Grecian master Vangelis means so much to me. I have been a fan of his Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire scores for a long time. In fact, his music has been a constant in my life in some form or another for many years. A couple years ago, I finally dove into his vast discography even more, and he has become one of the most important artists in my collection. He recently released a new album called “Nocturne” which has been my earworm for the last week. I am so glad to see him still at work.
“Nocturne” is an interesting release from this legend. It is seventeen tracks in length, eleven of which are new or unreleased. It has been dubbed “the piano album”, though you will hear synth, flute, and other accents on various tracks. It is definitely piano-forward, though. Honestly, to hear the piano musings of this legend is an honor for me, so I did not go into this album expecting a masterpiece, but instead an artist’s personal reflection on his life and career. This album is exactly that.
Now, I’ve seen some “fans” complaining that “every song sounds the same”, and I have some words for that complaint. How in the world do you become a fan of Vangelis when you don’t have an ear for melody? Each song on this album feels like Vangelis and emotes so well, but those not able to differentiate between piano melodies may have a difficult time. No, there is nothing as grand or as epic as some of his most famous works, but expecting that would be to miss the point of this release.
There is quite a bit of music to explore here, so let me split the songs into new and re-recorded. First up, the piano versions of some of Vangelis’ most iconic songs are quite good. Obviously, they aren’t “better”, but they are certainly more personal, almost like hearing Vangelis as he wrote them originally. It’s almost like we are getting a peek into Vangelis’ studio as he composes and brings to life his original masterpieces.
My favorite re-recording is definitely “Love Theme” from Blade Runner. It has beautiful synth in the background, and the piano melody captures the magic of the original. As a big fan of his “1492: Conquest of Paradise” score, that title track is another favorite, as well as the excellent rendition of “To the Unknown Man”. Another favorite would be “Movement Nine from Mythodea”. I actually haven’t heard that album, but this version is beautiful, light, and more varied than many of the other tracks here. I would say, however, that the “Main Theme” offering from Chariots of Fire is a bit weak, and some of the best parts of that song don’t make their way into this piano version, but I still enjoy it.
The brand new songs on display here are all beautiful. You may hear some themes in them that sound familiar, and I think that was the point. Some of the tracks seem like unused music from some of his iconic releases, while others seem like compilations of various popular songs.
“Longing” is an evocative track, and is apparently unused music from Blade Runner, so I obviously gravitated towards it. “Moonlight Reflections” and “Through the Night Mist” are both serene and tremendously poetic, and so I love those, too. “Early Years”, however, might be my favorite new release, as it sounds like a tour de force of Vangelis’ work without actually including instantly recognizable portions of those old songs.
Some of the songs just aren’t as strong. “Nocturnal Promenade” is a beautiful opener, but isn’t as emotive as “Moonlight Reflections” or “Through the Night Mist”. “To a Friend” has some memorable moments, but some of it seems to last a bit longer than necessary. Overall, though, I don’t really have a complaint about the new songs. They are lush and expertly performed, as expected.
Overall, “Nocturne” might not be for everyone. For huge Vangelis fans, this is a no-brainer in order to see this legend at work. For casual fans, especially of his more iconic songs, this might not be for you. And, honestly, I think that is the point. Vangelis released this as a nostalgic reflection on his career, but also as a thankful ode to his fans. This is for us, and I personally find it riveting.
Find Vangelis online:
1. Nocturnal Promenade *
2. To the Unknown Man from Spiral
3. Movement Nine from Mythodea
4. Moonlight reflections *
5. Through the Night Mist *
6. Early Years *
7. Love Theme from Blade Runner
8. Sweet Nostalgia *
9. Intermezzo *
10. To a Friend *
11. La Petite Fille de la Mer from Apocalypse des Animaux
12. Longing from Blade Runner *
13. Main Theme from Chariots of Fire
14. Unfulfilled Desire *
15. Lonesome *
16. Conquest of Paradise from 1492: Conquest of Paradise
17. Pour Melia *
*= brand new music, previously unreleased