Released in 1973, Earth is Vangelis' first real solo album. It was made in Paris after the release of 666 and the eventual dissolution of Aphrodite's Child, but before the epic decadence (nearly to Ken Russell levels) of Vangelis' 1975 effort Heaven and Hell. There's plenty at work on Earth, from the straightforward Euro-rock of the era, to progressive flourishes, to flashes of mysticism, and those ever-prominent synthesizers. So the record represents a moment in time, for sure -- Vangelis seems stuck between rock, pop, and an epic scope -- but for the same reason it's an intriguing, engaging listen, particularly for completists. Opener "Come On" is a lank-haired stomper -- it doesn't really go anywhere beyond Argiris Koulouris' blistering lead guitar work, but it's a fun two minutes. "We Were All Uprooted" switches gears radically. An eerie flute drifts through thunderclaps and sifting rainfall, and the percussion plods forebodingly; it has a primordial feel, like a soundtrack to man's discovery of bipedal movement. "We became a diaspora," a narrator says. "An unnamed nation of bastards." The shorter "City" is a street scene with a faraway chiming bell, while the equally brief "Ritual" offers ambitious, wordless vocal harmonies over a spare arrangement for electric piano and fantastically reverberating percussion. They're bridges on Earth for the weightier pieces, adding crucial continuity between the traditional feel of the harmonies and tables in "Sunny Earth" and the airy hopefulness and prettily shimmering synthesizers of "My Face in the Rain" ("I'm happy/And that's all I know"). Other Earth highlights include "Let It Happen," which fuses the psychedelic rock of the 1970's Aphrodite's Child LP It's Five O'Clock with Vangelis' expressive synth work, and the closing suite, "Watch Out" and "Song," where progressive tendencies meet amidst classical piano, stargazing keyboards, and the return of the "Uprooted" narrator's flowery poetics. Earth's stylistic melting pot means it's not always effective. But its creative drive can't be faulted, and Vangelis consistently favors melody over melodrama. ~ Johnny Loftus
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