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reDiscover Tangerine Dream’s ‘Phaedra’

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In Greek mythology, the name denotes the mother of Demophon of Athens and Acamas, and derives from the word for “bright.” In progressive rock mythology, it denotes a landmark album by one of the great bands of the genre. Our reDiscover spotlight falls on the Tangerine Dream album Phaedra.

PhaedraThe German progressive pioneers were formed in 1967 and had already released four albums on the Ohr label when they signed to the emerging Virgin Records label in 1974. Their last Ohr release, Atem, had been named by influential BBC broadcaster John Peel as his album of the year in 1973. Phaedra was the record that provided the band’s international awakening.

When this classic instrumental work was released on 20 February 1974, it unveiled a brooding title track that was spread across the whole of side one, over 17 minutes of VCS 3 synthesiser glory. On one of the first albums to feature sequencers, side two began with the near-11 minute ‘Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares.’ Then came the eight-minute ‘Movements Of A Visionary,’ before the album concluded with the brief coda, ‘Sequent C.’

Phaedra was recorded at the Manor, the studio inside a manor house in Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire, England, which was already celebrated by early 1974 as the location in which Mike Oldfield had created Tubular Bells.

It was produced by Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese, who played mellotron, guitar, bass and organ and, like his colleagues Peter Baumann and Christopher Franke, the VS3. Froese also painted the image on the album cover; Baumann added organ, electric piano and flute, and Franke the Moog.

TD 1974

Strangely, Phaedra was not a big success in Germany, where the band had been established for some years. But in the British and American markets, it opened doors. A two-week run and a No. 196 peak in the US was a modest start, but it was the first of seven chart albums there in a dozen years.

In the UK, where imports of the band’s pre-Virgin albums had sold a reported 25,000 copies, the title eventually sold an estimated 100,000 units. It enjoyed a 15-week chart run and No. 15 peak there, despite very little airplay. The band would only better that chart position with the following year’s No. 12 success Rubycon.

These were the first two of no less than 16 UK top 10 chart albums over a 13-year spell, in a loyal relationship between the band and their fans. As Froese himself put it: “We believe that each single member of the audience has to be a musician too. Everybody…has a different understanding of what comes from the stage.”

Purchase Phaedra here.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    September 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Yet another impressive review provided my udiscovermusic.com. It is indeed one of my TD faves and I’m simply amazed to check all the details in connection to this album, such as:
    – Mike Oldield’s Tubular Bells
    – the cover image is Froese’s creation
    Where DO you find all this information? 🙂

    • Pete

      July 14, 2016 at 3:09 am

      have to disagree on the album cover–all were done by Monique Froese, Edgars wife-until her death.

  2. Chuck Anziulewicz

    October 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Tangerine Dream first came to my attention in the late 1970s, when I was a student at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. At the time there was no college radio station, but we were able to pick up WKSU was Kent State University in Ohio on clear nights, from our 6th floor, westward-facing apartment. This was at a time when STUDENTS ran the radio station, and it had a pretty progressive format, especially late at night when they had a show called “Fresh Air.” THAT’S the show I first heard Tangerine Dream on, and shortly thereafter I purchased the “Phaedra” LP at a local record store. The album was, for me, an epiphany.

  3. Bev Pook

    September 2, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I bought my first Tangerine Dream album by ordering it via Virgin Records in Brighton. It was shipped from Germany and it was called ZIET which I believe is time in German. This was after hearing the Late John Peel playing on Radio 1. His how was between 10pm and midnight which he shared with whispering Bob Harris. All the really good progressive music was played on this programme which if my memory is correct was called Sounds of the seventies. Great days, great music

  4. Paul Jackson

    November 26, 2015 at 12:02 am

    This was the first TD album I heard and the one that got me into the Berlin School sequencer sound. If you miss that classic early TD Virgin sound check out the band Redshift.

  5. Pingback: reDiscover Tangerine Dream’s Green Desert | uDiscover

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