Aphrodite's Child—
666 (1974 Greek Mix)


Released 1974 on Vertigo
The Seth Man, July 2020ce
666 is no longer alone. Also...

I am Vangelis of this album.

Why? Because it has everything AND it delivers everything -- despite (or because) it ran over budget to the tune of $80,000 as well as capsizing the group’s previous career as pop stars with a string of European hits. This double album they called “666” was wildly experimental, a kaleidoscope of musical styles seamlessly sewn together into a revolving tapestry of moods and apocalyptic visions that don’t quit until the last cymbal is struck and falls over on side four. For an album that is primarily comprised of instrumentals,1 there’s a wide variety of voices sewn into its ever-rotating fabric: narration, a child’s spoken word, group chants, full choruses, wordless Byzantine wailing, mad proclamations, adenoidal British pronouncements, as well as Irene Papas spinning off into vocal orgasmic hyperspace. It was recorded at Europa-Sonor Studios in Paris, so the drums are astonishingly Olympic-sized and brutal. It’s got a power trio raving up like crazy. Moog synthesizer. An instrumental an album side in length that proceeds for a third of an hour through West Coast guitar rave ups and percussive bongo furies to tell the last greatest story of them all: the end of the world. Last stop, Megiddo.

Even though it was subject matter Aphrodite’s Child had previously touched on with their 1969 single, “End Of The World,” it wasn’t QUITE like this. No, this wasn’t ‘68 pop music anymore and hardly a Sanremo fezzie contender. It was Rock, and about as unglamourous as the Hellenic trio that helmed their own musical excursion into the swirling nether reaches of the Book of Revelation when it wasn’t exhibiting its own roughhewn and unique beauty vis-à-vis chilled out meditations, bombastic percussion attacks, wanton Mediterranean freak outs or wailing electric guitar solos in front of a wall of Hiwatt amplifiers.

Sadly, by the time Philips Records finally issued “666” in June of 1972, the group had already ceased to exist, with its core trio of Vangelis Papathanassiou, Demis Roussos, and Loukas Sideras having dispersed and released solo albums for the same label. Some of the secondary members of Aphrodite’s Child, such as guitarists Silver Koulouris and Dimitri Tambossis, wound up appearing here and there on the aforementioned albums as well as for one-off groups that each cut one single apiece (Alpha Beta, Eros, and Humanity.)2 Demis Roussos’ debut “On The Greek Side Of My Mind” LP saw release in 1971, followed by Loukas Sideras’ first solo album, “One Day” in 1972 while Vangelis had already finalised several projects: among them a soundtrack album in 1970 for “Sex Power” on Philips as well as a solo album for Reprise in 1972, “Fais Que Ton Rêve Soit Plus Long Que La Nuit,” which were both released under his full name, Vangelis Papathanassiou.

Coinciding with the dissolution of the military junta in Aphrodite’s Child’s homeland of Greece, “666” was finally released there in 1974 -- a full two years after it first surfaced in the rest of the world plus a further two years after it was finished in Paris sometime in early 1971. But there was something different about this Greek release -- most notably in the majority of songs on sides one and three. For a start, nearly half of the album’s total 24 tracks were extended, bereft of cross-fades, or with post-fadeout sections included to their conclusive breakdowns to such an extent that the record runs five minutes longer than its original, better-known 1972 counterpart. Fans of guitarist Silver Koulouris will rejoice in the near-extra minute of barrage riffing on “Battle Of The Locusts” as much as all those connoisseurs of non-lexical vocables will find the trance-inducing “ba-ba/ba-ba-ba”s of “Altamont” continue for a further 60 seconds above its cruel slave driving hammering. Hooray! Meanwhile, kaftan-wearing adepts of Demis Roussos will sweat out an extra two minutes of “Hic et Nunc” (while losing inches from their hips, waist, and thighs) and love it for all its Byzantine grandiosity as much as fans of Vangelis, who, when hearing him tinkling the 88’s all the way down the line, will scratch their heads at the cocktail jazz simplicity of it all. (As well as revel in the fact that it was, indeed, Vangelis O. who struck all the percussion on “∞” -- as evidenced by the way he did live during two separate French TV appearances between 1971-72.)

It nearly splits one to weigh whether or not it was a missed opportunity that the monumental psychic lead up to “The Battle Of The Locusts” -- “Aegean Sea,” “Seven Bowls,” “The Wakening Beast,” “Lament," “The Marching Beast” -- remained intact with no differences in content or mix. Then again, it’s almost with relief because in that perfectly beautiful, deep depth I’ve re-experienced for decades, the stars continue to twinkle but not blink, far above the darkened depths of the Aegean Sea, those eternal waters of antiquity that has wrapped millennia of human experience in its secret hold.

With “666,” Aphrodite’s Child finally made good on the promise of their record company’s pronouncement of their first single, “Plastics Nevermore”: ‘They come from Greece bearing the name of the goddess of love, grooving in tomorrow’s sound.’ For even in 1972, with its elongated gestation, extended instrumentation, and orgasmic proclamations, “666” was, and remains, a revelation.

Seek and ye shall be rewarded.




FOOTNOTES:
  1. Only 6 of the album's 24 songs have vocals and lyrics: four sung by Demis Roussos and two by Loukas Sideras. The rest are either instrumental, instrumental with voiceover narration, or use vocals as an wordless instrument.
  2. Alongside Roussos and Lucas Sideras, Harris Halkitis (aka Harris Chalkitis) was the sole member of the of Aphrodite’s Child auxiliary who toured Europe while Vangelis was back in Paris still at work on “666” as Aphrodite’s Children Dimitris Tambossis (guitar) and Lakis Vlavianos (keyboards) weren’t necessary to appear at Europa-Sonor for further recording.