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Composed, Arranged, Produced, and Performed by:

Conducted by:
Nic Raine

Sony Classical

Release Date:
November 9th, 2004

Also See:
1492: Conquest of Paradise
Chariots of Fire
Blade Runner

Audio Clips:
3. Titans (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

9. Roxane's Veil (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

13. Across the Mountains (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

17. Eternal Alexander (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

Regular U.S. release.



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Sales Rank: 111207

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Buy it... if you seek to hear Vangelis' wildly popular music for 1492: Conquest of Paradise developed to an even more mature, symphonically magnificent level of grandiose and monumental harmony.

Avoid it... if the rhythmically repetitive and thematically simplistic nature of Vangelis' music cannot be compensated for you by the sheer power of the overwhelming immensity with which it is expressed.

Alexander: (Vangelis) There have been surprisingly few films about the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in the history of Hollywood, and none in the decades leading up to 2000. Living from 356-323 B.C., Alexander built an empire by sweeping his superior armies through 90% of the known world, traveling 22,000 miles in eight years and establishing Greece as a dominant culture that would ironically remove most of the obstacles that might have restrained the subsequent Roman Empire from its own similar conquests. After the outstanding success of Ridley Scott's Gladiator in 2000, a whole slew of people came up with the idea of producing a modern film about Alexander all at once. While the Oliver Stone epic Alexander was the first to make it onto screen, similar productions by Baz Luhrmann and Mel Gibson (for HBO) had been in pre-production for years, with Luhrmann's version starring Leonardo DiCaprio being the most likely competition for Stone. The cast and crew power behind Stone's film, however, gave it a distinct advantage, first and foremost with a cast that extends from modern pop-culture stars to veterans Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy and Christopher Plummer in a bit role as Aristotle. Thinking back on Gladiator, it would have been easy to assume that 2004's Alexander was a project built for the masculine scoring sounds of Hans Zimmer or, due to his previous collaboration with the director, maestro John Williams. But Stone had a more geographically-minded and intriguing idea in mind, one that would hopefully ensure his film as Oscar-bait and reach out to a more historically relevant Greek sound. His idea was Evangelos Odyssey Papathanassiou (otherwise known as Vangelis), a varied and extremely popular international artist who, aside from being Greek, had a knack for producing a massive piece of music once every few years that could surely cement Alexander as an awards contender. On the other hand, Vangelis did not take film scoring assignments as readily in the 2000's as he did back in the 1980's. But, as the composer states, "I've always admired Oliver Stone's films... and Alexander the Great is a story that's a natural part of my heritage." The fact that the film turned out to be a hideous and embarrassing mess for Stone was not much due to Vangelis' score, which was largely overwhelmed by the incomprehensible narrative that the director settled upon.

With an avid fanbase in tow, Vangelis' style features a distinct, rather simplistic, electronically-driven method of composition that has gained him awards in several genres of music across many international borders. In the film score realm specifically, Vangelis plucked an Oscar from John Williams and Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 for his catchy but one-dimensional and cheesy Chariots of Fire, and his better known subsequent scores are those for Blade Runner and 1492: Conquest of Paradise. While the first two mentioned were predominantly focused upon electronics, 1492: Conquest of Paradise was a revelation for soundtrack fans around the world (the album is certified gold/platinum in 17 countries and the title theme has been a successful single in many of those countries) because of its choral use, and it begged questions about the possibility of Vangelis' maturing abilities leading to a breakthrough orchestral project at some date in the future. In the 2000's, that transition was realized to its fullest when the artist offered a muscular orchestral, synthetic, and choral opera for NASA's Mars exploration called "Mythodea" in 2001 and 2002. After 12 years away from the big screen, Alexander is a continuation of Vangelis' trend towards seeking the perfect harmony between synthetic and orchestral elements. The result is what fans of 1492: Conquest of Paradise will likely fall in love with in the first five minutes, the electronically-conceived score enhanced by Vangelis' decision to employ a full orchestra and massive choir to provide harmonically rich and overwhelmingly powerful statements of pleasing melodies. There is more instrumental diversity in Alexander than there had been in 1492: Conquest of Paradise, with this 2004 score taking on some of the fluid, specifically evolving personality of an actual film score rather than playing totally like the contents of a new age album tracked to a film. There may arguably be no single theme as memorable or bankable as the main identity of 1492: Conquest of Paradise in Alexander, but the extent of the thematic grandeur has been extended to include several well developed ideas over four or five concert-like tracks of significant length. The magnitude of the orchestrations in the monstrously shifting tonal expressions defies the constrained and sometimes harsh tone of his electronics, yielding a timeless, larger-than-life sound suitable for a conqueror.

When thinking about these kinds of Vangelis scores intellectually, you have to consider how the man structures his music, however. If you rely upon the subtle nuances, the jarring shifts of emotion, and the carefully chosen synchronization points and obvious cue changes that will comprise a typical film score, then Vangelis' methodology will admittedly drive you nuts. Despite his best efforts to provide a score that travels the world with the conquerors and changes the color of its mask in every other cue, Alexander is still easily identifiable as Vangelis music because it still seems inherently structured as an album first and a score second. Each cue is lengthy in development and features its own unique instrumental spin on the composer's overarching ideas. Very little overlapping, cross-referencing, or reprising of themes in different emotional settings occurs in Vangelis' music, causing classically-trained orchestral enthusiasts to dismiss it for events like Alexander as that of an amateur who simply knows how to make a whole lot of impressive ruckus. This belief sells him short, though. To its credit, Alexander does takes steps to appease those seeking a traditional score format, but if you're like the majority of film music fans who appreciate that Vangelis ruckus for what it is, then Alexander will knock your socks off in parts. The phrase "in parts" is important, because Alexander can be divided into two sections: that in which Vangelis unleashes the ensembles and his electronics in a massive bombardment of rhythm and theme, and those in which he attempts to provide realistic source-like underscore for the erotic and/or Eastern sequences. These more subtle cues are clustered on the album presentation between "One Morning at Pella" and "Bagoas' Dance," moving from exotic dance pieces to straight new age/rock rhythms with a heavier emphasis on instrumental solos over an electric bass and additionally synthetic soundscape. The "Roxane's Veil" cue, with a hint of Angelo Badalamenti's contemporary style mixed with alluring violin solos, specifically bridges the gap between Vangelis' Chariots of Fire-inspired, electronic post-modernism and this particular effort, and it will likely appeal to mainstream crowds. Opening and closing the score (with the exception of the final cue, which yanks the whole back into a modern, romantic guitar/harp hybrid sound) are the cues representing the glory of Alexander's conquests, and these are why money will change hands for this album.

The most obvious and dominant theme, "Titans," is a repetitious, simplistic melody of explosive force centered around a primary statement of three notes for choir or brass, and this theme of war is the Vangelis calling card that would represent the score in concert arrangements and compilations had the film been more successful. The introductory "Young Alexander" cue and "Titans" merged together are the highlights of the album, the former containing nearly tear-inducing beauty of heroic stature in its ultra-melodramatic, optimistic nobility. Not surprisingly, the best moment in "Titans" exists at the (sadly) only once-stated interlude at the 1:20 mark, a moment of grandeur that returns to "Young Alexander" mode. More romantic secondary themes grace the score's latter half, as dreams and betrayals are realized and the full-fledged glory of Vangelis' best silver-screen ideas are extended over extended sequences of majesty. These four-minute, string-dominated cues are each a highlight in and of themselves, swaying in the wind partly because of the composer's wind-like effects and partly because of the sheer colossal size and magnitude of their own performances. As expected, Vangelis relies upon awe to win you over, for none of these performances has any deeply layered complexity worth mentioning. Therein lies both the one consistent aspect of the entire score (from the grandiose portions to the underscored dancing and conversing in the middle) and, some would argue, its greatest weakness. This isn't music that will impress you with its technical prowess on paper. This isn't John Williams at work. It is music that takes you on a journey by maintaining heavy rhythmic glory that propels you from track to track and produces an excess of noise that is beautiful in its pompous simplicity. Ironically, the more spectacular moments of Alexander contain exactly the sound that Hans Zimmer's Media Ventures/Remote Control composers had been attempting and failing to achieve for years: the perfect, ultimate, and masculine harmony between chorus, orchestra, and synthesizer. The rhythmic element defines Vangelis and Alexander, and it retains your interest in the score from the battle scenes through even the minimally stewing "Chant" and "Immortality." The grouping of tracks from "Across the Mountains" to "Eternal Alexander" yields over 16 minutes of highly entertaining ambient mass. The only straight forward (and overdue) reprise of any idea in the score comes as the main phrase of the "Titans" theme is heard near the conclusion in "Dream of Babylon."

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There are a few curiosities to be found along the way in Alexander. Subtle thematic references to traditional songs (including the "Silent Night" Christmas carol) seem to arise because of Vangelis' tendencies to keep his themes very simplistic in progression. Also, a distinctly Christian attitude is relayed in "Titans" as the chorus chants "Gloria" even though this story takes place in a pre-Christian time. On the whole, however, you could run with these arguments about the technical merits of Alexander (and Vangelis' usual sound) all day. A very interesting essay contrasting this score with Gabriel Yared's rejected work for Troy the same year could be written. But when you get down to the meat and bones, you listen to Vangelis this type of music for its majestic scale, and Alexander will not disappoint you when you're in one of those moods to impress your friends with your film score collection. Additional music beyond the 56 minutes on the commercial album exists on bootlegs but, outside of different arrangements of the score's highlights, is not particularly impressive. If you're bothered by the general simplicity of Vangelis' constructs, then this will likely still peak as a four-star score for you. Some consideration has to be given to the fact that this was the artist's first film score in a dozen years (and was followed by another dry spell), and his lack of mainstream activity in this genre is genuinely lamented. As a casual listening experience, the score doesn't play with the same fluidity as 1492: Conquest of Paradise because the middle sections of Alexander do contain a more varied attention to location and situational changes. But Vangelis certainly did his best to provide that easy new age flow that you had come to expect from him, with each cue connected by an instrumental overlap or, for instance, the sound of a solid wind blowing between "Dream of Babylon" and "Eternal Alexander." In typical modern Vangelis fashion, an extremely wet, echoing mixing philosophy is employed to enhance the magnitude of the music through a perceived increase in studio size (similar to the techniques for Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings). In its attempts to insert a synthetic element into music for this general historical period, Alexander succeeds better than Zimmer's Gladiator ever did, due in part to the fine mixing of all the elements at play. Best of all, if you are a Vangelis score fan, you now had a perfect amount of material from 1492: Conquest of Paradise, "Mythodea," and Alexander with which to produce your own compilation of Vangelis' best thematic grace and bombast. You have to tip your hat to Vangelis for expanding upon the true niche he has found in the world of music. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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Regular Average: 3.64 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 56:20

• 1. Introduction (1:31)
• 2. Young Alexander (1:35)
• 3. Titans (3:59)
• 4. The Drums of Gaugamela (5:19)
• 5. One Morning at Pella (2:10)
• 6. Roxane's Dance (3:24)
• 7. Eastern Path (2:58)
• 8. Gardens of Delight (5:23)
• 9. Roxane's Veil (4:40)
• 10. Bagoas' Dance (2:28)
• 11. The Charge (1:40)
• 12. Preparation (1:41)
• 13. Across the Mountains (4:12)
• 14. Chant (1:38)
• 15. Immortality (3:18)
• 16. Dream of Babylon (2:40)
• 17. Eternal Alexander (4:37)
• 18. Tender Memories (2:58)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Alexander are Copyright © 2004, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/29/04 and last updated 9/21/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2004-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.