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Pink Floyd - A Saucerful Of Secrets CD (album) cover

A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.65 | 1245 ratings

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3 stars Piper at the Gates of Dawn II

The pressure must have been on from Columbia - the band needed to get product out to the punters - and they'd sacked the ace up their sleeve.

From a record company's point of view, this meant get the product out fast to maintain momentum - hence the intermediary release between the debut and this less charismatic release.

Overall, the music lacks the innocent charm of "Piper", and even though there are some absolute belters on here that would go on to provide momentum for a certain burgeoning music scene in Germany, there is also much filler, and what seems to be an unsuccessful attempt to imitate Syd's inimitable style.

The outstanding tracks don't make this album a compulsory purchase, great as they undeniably are, as there are better (live) versions of these tracks on later releases - notably the outstanding "Live at Pompeii" video soudtrack, but also on "Ummagumma".

"Let There Be More Light" begins with a somewhat frenetic piece of psychedelia, somewhat aimless and noodly in places, but quickly segues into a Barrett-styled song more along the lines of "Chapter 24" than, say, "The Scarecrow". It is probably Wright's keyboards with majestic Hammond sweeps and harmonic minor embellishments that really save this piece from the cosmic dustbin - although the coda loses it more than a bit, Gilmour joining in the general fracas of mindless noodle.

"Remember a Day" is a clear attempt at Barratt-esque whimsy, and to some extent, it does work - Wright's vocal effects have Syd's signature all over them, albeit as a sad reflection of the great man's experimentation. The lyrics seem a little autobiographical on this point, and the melancholic feeling of this song is something that would remain with the Floyd for many years.

"Set the Controls" is the dynamic and dramatic close to side 1 - sadly, in terms of album composition, it's a bit lost in the melancholy mire, but it's the track with the most artistic attention to detail lavished on it - and it shows. Perfect ambience is built up with primaeval drums; Washes of ringing Vibraphone and haunting drifts of Mellotron and other keyboards create a texture that was unique at the time and is still perfectly identifiable back to Floyd to this day. The seagulls would later be re-used in "Echoes".

"Corporal Clegg" is an even more obvious attempt at maintaining the image of the band that once featured Syd, and is a bit of a mish-mash really - an over decorated (read over-produced) pop song with more than a feel of Sgt Pepper about it. Admittedly, there is considerably more darkness than the Beatles - and Hendrix style 11ths and 13ths crop up in all the verse riffs. A bit of an oddity, really.

The title track, which follows, is one of my all-time favourite Floyd pieces - and a four- part suite to boot.

The first part is called Something Else, and is essentially a sound collage that grows in intensity until Syncopated Pandemonium [3:57], another sound collage, led by Mason - but less intense, and more rhythm focussed, such that piano rhythms cross over drum rhythms wild keyboards scream and guitars squeal and wail over the top. This is beatifully shaped noise with all manner of suggestive gestures and a clear display of tight interplay between the band members - it seems random, and is probably supposed to, but indicates a very clear compositional structure.

At [7:16] comes Storm Signal, in which a sinister rumble is topped by slowly drifing, ominous keyboards and rattly percussion that suggests rain. Celestial Voices allegedly starts at [10:14], but there is a distinct change in the keyboard at [8:38] that more than hints strongly at things to come, by playing the Celestial Voices chord progression which acts as a kind of slow ostinato from here to the end of the piece.

The vocals themselves start at [10:14], as promised - a heavenly harmonised choir of angels that are too low in the mix for my tastes, although it's clear that the Floyd intended them as part of the texture rather than the focal point. This was later fixed :o)

Sound effects don't really fix the lazy, but mildly progressive pop song that is See-Saw - enjoyable enough for what it is, and a welcome break after the insanity of "Saucerful..".

But we round off the album with the only Barrett-penned and (I believe performed) number: "Jugband Blues". This, unfortunately (in terms of Progressive Rock), sounds like most of Barrett's solo material - quirky and imaginative songs that you could either think of as experimental, the product of a mind addled by drugs, or the most innocent and spontaneous expression of a song that it's possible to create.

It sports a kind of warped codetta that leads to a final verse section - but, unhappily for Barrett this is probably the worst swansong he could have had, and it's just as well he recorded "The Madcap Laughs".

In summary, then, a patchy album with some really good bits, some filler, and one most excellent we-are-not-worthy, carefully constructed work of art in "Saucerful of Secrets".

Which you can get superb performances of elsewhere.

Not essential - and only just manages to scrape out of the "Collectors/fans" bin by dint of "Let There Be More Light", and the genre-inspiring "Set the Controls..." (also available elsewhere :o).

Certif1ed | 3/5 |

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