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Floyd - Atom Heart Mother
Review No: 281
Roger Waters: Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Vocals
David Gilmour: Lead Guitar and Vocals
Rick Wright: Keyboards and Vocals
Nick Mason: Drums
This British band was to be more influential than anybody dared thought in 1965 when they formed as The Pink Floyd, under the leadership of a certain Mr Syd Barrett in Cambridge, England. They evolved from numerous bands from the area, including Leonard’s Lodgers, The Abdabs and The Tea Set, and changed their name to just ‘Pink Floyd’ in 1968 when Syd had gone.
The first album to appear was the quintessential Sixties psychedelic rock album The Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn (1967), which was mainly Syd Barrett written, and is still wonderful to listen to today. It reached Number Seven in the British album charts.
The second album A Saucerfull of Secrets (1968) was a difficult album for the band, as Syd by then had gone, not literally gone as in disappeared, but gone as in, his head was definitely somewhere but no longer on this planet. David Gilmour had become a member of Pink Floyd and for a while Pink Floyd was a quintet, but Syd became impossible and they were down to four again. Syd Barrett only appears on three of the songs on the album, but Gilmour only gets a writing credit on the title track.
Album Number Three was a soundtrack for the movie More (1969) and is a marvellous album, but it was recorded in 5 sessions over a period of 8 days and was, after all, only meant to accompany the movie. Nonetheless, it peaked at Number 9 in the British charts.
Fourth album out the traps was an ambitious double album affair: Ummagumma. One album was recorded live whilst the other contained four solo sections from each member of the band. The live album contained three songs written whilst Syd Barrett was in the band plus the title track from the second album. Whilst the second album is extremely adventurous, it’s not really a band thing. But again the album was a huge hit in the U.K., reaching Number 7, whilst in America it was the first Pink Floyd album to break into the Top 100.
Atom Heart Mother
(Father’s Shout, Breasty Milky, Mother Fore, Funky Dung, Mind Your
Throats Please, Remergence)
ISo with this rather patchy if successful album track record behind them, what did the band come up with for their fifth album? Atom Heart Mother (1970). Well it’s a bit hard to describe really. The first track is the title piece taking up 24 minutes; it’s an amazing collection of musical themes in a classical arrangement (this is why at first it was known as the Amazing Pudding. Get it. Collection=Pudding. The Amazing Pudding is still the name of Pink Floyd’s most famous fan club). The band had various riffs and themes, but hadn’t really put it all together, and with an imminent American tour coming up and a recording contract to fill, with the band not really in agreement what should be done, they brought in mutual friend Ron Geesin - the avante garde producer.
Roger Waters and Nick Mason went in the studio to lay out a rough rhythm section for him, which was a bit ragged as both were a little tired, so it speeds up in some places and rather alarmingly slows down at others. With this the band clears off to America leaving Ron Geesin with the instructions to over lay something grand; you know, heavenly choirs, brass fanfares, whatever you like really, get on with it Ron we’re all rather busy actually. Oh, have it ready for us when we come back in June, etc.
So completely without supervision Ron Geesin took Pink Floyd’s rough rhythm track and turned it into a musical masterpiece, bit of luck really.
When the members of Floyd got back from tour they were well impressed, so they decided not to bother re-recording the bass and drums. But Gilmour and Wright went back into the studios to lay some mercurial guitar and keyboard solos onto our Atom Heart Mother.
The piece is broken up into six sections, but it all gels perfectly into a whole. Gilmour and Wright really come out of the closet with their dynamic soloing, whilst all of Geesin’s work fits perfectly with the band.
The brass section riffs are monstrous, whilst the violin playing is executed with total abandon. The choir is in fine voice, especially with its forerunner to Tubular Bells voices that rampage through the closing sections. The SoundBits are also tastefully used with a motorbike roaring away with the band and orchestra when they first come in together. As the music builds to a false climax towards the end a voice booms out, “Here is a loud announcement” whilst at the musical climax another voice calls for “Silence in the studio” to no avail. With time constraints, touring, and Ron Geesin only coming in half way through, everything was against it being a classic, but it is.
The other four tracks are also little gems, but in their own special way. Again not much band cohesion. But maybe they just worked better this way. The next song is a lovely Roger Waters song called If, showing Waters’ ever increasing interest in the human brain. Gilmour supplies some exquisite electric guitar to accompany Waters’ acoustic guitar and vocals.
The lyrics are amongst Waters’ most uncomplicated
(like later when he tried to educate us all with ‘The Wall’
Richard Wright’s contribution, Summer 68, is a nod to the past, showing off unashamedly its Syd Barrett influences, with its catchy chorus and mid tempo verses, all tied up with some rollicking barrel house piano, and the return of the brass section at the conclusion. David Gilmour then contributed Fat Old Sun, a wonderful little dirge that is a complete rip off of The Kinks song released the previous year as Lazy Old Sun, but that does not make it a bad song, and anyway Ray Davies never sued.
The last piece on the album is exactly what it says it is, Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast. The song’s title refers to one Alan Stiles of Pink Floyd’s road crew in the Sixties and early Seventies. What you get is the sounds of Alan getting up in the morning and coming downstairs to cook his breakfast, all rather noisily, with the band jamming some breakfast type themes over the top in places. Often they just leave Alan scratching away solo. A rather odd end to the album, but as with the rest of the music, rather effective.
Atom Heart Mother was released at the back end of 1970
and was the first Pink Floyd album to top the British charts, and crack
the American top fifty. So job well done. Mind you when Pink Floyd released
their greatest hits double CD Echoes in all its one hundred and fifty
minutes, they could not even find time for one little excerpt from this
album. The cow pictured on the front cover of this album is called Lulubelle
the third. I hope she got her royalties all right, because for a little
while there, she was the most famous cow in the world.