Albedo 0.39

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Albedo 0.39
File:Vangelis Albedo.jpg
Studio album by Vangelis
Released 1976
Recorded Nemo Studios, London, 1976
Genre Electronic, Progressive rock
Length 42:30 (9 Tracks)

Windham Hill

RCA (LP) # 3017
Producer Vangelis
Vangelis chronology
Entends-tu les chiens aboyer?
(1975)String Module Error: Match not found1975
Albedo 0.39
La Fête sauvage
(1976)String Module Error: Match not found1976
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[1]

Albedo 0.39 is an album by the artist Vangelis, released in 1976. It is a concept album around space and space physics. Albedo 0.39 was the second album produced by Vangelis in Nemo Studios, London, which was his creative base until the late 1980s. It contrasts with his previous album, Heaven and Hell, which was classically inspired and choral, while Albedo 0.39 has blues and jazz overtones.


A planet's albedo is the proportion of the light it receives that is reflected back into space. The album title refers to the average albedo value of the planet Earth as it was in 1976. From the explanation on the back of the LP cover : "The reflecting power of a planet or other non-luminous body. A perfect reflector would have an Albedo of 100%. The Earth's Albedo is 39%, or 0.39".

Due to a variety of solar, atmospheric, electromagnetic, seasonal, and pollution issues, Earth's albedo value is in constant flux. See Sources, below, for data pertaining to the issue.


Vangelis plays all instruments. Although it is uncertain which synthesizers Vangelis employs on this album, other instruments include acoustic drums, bass, percussion, a xylophone, a gamelan (track 2) and recordings of the speaking clock (courtesy of Post Office communications) and the Apollo moon landing (courtesy of NASA). It appears Vangelis alternates synthesizer and acoustic basses on different tracks.

The only vocal is the narrative on the title track, which is uncredited. It was later revealed to be the voice of Vangelis' sound engineer, Keith Spencer-Allen.


"Pulstar" (possibly a portmanteau of "pulsar" and "star") was to be the most popular track,[citation needed] building on a synthesizer pulse sequence, a main line and various other synthesizer brass lines. It ends with a recording of the speaking clock.

"Freefall" builds on a gamelan sequence and a synthesizer line.

"Mare Tranquillitatis" is a quiet synthesizer piece featuring recordings of several Apollo moon landings. Samples of this track can be heard on Enigma's album, The Cross of Changes (uncredited).

"Main sequence" is propelled by a pulsed synthesizer sequence, along which drums-based jazz track develops. It calms down and flows into the next song.

"Sword of Orion", built on an arpeggio chord, melody, and percussion.

On "Alpha", Vangelis employs a composing technique he would use extensively on later albums (e.g. Direct): a simple theme of a few bars is developed through increasingly complex instrumentation. Instruments include a slow synthesizer arpeggio, synthesizer mallet melody line, xylophone, percussion and (later) acoustic drums. It is a rather upbeat piece.

The "Nucleogenesis" suite is a collage that conveys a somewhat darker mood, employing a church organ, an organ synthesizer pulse, various lines of Vangelis' patent synthesizer brass, acoustic drums and basses. Although hard to classify, the pieces appear to hold a ground between classical, fusion and progressive rock.

The title track, "Albedo 0.39" is an atmospheric track building on waxing and waning synthesizer chords and arpeggios, while a voice, reputedly the album's engineer Keith Spencer-Allen, narrates various physical properties of the Earth, such as its mass, length of the year in various measurements, and, finally, its albedo.

Track listing

All songs written and arranged by Vangelis

No. Title Length
1. "Pulstar"   5:45
2. "Freefall"   2:20
3. "Mare Tranquillitatis"   1:45
4. "Main Sequence"   8:15
5. "Sword of Orion"   2:05
6. "Alpha"   5:45
7. "Nucleogenesis (Part One)"   6:15
8. "Nucleogenesis (Part Two)"   5:50
9. "Albedo 0.39"   4:30


  • Vangelis — synthesizers, keyboards, bass, drums
  • Keith Spencer-Allen — engineer


The album reached number 18 in UK Album Charts

Appearances in other media

  • "Pulstar" was used as the theme music for a children's BBC television programme, Horses Galore. It was also used as an early theme tune for ESPN's SportsCenter and ABS-CBN's news programs TV Patrol and The World Tonight. Some local newscasts used Pulstar as theme music, including WNEV in Boston, CBLT in Toronto and CBMT Newswatch[2] in Montreal. In Brazil it appeared on a TV ad for the cigarette brand Advance, in a high-tech styled, three-minute long clip by director João Daniel Tikhomiroff involving several cigarettes rolling and moving to make geometric shapes. It was an instantaneous success due to its vanguard look for the time.
  • Excerpts from "Pulstar" and "Alpha" can be heard on episodes of Carl Sagan's documentary series Cosmos, along with several other Vangelis themes. "Alpha" was used over animation illustrating evolutionary theory, with the music's climax timed to coincide with the appearance and achievements of humans.
  • An excerpt from "Pulstar" was used as the title track in the 2009 BBC documentary Micro Men.
  • Excerpts from "Pulstar" and "Alpha" were used in the 1980 film Death of a Princess. Despite the controversy over the film that outraged the government of Saudi Arabia, two tracks of its music (namely, 'Pulstar' and 'Alpha') were used for a long time as background music for interludes on Saudi national TV.
  • "Alpha" was used in the 1981 XXX movie American Desire.
  • In Spain, "Pulstar" was used by Cadena COPE radio station as an ident of their news services.
  • In Brazil, excerpts from "Nucleogenesis (Part One)" were used during journalistic reports in the Domingo Legal TV show, from SBT, during the 1990s and 2000s. It was revived in 2014 in Band's show, Tá Na Tela, again, serving as the background music for journalistic reports.
  • In Israel, "Alpha" was heard on the first Empire of Cinema logo in the early 1980s.


Audio clips


  1. "Allmusic review". 
  2. Newswatch Montreal propmo accessed August 12th, 2013: