There's a bit of controversy regarding this DVD release from Respect Records, which purports to be a live taping of the famous Tangerine Dream's concert in England's Coventry Cathedral, but is actually a half-hour concert montage of performance footage heavily processed by trippy video effects, and set to edited tracks from Ricochet (1975), the band's live concert album.
The audio mix is standard mono – something that won't please fans in any way – and aside from some production details on the sleeve's rear (mostly about the postwar cathedral ruins, the set design within the new cathedral, and the concert's pseudo-reconciliation theme of a West German band playing on hallowed grounds bombed by Nazis during WWII), there's no other details provided of the event.
Given the band's longevity and huge fan base, it's baffling no effort was made to provide further historic details (the information from critics and fans who actually attended the event is out there), nor assess the concert within the band's years with members Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann at the center.
This concert montage is also one of director Tony Palmer's most obscure works, and should've been detailed in some manor, since Palmer's career, while creatively varied, is comprised of some extremely well-known composer biopics, such as Wagner (1983), with Richard Burton.
This DVD does have some merits. Those who never attended the band's concerts in the seventies will find fascinating shots of the massive gear used to create the group's emblematic sounds. Each member is surrounded by banks of gear the size of refrigerators, and their performance style is, well, meditative, if not robotic – which, in this video montage, is appropriate in the sense of creative minds (sort of) reaching a behavioral common ground with machines to create a wild menagerie of textures, rhythms, and unique tones.
As an album, Ricochet sounds remarkably fresh, and that's probably due to the group's sounds that have slowly influenced future composers who in turn have found ways to recreate some of the sonics and rhythmic textures (an excellent example is Tyler Bates' music for Neil Marshall's Doomsday) using their own contemporary gear (now much smaller than the gargantuan electronic monoliths the trio needed to create those vast, ever-shifting soundscapes).
Soundtrack fans will recognize some rhythmic patterns and atmospheric textures the group later applied to their score for William Friedkin's Sorcerer (1977), and it's fun to see a long-haired and lanky Christopher Franke (Babylon 5) in his younger days.
From a technical standpoint, Palmer's montage is very much of its time, and a snapshot of primordial video effects and transition filters that rendered chunky, blocky, op-art geometric shapes in blazing primary and purplish colours – all very trippy, but distracting to those wanting a precise, complete, and undersexed record of the original concert.
Most of the edits don't sync with any performance close-ups, so it's distracting when the keyboard fingering has no relations to what's coming out of one's speakers. The video quality is soft, but that's pretty much the nature of early colour tube cameras whose depth of field was nowhere as expansive as film cameras.
Ardent fans and completists will probably be the main buyers of this truncated concert record, and Respect Records did a serious no-no in leaving the DVD's running time and audio mix details off the sleeve, but this is an accessible release of the band in performance during their early years, and another rare production by Tony Palmer for the director's fans to acquire.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan