Our top 10 Vangelis songs list looks at the body of work of a Greek musician famed for his electronic approach to music and stunning creative film scores. Born in 1943, Vangelis developed some love for music when he was four. At this time, he would play musical sounds with the family piano. Noticing how much love he had for music, his parents, who didn’t have a musical background, enrolled him in music lessons. However, Vangelis was more of a self-made artist who believed in his own experimentation rather than formal music classes.
At a young age, he had already realized that the biggest drawback of banking on formal music training was the inhibition of creativity. While Vangelis grew up around traditional Greek music, he developed a love for rock and jazz. Vangelis formed The Formynx, a rock band, alongside four other members, while still a student Amazingly, the band released a total of nine singles and a Christmas EP. The EP saw the band’s fame grow in Europe. However, The Formynx disbanded in 1966.
After the sudden collapse of his rock ensemble, Vangelis took time in the studio penning songs and producing for other artists. However, he would seek to establish a successful music career away from his homeland, where political chaos was rampant. His efforts to get to London were futile, having him settle in Paris, France. During this time, Vangelis formed Aphrodite’s Child, a prog-rock ensemble with several other Greek artists.
The band’s debut single “Rain and Tears” ushered the band into newfound fame and commercial success. Aphrodite’s Child released two studio albums, both of which were positively received by prog-rock fans. However, after recording its third studio album, 666 (1972), the band disbanded. Despite Aphrodite’s Child disbanding, the late Demis Roussos maintained a close relationship with Vangelis, who produced several songs and albums for him.
After several projects in TV and film, Vangelis was ready to launch his solo music career. This was marked by the release of a debut album Fais que ron rêve soit plus long que la nuit (1972). The album’s title was French for Make Your Dream Last Longer Than the Night (1972), which was inspired by the French student riots. Most of the songs from the album can only be described as protest songs. During the next year, Vangelis worked and released his album Earth (1973).
With Jon Anderson loving his music, Vangelis was invited to audition for the keyboardist role in the prog-rock band Yes. However, this didn’t happen after he failed to obtain a work visa. Eventually, he left Paris for London, where he secured a recording contract with RCA Records. The result was the release of electronic albums for several years until 1979. In the same year, Vangelis collaborated with Jon Anderson of Yes, forming the Jon and Vangelis duo. Together, they released Short Stories (1980), which was an instant success having it soar high on the UK Charts. The two continued releasing music together, having them record three more albums.
Vangelis got his big break after the release of Chariots of Fire (1981) which saw him achieve mainstream success. Vangelis proved to be one of the most influential film score composers of all time. His body of work is breathtaking and this top 10 list is just a very small part of it which we hope serves as a starting point for those looking to discover the music of Vangelis.
#10- Blade Runner Closing Theme
Opening our top 10 Vangelis songs article is the theme and soundtrack to the legendary Harrison Ford film Blade Runner. The film stands as one of the most iconic science fiction films ever made. The music Vangelis composed for the film fit wonderfully with the movie’s dimly lit scenes throughout the film. The fragility of life in a world destroyed by industry only to be taken over by industry asked many questions in a most brilliant artistic way. Like so much of the music of Vangelis, the score is ambient based, there is no dynamic memorable melody, it’s all doom and gloom sci-fi style music and it’s perfect.
#9- Monastery of La Rabida
“Monastery of La Rabida” is one of the musical gems from the 1992 music score to the historical drama film 1492: Conquest of Paradise. While most of the songs he made for the film were purely instrumental, “Monastery of La Rabida” is one of the three tracks that features lyrics. However, the lyrics are featured on the song’s last minute, with all the other bits featuring an ambient and hypnotic instrumental. “Monastery of La Rabida” is a timeless song that brings the best of the ’90s electronic music. The song makes Vangelis appear to be a musician with divine charisma.
#8 – Ask The Mountains
“Ask The Mountains” is one of the best Vangelis songs from the 1995 album Voices. Thanks to songs like “Ask The Mountains,” the album rose to number fifty-eight on the UK Albums Chart. The song was co-released by the Swedish singer-songwriter Stina Nordenstam. “Ask The Mountains” showcases the magnificent and genius composition skills by Vangelis. The song peaked at number seventy-seven on the UK Singles Chart.
#7 – Rachel’s Song
Coming in at number six is a masterpiece of art named “Rachel’s Song.” The song is featured on the soundtrack to the sci-fi noir film Blade Runner. Blade Runner was regarded by many as one of Vangelis’ influential works on electronic music. The synth-driven hit features some haunting soundscapes which are electronically chilling. “Rachel’s Song” has an atmospheric nature making it one of the best songs from the soundtrack of Blade Runner.
#6 – Titans
Vangelis had gained fame for his scores to Conquest of Paradise and Chariots of Fire. More success followed him after the release of the original film score to Alexander, a film that portrays the life of Alexander the Great. One of the spectacular songs on the soundtrack was “Titans.” This enchanting composition rises above most songs to establish itself as one of Vangelis’ best releases.
#5 – To The Unknown Man
“To The Unknown Man” is one of the best Vangelis songs from his studio album Spiral (1977). This was an album which drew inspiration from ancient Tao philosophy. Even though the album was less acclaimed compared to Heaven and Hell (1975) and Albedo 0.39 (1976), “To The Unknown Man” was too good to be forgotten easily. The song was the force behind Vangelis’ 1978 Midem International Instrumental Award.
#4 – Alpha
Albedo 0.39 is Vangelis’ fourth solo studio album, released back in 1976. Unlike his previous album Heaven and Earth (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976) feature jazz and blues overtones which helped elevate the album’s status on the UK Album Charts. One of the greatest compositions from the album is “Alpha.” This masterpiece features some of the strongest melodies ever released in electronic music.
#3 – Conquest of Paradise
Coming in at number two is the hit “Conquest of Paradise.” The song is featured on the film 1492: Conquest of Paradise. “Conquest of Paradise” has its Pseudo-Latin lyrics repeated a number of times throughout the song. While the song topped the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium charts, it only managed a sixtieth position on the UK Singles Chart. Its popularity soared after it was adopted as the theme song by the German boxer Henry Maske.
#2 – Chariots of Fire
“Chariots of Fire” is one of the greatest instrumental songs composed and released by the Greek artist Vangelis. The instrumental was released for the soundtrack of a 1981 historical sports drama movie of the same title. Vangelis saw the song peak at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song swept all the Awards shows the year it was released. This song was huge. “Chariots of Fire” has been covered by The Bad Plus, The Shadows, and John Williams and the Boston Pops.
# 1 – Heaven An Hell
“Heaven And Hell,: is regarded as one of the most influential pieces of music that Vangelis ever composed and recorded. The music is split into to parts. Side one of the record presented “Heaven and Hell Part I, while side two presented “Heaven and Hell Part 2.” In the number one spot on our Vangelis songs list is the entire Heaven And Hell album. One can’t separate any of the music on the record. The entire albums stands as one piece. It’s a daunting electronic orchestration and musical composition that is just jaw dropping. The Heaven And Hell album was released in 1975
Top 10 Vangelis Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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