CHRIS FRANKE: The London Concert (1993)
Updated: Jan 12
“A good live CD that mixes very well the New Age and New Berlin School styles of Chris”
1 Empire of Light 5:04
2 Purple Waves 16:36
3 Cloudburst Flight 5:57
4 Black Garden View 5:34
5 Vermillion Sands 5:47
6 Mountain Heights 4:05
7 Dolphin Dance 4:34
8 Private Diary 3:35
Varèse Sarabande – VSD-5399
(CD & Streaming 51:17) (V.F.)
(New Age New Berlin School)
Here we go! In 2022 I made the resolution to review less new releases in order to talk about those albums that have evolved or have an impact in the wonderful universe of electronic music.
The facts! Four years after leaving Tangerine Dream, Chris Franke made himself rather discreet with a first solo album, Pacific Coast Highway, which had a disappointing New Age influence. There was Universal Soldier in 92, a rather dark soundtrack with the participation of the Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra. Then, THE LONDON CONCERT, which followed a concert performed at the Astoria Theatre in London in October 91. In the meantime, Tangerine Dream has ended its Melrose era with 3 albums and started its Seattle years. The band decided to take a more rock, more modern and more accessible turn, while to my great surprise Chris Franke gives us a wonderful CD where his New Age style is sublimely combined with the New Berlin School style of the early 80's. It is thus accompanied by Edgar Rothermich (Richard E. Roth) that the ex-member of Tangerine Dream reserved us some good and beautiful surprises.
A dull reverberation starts the concert, crumbling sound prisms that floats between two atmospheres. Empire of Light welcomes us with a floating texture having a tenebrous ambient ascendant. The sound effects plunge us into a cinematographic ambience, a little bit even at the doors of Legend, in an impeccable sonority. A solitary chord builds the bases of a first harmony under a filter of seraphic voice. This is how we slide towards the imposing Purple Waves which has nothing to do with its studio version of the Pacific Coast Highway album. Stretched on more than 16 minutes, this title offers good mutations while maintaining its harmonious thread. If the melody is similar, its rhythmic framework makes a timid appearance with sequenced arpeggios that begin to circle, structuring an ascending/leaping pattern that will grow with a wonderful dribble of the jumping keys that so influenced many electronic music (EM) musicians later on. Tinkles throw a slightly harmonic vision to this track that tangles between New Age and New Berlin School. Purple Waves takes a turn after the 7th minute with a more complex approach, which remains in the same harmonic rhythmic path, where the sequencer takes us into a real electronic spiral with Sorcerer's tunes that come to haunt our ears. The 3rd phase is more dynamic with a rhythmic race where the synth is more present. The sequencer and the electronic percussion elements in this part are simply dizzying. The last phase features a piano that revives the sequencer, as well as the New Age portion of this track that is undoubtedly the cornerstone of this album. The sound effects that fill this last stage carry the seal of Tangerine Dream from the White Eagle years and beyond.
Chris Franke then invites us to a much more lively and melodic version of Cloudburst Flight that gets lost in a long atmospheric segment a few seconds before its 3rd minute. A very good video is circulating on the Net, showing Chris and Richard E. Roth, his stage name, performing these last two tracks with Mountain Heights. I put the link here! All this leads to a nice interpretation of Black Garden View. Vermillion Sands is a little less frenzied than the powerful Cool Breeze of Brighton that had the crowd in a frenzy during the 1986 tour. This title with an incredible rhythmic crescendo was also used as an introduction for the fiery guitar solos of Edgar Froese. Without having the same dynamism, this version is still quite lively with very good synth solos replacing Edgar's guitar. Speaking of guitar, Roth uses it very well on Mountain Heights which is heavier and livelier on this rendition. There's a good peak of emotivity provider of chills here that is tied in with the guitar solos and dramatic effects thrown in here and there by Chris. A solid moment that continues with a very fiery version of Dolphin Dance that we hardly recognize. If TD was into rock back in the day, Franke is into it with this version which I more or less enjoy in all honesty. The edition of THE LONDON CONCERT that I own comes with Private Diary. If you don't have it, you're not missing anything! It sounds a lot like what Tangerine Dream did with Lily on the Beach.
Nice and good concert? Absolutely! Even if the last two tracks, including Dolphin Dance (yes-yes) cast a veil of musical and artistic coldness, there are some very good moments in this album where Chris Franke sounds literally like the Tangerine Dream from the Johannes Schmoelling's years. On the other hand, the New Age structures envelop too much the essence of this EM which shows that no matter which way the two parts decided to go can only disappoint the TD fans. Except that Chris did not deny his own roots. Those are the facts!
Sylvain Lupari (January 11th, 2022) ***½**