Vangelis - Delectus reissue album review

Thirteen remastered archive albums from the Greek maestro’s Olympian peak period

TODO alt text
(Image: © VANGELIS: ALAMY)

Prolific soundtrack composer and self-taught synthesiser wizard Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou maps out a vast musical constellation on this 13-disc deluxe box set of remastered albums, from space-rock to psychedelic jazz to pristine electronica.

Delectus covers only Vertigo and Polydor releases between 1973 and 1985, so connoisseurs will rue the absence of beloved classics such as Albedo 0.39, Spiral and Blade Runner, but there are still riches galore here, including a handful of rare bonus tracks and semi-obscure releases that demonstrate Vangelis has experimental depths to counter his populist easy-listening instincts.

Recorded while Vangelis was still in hairy Athenian prog-rock collective Aphrodite’s Child alongside fellow beardy Demis Roussos, his 1973 album Earth is a full-blooded flower-power freak-out of new age hippie slogans and boisterous psych-folk, Krautrock-style jams. It’s inevitably dated but still a fissile, fertile racket. Released the same year, the early film score Apocalypse des Animaux strikes a very different tone with its dreamy music-box twinkles and Eno-ish excursions into amorphous, ambient abstraction. Timeless, lovely, sublime in places.

In 1974 Vangelis began working regularly with the Yes singer Jon Anderson, recording a trio of joint albums in the early 1980s. Laying boy-soprano trilling over anodyne tinsel-pop ballads, they are the weakest inclusions on Delectus. Anderson also features prominently on 1980’s See You Later, an engagingly ripe jazz-rock collage woven with spoken-word snippets and sound effects. This disc contains three of the retrospective’s four bonus tracks, including the previously unreleased Neighbours Upstairs, a kind of rousing avant-garde Broadway choral number, and Domestic Logic 1, a robot-voiced groove with hints of early Kraftwerk.

Vangelis scored planet-conquering success in 1981 with his Oscar-winning electro-orchestral score to Chariots Of Fire. It’s a sturdy and stirring work, much like his next soundtrack, 1983’s Antarctica. But the loose trilogy of concept albums that followed are more alluringly experimental, especially the vaporous free-form sound paintings on 1984’s Soil Festivities and the strikingly minimal Invisible Connections from 1985. Delectus is packed with pleasant surprises.