APHRODITE'S CHILD: IT'S FIVE O'CLOCK (1969)
1) It's Five O'Clock; 2) Wake Up; 3) Take Your Time; 4) Annabella; 5) Let Me Love, Let Me Live; 6) Funky Mary; 7) Good Times So Fine; 8) Marie Jolie; 9) Such A Funny Night.
With End Of The World turning into a modest commercial success, the band wasted little time to follow it up with a sequel rehashing the same formula. The good news is, the formula was so wild and utterly «permissive» in the first place, It's Five O'Clock somehow manages to come out just as strong as, and maybe even more strong, than its predecessor. And even though the band is noticeably straying even farther away from their East European roots, the resulting sound seems more credible and less prone to ridiculing than whatever preceded it.
The title track, another impressive hit single on the continent, is a loyal successor to ʽRain And Tearsʼ and ʽEnd Of The Worldʼ: for this one, Vangelis attaches Roussos' pop vocals to a baroque organ melody, then throws in a bunch of extra keyboards (including an early Moog synth part, I'd guess) to build up tension — another good example of how it is always possible to turn schmaltz into epic, psycho-hip romanticism when you choose your sounds carefully. It does not work quite as well on the record's two other ballads, ʽAnnabellaʼ and ʽMarie Jolieʼ, on both of which Demis' weeping vocals win over the instrumentation, so that both songs really only work well if you are prepared to weep along with the weeper (not an option for me). But even there, Vangelis' credentials as a «soundscaper» are growing impressively, with guitars, Mellotrons, nature sound effects, and other tiny bits combining into evocative pictures.
Elsewhere, the band tries its hand at various forms of folk-rock and country-rock: clearly, Vangelis and friends did not lose sight of the «roots-rock revolution» of 1968-69, and so ʽWake Upʼ and ʽTake Your Timeʼ take their cues from The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas & Papas rather than Italian pop or psychedelia. There is no pretense here, and both tunes, want it or not, are insanely catchy: had they been placed on albums by the abovementioned artists, they would have been praised as good-to-great tunes without raising any controversy. (For experiment's sake, you might want to play them to an unsuspecting friend and ask for a clean-slate opinion).
The R'n'B-pop hybrid of ʽGood Times So Fineʼ (whose bridge section almost sounds like a Monkees tune, with Roussos' vocals raised in a Micky Dolenz-kind-of nasal whine) and the friendly, carnivalesque acoustic guitar figures of ʽSuch A Funny Nightʼ are cutesy as well. But the album's most ambitious, risky, and future-predicting cuts are probably ʽLet Me Love, Let Me Liveʼ and ʽFunky Maryʼ: the former embraces noisy psychedelia in its instrumental passages, while the latter is a noisy, jarring psychedelic jam all by itself, with an almost «tribal» set of percussion overdubs, beneath which Vangelis is running from free-jazz chimes to barroom tack piano and back again. It is wild, weird, unasked for, and fairly challenging for a regular art-pop band aiming at commercial success, even back in 1969.
If there is any real «progression» here, it just means correctly following the times: End Of The World went heavy on psychedelic techniques that were en vogue in 1967 (sitars, drones, etc.), whereas It's Five O'Clock seems less dependent on momentary trends, and takes a small step forward in helping Vangelis find his personal vision. But none of that matters as much as simply admitting that there is a bunch of excellent art-pop songs written here, and that they do not at all sound nearly as dated today as the total oblivion, in which this album has sunk, would have you believe. In fact, with retro-oriented art-pop being one of the leading styles of «intellectual music» today, they are probably less dated now than they were two decades ago. So, with a little help from my thumbs up, just go look for it if it isn't in your collection already.
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