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Tangerine Dream - Cyclone CD (album) cover

CYCLONE

Tangerine Dream

 

Progressive Electronic

3.55 | 230 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Cyclone' - Tangerine Dream (7/10)

"Cyclone" is, in some respects, a continuation of the increasingly streamlined sound of "Stratosfear". Although Tangerine Dream were holding strong to their electronic roots, there was a conscious effort to incorporate heavier elements of rock and pop music. In many respects, "Cyclone" does not innovate this approach much, veering somewhat towards a more conventional 'prog rock' sound. However, "Cyclone" included one fresh element to the stew of Tangerine Dream that has since made it one of the most controversial and polarized albums o the band's career; that would be vocals. Although it's up for debate whether the use of a clean singing voice in what is essentially a popular music style is particularly revolutionary, it broke a long streak of instrumental compositions for the German outfit. Although Tangerine Dream may have been best left as an instrumental electronic group, the vocal contributions of Steve Jolliffe fit Tangerine Dream's spacey approach well. In all other senses, "Cyclone" remains on track with their gradual shift from ambient electronica to a more accessible form.

I'll first say that "Cyclone" does not deserve the flak or controversy it's received. Although Jolliffe's vocals are something of an acquired taste, Tangerine Dream's spacey sound was in need of some innovating, nine albums into their career. With that being said, Edgar Froese and the rest of Tangerine Dream certainly had aspirations to surprise their audience. With the vocals of Jolliffe, Tangerine Dream takes another step towards Pink Floyd territory, lessening the gap between them and a truly rock-oriented formula. In fact, although the second side of the album would rein the music back towards Tangerine's staple style, "Bent Cold Sidewalk" actually has more in common with a Floyd or Van der Graaf Generator tune than anything from Tangerine Dream's earlier years. Although the synthesizers still comprise most of the band's sound, they're used in a more focused manner than what might be typically expected of the band. Apart from the vocals, there are horns and even what sounds like a flute incorporated into the mix. Although it's a far cry from the band's regular formula on paper, the signature sound of the synthesizer makes for a staunch sort of 'station identification'. Changes aside, this is still very much a Tangerine Dream ordeal.

Steve Jolliffe's vocals are no doubt the hot topic and divisive factor of "Cyclone", in spite of the fact that vocals are only ever used on the album's first side. His performance is typically multi-layered, with one recording track showcasing his impressive higher register, 'tuneful' range, and the other presenting a darker, deeper theatrical snarl. Especially with these two together, Jolliffe sounds quite a bit like Floyd frontman Roger Waters, particularly when he is at his most maniacal. Especially on "Bent Cold Sidewalk", Steve's contributions are solid enough, although it's easy to see why some may have a problem with his voice. Especially with regards to his lower pitched delivery, I could have seen Jolliffe being better suited for some of the band's more experimental, leftfield material rather than this comparatively accessible sound.

With "Madrigal Meridian", Tangerine Dream finally give the more puritanical fans what they want; that is, a twenty minute, sprawling electronic composition. Although it doesn't compare to "Rubycon" or anything on "Zeit" or "Phaedra", "Madrigal Meridian" is a playful exploration of sounds the band had largely tread upon before. However, instead of the subtly disturbing atmosphere of spacey loneliness that Tangerine Dream had been prone to evoke before, there is something about the second side of "Cyclone" that speaks of a more upbeat, playful and optimistic nature. Perhaps it was a conscious attempt to mirror the 'vocal side' in terms of its accessibility. In any case, Tangerine Dream reaffirm here the notion of their mastery of sound and texture. The synthesizers are rich and atmospheric, and their perpetually minimalistic approach is evocative. Sadly, "Madrigal Meridian" is robbed of excellence for the fact that the composition never seems to build like Tangerine Dream's best works would. Although I'm sure to receive the chagrin of many a TD fan for saying this, the first half of "Cyclone" is where the greatness of the album lies. In the scheme of Tangerine Dream's greatest 1970's work, "Cyclone" is arguably fated to be overshadowed forever by the bigger, better works. However, the seemingly moderate experiment of incorporating vocals yielded some fairly successful results. In short, it's a strong twist on a tried-and-tested formula, although most days, I would prefer to listen to "Rubycon".

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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