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Tangerine Dream - Turn Of The Tides CD (album) cover


Tangerine Dream


Progressive Electronic

2.73 | 66 ratings

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3 stars The outfit known as Tangerine Dream is without a doubt the longest-lived prog band in existence that I have unwittingly and without good reason avoided giving a fair listen. As a musical entity, they've been around since 1967 and, like the Energizer bunny, are still going so it's with a smidgen of embarrassment that I meekly own up to my stark ignorance of their art. A lot of that stems from their genre, progressive electronic. That's never been a magnet for my ears because I prefer vocals and lyrics in my prog rock diet but it's not like I have something against instrumentals in general. On the contrary, I've always been a huge fan of classical symphonies in addition to considering myself a jazz rock fusion buff so it may just be a matter of not being exposed to that much of it more than anything else. I do recall seeing their intriguing album covers sticking out in the record bins back in the 70s and being curious about what it was this odd bunch did, exactly, but I was never enticed enough to shell out my sparse lettuce for one of their LPs. Plus, none of my musician cronies ever said boo about them so they were far from being the talk of the town, so to speak. By doing a little web research recently I quickly learned that one multitalented guy named Edgar Froese is the sole survivor of all the incarnations of the group and, therefore, is the main mastermind that the band revolves around to this day. And, in case you're like me and didn't know squat about them, this is a Germanic combo. In fact, the roster of members and guest artists that have been associated with Tangerine Dream over the decades reads like a list of participants in an accordion-playing contest held at a Midwestern town's Oktoberfest. Just sayin'. Lotta folks coming and going through the studio door, for sure. Anyway, I read that the group was a lot more experimental in the 70s and 80s, did a lot of movie soundtracks for flicks like 'Risky Business' and 'Firestarter' along the way and swerved over into the realm of electronica in the 90s. (I'm still not sure what the 'electronica' connotation means, precisely, but I'm okay with that.) Honestly, I was just hoping to hear some cool stuff.

When I finally decided to sample their wares I was bedazzled by their enormous body of work so I took the old dartboard approach and picked an album at random. 1994's 'Turn of the Tides' got the luck of the draw. The first thing I heard was a peal of thunder, some rain and horse hooves clopping down a cobbled street, all of which were accompanying the familiar theme of Mussorgsky's 'Picture at an Exhibition.' I wasn't sure what to make of that scenario but the music turned out to be a rather straightforward, synthesized rendition of that composer's famously regal score. Not a bad way to start, I figured. 'Firetongues' is next and it opens with an ominous drone before entering into an Alan Parsons Project-styled motif propelled by Edgar's strong, active drum track. A flourish of Flamenco acoustic guitar provides an exciting edge and a true focal point. I really like the overall ambience of their sound, as well. The number was written by Froese's son, Jerome, who had joined the cast in 1990 so it seems that the tangerine didn't fall far from the tree if you catch my drift. Junior also composed the next cut, 'Galley Slave's Horizon,' a song wherein the plodding pace doesn't drag the momentum down too much and the heavily stacked electric guitars fill up the spaces nicely. About halfway through it drops down to a piano-led atmospheric passage that contains a cavernous depth of field (something I always dig). After that the drums reenter to establish a moving rhythm reminiscent of what Sade does so effortlessly. My only complaint is that the adventurous guitar work is buried too far down in the mix to be effective.

Edgar's 'Death of a Nightingale' sports a beautiful modern Asian texture that sets a serene, meditative tone from the start. Linda Spa's soprano sax is a perfect fit and the tune eases along like a peaceful stream. This piece deserves repeated listens. Jerome's 'Twilight Brigade' follows and the light, funky drums strutting under its lush soundscape help to distinguish it from the other cuts but it runs into trouble at the midway point when some ill-advised guitar licks spoil the scenery. Since Edgar, Jerome and some dude named Zlatco Perica are all listed as guitarists it's difficult to finger the perpetrator but it almost sounds like they accidentally left a scratch guitar track in because there are several bad notes that are unnecessarily foisted upon the listener without cause. Other than that rude gaffe I found myself waiting for something to surprise me in the arrangement but it never happened. Jerome's 'Jungle Journey' is next and, while it wasn't what I anticipated due to its title, it's not a big letdown per se. It possesses more of a techno dance groove than the African aura one would expect and, while interesting at times, it's not particularly engaging, either. Edgar's 'Midwinter Night' is decent. It's a simple but warm ballad supplemented by Spa's tender saxophone ride and, all in all, it's not intended to be a jab when I tell you it's unobtrusive music to read a book by. 'Turn of the Tides' brings up the rear. A mysterious intro leads to a Latin disco throb that persists throughout most of the song. Brassy synthesizers hog the spotlight for a while and then the number evolves to project a more ethereal mode toward the end where choir-like voices waft about.

As I indicated earlier in this review, I'm a novice when it comes to this brand of instrumental prog. I really like what Camel did on their 'Snow Goose' album and, at times, this sorta reminds me of the amiable spirit that inhabits that excellent record. I recently discovered the minimalist genius contained in some of Brian Eno's work so I'm slowly but surely widening my horizons by venturing farther into this wing of the prog museum. I guess Vangelis and Kraftwerk are bound to be sitting somewhere on my need-to-hear list, too. While this record didn't exactly wow me I did find it enticing enough to want to hear more from them. While admittedly not all that invigorating or energizing, I can still appreciate their acumen and the professional level of musicianship involved so I'm somewhat satisfied with the final product. 2.8 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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