From the Vault...


"Albedo 0.39"

© RCA Records

Year of Release: 1976

track listing
  • Pulstar
  • Freefall
  • Mare Tranquillitatis
  • Main Sequence
  • Sword Of Orion
  • Alpha
  • Nucleogenesis (Part One)
  • Nucleogenesis (Part Two)
  • Albedo 0.39

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    "Albedo 0.39"

    Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou -- If this name doesn't mean anything, then it's quite obvious. This Greek musician is better known as the man behind the music of the 1981 movie Chariots Of Fire, Vangelis (taken from his first name, Evangelos). What was interesting to learn before the success of this Oscar winning movie, was that he was recommended to replace keyboardist Rick Wakeman in the band Yes. After auditions with Vangelis, he decided not to join, but however remained friends with Yes' lead vocalist, Jon Anderson. The two of them recorded albums as a duo. Ironically, both Wakeman's solo works and Vangelis' music have a very close relation.

    By the mid-1970s, Vangelis had signed with RCA, and began works on electronic albums. His first was 1975's Heaven And Hell, followed a year later with this week's Album Pick of the Week, Albedo 0.39.

    Taken from Vangelis' Wikipedia page, and Wikipedia's Albedo 0.39 page:
    Albedo 0.39 was a concept album around space and space physics. It was the second album produced in Nemo Studios, London, which was his creative base until the late 1980s. (Heaven And Hell; 1975 was released previously). Heaven and Hell was classically inspired and choral, while Albedo 0.39 has blues and jazz overtones. The album title refers to the average albedo value of the planet Earth as it was in 1976. From the explanation on the back of the LP cover : "The reflecting power of a planet or other non-luminous body. A perfect reflector would have an Albedo of 100%. The Earth's Albedo is 39%, or 0.39".

    This album is basically a soundtrack. The opening track, Pulstar was considered the "hit" from this album. Synhesizer PULsing beats with STARs, this track definitely has a sports theme atmosphere. In fact, it was used for a BBC children's program, Horses Galore, and was used for ESPN's SportsCenter. Some TV stations used this song as theme music. "Freefall" is very peaceful, relaxing. "Mere Tranquillitatis" sounds like from a space odysey, as the song was actually based on Apollo moon landings. "Main Sequence" is haunting, easily heard from a horror picture soundtrack. "Sword of Orion" also has an eerie effect, especially towards the end, as it sounds like "spaceship martians."

    "Alpha" has another theme opening atmosphere. It's beginnings are quiet, then kicks in as a good background music source. Very Rick Wakeman-ish. Another Wakeman comparison is the Nucleogenesis suite. The church organ, and synthesizers (often used by Wakeman also), creates a progressive rock feel, just as this type of music is no stranger to Wakeman, whether he was with the rock band Yes, and more importantly, on his own solo works. Part One has the theatrical progressive rock style, where Part Two is more rapid, fast, progressive rock. The title track is very powerful, easily seeing what would become later in the 1980s, with Chariots Of Fire. The ending spoken word narration was uncredited, but was learned that it was the voice of Vangelis' sound engineer, Keith Spencer-Allen.

    Set as a basic (movie) soundtrack, opening theme music for various radio/television shows, and an easy comparison to the great solo works of Rick Wakeman, Vangelis' Albedo 0.39 is theatrical, powerful, and different to that of common rock albums. It's easy to see how Vangelis would have easily fit as the rock band Yes replacement keyboardist for Rick Wakeman. As for movie soundtracks, Vangelis would later achieve great success with the soundtracks for Chariots Of Fire (1981), Blade Runner (1982), 1492: Conquest Of Paradise (1992). Other works include 7 albums with Yes' lead singer, Jon Anderson, as Jon & Vangelis, the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. His most recent work was in the 2000s decade, working with NASA, and a 3-CD set relating to the 25th anniversary of Blade Runner.

    Albedo 0.39 is experimental, it is powerful, it is different than most rock albums. Electronic music was heavily used, and instrumentally done well. It's no doubt Vangelis is talented for providing "theme music" and for movie soundtracks. For music-in-the-background for working, this one is good for that setting. Enjoying listening with headphones also would be a good use for this album as well.

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