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Portraits by Vangelis

June 17, 2007

Volos is a city in Greece , around 300 km north of Athens , and capital of the Magnesia region. A major commercial port, it also has a large number of tourists visiting it to due to it’s beaches. It is home to the legendary Greek hero Jason of the Golden Fleece fame, and a drink called as Tsipouro . On March 29, 1943 a boy by the name of Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou was born. A self taught musician, he became one of the foremost talents in electronic, new age and classical music. His scores for movies like Blade Runner and 1492: Conquest of Paradise are memorable. And of course that unforgettable score for the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou is also more popularly called as Vangelis .

In sharp contrast to traditional Hollywood composers like John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith whose music was heavily influenced by Western classical tunes, Vangelis used a mixture of Electronic music, rock, Western Classical and New Age to create his own unique style. Unlike the high tones of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith, Vangelis tends to create a more subtle and softer tone.
Portraits So Long Ago So Clear by Vangelis , contains 15 tracks from his various albums, both film and non film.

Chariots of Fire
The reason why I came to know of Vangelis . This is one of my all time favorite scores, and I guess along with the Good Bad Ugly soundtrack and the Bond theme, the most copied one. Chariots of Fire was a period drama set in 1920’s England. The challenge was to come up with a theme that was contemporary yet fitted the mood of the movie. Now since the movie itself revolved around the Olympic Games, Vangelis set the score, against the scene of athletes running on the beach. The electronic beat and the piano, come up with a wonderful effect and beautifully creates the mood. The athletes running, the beach, and Vangelis score, one of the finest scenes ever seen.

To the Unknown Man

3 part piece which originally came in Vangelis earlier album Spiral . The beginning is very simple, pretty much minimal, just a guitar like melody. Part 2 quickens up to a march tempo with strings, and part 3 is where the slow melody goes, and we have a complete rock beat.

Pulstar

One of the best tracks in the album. Electronic music at its best. The score is entirely built on a synthesizer pulse sequence, with a trumpet main line. It gets it’s name from a combo of Pulsar and Star , and was used for Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series. Of course nowadays I see this track regularly used by all our Cable TV channels, as background music. Copyright anyone?

La Petite Fille De La Mer

Just enchanting and beautiful. One of the finest piano recitals you would have ever heard. Translated it means The Small Girl of the Sea . The song itself is taken from the album L ‘Apocalypse des Animaux, which was a background score for a series of documentaries on French TV. Totally melodious tone, wonderfully moving, this has to be heard to be enjoyed. Also used as soundtrack for 2006 movie Stranger than Fiction.

Alpha

This track was taken from Albedo 0.39 , a concept album which he composed around astro physics. The name of the album refers to the reflecting power of Earth, which is 0.39. The overall theme is simple, but it’s the complex instrumentation that enhances the appeal. Using a combo of synthesizer, xylophone, percussion and acoustics, we get a wonderfully upbeat piece here.

Conquest of Paradise

1492:Conquest of Paradise was a movie by Ridley Scott , about Christopher Columbus voyage to America. Vangelis had earlier given a superb score for Scott’s Blade Runner, keeping in mind the dark and gloomy nature of that movie. This is a vintage Hollywood kind of over the top heroic score, with an increasing tempo. The score is played when the ships are arriving at the island.The album was a dud when it came in 1992, but later it became popular in 1995, when the Socialist Party in Portugal used this track as their election campaign theme and won.

Antarctica

The 1983 Japanese movie Nankyoku Monogatari,( South Pole Story) was a movie about the 1958 Japanese expedition to Antarctica , its dramatic rescue and the story of the huskies who survived. Vangelis, uses the electronic synthesizer beats here wonderfully, with the trumpet score, to come up with another winner here.
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