From great film composers and the eon’s of New Age music of European Progressive keyboards, Vangelis O. Papathanassiou, who is best known for writing the score of the Academy-Award winning 1982 film for best picture and best score with Chariots of Fire and other film scores including; Blade Runner, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and Oliver Stone’s bombastic flop, Alexander. But what most people don’t know about Vangelis, is that he founded one of the most unheard bands to come out of Greece from the psychedelic scene of the late ‘60s called Aphrodite’s Child which featured; Demis Roussos on bass and lead vocals, Silver Koulouris on guitar, and Lucas Sideras on drums. However Silver left the band to perform military service after Colonel Papadopoulos had made Greece to turn it very right-wing as Silver was forced to go under heavy services in the army.
The band was now a trio and these two reissues re-released for the first time by Esoteric Recordings, represent a different view of the European Psychedelic scene. From 1968, End of the World, was their debut album as Vangelis had given the exploration policies of pushing the envelope of new technology in the studio from adding folk-like Greek stories, the rock boundaries and adding the mellotron, you got yourself a full weekend in the studio. It has influences raging from The Beatles, Procol Harum, and The Moody Blues. Of the album itself, the dooming psychedelic ballad, End of the World is very much an eerie symphonic beauty that follows in the same footsteps of the 15th century classical emotional Rain & Tears with a magnificent climatic climax that the band does with an angelic vocalization at the very end.
Don’t Try to Catch a River is in the mind of the Lennon/McCartney singer-songwriting technique that made it into the Top ten charts in Europe in the mind of 17th century composer, Johann Pachelbel. Mister Thomas gives a fancy light-hearted harpsichord and carnival-like sound of the tale of an old man while The Grass is No Green shows Demis Roussos in his narration of eerie traditional stories in the Greek tales of the rain falling down and a plague coming into the world with a whirlpool of crescendo terror and an disturbing yet surprising vocalization done by Demis. Valley of Sadness is a superb homage to the early sound of the psychedelic version of the Bee Gees while You Always Stand in my Way is a mellotronic tribute to Mike Pinder ala Days of Future Passed-era as for the extremely pounding folk acoustic chugging turned ambient atmospheric of The Shepherd and the Moon makes it a very climatic piece as it gives to the closing finale, Day of the Fool.
The 6-minute nightmarish composition with twisted keyboard compositions and Demis sings about the person’s mind going into a nervous breakdown and into mass madness similar to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. However, the album’s far from over. The bonus tracks feature Silver’s Kolouris guitar work on the A & B side of the Greek-folk psych vocational beauty of Plastics Nevermore and the classical piano of the Indian-Greek musical background of The Other People.
Aphrodite’s Child was now superstars in Europe. And it wasn’t comfortable with Vangelis as he always wanted to be in the Studio rather than be a live musician. They headed back to the Studio in Soho at Trident Studios to record the follow-up album to End of the World with their second album It’s Five O’Clock. On this album, this was more of working together done by Vangelis and other compositions with Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras. It was a little more of a pastoral psychedelic album, but it’s worth listening to, not to mention the combination of acoustic sing-along numbers and country rock at the same time.
You have the anti-war protest song that has a Fairport Convention ring to it on Wake Up while the opening number, It’s Five O’Clock carries the eerie ballad tradition of Rain and Tears. The twangy-Bob Dylan bluesy country feel on Take Your Time feels like it could have been written for the Nashville Skyline-era as Lucas Sideras takes over the vocals and drums like a Texan as Demis plays some down-home acoustic upbeats on the guitar and the harmonica making it sound like it feels you’re right at home. The acoustic folk ballad of Annabella is in the style of the Moody Blues Nights in White Satin and Mason Williams’ Wanderlove.
One of the highest points of the album is Lucas’ upbeat number of Let Me Love, Let Me Live which features a dynamic percussion work from him and the hand-clapping pounding feet number along with a wah-wah organ solo done by Vangelis to make it a fast-pounding sing-along song while Funky Mary features a jazz-orientated African tribe beat done by Lucas and Vangelis going nuts on the organ and on the vibraphone. Good Time So Fine is Demis doing an imitation of Louis Armstrong and then as a Broadway singer on this quirky pop number that has a New Orleans Jazz Preservation Hall tribute in the midsection. The Greek Italian flavored love song ballad is heart felt on the emotional Marie Jolie as the quirky pop sound comes to an end as it roars back 1920’s homage to Tiny Tim with Such A Funny Night of Greek-Prog pop sound.
The bonus tracks on the second album takes the cake. The homage to French composer J.P. Martini’s Plasir D’Amour which was re-worked as I Want To Live, is unbelievable. It has the similarities of Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love with You as if Procol Harum had performed the piece as a glorious gospel rocking ballad while the fuzz tone garage rocking up tempo hit single, Magic Mirror sees Aphrodite’s Child as Status Quo. The two Italian songs in which they were written by different song writers, was originally going to be performed at the San Remo Festival which is shown on YouTube, but they performed the two hit singles instead, still it’s quite interesting to see. Lontano Dagli Occhi and Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia are in the time signature of ¾ as it might have been a huge influence in the Italian music scene of the ‘70s, this is an explosive love-song and eerie magnum opus as Demis sings his heart out in these two numbers.
Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall carries the reflection of moving forward as the person leaves his childhood behind into time changes through every year in this heartfelt single. As Lucas Sideras comes back in the Soul Rock sound in the African-tribe sound again with Air. Of these two albums, it’s would be more satisfying as they were the pre-666 sound.
Probably because they were going for the European Psychedelic market, but achieved in most of the countries. Though 666 broke the door down of weird and groundbreaking magnitude, these two albums deliver these boundaries so well.