Listen Up: Wednesday, February 23, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Vangelis

Alexander: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Sony)

By Brian Abrams

Back before Yanni was a drop of liquid on an oil lamp, there was Vangelis. The Greek composer with the flowing hair was one of the first major classically trained electronic musicians to begin experimenting with saccharine pop conceits on a large scale, courtesy of Hollywood. Who can forget the theme to Chariots of Fire? Or the sizzling electro-noir of Blade Runner? Yeah, good ol’ Vangie was ahead of his time — but no so far ahead that predictability, the bane of every innovator, wouldn’t eventually catch up to him.
It’s been 12 years since his last foray into cinema (1492: Conquest of Paradise), and it shows on his latest. Vangelis’ music for Oliver Stone’s overhyped, overblown “epic” Alexander is not necessarily tasteless, just wholly, completely, utterly clichéd (like the movie). Loud percussion booms in lock-step with the soldiers on their way to battle. Weepy violins suggest emotional pain. Dissonance, confusion. There’s nary a note that makes you believe Vangelis has even touched a synthesizer since the early 1980s. Any Hollywood hack could have concocted similar material.
Though arranged differently, the songs on Alexander aren’t that much different from those found on other blockbuster soundtracks, such as The Aviator and A Beautiful Mind. Every composer’s goal is apparently to a) hew to the on-screen visuals as closely as possible; b) don’t disturb Middle America; and c) watch the doorstep for an Academy Award nomination. But unless Vangelis plans on reacquainting himself with the groundbreaking sounds he forged three decades ago, his travels with Oscar seem to be long behind him. — Brian Abrams


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