There are no words to describe how Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra lurked into my 20-year-old head. After reading the MOJO Special Edition issue on The Story of Prog Rock and discovering bands like; Hawkwind, Van der Graaf Generator, Camel, Marillion, The Mars Volta, and of course, Tangerine Dream. It proved to me that prog was more than just a four-letter word.

I remember ordering the Phaedra album from my local Borders store that was about 8 minutes to my house. So here I was, putting the album onto my 80GB iPod, with my skullcandy earphones put on, pressing the play button, and embarking on a journey that was surreal, dark, mysterious, and a signpost of electronic music.

This was the classic line-up which considered Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke, and Peter Baumann. Perfect match, perfect team. They were like no other since unleashing their previous two albums from the Ohr label; Zeit and Atem. The opening 17-minute title-track is where the pearly gates start to open with bubbly machines coming out of the whirlwind.

The mood starts to go into this fast-paced arpeggiated texture with the sound of Mellotron choirs and strings that begin to fly through the synthesised heavens. How killer is it to start an album like that with no vocals, no drums, and no heavy guitar sections? It’s all right down and front.

Not to mention those telephone-like sounds and eerie themes that’ll take you deeper into the jungle and heading towards this Kubrick-sque section from 2001 where Dave appears to be in a daze inside this 19th century Hotel Room in an unknown location between space and time.

When you think of a title like ‘Mysterious Semblance at The Strand of Nightmares’, that is a powerful title to start off after the 18-minute title track. It’s the sea of mellotrons filling up the void with strings coming out of the sky, followed by some VCS3 noises. The trio takes listeners into the stars and witnessing our solar systems floating around the milky way.

From the moment ‘Movements of a Visionary’ starts, at first you start to hear these chaotic chittering the trio would make on their keyboards. It has more of the insanity level starting to build up with a hypnotic effect to make the helicopter sounds coming towards you before the church organ pipes in to add those De Wolfe soundscapes from its personal library.

 

The closing track ‘Sequent C’ takes you into the slow downfall of Thomas Jerome Newton’s legacy by becoming an alcoholic to cope what the government did to him in the final section of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Phaedra is more like a meditated album that’ll help you clear your head and make you aware of your surroundings.

When it was released in the UK on February 20th, 1974 on Richard Branson’s label Virgin Records, it reached no. 15 in the UK album charts for a 15-week run. Yes, there were the naysayers including Melody Maker’s own Steve Lake who famously opened the review up with “Eat more shit – 100,000 flies can’t be wrong”. Followed by “gutless and spineless, devoid of inspiration”. The irony also with Lake, who wrote the negative review on Phaedra, is that he would later work with Manfred Eicher from ECM Records, writing liner notes for the jazz label. Of all things!

But there were champions of the album from Steven Wilson who would do the 5.1 mix of the album, Jah Wobble, Moby, and of course the late, great John Peel who was an admirer of the band’s music and introduced them at the Rainbow and the Royal Albert Hall (Michael Hoening) between 1974 and 1975.

One from The Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1 (Royal Albert Hall) which was originally released on the Castle label in 2003 and reissued by Esoteric Reactive 2012 of the Albert Hall recording, followed by the 2019 box set In Search of Hades. 50 years later, Phaedra is an album that refuses to die.

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