RCA 1975 / Esoteric 2013
Childhood’s end is where the conquest of paradise begins in earnest for Greek maestro.
It takes an aficionado today to remember Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou as a rocker who swung his sweet chariots of fire low but hard. That fire was infernal enough on “666” by his ensemble APHRODITE’S CHILD, yet once the band ceases to exist, the keyboard wizard expanded his creative scope and went as above so below. The first album to have been laid down in London, in Vangelis’ own Nemo Studios, “Heaven And Hell” also signaled a shift from prog into classical tropes, although all the orchestral moves here are shaped by synthesizers. And while the voices of ENGLISH CHAMBER CHOIR infuse such expectancy-pregnant pieces as the piano-propelled “2nd Movement” with an oratorio sway, it’s another vocal that stitches together both sides of the composer’s approach.
Used to the high pitch employed sometimes by his former colleague Demis Roussos, now the ivory operator engaged Jon Anderson in delivering the anthem “So Long Ago, So Clear” which, in its turn, serves as a bridge between the record’s two side-long parts. The YES singer sounds celestial, if endearingly raw, on his debut collaboration with the Greek master, even more so on this edition remastered by Vangelis and lending a new breeziness to “Symphony To The Powers B” that tempers and develops the “Bacchanale” theme. Albeit less memorable, the organ swirl of “3rd Movement” introduced new age to the heart of many thanks to its use in Carl Sagan’s TV show “Cosmos” – alongside cuts from the artist’s other albums – and brought him to the mass, and movie directors’ attention.
The suite’s second half is more abstract, “12 O’clock” adding a musique concrète blur to the picturesque confusion, but not before it crystallizes, Chinese-style, on “Needles & Bones” where percussion clang forms a tuneful skeleton for electronic textures to wrap layer after layer of melody around it. This melody turns into Vana Veroutis’ wordless prayer whose hum ups the human ingredient hinted at in the titular equation, yet “A Way” sets the grand finale on the rocks and releases the tension in quite an unspectacular fashion, thus getting the crepuscular balance right. A modern milestone.