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The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« on: September 27, 2014, 06:38:33 AM »
Pink Floyd was the band that got me "into" music, back in 2005. I haven't listened to much of their stuff in years, so this weekend and next weekend, I'm going to do a complete listen-through of their material, in chronological order, and post a short review of each thing here.

"Chronological" is applied somewhat loosely; I won't be starting with their first release, but rather with their earliest released recording, a DVD called London '66-'67 with two extended early Floyd improvisations. Then I'll begin on the early singles, interleaved with their early albums in the order they were released. I won't include most compilations, but I will include Relics, which is largely just down to personal preference.

I plan to finish with their Live 8 appearance in 2005, the last time the four members of post-'60s Floyd ever performed together. Then I'll return when The Endless River gets released, to post a review of that.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2014, 02:08:26 PM »
London '66-'67
(aka Tonite Let's All Make Love in London)
Film (directed by Peter Whitehead)

Recorded: 11-12 January 1967
Released: 19 September 1995

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)

Track listing

1. Interstellar Overdrive (Barrett, Mason, Waters, Wright) (16:46)
2. Nick's Boogie (Mason) (11:55)

Review

This is a film of collated imagery of the London 1960s psychedelic scene, with Pink Floyd performing what was then one of their staple tunes, Interstellar Overdrive, as accompaniment. About a third to half of the footage is of Pink Floyd playing; the rest is footage from various nightclubs around London. It was later re-released on DVD, with Nick's Boogie (an entirely improvised number to make the most of available studio time) as a bonus track.

The structure of Interstellar Overdrive is a riff consisting of powerful, descending chords in E major, followed by extended, loosely structured improvisation, followed by a return to the main riff. It's fairly simple, and in my view this recording showcases it at its best. This performance doesn't have the studio editing that would go into "perfecting" the album version later that year, making this a raw, unbridled glimpse of early Floyd.

It's quite remarkable how Syd and Richard (who each have a Binson Echorec tape echo device hooked up to their respective instruments) manage to play so well together, despite the very loose structure of this piece. The one-chord vamp seems to rise and fall, with Syd gradually drifting further and further from playing an actual melody, at times just making toneless plucking noises or running his slide up and down his guitar's strings. This is made all the more eerie by the echoes from the Binson, and Richard is always right there on the same page as Syd, whatever he's doing.

Turning to the other two members of the group, Roger and Nick mainly keep a steady beat going throughout the piece, but towards the end they start to get a little more involved in the improv as the whole thing nears its climax. It's quite hilarious to watch the same Roger Waters who would go on to write The Wall rocking out on his bass with a big grin on his face. Meanwhile, Nick is the same old Nick he would always be; just along for the ride, but never trying to get into the limelight.

As it turned out, the band had booked more studio time than they needed, giving them time to play another piece. Since they didn't have one prepared, they decided to improvise something based around a rhythm Nick played on the toms using mallets. This one ends up with a much darker feel than Interstellar Overdrive, with the Binson echoes dominating most of the piece, and Roger doing some of his best bass work I've ever heard. The piece ends with a short drum solo from Nick.

The band members themselves look much younger and less sure of themselves than they would in later films. Also, Rick looks very out of place wearing a white shirt and tie, while the rest of the group are dressed very casually. One thing's for sure, though; they all deliver rock-solid performances that put much of their later, more polished work to shame.

All in all, an interesting look at the band's early history, which would later prove to be their best recorded improvisation with Syd, and a very tight performance that would take Gilmour-era Floyd some time to match. This is 29 minutes of footage no psychedelic rock fan should miss.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 03:53:02 PM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2014, 02:31:09 PM »
Arnold Layne / Candy and a Currant Bun
Single


Recorded: January-February 1967
Released: 10 March 1967

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)

All tracks authored by Syd Barrett.

Side A

Arnold Layne (2:52)

Side B

Candy and a Currant Bun (2:38)

Review

Saddam put it best: "psychedelic pop". These are a healthy mix of silly pop songs and Syd-era Floyd's trademark echoey guitar and organ.

Arnold Layne is a song about a guy who steals ladies' underwear from washing lines. It reprimands him, and encourages him to not "do it again". It also includes a short organ solo. Like most Floyd attempts at singles, it ends up sounding overly silly and just short enough that it doesn't really go anywhere, but at least these early singles are charmingly silly.

Candy and a Currant Bun was originally titled "Let's Roll Another One", but it had to be rewritten so as not to be about drugs to appease the censors of 1960s Britain. This is perhaps my favourite Syd-penned single, and I prefer it to the A-side. In addition to the silly, cutesy lyrics, this song includes a few verbal gags (after the line "please, you know you drive me wild", a deadly-serious voice repeats "drive me wild"), and ends with some thoroughly Binson'd organ.

While this is enjoyable, it's not nearly as good a debut single as it could have been. Worth hearing if you like throwaway pop.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 03:51:58 PM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2014, 02:46:08 PM »
See Emily Play / Scarecrow
Single


Recorded: May 1967
Released: 16 June 1967

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)

All tracks authored by Syd Barrett.

Side A

See Emily Play (2:53)

Side B

Scarecrow (2:08)

Review

More psychedelic pop, coming up! These aren't quite as silly-sounding as the previous single, despite See Emily Play being about a girl playing with her toys. The band also backed off on the echo a little, although See Emily Play still has a lot of organ, as well as a sped-up piano section.

Compared to the three other singles up until now, Scarecrow is rather subdued and conventional. It also Floyd's first significant use of vocal harmonies, sounding almost Beatlesque, except for the organ and the steady clapping rhythm. This track would later appear on their debut album.

This is entirely skippable, since the A-side would later appear on Relics and the B-side on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Get those instead; Floyd was always better as an album band.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 03:52:26 PM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2014, 03:38:54 PM »
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Studio album


Recorded: February - May 1967
Released: 5 August 1967

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)

All tracks authored by Syd Barrett, except where noted.

Side A

1. Astronomy Domine (4:12)
2. Lucifer Sam (3:07)
3. Matilda Mother (3:08)
4. Flaming (2:46)
5. Pow R. Toc H. (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) (4:26)
6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk (Waters) (3:05)

Side B

1. Interstellar Overdrive (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) (9:41)
2. The Gnome (2:13)
3. Chapter 24 (3:42)
4. The Scarecrow (2:11)
5. Bike (3:21)

Review

Side A is just about the strongest LP side any band could hope for on a debut album. Mixed in with the usual psychedelia (Astronomy Domine, Flaming and Pow R. Toc H.), we also get a couple of more straightforward pop tunes (Lucifer Sam and Matilda Mother), as well as Roger's first song (Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk) -- certainly a long way from the Roger-led Floyd that would churn out The Wall.

I really can't stress how catchy the first six tracks on this album are. Syd was a master of intertwining pop with psychedelic rock, and most of these tracks have elements of both. For me, the highlight of side 1 is Pow R. Toc H., which has no lyrics, but it does have an excellent opening consisting of weird noises, both sound effects and wordless vocal sounds. After a minute or so of this, the remainder of the track is mainly instrumental improvisations.

Roger's effort is a bit unexpected; he seems to have largely copied Syd's songwriting style for his first attempt, and the result isn't that bad. It fits in nicely with the flow of the album, and has lyrics that seem to be about being given various ridiculous treatments from a doctor.

Side B is a little more inconsistent, I think. While the tracks are all enjoyable, it feels more like a collection of singles than a coherent album side. The exception is Interstellar Overdrive, and I still find this version of it mind-numbingly dull. I get the impression they edited it down to fit on an album by removing all the "uninteresting" bits, resulting in nothing but echoey guitars (some overdubbed, as there is definitely a second guitar track at times) for most of it.

I will say that the segue into The Gnome is very well done; this may well be the only album in existence where a 10-minute psychedelic improvisation makes a segue into a silly pop song about a gnome. I never liked Chapter 24 too much, but I enjoyed it more than I remembered on this listen-through; and Scarecrow I already reviewed as the B-side to See Emily Play.

And then there's Bike. Syd has really pulled out all the stops here, as this sounds like a truly demented perversion of all your favourite '60s pop elements. It's almost pop, but it's like you're listening to pop through a kaleidoscope, and the lyrics are directed at a girl, boasting about various things (including a bike) that the singer has. The last thing he boasts about is "a room full of musical tunes, some rhyme, some jing, most of them are clockwork". The last two minutes of the album then consist of various ringing, chiming and beeping noises.

This is the only Floyd album which Syd Barrett had a significant influence over, and it is a truly excellent showcase of his talents. Absolutely essential.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 03:55:29 PM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2014, 04:16:40 PM »
Apples and Oranges / Paint Box
Single


Recorded: October 1967
Released: 18 November 1967

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)

Side A

Apples and Oranges (Barrett) (3:08)

Side B

Paint Box (Wright) (3:33)

Review

Apples and Oranges represents a significant departure from Floyd's signature sound up until now. While their established material relies heavily on organ and echo effects, this song uses a much more conventional guitar riff, and is the first time Floyd made significant use of guitar feedback. The guitar on this track is somewhat reminiscent of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album.

The lyrics have also condensed into something more mainstream; the subject matter is meeting a girl at a grocery store (hence "apples and oranges"). Again, this sounds more like something the Beatles would write than anything Floyd released previously.

Paint Box represents Wright's first songwriting attempt, and it kind of meanders around without going anywhere. The lyrics seem to describe the protagonist as having a generally disorganised lifestyle, but apart from that, there's no discernible meaning or point. The highlight is the decent-but-not-great piano solo.

This is Floyd's first single that fails to particularly thrill me. It's not bad, there's just nothing original about it. Go and listen to the Beatles instead.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2014, 04:43:03 PM »
It Would Be So Nice / Julia Dream
Single


Released: 12 April 1968

Band lineup

Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)
David Gilmour (guitar)

Side A

It Would Be So Nice (Wright) (3:47)

Side B

Julia Dream (Waters) (2:37)

Review

This single is the first thing Floyd released following Syd's departure from the band, and their sound is already markedly different, having replaced Syd's experimental psychedelia with David's bluesy licks. The other thing that's different about this single is the songwriting; neither track was written by Syd. At this point, the band was trying to find a new direction, with Rick and Roger having had only one songwriting experience apiece.

While this isn't a shining beacon of what post-Barrett Floyd would become, I don't think it's bad. I find It Would Be So Nice to be a very catchy pop song, if you're into that sort of thing. As with many of Rick's early songs, it seems to describe a general dissatisfaction with interpersonal relationships; whether that's a reflection of his personal life, or just the way he wrote songs, I don't know. The chorus consists of the single sentiment "it would be so nice to meet sometime", which I read to mean that in spite of social difficulties, the protagonist would still like to spend time with someone occasionally. Maybe I'm just reading too much of my own life into it.

The B-side is a slow song with typical pretentiously symbolic Waters lyrics; no doubt a precursor to The Wall. It also features Gilmour experimenting with the Binson Echorec, although the resultant sound is still distinctively different from Syd's playing.

I prefer this to Apples and Oranges, but it's nowhere near the calibre of Syd's songwriting on the first two singles. Entirely missable.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2014, 05:50:59 PM »
A Saucerful of Secrets
Studio album


Recorded: August 1967 - May 1968
Released: 29 June 1968

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar on "Remember a Day", "Set the Controls" and "Jugband Blues")
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Roger Waters (bass)
Nick Mason (drums)
David Gilmour (guitar, except "Remember a Day" and "Jugband Blues")

Side A

1. Let There Be More Light (Waters) (5:38)
2. Remember a Day (Wright) (4:33)
3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Waters) (5:28)
4. Corporal Clegg (Waters) (4:13)

Side B

1. A Saucerful of Secrets (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour) (11:57)
  I. Something Else
  II. Syncopated Pandemonium
  III. Storm Signal
  IV. Celestial Voices
2. See-Saw (Wright) (4:36)
3. Jugband Blues (Barrett) (3:00)

Review

This album was recorded over the period of time when David joined and Syd left the band. As a result, it's much more inconsistent than its predecessor; the best tracks are the one that Syd wrote himself, and the ones the band recorded after his departure (presumably Roger and Rick had had time to improve their songwriting by then). Unfortunately, this leaves half of side A ("Remember a Day" and "Set the Controls") as meandering filler.

Setting that aside for a moment, Let There Be More Light is a great start to the album, considering that the band had just lost its lead songwriter and guitarist. It's an early example of how well this band's vocal talents could work together when they wanted to; Roger, Rick and David all share the lead vocals on this track. The instrumentation is also well executed, opening with an organ solo over a dramatic vamp (which would in fact be reused as "Dramatic Theme" for a film soundtrack the following year), and ending with a fade-out guitar solo over the main vamp used for the verses. Not absolutely spectacular, but a great opener.

Remember a Day seems like one of Rick's early attempts to write a song in the vein of Syd's pop style, and completely failing to produce anything interesting. Set the Controls is a sinister Waters concoction that he inexplicably insists on performing on tour even today; as always, the album version consists of terrible lyrics and a mind-crushingly boring vamp, with lame improvisations that do nothing to improve things. That's five and a half minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Things start to look up again for side A with Corporal Clegg, the first of many, many songs Waters would write about lasting effects of wars on personal lives. Largely motivated by his father's death in World War II, he more or less made a career out of this theme from the late '70s onwards. However, I digress. Corporal Clegg is a decent piece, and a nice wrap-up for side A. It's also one of only two Pink Floyd tracks ever to feature vocals by Nick Mason, which makes this album the only Floyd album (aside from compilation albums) to have vocals from all five band members.

Then we get to side B, perhaps at once the best and the most depressing collection of music Floyd would release in the '60s. The title track is an absolute masterpiece; unlike the lengthy track on Piper, this isn't an extended jam, but a multi-part suite with a lot of tape editing effects thrown in. Something Else, the opening part, consists of a general atmosphere of building tension, with repeated percussive hits growing more rapid.

Eventually, it builds up to a climax and in comes Syncopated Pandemonium. This is a drum loop very similar (perhaps it's the same recording?) to the one played on Nick's Boogie, although it's actually a tape loop here. Over the top of this, there are some backwards cymbal hits, coupled with guitar noises made by Gilmour dragging his slide up and down. The overall atmosphere is one of... well, syncopated pandemonium.

This gradually gives way to Storm Signal, a short section that sounds like -- you guessed it, a storm signal! It's hard to describe, but the combination of the organ and percussion in this section sounds exactly like the calm before a storm. And a storm it is; the tour de force of the album, the Celestial Voices finale to the title track, consists of a powerful repeating 16-chord organ performance, gradually getting louder with every repeat. After a couple of repeats, a lone vocal (I think it's Gilmour) comes in over the top; it's completely wordless, just singing a note over each chord. As the chord sequence repeats, the vocals intensify, with more and more harmonies being layered on top, and finally resolving to a major chord. Splendid.

See-Saw is another Wright song; similarly to Remember a Day, this also deals with nostalgia about childhood. This one has a more specific theme, though; it's about a brother and sister who are very close, and gradually drift apart as she grows up and gets married ("she grows up for another man"). The chorus goes "another time, another day, a brother's way to leave" -- perhaps more insight into Rick's personal life? I find this depressing to listen to, in a good way, but it pales in comparison to the next track.

Jugband Blues, the album closer, is the only song written and sung by Syd. It opens with the lines "it's awfully considerate of you to think of me here / and I'm awfully obliged to you for making it clear that I'm not here". Syd seems to be intentionally avoiding any form of rhyme or meter, instead making a very direct statement about his parting with the band. After the lyrics, the song gets more and more discordant. A Salvation Army band was brought in to play on this song, but they aren't playing anything in particular; it just sounds like each one instrument is playing its own separate melody. Meanwhile, Syd does some fantastic psychedelic guitar work over the top.

Finally, the cacophony of brass instruments cuts off suddenly, leaving only Syd strumming an acoustic guitar. He sings the last four lines of the album, and the last four lines he would ever sing with Pink Floyd: "and the sea isn't green / and I love the queen / and what exactly is a dream? / and what exactly is a joke?". Another fantastic album ending from Syd, although this time, it leaves me feeling mainly depressed rather than impressed. The guy was a genius, but was about to disappear from the music business forever.

In summary, side A is half-decent, half-crap, side B is amazing but extremely depressing. It's up to you if you think that sounds like your bag of tea.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 05:54:59 PM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2014, 06:19:17 PM »
Point Me at the Sky / Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Single


Recorded: 4 November 1968
Released: 17 December 1968

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)

Side A

Point Me at the Sky (Gilmour, Waters) (3:35)

Side B

Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Gilmour, Waters, Wright, Mason) (5:45)

Review

This record was not particularly noteworthy or successful at the time of its release; in fact, it was at this point that Floyd decided to stop making singles and focus on albums. However, what makes it noteworthy is that it is the earliest example of a Gilmour/Waters songwriting collaboration, which would become a mainstay of '70s Floyd.

Personally, I think Point Me at the Sky is their best single since See Emily Play. It's fairly standard psychedelic rock, with two slow, organ-driven verses contrasted with guitar-driven choruses on alternating I-IV power chords. The lyrics are science-fictiony, telling the story of a flying machine that travels to space (hence "point me at the sky"). There may or may not be an intended jab at the Apollo program; Floyd's lyrics at this early stage were so vague that it's difficult to tell.

The B-side is just a 6-minute improvised jam, with Roger saying "careful with that axe, Eugene" and screaming in the middle of it. This is the first usage of a scream in Pink Floyd's music, but this piece would go on to become a staple of their live shows for years to come, and Roger would eventually come to use screaming frequently in his later career. Anyway, this version of the song isn't that great, but it provided the spark that finally ignited post-Barrett Floyd's original sound.

I think this single is worth hearing, if only because it's the first time this band found a steady footing.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2014, 06:56:04 PM »
The Committee
Film (directed by Peter Sykes)

Released: 1968

Review

I can't find much information about this film, nor a copy of the film itself; all I could find was a download of Pink Floyd's musical contributions to it in MP3. This seems to have been bootlegged onto vinyl from a VHS recording of the film, and then digitised at some point, as I can hear multiple different kinds of noise on it.

There's no band lineup listed, because I don't know if this was before or after Syd left. The guitar parts sound like Gilmour, but there was a brief time for which they were both in the band at the same time. There's no track listing because these tracks don't have names; they're just tagged as various parts of "The Committee".

The first part is a pretty cool jam, with the somewhat unconventional feature of being completely backwards. (The download I found included both forwards and backwards versions of it, but the music is backwards in the "forwards" version, so I'm guessing it was backwards in the original film.) Part 2 is pretty catchy, starting out with bird sounds similar to the start of Cirrus Minor, and then suddenly turning into something like surf music.

Parts 3, 4 and 6 are just organ/guitar chords playing behind conversations happening in the film; the conversation is in the foreground, but the music is interesting to hear nevertheless. Part 5 is pretty interesting, with a repeating, one-note bass line similar to part VI of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and echoey, staccato piano notes.

Part 7 seems like a shortened performance of Careful With That Axe, Eugene without the screaming, and part 8 sounds quite similar to the final part of Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (though I don't think it's exactly the same). Maybe this was an early version of that piece.

Anyway, I just wanted to include this for completeness. It's such an obscure film that I can't imagine anyone caring too much about this, and while the music is nice, there's nothing unique that makes it worth seeking out.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2014, 11:00:34 AM »
More
Film (directed by Barbet Schroeder)

Released: 4 August 1969

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)

Songs included (in order of appearance)

Main Theme (Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason)
Ibiza Bar (Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason)
The Nile Song (Waters)
Cymbaline (Waters)
Party Sequence (Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason)
Green is the Colour (Waters)
Quicksilver (Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason)
Cirrus Minor (Waters)
More Blues (Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason)
Crying Song (Waters)
Up the Khyber (Mason, Wright)
Dramatic Theme (Waters, Wright, Gilmour, Mason)
Green is the Colour (reprise) (Waters)

Short fragments of Main Theme are also repeated several times throughout the film.

Songs I didn't spot that are on the soundtrack album

A Spanish Piece (Gilmour)

Review

I'm already familiar with the soundtrack album Pink Floyd released for this film, but I had never seen the film itself, so I decided to take this opportunity to do so.

This is the second film to be scored by Pink Floyd, and the first one for which they produced actual songs, though most of the material is still just incidental music. The incidental music actually works a lot better in the context of the film than on the album, and most of it is worked into the film's setting by means of a tape recorder playing, or sometimes a live band, which I find to be a nice touch. Only a few pieces (Main Theme, Quicksilver and Dramatic Theme come to mind) have no in-setting presence. I also didn't hear A Spanish Piece anywhere, but it's so short and appropriate for this film's setting that it would be easy to miss as being a Floyd song.

The film itself is an interesting watch; while most of the dialogue is in English, there are a few scenes in French, German and Spanish, which make it hard to follow at times. It tells the story of a German hitch-hiker, Stefan, who finds himself in Paris with no money. He befriends a guy he meets in a poker game when he runs out of money, and together they manage to scrape up some cash through less-than-honest means. During this time, he meets a girl called Estelle, and there begins the main plot.

Throughout the film, it is gradually revealed that Estelle is a drug addict. She introduces Stefan to marijuana, and invites him to come with her to the Spanish island of Ibiza. He agrees, and in doing so, begins a gradual decline that would take him through experimentation with heroin and LSD at the encouragement of Estelle. Meanwhile, Estelle is revealed to have questionable connections with a mysterious Dr. Wolf, who owns a number of businesses on the island.

At the end of the film, Stefan has become addicted to heroin, and it is revealed that Estelle has always been an addict and has hidden her habit from him the whole time. She also reveals, in exchange for a dose of heroin, that she has been sleeping with Dr. Wolf behind his back. At this point, Stefan goes outside and begs one of the local inhabitants for some heroin. The film ends with him dying from an overdose.

While it is plagued by poor acting and screenwriting at times, it does work quite well as a romantic tragedy. As the film goes on, it becomes more and more clear to the viewer that Estelle is too unstable to maintain a relationship with, something Stefan is blinded to by a combination of love and drugs. Near the end of the film, he has an opportunity to leave Ibiza and return to Paris, which he passes up in order to stay with Estelle.

Right, now for the music. The incidental music is fairly typical early Floyd, albeit more subdued than usual most of the time in order to create a particular atmosphere for a scene. Much of it is heavily driven by Rick's Farfisa organ chords, with the notable exception of Up the Khyber, which consists of tense piano chords over one of Nick's signature mallet tom rhythms, very similar to the "Syncopated Pandemonium" section of A Saucerful of Secrets.

The songs are substantially more interesting. Cirrus Minor and Green is the Colour are both slow, tranquil acoustic songs, ostensibly about hallucinogenic drug use. The Nile Song and Ibiza Bar are very similar, bordering on hard rock, and both have lyrics which seem to be either about bad experiences with drugs, or using drugs to escape bad experiences. Cymbaline; which, along with Green is the Colour, would become a touring staple for the next couple of years; is one of Waters's better early songwriting endeavours, and tells of an uncertain journey with a lot of tense imagery. This could refer to experimentation with new drugs, or refer to the overall plot of the film, as it is used at a key turning point when Stefan decides to go with Estelle to Ibiza.

Then there's A Spanish Piece, which is Gilmour's first Floyd song. Well, "song" may be somewhat generous. It consists of an acoustic guitar playing and a guy with a faux Spanish accent drinking tequila and threatening to kill someone if they laugh at his lisp, and is the only track I didn't hear in the film. Not that it's a huge loss.

So there it is. I was pleasantly surprised by the film, and while it isn't great, I would say it's worth at least one watch. The soundtrack album is worth getting for the songs, but you can skip the incidental music.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2014, 11:05:57 AM by Parsifal »
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Offline Parsifal

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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2014, 01:38:15 PM »
Ummagumma
Live/studio double album


Recorded: April - June 1969
Released: 25 October 1969

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)

Side A (live)

1. Astronomy Domine (Barrett) (8:32)
2. Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour) (8:49)

Side B (live)

1. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Waters) (9:27)
2. A Saucerful of Secrets (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour) (12:48)

Side C (studio)

1. Sysyphus (parts 1-4) (Wright) (13:28)
2. Grantchester Meadows (Waters) (7:26)
3. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict (Waters) (4:59)

Side D (studio)

1. The Narrow Way (parts 1-3) (Gilmour) (12:17)
2. The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Mason) (8:46)
  I. Entrance
  II. Entertainment
  III. Exit

Review

This is really best thought of as two distinct albums; a live album of previously-released material, and a studio album consisting of solo projects from each band member. I'll review each half separately for that reason.

The live record contains excerpts from two different concerts in mid-1969, and is exemplary of their touring style at the time, containing four long, mostly improvised songs. Every one of these performances is longer than the corresponding studio recording of that track, with the added time consisting mainly of extended improvisation.

Astronomy Domine opens the album, and this is the only live track I think is inferior to its studio rendition. It's not that it's bad, but this song always felt somewhat hollow without Syd. The extended improvisations in the middle are what save this version from being completely unmemorable.

Careful With That Axe, Eugene sounds much more energetic here than it did in the studio, with Roger's screams being much more chilling, and everyone seeming to stretch their legs a bit more during the improvisations, but is structurally very similar to the studio release. Even Set the Controls is half-decent here, this being the least objectionable version of it owing to the large deviation taken from the main vamp during Rick's organ solo. At times, there is no vamp at all, just organ sounds and echoes thereof creating a very eerie atmosphere.

The live album reaches its climax with A Saucerful of Secrets, which somehow manages to outdo even the majesty of its studio recording. Most of the song is played similarly to the studio version, but with the added spontaneity and enthusiasm that comes from playing to a live audience; and, of course, the drum loop is not a tape loop here, but a live performance. The real high point comes in the final "Celestial Voices" section; instead of the relaxed, atmospheric organ and vocal harmonies on the record, this turns into a full-band rock jam over the ending chord progression, with Gilmour singing his heart out as the sole vocalist on this version. I can't describe how amazing this sounds here. Just listen to it.

Now, the studio half of this album. It's a bit of a gimmick; rather than make an album together, the band elected to each produce half an LP side's worth of material independently. The results varied widely, depending on the experience each band member had with writing songs; while Roger and Rick had been coming up with material for the band for two years now, Gilmour and Mason had until now been mostly passive participants, only playing the material they were given. At the same time, the trends seen here are an interesting preview of the direction the band would take in the future, when one member or another became the dominant force.

Rick's piece, Sysyphus, is a four-part instrumental, and is my favourite of the four individual efforts. It begins with a grandiose, pompous opening theme (part 1), which soon gives way to an interesting, multi-layered piano piece (part 2). After a brief period of silence, part 3 comes in, with some very interesting rhythmic interplay combined with what sounds like sped-up piano. Part 4 is a very relaxed affair to round things off, fading out almost to silence, before suddenly returning to the main opening theme.

Roger contributed two shorter tracks for his part. The first of these is a slow, acoustic number about the meadows in Grantchester, England, describing the tranquility of the place. I find it quite similar to Cirrus Minor, especially since it also includes chirping bird noises, among other animal sounds. Towards the end, as the main song fades out, the sound of a fly buzzing around becomes the dominant event, and the song ends with the sound of a person making a few attempts at swatting the fly, finally being successful.

As the fly gets swatted, Roger's second piece comes in immediately. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict -- the title says it all, really. This piece consists of various sped-up vocal and percussive effects to create the impression of a large number of small furry animals, well, grooving. The last minute or so has Roger doing his best impression of a craggy Scotsman, while around him one of the animals makes an occasional squeaking noise.

I would love to tell you how David's performance goes, but I slept through most of it. No, but all kidding aside, this consists mainly of some guitar wankery and crappy lyrics. The vocal melody is quite well done, and features David harmonising with himself, but the lyrics are terribly written and the song just goes nowhere. I'd like to put this down to his inexperience with songwriting, but On an Island (his 2006 solo album) follows exactly the same pattern.

Nick, rather surprisingly, brings some life back into the album with 7-minute half-drum solo, half-studio edited percussive composition. The intro (Entrance) and outro (Exit) to his piece feature his wife playing flute, which wraps the composition nicely and provides closure to the album. The percussion part that takes up most of it is very well executed, if a bit long. I hadn't expected Nick to pull off something this enjoyable.

And there you have it. Ummagumma is definitely worth getting for the live album, but the novelty of the studio album somewhat outstrips its musical value. I enjoy it, but the band members don't work nearly as well independently as they do together, and so it fails to live up to the expectations set by Piper and Saucerful.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2014, 04:23:23 PM »
Interstellar Zappadrive
Live bootleg


Recorded: 25 October 1969
Actuel Music Festival, Amougies, Belgium

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)
Frank Zappa (guitar on "Interstellar Overdrive")

Track listing

1. Astronomy Domine (Barrett) (9:52)
2. Green is the Colour (Waters) (4:11)
3. Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour) (9:45)
4. Tuning Up With Zappa (2:30)
5. Interstellar Overdrive (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) (20:34)
6. Tuning Up (:52)
7. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Waters) (12:08)
8. A Saucerful of Secrets (Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour) (17:59)

Review

You didn't really expect me to leave this out, did you?

This bootleg provides a unique insight into the format of '69 Floyd's live shows, as well as being an historic document of the only known Zappa performance with Pink Floyd. It's far from the best unofficial recording I've heard, but considering the time period, it's survived rather well.

Astronomy Domine kicks things off, and this is exactly the same arrangement heard on Ummagumma. I find the organ solo here to be more interesting than on the aforementioned release, but it's otherwise much the same. Green and Careful are played together as a piece, which works very well. As usual, Green is the Colour is far better live than in the studio, with the band doing some extended jamming over what would be the fade-out on the album version. Then Careful is very similar again to Ummagumma; nothing to see here.

Then comes the fun part. An announcement is made (in French) that Frank Zappa will be joining Pink Floyd for the next song, to much cheering from the audience. The head of Interstellar Overdrive has evolved substantially since 1967, growing an extended organ flourish intro, and being performed as hard rock rather than psychedelic rock (the feel is very similar to The Nile Song). But then Zappa picks up his guitar...

Suddenly, the improvisational bulk of Interstellar Overdrive sounds like something straight off Hot Rats or Chunga's Revenge. It's incredible the extent to which Frank's presence manages to mould this tune into something even greater than it already is. Frank and Roger in particular seem to bounce off each other well; at one point, Roger begins making a ticking noise on his bass similar to the intro to "Time", which Frank quickly cottons onto and begins building that into his solo.

David and Rick get some time in the spotlight too, but by now, the band is grooving along like the Mothers in the middle of King Kong, and the result is a completely different Interstellar Overdrive from anything else I've heard. After Rick's solo, the band and Zappa perform a good six minutes or so of additional improvisation leading up to the return to the head, which itself is played with a lot more improvisational fanfare and little fills than usual, sounding much more like the Mothers than we're used to from Pink Floyd. Tasty.

Unfortunately, the next song is Set the Controls, which manages to be even more of a letdown than Dinah-Moe Humm. This is, once again, the same arrangement as on Ummagumma, although (perhaps simply as a result of the poorer quality of the tape) I find this not to be quite as ambient. Somehow, the band keeps this up for 12 minutes without falling asleep.

Highlight number two of this tape comes with A Saucerful of Secrets. This comes with a much longer Something Else than previously, with David and Rick taking turns between Echorec chaos and ambient organ chords, repeatedly teasing us with a build-up and then falling back down. Finally, after over five minutes, we get the real McCoy; David drowns out everyone else with some fantastic Echorec abuse and Syncopated Pandemonium begins.

Syncopated Pandemonium runs for over five minutes itself, sounding somewhat like Return of the Son of Monster Magnet at times -- perhaps some of the inspiration the band took from Zappa earlier had stuck. Anyway, this extended bout of chaos only makes Storm Signal, and the inevitable ensuing Celestial Voices chords, so much sweeter when they finally arrive.

I don't need to tell you by now that Celestial Voices is, in this reviewer's opinion, one of the most beautiful compositions Pink Floyd ever committed to tape. The way this finale builds up in live performances is truly orgasmic; from Rick playing (on this tape, barely audible) slow chords on the organ, to Nick joining in with a steady rock beat, to David bringing his guitar into the mix, and then finally his powerful soaring lead vocal to complete the picture.

This is just my little indulgence. The sound on this tape is poor enough that unless you're as into Zappa as I am, it probably isn't worth your time. Highlights are Interstellar Overdrive (of course) and A Saucerful of Secrets, and it's worth hearing at least one live Green is the Colour, but the rest of this material is covered just as well on Ummagumma.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2014, 06:10:11 PM »
Zabriskie Point
Film (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)

Released: 9 February 1970

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)

All tracks authored by Pink Floyd.

Songs included (in order of appearance)

Heart Beat, Pig Meat
Crumbling Land
Come In Number 51, Your Time is Up (aka Careful With That Axe, Eugene)

Numerous incidental music was also recorded for the film, but not included on the original soundtrack album. (Some of it was later included on a bonus disc for the CD release.)

Review

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. While Pink Floyd had a much more minor role in the scoring of Zabriskie Point than in More, only having three songs in the film amidst contributions from various other artists, the film itself was a lot more engaging and left a more intense impression on me.

The plot concerns two lovers brought together from opposite echelons of society. I find myself having to look up their names, because rather significantly, they do not refer to each other by name for the bulk of the film. Their names (Mark and Daria) are only used by people they know in their mundane lives; Mark being a student fighting oppressive police brutality in California, and Daria being an employee of a very wealthy businessman.

I won't go into too many more details, because it is a fantastic film and you really should watch it to find out the rest. It was quite intense with imagery and symbolism at times, so I think I'll be watching it again myself to pick up on all the things I missed. I also appreciated the panoramic shots of desolate Californian countryside, including the titular Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, where the two protagonists spend most of their time together.

Onto the music, then. Heart Beat, Pig Meat opens the film, and is really the highlight as far as new Pink Floyd material goes. It consists of a regular, repetitive beat (no doubt the "Heart Beat"), with various sound effects and organ licks making up the variety. It's certainly unique as a Floyd piece, although I wouldn't be surprised if this was the inspiration for Speak To Me three years later.

Crumbling Land is a generic country rock song, and Zabriskie Point is full of generic country rock by various bands, so I didn't even register this as being by Pink Floyd during the film. There's really not much more to say about it; it stands alone amongst Floyd material as a cutesy country ballad, but it's also not a style they did particularly well.

And then there's the retitled re-recording of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, sans the titular lyric. Number 51 is musically quite similar to Eugene, but various wordless vocal noises (fed through a Binson Echorec, naturally) from Roger dominate the first couple of minutes, something which would later find its way into live renditions of Eugene. Also, the mix is substantially different from any previous version, with Roger's screaming being way up in the foreground. This recording accompanies the violent explosions at the very end of the film, and is the last piece of music in Zabriskie Point, save for the closing credits. It fits this slot very well, and this already-powerful monster improvisation seems to take on a new life in the context of the film.

Floyd's incidental music is somewhat difficult to pick out from the rest, since Antonioni had fairly specific requirements that suppressed Floyd's own style to a degree, so I don't have much to say about that.

Well, that's that. This is the first film I've watched as part of this review-fest that I would describe as "great", and not just for the Floyd, which is somewhat underwhelming this time around. This is something no film enthusiast (and I know we have a few here) should miss.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2014, 08:41:42 AM »
Atom Heart Mother
Studio album


Recorded: February - August 1970
Released: 2 October 1970

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)

Also featuring EMI Pops Orchestra and John Alldis Choir on "Atom Heart Mother".

Side A

1. Atom Heart Mother (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason, Ron Geesin) (23:44)
  I. Father's Shout
  II. Breast Milky
  III. Mother Fore
  IV. Funky Dung
  V. Mind Your Throats Please
  VI. Remergence

Side B

1. If (Waters) (4:31)
2. Summer '68 (Wright) (5:29)
3. Fat Old Sun (Gilmour) (5:22)
4. Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (infinite, with about 13 minutes of music)
  I. Rise and Shine
  II. Sunny Side Up
  III. Morning Glory

Review

Holy cow! Who'd hoof thought the meandering works of late '60s Floyd could lead up to something so mooving? This record begins with nearly calf an hour of udder brilliance, followed by a few shorter compositions which graze out the studio part of Ummagumma by comparison. I ain't got no beef with this.

It's not just the music which makes this album such a special part of Floyd's catalogue. If you buy a copy of this album on CD, it comes complete with a double-sided sheet with two nonsense recipes, one of which is written in German. The English one (from what I recall; I've long since lost my physical copy of the album) consists of a set of progressively larger animals stuffed inside one another, starting with (I think) a chicken and ending with a camel.

Side A of this record is, in this reviewer's opinion, the single best 24 minutes Pink Floyd ever committed to tape. It's a six-movement epic with orchestral and choral parts composed by Ron Geesin, and overdubbed on the band's original studio track while Pink Floyd was on tour. The result is remarkably coherent; the band, orchestra and choir seem to work together as if they had performed the piece in a single take.

Geesin's talents really shine here, with some of the band's more eccentric improvisations accompanied by equally eccentric brass outbursts, yet with one never eclipsing the other. Other highlights include a cello solo followed by a Gilmour lap steel solo, as well as Funky Dung, a groovy blues jam with overdubbed nonsense chanting from the choir. There are also odd sound effects and interjections at times; notably, the sound of a motorbike accelerating heralds the second refrain, and much later in the piece, a heavily-distorted voice announcing "silence in the studio!" fills the same role.

The centrepiece of Atom Heart Mother is a 9-bar chord progression originally created by Gilmour. The band developed this into a shadow of the piece that we have here while on tour, and then Geesin wrote an orchestral melody which rides atop Gilmour's guitar as naturally as if it had been there from day 1. This is repeated a few times throughout the piece, finally returning as its conclusion, with choral accompaniment added to its majesty.

Flip the record to Side B, and the powerful climax of the title track is immediately contrasted by the calm, acoustic opening to If. This piece, a melancholy song by Roger describing possible outcomes of various premises, ending with "if I were a good man, I'd talk with you more often than I do", musically sounds like a midway point between Grantchester Meadows and Brain Damage. Similarity to the latter is strengthened by references to insanity ("if I go insane, please don't put your wires in my brain"). This represents a new maturity to Roger's songwriting that would carry Pink Floyd through the '70s.

Summer '68 highlights why lyrical duties would soon be relegated to Roger exclusively. The music is somewhat interesting, being rather similar to Rick's songs on A Saucerful of Secrets, but the lyrics really make me cringe. There seems to be no attention given to rhyming or meter, but unlike Syd's deviation from standard lyrical formulation, there doesn't seem to be any artistic intent here. They're just poorly written lyrics.

Summer '68 climaxes with a big brass send-off (possibly the same orchestra as on side A), and as the reverb from the ending dies out, the church bells which begin Fat Old Sun fade in. David's lyrics aren't quite as cringey as Rick's, and the music is certainly an improvement from The Narrow Way. The highlight of the track comes after David stops singing and picks up his guitar, giving a taste of the inspired blues rock solos he would deliver for the decade to come.

Side B is saved from being just a collection of decent songs by the closing 13-minute song about breakfast. Yes, this song opens with the sound of a dripping tap, followed by roadie Alan Styles moving around a kitchen and talking about what he likes to eat for breakfast. The three movements of this piece are entirely separate musical performances, with a return to the breakfast sounds in between.

The band parts of Breakfast get progressively more interesting as the song proceeds. Rise and Shine is a moderately-paced tune mostly driven by piano and organ parts which serves as little more than a cutesy intro, while Sunny Side Up is much slower and consists of three acoustic guitars and a lap steel. This is one of the most relaxing Floyd pieces I've ever listened to, and throughout the piece, there are various sounds of Alan eating and/or cooking breakfast.

Sunny Side Up fades out, we have Alan talk a bit more about getting the band ready for a gig, and then the tour de force of side B comes in. Morning Glory is played over an organ chord progression that somehow gives the feeling of continuously ascending. First comes a piano solo from Rick, and then David's guitar joins the fun. The guitar solo is good, but it's mixed into the background at times, so it's hard to stay focused on it for long. Yet again, the effect is made more interesting by the continued presence of Alan talking about his breakfast.

The band stops playing, Alan leaves, and the dripping tap returns in a locked groove, giving the track effectively infinite length. Overall, Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast is far more interesting for the atmosphere it creates than for any specific feature of the instrumentation. This atmosphere is constructed not only from the band's instruments, but from the sound effects and talking about Alan's breakfast.

In my view, this album is the best thing Floyd ever released. While some of the songs on side B are little more than throwaway pop tunes, the bulk of the album (the title track and Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast) more than make up for that, turning this into a remarkable amalgamation of rock band, orchestra, choir and breakfast. If you listen to any pre-Dark Side Floyd album, make it this one, and be sure to buy the CD so you get a copy of the essential recipes.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2014, 10:26:24 AM »
Relics
Compilation album


Recorded: 1967 - 1969
Released: 14 May 1971

Band lineup

Syd Barrett (guitar on side A and "Bike")
Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar on side B, except "Bike")
Richard Wright (keyboards, trombone on "Biding My Time")
Nick Mason (drums)

Side A

1. Arnold Layne (Barrett) (2:56)
  * Originally released as a single.
2. Interstellar Overdrive (Barrett, Waters, Wright, Mason) (9:43)
  * Originally released on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
3. See Emily Play (Barrett) (2:53)
  * Originally released as a single.
4. Remember a Day (Wright) (4:29)
  * Originally released on A Saucerful of Secrets.
5. Paintbox (Wright) (3:33)
  * Originally released as the B-side to "Apples and Oranges".

Side B

1. Julia Dream (Waters) (2:37)
  * Originally released as the B-side to "It Would Be So Nice".
2. Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (5:45)
  * Originally released as the B-side to "Point Me At the Sky".
3. Cirrus Minor (Waters) (5:18)
  * Originally from the film More.
4. The Nile Song (Waters) (3:25)
  * Originally from the film More.
5. Biding My Time (Waters) (5:18)
  * Previously unreleased.
6. Bike (Barrett) (3:21)
  * Originally released on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Review

As is typically the case with compilation albums, this seems to have been put together by the record company to make an extra buck and keep Pink Floyd in the public eye. There's little thought given to sequencing or the flow of the album, and "Interstellar Overdrive" fades out rather than segue into "See Emily Play", which would have been an awesome way to preserve the continuity at the end of the album version.

I've included it here for two reasons. One, it includes some early singles in album form, and although it was not the first Pink Floyd compilation album to do so, it was the first to achieve widespread popularity. Two, and more importantly, it contains a single track ("Biding My Time") which has never been released on any other album.

I've reviewed most of these tracks in their original contexts already, and most of them (especially the Piper cuts) work much better in their original context than they do here. Of note, though, is the fact that some tracks ("Paintbox", "Julia Dream" and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene") appear here in stereo for the first time. "Interstellar Overdrive" is also stereo here, but it's a false stereo rendering of the original mono mix rather than an actual stereo mix. Aside from that, these tracks are identical to those I already reviewed.

So, Biding My Time. This track alone is an excellent reason to seek out this album, and it's truly mind-boggling that it was never released prior to this, because it's really fucking good. It opens with a quiet, reflective jazzy riff and some lyrics, sung by Roger, about the protagonist wanting to relax and enjoy "the fireside, and the warm light, and the love in her eyes".

Then, out of nowhere, there's a key change and the band drops straight into the most raw blues rock you'll ever hear from Pink Floyd. Three solid minutes of Pink Floyd just rocking out, with Rick on trombone instead of keyboards for a change, makes this the least Floydy Floyd you'll ever hear. It's a pity they forgot how to stop being serious and just jam in their later years, because they were quite capable of it when they wanted to be.

This is worthwhile getting just for Biding My Time, but you can skip the other tracks and just get the original albums instead. This just doesn't work as an album.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2014, 11:35:17 AM »
Meddle
Studio album


Recorded: January - August 1971
Released: 30 October 1971

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass, rhythm guitar on "San Tropez")
David Gilmour (guitar, second bass on "One of These Days", harmonica on "Seamus")
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)
Seamus (howling on "Seamus")

Side A

1. One of These Days (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (5:57)
2. A Pillow of Winds (Waters, Gilmour) (5:10)
3. Fearless (Waters, Gilmour) (6:08)
  * Includes "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Rodgers, Hammerstein)
4. San Tropez (Waters) (3:43)
5. Seamus (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (2:16)

Side B

1. Echoes (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (23:29)

Review

Meddle is an excellent follow-up to Atom Heart Mother, and they both have similar structure; one side being a single long track, and the other having numerous shorter songs. The most significant difference is that while Atom had tracks written by individual band members, each having their own strengths and weaknesses, this is the first Pink Floyd album to be dominated by Waters/Gilmour collaborations, and that makes a world of difference.

One of These Days is instrumental, except for a single line spoken by Nick Mason ("one of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces"). It's based around a bass line Roger came up with, using the Binson Echorec to create a triplet rhythm -- as far as I know, the first time Pink Floyd deliberately set the Echorec to produce echoes in time with the music. On top of that, there are some interesting tape effects, with backwards cymbal crashes leading into forwards synth chords, the whole thing culminating in a lap steel solo. Very nice, and perhaps Floyd's best short opener.

A Pillow of Winds sounds like a cross between If and Fat Old Sun. It has Roger's propensity for writing slow, acoustic songs, combined with David's blues licks, creating a sound that would identify Pink Floyd for many years to come. Fearless carries on this trend of combining Roger and David's talents into something that is greater than the sum of its parts, with lyrics about Roger's passion for football. I'm about as far from a sports fan as you can get, but even I can't help but be moved by this piece, which culminates in a chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone.

San Tropez and Seamus round out side A with a bit of fun. San Tropez is a song Roger wrote about Saint-Tropez in France, with a much lighter, catchier feel than the other tracks on side A. Seamus is just a silly blues about a dog named Seamus, who can be heard howling on the recording. Say what you will about it being a throwaway, directionless song, but I find it provides the perfect foreshadowing of things to come on side B; the calm before the storm, if you will.

Ah yes, side B. Echoes begins as simply and subtly as it possibly can; with a single, high C# note on piano, played through a Leslie speaker. It sounds like a sonar pulse, and as the other instruments come in over the course of the first two minutes of the song, there is a general feeling of being underwater that I can't quite explain. This music creates the image in my head of a beautiful coral reef, slowly being lit up by a new dawn.

The vocals on Echoes are magnificent, and it has the best lyrics since Syd left the band. This is an early example of how well David and Rick could harmonise together, a pairing that would frequently characterise the Pink Floyd sound going forward. It's hard to describe what the lyrics are about, since they really just create imagery moreso than telling a narrative or making a point.

After the first two verses, we get a guitar solo from David. This is, without a doubt, the best performance he has delivered since joining the band in 1968, soaring majestically over these chords like a dolphin surfacing for air, leading us to the second distinct part of the song. The band abruptly segues from the slow-paced intro vamp into an uptempo funk feel, with the bass and especially the organ driving the beat forward, while David's guitar continues bringing up the front line.

This isn't really a solo, though; more like isolated, sporadic improvisations, between which there is either just the vamp, or an organ fill from Rick. With Roger and Nick keeping a solid beat going the whole time, the overall effect is really fantastic. Eventually, this fades out, to be replaced with a steady synth drone and a guitar fed backwards through a wah pedal. The latter effect results in a guitar tone that sounds eerily similar to whale song, adding to the undersea imagery of the piece.

The whale song gradually gives way to a tense two-chord vamp which slowly builds in intensity over several minutes, eventually building up to the third and final verse of the song. Afterwards, Rick and David jam for a while on piano and guitar, which slowly fades out into echoing voices slowly ascending in pitch, concluding the album. It's certainly more focused than Atom Heart Mother, although I find some parts drag on for a while after they've stopped being interesting, which is why I prefer the earlier track.

This album marks a transitional point from '60s psychedelic Floyd to '70s progressive Floyd. Full disclosure: I actually prefer the former, so my opinions are likely to be biased from here onwards. I do like this album though, a lot, and I think it makes a great pairing with Atom Heart Mother. Being more accessible than its predecessor, I would recommend this as a starting point to anyone interested in exploring Pink Floyd's material.
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2014, 01:56:57 PM »
Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii
Film (directed by Adrian Maben)

Recorded: October - December 1971
Released: September 1972

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass, guitar on "Mademoiselle Nobs")
David Gilmour (guitar, harmonica on "Mademoiselle Nobs")
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)
Mademoiselle Nobs (howling on "Mademoiselle Nobs")

All tracks authored by Pink Floyd, except where noted.

Songs included (in order of appearance)

Speak To Me (Mason)
Echoes, Part 1
Careful With That Axe, Eugene
A Saucerful of Secrets
One of These Days
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (Waters)
Mademoiselle Nobs
Echoes, Part 2

Review

This is the first released film with Pink Floyd in which the main focus is their music. I'd only seen the Director's Cut before now, so I watched the original 1972 version this time. It's a lot shorter, with only the band's performances and not the mock studio footage, which is really just filler anyway.

The opening piece isn't titled in the film, but it is an early version of Speak To Me, from their upcoming album The Dark Side of the Moon. The first minute or so of the film is completely black, and then abruptly cuts to footage of a ruined street in Pompeii. The film features various shots of ruins in Pompeii, in addition to Pink Floyd performing in the main amphitheatre. One of the aims of the film was to show the band playing in a deserted venue, as a response to concert films which place excessive focus on the audience.

Except for Speak To Me, the film is bookended by Echoes, as the band were promoting Meddle at the time of filming. This live version of Echoes, split between the "funky" section and the "whale song" section, has a much more raw feel to it than the polished rendition on Meddle. It's interesting to see the band perform this song, but they also don't do anything in particular with it that they didn't on the album, making this sound like a carbon copy of the studio recording. It's good, but nothing you won't get on Meddle unless you like watching shirtless guys with long hair.

Between the two parts of Echoes are the real treats. Eugene and Saucerful, as the weathered veterans of Floyd set lists, are as interesting as ever; in particular, I find it interesting to watch just how the band makes all the sound effects in Saucerful. Set the Controls is the other veteran, which is as dull as ever, except for the second half of the improvisations where Rick does his own thing on the organ.

One of These Days is something of a disappointment. It's not a bad performance, it's just that the studio version uses a lot of tape editing to get the sounds which make it unique as a piece, something completely lost in this live rendition. Somewhat unexpectedly, they would finally nail a live version of this 17 years later on Delicate Sound of Thunder, but more on that later.

Finally, Mademoiselle Nobs is a version of Seamus with a different dog and no lyrics. Roger plays the guitar on this while David takes a harmonica solo and Rick plays the dog. It's as much of a fun, silly tune as it was on Meddle, and in this case, there's not much to be disappointing with.

I love this film, as I find it to be a priceless document of pre-Dark Side Floyd. I don't want to leave the impression that I have something against it, it's just that I've already highlighted how great Eugene and Saucerful are live, and the rest of it is mainly regurgitated album material, so there's not much to cover that I haven't already.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2014, 02:02:27 PM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2014, 08:56:49 AM »
La Vallée
(aka Obscured by Clouds)
Film (directed by Barbet Schroeder)

Released: 11 July 1972

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)
Mapuga tribe (chanting throughout film, and on "Absolutely Curtains" on soundtrack)

Songs included (in order of appearance)

Obscured by Clouds (Waters, Gilmour)
Burning Bridges (Waters, Wright)
The Gold It's in The... (Waters, Gilmour)
Wot's... Uh the Deal? (Waters, Gilmour)
Childhood's End (Gilmour)
Mudmen (Gilmour, Wright)
Free Four (Waters)
Absolutely Curtains (Wright)
Obscured by Clouds (reprise) (Waters, Gilmour)

Songs I didn't spot that are on the soundtrack album

When You're In (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason)
Stay (Waters, Wright)

I fully expect I'd notice these if I rewatched it, I just didn't the first time for whatever reason.

Review

As it turns out, this is the least Floydy of the films Floyd have yet scored. While the soundtrack album is almost entirely made up of actual songs rather than incidental music, the film doesn't make use of them very extensively, often mixing them way into the background at the same time dialogue is taking place. As such, I decided to listen to the soundtrack album again before reviewing.

Speaking of dialogue, while this film does have the occasional English conversation -- or, more frequently, an isolated English line or two -- the majority of the dialogue is in French, which makes this film quite difficult to follow for a non-French-speaker. The plot, as far as I can discern, is the story of travellers who go exploring the wilderness in New Guinea and find themselves in the midst of the Mapuga tribe.

The motivations of the characters are difficult to pinpoint from the start due to the language barrier, although the protagonist is a woman who seems to be motivated by her desire to obtain a large feather from the island before returning home. She bands up with a group of travellers seeking out an area marked on a map as "obscured by clouds", hence the alternative title.

The latter half of the film is more difficult to follow than the first, because once they meet the Mapuga tribe, the story is heavily dialogue-driven, which left me with nothing to do but sit and listen for Floyd songs. There are some interesting scene choices; nudity is not specifically sought out, but nor is it shied away from, and one memorable scene depicts the Mapuga tribe bashing pigs to death with tree branches in preparation for a meal.

As for the music, this album is noteworthy because it expands the collaborative songwriting that characterised Meddle. Much of this material is written by Roger and David together, although my favourite track (Mudmen) is a David/Rick pairing. There's are also two very unusual Roger/Rick songs; Burning Bridges, which uses the same melody as Mudmen, except with lyrics set to it; and Stay, which is a simply phenomenal combination of Rick's piano style and Roger's lyrics.

As well as the songwriting, the album's sound also contains hints of things to come the following year. This is the first Pink Floyd album with significant use of synthesiser, which Roger, David and Rick took turns operating; a premonition of the heavily synth-driven "On the Run" that would appear on their next studio album.

The album, as a whole, works much better than the soundtrack album for More. Side A is very solid, without any filler or bad tracks. Obscured by Clouds/When You're In is a strong instrumental combo to open things up, followed by three quite different songs. Burning Bridges is slow and reflective, putting David/Rick vocal harmonies to good use, while The Gold It's in The... is a merry, uptempo number about enjoying life ("they say there's gold but I'm looking for thrills"). Wot's... Uh the Deal? is another reflective song about... well, as far as I can tell, about going through life itself. Mudmen is a fantastic side closer, an instrumental with excellent organ and guitar work.

I don't much like Childhood's End or Free Four, but even here, there's a certain maturity to the songwriting that you wouldn't find on, say, Ummagumma. Stay is another slow, reflective tune, this time piano-driven, and is the only song on the album with Rick singing lead. I really like this, and it's the highlight of side B for me. Absolutely Curtains rounds things off with some ambient organ, synth, electric piano and percussion work, slowly fading out into chanting from the Mapuga tribe.

This album, better than anything else so far, highlights the change in direction Pink Floyd had taken in the past three years. The More soundtrack was full of ambient incidental music, along with some attempts at songwriting, with mixed results. This album is much more song-focused, with much more directed lyrics and mature melodies. It's hardly essential Floyd, mainly just because it was preceded and followed by much better albums, but it's worth a listen if you're looking for something different.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2014, 09:01:42 AM by Parsifal »
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Re: The Pink Floyd discography listen-through
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2014, 12:40:44 PM »
The Dark Side of the Moon
Studio album


Recorded: June 1972 - January 1973
Released: 1 March 1973

Band lineup

Roger Waters (bass)
David Gilmour (guitar)
Richard Wright (keyboards)
Nick Mason (drums)

Clare Torry (vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky")
Dick Parry (saxophone on "Money" and "Us and Them")

All lyrics written by Roger Waters.

Side A

1. Speak To Me (Mason) (1:13)
2. Breathe (Waters, Gilmour, Wright) (2:46)
3. On the Run (Waters, Gilmour) (3:35)
4. Time (Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (7:04)
  * Includes a reprise of "Breathe".
5. The Great Gig in the Sky (Wright, Clare Torry) (4:48)

Side B

1. Money (Waters) (6:23)
2. Us and Them (Waters, Wright) (7:50)
3. Any Colour You Like (Gilmour, Wright, Mason) (3:25)
4. Brain Damage (Waters) (3:50)
5. Eclipse (Waters) (2:03)

Review

This was the album that first sparked my interest in music. Not only is it more focused and consistent than anything Floyd did previously, but it is also their first album for which each side runs continuously, without pauses between tracks. This feature is something later Floyd works, and Roger Waters's solo albums, would adopt as their modus operandi. It's also a feature I really appreciate, as it seems to meld the album together, and which would later attract me to other artists which do the same thing, such as Frank Zappa.

This album and I have had our disagreements, but now that I listen to it again, it occurs to me that that's probably because I used to overlisten to this, and to Floyd in general. Like, a lot. Now that I hear it again with fresh ears, the reason why I fell in love with this record is coming back to me. This album represents a level of direction and coherence most bands would never even approach. It's a concept album about "things that make people mad", with a central theme of insanity, and on both counts it delivers spectacularly.

Side A is a 20-minute condensation of a human life. Speak To Me and Breathe, often paired as one track on CD releases, represent the time in which a child has come into the world, and is being schooled on its quirks and oddities. Speak To Me itself is one of the most dramatic album openers I've ever heard, beginning with a repeating heartbeat sound, and slowly building up with sound effects and people talking about insanity, finally climaxing in a woman screaming (a sample from Clare Torry's performance on The Great Gig in the Sky) to segue into Breathe.

Speaking of people talking about insanity, that's a running theme throughout the album. Pink Floyd brought various people around the studio (including Paul McCartney, whose responses didn't make it onto the final album) in to ask them their thoughts on various broad topics, such as insanity, death, money and so forth. These answers appear throughout the album, in contexts where they add their own meaning to a song.

On the Run is an excellent example of this. The backing music consists of a synthesised piece put together by Roger and David fooling around with a VCS 3, but the main source of variation in the track comes from sound effects including boarding announcements, what sounds like a train passing by, and of course snippets of speech from the studio volunteers. This piece can be thought of as representing the disorienting, fast-paced frenzy of adult life.

Time is a song about time, or the lack of it. It represents a midlife crisis, in which the protagonist realises that they have wasted years of their time without even noticing it go by, and suddenly life seems much shorter than it once did. It also includes a beastly guitar solo from David, followed by a reprise of Breathe as the protagonist returns to their roots ("home again, I like to be here when I can").

As the last notes of Time fade out, in comes the tour de force of side A. The Great Gig in the Sky is a reflective piano composition from Rick, which starts out simple and quiet, with lap steel accompaniment. A voice talks about not being afraid to die, and then the majesty of this piece takes full swing. Clare Torry, a session vocalist at the time, was asked to perform an improvisation over the backing track, and perform she did. This wordless vocal track, with Clare's voice being essentially used as an instrument, sounds more powerful and inspired than any saxophone solo I've ever heard, almost moving me to the point of tears. This performance is just beyond words.

Side B kicks off with Money, a blues rock song about, uh, money. As far as I can tell, the main attraction to this song is that it's in 7/4, since the song itself feels somewhat out of place here. The guitar solo is good, but not great, and the cross-fade into Us and Them just adds to the feeling that Money was recorded as a single and tacked into the concept album as an afterthought.

Us and Them is based on The Violent Sequence, an unused Rick composition from Zabriskie Point, although it's been developed substantially into a proper song. The lyrics deal with the absurdity of war, dwelling on the fact that the soldiers who die in battle are "only ordinary men", and "who knows which is which, and who is who?". These are probably my least favourite lyrics on the album, although that perception might be influenced by knowing how over-the-top Roger would take songs about war in years to come. The high point for me is a sax solo from Dick Parry, which really works well over these powerful chords.

The final refrain of Us and Them segues directly into Any Colour You Like, an extended instrumental jam, and (as far as I remember) the only ever Gilmour/Wright/Mason collaboration without a Waters writing credit. The song is a simple I-IV progression, the same as Breathe, though in a different key. It starts out with a very psychedelic-sounding synth solo, where Rick's synth is passed through a feedback delay timed to the beat of the song, resulting in a cascading effect of each synth note repeating in various places across the stereo image.

There's a brief midsection in which two Gilmour guitar tracks take turns presenting short, improvised licks, leading into a guitar solo proper to round off the affair. Then the chords from bridge of Breathe get repeated, but instead of a return to the D minor vamp, the key changes to D major, and Brain Damage starts.

The album is concluded by a pair of songs, written by Roger, dealing directly with the matter of insanity. As far as I'm aware, this material was largely inspired by Syd Barrett's descent into madness. This finale is proof that Roger's writing really does work best in small doses; unlike later albums which would be almost entirely authored by him, these songs work so well partly because they give closure to a collaborative effort, in which each band member contributes his own piece of the puzzle.

After Eclipse finishes, the heartbeat which opened the album returns, and we're left with one final thought from one of the in-studio victims: "There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark."

I'd forgotten why I loved this album so much once upon a time, and this listen has brought it back to me. All of the songs here are direct and to the point, with no room left for extended improvisation, and as a result all of the solos that do appear are kept short and sweet as well. The whole thing has a sense of unity, partly due to being a concept album, but also because of the continuous playback on each side, which makes it work much better as an album than as a collection of songs. Unmissable.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2014, 12:43:55 PM by Parsifal »
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