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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, 'Preston - November 5th 1980'

Preston - November 5th 1980  (2008,  109.16)  ***½/½

Undulation (part 1)
Objective II
Calymba Caly
Undulation (part 2)
Grange Park
Force Majeure
The Price
Silver Scale
Horns of Doom
Phase Change
Diamond Duster
Diamond Diary
Choronzon
The Football Museum
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
Tangerine Dream, 'The Official Bootleg Series Volume One'

The Official Bootleg Series Volume One  (2015, recorded 1974-76,  164.38)  ****/TTTT

Reims Cathedral, 13th December 1974
  Reims Set One
  Reims Set Two

Mozartsaal, Mannheim, 31st October 1976

  Mannheim Set (Part One)
  Mannheim Set (Part Two)
  Mannheim Encore (Part One)

  Mannheim Encore (Part Two)
Tangerine Dream, 'The Official Bootleg Series Volume Two'

The Official Bootleg Series Volume Two  (2016, recorded 1978-80,  220.08)  ***½/TT½

Palais Des Congrès, Paris, 6th March 1978
  Paris Set One
  Paris Set Two
  Paris Encore One
  Paris Encore Two

Palast der Republik, East Berlin, 31st January 1980
  East Berlin Set One
  East Berlin Set Two
  East Berlin Encore
Tangerine Dream, 'The Official Bootleg Series Volume Three'

The Official Bootleg Series Volume Three  [Discs 1 & 2]  (2019,  98.00)  ***½/TT½

The Ford Auditorium, Detroit: 31st March 1977
  Cherokee Lane
  Monolight
  The Emerald Beyond
  Patterns in the Ivy
  Face of the Earth
  Conjuration
  Signals From Above
Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades' Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades 1-8'

Phaedra Out-Takes (In Search of Hades, discs 2 & 3)  (2019, recorded 1973,  97.47)  ***½/TTT½

2nd Day
Flute Organ Piece
Phaedra Out-Take Version 2A
Phaedra Out-Take 1
Phaedra Out-Take 2B
2nd Side Piece 1

2nd Side Piece 2
Organ Piece
Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades' Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades 1-8'

Live at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London, 16th June 1974 (In Search of Hades, discs 4 & 5)  (2019,  88.10)  ***½/TTT½

Victoria Palace Concert: Part 1
Victoria Palace Concert: Part 2

Victoria Palace Concert: Encore
Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades' Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades 1-8'

Oedipus Tyrannus (In Search of Hades, disc 6)  (2019, recorded 1974,  74.44)  ***/TT

Overture
Act 1
Act 2: Battle
Act 2: Baroque

Act 2: Zeus
Act 3
Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades' Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades 1-8'

Live at the Rainbow, London, 26th October 1974 (In Search of Hades, discs 7 & 8)  (2019,  119.11)  ***/TTT½

Introduction By John Peel
Rainbow Concert: Part 1
Rainbow Concert: Part 2
Rainbow Concert: Part 3
Rainbow Concert: Encore
Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades' Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades 9-18'

Stratosfear (In Search of Hades, disc 13)  (2019, recorded 1976,  77.16)  ****½/TTT½

Stratosfear
The Big Sleep in Search of Hades
3 am at the Border of the Marsh From Okefenokee
Invisible Limits

[In Search of Hades adds:]
Coventry Cathedral (the original film soundtrack)
Stratosfear (single edit)
The Big Sleep in Search of Hades (single edit)
Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades' Tangerine Dream, 'In Search of Hades 9-18'

Cyclone (In Search of Hades, disc 15)  (2019, recorded 1978,  52.21)  ***½/TTT

Bent Cold Sidewalk
Rising Runner Missed By Endless Sender
Madrigal Meridian
[In Search of Hades adds:]
Haunted Heights
Baryll Blue

Current availability:

Mellotrons/Birotron 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 Mellotron", 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, Froese's guitar to the fore, sounding more late-'60s than anything, but with stacks of Mellotron strings and flute. The b-side is even more Mellotron-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, Froese back on the Mellotron. The title track starts with a Mellotron-heavy section before Chris Franke's tribal drumming takes over, leading into a quiet yet edgy part with Mellotron flutes sliding in and out of the mix. Side two's three tracks feature more 'typical' Mellotron 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, not to mention a great deal of Mellotron strings, choir and cello, presumably played from a single M400 by Froese, including a stunning Mellotron solo spot towards the end of the piece. Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares is practically a Froese solo track, Mellotron 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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron choir from Froese again, switching to strings once the sequencer kicks in, 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 Mellotron flutes over a droning backdrop, to a gentle fade, 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 Mellotron and were used elsewhere on the tour, while 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 (Mellotron-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 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 strings, before a couple of Mellotron-free pieces. From Vengeance on, however, it's Mellotrons 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, so 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, while 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 Mellotron 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, 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, 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, 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 Mellotrons.

Cherokee Lane takes several minutes to get going, but when it does it's Mellotron-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 Mellotronless, 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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron 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 possibly should've been. This section is followed by another startling part, 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 entirely 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 serving 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, this one being (wait for it...) green. It claimed to be the real 'missing link' between early- and mid-period Tangs, but 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 strings don'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 that front, although it isn't actually a bad album.

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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron, both strings and flutes to the fore during parts of the forty-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 Mellotrons 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 Mellotron-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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron-heavy Part 1, Part 2 is twenty minutes in before a muted flute part appears and then it's another twenty 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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron strings towards the end and while Part 2 starts slowly, it builds up to be every bit as manic as Part 1, 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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron action to kick in, until a flute part at around the twelve-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 Mellotron 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 machines onstage by this point (two M400s and a MkV), so there's plenty of Mellotron action to be heard, 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 Mellotron brass again. Lesser Mellotron use on the rest of the gig, but there's enough on the first few tracks to make this one of the most relevant albums from 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 Mellotron, 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 forty-five 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 Mellotron, 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.

2006's Preston - November 5th 1980, in the band's official bootleg series, was a good call, a ripping set, at its best on the brief The Price, Diamond Diary and the twelve-minute, drum machine-driven Choronzon, although Grange Park's piano solo works less well. No Mellotrons by this point, but Froese plays an everlasting B major chord on Birotron choirs through Phase Change.

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.

Esoteric's Official Bootleg Series are sizeable sets, featuring entire concerts, Volume One's being Reims Cathedral, 13th December 1974 and Mozartsaal, Mannheim, 31st October 1976. The music's as good as any live Tangs from the period and probably better than many, presumably accounting for their official release all these years later. Reims Set One is a real Mellotron tour de force, featuring the instrument throughout the bulk of its three-quarter hour length. A flute melody insinuates its way in around the eight-minute mark, soon switching to strings, with string section later, some of the strings loud enough to distort, while Set Two (which opens with massed white noise, both rhythmic and windlike) has nothing until a quarter-hour in, when a flute parts appears, followed by choppy strings and cellos. Mannheim Set (Part One) has two of the trio playing flutes and strings simultaneously, with a major choir part around the fifteen-minute mark, with flutes on the piano-led Set Two and a little strings and choir near the end, the latter in solo mode at the piece's close. Encore (Part One) features even less, merely a smattering of distant, volume-pedalled strings towards the end of the twenty-minute piece, with nothing on Part Two.

Volume Two includes Palais Des Congrès, Paris, 6th March 1978 and Palast der Republik, East Berlin, 31st January 1980, the latter featuring the band largely in 'switching across to polysynths' mode, gearing up for their '80s incarnation. Paris Set One fades out, so, despite being close to fifty minutes, who knows for how much longer they carried on playing? Mellotronically, we get low strings a few minutes into Set One, with a background string part around the twenty-minute mark and again at around thirty minutes and at the end of the piece. Set Two has a chordal brass (French horn?) part a few minutes in, background choirs at about fifteen minutes and more of that brass about five minutes from the end. Encore One features, literally, one big, fat brass chord at the end of the piece, while Encore Two opens with low choirs, with more brass and manic, atonal flutes throughout the rest of the track, finishing with a near-solo string part, in direct contrast to Encore One. East Berlin has relatively little tape-replay (possibly Birotron) input, with choirs all over the opening section of East Berlin Set One, more of the same around the thirty-four-minute mark and, briefly, in the upper twenties on Set Two and a few minutes into the Encore.

2019's Volume Three gives us two complete sets, Detroit's Ford Auditorium on 31st March 1977 and Sydney's Regent Theatre on 22nd February 1982, during that year's brief Australian jaunt. Unsurprisingly, the first set sounds like what it is, an expanded version of another date from the Encore tour, highlights including Monolight, which incorporates the main theme from Stratosfear and The Emerald Beyond, which 'features' Edgar not just playing guitar, but riffing furiously, although his other guitar piece, Conjuration, is less impressive. Mellotron on every track, although often used minimally, with cellos opening Cherokee Lane, strings later on and the famed 'orchestra' sound playing the huge chords at the end of the twelve-minute piece. Monolight features chordal flutes and a rather clunky flute solo towards the end and are those custom FX tapes I hear? Godzilla lives, it seems. To continue, brass on The Emerald Beyond, along with flutes and a single orchestra chord to close, grungy strings halfway through Patterns In The Ivy, strings on Face Of The Earth, a rising string line on Conjuration and choirs on Signals From Above, although no Birotron on the '82 set.

2019 also brought the massive, eighteen-disc (including two Blu-rays) In Search of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973-1979, including their seven releases for the label over the period, from Phaedra through to Force Majeure, excluding Sorcerer, originally released on MCA. All seven include bonus tracks, while another nine discs give us long-overdue releases for delights such as the complete Oedipus Tyrannus and the trio's performances at the London Rainbow and Victoria Palace in 1974, plus a reprise for 1975's Royal Albert Hall gig, previously available on The Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1 (above). Steven Wilson's been let loose on a handful of these (Phaedra, Ricochet and Oedipus Tyrannus), giving us 5.1 surround sound mixes, but I've opted to only review the previously unreleased or hard-to-find material here.

After disc one (Phaedra and stereo remixes of two of its tracks), discs 2 and 3, Phaedra Out-Takes, are almost three times the length of the original album, starting with the twenty-minute, ambient 2nd Day and largely carrying on in similar fashion for the better part of a hundred minutes. Froese on Mellotron, with drifting strings on 2nd Day and Phaedra Out-Take Version 2A, string section on Phaedra Out-Take 1, flutes and phased strings on Phaedra Out-Take 2B and strings all over 2nd Side Piece 1 and, perhaps surprisingly, Organ Piece. Discs 4 and 5 are Live at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London (16th June 1974). I've heard of slow starts to concerts, but twenty-odd minutes of ambient synths is really pushing the envelope, although the other two pieces pick the pace up a bit. Just Froese on Mellotron, again: choirs enter around twenty minutes into Part 1, string section sometime later and a flute melody around the mid-thirties, much switching between strings, flutes and choirs on Part 2, including some seriously upfront strings around the seventeen-minute mark, although there doesn't appear (I do say 'appear') to be anything on the encore piece.

I'm not sure whether disc 6, the complete Oedipus Tyrannus, is the jewel in this particular TD crown or not. Finally rescued from oblivion, only its opening piece, Overture, has been even vaguely available before, notably on Virgin's V sampler in 1975. It seems it's a complete double album, recorded after Phaedra, but considered substandard by the band; upon listening to it, it's not so much 'substandard' as 'a step back', having more in common with their early, atonal, pre-Virgin work. Impressive in its own way, but it's easy to see why the trio, at this stage in the game, rejected it. Froese plays Mellotron on three of its six tracks, with heavily phased strings and flutes on Act 2: Battle, a high flute line on Act 2: Baroque and flutes and more phased strings on Act 3, although what I originally took to be Mellotron choirs on Overture sound more like treated real voices. Discs 7 and 8 are the full Live at the Rainbow, London, 26th October 1974, largely showing the band still in their 'ambient phase', although Part 3 picks up the pace a little. Froese's Mellotron enters the fray in Part 1 around the nine-minute mark, drifting choirs making way for a flute melody, while Part 2 features more drifting choirs and phased strings, eventually morphing into flutes. Part 3 is somewhat lower on the Mellotron front, but the twelve-minute Encore is stuffed with the thing, not least a crazed string line at the end of the piece, spiralling upwards into madness.

Disc 9 is Rubycon plus an alternate version of the entire album, while 10 and 11 are The Royal Albert Hall, London (2nd April 1975) and 12 is Ricochet plus Wilson's stereo remixes. Disc 13 is the splendid Stratosfear, with three bonus tracks. The half hour or so of the Coventry Cathedral set (film of the event is on the second Blu-ray) is a more reflective piece with a major Mellotron flute part running through a chunk of it, joined by string section from one of the others, two members playing 'duelling choirs' around the fifteen-minute mark. Around twenty-four minutes, you'll hear an unusual, speedy flute run played several times; clearly a well-maintained machine. Neither of Disc 14 (Encore)'s extra studio tracks, Encore (ironically) and Hobo March have any Mellotronic involvement. Disc 15, the expanded Cyclone, adds two tracks, both previously available on '70-'80, Baumann's Haunted Heights, complete with eerie Mellotron strings, flutes and choirs and Froese's Mellotron-free Baryll Blue, leaving disc 16 to Force Majeure, adding one Mellotron-free bonus track.

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.

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 Mellotron 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 Mellotron albums still leaves most outfits standing, though, not to mention Ultima Thule...

albums

Under Cover: Chapter One  (2010,  76.59)  **½

Under Cover: Chapter One is a most peculiar album; plenty of artists record covers records, but few of them are as... singular as the Tangs. With Thorsten Quaeschning singing, they tackle artists as diverse as R.E.M., Depeche Mode, David Bowie (twice), The Goo Goo Dolls and The Eagles, few of them with any great success. Best? Maybe their completely out of character super-slow take on Kraftwerk's The Model. Worst? Most versions here aren't so much bad, as dull and pointless, typified by Wish You Were Here, merely a slightly electronified version of the original, although Hotel California seems particularly redundant. Fail. Froese plays samplotron strings on Bowie's Heroes, for what it's worth, which isn't much. And, despite rumours, the following year's vastly better Edgar Allen Poe's The Island of the Fay (***½) has no samplotron input.

links

Official site

Exceptionally useful recording chronology page

See: Edgar Froese | Peter Baumann | Klaus Schulze


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