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Music Review: Tangerine Dream – Live in America, 1992

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For many fans, the essential Tangerine Dream was the keyboard trio of the 1970s of Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann. Truth be told, their instrumental psychedelic albums were ideal for times when listeners were, to paraphrase Grace Slick, feeding our heads. Back then, the constantly changing line-ups of Tangerine Dream of their “pink” and “blue” periods were known for experimental sequencer techniques and use of the Moog synthesizer. Before it had a name, Tangerine Dream was creating “New Age” soundscapes. Along with other European performers using electronic technology like Vangelis and Kraftwerk, they were the very definition of cutting-edge.

By 1992, however, Froese was the only founding member still in the group. The pioneering days of Tangerine Dream were long behind them. Still, they had seven Grammy nominations to their credit including Rockoon, the album they were promoting during their 1992 American tour. This version of the group included Froese and his son Jerome on keys and guitar, guitarist Zlatko Perica, keyboard/sax player Linda Spa, and an uncredited drummer. As innovation was no longer the point and the group was becoming known for their film scores, listeners can be forgiven for thinking this concert is 45 minutes worth of movie music and truncated renditions of both old and new Tangerine Dream melodies.

There’s certainly nothing substandard about the musicianship of the players. During this performance, they provide the guitar and keyboard drama to “Two Bunch Palms” and the high-energy “Graffiti Street.” “Dolls in the Shadow,” “Treasure of Innocence,” and “Backstreet Hero” would make ideal film title music. “Oriental Haze” is pure Vangelis, and the influence of that Greek composer is felt throughout many of the offerings. “Phaedra,” a track originally performed by the 1975 incarnation of the group, might have best represented what Tangerine Dream once had been, but the updating relies a bit too much on back-and-forth electronic percussion for the rhythm. “Love on a Real Train,” “Hamlet,” and “Logos” should better remind longtime fans of the beauty and creativity of the early years when the music was both ambient and ethereal.

Live in America is a set for completists, assuming they don’t already have this concert. It’s long been available on video, CD, and DVD. Still, it’s appropriate this concert has now been released as a digital download as this was one of the groups to first bring digital technology into popular culture. Perhaps the music of Tangerine Dream can’t be best appreciated on computer speakers. Then again, it might well serve as the kind of instrumental background perfect for the mood you need while you’re doing other things. Just like the old days.

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About Wesley Britton