The box-set Delectus arrived on Friday. I booked the day off work, how sad was that- but then again, box sets of Vangelis remasters don’t arrive often. Collecting the Vertigo and Polydor albums from 1973 – 1985, it comprises most of Vangelis’ Nemo Studios work other than unreleased soundtracks, the RCA albums and a few odds and ends (his Irene Papas collaborations on Polydor were remastered and released a few years ago). Thirteen albums and still several albums from that period not included- Vangelis was certainly prolific back then. Akin to a fire of creativity and experimentation, that period at Nemo was his prime, no question.
I have to say that this box set is more substantial than I expected. The packaging is excellent and oozes quality. The discs are held in two gatefold cardboard sleeves the size of regular albums from the good old vinyl days, and the hardback book is 100 pages long, full of rare/previously unseen photographs of Vangelis and notes for each album. Each of the thirteen albums has its artwork reprinted on a full page opposite recording/production notes, which is a nice touch as its pretty much a full-lp sized reproduction of the cover art sparking all sorts of memories. Those photographs of Vangelis are quite extraordinary in places, rare insight into him working during that period and glimpses of that fabled Nemo Studios. How I would love to step into a time machine and go back and visit that place, during 1978 or 1979.
Of course, the biggest question is regards the remastering, as some of that remastering back around 2007 for the RCA albums proved problematic. Thankfully Delectus seems to comprise of remasters dating more recently, as I feared as Vangelis had remastered all his back-catalogue back in 2007 for release we’d just get those. I may be wrong, but these do appear to be different. I haven’t heard many of the remastered albums yet, but they do seem to be fine. Maybe a bit of the inevitable reverb has been overcooked in a few places but that comes to personal preference- I’ve heard Earth and the reverb there seems to work. Its a case of Vangelis feeling the albums should sound different for today’s audiences, something purists cry foul at, but its his music I guess. Maybe a little more of an issue is a bit of editing- a track on See You Later has had a final word (“obviously”- if you know it you’ll know what track I’m referring to) cut out, and the first movement of Soil Festivities has had almost a minute of closing ambient rain/thunder effects cut.
This particular cut is a little curious but I think it is a matter of changing formats. Back when Soil was released it was on lp, and the first movement comprised the whole of side A. There was a natural break in the listening experience as the listener turned the disc over for side B, and the lengthy fade out eased into this. On CD or mp3, no such changeover is required and the listening experience flows immediately from movement one to movement two, so I imagine Vangelis felt there was no need for the long fade anymore.
I remember listening to Soil Festivities for the first time, over my freinds house one evening in 1984. Must have been winter, I think. We sat in the front room listening to it on his father’s hi-fi system. It was the vinyl album, obviously. We sat, listening to movement one, it sounded quite complex and dense and unlike anything I had heard up to then. Its always remained a favourite of mine of Vangelis’ albums. Maybe second only to China. But that night in 1984, it is like it is ingrained in my memory so clear. Its like that, when you grow up with music and its the soundtrack of your life for decades afterwards. Thats why this release of Delectus is such a Big Deal.
What a genius Vangelis was back then.