Review Summary: Epic film music...
If you'd have asked Greek composer Vangelis in 1973 whether he would go on to record such award-winning soundtracks as he would do later (for Chariots of Fire amongst others), it would have probably been an awkward situation. The early Vangelis outings delved into prog rock, and he has often collaborated with Yes celebrity Jon Anderson. But as time went on, the prog rock became less, and the electronic music became more. Nowadays he is primarily known for his soundtracks and orchestral music (such as Mythodea, which accompanied the NASA mission to Mars), or the theme music for the flick "Blade Runner."
However, it can be maintained that his 1992 work on the score for 1492: Conquest of Paradise
will stand as one of his most enduring works. The main reason for that will always be the extremely popular theme song, Conquest of Paradise, which was a major hit in many countries and was even famously used by the prime minister of Portugal in 1995 for his inauguration (yes, Vangelis may have lost the prog, but he is still that bombastic, folks). In this work he combines the epic nature of his work with the bombastic sounds of orchestration and subtle, effective electronic elements, which lead us to an instrumental score that is almost unparallelled in history.
The funny thing is, though Conquest of Paradise is a great tune with its semi-Latin choral vocals, it's really the more ethnically influenced tunes that steal the show here. "Monastery of La Rabida" is great, and gives off a perfect atmosphere for a monastery. Hispanola sounds purely Spanish, with just the right tinge to make it sound authentic despite the origins being electronic in nature. And Moxica and the Horse is another winner with a gem of a melody.
The downfall with some of his later works, and the criticism thereof, is that Vangelis became too epic and overblown; and the pomp of his music consumed any and all of the songwriting, making it a chore to listen to (it's like dressed up candy, without the actually yummy bits). There is no problem with that here. Apart from the rather dull Twenty Eighth Parallel (which revisits the theme of the title track), most of the themes and melodies work really well, inciting moods and tunes that you can remember and hum despite them being instrumental. Although the music still sounds completely over the top and grandiose, it is exacerbated by the fact the music actually works, giving off the desired effect and making it a perfect accessory for an epic movie (the movie dealt with Columbus and the discovery of the new world in 1492).
The album closes with a thirteen-minute tune, which is titled after the three ships that set sail westward under Columbus. That epic song and its nature is pretty much exemplary for all that is found on this record. It is not often that we find music with these sorts of ambitions that become popular; much less ones that are actually qualitatively excellent. For lovers of melody and grandiosity, or for people who have actually seen the movie, or for anyone who is interested in this old Greek man's back catalogue, it is an essential purchase. Just do your part so we can make the sales just as epic as the music is.