Well, I certainly am no reviewer, so I humbly leave this delicate exercice to those who master it.
Nonetheless I will give my word in this thread as an unofficial review because this fabulous disc seems not to receive the popularity it deserves : only five recommendations and one non-recommendation... Not a lot people remarked this disc and I fell accross it by accident myself so it apparently was discretely released. One year already !
I am no Aphrodite’s Child admirer to start with, though I’m a big admirer of Vangelis. So I never got to know this album. But a friend told me this one really was different, light years away from the usual Aphrodite’s Child cheesy disco-pop, and I would totally dig the progressive quality of it. Rarely have I been given so good a musical advice. The music is so cosmic and dreamy, and the conceptual character of it (the whole album deals with saint John’s Apocalypse without falling into sanctimoniousness) really carried me away. I even recognized some sounds sampled by Michael Cretu in his Enigma project (song "The rivers of belief" on the first album MCMXC a.D.). Some tracks are questionable – well, in fact only the 21st track commonly called “infinity” comes to mind right now, in which we can hear the greek actress Irene Papas convincingly simulating a wild orgasm for five minutes. I think this has no place here, but that’s the kind of scar that makes an album’s personality, which inclines you to appreciate it even more, with its qualities and failures.
Originally a double album (two LPs and, later, two CDs), this 77 minutes piece holds on one disc here. Sonically this is a real treat as we can usually expect from the SHM SA-CD format. I had never heard another version of this album so I cannot compare different masters but I know great care was brought to this one as it is clearly felt. If the SHM SA-CD holds to its reputation, this is a flat transfer, so I can venture saying the original tapes have a very colorful sound, with lots of medium and warm bass. The high frequency content is quite disturbing at times because some instruments like classical guitar and bells are mixed in a non-instrumental way, more like sound effects, so they sound (I assume purposely) extremely bright and almost agressive – especially the chain sound in “The capture of the beast”. This is reinforced by their very dynamic and panned presence (mostly on the left channel and very loud, but without any compression). This dominance of high-medium and high frequency can be fatiguing at times because of the album’s length and the listener’s tendency to crank up the volume for such a fine and well-remastered jewel. The fourth track for instance, titled “The Four Horsemen” and following the ironically quiet track "Loud loud loud", is very surprising as it completely explodes in the listening room, bringing in a devastating (but so well singing !) Demis Roussos. And the drums are fantastic, they really blast the speakers when they announce the chorus and then flatter it with beautiful tom-tom rolls.
Speaking of drums : yes, they are a letdown in the first song "Babylon" (second track after a 23-second intro), which does not bode well on first listenning. But since this is a flat transfer, we can guess the original recording holds responsibility for these poor, flat drum tracks, and this also might come from the fact that this song aims to emulate a live recording with an unleashed audience and more energy than esthetics.
Otherwise the sound really breathes and only serves the “flying high feeling” better. Dynamics are off the roof !
I can only but recommend such a superb album, and such a great remaster edition. Once again, the SHM SA-CD honors its reputation of excellent sound for good music.
Grab it !