Music composed, arranged, produced and performed by Vangelis.
"The City" was the first album to make full use of Direct, the custom-built synthesiser hook-up device that essentially blurs the boundary between a studio- and concert-setup. It allows Vangelis to produce an album like this (seemingly played by multiple musicians) in a few studio-sessions on his own, to be immediately ready for release exactly as if it had been performed during a concert. Something like this did in fact happen because it took reportedly just one day in a Rome hotel-room to record all these pieces in a sort of private concert involving a few guests (like movie-director Roman Polanski) who also became part of the recordings.|
- Dawn [4:16]
- Morning Papers [3:55]
- Nerve Centre [5:30]
- Side Streets [4:12]
- Good To See You [6:50]
- Twilight [4:57]
- Red Lights [3:55]
- Procession [9:33]
The album’s concept (a day out in the city) is simple but works well here, providing Vangelis with ample opportunity to paint the various moods of the day in music.
Things start off serenely at ‘Dawn’, after the ‘Morning Papers’ some hectic activity occurs at the ‘Nerve Centre’, but escape from too much work is at hand through the ‘Side Streets’, to meet up with some friends (‘Good To See You’), perhaps for one of those long Italian lunches or else a late dinner at the ‘Twilight’ of day, after which it’s off to Trastevere to enjoy Rome’s night-time pleasures (‘Red Lights’) only to be interrupted by a ‘Procession’ of Vatican priests staging a protest against all the hedonism. Or something like that – anyway one gets the strong suspicion that the hero of this album’s tale might be a Greek foreigner staying at a rather too luxurious Rome hotel and generally enjoying life to the full.It’s a fair question whether the Direct device has really been all that helpful in Vangelis’ artistic output. One would think that, it being that much easier to do a concert or a new album, the volume of album releases and concerts would have gone up after its introduction, but somehow this hasn’t really proved itself to be true (because surely there should be at least one or two days per year like the one in Rome and although there was a public concert in Rome coinciding with "The City", precious few have followed since then).
This might be accidental, to do with age perhaps, but it could also be true that previously, with much more effort having to be put into creating sufficient music to fill an album, not releasing it would be nonsensical and economically unfeasible. The situation could also be a bit stifling artistically because, if you can make an album in one day, who says you can’t make a better one tomorrow ?At least "The City" has worked out alright, the persistent use of a sort of mock Italian disco sound tends to make it a bit bland if also slightly reminiscent of parts of "Blade Runner", but it does provide some musical gems like ‘Dawn’, ‘Nerve Centre’ and ‘Twilight’.
2000. Ivar de Vries
After lasting only one studio album with Arista Records, Vangelis set up shop with Atlantic Records. This was the first album to make use of the Direct system set-up hinted at by his previous album, Direct. Sadly, I cannot count myself among The City's fans; for me, it comes off as a drab, urban-themed counterpart to Tangerine Dream's Le Parc.
Let's say you wanted to make a concept album about a day in the life of 'the city.' What would you do to give it that extra special something to make the album compelling? Vangelis' answer doesn't seem to rise much above inserting street noises, along with Roman Polanski and his wife Emmanuelle Seigner walking about, tossing coins and thinking of buying a newspaper. One of the better tracks on the album (a tingly, meditative shuffle entitled "Morning Papers") sounds like background new age music your well-intentioned if slightly irksome masseuse might put on as he/she says: "Now, feel the chi energy running through you!" Innocuous, but not the stuff of inspiration.
Representing the nadir, on the other hand, is the frightfully bad "Nerve Centre," with Vangelis doing the whole 'metal guitar' thing on his keyboards.
"Red Lights" is another dud, ruined by a grating, sampled vocal chant, ostensibly taken from a Japanese festival.
In between, most of the remaining tracks are nondescript and simply fade into the front cover's murky skyline.
Most are not going to find The City anywhere near the vibrancy and creativity marking Vangelis' best work, and from the standpoint of the progressive music fan, it almost certainly is the wrong place to start exploring his discography.
2005. Joe McGlinchey