Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known as Vangelis, has already made his mark on the music and film industries with the critically acclaimed and Academy Award-winning soundtrack to the movie Chariots of Fire. Yet, as the expansive new 13-disc box set Delectus demonstrates, Vangelis’ catalog runs much deeper than one would suspect.
The Greek-born keyboardist can shift effortlessly from atonal ambient music, represented by the lead-off song “Invisible Connections” or “La Mer Reco,” to rock/pop music (yes, the Jon and Vangelis collaboration is included) with ease. All of the composer’s work from his Vertigo and Polydor are included. Each recording sounds pristine and authentic, as they were remastered from the original tapes. If all of these original works are not enough, Delectus also includes several rarities to whet the appetite on a Vangelis fan.
The appeal to a progressive rock lover is obvious. Vangelis was originally tapped to replace Rick Wakeman after Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans tour. Vangelis had actually arranged and demoed tracks for the album which would eventually be 1974’s Relayer. Unfortunately, it’s rumored his disdain for flying led to him bowing out of the project, and Yes moved on to Patrick Moraz. Fortunately, Vangelis forged a bond with Yes frontman Jon Anderson, and the duo went on to record four albums under the moniker of Jon and Vangelis. Their collaborations on Short Stories, Private Collection and The Friends of Mr. Cairo are included in all their glory.
In this setting, Vangelis’ pop sensibilities show through. The title track from Friends of Mr. Cairo, in particular, is a wonderful slice of film noir, combining Anderson’s visionary narrative with Vangelis’ inventive synth programing and obvious song craft. Additionally, the inclusion of taped samples and sound effects – which were, at the time, innovative – complete the nostalgic picture.
Jon Anderson cemented his renaissance-man status with 1981’s The Friends of Mr. Cairo. His lyrics were direct, yet colorful. On break from the world’s greatest progressive rock band, Anderson seemed liberated, producing pop classics like “State of Independence,” a track which later would be covered by disco diva Donna Summer, and “I’ll Find My Way Home.” Vangelis seemed quite at home in this setting, as he and Anderson seemed to feed off their newfound synergy. Short Stories and Private Collection, released in 1980 and ’83 respectively, also display the pop sensibilities not commonly found in this genre.
If you are a prog rock fan, the question is whether you should splurge for the 13-CD box set from Vangelis. The answer is yes: Of course, you get the Chariots of Fire disc too. Additionally, you get an eccentric box that includes rare photos, futuristic artwork. All disc are stored in equally lavish gatefolds, and a 64-page booklet is the cherry on top. You also get other overlooked but valuable insights into the master mind that is Vangelis. Buy this for the hits, and stay for the deep cuts and sumptuous sound.
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