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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tangerine Dream

Blue Years Studio Albums 1985-1987

Review by Gary Hill

This is a brand new four-CD set from Tangerine Dream. It collects four individual albums. Each disc is included in a cardboard sleeve with the cover art and notes. Additionally, there is a poster included in the set. All that comes in a clam-shell box. It makes for a great collection with some intriguing music. Since I had previously reviewed one of the discs at Music Street Journal, I decided to do separate reviews of the other three as retro reviews for the issue, and then include the text from each review here. So, you'll find the first track review on each CD is the overall review of the album. Then the track reviews will be included below that. Let's just say that if you don't have any of these albums individually, I'd highly recommend this set. It becomes a little less obvious a choice if you already own some of them separately, but either way, this is cool.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
CD One
Le Parc
This album is a musical exploration of a number of parks in different parts of the world. Each track, like each park, I assume, has its own distinctive flavor and character. While the overall tone of this represents the electronic based texture of acts like Kraftwerk, Synergy, Vangelis and Tomita, this is distinctly Tangerine Dream.
Bois de Boulogne (Paris)
Keys bring this into being gradually, and the track works out from there to more of an energized groove. While this is deeply electronic music based, it gets into some rather symphonic territory at times. There are also hints of space rock in the mix at times.  Around the four-and-a-half minute mark this drops back to mellower sounds that eventually take the number to its closing.
Central Park (New York)
There is a definite energy and excitement to the electronic textures that open this cut. The number moves at a good pace and seems tastefully busy.
Gaudi Park (Guell Garden, Barcelona)
Percussive elements bring this thing into being. It drives forward from there in a rhythmic way. While keyboard textures rise up, even those are more part of the rhythm section that melodic at first. Eventually a layer of textural melody emerges, and the cut begins to evolve. This is very much in line with what you might get if you combined Kraftwerk with Vangelis and Tomita.
Tiergarten (Berlin)
I love the piano melodies on this cut. They electronics that accompany it lend a lot of texture and magic to the piece. This one really makes me think of Vangelis in a lot of ways.
Zen Garden (Ryoan-Ji Temple, Tokyo)
The sounds of nature begin this piece. It has a world music bent to it as the music kicks in. Still, this is recognizable instantly as Tangerine Dream with the electronic concepts.
Le Parc (L.A. - Streethawk)
I love the smoking hot keyboard textures on this. It really feels like something that would have been at home in the movie Koyasnisqatsi. There is a lot of energy and drive to the number.
Hyde Park (London)
Effects open this. Electronics start to rise upward, tentatively and sporadically at first. This works out to just the kind of electronic music tapestry you would expect.
The Cliffs of Sydney (Sydney)
The sounds of the sea begin this. The cut grows out into a dramatic and powerful electronic arrangement.
Yellowstone Park (Rocky Mountains)
A powerful and pretty piece, this really does capture the kind of majesty that I imagine Yellowstone conveys. There are some non-lyrical, almost operatic vocals here.
CD Two
Green Desert
If you like your prog with lots of keyboards and no vocals, this might well be one of your favorite albums. The music here is quite strong and comparisons to Pink Floyd are (at times) warranted. You might also make out Tomita and Kraftwerk at other points. The highlight of the disc is the epic length title track, but nothing here is at all weak. I’d highly recommend this one as a first introduction to Tangerine Dream.
Green Desert
The opener is an epic that stretches out across nearly the first twenty minutes of the album. It comes in very gradually with seriously atmospheric sounds starting it. As little chimes of sound chirp across the backdrop it makes me think of early Pink Floyd quite a bit. It gets pretty trippy as it slowly gets more involved. As it modulates into a different type of space, I'm still reminded of Hawkwind. As the guitar starts to weave lines of sound in the mix this gets more rocking and less Pink Floyd like. It's still essentially a trippy space rock, though. It continues to grow and evolve, working its way toward more space rocking territory. The drumming is really pretty prominent as this works upward and onward. Around the 16 minute mark it drops to just spacey keyboards to carry it. This section reminds me a bit of Vangelis or Kitaro. As it gets a shift of focus it again makes me think of Pink Floyd just a little. That movement takes the cut to its end.
White Clouds
Far shorter at just over five minutes in length, this is also Pink Floyd-like. It’s also more of rocking piece of music and has some pretty keyboard melodies. There are hints of Native American sounds at times on this and there are some more ambient sections.
Astral Voyager
A little longer than the last one, there’s a Kraftwerk like electronica texture to this. It’s very much a keyboard dominated piece. I can make out hints of Native American sounds on this one, too. It’s far more purely in the electronic category of music than in rock, though.
Indian Summer
Here is another that’s more fully keyboard oriented. Despite the title I don’t really hear a lot of Native American sounds here. In fact, this one is probably closer to the music of Tomita – classically driven electronic music.
CD Three
Underwater Sunlight
This album from Tangerine Dream is focused on the world that exists underwater. While this has the same electronic keyboard based sounds you expect from the band, there is a lot more guitar here. Some parts of this rise up in that vein to the point of feeling quite a bit like Pink Floyd.
Song of the Whale Part One (From Dawn...)
Coming in quite electronic, there is a compelling, almost dream-like vibe to this. Around the one minute mark it shifts as some intricate guitar sound emerges. The track evolves from there with an almost mellow fusion element in play. When this gets more rocking further down the road a killer guitar rises upward that makes me think of David Gilmour a bit. That doesn't stay around long, though, the track moving back to the keyboard dominated stuff from there. Noisier, dramatic things enter later for a short part. Then it eventually makes its way back toward more hard-rocking, guitar-laden territory to continue. The Pink Floyd reference is again valid in that section. The noisy thing returns to end the piece.
Song of the Whale Part Two (... to Dusk)
Piano starts this in a very organic way and holds it for a time. Eventually this makes its way to more of the trademark electric sound one would expect. It grows outward as it continues and guitar begins to drive more of the texture. In the second half of the piece, this is almost eleven-minutes long, the guitar takes over in a dropped back movement for a while. As it continues to solo the arrangement builds upward.
Dolphin Dance
Energetic electronic textures are the order of business on this number. It ahs a suitably playful vibe. At times I'm reminded of the Alan Parsons Project just a bit. The tune gets harder rocking before it's done.
Ride on the Ray
Melodic and quite pretty at the start, this evolves in a gradual way from its origins. This gets more rocking at times, but the keyboard textures drive a lot of it. It's an energetic and quite strong tune.
Scuba Scuba
This number doesn't get as rocking as some of the rest on this disc do. Yet, it has a lot of energy and manages to really drive things nicely.
Underwater Sunlight
The title track is gentle and quite pretty with keyboard sounds that do lend a bit of an "underwater" vibe. While this does rise up a bit before it's over, it doesn't rock like some of the others on this disc do.
CD Four
This disc from Tangerine Dream is quite an intriguing one. It's definitely different from a lot of the catalog. For starters, it's based on the works of William Blake. Perhaps more interestingly, several of the songs have vocals. The lyrics are all taken directly from Blake's poems, and the vocals are handled by Jocelyn Bernadette Smith, who speaks some of them and sings some. I find this to be quite an enjoyable disc, and a great addition to the Tangerine Dream catalog.
Slow moving, delicate musical elements bring this into being. A female spoken vocal comes over the top, reciting the poem that inspired the song. Those vocals start singing the poem after the first part. This is an intriguing piece that has a soulful element from the vocal delivery, but an electronic classical structure from the musical elements.
As strong as the opener was, this really raises the bar dramatically. There is an edgy, powerful concept to the spoken section at the start. The music and the vocal delivery really drive that home. This works through a number of changes, but remains quite cinematic and intriguing as it does. Later in the piece, guitar rises up and drives this in some seriously rocking directions. At close to 14-and-a-half minutes, this is the epic of the disc. It's also one of the real highlights here. There is so much diversity to it/ There are also so many powerful passages.
Alchemy of the Heart
I love the harpsichord type tones on the opening movement of this. The track has some great intricacies and grows quite well as it works its way forward. The cut changes directions after the three-minute mark (this is over twelve minutes long) to a powerful, driving electronic prog movement with dramatic classical music built into it. After the six-minute mark, the cut shifts to a mellower movement, but electric guitar rises up from that tapestry at times. That doesn't stay around long, though. Instead, this focuses on powerful keyboard textures with some sound effects and other things dancing over the top. Piano creates some great melodies on the closing movement.
Driving, fast paced keyboard textures bring this into being and drive it forward. The vocals return on this number. They aren't as effective here as they were on the first two songs, though. Still, this more "song-like" arrangement works pretty well.
21st Century Common Man (Part One)
I like this a lot. It's sort of the typical thing you expect for a fast paced electronic number, but there's nothing wrong with typical by any means. It has some interesting shifts and changes and really works well. After working through with a growing process that is solid, the number drops back to much mellower sounds to eventually close.
21st Century Common Man (Part Two).
A funky bass sound that calls to mind Tony Levin's work in King Crimson opens this. The cut grows outward building upon that with some serious class and style. This is one of my favorite piece on the disc. It has cool melodic elements while really driving with a great electronic vibe.
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