Judge Eric Profancik actually prefers Clementines.
Playing and evolving since 1967.
Many years ago, a friend and I were in a music store when I decided I wanted to buy some random CD of a group I'd never heard of before. My friend suggested "Optical Race" by a group called Tangerine Dream. I figured "why not?" and bought the CD. It turns out that it's a really good disc with a lot of good music. Since then, I've often found myself looking at Tangerine Dream discs in the store, listening to a few tracks, but never buying another album. None of those discs ever caught my fancy. My enjoyment of "Optical Race" still lingering, I asked to review this two-disc set from Tangerine Dream. Boy, was that a mistake.
Facts of the Case
This two-disc set is an "embellished" re-release of the discontinued VHS Three Phase: Past, Present, and Future. On the first disc, you are "treated" to an odd combination of concert footage, home videos, random video clips, bad psychedelic video effects, and music video snippets all playing to Tangerine Dream's music. There are nine songs on this disc:
• Two Bunch Palms
The second disc, which I'm considering bonus material, is a simple music-only CD of the same songs on the DVD.
From start to finish, I found this set to be quite awful. I thought I liked the music of Tangerine Dream, but I now know that "Optical Race" is a fluke. I do not like the music of Tangerine Dream, and this DVD does nothing but reinforce that knowledge. I have to say that aside from "Dolls in the Shadow," I was able to completely ignore the music. It was uninspired, boring, and often repetitive. None of the melodies were fresh, innovative, or fun to listen to; instead, they felt quite dated. I know New Age music is generally frowned upon, and I think Tangerine Dream is the source of that problem.
But beyond the music itself, the video footage is quite confusing. When the disc first starts up (after hitting "Play Movie" from the menu), you are immediately plunged into concert footage of "Two Bunch Palms." There's no "lights up," no introductions, no nothing. It's just whoop, there it is. It caught me off guard because the beginning of "Two Bunch Palms" has a bit of a loud, aggressive opening. Yet that's truly just the start of a very odd fifty-minute presentation. While this set is clearly titled Live in America 1992, there is not an abundance of concert footage. With a title like that, I was expecting wall-to-wall concert. Besides "Two Bunch Palms," I believe there are only two more songs with concert footage. (I will admit that there could have been more, but my concentration did wander.) So what do you get for the remainder of the disc? Good question. What I originally would have described as bad music videos is "more" than that. Some quick Internet surfing clarified that a lot of it is home video of the band. Okay. Why? Why include this odd footage and not more from the concert?
At the end of the disc, I just didn't get it. What did I just watch? It's not a concert disc. It's not a music video disc. What is it? It must be some avant-garde art thing with Tangerine Dream working to express what the music means to them…or maybe not.
What also struck me as odd was that when we did see the band members, they were very serious. Not once did they crack a smile. Not once did it appear that they were enjoying themselves. It was just stoic expressions of people seriously fixated on their serious musical compositions. There was no joy with these people. There was no excitement in their performance. It was as if they were trying to prove to the audience how important their music is. I like my performers to be animated and into their music, working to give the best performance possible while entertaining the audience and having fun. Tangerine Dream's members looked like the future of the world depended on a precise and perfect performance of their music. If they failed, then we'd all die. And where's the fun in that?
The transfers on the disc are also disappointing. You are given a full-frame transfer that is soft, fuzzy, and dirty with weak colors, ill-defined blacks, and poor definition. (On a side note, whoever filmed the brief snippets of concert footage is lacking any creative flair as it's also the most boring tape of a concert you'll ever see.) My guess is that this is a simple port of the VHS to DVD without any cleanup done. For the audio, you have a choice of either a Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 mix. I found myself favoring the 5.1 mix, though it wasn't perfect. This mix appears to have its roots in an old 2.0 mix, and you can hear some hiss, a bit of distortion, and some cracking in the channels. At least it doesn't sound completely "fake," having that odd echo and thin quality about it. One thing I will give it credit for is that it is loud. I didn't have to turn the volume up to my "normal" levels on this one. I can only fathom the damage, both structurally and mentally, this may have caused. On the whole, the mix isn't that bad, but it's not that great either.
As mentioned earlier, I'm considering the second disc, the music-only CD, to be a bonus feature to this set. Obviously, it's not much of a bonus feature for me.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'm not a fan of Tangerine Dream, so I must ponder what they would think of this release. Would they like it? Would they enjoy these songs? Are these signature Tangerine Dream tunes (aside from the cover of Hendrix's "Purple Haze," of course)? Not having the slightest idea, I decided to uncover a true fan's take on the show, and here's what "tangerinewolf" from Amazon.com has to say:
"If you are a [Tangerine Dream] fan, you will certainly want this DVD…There is some live high quality footage, but it is scattered in between music videos and archival views similar to home movies; not to say that's bad! This is actually an excellent 50-minute presentation!"
Where's the music that I enjoy in "Optical Race"? Where's the style that I enjoy in Christopher Franke's Babylon 5 music? Where's the good music? In their vast repertoire, I'm sure a hardy soul can find some. Yet whether or not you are a fan of Tangerine Dream, I going to try to save you a few bucks and recommend you give this release a wide berth. For one thing, odds are you already own the songs on the bonus CD so there's no need for that. More importantly, the DVD with its odd assortment of video, lackluster transfers, and uninspired performances doesn't necessitate you to have this in your collection. So, save your money for something else from the group. I would have to imagine that there's something better out there for the serious Dreamer.
Live in America 1992 is found guilty of fraud. It is hereby sentenced to edit the disc and make this an actual concert DVD.
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• Bonus CD "Live in America 1992"
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