Greece / Turkey
Titles are arranged alphabetically with recent additions highlighted in yellow.
These are the 2010 definitive editions on Esoteric. The Greek band Aphrodite’s Child was the first band of keyboard legend Vangelis Papathanassiou, with Demis Roussos on bass & vocals and Lucas Sideras on drums. Roussos went on to become a well-known pop singer throughout Europe (and the most famous passenger on TWA Flight 847, hijacked by terrorists in 1985). End of the World (1968) and It’s Five O’Clock (1969) were Aphrodite’s Child’s first two albums and contain psychedelic pop with an experimental edge, spawning several international hits. (Their third and final album, the double-LP 666, is far more progressive and avant-garde.) The song It’s Five O’Clock (video here) is very close to Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale. For more audio samples from these album, YouTube has audio and/or videos of Annabella and Marie Jolie, and you’ll find more nearby. Overall the albums are a mixed bag, some songs of interest to prog and psych fans, some others best forgotten. These Esoteric Recordings reissues have been remastered from the original tapes. Vangelis himself came on board and supervised the remastering. It’s Five O’Clock adds six bonus tracks from three singles including a rare Italian-only release, while End of the World includes both sides of Aphrodite’s Child’s first single as bonus tracks.
Yiannis Glezos is an Athenian musician who released his first album in 1968. The Roses of Pieria is an almost entirely instrumental prog album that was first released in 2008 with Greek cover and titles, then reissued by Musea in this edition with English titles. In addition to rock band instrumentation, there is trumpet, violin, viola, oboe, clarinet, and traditional Greek instruments such as the lyre. Listen to the song The Lament on YouTube.
Journey of the Shaman (2010) was first released by the band before being released by Musea in this edition. It’s the debut by a Turkish prog band whose leader is a close friend of Eloy leader Frank Bornemann. Not surprisingly, Nemrud’s music bears a strong resemblance to Eloy, specifically Eloy’s early years (Inside, Floating) as opposed to Eloy’s peak when they achieved a more symphonic sound and had honed their writing skills. But this darker, spacier, more psychedelic style, derived from Pink Floyd, has great appeal for many.
Ritual (2013) is Nemrud’s superior second album, more solidly progressive and improved in most aspects. Perhaps Turkey should be admitted to the European Union based on Nemrud’s albums alone. Read reviews at Prog Archives of Shaman and Ritual.
The label’s description: “Amazing and colorful rock sutra from Turkey! Siddhartha is an interesting blend of progressive and space sound like Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree with trippy rock ballads. This album is full of major mood swings from very serene and tranquil moments to all-out blitzkrieg jam sessions. Siddhartha is full of surprises and each song carries its own colors and characteristics, always sounding highly original.” The music was first released in 1998, but this 65-minute CD was released over a decade later, Siddhartha having since disbanded. The music was remastered in New York. Read the Prog Archives, Sea of Tranquility, and ProgNaut reviews.
Socrates is a Greek progressive band who formed in 1971 under the name Socrates Drank the Conium. The band recorded three albums of Hendrix-style heavy blues rock for Polydor before shortening their name to Socrates. Signing with Vertigo Records, the band travelled to London to record their best album Phos (1976). Vangelis not only produced the record, he played keyboards throughout and cowrote the instrumental Every Dream Comes to an End; his contributions are why this album is Socrates’ most progressive work. As with compatriots Aphrodite’s Child, Socrates fused progressive rock with traditional Greek musical influences with great success. This 2011 Esoteric edition has been newly remastered, fully restores the album artwork and includes a new essay.
This Greek band began very Marillion-influenced, right down to the logo on their first two albums. Shattered Image (1999, 63-minutes) is their second.
Faded Leaves (2002, 68-minutes) is their third album and, well, they’re still fairly Marillion-influenced. They have the simpler style of the first two Marillion albums down pat. If that was all there was to their style, they wouldn’t be that interesting, but La Tulipe Noire have female lead vocals (in English) and add the spacey, Floydian element typical of the Greek prog bands. Those familiar with the French band Arrakeen might use that band as a reference point.
Their fourth album Nostimon Hemar (2006, 69-minutes) is based on Homer’s Odyssey, and who better to tackle the subject than a Greek band. Having lost the Marillion logo, La Tulipe Noire have also finally shed enough of the Marillion style to sound original and allow their own distinctive musical personality to shine through. This concept album has the characteristic Greek spaciness and is dark and heavy without crossing over into metal. The generally solemn melodies delivered by their excellent female singer over the guitar and keys foundation is quite appealing.
Matricide (2013) shows the band further developing their own style. Watch the official video for the song Death Chamber and listen to the song A Letter from Patmos on YouTube.
These are the 2013 digipack editions on Esoteric, all newly remastered and personally supervised by Vangelis himself, with booklets that restore the original album artwork. Vangelis’ time on the RCA label yielded his greatest albums. Those include Heaven and Hell (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976), and Spiral (1977). (His 1978 album Beaubourg was also on RCA, but it is radically different, pure musique concrète.) Heaven and Hell was the first album to be recorded at his personal studio in London. This epic work in two parts features the English Chamber Choir and Vangelis’ first collaboration with Jon Anderson, the beautiful So Long Ago, So Clear. Those only familiar with Vangelis’ later, lighter works may be in for a shock, as Heaven and Hell is dark and powerful. The follow-up Albedo 0.39 was used in the television series Cosmos and contains some of Vangelis’ most iconic works, while the album contains elements of rock and jazz. These two are our favorite Vangelis albums and are landmark albums of progressive music.
Spiral is just a notch below those two. It contains the song To the Unknown Man, one of Vangelis’ best-known pieces. After Spiral, Vangelis did make some very good albums, but his style was never quite the same. Of course, the same was true for any number of first-generation prog artists as the 1970s drew to a close. The Spiral CD includes a rare bonus track, previously unissued on CD: To the Unknown Man Part Two, which was a single B-side.
By the time of Direct (1988), which was recorded for Arista, Vangelis had moved to Athens. “Like most Vangelis, this defies categorization. It has strong elements of rock & roll, symphonic synth ambience, and new age instrumental aspects. At the same time, the bold synthesizer strokes and washes fit the Berlin school of electronica. Given Vangelis’ proclivity for soundtrack work, it is no surprise that this disc sounds like great film music. It is a great CD that will appeal to many different audiences.” [AllMusic] Note the mp3 icons above link to allmusic.com, which not only has audio samples for these albums but also a review of each. Lots more reviews can be found at Prog Archives. You’ll note the RCA albums have the most raters of any of the many Vangelis albums with the exception of his Blade Runner soundtrack, which has more to do with the movie than the soundtrack per se.
Vangelis was considered to replace Rick Wakeman the first time Rick left Yes. Vangelis turned it down but became friends with Jon Anderson, leading to four Jon & Vangelis albums, of which Page of Life (1991) is the fourth, released eight years after the third. Note this edition contains the same content as the original 1991 edition. (There was a 1998 U.S. release that messed with the tracks.) This edition contains a rare bonus track: Sing With Your Eyes, taken from the promotional Wisdom Chain CD single.
So Close & Yet So Far Away (2010, 51-minutes) is a fine debut CD by a Greek neo-prog band. There is undeniably some Fish-era Marillion influence here; one clue should be that the lead singer (who is also the keyboardist) goes by a single made-up name, in this case, ‘Jargon’. But generally Verbal Delirium’s music has a distinct identity, a slight melancholy (and delirium?) characteristic of the Greek prog bands. Overall the music is more romantic than Marillion, partly because Mr. Jargon is more of a pianist than Mark Kelly and partly due to the contributions of a guest cellist, while on a few other occasions, it’s just heavier. Read the Sea of Tranquility and Proggnosis reviews.