Review Summary: Some may struggle to get past the vocals, some will even pass based merely on the new age label. Madcap's Flaming Duty strays away from the sound of TD's most celebrated albums. Yet rather than disappoint, it proves a breath of fresh air in the Tangerine
You’ll struggle to find any fans of any recent Tangerine Dream albums that are not rabid life long fans with a collection of Tangerine Dream albums that stretches into the dozens. In some ways this is justified, it is hard to compare what we see now with what Tangerine Dream was. Edgar Froese’s passion for music does not dwindle, yet such passion does not seem to draw the hordes in to his creations. Many have applied the new age label to Tangerine Dream, and many will tell you of TD’s dislike of this labelling. When you describe their album Madcap’s Flaming Duty
, with vocals, celtic & folk influences, lyrics drawn from poems; it becomes hard to refute those adamant to refute the term new age. With other albums Tangerine Dream has often shown new age influences, but here these influences are taken and spread throughout the album.
Without even pursuing the new age tag, one comes across another sticking point, vocals. TD albums featuring vocals have not always been welcomed with open arms, past efforts such as Cylclone
receiving very mixed reviews and the recent Dante trilogy coming under a fair amount of scrutiny. Though the vocals have occasionally worked well, there has always been an underlying feeling that the mix of TD and vocals is not completely comfortable. Chris Hausl provides the vocals throughout Madcap’s Flaming Duty
his voice often proving easy on the ears, smooth and with a distinctive tone that feels quite unique. His voice works well with the songs, and rather than being out of place; he seems more a part of Tangerine Dream than a guest. Occasionally one might notice a lack of variation, with Hausl retreading the same tones in his voice. Yet surprisingly when he does moves up the scales such as in The Divorce
, he does so with relative comfort, his higher register adding strongly to the songs it features in.
Shape My Sin
provides one of the strongest moments in the album. The approach to the song does not on the surface follow typical TD style, the vocals working together with keyboards and acoustic guitar to create a mystical sound. Yet underneath it, the song still seems to pursue new ethereal soundscapes, and with a sound that seems far more intimate than previous TD albums. It’s a mix of the old with a new approach, less focused on traditional TD methods. The Blessed Damozel
lets the vocals and acoustic guitar take the full focus, yet Froese’s typical knack for beautiful melodies and his strong pursuit of new combinations of sound is present.
The degree to which TD vary from their roots is not the same from track to track, some straying very far from moogs and keyboards such as Lake of Pontchartrain
. A few traditional TD fans may not see the beauty of such tracks, but TD songs are rarely greeted with united opinion. When they do stray and pursue very unfamiliar territory, Froese and crew do not struggle to find ground from which to gaze from. Instead their creations draw the listener in, whilst remaining coherent and in line with the intended direction of the song. Other recent TD albums have had designs that can be hard to get a hold of and understand, yet Madcap’s Flaming Duty
does well to deliver on what it sets out to do.
Some may struggle to get past the vocals, some will even pass based merely on the new age label. Yet in typical TD fashion the album proves a divider, and for those who the album appeals, Madcap’s Flaming Duty
comes as a breath of fresh air and perhaps the strongest TD album of the last 5 years. The release of new TD material comes about often, but it is not often that TD reach such cohesion, beauty and magic as on Madcap’s Flaming Duty