Aphrodite’s Child: A Retrospective

What could be described as an under appreciated psychedelic rock band from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Aphrodite’s Child, created several phenomenal songs worth hearing. They were a band comprised of three, main members: Evangelos Papathanassiou (Vangelis), Demis Roussos, and Loukas Sideras. With the combination of Vangelis’s extraordinary composing, Demis’s unique voice, and Loukas’s skillful drum work, this is a solid band worth coming back to.

From left to right: Demis Roussos, Vangelis, and Lucas Sideras.

The first song I heard by the group was “End of the World”. It was actually recommended to me by fellow Progarchist Connor Mullin. However, it was not until I heard the song “It’s Five O’Clock” that my eyes opened to how special the band was. The ending of that song dazzled me with its auditory brilliance. When the ending piano instrumentals gently floated into my ears, I was so shocked. The last 30 seconds consist of pure, psychedelic ecstasy. You can expect to be shocked by this band’s work throughout the course of their 3 albums. The short but oh so sweet musical endeavors of Aphrodite’s Child deserve to be discussed again and again. I’ve put together some of what I believe to be their best songs—enjoy!

“End of the World”—is one of my personal favorites because I find it so unique. It is the perfect teenage love song: full of doom and gloom (hence the name) and a feeling of being unwanted. It captures the romanticism of running away with someone you love and forgetting about everything else. But, it also deals with the unfaceable truth of rejection. Vangelis does such a wonderful job at setting the tone of when love feels apocalyptic, thanks to not only his awesome piano skills, but all of the other ominous sounds in the song. There is a great live version of this song on Youtube worth checking out. Every time I watch it I wish I could jump through the screen and be there; everyone’s outfits are superb. In addition, Demis’ opening vocals on the track are haunting in the best way possible. After hearing them, I was ready to drop everything and go to the end of the world with him! No questions asked.

“Good Time So Fine”—is my absolute favorite! This song made me fall in love with Demis Roussos. I have such a respect for his voice and musicianship. I adore this song’s playful tune. The pitch changes of Demis’ voice makes this song so much fun! It’s amazing that he is singing both parts of the song—I would have never known. The lyrics are sweet and feel like a breath of fresh air; it’s a song you’d happily be singing along to in the sunshine. The chorus makes you feel the freedom and joy that is love. This song feels like it belongs in a musical, which makes it easy to dance and sing along to. I watched a live recording of Aphrodite’s Child performing this song and it was so impressive to see Demis sing, play bass, and play the trumpet, all in the span of a three minute song. This song was made for Demis Roussos.

“Rain and Tears”—this song is an adaptation of Pachelbel’s Canon and is the band’s most commercially successful song. The most notable part of the song is its bridge. It transitions from a mediocre love song to a heart wrenching melody. The song could have remained in somewhat basic state, but it goes a step further. This is thanks to the masterful vocals of Demis Roussos. The song goes to such an ethereal level when Demis croons those beginning lyrics of the bridge. It’s no wonder this was such a hit.

“Marie Jolie”—can be described as one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard. Again, Roussos vocals transport the listener to a celestial level. It seems like his heart and soul were put into every word he sings, which makes the lyrics so intense. Roussos’s vocals add a profundity to the otherwise simple lyrics. My favorite lyric from the song is ‘Love is everywhere you are’ because Demis presents it so powerfully. Every time I hear this song it gives me chills and I find myself swaying to the soft combination of Demis’ voice and the graceful percussion provided by Lucas Sideras.

“The Four Horsemen”—is the perfect song to get in the Halloween spirit. With an electrifying guitar solo and haunting vocals and lyrics, this is one cool and timeless song. The song —and the entire album—refers to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death—referenced in the Book of Revelation. The lyrics are quoting from the scripture itself, adding to the eeriness of the song. You’ll feel like your in the end times listening to this song, but in the grooviest way possible.

Aphrodite’s Child has so much to offer and I am so happy to have been shown their music. A huge thank you to all the talented people that worked on any of their albums. Aphrodite’s Child’ will live on forever and ever.

A special thank you to Vangelismovements.com for providing such detailed information about the band.

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twenty-Five): Marsupilami

Hailing from England, jazz-rock outfit Marsupilami released two albums in the early 1970s before calling it a day. Arena, their second and final album, is an exploration of the violence and brutality of ancient Roman culture (the album cover certainly offers a hint of said violence), with an especial focus on the bloody era of the gladiators and the persecution of the early Christians. Here are my thoughts on this obscure gem:

I’ve come here today to rip the veil from your eyes, unhinge your heads, and pull out your BLOODY MINDS!” So begins the “Prelude to the Arena” – fitting considering the topic being explored. If Fred Hasson’s screaming vocals aren’t enough to wake you up, then perhaps the superb musicianship will. After the violent opening, the “Prelude” eventually settles down, featuring lovely interplay between sax, flute, and electric piano courtesy of Leary Hasson.

The black theme continues in the ironically-titled “Peace of Rome,” which opens with the chilling sound of wailing voices. Soon, however, the flute, bass, organ, and percussion pick up the tempo, but it is guitarist Dave Laverock’s searing performance on his instrument that makes this song particularly strong.

If Fred Hasson’s introductory lyrics didn’t make you pause, perhaps part of the opening lyrics to the title track will: “A Christian is a human torch exploding with a scream.” That line is then punctuated by the sound of a, well, screaming flute – again, fitting, but it certainly sends a chill down the spine. Overall, however, “Arena” is a flawed attempt at an epic: it loses much of its luster after an introduction that could have (and should have) been pared down. The lyrics, on the other hand, are never dull: we get references to both St. Peter’s upside-down crucifixion and Nero’s…relations with his mother, among other misfortunes.

“Time Shadows” places flutist Jessica Stanley-Clarke (whose work elsewhere on the album is worth noting) front and center, and she does not disappoint. Like the other tracks, “Time Shadows” remains somber in tone.

The opening thirty seconds of “Spring” – a gentle, pastoral combination of acoustic guitar, flute, and organ – contrast violently with the cacophony of electric guitar, keys, and percussion that follow for the next minute before the song begins to resemble a soft-rock tune out of Camel’s catalogue (as it turns out, original Camel member Peter Bardens produced Arena).

The dark, somber lyrics will recall to some listeners Aphrodite’s Child’s 666; the soft-rock and jazz-inspired riffs will remind others of Camel’s early work; and the screaming vocals will most likely bring to mind Peter Hammill’s distinctive screeches. Arena has its faults – the vocals are somewhat flat, and the random appearance of harmonica here and there disturbs the melodies (and not in a pleasant way) – but the lyrics are captivating, the musicianship top-notch, and the passion evident. It is one worth adding to your catalogue.

Stay tuned for number twenty-six!

RIP Demis Roussos

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Although Greek progressive rock bands are perhaps not as well known as some of their northern European counterparts, Aphrodite’s Child enjoyed a successful, albeit brief, stint as Greece’s foremost prog rock group in the late 1960s. Roussos (bass/vocals), along with Vangelis (keys), Lucas Sideras (drums), and “Silver” Koulouris (guitars), produced one of the finest early progressive rock albums: 666, an album based upon the Book of Revelation.

Roussos, who enjoyed a successful solo career after the end of Aphrodite’s Child, was 68 years old.

http://prog.teamrock.com/news/2015-01-26/demis-roussos-aphrodites-child-dies-at-68