May 08

DEMIS ROUSSOS – The Roussos Phenomenon (EP)

FT + Popular124 comments • 7,049 views

#392, 17th July 1976

(Special note: I have been unable to find a copy of all four tracks on the EP, so this review is written without having ever heard “So Dreamy”. So the mark out of ten is – unusually – subject to change. Though frankly I doubt it will.)

In a wayward year of odd Number Ones, this is one of the rummest. It isn’t the sort of thing I’d want to listen to very often, if at all, and if it was typical of the kind of records that top the charts, well, we wouldn’t be here. But there are enough intriguing touches on The Roussos Phenomenon to not dismiss it as wholly ridiculous. You are occasionally reminded that yes, this Demis Roussos is the same D.R. who released 666, a prog triple concept album about the Book of Revelation, the year before recording most of this…. slightly more accessible material. The phased synths on “My Friend The Wind”, for instance, are a pretty nice twist on the song. Meanwhile there’s the extraordinary wobbling voice – not being used on prime material here but with enough fire and conviction to make “Forever And Ever” slightly less disreputable than it ought to be. He can’t do much with the woeful “Sing An Ode To Love”, though.

I’m guessing that the public’s brief embrace of Roussos didn’t indicate any great swell of favour for Greek popular song (which was and remains a tough ask for the rugged British ear). Rather I would imagine it sprung from a) the suddenly Mediterranean climate making this kind of slow-baked saganaki sound good; b) accumulated memories of holidays during the Greek island package tour boom – these songs had been huge native hits for Roussos over the last few years; c) it being sung by a huge bearded bloke in a glittery kaftan. As a fat man with a beard myself, I think Roussos gets a slightly raw deal here – from garage rock to prog, through pop, opera and even a stab at hip-hop, he’s had a go at everything. Has any other artist tackled such a wide span of genres? But with the best will in the world I can’t claim that The Roussos Phenomenon is any real good.



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  1. 91
    Tom on 12 May 2008 #

    If there is only one “strong woman in pop” at once (which seems a kind of ridiculous idea since we’ve already mentioned Elastica and Bjork as big newsworthy hitmaking contemporaries of the Cranberries!) then I think that’s a function of record companies having zero ideas or bravery when it comes to marketing female acts rather than a function of pop or even of student tastes!

  2. 92
    Billy Smart on 12 May 2008 #

    But Elastica and Bjork really only registered with girls who had more than a casual interest in music. Even at 18 and 19, most people fall into the category of those who buy two or three albums a year – who were buying The Cranberries, The Beautiful South and Oasis when I was an undergraduate.

    So I’d guess that Beth Ditto isn’t the current “strong woman in pop”, because I reckon that it would only be clued-up music fan sort of girls who would have Gossip albums (not though the young buy CDs any more), rather than a more casual follower. This year’s model is much more likely to come from the Winehouse/ Lilly Allen/ Duffy axis.

  3. 93
    Tom on 12 May 2008 #

    Bjork was massive at the time though – #1 albums, constant press coverage. She wasn’t a gossip column fixture like Lily A or Amy W but she was certainly in the same orbit as the Cranberries.

    I’m always really suspicious of characterising the tastes of what used to be called on ILX the “12 CD crowd” – it tends to make the mistake of assuming that they only encounter and pick from popular stuff, whereas in my experience it’s a mix of popular stuff and stuff you’re surprised they’ve heard of. “Not being that into music” tends to mean “Not interested in stepping outside my comfort zone” but that comfort zone can be surprisingly deep, even if it isn’t broad.

    Also I think the specific motivation you’re implying here – they like strong women because they are women who recognise and enjoy that strength – is one which suggests a level of engagement with music that goes beyond ‘casual interest’ anyway!

  4. 94
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 12 May 2008 #

    i think the notion of a “strong woman of pop” — as role to be taken on by one figure at any one time — only makes sense in a grander theory of an entire numbered upper pantheon of pop, a set of unchanging top-level roles, complete with subtle internal geometry as the players of the roles shift and change: alongside the strong woman of pop, is the bearded godking of pop, the truculent sealord of pop, the slightly dull and worthy blind seer of pop, the perilous sex-kitten of pop, the ethereal space-children of pop, the vile-tastic goatsucker of pop and so on…

  5. 95
    Tom on 12 May 2008 #

    the bearded godking of pop

    Back to Roussos AT LAST.

  6. 96
    SteveM on 12 May 2008 #

    bearded godking of pop: george michael (via roussos)
    truculent sealord of pop: h p baxxter
    slightly dull and worthy blind seer of pop: robblie billiams
    perilous sex-kitten of pop: mariahmerie
    ethereal space-children of pop: daft punk
    vile-tastic goatsucker of pop: phil collins RIP

  7. 97
    Kat but logged out innit on 12 May 2008 #

    Argh! An inherently flawed conversation that mentions Elastica! Must… not… rise to bait…

    My strong woman in pop before Justine of course was Whigfield. Or perhaps Heather Smalls, she had very big hair you know.

  8. 98
    SteveM on 12 May 2008 #

    Heather Small & Love Affair more like (too obscure?)

  9. 99
    DJ Punctum on 12 May 2008 #

    If only Heather had remembered to take that gobstopper out of her mouth every time she started singing.

    1994 Mercury judges should have been put before the firing squad and I don’t mean Siralan and Nick and Margaret.

  10. 100
    crag on 12 May 2008 #

    100+ comments per track becoming pleasingly common…

  11. 101
    crag on 12 May 2008 #

    100+ comments per track becoming increasingly common, very pleasing…

  12. 102
    Drucius on 13 May 2008 #

    At the time I thought poor old Demis just looked like a fat git in a shower curtain, and the song was the height of schmaltz. It could have been written in any decade of the previous 6. Godawful. No wonder punk was welcomed with open arms by so many people.

    I’ve tried listening to Aphrodite’s Child, but it just seemed like a poor attempt at prog, to me.

    Abigail’s Party is brilliant, and not just for Alison Steadman’s knockers.

  13. 103
    intothefireuk on 17 May 2008 #

    re #56 The Lamb Lies Down – feat. New York punk Rael replete with short hair /biker jacket/skinny jeans & pumps (sound familiar ?). Gabriel as the Godfather of punk ha ha!

    1976 may have been a little dull in the singles charts but there was plenty of action in the album charts for those that cared i.e. Bowie’s Station To Station, Be Bop Deluxe’s Sunburst Finish, Genesis’ beautiful Collins as Gabriel epic Trick Of The Tail, Steely Dan’s Royam Scam, Wonders Song In The Key, Eagles Hotel California, ACDC, Rush, Heart, Hawkwind, Steve Miller, Blue Oyster Cult, Boston etc. Ok maybe not everybody’s idea of excitement but it kept this particular teenager off the streets.

    Singing tent Rousoss Med in a box hit will forever (and ever) be linked to Abigail’s Party so much so that I can’t really recall what I thought about it at the time. It seemed fairly innocuous stuff though & would have chimed in perfectly with the heatwave. Not sure I would have much use for it now though.

    Tom – if you haven’t seen AP – then you really, really must – it may have more of a bearing on your mark then seeking out the missing EP track.

  14. 104
    DJ Punctum on 18 May 2008 #

    For real 1976 seduction and sensuality you still can’t beat Marvin Gaye’s I Want You.

  15. 105
    Lena on 18 May 2008 #

    The US #1 single at this time was “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band – I haven’t heard any Mr. Roussos so I have no idea if it is better, worse, or what.

    Who is h p baxxter?

  16. 106
    Caledonianne on 18 May 2008 #

    I definitely prefer Afternoon Delight (the song and – ahem -the concept) better than this stuff!

  17. 107
    mike on 19 May 2008 #

    Well, I saw the Roussos Phemomenon TV doc when it first screened, decided that Demis qualified as “interesting” in a skewed, culty, so-out-it’s-in sort of way, bought the EP, and then promptly lost interest again about two weeks later. Having said that, I still like the curious time signature of the melodic figure that opens “Forever And Ever”, and “My Friend The Wi-i-i-i-nd” still raises a faint smile.

    The full 10 minute extended version of “L.O.V.E. Got A Hold On Me”, Demis’s 1978 excursion into disco, is at worth at least one listen.

  18. 108
    DJ Punctum on 19 May 2008 #

    H P Baxxter is the, shall we say, lead vocalist with top pop band of the moment Scooter. Also known as the “Screaming Lord,” “Ice Ice Baby” and “Whistling Dave”/”Dave From Sheffield” inter multiple alia.

  19. 109
    AndyPandy on 16 Aug 2011 #

    Been checking out a bit of Demis Roussos stuff lately after hearing him (and especially) ‘I Dig You’ (another disco track) bigged up on some trendy dance/dj sites lately. I didn’t realise ‘I Dig You’ was talked of in such hushed tones and that there’s even a pretty cutting edge remix of it too.
    I generally think he’s pretty good and “Winter Rains” very good.

  20. 110
    MarkG on 16 Aug 2011 #

    “I dig you” was previously called “I dig who?” and was an obscure single. Who it was slated to, artist-wise, I can’t say as the song title (it might even be called “Who”) has proved to be ungoogleable.

  21. 111
    MarkG on 16 Aug 2011 #

    Ah, I have found it:

    In 1973 Vangelis’ solo career began in earnest. His first “official” solo album was Earth, though it did actually feature a group of musicians including ex-Aphrodite’s Child guitarist Silver Koulouris and also vocalist and songwriter Robert Fitoussi (better known as F.R. David of “Words” fame).[14] This line-up, later briefly going out under the name “Odyssey”, released a single in 1974 titled “Who”, but that was Vangelis’ last involvement with them.

  22. 112
    AndyPandy on 16 Aug 2011 #

    Re 111: that all sort of falls into place as on the site that I read about “I Dig You” there was another thread about “tell me what Vangelis I need to hear” and the Odyssey “Who” single was recommended (and linked to its place on discogs)and described as being almost impossible to find anywhere outside a (quite obscure in itself) French import “space disco” compilation from the late 90s.

  23. 113
    MarkG on 16 Aug 2011 #

    Well, it was issued as a single in the UK on WWA back in 1974, according to Popsike it’s worth £30-£40 or so.

  24. 114
    AndyPandy on 18 Aug 2011 #

    114 heard them both now youtube (Who) and soulseek (Sad Face) ‘Who’ slightly better I’d say with some nice organ of the sort that could have possibly been sampled effectively by the right producer in a hardcore/organ house track.

  25. 115
    DanH on 19 Jan 2013 #

    Hoooo…way too Euro to do anything in America, I would imagine. Although, I could see “Forever and Ever” rendered by Roy Orbison in a different world…with a slow drumbeat like “Crying” or “It’s Over,” and a ‘sha-la-la la’ backing vocal

  26. 116
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  27. 117
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  28. 118
    Inanimate Carbon God on 4 Jan 2015 #

    I read Tom’s OP as “slow-baked saganowski“, as in Marek Saganowski, the Polish hat-trick hero on 31 March 2007 in Southampton FC’s 6-0 hammering of Wolves. The Molineux crowd were so distressed at what they’d witnessed, they ironically cheered each of their own passes as if each one won the Champions’ League – I used the same “ironic cheering” gallows humour here as it was the only way I could survive listening to the entire EP.

    It takes stronger critics than me to pinpoint the exact point where innocuous mid-seventies Euro-kitsch becomes irredeemable cheese – I’ll defend Abba’s cringeworthy work – and worryingly, even some Abba imitators, but it’s the voice. By ‘eckers like, the voice. In “mainstream” pop, Roussos’ voice is an emotional vacuum; blood, let alone milk-curdling.


    (An extra point for the harp sounding like the Smashing Pumpkins – Cupid de Locke Go on, “trendy” bands of today, I dares ye to get a less hip influence on record than TRP!)

    P.S. With predictable perversity I then went straight to 666; prog is often a genre outside my ken but my god, it was a veritable feast made by musicians and performers seemingly at the top of their game. Including Roussos. He still sounds like Mumford and Sons on helium – a present-day Abigail’s Party remake/remodel film of ham-fisted aspirant suburbanites could swap Roussos for M&S, the Lumineers, Passenger.. any of those cod-acoustic folk acts who live in a sinister Magner’s advert.

  29. 119
    Tom on 26 Jan 2015 #

    RIP Big Man

  30. 120
    enitharmon on 26 Jan 2015 #

    Not clear if he was broken by the Greek election result or overexcited by it. Rain and tears for him anyway.

  31. 121
    Inanimate Carbon God on 26 Jan 2015 #

    I now feel like I was terribly smug in my review at 118. But however we’ve scrutinised this record, his former band did record a genuinely brilliant album. RIP.

  32. 122
    lonepilgrim on 13 Nov 2019 #

    Demi’s sounds sincere and engaged on ‘Forever and Forever’ in a way that a lot of the MOR acts from the UK like Mud, etc don’t with their material. When I travelled in Europe I found that a lot of teenagers there had what seemed like shockingly catholic taste when it came to genres and eras of music with seemingly few of the tribal divisions of UK pop. It’s something you can hear in ABBAs musical palette so perhaps it should come as little surprise that DR could switch between Prog and Pop, possibly applying lessons learned from each to the other. I don’t particularly care for F&E but it doesn’t annoy or irritate me and nor would I ridicule anyone who did enjoy its lush vibe.

  33. 123
    Wasim Qadir on 23 Apr 2021 #

    I think Forever and Ever would be a 4/10 for me; it’s certainly no Four Horsemen!

  34. 124
    Gareth Parker on 2 Jun 2021 #

    #99 Heather Small is more talented than you’ll ever be. 4/10 for Demis.

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