Greek mythology continues to amaze new generations. The tales of gods and heroes, and the battle between good and evil, have had an extensive influence on culture. From the epic poems The Iliad andOdyssey, to modern interpretations of the Age of Gods, Greek mythology will forever be a part of civilization.
The Gods Of Olympus is the title of Clifford White’s first solo album in over 14 years, released in 2009. After a very successful new age music career in the 80s and 90s, I think his return just had to be powerful. But that it would be a journey of epic proportions was beyond my imagination. Believe me; what Clifford White has in store for us is incredible. It is a climb to the top of Mount Olympus that you don’t want to miss.
Clifford White released a total of eight solo albums between 1985 and 1995. His debut album Ascension,recorded before he was 20 years old, is one of the definitive new age classic of the ’80s. I hold the compilation An Island Called Paradise from 2003 to be among the finest new age music ever created – and songs like Rain Trek and Amazonia are among the highest rated on New Age Stars radio.
So when Clifford White returned with a new album, with the principal gods of the Greek pantheon as a theme, expectations are high; that goes without saying. But in my opinion he has given us something that was well worth the wait.
As mentioned above, references to Greek mythology is everywhere to be found in modern civilization. From literature and poetry, via paintings and sculpture, to classical music. Either you listen to Holst, Wagner, Gluck, R. Strauss or Offenbach, the tales of strength and courage from the Greek mythology are all there, adding power to the musical narrative. Just by thinking of Zeus you can almost hear the sound of a 200-man-orchestra, playing at full force. But this is not the case in new age music, not at all. Such references are not frequently used. To add some perspective; there are only a few Egyptian themed albums released (by Goodall, Thornton and Ramzy, Diane Arkenstone). So this may very well be the first Greek mythology album – but please do correct me if I am wrong!
The Gods Of Olympus album has 14 tracks, and is over 70 minutes long. The overall style is clearly inspired of Vangelis, both in synth use (esp. the layers of strings), melody and atmosphere, and the opening track is not unlike 1492: Conquest of Paradise theme. But that said, Vangelis got his inspiration from chord progression in classical music – so White is welcome to reuse it, and there is no better occasion than this. It is after all a larger-than-life theme.
Track no. 1 is the introduction track, Gods of Olympus. It has a nice build up, and the synths sound fantastic. This is movie music for sure! The next one out, Aphrodite, is the longest track on the album with its 7min20sec. It is like the Goddess of Love and Beauty herself; she is rising from the sea, with a beauty that is as mesmerizing as it is dangerous.
After this mighty impressive but also somewhat heavy opening , Apollo, the god of light and the sun, greats us. This is more the style new age music fans think of when they hear the name Clifford White. It is as shining as the day’s first sun rays on the top of Mount Olympus. Then, out of the mists, Ares – the god of war, emerges with his helmet and shield. The track masterfully describes the duality of war; the struggle, suffering and death – but also its central meaning in human civilization, even necessity. The cycle of life defined by the sword.
The Gods Of Olympus without a doubt a new masterpiece from White, just like Ascension was in 1985.
On the following tracks Clifford White gives an interesting musical presentation of all the gods of the Olympian deities; the god of the hunt, the god of heroic endeavor, the god of flight and so on. It is really a massive selection of songs. It is really like a double CD. Here you’ll also find a song with a wonderful Greek sound to it; Dionysus (the god of wine and merriment). Not to have some Greek sounding song here would have been considered blasphemy I guess… And it is the dramatic Hermes, the god of flight.
The Gods Of Olympus is really a new age music treasure chest. If this was a novel, it would have had more than 1000 pages for sure. In the world of literature it is not uncommon that a successful author returns after 10 to 15 years of silence with a brick of a book. This is the new age music equivalent of that phenomenon.
I must mention that the CD booklet contains a very nice photomontage of the artist at work in the studio. You can see that Clifford is playing on synths, carefully adjusting, listening, reading, searching for that perfect sound. It is a picture of a new age music artist in total control; this is his domain. Very inspiring indeed!
If this was a novel, it would have had more than 1000 pages for sure.
The Gods Of Olympus without a doubt a new masterpiece from White, just like Ascension was in 1985. It is not easy listening, even though some parts are quite chill out in style. It requires something from the listener. But don’t worry; the gods will reward you.
To quote Sophocles: The dice of Zeus always fall luckily. I am tempted to change Zeus with White in that quote…
Picture copyright rgbdave – Bigstockphoto.com