Since this album first came out well over 25 years ago - I was in Hong Kong at the time and remember buying the cassette in a little record shop in Wanchai - it has always been right at the top of my all-time favourites list, which for me is saying something considering my enjoyment of a number of different genres.
The first track, I'll Find My Way Home, is full of positivity about the search for meaning and the benevolence of life, and slides effortlessly into the epiphanic and extremely dynamic State of Independence. These two tracks have been included in a number of Vangelis compilations and as a result have tended to overshadow the next two equally hypnotic songs, Beside and The Mayflower, the last of which features the mimicry talents of one David Coker, as does the title track, the extraordinarily creative and original Friends of Mr Cairo, with its changing melodies and sublime lyrics that weave between mystical experience and the appreciation of old films. Here's a sample from towards the end of the 12 minute track:
Did you see in the morning light?
I really talked, yes I did, to that early dawning light,
And I was privileged to be as I am to this day,
To be with you, to be with you, to be with you, to be with you...
After that comes what for me is the low point of the album, the rocky and rather out of place Back to School. Perhaps the lads felt a ballast was needed after what had come before. But the last song, Outside of This (Inside of That) brings back the sublime and hopeful mystical feeling that characterises the bulk of the album.
Of the four Jon and Vangelis albums this is probably the most impressive, though others might disagree - certainly it is the most consistently excellent and shows both the highly original Jon Anderson and the magnificently gifted Vangelis Papathanassiou at their brilliant best.