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Vangelis - The Dragon CD (album) cover




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3.74 | 82 ratings

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4 stars The second unauthorized Vangelis album (after "Hypothesis") was recorded in 1971, very early into or even before his illustrious solo career. So it makes sense that the music here resembles something from his group APHRODITE'S CHILD more than the middlebrow synth extravaganzas and soundtracks he would later gain fame for.

At the time, the future Oscar-winning composer was simply exploring possible career options, in a London studio alongside a quartet of session players. An actual album was never intended, and by the time these tapes were (illegally) released in1978 the tardy results must have blindsided a lot of fans. The album's heavy, Hellenistic psychedelia was more structured than the jazzier "Hypothesis", but sounded just as unlikely next to other Vangelis albums available at the same time ("Spiral"; "China").

The 15-plus minute title track is a lot like the creature depicted on the front cover: a rampaging beast of music built around a strong, hypnotic riff lifted straight off the dirty backstreets of urban Athens, apparently by way of Munich (it wouldn't have sounded out of place on an early AMON DÜÜL album). In startling contrast, the delicate electric piano of "Stuffed Aubergine" (I'm guessing all the titles were chosen at random from a Greek cookbook) sounds not unlike CLUSTER's Hans-Joachim Roedelius enjoying a Mediterranean vacation. Be ready for when the synthetic strings finally drift within earshot: a moment of understated musical drama.

The album finale "Stuffed Tomato" then beats a hasty retreat to rural Macedonia, for an ethnic folk jam played on what might be a bouzouki-like string instrument or a radically de- tuned piano. There's a brutal edit before the full band is engaged, showing exactly how Vangelis might have developed his music in a more traditional Prog Rock setting.

The London sessions were never really completed, and didn't lead anywhere except to a battery of lawsuits. Maybe Vangelis abandoned the tapes because he wasn't the obvious star in a true ensemble effort, possibly the same reason for his not joining YES a few years later. Or maybe he just felt this sort of unrehearsed music wasn't enough to build an entire career from.

Either way the album (even more than "Hypothesis") stands apart from his primary body of work, but in a very cool, very novel way. I feel conflicted about awarding four stars to something Vangelis himself fought hard to legally block. But there isn't a court of law on Earth where this music wouldn't kick serious butt.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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