‘Melrose’: Tangerine Dream’s Confident Entry Into A New Decade

Continuing on from where ‘Lily On The Beach’ left off, ‘Melrose’ found Tangerine Dream confidently entering a new decade.

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Tangerine Dream Melrose album cover 820
Cover: Courtesy of Virgin Records

Though Tangerine Dream’s 1989 album, Lily On The Beach, attracted a fair smattering of critical praise, they chose not to tour in support of it. However, when Edgar Froese and Co. did finally re-emerge on stage, it was to mark a historic occasion: the one-off concert his band played on February 20, 1990, would be the last show they’d ever perform in divided Berlin. That night, three months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Froese and Co. played at East Berlin’s Werner-Seelenbinder Halle, reputedly to a crowd of over 10,000 people. They rose to the occasion, too, pulling out all the stops with an emotional 19-song set (including five encores) which featured the best of Lily On The Beach, its predecessor Optical Race, and also several selections culled from the soundtrack to 1989’s acclaimed Destination Berlin. The stage, then, was perfectly set for their first album of the 90s, Melrose.

Atypically, the group performed with an extended line-up for the East Berlin bash. Having guested on Lily On The Beach, jazz fusion saxophonist Hubert Waldner returned to fulfill his role, and was joined on second sax by classically trained Viennese native Linda Spa (initially recruited just for this one show, she later remained in the group’s live line-up until 1996).

Perhaps more significantly, however, Edgar Froese’s son Jerome (who had supplied the expressive lead guitar on Lily On the Beach’s “Radio City”) made his debut as a fully integrated member of Tangerine Dream, switching between guitar and keyboards throughout the concert. He stayed on after, joining Edgar and Paul Haslinger in the studio for Melrose, released through Peter Baumann’s Private Music imprint in October 1990.

Like both Haslinger and his predecessor, Johannes Schmoelling, Jerome quickly made his presence felt on the album, composing several tracks, including the tight, dancefloor-friendly “Dolls In The Shadow”; the balmy, undulating titular song (which featured another telling cameo from saxophonist Hubert Waldner); and the intriguing “Art Of Vision,” which even carried echoes of New Order’s uplifting melancholia.

Elsewhere, Melrose largely continued on from where Lily On The Beach left off, with smoothly executed, evocative all-instrumental workouts such as “Electric Lion” and “Desert Train” rolling along like clockwork, and the otherwise plangent “Three Bikes In The Sky” being elevated by one of Edgar Froese’s most eloquent and visceral guitar solos. Less was more during the record’s denouement, however, with Haslinger’s exquisitely heartfelt piano framing the otherwise largely unadorned and exquisitely understated “Cool At Heart.”

Always solid and intermittently inspired, Melrose suggested that Froese had the makings of another classic TD line-up on his hands, yet sadly that wasn’t to be. With the sense of déjà vu all too palpable, Paul Haslinger (like Peter Baumann before him) chose to relocate to North America after the band’s autumn 1990 UK tour (during which dates they issued the tour-only EP, Oranges Dont Dance), leaving Froeses senior and junior to record 1992’s Rockoon as a duo for the Seattle-based Miramar.

The 16CD and double-Blu-ray release, In Search Of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973-1979 is out now and can be bought here.

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