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Tangerine Dream, 'Ultima Thule' 7"  (1972)  ****/TTTT

Ultima Thule part 1
Ultima Thule part 2
Tangerine Dream, 'Atem'

Atem  (1973,  41.37)  ***½/TTTT

Atem
Fauni-Gena
Circulation of Events
Wahn
Tangerine Dream, 'Phaedra'

Phaedra  (1974,  37.57)  ****/TTTT

Phaedra
Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares

Movements of a Visionary
Sequent C'
Tangerine Dream, 'Rubycon'

Rubycon  (1975,  34.53)  ***½/TTT

Rubycon - Part One
Rubycon - Part Two
Tangerine Dream, 'Ricochet'

Ricochet  (1976,  38.17)  ****/TT

Ricochet Part 1
Ricochet Part 2
Tangerine Dream, 'Stratosfear'

Stratosfear  (1976,  35.23)  ****½/TT½

Stratosfear
The Big Sleep in Search of Hades
3 am at the Border of the Marsh From Okefenokee
Invisible Limits
Tangerine Dream, 'Sorcerer'

Sorcerer  (1977,  44.17)  ****/TTTT

Main Title
Search

The Call
Creation
Vengeance
The Journey

Grind
Rain Forest
Abyss
The Mountain Road
Impressions of Sorcerer
Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme)
Tangerine Dream, 'Encore'

Encore  (1977,  71.49)  ****/TTTT½

Cherokee Lane
Monolight

Coldwater Canyon
Desert Dream
Tangerine Dream, 'Cyclone'

Cyclone  (1978,  38.27)  ***½/TT

Bent Cold Sidewalk
Rising Runner Missed By Endless Sender
Madrigal Meridian
Tangerine Dream, 'Force Majeure'

Force Majeure  (1979,  39.54)  ****/T½

Force Majeure
Cloudburst Flight
Thru Metamorphic Rocks
Tangerine Dream, 'Tangram'

Tangram  (1980,  40.15)  ***½/T

Tangram Set 1
Tangram Set 2
Tangerine Dream, ''70-'80'

'70-'80  (1980,  165.17)  ****½/TTTT

Alpha Centauri (edit)
Nebulous Dawn (edit)
Wahn
Phaedra

Sequent C'
Ricochet Part II
Rubycon Part II (edit)

Stratosfear (edit)
Betrayal
Desert Dream (edit)
Cherokee Lane (edit)

Monolight (edit/remix)
Search
The Mountain Road
Impressions of Sorcerer

Barryl Blue
Chimes and Chains
Haunted Heights
Cloudburst Flight
Madrigal Meridian (edit)
Grind
Tangram Part I
Tangerine Dream, 'White Eagle'

White Eagle  (1982,  38.24)  ***½/TT

Mojave Plan
Midnight in Tula
Convention of the 24
White Eagle
Tangerine Dream, 'Hyperborea'

Hyperborea  (1983,  41.45)  **½/½

No Man's Land
Hyperborea
Cinnamon Road
Sphinx Lightning
Tangerine Dream, 'Green Desert' Tangerine Dream, 'Green Desert'

Green Desert  (1986, recorded 1973,  38.48)  ***½/½

Green Desert
White Clouds
Astral Voyager
Indian Summer
Tangerine Dream, 'Soundmill Navigator'

Soundmill Navigator  (2000, recorded 1976,  41.48)  ***½/TT½

Soundmill Navigator
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 1' Tangerine Dream, 'Sheffield City Hall, 1974'

Sheffield, Oct 29th 1974, City Hall (Bootleg Box Set 1, Disc 1)  (2003, recorded 1974,  43.51)  ***½/TTTT½

Sheffield 74
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 1' Tangerine Dream, 'Albert Hall, 1975'

London, April 2nd 1975, Royal Albert Hall (Bootleg Box Set 1, Discs 2 & 3 )  (2003, recorded 1975,  103.56)  ****/TTTT

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 1' Tangerine Dream, 'Berlin, 1976'

Berlin, June 27th 1976, Berlin Philharmonie (Bootleg Box Set 1, Disc 4)  (2003, recorded 1976,  31.24)  ***½/TTT

Electronic Rock at the Philharmonics
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 1' Tangerine Dream, 'Bilbao, 1976'

Bilbao, Jan 31st 1976, Pabellion de la Casilla (Bootleg Box Set 1, Discs 5 & 6 )  (2003, recorded 1976,  114.20)  ****/TTT½

Part One
Part Two

Part Three
Part Four
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 1' Tangerine Dream, 'Croydon 1975'

Live at Croydon Fairfield Halls, 23rd October 1975 (Bootleg Box Set 1, Disc 7)  (2003, recorded 1975,  61.43)  ***½/T

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 2' Tangerine Dream, 'Nottingham, 1976'

Nottingham, Nov 8th 1976, Albert Hall (Bootleg Box Set 2, Disc 1)  (2003, recorded 1976,  79.40)  ***½/T½

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 2' Tangerine Dream, 'Washington, 1977'

Washington, April 4th 1977, Lisner Auditorium (Bootleg Box Set 2, Discs 2 & 3 )  (2003, recorded 1977,  109.57)  ****/TTTT

Introduction
Cherokee Lane
Interlude One
Monolight
Interlude Two
Monolith
Drywater Rush
Interlude Three
Rain in Spain
Interview
Octagon
Closing Words
Tangerine Dream, 'Bootleg Box Set 2' Tangerine Dream, 'Hamburg, 1978'

Hamburg, Feb 24th 1978, Audimax (Bootleg Box Set 2, Disc 4)  (2003, recorded 1978,  52.33)  ***½/T

Part One
Part Two
Tangerine Dream, 'Epsilon Journey: Live in Eindhoven 2008'

The Epsilon Journey: Live in Eindhoven 2008  (2010,  146.55)  **/T

Dvorak (New World No. 9)
Traffic of Silence
Vault of the Heaven
Daluminacion
Lightcone
Timanfaya
Tropic of Capricorn
Dalinetopia
Stuntman
Metropolis
Daliesquador
Drunken Mozart in the Desert
Pinnacles, Pt. 1
Scarlet Score for Mescalero
Hamlet
Maroubra Bay
Pinnacles, Pt. 2
Heatwave City
One Night in Space
Serpent Magique
Leviathan
Various Artists, 'V'

V  (1975,  11.00)  ***/T½

[Tangerine Dream contribute]
Overture





Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Now, reviewing Tangerine Dream presents me with a bit of a problem; much as I like some electronic music, particularly early Tangs, I don't really feel it in the way I feel progressive rock, for example. The end result of this is that I find it quite difficult to comment on the music; "Forty minutes of pleasant synth burbles with loads of 'Tron", doth not a review make, but you may find that I'm reduced to that level in places, so apologies in advance. As a result, given that there are bound to be plenty of Tangs reviews on the 'Net written by far more knowledgeable people, I'll review these from a Mellotronic point of view even more than I do normally.

The earliest Tangerine Dream lineup came together in about 1967, coalescing around guitarist Edgar Froese, but they didn't record until 1970, after many personnel changes. There isn't a synth in sight on Electronic Meditation (***½), and the album bears little resemblance to the band we're familiar with from later in the decade, consisting chiefly of rather avant-garde guitar work and early Floydian organ. The Tangs carried on in experimental mode through Alpha Centauri (***), after which they made their first Mellotron recordings, the little-known Ultima Thule single, released early 1972. Part 1 is a psych-rock thrash, with Froese's guitar to the fore, sounding more late-'60s than anything, but with stacks of 'Tron strings and flute. The b-side is even more 'Tron-heavy, making this a must-hear item. I don't believe it's been officially available for decades, but there are ways and means...

The band followed the 7" with the double Zeit (***), consisting of four side-long drones, bringing that phase of their existence to a close with the transitional Atem, with Froese back on the Mellotron. The title track starts with a 'Tron-heavy section before Chris Franke's tribal drumming takes over, leading into a quiet yet edgy part with 'Tron flutes sliding in and out of the mix. Side two's three tracks feature more 'typical' 'Tron strings and flute, with more tribal drumming on Wahn. Overall, Atem is the 'missing link' between early- and mid-period Tangs; although slightly more accessible than their earlier work, it's definitely a more difficult listen than their Virgin period classics.

Phaedra is the first Tangs album of what many regard as their 'golden years'; although Julian Cope's excellent 'Krautrocksampler' dis(mis)ses them at exactly the same point. They certainly moved away from typical 'Krautrock' on the album, but created an entirely new style which could hardly be called 'commercial', except maybe by the odd fanatic... Anyway, the side-long title track has drones, discordant sections and weirdness along with its more tuneful moments, and a great deal of Mellotron strings, choir and cello, presumably played from a single M400 by Froese, including a stunning 'Tron solo spot towards the end of the piece. Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares is practically a Froese solo track, with 'Tron strings from beginning to end, but they abandon their machine for the last two tracks, with Movements Of A Visionary being organ-based (Froese and/or Peter Baumann) and Sequent C' being pretty much a Baumann (real) flute solo. Some of the 'Tron is either very heavily phased, or it's being put through something like a Moog filter, so expect some unusual noises.

Rubycon is the first of the band's large-scale compositions, spread over both sides of the album. Part One takes some time to get going, with some 'Tron choir from Froese again, switching to strings once the sequencer kicks in, and then not being used again for the rest of the piece. Part Two is structured in a vaguely similar way to Part One, featuring an eerie, discordant solo choir section before the inventive sequencer part complete with hands-on 'playing' of the filter, probably on one of the band's VCS3s. As the sequenced part fades towards the end of the piece, Froese plays what sounds like an improvised part on 'Tron flutes over a droning backdrop, to a gentle fade, with the flutes being the last audible sound.

Ricochet is supposedly live, 'recorded live, Autumn 1975 in France and Britain', including material from a gig in Croydon, October '75, but generally received wisdom has it that it was heavily edited and overdubbed in the studio. I personally prefer it to Rubycon; maybe it's a little more cohesive. Don't know. Anyway, Part 1 has Edgar playing mainly guitar, with very little Mellotron, played by either Baumann or Chris Franke (no instrumental credits on this one). A few string chords near the beginning, a little choir near the end and that's it. Part 2 features a flute melody early on, before the sequencer starts. The track has far more energy than Part 1, with a primitive drum machine doing its thing for much of it and Edgar back on guitar (does he actually play anything else here?). More flutes towards the end, with a few choir chords to close, and that's it. The more obvious overdubs are a 'sampled' vocal part on Part 1 (presumably a tape effect) and the piano on Part 2, or were they hauling a grand around with them? I don't believe so, but I suppose they could have just possibly used one already in the theatre, but I rather doubt it. Steve Dinsdale from r.m.i., a man who could be said to know a bit about the Tangs, tells me that the voice effects are definitely 'Tron, and were used elsewhere on the tour, and the first five minutes or so of each side are essentially studio creations. The 'primitive drum machine' is actually a Moog sequencer triggering white noise; inventive as ever... [Cheers for that, Steve!].

Stratosfear is my personal favourite Tangerine Dream album, particularly the ('Tron-free) title track, with a killer melody I heard them still using on stage in the late '90s. Apart from their debut, Electronic Meditation and the Sorcerer soundtrack, it's the only one of their '70s albums not to feature at least one side-long piece, which seemed to make the band rein in their excesses slightly, which may be why I like it so much. They use a wide range of instrumentation, too, including harpsichord, piano, harmonica, 12-string guitar and the first (credited) appearance of Chris Franke's infamous 'Loop Mellotron'. Now, I haven't yet found anyone who can actually tell me what it was, but I suspect a standard M400, modified to run loops of tape right around the internal workings. Sounds like an absolute nightmare, but I suppose it may be that you can hear at the beginning of the title track, with a faint choir-like sound in the background that runs way over the eight-second mark. Anyway, on the (regular) Mellotron front, The Big Sleep In Search Of Hades starts with a 'Tron flute melody, followed by some apocalyptic string chords, while 3 am At The Border Of The Marsh From Okefenokee has a few choir chords near the beginning, then sticks with flutes for the rest of the piece. Invisible Limits starts, yet again, with flutes, which return near the piece's conclusion, over Froese's Rick Wright-ish piano part.

Sorcerer is the odd man out in this run of albums, being the only film soundtrack ('Sorcerer' being William 'Exorcist' Friedkin's reputedly inferior remake of '50s classic The Wages Of Fear, concerning a truck full of explosives being driven through the mountains in Central America), an area the band were to most profitably move into during the '80s, with an unfortunate accompanying heavy reduction in musical quality. As a soundtrack, the album's made up of relatively short snippets of music, making it quite unlike anything else the Tangs recorded during the '70s. According to Friedkin's sleevenotes, the band sent him ninety minutes of music, without having seen any part of the film, of which he excerpted about half, claiming "Yet somehow they were able to capture and enhance every nuance of each moment where their music is heard".

The atonal Main Title (rarely has a piece of music sounded less like a film theme) apparently has FX from one of the Tangs' custom tape frames (thanks, Axel), while Search is almost all 'Tron strings, before a couple of 'Tron-free pieces. From Vengeance on, however, it's 'Trons pretty much all the way, played by all three members, with a few string chords in Vengeance itself, and a flute melody in The Journey. I believe Sorcerer's the first Tangs album where they used any form of polysynth; an Oberheim, in this case, and I suspect it's that you can hear doing a reasonable brass impersonation on Grind, rather than Mellotron brass, though it is (as so often) rather hard to tell. Rain Forest's atonal pitchbent choirs sound startlingly like Roland's 'Rainforest' D50 patch of a decade later, and the cellos in Abyss (the album's longest track) sound, as always, like someone sawing wood. The same track's strings start out atonal, then shift into a heavy minor-key chord sequence (aren't they all?), before the more sedate The Mountain Road's flute melody. The brass on the sort-of funky Impressions Of Sorcerer are almost definitely 'Tron this time, and the phased strings of Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme) round things off nicely. Essentially, Sorcerer fits well into the Tangs' '70s canon, despite being designed as a soundtrack, rather than as an album complete in itself. It would be interesting to hear the whole ninety minutes of original music, but it seems unlikely it'll ever be released, and certainly not without being messed about with in the studio (see: Green Desert, Soundmill Navigator).

The double live Encore shows the band in their natural habitat, improvising on stage, this time in America, with four (presumably edited) pieces, one per side. By this time the Tangs were using the equivalent of four Mellotrons on stage, with Froese playing a Mark V, giving a total of twelve potentially different sounds (or, to be accurate, keyboards'-worth), although I'm sure the more useful ones were doubled up between machines. To my knowledge, apart from the standard strings/choir/flutes/cellos, they also apparently used string section, brass, woodwind and 'orchestra' tapes, with possibly percussion and piano too, but the huge maelstrom of sound the band were producing by this point makes it pretty hard to tell most of the time. Although they were hauling quite a bit of equipment around, they didn't bring either an organ or any orchestral percussion along (although they did bring a grand piano), so anything sounding like either of them is going to be either their new Oberheim polys (both 4- and 8-voice), or one of the 'Trons.

Cherokee Lane takes several minutes to get going, but when it does it's 'Tron-a-go-go, with alternate flute and string parts throughout much of the piece. It's quite strange to hear not just audience noise at each end of the side, but a huge cheer as the sequencer kicks in. Odd. Anyway, Monolight features more flutes, then a great deal of brass in the middle section, and while Coldwater Canyon is 'Tronless, it's probably the best track on the album, with an energetic drum machine pattern running through much of it. Desert Dream is suitably dreamlike, with the proverbial swathes of strings and flutes, with the odd cello part thrown in for good measure. All in all, quite a 'Tron album.

Did I say Sorcerer was the odd man out here? Just shows how long it is since I've played Cyclone. I remember that it's one of only two Tangs albums of the era to feature drums (from Klaus Krieger), but I'd totally forgotten the album's other innovation. Vocals. Yup, you read that right. Vocals, on Bent Cold Sidewalk and Rising Runner Missed By Endless Sender from Baumann's brief replacement Steve Joliffe. The end result, at least on side one, sounds rather... normal. With the role of the bass guitar being filled by synths, in places they sound pretty much like any other stadium rock band of the era, although the drums work well throughout much of the album. The only obvious Mellotron is some brass (solo trumpet, maybe?) on the two longer tracks, Bent Cold Sidewalk and Madrigal Meridian. Joliffe plays 'tenor and soprano horns', plus the Lyricon, a pre-MIDI wind controller that had a brief burst of popularity in the late '70s, but you can hear the key-click in places, so I'm assuming that's where the Mark V, M400 and Franke's infamous Loop Mellotron are used. The 'Tron was obviously slowly being phased out of the band's sound (no pun intended) as polysynths wormed their way in; at least the polys of the day still sounded good...

Froese with Birotron
Edgar Froese, Birotron to bottom left (Edgar's right)

Force Majeure is more cohesive than its predecessor, thankfully without vocals, though still utilising Klaus Krieger's drum kit in places. The side-long title track sounds like typical late-'70s Tangs for most of its length, until it suddenly switches into one of those 'bloody hell!' moments of which the band were occasionally capable. A truly superb melody comes out of nowhere, over the perfect backing; this could easily have been the basis for an entire piece, and maybe should've been. This section is followed by another startling part, with the Tangs inventing '80s synth-pop, mixed with an almost ecclesiastical feel as the track winds to a close. Cloudburst Flight is pretty much a Froese guitar showcase, while Thru Metamorphic Rocks is a little more 'traditional', and could fit quite easily onto one of their earlier albums. Now, I'm about to push the boat out here, albeit with photographic evidence: it seems that, at this point, Edgar abandoned Mellotrons for the dubious pleasures of the Birotron, as funded and (not especially) popularised by one R. Wakeman, Esq. Proof? On the picture to the right, it can be seen on the floor to bottom left, under an unidentified string synth (?) and an Oberheim 4-Voice. More proof? There's a little choir near the beginning of Force Majeure, ditto on Thru Metamorphic Rocks, none of which sounds especially Mellotronic, although it does sound quite like a Birotron before the tape cartridges wore out.

Tangram carries the 'Tangs sound' into the '80s, with more polysynths, but otherwise little change. The two-part piece does all the usual stuff, but without the highs of Force Majeure, although there's some fairly decent melodic parts here and there. It's even more obviously Birotron this time round, with choirs scattered throughout both tracks, fading in and out of the mix, but as with its two predecessors, the tape-replay use isn't really essential.

The band (or possibly their label) decided to wrap up their first ten years with a four-LP set, '70-'80, covering every album to date except Electronic Meditation, complete with glossy booklet and now rather hard to find. Now, a quick (rare?) burst of honesty here: I haven't actually heard the full set, complete with (sometimes drastically) edited versions, although I have heard the three new and one remixed track, which are all you need to know about, frankly (Franke-ly? OK, I'll stop now). As a result, some of the highlighted tracks above may not actually feature any of the band's Mellotrons on the edit used in the box, although they're on the full versions; in the event of my actually hearing the original vinyl (or a copy thereof), I shall amend this tracklisting post-haste. Happy? So; we get a brief, remixed excerpt from Encore's Monolight and three previously (and subsequently) unheard solo pieces, Barryl Blue (Froese, '78), Chimes And Chains (Franke, '79) and Haunted Heights (Baumann, '77). Monolight seems (get this) to've been edited down for potential release as a single (hmmm...), sans Mellotron, as are Froese's and Franke's pieces, but Baumann's Haunted Heights is an ominous, eerie slice of heavy Mellotron strings and flutes, well worth hearing. Now, far be it from me to encourage such things (ahem), but all four tracks are included on disc one of '90s bootleg Electronic Orgy, possible to track down online if you put in the hours; as to whether or not Edgar will ever opt to release them properly (and un-messed with) can only be a matter for idle speculation.

1982's White Eagle seems to be, as its title suggests, some kind of tribute to Native American culture and Americana generally, musical motifs including tribal drumming and faux-Spaghetti Westernisms, including deliberate quotes from Morricone's iconic scores. Vying for 'top track' place are lengthy opener Mojave Plan and the abrasive title track, but this is one of The Tangs' last really solid efforts before '80s ennui set in for good. I believe the wonky, pitchbent choirs on Mojave Plan are actually Birotron, ditto the chordal work and a chordal flute part later on, plus the drifting female voices in Convention Of The 24, although I could, of course, be utterly wrong. The following year's Hyperborea has a distinctly more 'digital' sound about it, although how much digital/early sampling equipment was employed is unknown (quite a bit, I suspect). I think it's fair to say that this album marks The Beginning Of The End of the Tangs' creative years, its highly percussive material only served to irritate, although the reflective section of closer Sphinx Lightning is rather more listenable. More Birotron, by the sound of it, the languid choirs on the title track working well in context, although that appears to be it for the bizarre 8-track tape-replayer. I'm amazed it was still working by this point, to be honest.

1986 brought a long-rumoured 'lost' recording, Green Desert, appearing on the Jive Electro label, who had signed the band and bought up the rights to the pre-Virgin albums. The whole series had appalling identikit colour-coded sleeves, with this one being (wait for it...) green. It claimed to be the real 'missing link' between early- and mid-period Tangs, but it was apparently so heavily messed about with before its release that it's almost impossible to say. Cheers, Edgar. It was recorded by the duo of Froese and Franke in summer '73, placing it in between Atem and Phaedra, and I suppose it has that era's feel about it, although the ubiquitous Solina string synth doesn't seem very authentic. The only obvious Mellotron (Froese's, of course) on the album is some faint choirs on the title track, making it deeply inessential on the 'Tron front, although it isn't actually a bad album at all.

There are more '70s Tangerine Dream bootlegs than you can shake a stick at (on the offchance you should wish to do such a thing); 300-odd at the last count (!), and of course, they pretty much all feature the mighty 'Tron and are mostly improvised, with just the occasional familiar theme sticking its head up above the parapet here and there. An official release from a gig in '76 titled Soundmill Navigator appeared in 2000, but as with Green Desert, it's been heavily messed around with, although while I was assured that any Mellotron that may've been there in the first place is buried under layers of modern crud, this isn't actually true. While there is quite a bit of extraneous synthy rubbish that quite clearly doesn't date from the era, there's plenty that does, not to mention a fair helping of 'Tron, with both strings and flutes to the fore during parts of the 40-odd minute single track, notably an almost solo flute part near the end of the piece.

Speaking of which, in 2003, Froese released two seven-disc box sets of remastered popular Tangs boots, sourced from a boot-trading tree on Yahoo! Groups and remastered by his son. To say they're a slightly gruelling listen for the non-aficionado is a bit of an understatement; there's more music here than in all the albums listed above, some of which resembles their album material, but as a non-fanatic, I can't actually tell you which. It's certainly largely improvised, as were most of all of their '70s gigs, I believe, although it has to be said they were damn' good improvisers. Unsurprisingly, sound quality varies, but there are some fantastic performances over the ten concerts and over twelve hours (!) of music featured here. The last two concerts/three discs aren't relevant to this site, as the band apparently stopped using their 'Trons live after 1978, but I've reviewed the music anyway.

For the reasons listed at the beginning of these reviews, I'm going to have considerable problems reviewing the huge quantity of music on offer here, but I'll have a go. Sheffield 1974 is a rhythmless piece, opening with several minutes of ambient synth whooshes before a lengthy organ section, with (presumably) Froese's Mellotron finally making its entrance around the 14-minute mark, with a flute melody, before he starts switching between flute and strings for most of the rest of the piece. Royal Albert Hall 1975, from only a few months later has a similar feel at the beginning, although things change soon enough with the serious choir overkill at this gig, ditto the sequencer part that kicks in after a while, not to mention the pseudo-'drum' part on the second disc. Electronic Rock At The Philharmonics, from Berlin 1976, starts off by giving the impression that it's going to be a total 'Tron-fest, but after Froese's lengthy guitar solo, there ends up being rather less than expected.

The two discs of Bilbao 1976 are almost four times the length of the previous gig in the set, but somehow manage not to drag, with a blistering display of everything that's good about the Tangs. It opens with a solo 'Tron flute part and what may be Mellotron FX tapes, later doubling the flutes with strings, proving that the band were using at least two machines live by this point. Interestingly, after a most 'Tron-heavy Part 1, Part 2 is 20 minutes in before a muted flute part appears, and then it's another 20 minutes before some choirs close the piece. Part 3 strikes me as rather less interesting, being a sequencer and guitar workout, but Part 4 finishes the gig nicely with a relaxed 'Tron flute/string synth duet. Finishing Box 1, Croydon 1975 is generally regarded as one of the best Tangs bootlegs from this period (and therefore from any, let's be honest). I'm not actually 100% sure I agree, though it was obviously a good gig, with an interesting piano part in Part 2. Part 1 is fairly frantic, with a little 'Tron strings towards the end, and while Part 2 starts slowly, it builds up to be every bit as manic as Part 1, with just a few choir chords here and there to legitimise its highlighting in the tracklisting above. Part 3, a more relaxed piece, again has very little 'Tron for some reason, but it rounds off a great show nicely.

Box 2 opens with Nottingham 1976, where Part 1 begins with what seems to be a Tangs rarity, a slow sequence. It takes a while for any 'Tron action to kick in, until a flute part at around the 12-minute mark, and a little choir later on. Part 2 has a different choir sound, I believe, and a short string section part, but again, it's all quite thin on the ground. Part 3 has an octave flute part near the beginning, but overall, this isn't a Tangs 'Tron classic.

Washington 1977 is sourced from a contemporaneous radio broadcast, complete with slightly fawning intro and occasional irritating station ID interjections and band chat (!) in the form of 'interludes'. As you can see, two of the tracks here are duplicated from Encore, with Monolight sounding like it's actually the same version (there aren't any individual venue credits on the original album). The band were, of course, up to an effective four 'Trons onstage by this point (two M400s and a MkV), so there's plenty of 'Tron action to be heard, with Cherokee Lane featuring several minutes of Mellotron orchestra, plus string and brass parts. Spot the 'Stratosfear' section in Monolight, folks (yes! I spotted a familiar bit!), along with the heavy 'Tron brass again. Lesser 'Tron use on the rest of the gig, but there's enough on the first few tracks to make this one of the best Mellotron albums of both box sets. Hamburg 1978 is a very busy album, with an awful lot going on, including Klaus Krieger's drums and some shouted German (OK, so the gig was in Germany). There isn't a huge amount of obvious Mellotron, although a mixed sound (brass/cello? orchestra?) underpins the middle section of Part One.

So, finally, on to the two 'later' concerts in the box. Of course, as synth technology developed, life was made an awful lot easier for the Tangs and similar outfits, but I can't help thinking that the soul went out of their work along with the struggle with obstinate, primitive equipment. The trouble is, once something's made easy and the hard work evaporates, it seems that some of the inspiration disappears along with the perspiration. I'm well aware that there are many who would disagree with this proposition, not least musicians worldwide, but it's my personal experience that once everything's easy, you stop trying. When you can call up pretty much any sound your heart desires at the press of a button (which you don't even need to program if you don't want to), then you don't even need to bother to play it in real time, why bother? All counter-arguments to the usual address.

Anyway... Newcastle 1981 is passably good, if less anarchic than the earlier gigs in the set. By now all-synth (mostly polys by the sound of it), the band's sound had definitely changed in the three years since the Hamburg set, pretty much along the lines I've outlined above. Yeah, it's not bad, but it's moving into an area where you're not sure how much of it is actually being played at all, with the advent of efficient polyphonic sequencers. Funnily enough, there's a string sound on the first disc that sounds a little like a mutated 'Tron, although I know perfectly well it isn't. Actually, I say the album's good, but towards the end of the first (and shorter) disc, I found my attention wandering badly; it's not that's there's anything specifically wrong with it, but the lack of any genuinely interesting instrumental textures failed to grab me for even 45 minutes. Disc two is actually better, with a burst of Force Majeure livening things up halfway through, but it's still a bit flat compared to some of the earlier shows. Surprisingly, Frankfurt 1983 is noticeably better, although probably more synthetic than the '81 show, and at only half an hour or so, doesn't outstay its welcome.

In summation, Box 1 is clearly the better buy both musically and for the 'Tron, although Box 2 has the Washington highlight. Seeing as how both sets are remarkably cheap, all things considered, although total studio costs can't have been more than a couple of thousand Euros all told, and there weren't any recording costs, buy 'em both, and hope Froese digs out some more old shows, rather than carries the series on into the dead-in-the-water late '80s and beyond. I've given each box an overall rating on top of the individual gig ratings, although I'm not sure how relevant these may be, but they may give you some idea of their worth.

Incidentally, another near-impossible to find piece of Tangsiana is Overture, written by the Tangs for a 1974 production, Oedipus Tyrannus, released on Virgin's sought-after 1975 sampler V. It's a darkly ambient piece, having more in common with their work on, say, Zeit than their contemporaneous material. Mellotronically, a murky choir part wends its way through much of the track, albeit to little effect; completists will want this, but it's not exactly a lost classic.

The Epsilon Journey: Live in Eindhoven 2008 is a very strange Tangs release. The double CD seems to be something of an afterthought, the main release being a DVD of a concert of the band playing Edgar's solo work, presumably mostly (entirely?) never previously performed live. So why is a recording of a 2008 Tangs gig here? The sleevenotes cryptically state: "Special thanks... to Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock for providing us his Mellotron M100". His what? That's a model of Hammond, isn't it? I don't have the DVD to hand, but YouTube clips tell us it's either an M400 or, more likely, a MkVI. I've traced all but a handful of the album's pieces to one Froese album or another; sadly, a large chunk of them are post-1980, with zilch from either Aqua or Macula Transfer and by God, it shows... There's no escaping this: the bulk of this set is quite dreadful. There, I've said it. Bland, new-age tripe with terrible guitar work (for once, not played by Edgar); at its best, innocuous, at its worst, anywhere from bland to downright irritating. You mean, people actually pay good money to sit and watch this stuff? Bizarre.

Unless I simply can't trace them, there seem to be three or four new tracks, but everything here's smothered in the same sheen of glossy, modern synths, even when they're pretending to be old ones, not to mention the awful, pseudo-Kenny G-style sax work that blights several tracks. Mellotronically speaking, Froese plays a flute melody on Lightcone (from Pinnacles), adds a string section part to Dalinetopia's title track, a nice solo string part at the end of Pinnacles, Pt. 1, strings on the oldest piece here, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale's Maroubra Bay and a brief flute part on Pinnacles, Pt. 2. The one thing every part has in common is its brevity; despite the fact that he's presumably using a new machine, Froese seems excessively timid in its use, possibly scared stiff that it might go out of tune, or jam.

So... what to go for? The first three albums are all good at what they do, assuming you're into more avant-garde areas, then everything from Atem through Encore is well worth hearing both on musical and Mellotron grounds, while the two bootleg boxes are for serious fans only. The music becomes more, er, 'straightforward' from Cyclone on, although from what I've heard, albums up to 1984's live Poland are mostly quite reasonable. The Mellotron on Cyclone through Green Desert is far too sparse for the serious 'Tron fan, not to mention the tedious The Epsilon Journey, so I'd stick with those classic mid-'70s releases unless you're very into the band's sound. Seven major 'Tron albums still leaves most outfits standing, though, not to mention Ultima Thule...

As if to prove that Edgar used piano tapes... (Sorry, 'embedding disabled by request'. Not sure whose).

...And more of the same. Great M400/MkV close-ups.

London, 1976...


...And Coventry Cathedral, 1975.


links

Official site

Exceptionally useful recording chronology page

See: Edgar Froese | Peter Baumann | Klaus Schulze


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