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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 3C – Zeit

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Zeit (1972)
Origin of Supernatural Probabilities
19:34

I mentioned in my last entry that "Nebulous Dawn," the second track on Zeit, was a “monumental” work of space music. I stand by that. The next track, "Origin of Supernatural Probabilities," is also a monumental work of space music, but in a decidedly different way. "Nebulous Dawn" could be described as a free floating assemblage of spacey sounds, with not very much of a rhythmic pulse to it. "Origin of Supernatural Probabilities," on the other hand, has a strong rhythm. It’s one that may or may not actually be made with a sequencer but which strongly resembles the sequencer-heavy works of Tangerine Dream’s so-called Virgin years, which at this time were still a few years in their future.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

When There Were Record Stores

It started with Give Us A Wink, by Sweet, probably in 1976 or 1977, in the record department at Korvettes. For those too lazy to Wikipedia I’ll elaborate on Sweet and Korvettes. Sweet (formerly The Sweet) was a British band who started out doing catchy bubble gum hits. They morphed into glam rockers with garishly shiny clothes, platform shoes and awful haircuts somewhere between shag and mullet. This is how it was done in the early Seventies.

By the time of Give Us A Wink, Sweet were probably a (blow-dried) hair past their peak. That came an album earlier with Desolation Boulevard, featuring the megahit, "Fox on the Run." Perhaps you know them from "The Ballroom Blitz," which came earlier. Perhaps you don’t give a rat turd. No matter, since they flamed out in fairly typical rock star fashion a few years after Give Us A Wink. Two versions of the group are apparently touring to this day, each fronted by one of the two surviving members of the original group. Sad. But I digress.

Korvettes was also about to flame out at the time. Korvettes, saith Wikipedia, was “an American chain of discount department stores, founded in 1948 in New York City.” They were well-known for their record departments. I thought maybe it was just me who thought so, but this segment of their business was significant enough by 1964 to merit a profile in a Billboard special issue on record retailing. According to Billboard’s numbers from that issue, record stores were already dwindling, from 12,500 in 1957 to 7,500 in 1963. Which might have raised more alarms if the volume of sales hadn’t tripled during the same period.

As for the nebulous connection between Sweet’s Give Us A Wink and Korvettes, there’s not one, unless you’re me. It was the first album I bought and that’s where I bought it. Korvettes had a deep inventory (at least as I recall it, 117 years later), the prices weren’t bad, and their doorbuster specials were even cheaper. Best of all, for us under-sixteens, you could roam the bins while Mom was off stocking up on doilies, toilet brushes and whatnot.

I bought as many records at Korvettes as my limited budget would allow. A few stand out. Rush’s first live album – All the World’s a Stage – a double album I bought for the criminally low price of $4.38. With the platform shoes, serious bell bottoms, silk shirts and hair that beat Sweet by a long shot, it was a fashion manual for the wasted youth of my era. It included a song called "By-Tor and the Snow Dog." You'll never be that cool, Kanye West.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 3B – Zeit

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Zeit (1972)
Nebulous Dawn
17:56

This is space music. Space music of monumental proportions. Though it should be noted that there’s not much here that sounds like music in the traditional sense that most of us know. Better to think of it as well conceived assemblage of assorted and sundry ambient shards of sound that starts slow, builds to a peak, and then wanes again. I’ve seen this album referred to as one of the pioneering works of dark ambient – whatever that is. I suppose that’s a fair enough description of what’s going on here, if you like labeling things.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 3A - Zeit

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Zeit (1972)
Birth of Liquid Plejades
19:54

Prior to starting this project I hadn’t ever heard Tangerine Dream’s first album, Electronic Meditations. It did not impress and I doubt that I’ll listen to it again. Revisiting their second album, Alpha Centauri, after a long time, I thought it showed some promise but didn’t quite come together.

Their third album, Zeit, is another matter entirely and showed that they were finally starting to hit their stride. You could argue the point, I suppose, but this is the first time where Tangerine Dream actually begins to sound like Tangerine Dream.

To kick things off, there’s "Birth of Liquid Plejades." Which is a pretty keen title, if you don’t take the time to analyze it much. As far as the track itself goes, it doesn’t work for me as well as the other three on the album, but it has its moments. The group employed some “real” musicians for this one, namely a quartet of cellists. Who dominate the first half of the proceedings with long droning tones that come and go, weaving in and out of the piece, before finally giving way to the organ that dominates so much of early Tangerine Dream.


Tangerine Dream Track by Track 2C – Alpha Centauri

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Alpha Centauri (1971)
Alpha Centauri
22:04

I haven’t listened to Alpha Centauri for quite a long time but I had vaguely fond memories of it. Which were pretty much dashed when I listened to it again. The first two of the three tracks weren’t exactly bad but they weren’t anything to write home about.

Then there’s the 22-minute title track. The first time I revisited it for this project I had to grit my teeth and bear down just to get through it. The second time I revisited it – just one day later – I found it quite intriguing. Until about the half way mark, that is, and then it started to wear.

On a third listen I was again entranced by the opening, with tones that are so static that they seem like vast sheets of sound. But before long the trippy flute kicks in and kind of spoils things, before fading out and giving way to slightly more melodious droning tones interspersed with freaky sounds of indeterminate origin. Unfortunately, it’s not long before the flute reappears and noodles and doodles along with various other instruments and makes kind of a mess of things. It could have been a contender, as the saying goes, but it never quite coheres.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 2B – Fly and Collision of Comas Sola

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Alpha Centauri (1971)
Fly and Collision of Comas Sola
13:23

A couple minutes of eerie echoing tones in the upper register to start and then, like the first song on the album, the kinda churchy sounding organ takes over. To be joined here and there by some trippy sounding flute interludes and then a bit of fairly frenetic percussion that closes things out. Not so bad, as this sort of thing goes, but I wouldn’t rank it too high on my list of favorite Tangerine Dream tracks.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 2A – Sunrise in the Third System

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Alpha Centauri (1971)
Sunrise in the Third System
4:21

Electronic Meditations, Tangerine Dream’s first album, is one I never listened to before starting this project. Chances are I’ll never listen to it again. Alpha Centauri, their second effort, found them moving in the direction of what they would become. But they weren't quite there yet. "Sunrise in the Third System" has a title that seems intriguing enough if you don’t think about it too hard. But the piece itself doesn’t quite click. It starts with a mix of eerie sounds that eventually blends with a churchy sounding organ and proceeds on like this until just past the four-minute mark.

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 1E – Resurrection

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Electronic Meditations (1970)
Resurrection
3:27

Electronic Meditations is not the Tangerine Dream most of us know. It would take a few more albums before they evolved into that group. But throughout their first album there are a few frustratingly brief hints of what's to come, mixed in amongst so-so instrumentals that are pretty well suited to the waning days of the psychedelic age.

"Resurrection" kicks off like nothing special with a churchy sounding organ and a recitation of some sort, presumably in German. Just as I was about to dismiss it it gave way to a short snippet that offers yet another hint of what's to come. Perhaps the best bit on the album, even though it only lasts for about two minutes.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tangerine Dream Track by Track 1D – Ashes to Ashes

Tangerine Dream Track by Track is a song-by-song, chronological look at Tangerine Dream’s “official” releases.

Electronic Meditations (1970)
Ashes to Ashes
4:06

Yes, Virginia, those are drums on that Tangerine Dream song. It’s a pretty straightforward rocking piece, this one, albeit a little bit trippy, and there’s some organ in the background. But mostly its Edgar Froese on guitar who steals the spotlight here. Not hard to listen to but also not particularly memorable.