Delectus: A book of passages from Greek or Latin authors used for study.
When you hear the name Vangelis, depending on your age and musical affinity, you think of different things.
You think of the keyboard player of Aphrodite’s Child whose astonishing album 666 has to be heard to be believed, you think of the pioneer of electronic music whose albums were all groundbreaking in their own way, you think of the soundtrack king, in particular the unforgettable Chariots of Fire, or you think of the fact he was once invited to join Yes, and then produced three fantastic albums with Jon Anderson.
Vangelis has had a career spanning 6 decades, has recorded and released over 50 albums in one form or another, and is rightly considered a pioneer of electronic music.
This massive new celebration of his work Delectus collects together in one lavish package (very similar in format and style to the Universal packages last of the Teenage Idols for Alex Harvey) newly remastered editions of 13 of Vangelis albums from his Vertigo and Polydor years.
The 13 albums are as follows:
L’Apocalypse Des Animaux (1973) Soundtrack
See You Later (1980)
Antarctica (1983) Soundtrack
Opera Sauvage (1979) Soundtrack
Chariots of Fire (1981) Soundtrack
Soil Festivities (1984)
Invisible Connections (1985)
Short Stories (as Jon & Vangelis 1980)
The Friends of Mr Cairo (Jon & Vangelis 1981)
Private Collection (Jon & Vangelis 1983)
This box barely scratches the surface of Vangelis mighty career (and it’s a shame the Blade Runner soundtrack couldn’t have made it on here, but there’s always time for another box…) and the period it covers here, a scant 12 years includes some of what for me are Vangelis seminal works.
I’d like to start with the Jon & Vangelis material if I may, as this is the music I am most familiar with from having The Friends of Mr Cairo and Short stories on both sides of an old C90 tape having borrowed the albums from a friend back in the mid ‘90’s.
All three of these albums show what happens when you put two musically creative individuals in one studio, and let them bounce ideas off each other, personally I think it bridges the gap between Jon Anderson leaving Yes after Tormato, and rejoining for 90125, as it has the perfect blend of commercial and progressive sounds, and working with a different perspective to me, seems to have freed him up, and vocally he never sounded better than on these albums.
From the debut Short Stories, with it’s superb mix of electronic sounds that Vangelis specialised in, to Jons amazing vocals, and some wonderfully atmospheric work on Curious Electric, the seminal I hear you Now and Love Is, this was an assured debut from one of the most interesting duos to emerge from the prog scene.
Following on, for me is their finest recorded work, if Short Stories was them finding their feet, the Friends of Mr Cairo (based on the legendary film noir The Maltese Falcon) is their absolute pinnacle as a duo.
From the opening beauty of I’ll Find my Way Home, with Jon’s superb vocals and lyrics and the synths and effects of Vangelis encapsulates the power of this duo.
With such classics as State of Independence (covered successfully and surprisingly by Donna Summer) the rollicking Back to School, the musique concrete title track, with it’s marvellous mood changes and dialogue and the superb Mayflower there is no bad track on this album, and with the new remastering in this set, it brings the album back to life with warmth and clarity.
In fact the remastering throughout the set, supervised by Vangelis has brought these albums back to life, and the sound is amazing.
Private Collection, with it’s hit single He is Sailing, and the bones track Song Is (never previously released on CD before) is the duos final album, and whilst it is still a good record with other tracks like Horizon and Deborah standing out, for me the pinnacle of the collaboration is Friends of Mr Cairo.
Those of course are only three records out of this mammoth set, and as with any set of this beauty and depth it’s probably best to dip in and out rather than try and listen to the whole lot in one go, pick out your favourite and see the difference in sound quality.
Of the soundtracks, the Oscar winning Chariots of Fire sounds amazing, and you can’t help but feel stirred when hearing that classic opening despite the inauspicious title of Titles, although it does exactly what it says on the box, whilst the version of Jerusalem on here is absolutely superb.
This collection runs the gamut of different sounds and styles, from the opening disc Earth, with the almost glam rock style of Come On, to China, with it’s minimalist electronic evocation of Chinese music, and all embodied with Vangelis unique style and sound.
It’s fantastic to hear albums like See You Later with its three bonus tracks Neighbours Above, Domestic Logic 1 & My Love which fleshes out the album and sounds great.
I wonder how much more unreleased material there is the vaults, and more importantly when it will be coming out?
This comprehensive collection with the lavish booklet (which whilst I haven’t seen a copy, looks great from the images I’ve seen and has received good feedback from various online reviews) should remind people of the importance of Vangelis as a composer, producer, performer and innovator, and whilst I’d be here all week if I tried to review each album song by song and line by line, it’s fair to say that I am very impressed with the music on here, the remastering and albums like Invisible Connections, with just three tracks of sheer magic, or revisiting old favourites like The Friends of Mr Cairo, or Mask.
This is a fantastic package of music, which covers all the bases of Vangelis as a composer, a songwriter, an innovator and a soundtrack master, and which, if you have any interest in his music and art, you should buy as a matter of urgency!