notion that Oasis berth that particular catchphrase!), and musically similar to ‘Do It’ or ‘Battle of the Locusts’ from ‘666’ - this track opens proceedings in fine fettle, and summons further comparisons to other purveyors of Greek heaviosity such as Socrates Drank the Conium or Iraklis - all forward motion and Olympian bombast. The lyrics - you guessed it - “Come on! Come on! Come on, Come On, Come on, Come on, Come on, Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On!” 4/4 hammers of Haephaestus are bashing out the ur-klang while that Greek god of all things Stratocaster, Silver Koulouris, Page’s away like his very soul depends on it.

Crash! Thunder FX, rain, and a basic kraftwerk-ian mechano-rhythm (very possibly a drum machine, Vangelis was an early exponent of them, after all) begins to click away. A lonesome flute and pastel keyboard colourings furnish this musical landscape, clothing it in calm. What sounds like either some Greek stringed-instrument or a keyboard simulating one - is this Silver’s lute anyone - its mentioned on the sleeve???) provides a traditional Greek solo of melodies - it’s a virtuoso performance whatever it is. The vibe of this second track, ‘We Were All Uprooted,’ is initially very much in the vein of Far East Family Band, and then the solemn spoken-words of Warren Shapovitch intone how, “we were all uprooted, we became a diaspora, an unamed nation of bastards.” Right On n‘ all! Fizzy Klaus Schulze synthesizers wiggle in and out of the mix - raising sonorous eastern scales of fat buzzing colour across the tune, while the ‘stringed-sounding-thing’ continues its chordal refrain. Here, a beautiful moment occurs as the stereo opens up and these sun-kissed synths shoot right across the sonic spectrum, heralding another incredibly fast eruption from the picked instrument. But underneath it’s a slow undulating groove - about 8 minutes all together and is probably more like what Vangelis and Giomelsky were wanting to achieve with their experiments with ‘trance music(s)’ in the Marquee studio sessions of May/June 1971.

‘Sunny Earth’ begins with a wordless chant and deep pounding drums - and yet more of that stringed-sounding thing - what is it??) - Aaah aaahhhh ahhhh ahaaaahhh!! chant the vocals. Low key synths provide the backdrop while a call and answer trade-off is set up between two instruments - very tense - sudden banged drums loud in the mix, the keyboards and strings retaining the tension. Then a snazzy tabla rhythm (played by Vangelis himself), breaks out and a kind of Greek take on Shankar begins, still with the earnest, ‘Germanised’ synthesisers sounding far in the distance. The tension increases then breaks with the massive chord of ‘He-O,’ the next track, a stomping tabla’n’acoustic romp with glistening Popol Vuh piano runs, and that very Fricke-esque European-Eastern hybrid quality. The most ‘pop’ track on the LP, this will definitely appeal to the fans of ‘Hohelied Das Salomos/Letze Tage Letze Nachte-era’ Vuh, or the ‘Wounded Knee’ Gila line-up in particular, and ends the first side of this fascinating LP.

As good as the first side is, Side Two ups the ante further. Massive ritual drums announce some long-lost ceremonial rite - gurgling, throaty voices chant as massive timpani are bashed away; the tellingly-titled ‘Ritual’ is reminiscent of late-seventies Vuh. ‘Let it Happen’ follows, another one of those golden, Mediterranean, pop-rock strum-along’s the Child did so well, a clipped bass pummelling the rhythm along while glassy, oleaginous Rhodes piano glistens over the mix like the rarest melted amber. Airy synths bellow gently over the song, like passing clouds, while Vangelis vamps away on his Rhodes - again, a light jazzy vibe and the beautifully neo-hippy sentiment of the lyrics urging us to: “Let it happen, honey don’t you live on the edge of your time.” Then begins the sound-fx-athon that is ‘The City’ - voices, Big Ben soundalikes, a short aural collage and we’re into one of the most beautiful pieces Vangelis ever set to vinyl. Now if this was the early eighties and ‘Friends of Mr. Cairo’-era Jon Anderson was singing, no doubt we’d all be giving ‘My Face in the Rain’ a good kicking. But it isn’t, this is early 1973 and the Vertigo spaceship label!

The last pieces, 'Watch Out' and 'A Song' are a kind of commentary on the whole LP, with similar phrases and tones from earlier tracks emerging into this sumptuous string-laden arrangement. Similar to some of his work on ‘L’apocalypse Des Animaux,’ in particular the track, ‘Le Petite Fille De La Mer’ with its broad cinematic strokes and high-register seagull-like electronic chirps tweaking away mournfully in the forgotten depths of the mix. An utterly wearisome chord sequence begins, a beautifully lilting and lyrical oboe-sounding keyboard sounds the melody, as vocalist Warren Shapovitch intones how he would like to write a song that is, “so vibrant and intimate that the earth would adopt it as if it had sprung like a stream from the land’s memory.” Vangelis chants away in the background, his synthesisers stretching out to reach the horizon, and pre-empting his trademark Blade Runner sound - all rich chords and saccharine twinkling, like stars beginning to appear in the lazy pastel eventide. And with Earth Vangelis really has realised a sound “so vibrant, so intimate…” Praise Be to The Gods!


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