Albedo 0.39

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Albedo 0.39
Vangelis Albedo.jpg
Studio album by Vangelis
Released 1976
Recorded Nemo Studios, London, 1976
Genre Electronica
Length 42:30
Label RCA (Original)
Windham Hill (Reissue)
Esoteric Recordings (2013)
Producer Vangelis
Vangelis chronology
Entends-tu les chiens aboyer ?
(1975)
Albedo 0.39
(1976)
La Fête sauvage
(1976)

Albedo 0.39 is a studio album by the Greek electronic composer Vangelis, released in 1976. It was the second album produced by Vangelis in Nemo Studios, London, which was his creative base until the late 1980s. It contrasts with his previous album, Heaven and Hell, which was classically inspired and choral, while Albedo 0.39 has blues and jazz overtones.[1] It was his first Top 20 UK album.[2]

Overview[edit]

It is a concept album themed around space physics (the reflection of light i.e. physical truth[3]). Its title is inspired by planet's albedo, the proportion of the light it receives that is reflected back into space. The album title refers to the average albedo value of the planet Earth as it was in 1976. From the explanation on the back of the LP cover : "The reflecting power of a planet or other non-luminous body. A perfect reflector would have an Albedo of 100%. The Earth's Albedo is 39%, or 0.39".[2]

Like it was with Heaven and Hell, it was performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1977.[2]

Release[edit]

The album reached #18 at the UK Album Charts.[4] In 2011 the album was included along Heaven and Hell and Spiral in a 3xCD box set series "Original Album Classics" by Sony, RCA and Legacy Recordings.[5] In 2013 the album was released in remastered and reissued digipak edition by Esoteric Recordings.[6]

Instruments[edit]

Vangelis plays all instruments. Although it is uncertain which synthesizers Vangelis employs on this album, other instruments include acoustic drums, bass, percussion, a xylophone, a gamelan (track 2) and recordings of the speaking clock (courtesy of Post Office Communications) and the Apollo moon landing (courtesy of NASA). It appears Vangelis alternates synthesizer and acoustic basses on different tracks.

The only vocal is the narrative on the closing title track by the Vangelis' sound engineer, Keith Spencer-Allen.[2]

Composition[edit]

"Pulstar" (possibly a portmanteau of "pulsar" and "star") builds on a synthesizer pulse sequence, a main line and various other synthesizer brass lines. It ends with a recording of the speaking clock. "Freefall" builds on a gamelan sequence and a synthesizer line. "Mare Tranquillitatis" is a quiet synthesizer piece featuring recordings of several Apollo moon landings. "Main sequence" is propelled by a pulsed synthesizer sequence, along which drums-based jazz track develops. It calms down and flows into the next song. "Sword of Orion", built on an arpeggio chord, melody, and percussion.[1]

On "Alpha", Vangelis employs a composing technique he would use extensively on later albums (e.g. Direct): a simple theme of a few bars is developed through increasingly complex instrumentation. Instruments include a slow synthesizer arpeggio, synthesizer mallet melody line, xylophone, percussion and (later) acoustic drums. It is a rather upbeat piece. The "Nucleogenesis" suite is a collage that conveys a somewhat darker mood, employing a church organ, an organ synthesizer pulse, various lines of Vangelis' patent synthesizer brass, acoustic drums and basses. Although hard to classify, the pieces appear to hold a ground between classical, fusion and progressive rock. The title track, "Albedo 0.39" is an atmospheric track building on waxing and waning synthesizer chords and arpeggios, while a voice, reputedly the album's engineer Keith Spencer-Allen, narrates various physical properties of the Earth, such as its mass, length of the year in various measurements, and, finally, its albedo.[1][7]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[7]

Mike DeGagne of Allmusic described the tracks as "mesmerizing trips of assorted rhythms that include elements of jazz and mild rock", that along "Albedo 0.39", "the two parts of "Nucleogenesis" are among the strongest cuts that keep his cosmic theme from deviating, while the livelier "Pulstar" involves some impressive instrumental range and electronic buoyancy". He concluded that "the stretches of notes and rhythms don't become weary or monotonous at any point of the album", and that "intention of conjuring up the vastness and immensity of space is soundly accomplished".[7] Henri Stirk from Background Magazine rated the 2013 edition by Esoteric Recordings 4/5 stars.[1]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and arranged by Vangelis

No. Title Length
1. "Pulstar"   5:45
2. "Freefall"   2:20
3. "Mare Tranquillitatis"   1:45
4. "Main Sequence"   8:15
5. "Sword of Orion"   2:05
6. "Alpha"   5:45
7. "Nucleogenesis (Part One)"   6:15
8. "Nucleogenesis (Part Two)"   5:50
9. "Albedo 0.39"   4:30

Personnel[edit]

  • Vangelis — synthesizers, keyboards, drums, bass and all other sounds
Production
  • Vangelis — producer, arranger
  • Keith Spencer-Allen — engineer
  • Graves/Aslett Assoc. — sleeve design
  • Ray Massey — cover photograph
  • David Ellis — Vangelis photograph

Appearances in other media[edit]

  • "Pulstar" was used as the theme music for a children's BBC television programme, Horses Galore. It was also used as an early theme tune for ESPN's SportsCenter and ABS-CBN's news programs TV Patrol and The World Tonight (until 1996). Some local newscasts used Pulstar as theme music, including WNEV in Boston, CBLT in Toronto and CBMT Newswatch[8] in Montreal. In Brazil it appeared on a TV ad for the cigarette brand Advance, in a high-tech styled, three-minute long clip by director João Daniel Tikhomiroff involving several cigarettes rolling and moving to make geometric shapes. It was an instantaneous success due to its vanguard look for the time.
  • Excerpts from "Pulstar" and "Alpha" can be heard on episodes of Carl Sagan's documentary series Cosmos, along with several other Vangelis themes. "Alpha" was used over animation illustrating evolutionary theory, with the music's climax timed to coincide with the appearance and achievements of humans.
  • An excerpt from "Pulstar" was used as the title track in the 2009 BBC documentary Micro Men.
  • Excerpts from "Pulstar" and "Alpha" were used in the 1980 film Death of a Princess. Despite the controversy over the film that outraged the government of Saudi Arabia, two tracks of its music (namely, 'Pulstar' and 'Alpha') were used for a long time as background music for interludes on Saudi national TV.
  • "Alpha" was used in the 1981 XXX movie American Desire.
  • In Spain, "Pulstar" was used by Cadena COPE radio station as an ident of their news services.
  • In Brazil, excerpts from "Nucleogenesis (Part One)" were used during journalistic reports in the Domingo Legal TV show, from SBT, during the 1990s and 2000s. It was revived in 2014 in Band's show, Tá Na Tela, again, serving as the background music for journalistic reports.
  • In Israel, "Alpha" was heard on the first Empire of Cinema logo in the early 1980s.
  • A remixed version of "Alpha" is heard on seasons 1 and 2 in travel documentary television series Madventures.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Vangelis - Background Magazine Review". Background Magazine. Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d "0.39, A Magic Number For Vangelis". uDiscover. October 9, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
  3. ^ Dali De Clair (June 1979). "An interview with Vangelis". Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Vangelis" (select "Albums" tab). Official Charts Company. 
  5. ^ "Vangelis – Heaven And Hell / Albedo 0.39 / Spiral". Discogs. Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Albedo 0.39 (Official Vangelis Supervised Remastered Edition)". Cherry Red Records. Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c "Allmusic review". 
  8. ^ Newswatch Montreal propmo accessed August 12th, 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ype0Bq-1mXo