This installment of The Ambient Series explores the music of Vangelis. I know that a lot of you wonder why Vangelis, who has done a lot of successful scores for film (Blade Runner, Chariots Of Fire, to name a few), and great vocal work with Jon Anderson, should be qualified as ambient at all. The fact is, much of Vangelis’s early career in music, which began in 1967 with Aphrodite’s Child, a Greek progressive band with a three albums, one of them a well-received concept album (666) is represented in ambient electronica.
After the demise of Aphrodite’s Child, Vangelis moved into electronic ambient music. In the early days of the ’70s, Vangelis issued several albums leading up to Earth (his third). Earth was challenging music, and certainly a brilliant prelude to his extraordinary Heaven and Hell (1975). Heaven And Hell employed Jon Anderson on one of its tracks. As an album, it did quite well. It wasn’t until Albedo 0.39 (1976) that I paid complete attention to Vangelis as an artist to be completely enjoyed as an ambient artist.
Albedo 0.39 was exploratory in every way using vocals in extraordinary style, completely setting the album apart. Vangelis played every note on the album. In short, Albedo 0.39 was a stunning favorite of mine for months, demanding large blocks of my time as I listened to it in ways that put me into the center of its universe. Albedo 0.39 played with long-form jazz fusion (“Main Sequence”), pure electronic classicism (“Sword Of Orion”), the spacey ambient (“Pulstar”, “Alpha”, “Freefall”), and the orchestral (in two-parts) of “Nucleogenesis”, which combined electronics and the orchestral into a magnificent piece.
Over the years, Vangelis would experiment with classical, electronics, and traditional instruments endearing him to a wide audience that didn’t always like everything he did. But it would be definite that his musical works would be recognized for the works that they embraced.
Vangelis is not an artist of a particular style. His forays into many styles have truly set him apart. Unlike artists and bands that remained as ambient electronic, Vangelis’ skills allowed him the space to create on many musical canvases. In that, Vangelis is one of the unique talents of our time. With many creative ambient albums in his catalog, it would be a great crime to avoid his Opera Savage, The City, and the achingly beautiful China (which creates a strong Chinese ambient feel, and hints of Blade Runner in its music). Or any of them actually.