Review Summary: Tangerine Dream conjure up a swirling cacophony of magical auras, doom-laden pounders and medieval, organic, forest-dwelling twinklers. Bryan Ferry supplies the token smoochy song
First off, let’s get the movie out of the way. ‘Legend
’ was a 1985 film by Ridley Scott, of ‘Alien
’ and ‘Blade Runner
’ fame, and it didn’t break the tradition of being slightly off-the-wall. It’s an elaborate fairy-tale, albeit one with rather dark undertones; a ‘Brothers Grimm’ story brought to the silver screen in dramatic, immensely detailed fashion. In short, a beautiful princess (cliché) is kidnapped by the cheery-sounding ‘Lord Of Darkness’ (cliché) and it’s up to the handsome commoner to make his way through the dark forest to rescue her, protect the unicorns ("), kill the bad guy and save the world (cliché). Not up to much then, yet the film’s atmosphere is rescued by its raw, unguarded, yet heavily electronic soundtrack.
Ordinarily, when only two tracks are ‘proper’ songs (with lyrics), I would refrain from reviewing a soundtrack. But Tangerine Dream demonstrate their talents here by ensuring that every track sounds completely different
, rather than falling into the trap of producing a series of short, monotonous, bass-heavy synth sounds, as would so many soundtracks. You don’t need to have seen the film to appreciate the different moods created; from the strange, ethereal, ‘Opening
’ (the musical equivalent of a black forest gateau), to the sprinkly, twinkling, scampering mischievousness of ‘Fairies
’, through to the epic, hollow-sounding coldness of ‘Blue Room
’. This latter track is an ominous high-point on the album, with its hypnotically subtle synths cascading downwards, while an empty echo bumps away with slow regularity. It certainly invokes a feeling of desolation and loss. In the same ominous vein, ‘Darkness
’ starts with an exotic, eastern flavour (take a bow, sitar) before Emulator-processed choral moans start, and the anger and power spills out towards the end with some truly forbidding pounding. A very dark, potent track. ‘Goblins
’ is a rhythmic, tribal affair, with abrupt bangs, slams, and rattling, with occasional string screeches and minor key murmurs. ‘The Dance
’, meanwhile, keeps the sense of approaching danger and mixes it into a pretty waltz, complete with processed piano, and some excellent skittering percussive effects adding a sense of chaos to the climax of this obtusely romantic track.
Elsewhere, the ‘lighter’ side of this fantasy world is demonstrated well in ‘Unicorn Theme
’, a light, airy tribute to purity and innocence; ‘Enya’ with half the pretentiousness and twice the simplicity and feeling. ‘Cottage
’ is a tinkly-bonk olde-worlde tune, simple but rather uninspired. You still get the feeling of being in a medieval village, however. And ‘Loved By The Sun
’ actually comes with vocals, courtesy of Jon Anderson, of ‘Yes
’ fame, and is a wonderfully uplifting, if slightly sappy song. In fact, the only track TD didn’t get hands-on with was ‘Is Your Love Strong Enough
’, a solo effort from Mr. Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry (and helped along by Dave Gilmour!). One of his better solo efforts, it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Roxy’s swansong ‘Avalon
’, smooth and romantic as it is, his vocals on top form as he evocatively sings, ‘Just one beat of your heart/ And stranger than fantasy/ I knew from the start/ It had to be the place for me
’, and lending the song a haunting quality.
Unfortunately, this is a soundtrack to
a film, rather than alongside
it. By that, I mean that the great ideas expressed here are not given freedom to develop as they would on a ‘real’ Tangerine Dream album. They’re disappointingly short, the longest instrumentals ‘Blue Room
’ and ‘Unicorn Theme
’ both ending at 3:22. You only just start to wallow in the dreamlike insubstantiality before the next track comes on, and though the feelings conveyed here are peppered with variety (mischief, goodness, bleakness, evil, extravagance) , you wish you were listening to something more focused; in short, you wish you listening to a full TD album. You may have heard that this prolific group dabbled in some soundtracks; I would recommend, for the most part, that even the biggest fan sticks with their own albums (good examples - ‘Phaedra‘, ‘Rubycon‘
), and obtain the ‘Legend
’ soundtrack only. It’s a very strange, eerie, and above all organic experience; even if you’ve never seen the movie, the music does exactly what a soundtrack should - plays the film out in your mind’s eye.
Listen to ‘Opening
’ and you are almost there, taking a moonlit walk through the trees of a dark, enchanted forest. Play ‘Darkness
’ and cower behind the sofa, terrified by the sound of a demon being summoned. Give ‘Unicorn Theme
' a spin and rejoice in the sheer shimmering joy of magical innocence. But expect to be disappointed by the track length and realisation that this is, ultimately, just a soundtrack. As for the movie, it’s actually not that bad (probably because the atmosphere is stirred up wonderfully by the score), and if you ever want to see Tim Curry in character as the Devil himself, pummelling Tom Cruise to a pulp, well…