Sometimes, for whatever reason, great art slips past audiences and remains woefully underappreciated. Which is why we’ve created an essay series called Fossil Records, devoted to helping people discover lost and obscure work that never got its due.
Aphrodite’s Child didn’t put out “fossil records” so much as they were a full blown “fossil band”: best known as the launch pad for the careers of Mediterranean soft-pop crooner Demis Roussos and synth OST master Vangelis, as well as their wildly experimental double album opus 666, all of their records have fallen out of print, and what remains of them are relegated to one-off singles on Rousso’s own greatest hits compilations. But although it doesn’t have the notoriety of 666, It’s Five O’Clock is arguably their best album: a lusty psychedelic pop gem with baroque and southern European leanings, it fits neatly between the Zombies and the 13th Floor Elevators as a strange, gentle record that is delightfully of its time.
It’s difficult to write about It’s Five O’Clock and not fixate all of one’s energy on the title track, a rapturous dream-pop ancestor that highlights Rousso’s beautiful voice and Vangelis’ keyboard virtuosity in equal measure. A sweeping chorus of organs, weeping synths and Rousso’s cracking vocals is sandwiched by whispered verses that are practically lullabies, and climaxes with wordless chorals and shimmering piano runs. The combined effect is simply transcendent, a powerful meeting of classical and psychedelic music entwined in perfect harmony; the album is worth tracking down simply for this song alone.
But the entire record is well worth listening to: It’s Five O’Clock is an album of many moods, encompassing an impressive array of styles and emotions. You have the acid rock stomp of “Funky Mary,” the melancholy balladeering of the title track and “Annabella,” the silly bacchanalia of “Such a Funny Night,” and the occasional combination of all three such as on “Wake Up.” The impression is that of a record that is not so much diffuse as much as one that is simply invested in a lot of different means of expression. Some albums try for variety and the effect becomes maddening, but here it’s simply a joy to listen to.
Much of the album’s unique flavor comes down to a consistent use of Mediterranean instrumentation, which was (and remains) highly uncommon in psychedelic music and pop in general. Aphrodite’s Child was a trio of Greek expats who lived and worked out of Paris; as such, it isn’t uncommon to hear lavoutos, hand drums and woodwinds joining Vangelis’ glistening keyboard melodies. The result is music that, even at its most dramatic, feels natural and warm.
Demis Roussos passed away in 2015, and Vangelis hasn’t played psychedelic music in generations at this point. It’s Five O’Clock goes in and out of print every few years, unable to find a toehold, but anyone with even a passing interest in baroque pop would do well to seek it out. A rare—if not unheard of—fusion of traditional Greek music and LSD-infused pop rock, carried in a chassis of subtle classical structure, It’s Five O’Clock is a special album, a work of pure pop ingenuity that revels in the tides of its time.
Christopher M. Jones is a comic book writer, pop culture essayist, and recovering addict and alcoholic living in Austin, TX. He currently writes for Loser City as well as Comics Bulletin and has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators for his minicomic Written in the Bones (illustrated by Carey Pietsch). Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter.