Aphrodite’s Child: 666 (1972)
Aphrodite’s Child was a rock band from Greece who came to France in 1968 during the Paris student riots and couldn’t return back to Greece. By far the best known member of Aphrodite’s Child is none other than Vangelis, the same guy who later became a big name in electronic music with albums like L’Apocalypse Des Animaux (1973), Heaven & Hell (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976), China (1979), and of course, Chariots of Fire (1981). The other well known member of the band was vocalist and bassist Demis Roussos, who later made a career of himself as an MOR singer (in other words, his solo efforts are apparently not worth wasting your time).
The band already released two albums in the late 1960s: End of the World/Rain and Tears (1968) and It’s Five O’Clock (1969). More or less, those albums are rather unremarkable pop. But their third album, 666, a double album set, recorded in 1970, but not released until 1972 because the record label didn’t like the content, is a vast improvement over those two albums, and is simply one of the greatest prog rock albums I have ever heard!
It’s a concept album about the end of the world according to the Book of Revelations. The music is a truly amazing combination of prog, psych, and even ethnic Greek influences. The album starts off with “The System” in which you hear a crowd that keeps going, “We got the system to fuck the system” over and over before the music starts kicking in with the next cut, “Babylon”. “Loud, Loud, Loud” is basically a piano-oriented piece with a 12 year old son of a Greek diplomat doing the narration.
“The Lamb” is a an excellent all-instrumental piece with a strong Greek influences, in which I’m pretty sure bazouki is used, as well as some primitive early synthesizer and clavinet.
“The Seventh Seal” is another piece with narration, apparently done by non-member John Forst (as well as all the other songs with narrations, except for “Loud, Loud, Loud”). One familiar line in that song is “And when The Lamb opened the Seventh Seal, silence covered the sky” was also used by Enigma on “The Rivers of Belief” off their 1990 album MCMXC a.D.
“Aegean Sea” another great instrumental song with more great, exotic Greek influences with prog rock. “Seven Bowls” is another strange piece with the sound of a crowd chanting “First bowl on the Earth, The Second Bowl on the Sea, The Third Bowl on the Rivers, The Fourth Bowl on the Sun, The Fifth Bowl on the Beast, The Sixth Bowl on the Stars, The Seventh Bowl on the Air”. This whole cut was used by Enigma once again, on MCMXC a.D. on their song “The Voice and the Snake” (the only way you can tell the difference is Enigma’s version uses a ton of digital synthesizers in the background as you expect in a 1990 recording, and the original Aphrodite’s Child version, of course, doesn’t since digital synths did not exist in 1970).
A few, strange, short experimental pieces are next, before coming to the ever catchy, “The Beast”, before ending with “Ofis” which is basically a voice shouting something in Greek.
The second disc starts off with several pieces that segue in to each other, starting with “Seven Trumpets” which features a shouting voice (again) with some more great instrumental cuts like “Altamont” with two strange experimental cuts like “The Wedding of the Lamb” and “The Capture of the Beast”.
But the most disturbing piece on the whole album simply goes by an infinity symbol. It’s all strictly done by actress Irene Papas (who released some albums of her own as well, including an album called Odes in 1979 with Vangelis helping out) and it sounds exactly like she’s having a very bad orgasm. That cut alone, disturbed the band’s record label and that’s why it took so long for the album to be released.
The next cut is a totally killer all-instrumental 19:19 minute long jam called “All the Seats Were Occupied” in which you hear many excepts from the various cuts on the album while the band jams. The closing song, “Break” is appropriately very tranquil and mild, a great way to close the album after what you had to go thorough with all the noise and racket of the the previous cut.
Some people are a bit afraid to buy Aphrodite’s Child’s 666, since the album cover is red with the numbers “666” proudly displayed on the cover (with a bible quote from the Apocalypse of John), but don’t be afraid, after all, if the thought of prog/psych and ethnic Greek influences sounds great to you, then you should give this album a try.
– Year of release: 1972
– Vangelis Papathanassiou: keyboards
– Demi Roussos: lead vocals, bass
– Lucas Sideras: drums
– Silver Koulouris: guitar
– Harris Halkitis: bass, tenor sax, conga drums, backing vocal
– Michel Ripoche: trombone, tenor sax on Babylon and Here and Now
– John Forst: Narration
– Yannis Tsarouchis: Greek text
– Irene Papas: disturbing voice on the infinity symbol cut
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