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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tangerine Dream

Madcap’s Flaming Duty

Review by Gary Hill

Tangerine Dream have released a new album for 2007. It’s one of their few releases to feature vocals, and is arguably the best of the “voice oriented” discs. The title is an indication of the dedication of the disc. It is dedicated to the late Pink Floyd muse Syd Barrett. It serves as a potent tribute and a great addition the Tangerine Dream catalog. I’d recommend this both for longtime devotees and new converts. While it is one of the more experimental (in terms of varying from the sound we’ve come to expect from the band) discs they’ve produced, it’s also quite potent.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Astrophel And Stella
As this starts off with harmonica, the listener seems transported to a campfire in the Old West. After a time keyboards rise up create a mode not unlike some of the more ambient Genesis music. Vocals threaten to enter, processed and well under the radar. The track begins to ramp up in power and intensity, just to a small degree. Then vocals enter to carry the verse. At times these vocals remind me of Peter Gabriel. The delivery is powerful and evocative and the whole arrangement has an exquisite beauty to it. Guitar lines come over in very sparing fashion, feeling a bit like something from David Gilmour. As this carries forward there aren’t any major changes, instead the cut is more about moods and tones. It’s a nice piece of work, but perhaps a bit too long in places.
Shape My Sin
This song comes in with a texture that seems to combine the more ambient features of Genesis and Pink Floyd into a musical tapestry that’s all Tangerine Dream. The vocals aren’t quite as strong on this one as they were on the opener, feeling more like something from the synthpop of the 1980’s. Once again, the changes on the track are gradual, more or less in degrees. This is not as powerful of a track as the one that preceded it, but it has its moments. It’s perhaps a bit more pop-oriented, although, I doubt you’ll be hearing it on the radio anytime soon. When it gets more potent later in the track it feels a bit like Alan Parsons to me.
The Blessed Damozel:
Here they turn it more textural and moody. As this moves forward keys threaten to rise up and take over as elements of “sound effects” skirt across the arrangement. The vocals are a bit like Gary Numan’s ‘80’s period and we do get short periods of keyboard melody emerging and diminishing. Just before the two minute mark they power it up just a bit with the introduction of more of a rhythm section. Later in the track it rises upward with the addition of noisy, textural guitar. They drop it way back down towards melodic atmosphere later, though. And then turn it into something resembling Vangelis before they bring it back to the earlier motif.
The Divorce
Here we get a bit more of a Pink Floyd element. This is blended with something akin to Depeche Mode, though. The result works far better than one might think. They turn it to pure keyboards to close it out.
A Dream of Death
This comes in with a rhythmic structure that feels a lot like early techno music. As the vocals enter this feels a lot like Depeche Mode. They increase the power and intensity in waves, adding layers of sound here and there. The vocal performance on this is amongst the most effective and emotional of the whole disc. At around the two minute mark they move out into an expansive and exceptionally strong jazzy instrumental movement that is just plain awesome. This portion is one which will make the long time fans feel most at home. The guitar eventually ramps up into an extremely tasty and inspired solo. Layers merge at times and dance around another at varying points in a procession that is just plain awesome. This movement also propels this track into the area of the best numbers on show here. They eventually drop it back to the more ‘80’s influenced sounds as they return to the song proper to bring it to its conclusion.
Hear the Voice
Ambient elements that remind me a bit of Native American music for some reason start this off and then it shifts out to more of a combo of electro-ambient sounds with those ‘80’s elements we’ve heard throughout the disc for the entrance of the vocals. When they power this up a bit later it takes on some minor Pink Floyd leanings. The guitar solo later still does add to this effect with its rather Gilmour-like characteristics and flavorings.
Lake Of Pontchartrain
This comes in with a bit more of a prog ballad approach. It rises ever so gradually from its origins. The overall feel as it moves into the verse is that of a folk oriented progressive rock song. The lyrics and vocal delivery feel as if they could have come from any number of late 1960’s / early 1970’s folk artists. I also hear a bit of John Denver in the vocals for some reason. There’s also a touch of Celtic texture in the music. They include some tasty acoustic guitar soloing later, adding to the folk music image. While this song is strong and a definite change of pace, I find that it tends to linger a little too long without any real alterations.
Mad Song
This serves as another alteration on the musical textures of the disc, even more dramatic based on the change that the last number represented. This has a bouncing groove to it, and while feeling again a lot like the ‘80’s synth pop bands, has a bit more of a soulful approach. They move it out into a very pretty instrumental section later, adding a new dimension to the piece. When they return to the main musical themes it feels revitalized and more energized. There is a nice acoustic guitar solo later.
One Hour of Madness
Keys begin this (the disc’s longest performance at over 8 minutes) in an odd fashion. At first they serves as sound effects, then they launch into a rather robotic pattern that feels as if it could have come from just about any Kraftwerk CD. As they pump in other layers of sound they leave this basis intact. Instead of replacing the Kraftwerk leanings the track feels more like Depeche Mode jamming with that German band. They power this up to a powerful jam later in the number, then drop it back with a dramatic crescendo to just the rhythmic structures. From there they climb back out into the Kraftwerk like elements. The thing is, this time they add in more space rock sounds and complementary vocal layers to create a more dense treatment. They alternate these sections with drops back to the more house music based beats.. This mid-section is worth the price of admission by itself. They resolve it out after a time into another killer prog jam that’s more in the lines of trademark Tangerine Dream. This gets rather crunchy and quite hard rocking as it continues. This thing is simply incredible and probably my favorite cut on the whole disc
Man
This is more moody and another that has a lot of ‘80’s synth pop in its mix. They don’t wander far from the origins here, instead just working within this framework to create a solid cut that is good, but not as strong as some of the other stuff on display here.
Hymn to Intellectual Beauty
The modes that begin this remind me a bit of Mike Oldfield. This is pretty and rather intricate. It has less of the ‘80’s textures that pervade a lot of the disc. The vocals do bring more of the Depeche Mode elements to the table. The instrumental work on this track is deceptively simplistic in nature. It feels like there isn’t that much going on, but if you really listen to the intensification and variations on the sounds you realize quickly that, while rather subtle, there is a lot of intriguing modification going on. This works out into more traditional Tangerine Dream later in the instrumental movement. This gets quite powerful and twists into the segue back into the song proper. This is actually another standout.
Solution of All Problems
Here we get a definite techno rhythmic groove (with touches of tribal percussion) leading things off. The vocals come in over this extremely stripped down arrangement, calling to mind a subdued Jim Morrison a bit. As they build it up later it more closely resembles the ‘80’s sounds that seem to permeate this disc. While this song is good, I tend to think that the previous piece would have made for a stronger conclusion to the album.
 
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