Friday, 30 July 2010

Aphrodite's Child

Thanks yet again to a generous donation, I have been listening to the recorded output of Aphrodite's Child, the Greek pop group that enjoyed some impact over here. Formed in 1967 and consisting of Vangelis Papathanassiou on keyboards, Demis Roussos on bass and vocals and Loukas Sideras on drums and vocals they released 3 lps and a bunch of singles.

First lp The End of the World (1968) has some great stuff on it, parts of which are heavily psychedelic; second offering It's Five O'Clock is a real ragbag of styles, with a couple of ballads which showed the way that Roussos would go by the mid-70s. The third and final lp 666 is a remarkable piece of work that would be diffcult to extrapolate from what had come before. Based on the Revelations of St John this double lp is packed with unusual ideas and great playing -it benefits greatly from the dexterous guitar work of Anargyros 'Silver' Koulouris.

666 represents a break from their earlier pop career and a bold move into 'progressive rock' territory. However, even for a prog rock lp it's adventurous: one track represented by the symbol for infinity and 'sung' by Irene Papas as a frantic sexually climactic mantra would give Diamanda Galas a run for her money - definitely one of those 'weird out your friends' or 'clear the room at parties' pieces. 666's music is by Vangelis and utilises a lot of early electronic keyboards together with traditional Greek instruments which add some beautifully atmospheric touches.

What I found amusing when reading about 666 online was that Mercury Records found the contents of the record offensive (especially the 'infinity' track) resulting in it not being finally released until 1972, many months after it had been recorded. Also, apparently, some purchasers interpreted the statement on the sleeve stating that 'This album was recorded under the influence of sahlep' to mean that the band were drug addicts or part of some satanic cult. Sahlep is in fact a beverage made from sahlep flour; it was popular over here in the early days of the coffee houses when it was known as 'saloop' (see my London's Coffee Houses book).

They split after the release of 666 - Vangelis going on to huge success with soundtracks and records with Jon Anderson and Demis Roussos enjoying equally 'huge' success with a string of chart topping ballads in the mid-70s. At the time of his much-derided presence in the charts and music press I can remember nothing being mentioned about his previous band which had been so much more musically interesting.

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