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A Raucous Celebration of Life
on 12 June 2013
Vangelis's 1975 release, `Heaven & Hell', was his first true breakthrough album. It was recorded whilst setting up his new studio in London, the musician and composer having recently moved there from Paris. It was the first time he was able to use synthesisers with full orchestral effect. The work is heavy on percussion too, as well as featuring contributions from the English Chamber Choir.
The CD splits the work into parts one and two, but actually the original album listed ten tracks. A loose critique would perhaps suggest that tracks one to four comprise `heaven', whilst tracks six to ten are darker in character, but this would be to ignore the vast subtleties present throughout the work as a whole. For instance, `Hell' includes the track '12 O'Clock', which presents a monkish chant that is subverted but later saved, and the final track `A Way' sees the music end in serene cosmic contemplation.
Tracks one to four comprise `Bacchanale' - a raucous celebration of life - and the three movements of Vangelis's `Symphony to the Powers B'. This symphony can also be looked on as a piano concerto with choir, and there are reminiscences (consciously or not) to Carl Orff's `Carmina Burana' as well. Tracks five to ten are a varied bunch, though all are high in the quality of their composition and production. `Intestinal Bat' demonstrates why Vangelis is a consummate composer of soundtracks.
I have made no mention of track five, `So Long Ago, So Clear'. This is somewhat separate from the rest of the album, being the first collaboration between Vangelis and Jon Anderson, the former having briefly guested with Anderson's group `Yes'. The collaboration between the singer and the instrumentalist was later to bare rich fruit in at least three superb albums under the name `Jon & Vangelis'.