[Review] Jon and Vangelis: The Friends of Mr. Cairo (1981)

With friends like these, who needs short stories?

Kronomyth 2.0: Bright note to Cairo.

The sequel to Short Stories was a classier affair and closer to what fans of Jon Anderson and Vangelis had a right to expect from the pair: evocative electronic soundscapes and angelic vocals channeled into actual songs. If you’re looking for a justification of Jon and Vangelis, you’ll find it here in songs like The Mayflower, State of Independence and, in the second edition, I’ll Find My Way Home. Strangely, it was an anomalous homage to film noir, The Friends of Mr. Cairo, that gave the pair their biggest hit single in the US. Featuring the voices of David Coker and Sally Grace, the song references James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart and Peter Lorre before drifting off into Anderson’s recollection of his youth.

“I’ll Find My Way Home” might be my favorite song from the pair, similar to scope and effect to earlier collaborations like “So Long Ago, So Clear” and “I Hear You Now,” although it sounds more like a cross between Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and the theme to the Chariots of Fire. Donna Summers later covered “State of Independence,” so I guess it all balances out in the cosmic scales. “State of Independence” is vaguely spiritual and uplifting. “The Mayflower” is a clever story about space pilgrims.

The remaining songs include a pair of pleasant melodies with what may be stream-of-consciousness lyrics from Anderson (it’s always hard to tell with him) and an unexpected rock & roll number, Back to School, that may be the closest Vangelis has come to channeling the honkytonk hijinx of Keith Emerson. The Friends of Mr. Cairo isn’t a perfect record, but it is the perfect excuse to pick up a Jon and Vangelis record. I’d definitely recommend the second edition, since you’ll find yourself playing “I’ll Find My Way Home” more than once.

Original elpee version

A1. The Friends of Mr. Cairo (12:04)
A2. Back to School (5:06)
A3. Outside of This (Inside of That) (5:00)
B1. State of Independence (7:53)
B2. Beside (4:08)
B3. The Mayflower (6:35)

Composed and arranged by Vangelis. Lyrics by Jon Anderson.

Second edition elpee version
A1. I’ll Find My Way Home (4:29)
A2. State of Independence (7:53)
A3. Beside (4:08)
A4. Mayflower (6:35)
B1. The Friends of Mr. Cairo (12:04)
B2. Back to School (5:06)
B3. Outside of This (Inside of That) (5:00)

Music composed by Vangelis/Jon Anderson. Lyrics by Jon Anderson. Arranged by Vangelis.

The Players

Jon Anderson (lyrics and vocals), Vangelis (all instruments) with David Coker (voices), Sally Grace (voices on “The Friends of Mr. Cairo”), Clair (Claire) Hamill (backing vocals on “Back to School”), Carol Kenyon (backing vocals), Dick Morrissey (saxophone, flute). Produced by Vangelis; engineered by Roger Roche.

The Pictures

Sleeve by Vangelis and Alwyn Clayden. Photography by Veronique Skawinska.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in July 1981 in the UK (Polydor, POLD-5039), the US (Polydor, PD/CT/8T-1-6236), Argentina (Polydor, 3170 605), Canada (Polydor, PD/PD4-1-6236), Germany and the Netherlands (Polydor, 2302 127) and Japan (Polydor, 28MM 0050) with lyrics innersleeve. Argentinian release has unique cover. Re-issued in 1981 on expanded elpee and cassette in the UK (Polydor, POLD/POLDC 5053), the US (Polydor, PD-1-6236) and Czechoslovakia (Opus, 9113 1696) with different track order and album cover. Reached #6 on the UK charts and #64 on the US charts.

  1. Re-packaged with Short Stories on 2-for-1 cassette in February 1983 in the UK (Polydor, 3574 139).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Polydor, 800 021-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on January 14, 2004 in Japan (Polydor, UICY-9376).
The Friends of Mr. Cairo album cover
US 1981 second edition of The Friends of Mr. Cairo

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