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Pink Floyd, 'A Saucerful of Secrets'

A Saucerful of Secrets  (1968,  39.30)  ****/TT

Let There Be More Light
Remember a Day
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Corporal Clegg
A Saucerful of Secrets
See-Saw

Jugband Blues
Pink Floyd, 'It Would Be So Nice' 7"  (1968)  ****/TTT

It Would Be So Nice
Julia Dream
Pink Floyd, 'Ummagumma'

Ummagumma  (1969,  86.22)  ***½/TT

Astronomy Domine
Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
A Saucerful of Secrets
Sysyphus
  Part 1
  Part 2
  Part 3
  Part 4

Grantchester Meadows
Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a
  Cave and Grooving With a Pict
The Narrow Way
  Part 1
  Part 2
  Part 3

The Grand Vizier's Garden Party
  Entrance
  Entertainment
  Exit
Pink Floyd, 'Atom Heart Mother'

Atom Heart Mother  (1970,  52.08)  ***/T½

Atom Heart Mother
  Father's Shout
  Breast Milky
  Mother Fore
  Funky Dung
  Mind Your Throats Please
  Remergence

If
Summer '68
Fat Old Sun
Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast
  Rise and Shine
  Sunny Side Up
  Morning Glory
Pink Floyd, 'Masters of Rock'

Masters of Rock  (1970,  30.08)  ****/TT

Chapter 24
Mathilda Mother
Arnold Layne
Candy and a Currant Bun
The Scarecrow
Apples and Oranges
It Would Be So Nice
Paintbox
Julia Dream
See Emily Play
Pink Floyd, 'Relics' Pink Floyd, 'Relics'

Relics  (1971,  51.00)  ****½/T

Arnold Layne
Interstellar Overdrive
See Emily Play
Remember a Day
Paintbox
Julia Dream
Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Cirrus Minor
The Nile Song
Biding My Time
Bike
Pink Floyd, 'Works'

Works  (1983)  ****/T

One of These Days
Arnold Layne
Fearless
Brain Damage
Eclipse
Set the Controls for the Heart
  of the Sun
See Emily Play
Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered
  Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict
Free Four
Embryo
Various Artists, 'Picnic'

Picnic: A Breath of Fresh Air  (1970)  ***½/T

[Pink Floyd contribute]
Embryo





Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Pink Floyd aren't normally thought of as being Mellotron users, but in the late '60s they owned one of the indeterminate-but-small number of black MkIIs (another was the machine once owned by Princess Margaret !). It never went out on the road, but they used it in the studio for a few years, before putting it into storage. It ended up fairly badly damaged before being rescued, repaired, and sold to an Israeli musician, who has used it on albums by Rockfour and Atmosphera, amongst others.

A Saucerful of Secrets was recorded just as Syd Barrett was gently being eased out of the band as he slipped into full-on Acid Casualty mode. It has little of the quirkiness of their much-vaunted debut, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, although one Syd song, Jugband Blues, squeezes its way onto the end of side two. The Floyd were already moving into 'proto-ambient' territory even at this stage, with the title track and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun being particularly effective in this area. The lengthy A Saucerful Of Secrets itself and See-Saw are the two 'Tron tracks here. Saucerful opens with an extended organ drone, then moves into an intensely rhythmic section with avant-garde piano and some fairly 'freakout' guitar from new boy Dave (sorry, David) Gilmour, possibly followed by a quick 'Tron flute pitchbend. Eventually, the song moves into a quiet organ section, with backing vocals (not that there's any lead) and 'Tron strings fading in after the riff cycles a few times, and, er, that's it, really. See-Saw is a considerably lesser song, but has a far better Mellotron strings part, with some nice pitchbend work and some quiet brass near the beginning.

A single, It Would Be So Nice (a Rick Wright song) b/w Julia Dream, released a few months later, featured their 'Tron on both sides. The a-side gives you a chance to hear the rarely-aired Mellotron piano sound, for some odd reason, but Julia Dream's flutes are quite sublime, enhancing an already wonderful example of British psych circa '68.

Ummagumma is a double album, split into one live LP and one of four 'solo' quarters, so there's no genuine new group compositions. The live material is stupendous, showing off the best of the band's 'space' sound of the time, the highlight being Careful With That Axe, Eugene, originally only a b-side. The solo pieces are, well, diverse might be the best description. Roger Waters' acoustic whimsy Grantchester Meadows (an area just outside Cambridge), finishes with an excellent 'experiment in stereo', before suddenly switching to the multi-overdubbed Waters voices of the unfeasibly-lengthily titled Several Species.... Both Gilmour's The Narrow Way and Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden Party have their moments, but Wright's Sysyphus is one of the album's highlights, opening and closing with marvellous, doomy Mellotron strings, with a quiter part at the beginning of Part 4. Recommended. Warning: the LP and CD have differing start positions for the various parts, so while the Mellotron can be heard on three parts on the album, exactly the same sections are only on two parts on the CD. Incidentally, not only do many people claim they can hear more Mellotron on The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, but Mason's even credited with it on the track's Wikipedia entry. However, the real flutes on Parts 1 & 3 are Mason's then wife, Lindy and the tape effects in Part 2 appear to be just that and no more.

The Floyd's follow-up, Atom Heart Mother, with its infamous 'cows' sleeve, uses the 'Tron to similar effect, but only on one part of the underrated side-long title track, probably Mind Your Throats Please, though it's a little hard to tell. The piece overall is much better than it's usually given credit for, but it's not for those who only like the fairly mainstream approach of their blockbuster albums later in the decade. I know Roger Waters has a soft spot for If on side two, but I don't personally find the rest of the album very exciting. Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast is more an experiment in sound effects than a song, which was even performed live, if only once, complete with said roadie, Alan Styles, frying food onstage...

A song recorded around this time that's never had a fully authorised release is Embryo, an (apparently) unfinished demo that Harvest stuck onto their Picnic multi-artist compilation in 1970, although the song sounds fairly complete to me. The band were furious at its inclusion, although it has since crept out on a 1983 Floyd comp called Works. Oddly enough, the band played the song live many times over the period when it was recorded, but it still awaits an easily-available release, along with several other tracks from around the same time. Both sides of the It Would Be So Nice/Julia Dream single have appeared on compilations; once again, Floyd's volume in the Masters of Rock series has never been officially available in the UK although Relics, a budget compilation of oddities, is easy to find.

So... difficult to say, really. A Saucerful of Secrets is a good album, though less eclectic than their debut; Ummagumma's definitely a bit odd, though repeated playing pays dividends; Atom Heart Mother is probably less of the same, but Relics is an excellent starting point for the early Floyd virgin. Embryo's a good track, if you can find it, and It Would Be So Nice is a rather lesser effort than its more easily available b-side. In all honesty, none of the Floyd's Mellotron work is utterly essential, but much of it is of interest.

bootlegs
Pink Floyd, 'BBC Archives 1967-1969'

BBC Archives 1967-1969  (77.34)  ****½/T

Flaming [Top Gear, 25.9.67.]
Scarecrow [Top Gear, 25.9.67.]
Matilda Mother [Top Gear, 25.9.67.]
The Gnome [Top Gear, 25.9.67.]
Pow R Toc H [Top Gear, 20.12.67.]
Vegetable Man [Top Gear, 20.12.67.]
Scream Thy Last Scream [Top Gear, 20.12.67.]
Jugband Blues [Top Gear, 20.12.67.]
Let There Be More Light [Top Gear, 25.6.68.]
Murderistic Woman [Top Gear, 25.6.68.]
Julia Dream [Top Gear, 25.6.68.]
Massed Gadgets of Hercules [Top Gear, 25.6.68.]
Point Me at the Sky [Top Gear, 2.12.68.]
Embryo [Top Gear, 2.12.68.]
Baby Blue Shuffle in D Major [Top Gear, 2.12.68.]
Interstellar Overdrive [Top Gear, 2.12.68.]
Daybreak [Night Ride, 12.5.69.]
Nightmare [Night Ride, 12.5.69.]
The Beginning [Night Ride, 12.5.69.]
Beset By Creatures of the Deep
  [Night Ride, 12.5.69.]
The Narrow Way [Top Gear, 1.6.69.]

Mellotron used:

Under this heading, I originally wrote:

Pink Floyd must be one of the most heavily-bootlegged bands ever, but since they never used their MkII on stage, the point of reviewing any of 'em here is effectively reduced to zero. That isn't to say there aren't any great Floyd boots - of course there are - but you're not going to hear any Mellotron on them. However, if you're absolutely desperate to hear how the band might've sounded live with a Mellotron, grab yourself a copy of Ragnarok's Live boot (recorded 1976), where they tackle most of side two of Dark Side, M400 to the fore.

However, I hadn't accounted for the possibility of studio outtakes or radio broadcasts, for some strange reason (thanks for spotting this, Max). There are at least two versions of the band's BBC sessions, in the way of bootlegs; since I've heard BBC Archives 1967-1969, that's what we'll go with. Despite (unsurprisingly) variable sound quality, this is essential listening for Floyd fans, not only showcasing early versions of as-yet unrecorded material, notably Murderistic/Murderotic Woman (Careful With That Axe, Eugene) and Massed Gadgets Of Hercules (A Saucerful Of Secrets), but two legendary otherwise-unavailable Syd songs, Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream, both as good as anything on Piper. Although most of the rest of the material is more familiar, at least to hardcore fans (Point Me At The Sky remains strangely hard to find), wildly different versions of Interstellar Overdrive and various pieces included in twin concept pieces The Man and The Journey in 1969, more familiar as parts of More and Ummagumma, make this worth hearing.

Rick plays Mellotron (his MkII? A BBC machine?) on two tracks from the same session (unsurprisingly), with a meandering, background string part on Murderistic Woman and chordal strings doubling the organ on Massed Gadgets Of Hercules (as on the studio Saucerful...), but, while it sounds like more meandering strings on Beset By Creatures Of The Deep (another Careful... variant), it probably isn't. Even if you can't source a 'proper' copy of this, downloads aren't hard to find. Go on, treat yourself.

links

Official site

See: Syd Barrett | Picnic


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