The Greek Rock scene reached upon bands such as Aphrodite’s Child which formed in 1967 and they were one of the most powerful, overlooked, psychedelic and progressive rock bands which started the careers of the late Demis Roussos, Vangelis, and Lucas Sideras. But one of the bands as a trio that formed in 1969 by lead guitarist John Spathas and bassist Andonis Tourkogiorgis who have a hard rock sound was Socrates Drank the Conium.
While Greece was ruled under a military dictatorship, the band performed regularly at the Kyttaro Club in Athens and appeared on a live album entitled Live at Kyttaro in 1971, the band were signed to a Greek division of the Polydor label and released three albums on the label including their sole self-titled debut album, Taste of Conium, and On the Wings.
The band shortened their name to Socrates and a change of music from the sound of Greek Folk as new drummer George Tradalidas joined the band as they were signed to the Greek Division to Vertigo Records. Soon the trio traveled to London to record their fourth album with Vangelis as a producer as he would began his international success as a solo artist and film composer.
Phos was originally released on the Vertigo label and reissued by Esoteric Recordings sees a band moving away from the hard rock sound and carrying a dosage of the Progressive and Folk approach. Vangelis handles the keyboards on the tracks as he created a new dimensional sound for Socrates as their album was recorded at Orange Studios in London.
I remember hearing Socrates’ music on Gregory Kampf podcast La Villa Strangiato in 2012 which is a Progressive Rock/Jazz Radio show every Thursday night at 7:30pm on CHUO FM 89.1. And hearing the blaring essence of Mediterranean Folk-Heavy Rock sounds of Time of Pain I was hooked right from the very beginning. I’ve always wanted to hear the Phos album and I bought straight away from the Laser’s Edge website.
For me, while the album is ahead of its time, it is a joy and revisiting more than just bands such as Aphrodite’s Child to see how Socrates could have continued with this amazing sound. The opener, Starvation which originally had a heavier approach in 1972, is a different arrangement thanks to the Folk and keyboard styles of Vangelis’ synths from a marching fanfare style in the styles at times Van Der Graaf Generator’s cover of Theme One.
Vangelis also lends a helping hand as he co-wrote the composition, Every Dream Comes to an End. Beginning with a melodic-rock, piano, and atmospheric beauty he along with Tourkogiorgis, Tradalidis, and Spathas, work out the ascending roars as it leads up into the heavens as Spathas’ lead guitars just sends chills down your spine. You can close your eyes and imagine the essence of the mid ‘70s sound of Barclay James Harvest on this track.
I love how Andonis' vocals and Spathas’ guitar blend well in the section as they sing both the melody of The Bride. It is a catchy turned emotional day-wedding sequence in the midsection then back into the walking pace section of the rhythm thanks to the drums and guitars as the ceremony is about to begin for the bride to be married with an exhilarating dance.
The 7-minute two-part suite of Mountains that closes the album is a real fantastic and ambient finale. It starts off for the first minute and thirty seconds with a progressive folk-hard rock adventure on magic carpet ride with a stop-and-go moment in a Gentle Giant twist. As Vangelis and Spathas create a lush-lukewarm moody yet bluesy ominous finale for the last 6-minutes of the piece as you can imagine the sun coming up to rise on the higher mountains for a new day and new adventure that will await.
When it was released 40 years ago, it was one of the most successful albums and receiving not only word of mouth in their hometown, but in Europe. The band broke up until returning in the ‘80s with three more albums from 1981 and ’83. They reunited in 2002 to perform several concerts in Greece and they are still going on to this day.
The 8-page booklet contains photos of the band and a history of the group with liner notes done by Mark Powell. This is a must have reissue that is worth recommending. If you love Aprhodite’s Child, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, and Barclay James Harvest, then delve into the music and adventure of Socrates’ Phos.