CULTURE

A music career’s many phases captured on live triple-CD release

Virtually impossible to ignore, the local music industry has been bombarding listeners over the past year or so with live album releases documenting performances by all sorts of acts, the so-called high-caliber, low-caliber, mid-caliber – anything! In most cases, these live-album local releases can be attributed to the beleaguered record industry’s failure, so far, to combat CD piracy, which is apparently running at an astronomical rate of about 50 percent in Greece, according to official figures. Record companies seem to be capitalizing on the live performances of their artists by recording them, releasing them, and, in doing so, avoiding steep studio expenses for cheaper album production costs. Considering the offstage logistics, as well as the lack of genuine artistic concern behind these live album releases, you can’t help but wonder how many of them warrant their places on music store shelves, let alone in collections at home. But there have been exceptions. One of these is a new career-spanning, triple-CD release by composer Nikos Xydakis, «Live Recording at the Gyalino Music Theater.» It captures the composer’s evolution over his 25-year career to date, and, moreover, was impressively executed by Xydakis’s musicians and various guest vocalists. The recordings were conducted last fall at the Gyalino Music Theater over a series of nights with a rotating list of guest vocalists, including Socrates Malamas, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, and Melina Kana, who have all previously recorded with Xydakis, as well as Nikos Portokaloglou. Xydakis emerged in the late 1970s with what is nowadays widely regarded as a landmark album, «Ekdikisi Tys Gyftias,» which helped reinvigorate the popular Greek music scene. On board for the project were two relative newcomers at the time, Nikos Papazoglou, as the album’s vocalist, and Manolis Rassoulis, as the lyricist. The trio, with the help of the album’s musicians, blended effectively to render songs that were fresh, authentic and simple – qualities that were sorely missing in popular Greek, or laiko, at the time. The three repeated their efforts for a fine follow-up, «Ta Dithen,» a year later, in 1979. Since then, Xydakis, who was born and raised in Egypt before relocating to Greece, has expanded his songwriting capacity in various directions, including the East, which is not surprising considering his background. The triple CD, which contains 52 tracks, documents the songwriter’s phases and presents them thematically. The triple album’s first CD highlights Xydakis’s musings with the East. The songs here are gentle, atmospheric, and enigmatic. The artist’s laiko period is covered on the edition’s second CD, with selections from the two aforementioned albums, as well as «Konta Sti Doxa Mia Stigmi,» released in 1987. The live album’s third CD carries more recent work, including tracks from 1999’s «Xydakis-Malamas» album, for which Xydakis recruited Malamas, a potent songwriter in his own right, to apply his authoritative vocal coarseness to appropriately weighty material. Also included are four previously unreleased songs, one of these based on poetry by Constantine Cavafy, one of many poets that have inspired Xydakis to compose. Reflecting the man himself, much of Xydakis’s body of enchanting work conveys sensitivity, discretion, fragility, and elegance, as does the poetry he reads and uses for songwriting fuel.