[Review] Vangelis O. Papathanassiou: “Earth” (1973)

Vangelis releases a rock album. No, seriously, this album has vocals and guitars for a tactile, psychedelic experience.

Kronomyth 2.0: Aphrodite’s other child.

The first non-soundtrack album from Vangelis Papathanassiou is, in a word, shocking. Picking up where the ambitious music of Aphrodite’s Child left off, Vangelis mixes psychedelic rock with exotic sound experiments that are worlds removed from the streamlined, synthesizer music associated with his name. Of course, for fans of Aphrodite’s Child, maybe L’Apocalypse des Animaux was shocking. Both albums are early examples of “world” music featuring pan-ethnic percussion and chants, but the similarities end there, as Earth includes actual rock songs.

Until now, the idea that Yes would invite Vangelis to try out as Rick Wakeman’s replacement was always a head scratcher for me; his sterile space music seemed incompatible with the organic music of Yes. Listening to Earth, however, you’ll hear the connection, particularly where this intersects with the musical sensibilities of Jon Anderson, whose Olias of Sunhillow followed a similar path. After hearing Earth, I’m actually disappointed that Vangelis didn’t replace Wakeman, as it would have been an exciting collaboration.

Another baffling point for me personally has been the ineffectiveness of the Jon and Vangelis records. Earth + Olias should have equalled a great album. Instead, the pair followed the path of “My Face In The Rain,” which marries Vangelis’ synthesizers with vocals (here courtesy of Robert Fitoussi) to enervating effect. Oh, and Earth is also a concept album, apparently. The liner notes make mention of the history of the world’s music or something like that. I don’t hear anything in the songs that suggests an historical timeline, although Vangelis does bring in lots of different global elements. I suspect it’s more a matter of Vangelis believing he needed to have a concept to tie the music together; he wouldn’t be the first progressive artists to choose a grandiose staging for his work.

Vangelis fans will want to own Earth to hear what Vangelis sounds like as a rock star. “Come On,” “Let It Happen” and “He-O” (the latter written by Aphrodite’s Child guitarist Anargyros Koulouris) are fascinating glimpses into what might have been. The spoken word mixtures, “A Song” and “We Were All Uprooted,” are also very interesting and ahead of their time; you wonder if Brian Eno might have owned a copy of Earth. Honestly, there aren’t a whole lot of surprises in the world of Vangelis. His artistry has been a refinement of his unique, trademark style for most of his career. Earth is the most pleasant surprise you’ll find in his catalog, at least that I’ve yet encountered. It’s not his best album – not even among his best five albums – but it is an exciting bridge between his past and future.

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Original elpee version

A1. Come On (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou) (2:09)
A2. We Were All Uprooted (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou/Richelle Dassin) (6:48)
A3. Sunny Earth (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou) (6:38)
A4. He-O (Anargyros Koulouris/Richelle Dassin) (4:09)
B1. Ritual (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou) (2:45)
B2. Let It Happen (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou/Richelle Dassin) (4:20)
B3. The City (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou) (1:17)
B4. My Face In The Rain (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou/Richelle Dassin) (4:19)
B5. Watch Out (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou) (2:50)
B6. A Song (Vangelis O. Papathanassiou/Richelle Dassin) (3:32)

All songs arranged by Vangelis O. Papathanassiou.

The Players

Vangelis O. Papathanassiou (keyboards, percussion, tablas, flute, background vocals), Robert Fitoussi (bass, lead vocals, background vocals), Anargyros Koulouris (guitars, lute, background vocals) with Warren Shapovitch (narration on A2/B6). Produced by Vangelis O. Papathanassiou; engineered by Roger Roche, Didier Pitois, Didier Périer.

The Pictures

Photo by Tony Kent.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1973 in France and Canada (Vertigo, 6499 693).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1974 in the US (Vertigo, VEL1019) with lyrics innersleeve (credited to Vangelis O.).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1979 in Japan (Vertigo, BT-8109).
  3. Re-packaged as part of SuperStar series on elpee in 1982 in Italy (Armando Curcio Editore, SU-1031) with unique gatefold cover.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1982 in Canada (Mercury, VAN 01) with unique cover.
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in 1996 in Greece (Polygram, 532 783-2).
  6. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2016 in Europe (Vertigo, 536 823-5).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc on April 28, 2017 in the US (Polydor, 789400).

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