Chinese Restaurant

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

This time we present you with a mystery, a riddle yet unsolved... In the second half of 1977 an Italian punk-rock group with the name Chrisma (based on the member names, Christina Moser and Maurizio Arcieri) recorded an album in Vangelis' studios. It is produced by Vangelis' brother Niko Papathanassiou and it has been claimed that Vangelis played on it himself, but this has never been confirmed. One year later they returned with "Hibernation", which is surrounded by the same mysteries...





1977 Polydor 2448 060 Italy
1977 Polydor 2480 461 Greece
1977 Philips 6323 059 Italy

1977 Lola/Black silk stocking  Polydor 2060 156 Italy
1977 Lola/Black silk stocking  Polydor 2121 353 West Germany/France
1977 Black silk stockings/Lola/Wanderlust Polydor 2121 360 UK
1977 Lola/Mandoia Philips Holland
1977 C'Rock/Mandoia  Polydor 2060 176 Italy 



Recording studio
The album is recorded at Nemo Studios in London - England, and Phonogram Studios - Milan.


bulletWhether Vangelis actually plays on this album or not is still unknown. 
If he did cooperate, he is not credited in any way, but that is no proof he didn't. 
He could have, he had the opportunity to do so, but chances are that it is in fact 
his brother Niko fiddling with the keys here. Even sound engineer Keith Spencer-
Allen, who was there during recording, could not confirm (nor deny) Vangelis' 
cooperation....When asked, his brother Niko denied Vangelis plays on this album...
Will we ever know?
bulletWhat we do know however is that Vangelis cooperated with Chrisma for the first 
time in 1976, when he composed the songs which would be Chrisma's first single 
Amore / Sweet Baby Sue. Vangelis is credited under his 'certified' pseudonym 
"Richard Broadbaker", which is also used on the 1978 single Red square / 
When the cat's away by Mama O. (a reference to Vangelis O. Papathanassiou).
The same pseudonym has been used on several occasions, first of all in 1973 on
obscure releases by "The Yumas" and "Humanity". Finally the name appears on
Stavros Logaridis' album "SE ALLI GI" in 1980, next to a cover of "Bird of Love"
titled "Na m'agapas".
bulletIn 1977 Chrisma released their second single "U", both on 7" and 12". The song is 
a 'remake' of the song "Who" by Odyssey (a reference to Vangelis' middle-name), 
composed by Robert Fitoussi in 1974, which Vangelis is credited for arranging and
producing. The same song was also recorded by Demis Roussos in 1977 for his
album "Magic", under the name "I dig you".
bulletItalian punk-rock group Chrisma (later also known as Krisma) returned in 1979 to 
record another album at Nemo, this one titled "Hibernation", which is also disputed 
as a Vangelis cooperation....

For all the lyrics of this album, go to : Vangelis and Chrisma lyrics : Chinese Restaurant

Chrisma (and later Krisma) were a kind of early Italian incarnation of Moloko. Both are boy/girl combinations making slightly wacky albums, where the focus is more on style and a certain weird cool image rather than being musically very interesting. The band-name is constructed from the first names of Christina Moser and Maurizio Arcieri, who also claim a punk-influence when starting out with the band in 1976. Well, maybe……we'll have to take their word for it, as it certainly doesn't show up in their music, which is more like synth-pop. Which brings us to the Vangelis connection, the nature of which has been a hot topic in Vangelis-related discussions for years.
Apparently, Polydor's Italian branch signed the group after which they were contacted by Niko Papathanassiou (Vangelis' older brother, who was employed by Polydor at the time) who proceeded to be involved in their first two projects "Chinese Restaurant" and "Hibernation" as arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Niko persuaded Vangelis to lend them his Nemo studio during the 1977 summer holiday period to record what would become the "Chinese Restaurant" album (although the finishing touches were applied in a Milan studio). Vangelis' regular engineer at the time, Keith Spencer-Allen, helped out technically and computer-narrated the final "Thank You" track, his then girl-friend Veronique
Skawinska took the large number of photographs featured on the gatefold-sleeve and Niko was allowed to use his brother's synthesizer set-up. That, in all likelihood, is the whole story, because if indeed Vangelis played some of the music himself, it is inaudible. The only real candidate for this anyway is the track called "Lycee" which at least obviously uses his instruments (slight echoes of "Beaubourg" here). But the actual, rather hesitant-sounding playing on it doesn't bear Vangelis' signature unless, extremely unlikely, he really didn't put his mind to it or something. The other tracks don't sound like they even used the Nemo instruments, or at best only occasionally.
Vangelis switched to Polydor himself the next year (continuing the "China" theme for his first project there) and asked Christina and Maurizio to return the favour on his 1980 "See You Later" album, where apparently they provided the Italian lyrics and voices at the end of "Suffocation". Interestingly, that album is almost Chrisma-like in its wackiness, so it could well be a fair guess that, over the course of all those Chinese dinners, they might have talked Vangelis into doing something different on the rather odd "See You Later".
At least on that album there's some decent music, which can't really be claimed for "Chinese Restaurant". The whole affair sounds rather bland, neither Christina nor Maurizio (who obviously took a leaf out of the book of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham) are great vocalists, and the song-material is average at best. "Lola" is a decent song, the mere usage of Vangelis-sounds is enough to inject a bit of atmosphere in "Lycee" and poor Keith Spencer-Allen must have been bribed ("2 Chinese meals for free !") into parodying his contribution to "Albedo 0.39" on the final "Thank You". But this band was always more to do with style than content, and probably succeeded there.

Review by Ivar de Vries