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Jon & Vangelis - The Friends Of Mr. Cairo CD (album) cover


Jon & Vangelis


Prog Related

3.31 | 106 ratings

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3 stars This is the second full length collaboration on album between Anderson and Vangelis, the latter being the man the former still describes as his musical inspiration. When this was released, we still had Yes withdrawal symptoms, or rather we missed Anderson's incredible voice. The predecessor album featured one of my favourite tracks of all time, I Hear You Now, and I remember being eager for more of the same.

This being the 1980's, though, anyone expecting a re-run of Close To The Edge, or even the type of music Vangelis had produced with classics such as Heaven & Hell were to be rather disappointed. This is not in any shape or form symphonic prog. In fact, it is barely progressive at all. What it is, though, is a hugely enjoyable collection of well written pieces of music, featuring one of the most wonderful voices in rock together with a true virtuoso.

The album spawned two major hit singles, the first of which, I'll Find My Way Home, led to a rather embarrassing Top Of The Pops appearance by the duo hopelessly miming to the backing track. The second, State of Independence, is vintage Anderson exploring his unique world view and featuring the legendary Dick Morrissey on sax. Groovy and impossibly catchy, I would bet more than a few pounds that this great track introduced many a person to the wonders of Yes, having thought that they would like to explore this nice man's vocals a little bit further. It is also far better than the covers it produced, most notably by the Queen of disco, Donna Summer.

Elsewhere, the mood quietens down somewhat, and the album is driven by a collection of thoughtful, almost laid back, tracks. Beside is typical in this, with a nice vocal set against quiet piano and synths. The end vocal, though, is where Anderson excels, his voice soaring above the piece and thrilling us with that emotion he does so well.

The Mayflower is the biggest disappointment for me here. Although one could applaud the obvious experimentation Vangelis was trying to bring to the track, it meanders far too much, especially vocally, and ends up as a bit of a dirge really. It is a shame, because I think the duo were trying to recreate the theme and soul of Anderson's masterpiece, Olias Of Sunhillow. It just didn't quite get there.

The highlight of the album is the title track itself, and easily the closest they came to their mutual prog roots. It is, of course, a homage to the old style, black & white, Hollywood legends and films that Anderson adored, and the homage is lovingly rendered. Full of amusing and interesting film clips or copies, Vangelis also makes a far better fist of things as compared to the previous track, simply because it is tuneful and soulful. Then ,when he slows proceedings down in order to presage Anderson's wonderful and quite beautiful denouement, it is, in my opinion, his finest moment on record. A great track, and easily up there, as far as I am concerned, with Anderson's best moments in Yes. For a track in excess of twelve minutes long, it also received (and continues to this day) a fair bit of radio airplay.

Back To School is a bit of fun, and so simple that you really cannot believe that it was co- written by the man responsible for music like Heart of the Sunrise. As I say, fun, but really throwaway stuff.

The album closes with Outside of This (Inside of That), another gentle ballad, but one that will have fans, such as myself, of just sitting down and enjoying a gorgeous voice singing a love song very happy. Again, his voice soars magically in places, and Vangelis proves himself to be the perfect accompaniment.

This album could never be described as a masterpiece. As with the other albums the duo released, it could be hit and miss, which is a shame, because when they "hit", they were magical.

If you cannot stand commercially driven prog related music, then stay a mile away. If you think that Anderson can only be accompanied by complex music and complex musicians such as Howe, Squire, and the rest, then also stay away. If, however, you simply enjoy listening to a gorgeous voice in tandem with a real keyboard talent, and don't mind it fairly simple, then this is recommended.

Three stars for this. A very good album which I enjoy revisiting every now and again.

lazland | 3/5 |


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