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Vangelis - Beaubourg CD (album) cover

BEAUBOURG

Vangelis

 

Prog Related

2.52 | 77 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars It's still the most controversial entry in the greater Vangelis catalogue: a notoriously free-form electronic interpretation of the unsightly Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The album "created a scandal" when first released in 1978 (quoting an interview with the composer, transcribed shortly afterward), at least among disappointed fans expecting another "Spiral" or "Albedo 0.39".

It's nice in retrospect to hear what such a famously romantic keyboard artist does in his spare time, when no one is looking. But he might have thought twice before trying to market the results to unwary audiences under the spell of his otherwise lush but undemanding synth-rock soundtracks. I confess to finding it a fascinating experience, but only up to a point, and that point usually arrives long before the album's full thirty-nine minutes expire.

Heck, thirty-nine seconds might be enough for most people, and with good reason. There aren't any accessible crutches here to steady the uneasy listener, and whenever the music approaches something resembling an actual melodic phrase it invariably beats a hasty retreat toward the relative freedom of uncharted atonal territory.

Well, not exactly uncharted: Musique Concète had been around a long time by 1978. Maybe Vangelis was simply trying to emulate the innovations of pioneers like Pierre Schaeffer et al. On the other hand, he might have just unwrapped another new studio toy (a Yamaha CS-80) and decided to record his self-tutorial, while blindly twisting knobs and punching buttons.

I'm usually a loud defender of the two-star rating in these Archives, as a mark of hidden quality: the fans-only treasure unfit for general consumption. But in this case the judgment is more subjective, reflecting a conspicuous lack of genuine experimentation. In the same interview quoted above Vangelis claimed he made the album "very quickly, spontaneously", but then added: "it took me a little less than a month." A month-long session...for this? That's hardly a measure of impulsive creativity.

Maybe the solitary (and now dated) keyboard sounds are the primary culprit. If Frank Zappa had arranged the same music for a small orchestra (see "The Yellow Shark", 1993) the album might be hailed today as a post-modern masterpiece. "I needed courage to release this record", said its author at the time. And you might need a little nerve yourself (or at least a wide open pair of forgiving ears) to properly hear it. Two stars...for true fans of inscrutable abstract noodling.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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