Aphrodite's Child - 666 (1972)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 5:43 AM

Just like Eno, Klaus Schulze, and other eventual-individualists, the Greek composer Vangelis initially started out in a rock band, Aphrodite's Child. This was their third and final album. The band members were not on speaking terms during its recording in 1970, and had already split up by the time of its release in 1972. Despite this, 666 remains their most memorable album and has cultivated its own following as an acknowledged psych classic. The original storyline of text-writer Costas Ferris concerned a circus troupe that throws a show in a circus tent based on the Apocalypse of the Book of Revelations, filled with spectacular lights and sounds. However, while the show is going on in the circus tent, the real Apocalypse begins to occur outside, the audience believing it to be part of the show. At the end, the big tent disappears, and the two 'shows' unite in a melding of illusion with reality.
From the opening chant of "The System" (whose actual words are, in case you are trying to figure it out, "We've got the system, to fuck the system") dissolving into the peppy "Babylon" with Demis Roussos jovially singing "Fallen fallen fallen is Babylon the Great!" amidst canned cheering, this is an album that quickly establishes itself as out to keep the listener's attention by any means necessary. For whatever eccentricities Vangelis managed to later inject into his solo work, these were quite present and accounted for in much larger amounts here. Take the funny voiceovers, ranging in demeanor from 'David Hemmings - Narrator' to 'Arthur Brown - Ringmaster' to 'John Lennon - Stoned'; one of these even alerts the listener that the song is changing ("That was 'The Wedding of the Lamb'...Now comes 'The Capture of the Beast'"). Take the idiosyncratic "shdeedledee doodledum" vocals that mercilessly puncture "Break." Or take "Loud, Loud, Loud," with a boy somberly reciting (as if he were Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas") poetry lines about circus horses and shouting freaks while Vangelis gently plonks down practically Velvet Underground-like repetitive piano lines.

Stylistically, 666 dunks the listener's head into a pretty eclectic kettle, primarily characterized by the psychedelic rock of the period. On the more mellow side of this lies "The Four Horsemen" and "Aegian Sea," resembling Pink Floyd during the Saucerful of Secrets - Meddle era, with Roussos' voice approximating a European Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon) on the former. However, the band also gets pretty electric. Guitarist Koulouris and drummer Sedaris particularly tear it up, if briefly, on "The Battle of the Locusts/Do It," and the band indulges in a side-long jam "All the Seats Were Occupied." "Altamont," on the second disc, is also a splendidly heavy track, pounding away like the hammer of Hephaestos. Indeed, it would have been great to hear Christian Vander and Jannick Top of Magma '76 get their hands on a groove such as this. Also represented are dalliances into ethnic folk (e.g., "The Seventh Seal," "The Marching Beast") and soul, albeit at least one instance of this ("The Beast") sounds inexorably like 70s porn music.

But what would any proper review of this album be without mention of its piece de resistance? Behold, the infamous "8," with guest vocals from famed Greek actress Irene Papas accompanied solely by improvised ritualistic percussion by Vangelis. This track was deemed blasphemous by parent label Mercury Records because of Papas' simulated orgasm, as she chants away cyclically "I was I am I am to come" with a level of fierce possession that gave Diamanda Galas a career. However, I am quite impressed with Papas' emotional abandon in delivering her alpha-omega mantra, constantly varying with astonishing creativity parameters of intonation, volume, rhythmic accentuation.

Speaking from the distance of impartiality, one would have to see 666 as essentially a charming timepiece. However, one can't help but champion the basic sense of musical freedom heard here and the playing is pretty solid. If nothing else, this is worth it just to hear the guy who wrote "Chariots of Fire" get in touch with his inner-psych-child and rock out. By Joe from Ground and sky
Tracks
1. The System — 0:23
2. Babylon — 2:47
3. Loud, Loud, Loud — 2:42
4. The Four Horsemen — 5:54
5. The Lamb — 4:33
6. The Seventh Seal — 1:30
7. Aegian Sea — 5:22
8. Seven Bowls — 1:29
9. The Wakening Beast — 1:11
10. Lament — 2:45
11. The Marching Beast — 2:00
12. The Battle of the Locusts — 0:56
13. Do It — 1:44
14. Tribulation — 0:32
15. The Beast — 2:26
16. Ofis — 0:14
17. Seven Trumpets — 0:35
18. Altamont — 4:33
19. The Wedding of the Lamb — 3:38
20. The Capture of the Beast — 2:17
21. 8 — 5:15
22. Hic and Nunc — 2:55
23. All the Seats Were Occupied — 19:19
24. Break — 2:58
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