Vangelis - See You Later

See You Later

Released 1980 on Polydor
Reviewed by flashbackcaruso, 24/02/2010ce

Side 1
1. I Can't Take It Any More 5:39
2. Multi-Track Suggestion 5:32
3. Memories Of Green 5:45
4. Not A Bit - All Of It 2:55

Side 2
1. Suffocation 9:25
2. See You Later 10:22

Reading through past Unsung reviews, I was pleased to find that other contributors share my enthusiasm for the work of Vangelis Papathanassiou, too rarely recognised as the progressive rock visionary he was in his prime. I particularly like The Seth Man's review of the incredible Alpha Beta single; however there is one point made by Seth upon which I cannot agree - the assertion that Vangelis 'lost it' with the LP See You Later. I beg to differ in the strongest possible way. For any Vangelis fan, See You Later is an essential purchase; as much of an anomoly as the Alpha Beta single, and therefore just as intriguing. Featuring a wider than usual deployment of the human voice, it is also the only LP where Vangelis wrote all the lyrics, and as the idea for this album had reportedly been germinating for around 5 years it's likely he had long been ruminating on what he wanted to say. When non-lyricists take it upon themselves to try their hand at wordsmithery the results are often trite and embarrassing, but here Vangelis manages to be enigmatic and economical with his lyrics, while maintaining a pleasing sense of irony and pessimism. And the contrary tone of the lyrics is perfectly matched by music that is both upbeat and melancholy. It showcases Vangelis at his most playful, but also at his most serious.

It actually took me almost 25 years to hear this album following my initial exposure to Vangelis' work, but to be fair, I had no idea who was responsible for the entrancing electronic music that seemed to grace the titles of every other BBC programme in the late 70s/early 80s. Although you'd never catch me actually watching it, I did like the theme tune to the children's programme 'Horses Galore', which I later discovered was 'Pulstar' (for the boys there was the junior science programme 'Think Again' for which Francis Monkman provided an almost exact copy). Many people remember 'To The Unknown Man' as the theme to 'Pot Black' (another programme I didn't watch beyond the beginning titles), although my memory is that this was eventually replaced by 'I Hear You Now', which suggests that there was a Vangelis fan in the BBC's snooker department. And a supply teacher at my school used to come in once a week with a copy of Albedo 0.39 under her arm and make us do music and movement to 'Alpha'. When I asked her what the music was she offered to do me a copy, the first time anyone did a bit of home-taping for my benefit. Now I knew who Vangelis was, and a cheap compilation of his RCA work became a popular listen in my home. But around this time Chariots Of Fire came out, and the ubiquity of that theme tune made Vangelis seem somehow less interesting. It was only with the belated release of the Blade Runner OST and my discovery of Aphrodite's Child that I was inspired to fully explore his back catalogue at last. The apocalyptic albums 666 and Heaven & Hell were two instant favourites, but the less heralded See You Later proved that his most interesting work wasn't necessarily restricted to the 1970s.

Side one kicks off with 'I Can't Take It Anymore', a sombre, minimal song, sung through a vocoder by Peter Marsh over what must be the most anaemic sounds Vangelis had at his disposal. The words consist of little more than variations on the title, becoming 'Can you take it anymore?' and 'Can we take it anymore?' as the song progresses, breaking off for a desperate chorus of 'Too loud! Too loud!'. The vocoder suggests that this could be the complaint of a dehumanised human, or perhaps a disaffected robot. It's an oddly effective way to start an album. Track two is odder still. Fading in on a bubbling polysynth electro groove which sounds like Kraftwerk gone disco, 'Multitrack Suggestion' features a melancholy vocal melody quite at odds with the upbeat backing, while a second voice calls out random studio terms such as 'EQ Low Cut' and 'Patch bay, patch bay'. Very strange, highly original, and a treat for fans of vintage electronica. The mood becomes more sombre with 'Memories Of Green', probably the album's best known track due to its inclusion on the Blade Runner soundtrack. A beautiful piano piece which rides on glorious waves of rising and falling harmonic synthesiser tones, with the distant bleeps of a computer game being played in the background. True to Vangelis' method of getting everything down in one take, engineer Raphael Preston had to keep the game going for the duration, with the descending Game Over tones providing a marvellous conclusion. When the Heritage Orchestra staged a live performance of the Blade Runner soundtrack, every beep from the computer game was notated and replayed on a keyboard exactly as on the original: such is the reverance with which this music is held. The first side closes with the album's lightest moment, an odd piece of ironic humour entitled 'Not A Bit - All Of It'. Over a smarmy fake violin melody glam star Cherry Vanilla advertises cosmetics, makes wedding and funeral announcements (with the names of the people involved bleeped out), and finally introduces a cheesy singer ('This man is a professional singer - we think his voice will develop'). It is a fun little novelty that provides a nice interlude before the heavier themes explored on side two.

The second side contains just two tracks, both of which clock in at around ten minutes each. They are among the most effective that Vangelis produced around this era. 'Suffocation' is inspired by the 1976 chemical disaster at the La Roche factory in Italy. It starts in an uncertain mood, with a dragging disco beat supporting a slightly menacing electronic riff. The melody gradually becomes more celebratory, but this is short-lived as we begin to hear warnings shouted in Italian through a megaphone. At 4'30 the upbeat mood crashes into rolling drums and pulsating synth textures. A dark synth choir works its way downwards through some classical chord changes. Jon Anderson makes the first of two brief cameos, his plaintive vocal providing exactly the right tone to the words 'Where is my place, where is my home, where is my friend', while a couple (Christina Moser and Maurizio Arcieri from the group Chrisma) discuss in Italian their plans for escape. It's pretty bleak stuff, but beautifully so. Very gradually the scene fades from view and a tinkly electric piano introduces the album's title track. After a short improvisation a fast electronic riff kicks in, with Vangelis jazzing things up on the cymbals. He then gets to work on the full kit and suddenly we're into the proggiest music he's done for years. There is a hint of the jazz fusion he dabbled with on Albedo 0.39, but far less stodgy - perhaps the 1971 Marquee sessions (eventually released as the contentious Dragon/Hypothesis LPs) would be a better comparison (violinist Michel Ripoche, who guests on See You Later, was a key player on those recordings). Voices chant a succession of cryptic phrases ('Say year/Say maybe/Say body/Say remember/Say I wonder/Say nay/Say meet her/Say my/Say mother/Say a year'), a guitar solo from former Aphrodite's Child bandmate Silver Koulouris adds a hint of acid rock and a woman speaks in French. The drums temporarily drop out to make way for a child 'la-la'-ing before also speaking in French. The drumming returns and all the voices take up the repeated rhythmic refrain 'Yes, a sin city, it's a much sin city' ending on a shouted 'YES!' bringing this part of the song to an abrupt halt. The closing melody is introduced on electric piano while an emotionless female voice recites once more in French before Jon Anderson returns to conclude the album on a note of euphoric resignation, with more cryptic yet oddly moving lyrics: 'Living or not living/The question I can't ask you/Living or not living/After many many years/See you later/See you later... ' A marvellous ending to a superbly inventive album, packed full of intriguing ideas and fearless experimentalism. Judging by the available out-takes, the sessions for this album were particularly fruitful. There were two non-album singles, 'My Love' b/w 'Domestic Logic 1' and 'Don't Be Foolish' (which used the same basic riff as 'Multitrack Suggestion') b/w 'Doesn't Matter', the latter credited to Peter Marsh & Vangelis. And a rare test pressing of the LP featured two songs that remain unreleased, 'Fertilization' and 'Neighbours Above'. Perhaps these off-cuts will one day make it onto CD should See You Later get a much-deserved deluxe reissue.

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