Mariangela

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

Introduction
"Mariangela" released in 1975, forms part of the series of mid-seventies albums that Vangelis contributed to in some form or other (as producer, arranger and sometimes writing a few songs). For this first album for Mariangela who was in her very early teens, Vangelis is fully credited as arranging and producing its music and can clearly be heard playing keyboards as well.

Mariangela Celeste Papaconstantinu (or Mariangela Celeste as she refers to herself nowadays) with a Greek father and an Italian mother is born in Milan, Italy. At the age of 6 she moves to Germany, and several years after she moves again, this time to Greece. There she soon is considered a child prodigy after appearing on TV performing her own compositions and playing the guitar. Not long after she is offered a record contract with Polygram Greece. With the song "You were right" she is chosen to represent Greece at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo (Japan) in 1973. The song appears on a single the next year, backed with "Sinefia". The B-side she also performs on the Greek song festival of Salonica, with plenty of good reviews.

After hearing some of her songs, Vangelis in cooperation with Polygram Greece picks Mariangela to record another single with. The results sound so good that they decide to record more songs for an album, which takes six weeks of recording and mixing to finish. Vangelis' favourite songs turn out to be Mariangela's compositions "Memories of friends" and "Alone with the day".

Unfortunately the album is hardly promoted and doesn't sell well. Soon after Polygram looses interest to release more of Mariangela's songs. In 1976 again she performs her own song "Think I'm losing my men" in Tokyo at the World Popular Song Festival, alas it is never released.

Today Mariangela lives in Greece with her family, where she has released other albums such as "Zahari" (Lyra 4690) on LP in 1993, and "I shall return" (private issue) on CD in 2006. She continues to work as a singer and composer while occasionally also appearing live in Greece and abroad.

Tracklist and Credits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discography
Unfortunately the album has never been released on CD. Apparently the record has been printed in many countries, nevertheless copies seem scarce and pretty hard to find. The single is impossible to find...

LP
1975 Philips 6331084 Greece, Canada, South Africa, Holland.

1976 Epitihies tou '76  Philips 6475 031 Greece (includes "This is my world")

Single
1975 Honalulu Baby / Shoo bee doo Philips 6060242

Recording studio
As his own studio was still being built, Vangelis booked recording time at Orange Studios, a small but centrally located studio near Piccadilly. There he met Keith Spencer-Allen, sound engineer at Orange Studios at the time, who would be his assistant at Nemo during the remaining part of the seventies. Not only did Vangelis record this album at Orange Studios, but also the album Phos with Greek band Socrates.

Miscellania

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Although Vangelis is prominently credited for arranging and producing, rumour had it that Denny Beckermann, who is named as composer of 4 songs, might be another Vangelis pseudonym. It has been confirmed however that this is not the case, Denny Beckermann is a real person and the credits as printed on the album are for both lyrics and composition.

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It is indeed Mariangela who sings backing vocals on the song "A day in heaven" on the Socrates album Phos. While she arrived at the studio in London, Vangelis was still recording with Socrates for their album Phos and she happily provided the backing vocals.

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After all songs had been recorded with Socrates, recording sessions continued with the songs for Mariangela's album. At the same time, all members of Socrates play (uncredited!) on several songs on Mariangela's album.

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The male singer on "Little girl it's time to be a woman now" and "Rainbow" is an unknown studio singer.

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The photo used for the album sleeve is taken after the completion of the album by the wife of the head of Polydor Greece at the time. Dressed up specially for the occasion Mariangela stands in the garden of their summerhouse in Anavisos, near Sounion.

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Read more about Mariangela's life and music in this interview.

 

Lyrics
For all the lyrics of this album, go to : Vangelis and Mariangela lyrics

Review
"Mariangela" is a band effort, although no credits regarding the musicians involved are actually indicated on the album.

Apart from Vangelis on keyboards and Mariangela on vocals, repeated listening reveals a few other musicians on bass & acoustic guitars, percussion and background vocals taking part in proceedings. But the main attention was of course meant to be focused on teenaged Mariangela, who had quite a good voice, very much like that other seventies icon Karen Carpenter, with a touch of Carly Simon thrown in as well.

How about the music and the extend of Vangelis' involvement ? Going through the songs one by one:

bullet'Honalulu Baby', as its (slightly misspelt) title suggests, is a naïve upbeat love song about Hawaiian romance in the midst of the "singing sea" to "sail away" on. Vangelis' main input consists of pseudo-exotic high meandering chords to assist creating the appropriate sunset beach atmosphere.
bullet'You Are The One' is a slow ballad-type of song with a nice chorus. Vangelis has more input here, accompanying Mariangela on an organ and providing a little instrumental solo sounding much like other mid-seventies Vangelis, complete will the trade-mark bell-like sounds among some of the other sounds also heard on "La Fete Sauvage", to name one example.
bullet'Let Me Find A Pathway', similarly, is a ballad with a strong melody and lots of very recognisable Vangelis music (one little solo plus beautiful fade-out here). Hearing this and some of the other tracks one can appreciate the fact that 'So Long Ago, So Clear' with Jon Anderson was recorded around this time.
bullet'Memories Of Friends', another ballad tinged with sadness, must be the musical highlight of the album. Although credited to Mariangela, it would have done Vangelis himself proud, who steals the show by providing a stunning arrangement, seemingly taken straight out of that endlessly sweet "La Fete Sauvage" chanson.
bulletThe lively 'My Dear Life' provides the necessary contrast, a lovely dreamy hypnotic song evoking those familiar "fun in the sun" memories. This is the most Carpenters-like song on the album, with ample contribution by Vangelis, synths like he used on 'Reve' from "Opera Sauvage" added to a little drum-machine.
bulletThe smoothly executed 'What You're Doing to Me' has a jazzy dance-tempo, no problem for Vangelis of course, who makes telling use of that angular multi-octave trick also heard at the very start of "Heaven & Hell".
bulletWith 'Little Girl It's Time to Be A Woman', it's back to the ballads again. This one is a bit more elaborate, involving an unwittingly hilarious dialogue between Mariangela and a male vocalist who instructs her along the lines of the track-title. Just a standard cliché pop-song, nothing special about Vangelis' input, which mostly involves the piano.
bulletThe piano also starts off and plays a big part in 'Rainbow', a nice upbeat sing-a-long track very reminiscent of early ABBA. Evidently, this was meant as the wacky song on the album, the male vocalist does his crooner-impersonation and Vangelis joins the fun by inserting a few silly trills here and there.
bulletIn contrast, 'This Is My World' is much more serious, a ballad of epic proportions with Vangelis' input immediately becoming more prominent again: strong piano-chords, the organ and his characteristic string-sound all joining in.
bullet'Shoo Be Doo' is yet another ballad with slightly funnier music matching the silly title and Vangelis providing some nice counter-melodies to Mariangela's main melody, otherwise his stuff is identical to that on most other ballads.
bulletBob Dylan must have had some influence on Mariangela when she wrote last track 'Alone With The Day', it has that sort of structure to it, with her singing lots of two-chord syllables, and a prominent acoustic guitar part. Obviously this was meant to sound very poetic, so Vangelis adds some sparse high melodies and low piano at first, expanding the sound somewhat in his solo.

So what to make of this single Mariangela album ? At the time, it probably sunk without trace, but this wouldn't have been through lack of effort. Certainly, the lyrics are extremely corny - one could perhaps have gotten away with them 10 years earlier in not-yet-so-swinging London, but not in 1975, with progrock, the likes of Roxy Music and the start of punk around the corner. But then again, so were The Carpenters and ABBA, and this album would have appealed to their fans.
More importantly, Vangelis clearly gave it his best shot, with his production, arrangements and keyboard-work up to his usual standards. However, because the album suffers slightly from the over-abundance of ballads and the songs are pretty standard fare anyway, one finds Vangelis repeating himself somewhat and being limited by the 3 to 4 minute pop-format.

Review by Ivar de Vries

 

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