I have my late great-grandfather George to thank for this one, as he introduced me to the music of Vangelis at a very young age. I kept some of the cassette tapes he made for me until only a few years ago (purged in the last move, as I no longer even own a cassette deck).
Mind you, Grandpa George is also the man who insisted that cassette tape was vastly superior in audio fidelity to compact discs. But never mind that.
What is it?
Direct is the 1988 album release by the musician who (usually) goes by just the one name, Vangelis. He’s the guy responsible for the theme to Chariots of Fire, which is still a visual meme all these years later, referenced by people who’ve never seen that movie but automatically use part of that song set to a slow-motion scene of people running and everyone laughs.
How does it sound?
Like a stack of synthesizers and stuff, really:
Why this pick?
Good question. Direct is not the best known, the most highly regarded, or the most iconic of Vangelis’ works.
In a way, though, this is “my” Vangelis record. It was the first one I came to without Grandpa George’s opinion influencing my reaction to it. It’s definitely much more keyed into my electronica/techno enjoyment mode than Vangelis’ more classic works. It’s accessible in a way that, say, Mask or Opera Sauvage or Spiral or Albedo 0.39 (all excellent albums in their own way, mind you) aren’t.
Think of it as a gateway album. If Direct appeals to you, I can recommend further exploration of the Vangelis catalog.
Which songs are the highlights?
As this is a (mostly) instrumental album, it’s hard to explain why some songs stand out above the rest, so here’s a quick list of my favorites: “The Will of the Wind” certainly, followed by “Metallic Rain.” “Dial Out” as well. “Rotation’s Logic,” too.
I like “The Motion of Stars,” “Elsewhere,” and “The Oracle of Apollo” somewhat less but they’re still notable.
Which songs don’t work so well?
When you’re dealing with an instrumentalist, you get the occasional snoozer. Sometimes when you’re dealing with an instrumentalist, that snoozer shows up when they decide to involve a vocalist. “Glorianna (Hymn a la Femme)” with its pseudo-operatic style really, really doesn’t work.
“Message” mostly works but it’s bookended by the murmurings of a small child, which comes off as more “creepypasta” than it does “endearing” or “adorable.” The closing track, “Intergalactic Radio Station,” mostly works but there’s a spoken voiceover bit toward the end which is distracting and annoying.
“First Approach” is just dull, sadly.
Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?
The other record I considered is the 1977 release, Spiral. It’s only five tracks long but given that “Dervish D.” is by far the shortest of the songs at just over five minutes, the 40-minute total run time isn’t that much of a ripoff. The problem with Spiral, as with most Vangelis records of the time, is that they don’t really support the format of this project. I use bits of five songs on a record to make the sampler mix. That’s all of Spiral! That, and it’s hard to talk about one track on a lot of Vangelis records separate from the rest, as they tend to be of a type and theme.
It’s very artsy stuff, is what I’m saying.
Any final thoughts?
It’s almost certainly due to my early introduction to Vangelis that I ended up getting into several “one man in a studio with a lot of toys” artists, such as Jan Hammer’s soundtrack work and BT’s artsier stuff. (I won’t repeat my father’s alliterative verdict on Vangelis here as it’s a bit crass; suffice to say that he believes music should be made by bands in a proper studio, not by guys in small rooms of electronic toys all by themselves.)