Tangerine Dream – Live in America 1992 (2011)

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Tangerine Dream — or as they were known, back when I was in school: The guys who did the weird music for the “Risky Business” soundtrack — had gotten significantly less weird by this point.

Founding member Edgar Froese is the lone hold over from Tangerine Dream’s 1971-77 whoa-man synthesizer-soundscape hey day, a period that also included keyboardist Peter Baumann and drummer Christopher Franke. By 1992, when this live date was recorded, the group (which now included Froese’s son Jerome on keyboards and guitar, guitarist Zlatko Perica and keyboard/saxophonist Linda Spa) had moved into a more melodic and structured framework then filed under the title “new age.”

Though coming off its seventh Grammy nomination (best new age album, for Rockoon), Tangerine Dream had been without Baumann since 1977 and Franke since the late 1980s. Even Froese’s longtime musical collaborator Paul Haslinger had departed in 1988.

So, Live in America 1992, with its rather perfunctory version of a legacy cut like “Phaedra” (a brilliant Moog-driven track from the group’s landmark 1973 debut on Virgin), can’t begin to be called definitive. Too much time — not to mention, band members — had passed. What you have instead is a moment that finds Tangerine Dream trying to straddle a very thin line between experimentalism and ambient, between space music and pop jazz. Some of it is way too safe. Other parts, though perhaps not enough, are still refreshingly off-kilter.

Credit Froese, who started Tangerine Dream as a student at the Berlin Academy of Arts deep in the late-1960s’ sway of both Satie and Pink Floyd. An early pioneer in the integration of synthesizers into rock music, he adds an element of brackish mystery to even a rather rudimentary computer-generated techno number like “Dolls in the Shadow.” And he still possesses this swooning danger on older tracks like “Logos.” While this truncated version isn’t in the same league as the memorable live reading on 1982’s seminal Logos Live, it’s still a stunning closer — by turns deeply mournful, almost to the point of being dissociative, then rhythmic and inspirational.

OK, Tangerine Dream also completely screws up a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” along the way, presumably in honor of its appearance that night in his hometown of Seattle. Skip past that for the oscillating enigma “Love on a Real Train,” which was in “Risky Business,” and the elastic, saxy “Oriental Haze” — which should have been.

Every once in a while — OK, definitely not enough, but still — they’re that weird band you used to love all over again.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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