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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Vangelis

Odyssey: The Definitive Collection

Review by Gary Hill

The whole compilation concept is tricky. Sometimes I think that “best of” comps are easier to handle than “greatest hits.” If done right the caliber of material can well be stronger. Of course, “greatest hits” packages are more cut and dried. I like this compilation a lot. There’s no material here that I think is weak. The only complaint I would make is that I think the two Jon and Vangelis tracks would have done more in terms of variety for the set if they were separated and placed earlier in the lineup. Still, you really can’t complain. It should be noted that both of those tracks have been reviewed by me earlier and I’ve modified those reviews for inclusion here for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Pulstar
This starts with a tasty, if understated, keyboard styling and grows up from there into a quite a cool keyboard rocker. I like the speaker to speaker stereo effects and there are some great melodic segments. There are some intriguing alterations and variations as this carries on.
Hymne
The title might make you think that this is a gentle and melodic piece of music. The first portion of the track would bear that out, but it gets more symphonic and bombastic as it continues. This really reminds me a lot of something from the Jon and Vangelis era.
Main Theme from Chariots of Fire
This theme music is one of the most recognizable melodies on show here. It’s pretty and still holds up well, despite being overplayed a bit in certain circles.
Main Theme from Missing
Here we have a very pretty piece of music. It is lush and yet not over the top. 
Love Theme from Blade Runner
There’s a space meets lounge jazz element to this as a saxophone weaves a melody around the keyboards. This is quite a cool retro meets futuristic cut. 
End Titles (From Blade Runner)
We definitely get some dated sounds on this, but there is also some serious science fiction drama, too. This is a great piece of music. It’s one of my favorite cuts on show here. 
Tao of Love
To me, this pretty instrumental feels very much like the Beatles meet Japanese music. It’s got both that Liverpool pop feeling, but also an air of Asian traditional music.  It’s playful and fun. 
Theme from Antarctica
This certainly would have been at home (with the addition of Jon Anderson’s vocals) on one of the Jon and Vangelis discs. It’s a good track, but not really a standout – mostly because so much of the other stuff here is so strong. 
Theme from Cavafy
The early portions of this have almost a dangerous feeling to them. There is more dissonance and drama here than on some of the other music. Yet there are also sections that remind me a bit of Klaatu. This piece also has some of the most purely classical music on the set. It’s an intriguing number and while it is, perhaps, not the most obvious choice to jump out at you, is one of my favorites. 
Opening Titles (From Mutiny on the Bounty)
A cut that grows slowly and methodically, this one has more of that dangerous element as it begins. It’s a great piece of music, and on a lesser disc would be a standout.
Conquest of Paradise
This one is powerful and includes some choral vocals. Other than that, though, it’s not all that different from the bulk of the material presented here. 
Petite Fille de la Mer
In some ways this doesn’t vary greatly from a lot of the music here. That said, it’s one of the prettiest melodies on show. There is a haunting nature to this and I really like it a lot. 
'Enfant
There’s nothing wrong with this piece. It just doesn’t stand out. I’d consider it the “skip over” piece of the set.
Anthem
Although the growth and evolution is very organic and gradual, this is one of the more dynamic cuts here. It starts in very delicate tones, but builds into a really powerful cut. It’s another standout. 
Celtic Dawn
With a very prominent martial rhythmic structure this is another standout. Thankfully it avoids the type of generic Celtic elements that the title leads you to expect. Mind you, I like that kind of music – and there are bits of it here and there, but that would be taking the obvious route. 
Movement 1 (From Mythodea)
Chorale vocals bring in something akin to the soundtrack of the original Omen movie. The music here at times resembles Holst. It is another powerful and dramatic cut. Personally I think I would have used this as the closing number of the set because it is so potent. 
I'll Find My Way Home
A bouncy musical backdrop creates the ground on which Anderson weaves his trails of lyrics. Vangelis works this arrangement up towards more lush territory as it carries onward. The break midsong where Vangelis adds to his musical layers is particularly strong. Anderson reenters after this with a renewed vitality and power and with the added emotion in the musical arrangement the song really flies.
State of Independence
Starting with a quick burst of jazzy sounds, this one moves out into a bouncing, playful musical journey. Anderson’s vocals have a bit of Reggae or world approach on their delivery. This one is a cut that feels rather like it could have made it onto one of his solo albums. Handclaps serve to add to the world music feel of the piece. When a saxophone solo soars out later the vocalist adds in layers of sound to create a new texture. When it comes back from the instrumental interlude Anderson’s voice is slower and more angelic in its delivery – soothing and creating a melody line of its own in the process. He intensifies this approach as he carries it onward and Vangelis keyboard arrangement rises in response to serve as a fitting accompaniment. Later, as Anderson lays down more and more emphatic reiterations of the chorus, Vangelis turns the melody a bit dark and dramatic. It swings back out from there, though in the pretty jazzy modes to take the cut along. After a false ending a short reprise, with even more world textures enters to take the song through a short series of different reiterations before ending. This has always been one of my favorite pieces from this duo. The funny thing is, I heard a female R & B singer (after researching this just now it looks like it must have been Donna Summer – who would’ve thought the disco queen would cover a song written by Mr. Yes!) doing a version of this while I was shopping in a couple of stores. Even with a different arrangement and performance this cut is strong enough to stand up well.
 
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