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2. Queen of the universe
3. Every dream comes to an end
4. The bride
6. A day in heaven
7. Time of pain
After shortening their name to "Socrates" from the original "Socrates Drank The Conium", Greece's favorite and most famous rock trio collaborated with former Aphrodite's Child keyboard wizard Vangelis Papathanassiou (yes, THAT Vangelis) for this album, which is arguably their magnum opus and the closest they've ever come to the progressive rock genre. Lush, atmospheric keyboards enhance the intricate arrangements, which are on par with the best the international rock, hard rock and progressive rock could offer at the time. The only gripe is the wiry, weak and nasal tone of Yiannis Spathas' guitar. "Killer" is actually a reworking of the frenetic, driving "Death Is Gonna Die" from their previous effort, "On The Wings"; don't confuse it with Adamski's dance hit. "Mountains" is perhaps the finest example of how an electric guitar can be used to play a traditional improvised Greek clarinet solo. "Queen Of The Universe" is just what a love song should be, sensitive and heartfelt, without being mushy and corny - and it also has a gorgeous melody. "Starvation" is the album's most famous song. Although it's incredibly well-composed and written, this is where we see why I don't like the guitar tone. All of the songs, in general, are of a very high standard. I highly recommend this album to every rock connoisseur.
Socrates was Yannis Spathas and Antonis Tourkoyorgis on guitar and bass respectively. During the period that they were playing in the Kitarro Club they went through several drummers including George Trantalidis, all of them terrific. In Athens during the early seventies, when the 1967 military dictatorship was still in control, there were a number of rock clubs in the area around Victoria Square and in the Plaka. Poll and Morka played at the Elaterion. Socrates and Exidaktilo played at the Kitarro. As Dorian Kokas, the founder and leader of Morka told us one night "We used to race through our set and play everything fast so we could get out early and go to the Kittaro and catch the last set of Socrates." Musicians loved Socrates.
Socrates sounded like several bands that were popular at the time, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath come to mind now when I hear their music from that early period, though the majority of their material was original. There were songs that were crowd favorites such as "Close the Door and Lay Down", "Starvation" and "Underground", but often the highlight of the evening was when they did their Hendrix songs like "Voodoo Chile", "Message of Love" and "Red House" or jammed on songs like "Kansas City" with singer Jimi Quidd (later of the NY Dots) and Greek-American blues guitarist John Kronis.
Spathas played a Fender Strat, long straight hair hanging down almost to the guitar, he was motionless except for his hands which effortlessly ripped out the most fluid, solos and riffs. He always hooked the chord to his amp over the bottom cutaway so he would not step on it and pull it out during a solo, I suppose. It was sort of his trademark in a way and we would watch him tune up and wait for him to do it which meant to us that the music was about to begin. He would play some mind-boggling riff to make sure the volume was right or the guitar was in tune and they would be off. Antonis Tourkoyorgis played bass and sang and if Spathas gave the appearance of being introverted he was the complete opposite. He was also a great bass player. The powerful sound this little three-piece band with their stacks of Marshalls put out in the Kittaro kept us coming back night after night. In all honesty I have to say that to this day I have not heard any band, three-piece or more, fill as much musical space. Seeing the Who in 1976 I found myself comparing them to Socrates. OK, the Who is the Who. But apart from the personalities, the songs I knew and the flamboyance, were Townshend, Entwhistle and Moon as good a band as Socrates? No way. Led Zepplin? Nope. You'd have to ask someone who had seen Hendrix or Cream to make the judgement about those bands but I can't imagine anyone being better than Socrates on a good night and as far as those nights in the Kittaro went I don't think they ever had a bad night. They were too good to have a bad night.
What made them so remarkable was the guitar playing of Spathas. Even today listening to the solos he played in 1972 I still can't believe the music he was making. Brent Lambert of Kitchen Mastering, quite a guitar player himself, after hearing several Spathas solos from thirty years ago said "If this guy had come to America he would be a guitar hero and everyone would know his name." If you liked the way Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen play you will love Spathas and if you play guitar yourself you will wonder "If this was thirty years ago and he is still playing how good must he be now?"
Socrates made two albums as a three-piece, both pretty awful because of poor mixing and mastering though the songs and performances were good. In those days producers had no idea what to do with a group like Socrates. It would be like recording Rage Against The Machine after spending 20 years doing Herman's Hermits. Later the group added a lead singer and different variations of guitarists, keyboards. At one time both Spathas and Tourkoyorgis played guitars. Vangelis Papathanasiou, otherwise known as Vangelis joined them for an album and made them more of a progressive-rock band with lots of keyboard, synth and guitar interweavings. But the three-piece version of the band's first two albums and the original rock-blues style was probably their best shot at world fame.
Socrates still plays. They are again a three-piece with Spathas and Tourkogiorgis joined by Makis Gioulis, a fine drummer in the traditon of the band. Asteris Papastamatakis plays keyboards on some material and a female vocalist named Markela Panagiotou, harmonizes and does duets with Tourkogiorgis and sings a couple songs on her own. Still the best part of the night for me is when the band strips down to the core of guitar-bass-drums and they play the old songs from the Kittaro or jam on some Hendrix tunes. Maybe I am just nostalgic but I can't help listening to them and thinking of what might have been. Had it not been for the fact that they were at their prime during the dictatorship then maybe Greece might have been known as the country that gave us Socrates instead of Yanni. Then again oppression can breed great art as an instrument of rebellion. Socrates with their long hair, beards and high-energy blues and rock and roll were a window on the world outside and the reason people crammed into the Kittaro every weekend. For that reason they belong alongside the great bands of Rock and Roll History.
-Socrates drank the conium (1972, Polydor)
-Taste of conium (1972, Vertigo)
-On the wings (1973, Polydor)
-Phos (1976, Vertigo)