03. Pink Floyd (part one of three)

In the case of Pink Floyd, I was interested in them enough to listen to several albums.  I'm pretty familiar with the album The Wall from having seen the movie a few times (and I did own the album at one point).  Other than that one, I've never heard a Pink Floyd album all the way through.  Three Pink Floyd albums were selected for this project:

Meddle (1971)
Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) 
Wish You Were Here (1975)

Let's start with Meddle. This was Pink Floyd's sixth album, and seems to be the place where they start to approach a push toward their creative peak.

Pink Floyd
Meddle (1971)

"One of These Days"
I like the delays (echoes) on the bass.  There's a 23+ minute song called "Echoes" coming up.  A theme.  Just about halfway through the six-minute track the guitar tone changes to a much more processed sound.  This song is a fun studio experiment but not much of a song.  It's solid when the groove kicks in at 3:46.  Effective.  Nice whammy-bar guitar and some fun organ licks.  Fun little jam.  Good intensity.  Oh, but the wind effects at the end: right back to Steve Miller Band (see post #01)!

"A Pillow of Winds"
Winds, again.  The mastering is a little off.  The levels song-to-song are clumsy.  Right away, I wanted to turn this ballad down a bit; it's too loud compared to "One of These Days".  The acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass have some complex interplay going on.  I'm not sure if they're getting in each other's way or not.  The vocals remind me of what's coming up in this band's future, during songs like "Comfortably Numb".  A lyric from "Numb" is even foreshadowed: "the dream is gone".  Seems like this song only has one idea.  Kind of like "One of These Days".  One of these ideas.  They just found one thing they liked and stuck with it for a bit.  In spite of the sentimental tone of the vocals, I'm unmoved by this track.

This ballad feels less like a jam and seems a little more composed, compared to "A Pillow of Winds".  But it's not as challenging to listen to.  I'm buying the lyric a little more.  This chanting at the end adds nothing.  Are the kick and snare drums panned opposite?  That's awful.

"San Tropez"
What?  This sounds like a different band!  Nice to see these lads lightening up a little bit though.  One doesn't usually picture Pink Floyd as people who have fun much.  The tune is competently performed, but feels like a throw-away.

Oh, more stuff by the San Tropez band.  A bluesy thing about someone's dog.  Yeah, this album is pretty inconsistent.  There's a lot to be said for variety and for keeping the fans on their toes - Queen always did that well - but I'm really not feeling like there's a unified creative vision here.  This record feels more like a compilation of b-sides or something.

Ok, here we have one song lasting for all of side two, it's 23m 23s of material that needs to be impressive if this record is going to be recommended.  If this ends up feeling like a bunch of jams edited together, I'm outta here.  Let's see.  First six minutes or so feels like a typical Pink Floyd song, but one that takes its sweet time to unfold.  I'm on board with it so far.  Maybe the guitar soloing could be a little hotter in the mix.  But it's chugging along with a mellow vibe.  

But, oh dear, that tape edit at about 7:00 is clumsy.  They clearly spliced a new bit in right there.  The mix on this new piece is totally different.  The bass and kick drum are thumping a lot more now.  It was probably recorded at a totally different time/place compared to the previous bit.  I'll bet a live version of this sounds much better, after they got used to playing the song that way rather than constructing it in the studio.  It's probably smoother and more consistent sounding that way.  Next: more guitar soloing, and some nice organ work.  But yup, this song is made of several jams edited together.  

At 10:45 or so, ok, the rhythm tracks are fading and the guitar is getting spooky.  After a bit of this guitar ambience, they're gonna edit in a new rhythm track from a completely different jam, I guarantee it.  Lots of interesting sounds.  These studio effects are really innovative for 1971.  This is the part where everyone lights up a joint when the band plays it live.  

But by 14:00... I'm over this guitar wankery, it needs to change.  Are those mellotron strings coming in (14:40)?  No, mellotrons can't sustain this long.  Long tense single chord with sonar effects ("echoes").  This is the fourth segment of the song, and is definitely suggesting something big about to happen.  Guitar and drums come in, yes this is another musical idea completely, another jam.  I called it.  

At 18:17, ahhh, here it comes, the beginning of the build to our big finish... and at 19:15, here we are, idea #5.  Back to something more song-ish.  Is this a continuation of the first segment?  I'll have to go back and listen [spoiler: it is].  Ok, so a return to the main theme, like in a jazz piece.  But: surprise, they mellow it out again instead of going for a big climax.  It works, though.  And then they circle back to more of those ambient effects to give the song some sense of continuity.  

This record feels like it was slapped together in the studio.  I'd be surprised if much of it was composed before going in to record it.  Parts of it work, but other bits definitely feel like filler.  I didn't mind listening to it, there's some cool gratuitous studio manipulation going on (which is always a guilty pleasure for me), but the record didn't move me much.  

After Meddle, they released their seventh album (and second film score) Obscured by Clouds, from the film La Vallée by Barbet Schroeder.  It is an interesting film, I saw it a few years ago.  Might have to watch it again and pay more attention to the music.  That was followed by their legendary Dark Side of the Moon, and then Wish You Were Here, both of which we'll get to some other time.

Selection for the IFHTB mix tape: none.  
I could listen to "One of These Days" or "Echoes" again without feeling any particular sense of rage, but neither really works in a mix tape context.

Next: Marillion, part one (of two) coming June 01, 2021

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