Distilling the essence of a force as monumentally influential and prolific as the German electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream to a two-CD checklist of essentials is a daunting and ultimately impossible task. The group's soundtrack work alone would need to be relegated to a multi-disc box set to even scratch the surface, as would the early years of primal synthesizer explorations and the more recent decades of electronic dance music. Nonetheless, this tidy package manages to present a significant enough taste of Tangerine Dream's discography that the neophyte can come away from it with a working understanding of where the renowned avant-gardists began, and where they ultimately went. The first disc, for whatever reason, jumps ahead and focuses on the mid-'80s, leading off with the 22-minute title track from the Poland album (recorded live in said country), as daring and ambitious a piece of electro-symphonic dance music ever recorded. The remainder of the first disc stays in the '80s, bowing out with both parts of the difficult "21st Century Common Man," drawn from the Tyger album. Disc two backtracks to the beginning, appropriately launching with "Genesis," the epic that opened 1970's Electronic Meditation album. That title was particularly apt for this early experimental work, but over the next few years, as Tangerine Dream became more enamored of the Moog and other synthesizer technology, the music developed more organically as the musicians -- Edgar Froese has been the only constant throughout the many personnel changes -- found their place within this brave new world. That the bulk of this disc is represented by the ambitious, lengthy title tracks of three consecutive early-'70s albums -- Alpha Centauri, Zeit, and Atem -- is more than likely no accident, as these are emblematic of what Tangerine Dream, in their formative and most creative era, were all about.
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2