Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images
10 Essential Vangelis Albums: Remembering The Electronic Music Pioneer
Greek musician and composer Vangelis Papathanassíou died on May 17 at age 79, leaving behind a substantial body of work. GRAMMY.com details 10 of his essential albums.
The death of Vangelis Papathanassíou at age 79 has left an irreplaceable void in electronic music. A pioneer in the use of synthesizers and the art of conceptual albums in the ‘70s, Vangelis experienced mainstream success as a soundtrack composer in the ‘80s and spent the remaining decades of his life following his muse.
Vangelis lived between Athens, London and Paris. He performed very few concerts, had a distaste for interviews and was an acclaimed painter in his free time. From his decades-long career, Vangelis left behind a prodigious body of work. Here are 10 essential albums that trace his extraordinary musicianship.
Aphrodite’s Child - 666 (1972)
Before becoming an electronica icon, Vangelis was — briefly — a European rock star. Together with future pop idol Demis Roussos, Vangelis was a founding member and principal composer of Greek progressive rock outfit Aphrodite’s Child.
The group’s third and final album, 666, was based on the Book of Revelations. Its dense fusion of prog with psychedelia and bluesy instrumental workouts sounds a bit dated, but this sprawling double-LP underscores Vangelis’ natural inclination towards ambitious, genre-defying epics.
Albedo 0.39 (1976)
Vangelis spent most of the ‘70s developing his now-trademark sound through a variety of albums that explore themes in subtle and abstract ways — including Chinese aesthetics and Tao spiritualism, to the architecture of the Parisian Beaubourg cultural center.
Besides refining the specific synth palette of his choice, he expanded the compositional device of repeating melodic patterns and building lush crescendos around them. From the euphoric bravado of opening cut "Pulstar" to the capricious beauty of "Alpha," Albedo 0.39 makes a case for the ‘70s signaling the apex of electronic music.
A collaboration with iconic Greek actress Irene Papas, Odes is pompous at times — the ponderous percussion, the heavy reverb — but the session gets extra points for honoring the composer’s Greek roots. Vangelis sets a number of traditional folk tunes (and two originals) to electronics, and Papas' solemn, chant-like vocals evoke the ritualistic vibe of a Greek tragedy performed at an ancient amphitheater.
An abstract album, filled with ethereal passages that reward repeated listens. It was a huge hit in Greece, inspiring the pair to collaborate again on 1986’s Rhapsodies.
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Chariots of Fire represents an apex of Vangelis’ career — the moment when the personal sound that he spent a long decade developing became a subgenre of its own, recognized and cherished for decades to come.
The Oscar-winning soundtrack to Hugh Hudson’s soaring sports drama opens with a stunning theme that combines Vangelis’ passion for otherworldly sounds, sequencers and classical melodies. The soundtrack briefly topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982. Because the film is set in 1920s Europe, the music’s combination of futurism with retro elegance was a perfect fit.
The Friends of Mister Cairo (1981)
In 1974, Vangelis auditioned to replace Rick Wakeman in Yes, but eventually decided not to join. His friendship with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, however, resulted in a partnership that produced four albums between 1980 and 1991.
The Friends of Mr. Cairo is the most deeply satisfying of their collaboration, showcasing what Anderson described as an almost magical compositional process based on intuition. From the hit single "I’ll Find My Way Home" to the epic, 12-minute title track, the songs are alternately quirky and humorous, deeply affecting and nostalgic. Anderson sounds full of joy, freed from the constraints of a supergroup.
Soil Festivities (1984)
This five movement symphony may well be its creator’s ultimate masterpiece. It begins with a thunderstorm, the comforting sound of rain falling on fertile ground, punctuated by rhythmic keyboard patterns and playful melodies. The music mutates and grows, describing the processes taking place on the surface of the natural world.
At the time of its release, no other record sounded like it. It was pastoral and self-assured, expanding the boundaries of electronica.
Only a year after Soil Festivities — and clearly on a creative high — Vangelis released this stunning choral work in six movements. The vague conceptual threadline touches on man’s use of mask through history.
Much darker than its predecessor, this is a difficult, brooding and temperamental piece, with tribal percussion and classical singing in a made-up language reminiscent of Latin. Mask is probably Vangelis' most intense album.
Blade Runner (1994)
If the mood of Chariots of Fire was all about the noble exertions of gentlemen sportsmen, the music that Vangelis wrote for Ridley Scott’s visionary 1982 film Blade Runner used similar compositional devices at the service of a mournful sci-fi love story.
The velvety "Love Theme," with Dick Morissey’s sax, captures the zeitgeist of '80s romance at its moody best. Even more than Chariots, this soundtrack complemented the filmic narrative in multiple ways — in fact, it is impossible to remember the movie experience without humming the music. Strangely, its release was delayed until 1994.
Inspired by a video conversation he shared with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, Rosetta delves into Vangelis’ lifelong obsession with space travel. His unique style is instantly recognizable, but the compositions sound more serene and expansive. The album was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best New Age Album category.
Nocturne – The Piano Album (2019)
This 2019 session finds the composer sitting down at the piano for some atmospheric new tracks with occasional brushes of synth. Pressured by the record company, Vangelis acquiesced to revisit a few greatest hits, including the meditative "Chariots of Fire," a heart-wrenching take on Blade Runner’s "Love Theme," and one of his early standards: "La petite fille de la mer," from the 1973 documentary L’Apocalypse des animaux.
A gorgeous record, it completes the maestro’s discography in novel, meaningful ways.
GRAMMY Rewind: 25th Annual GRAMMY Awards
Toto wins Album and Record Of The Year against these nominees
(For a list of 54th GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)
Music's Biggest Night, the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards, will air live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
In the weeks leading up to the telecast, we will take a stroll down music memory lane with GRAMMY Rewind, highlighting the "big four" categories — Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist — from past awards shows. In the process, we'll examine the winners and the nominees who just missed taking home a GRAMMY, while also shining a light on the artists' careers and the eras in which the recordings were born.
Join us as we take an abbreviated journey through the trajectory of pop music from the 1st Annual GRAMMY Awards in 1959 to last year's 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards.
25th Annual GRAMMY Awards
Feb. 23, 1983
Album Of The Year
Winner: Toto, Toto IV
John Cougar, American Fool
Donald Fagen, The Nightfly
Billy Joel, The Nylon Curtain
Paul McCartney, Tug Of War
Toto IV, which featured such well-crafted hits as "Rosanna" and "Africa," took Album Of The Year honors over a strong field. McCartney and Fagen received their first nominations in this category as solo artists. McCartney had previously won in the category with the Beatles and had been nominated with his subsequent group Paul McCartney And Wings. Fagen had previously been nominated with Steely Dan. Joel, who won the award three years earlier for 52nd Street, was back in the finals with The Nylon Curtain. John Mellencamp (then known as John Cougar) rounded out the field with American Fool, the album that made him a star. It spawned the hits "Hurts So Good," which won a GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male; and "Jack & Diane," Mellencamp's lone No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single.
Record Of The Year
Winner: Toto, "Rosanna"
Joe Jackson, "Steppin' Out"
Paul McCartney And Stevie Wonder, "Ebony And Ivory"
Willie Nelson, "Always On My Mind"
Vangelis, "Chariots Of Fire"
Toto took honors for "Rosanna," which made them the first group or duo to win Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year in the same year since Simon & Garfunkel achieved the feat 12 years earlier. McCartney and Wonder were nominated for their glossy brotherhood anthem "Ebony And Ivory." Wonder had previously been nominated in the category for "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life." This was McCartney's first nomination in the category since the Beatles ("I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be" were all Record Of The Year contenders). Vangelis' "Chariots Of Fire" was the first instrumental movie theme to be nominated for Record Of The Year since Isaac Hayes' 1971 classic "Theme From Shaft." Nelson, cited for "Always On My Mind," was the first country artist to be nominated in the category since Kenny Rogers, who received nods in 1979 and 1980 for "The Gambler" and "Lady," respectively. (The song won Nelson a GRAMMY for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.) Jackson rounded out the field with his stylish "Steppin' Out," which broke the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982.
Song Of The Year
Winner: Willie Nelson, "Always On My Mind"
Donald Fagen, "I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)"
Paul McCartney And Stevie Wonder, "Ebony & Ivory"
Survivor, "Eye Of The Tiger"
"Always On My Mind" (written by Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson) became the first song to win both Song Of The Year and Best Country Song since Bobby Russell's "Little Green Apples" took both awards in 1968. McCartney, who won Song Of The Year with John Lennon for "Michelle" in 1966, was nominated for "Ebony And Ivory." "I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World)" marked the first Song Of The Year award for Fagen. The other two nominated songs were written by members of the groups that made them hits: "Eye Of The Tiger," written by Survivor's Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik;; and "Rosanna," written by Toto's David Paich. Featured in the hit movie Rocky III, "Eye Of The Tiger" won Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals honors and was also nominated for an Academy Award.
Best New Artist
Winner: Men At Work
Australia's Men At Work, who topped the Billboard Hot 100 with their hits "Who Can It Be Now?" and "Down Under," took the award for Best New Artist. Asia, comprising former members of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and Yes, was also nominated. Asia's chart-topping debut album spawned the hits "Heat Of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell." The field also included Human League, an English group who topped the chart with "Don't You Want Me"; Stray Cats, a rockabilly trio from New York who scored such hits as "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut"; and Holliday, who became the toast of Broadway (and won a Tony Award for best actress in a musical) with her performance in "Dreamgirls." She won a GRAMMY for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for her performance of the musical's signature song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
Come back to GRAMMY.com Jan. 24 as we revisit the 30th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Meanwhile, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Facebook and Twitter for updates and breaking GRAMMY news.
Photo (L-R): Ria Mort, Thanos Poulimenos
Global Spin: Katerine Duska And Leon Of Athens Premiere "Babel," A Bilingual Tale Of A Love Lost In Translation
Frequent songwriting partners Katerine Duska and Leon Of Athens grapple with a relationship full of miscommunication in this emotional duet, which they debut with a powerful Global Spin performance.
"Can I love you a little more clearly?" Katerine Duska and Leon of Athens sing in the emotional chorus of their new song, "Babel." "Can we get it right? Can we talk another night away?"
In this episode of Global Spin, the two pop singers — and frequent songwriting partners — effortlessly trade off between Greek and English in a compelling performance. But as beautiful as the bilingual, harmony-driven duet may be, "Babel" chronicles a fraught relationship where, ultimately, the love gets lost in translation.
"Babel" brings the two lovers back to where they started: Frustrated and failing to see eye to eye, but still invested in one another. That narrative pairs with an equally passionate, string-filled sonic backdrop in this song, which Duska and Leon of Athens premiere on Global Spin.
The song's visual component further underscores its message. Duska and Leon of Athens perform the song from a bed, surrounded by candles and rippling water. As they wrestle through their disagreements — both lyrically and physically — the two artists make an attempt to find tenderness, but their best efforts dissolve into frustration and disconnection.
The bilingual duo have co-written several times in the past, and they're no strangers to performing together, either. Their first duet, "ANEMOS," came out in 2019; a year later, the pair released another collaboration, "Communication."
Press play on the video above to get a first look at the latest collaboration between Katerine Duska and Leon of Athens, and keep checking GRAMMY.com every Tuesday for more new episodes of Global Spin.
Photo: Matteo Vincenzo (right)
Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Akon And Teemanay's Favorite Tour Meal Is So Iconic That It Has Its Own Festival
Over plates of Nigerian jollof rice, global superstar Akon and Afrobeats mainstay Teemanay explain the finer points of this staple West African dish — which is also their staple meal on the road.
When it comes to music, R&B giant Akon and rising Afrobeats star Teemanay (aka Young Icon) have a lot in common. Not only are they both from West Africa — Akon's family roots are in Senegal, while Teemanay hails from Nigeria – but the two teamed up on the four-song EP Konvict Kulture Presents Teemanay, which came out on Akon's label earlier this year.
The two acts have similar tastes when it comes to food, too — though they might disagree on the finer points. Jollof rice, a staple throughout West Africa, is a dish that both artists grew up loving, even though they hail from different countries within the region.
"For a meal, if they have jollof rice for me, I will give them an extra 15 minutes of free performance," Teemanay jokes in the newest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.
"So the rice is actually smoked, almost like when you cook barbeque," Akon details, explaining what it is that makes this particular dish so special. "When you look at jollof, it ranks in the top five of those things you just can't forget. It's a part of the meal, every meal."
The dish is so essential that Akon hosts an annual Jollof, Music & Food Festival in Atlanta, which features a lineup of music and food trucks. But the pinnacle of the event is the jollof cook-off, in which recipes from different countries compete to see which region creates the best version of the dish.
"This year, Senegal won. But we kinda expect that, because Senegal is really the creators of jollof rice," Akon proudly explains, as Teemanay shakes his head in disagreement.
"I'm in a very aggressive, fighting mood right now," Teemanay shoots back with a smirk. "Nigerian jollof is the best jollof in the world."
Whichever regional version they prefer, Akon and Teemanay can agree on one thing: There's no better post-show meal or tour bus snack out there than jollof rice.
Press play on the video above to watch the two stars duke it out over their favorite jollof, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.
Photo: Suriyawut Suriya / EyeEm via Getty Images
9 Organizations Helping Music Makers In Need: MusiCares, The GRAMMY Museum & Others
Are you in a position to donate to musicians in a state of financial or personal crisis on this GivingTuesday? Check out these nine charitable organizations — beneath the Recording Academy umbrella and otherwise.
Imagine a world where care and concern is distributed in a holistic circuit, rather than being hoarded away or never employed at all. That's the paradigm that GivingTuesday is reaching toward.
Created in 2012 under the simple precept of being generous and celebrating generosity, GivingTuesday is a practical hub for getting involved in one's community and giving as freely to benefit and nourish others.
Since GivingTuesday has swelled not just from a single day in the calendar year, but a lens through which to view the other 364 days. You can find your local GivingTuesday network here, find ways to participate here, and find ways to join GivingTuesday events here.
Where does the Recording Academy come in? Helping musicians in need isn't something they do on the side, an afterthought while they hand out awards.
No, aiding music people is at the core of the Academy's mission. MusiCares, the Academy's philanthropic arm, has changed innumerable lives for the better.
And through this society of music professionals and its other major components — including Advocacy, the GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY U — the Academy continues its fight in legislative and educational forms.
If you're willing and able to help musicians in need this GivingTuesday, here's a helpful hub of nine charitable organizations with whom you can do so.
Any list of orgs that aid musicians would be remiss to not include MusiCares.
Through the generosity of donors and volunteer professionals, this organization of committed service members has been able to aid struggling music people in three key areas: mental health and addiction recovery services, health services, and human services.
"Museum" might be right there in the name, but there's a lot more to this precious sector of the Recording Academy.
The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles doesn't just put on immersive exhibits that honor the legacies of musical giants; it's a hub for music education.
At press time, more than 20,000 students have visited the Museum, more than 10,000 students have participated in the Museum's Clive Davis theater, and 20,000 students have participated in their GRAMMY Camp weekends.
By now, the evidence is ironclad: Giving incarcerated people access to music and art dramatically increases morale and decreases recidivism.
Give a Beat is keenly aware of this, both on direct-impact and mentorship levels.
The org hosts classes for incarcerated people, in order for them to "find healing, transformation, and empowerment" through its Prison Electronic Music Program, which helps incarcerated folks wade deep into the fields of music production and DJing.
Despite being at the heart of American musical expression, jazz, blues and roots can sometimes feel roped off on the sidelines of the music industry — and its practitioners can slip between society's cracks.
That's where the Jazz Foundation of America comes in. They aid musicians struggling to hang onto their homes, connect physicians and specialists with uninsured artists and help musicians get back on their feet after life-upending natural disasters.
Headquartered in Memphis, the Blues Foundation aims to preserve the history and heritage of the blues — which lies at the heart of all American forms. This goes not only for irreplaceable sites and artifacts, but the living, breathing people who continue to make it.
The Blues Foundation offers educational outreach, providing scholarships to youth performers to attend summer blues camps and workshops.
On top of that, in the early 2000s, they created the HART Fund to offer financial support to musicians in need of medical, dental, and vision care.
And for blues artists who have passed on, the HART Fund diverts money to their families to ensure their loved ones would be guaranteed dignified funerals.
Founded all the way back when World War I broke out, the Musicians Foundation has spent more than a century cutting checks to musicians in times of need.
This includes financial grants to cover basic expenses, like medical and dental treatments, rents and mortgages and utilities. Submitted grant applications are reviewed by their staff and a screening committee. If approved, the money is dispatched rapidly and directly to the debtor to relieve financial pressure as soon as possible.
The Musicians Foundation's philanthropic legacy is enshrined in Century of Giving, a comprehensive analysis of financial aid granted to musicians and their families by the Foundation since 1914.
Based in North Carolina, the Music Maker Foundation tends to the day-to-day needs of American roots artists — helping them negotiate crises so they can "keep roofs over their heads, food on their tables, [and] instruments in their hands."
This relief comes in the forms of basic sustenance, resources performance (like booking venues and providing CDs to sell) and spreading education about their contributions to the American roots canon.
When music people are in danger, this charitable organization sees no barriers of genre, region or nature of crisis.
If you're a musician suffering from physical, mental or financial hardship — whether it be due to a disability, an affliction like cancer, or anything else — Sweet Relief has got your back.
For any and all further information, visit their website.
The Recording Academy's concern and consideration for music people hardly stops at musicians — they're here to support all music people.
They share this operating principle with Music Workers Alliance, which tirelessly labors to ensure music people are treated like they matter — and are fairly remunerated for their efforts.
This takes many forms, like fighting for music workers at the federal, state and city level for access to benefits and fair protections, and ensuring economic justice and fair working conditions.
Music Workers Alliance also fights for economic justice on the digital plane, and aims to provide equal access for people of color and other underrepresented groups in the industry.