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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tangerine Dream

Paradiso

Review by Gary Hill

Those who follow Tangerine Dream have come to expect one thing consistently from them – a sense of experimentation and change. This disc is certainly one of those experimental moments. While it probably won’t bowl over every fan of the group, there is plenty here to enjoy. What we get here is a double disc set that features Tangerine Dream playing with The Brandenburg Symphonic Orchestra. Much of the music is slowly changing and quite classical in nature. Still other sounds here include a more pop/prog oriented jazz lounge element. It’s a rather odd mix, and tends to be very much on the “easy listening” end of the spectrum, but it is also impressive.

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
Disc 1
Grand Spirale
This starts off in a very sedate manner, with atmospheric keyboards creating a musical texture. It rises in a gradual manner. We’re over a minute in before this shifts at all, though. Even, then it’s a very slow change with symphonic instruments rising ever so slightly above the keyboard backdrop. It’s past the two and a half minute mark before the track comes up further. This time the symphonic and keyboard layers thrust upward a lot more dramatically. Lines of melody begin to emerge in this slowly moving tapestry. This remains very constant until around the 8 and a half minute mark where more waves of symphonic instruments bring a new sense of drama to the table. This doesn’t last long, though, as they pull it back down towards sedate textures to finally end the cut.
Beyond Sodom and Gomorrha
While the early modes of this track would not be considered hard rocking by anyone, they come as such a sharp contrast to the monolithic atmosphere that made up the first ten minutes of the disc that they are striking. After the introduction runs through this moves out into a more symphonic prog mode over which the first vocals of the album are laid. This is a bit like a jazz lounge sound, but with a pop prog angle to it. This doesn’t alter a lot in terms of its melody and musical construction, but gains its variations from further intensification of the overall arrangement. The latter portion of the track, though, differs by moving more into keyboard oriented atmospheric soundscapes. 
Ley de La Montana
This has a bit more of a groove to it, but overall is not that different from the piece that came before. It has some nice melodic textures and an inspired vocal performance. There are some exceptionally pretty passages here, particularly in the more symphonic instrumental segment that serves as the extended outro.
Cielo Della Luna
I’m not a big fan of opera, so this one sort of leaves me out in the cold. It’s quite symphonic and includes pure opera vocals. It’s a definite cause for me to hit “skip,” but if you have more of a hankering for opera, you might not be so inclined. If you hang in long enough, though, the second movement includes some killer textural music with great spoken vocals. I really like this part, but it’s hard for me to sit through the opera to get to it. The symphonic meets keyboard sounds that serves as the extended link to the outro are also quite nice. For the actual finale acoustic guitar balladic approaches are added.
Mercury Sphere
Some of the most rock oriented music of the disc, this one jumps right in with a progressive rock (think Renaissance) meets lounge jazz with an orchestra as backup approach. This is catchy and one of the stronger “songs” on show here. The jazzy prog interlude in the middle of the song is extremely effective and when this turns more powerful as it moves forward it is really strong. Another sedate symphony merged with keyboards motif serves as the extended conclusion, pulling this out in a very satisfying manner.
Era Della Venere
Coming straight out of the last one, to my chagrin we get more opera here. While this holds the first three and a half or so minutes hostage in my opinion, it shifts out into a killer symphonically tinged progressive rock excursion from there. I can definitely do without the opera lead up, but once they get into this portion I’m hooked. This only runs for a minute and a half, though. Then a symphonic crescendo drops me back into opera hell. This time the opera keeps the track for another five or so minutes before they drop it back to some pretty symphonic melodies to end it after a minute or two.
Invisible Sun
Coming straight out of the previous piece, this is more “song” oriented, pop prog. It’s got less of a jazz feel to it than some of its predecessors. This is one of my favorite pieces on show. It drops back about mid-song to a symphonic segment with spoken lyrics in French serving to bring a sense of romance and grace. From there it never rises back up, but rather works through more textural motifs to end in a nice fashion. This is one of my favorites on the set.
Disc 2
Jupiter Lightning
Here we get a more rock groove oriented number that has a bit of an R & B feel to it. This is pretty and another highlight of the album. This one is a solid song that works quite well. It’s not earth-shattering, but strong nonetheless. Once more we’re treated to extended symphonic outro.
Forza del Saturno
From a strong track we are plummeted back into my most hated territory, more opera. The more they throw these songs in, the harder it is for me to get through it. Seriously, if you like opera you are at a major advantage here. It shifts out to a more rock oriented format later, but the opera vocals remain. In fact, while they work through several musical alterations, it’s not until after the seven minute mark before they get “regular” vocals. This section is reasonably strong, but the lyrics are too repetitive and I’m still reeling from the opera. They eventually take this out to more atmospheric sounds and we get more spoken French. These elements make up for a lot as they create a very strong (if understated) piece of redemption. A more dramatic prog symphonic segment takes over after this and then it shifts into world music as they continue. This is short lived, though, as they move it back into the sedate classical elements to take it eventually to its finale.
Stars in the Distance Glow
This comes up with a more new age meets prog approach. It’s pretty and sedate with an almost techno rhythmic structure. As the vocals enter the percussion becomes more involved. Layers of keys create a great backdrop for one of the most potent vocal journeys of the disc. At around the two and a half minute mark some hints of psychedelia show up in a instrumental break. When they come out of this short break the intensity is ramped upward for the return of the vocals. This has some of the most purely prog motifs of the disc. A second vocal line enters after a time and the power of the song is raised still more with this addition. They don’t wander far from this basis as they continue down the musical road, but when it’s this good, who cares? The last minute or so is composed of a gradual descent into atmosphere. While this might not sound like it, it’s quite a dramatic and satisfying way to end things.
No More Birth, No More Death
The classical modes that start this call to mind soundtrack music to some religious movie at first. This grows incrementally with a deepening of the feeling of being inside some dramatic section of a film. A little past the one minute mark, they turn things into a powerful ballad style for the first vocals. This grows and alters here and there as it continues building and pulling the themes forward. It drops back to symphonic modes after the five minute mark. A piano tentatively enters. As they continue this piano begins to gain more purpose and enthusiasm, eventually weaving a pretty balladic melody line. While still understated in terms of volume, this piano creates a stunningly beautiful solo journey for the latter half of the composition.
Transformazione
Keyboards that resemble angelic voices create a rise of sound to start things off and the track builds organically from there. This becomes dramatic in a symphonic film soundtrack way, but waves of prog styled keyboards keep it grounded. This one moves in quite a stirring manner until (you guessed it) more operatic vocals join to send me running for the hills. The opera sounds carry the track for its bulk and then more atmospheric beauty takes over to see this one through.
Truth Beyond Thoughts
A slow, gentle ballad approach serves as the basis for this one. It doesn’t move far from these origins. Instead they ramp up the intensity throughout the course of this ride. The vocal performance here is one of the most powerful to be found on this set. This ballad based motif takes the track to around the 4 and a half minute mark. Then a short drop to just percussion leads to a new segment with a more angelic and rather tribal textured movement takes it through, continuing to hold the number as one of the stronger ones here. Keyboards take over around the five minute mark and then more spoken readings in French join in a dramatic and pretty fashion. This transitions into the next number.
Ultima Tromba d'Oro
Well, they had to hit me with more opera. After this disc I think I qualify for combat pay. This is, like most of the other operatic music here, a pretty pure example of that musical format. I can’t really comment beyond that because I am so turned off by this style.
Leaving
This comes out of the musical stylings of the last piece. Thankfully, rather than opera we get more spoken French. Pretty waves of melody work within their formats to augment this. Then a false ending leads to a new atmospheric section. This eventually gives way to a more balladic approach to lead the track onward. While this general motif holds it for a while, it doesn’t really grow that much, rather intensifying. Unfortunately, as much as I like the music here, the operatic elements return to send me once more running for shelter. While the music that makes up the closing segments is powerful and beautiful, I can’t truly enjoy it because of the vocals. For those of you who like that kind of stuff, it will certainly make for an awe-inspiring conclusion.
 
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