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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.48 | 1555 ratings

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4 stars Ummgumma, you may have gathered is a bit of an odd ball album. Live, studio, solo, themed and constructed from other slightly suites such as The Man: The Journey (best available as a ROIO, the 17 Sept 69 FM Concertgebeouw Amsterdam 1990s rebroadcast.) This featured two of the studio tracks here, Grantchester Meadows by Waters and the 3rd part of The Narrow Way by Gilmour. Celestial Voices (the end of A Saucerful Of Secrets ) and Beset By The Creatures Of The Deep, aka Careful With That Axe Eugene, unreleased other than as a B side of single but featured as live performances inn their own right here. First the live album. I really think it should have been an all concert affair over two volumes, and it's not right that Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is faded early - they could have fixed that for the CD release. That said the soundboard recording issued contains superb performances. There are spacey, slightly improvised but based on identifiable themes. Careful With That Axe Eugene would not see a studio LP release until Relics. Eugene was also known as Come IN Number 51 Your Time Is Up (Zabriskie Point soundtrack), The Murderotic Woman (a gentler version from a 1969 UK FM short version of The Journey) and Beset By The Creatures Of The Deep (on the normal length concert version of The Journey.)

A Saucerful Of Secrets is performed and this piece that veers through three parts, the percussion dominated rhythms to the slide guitar psychedelic workout section until Celestial Voices, this section also used for The Journey. This features a word less vocal by Gilmour and is quite a statement in the dignity of death; the concept behind this piece.

Astronomy Domine the one Syd Barrett composition played (and reprised on P*U*L*S*E casting ahead many years...) is the first piece. Gilmour has fitted in superbly. Nut his guitar playing is restrained as PF remain faithful to the original arrangements. Really this is the equivalent of The Who's Live At Leeds or Genesis Live - a single live album that, while classic in and of itself, would benefit from expansion.

Now for Ummagumma The Studio / solo album. Each section is actually quite short now that our CD length perceptions have increased. Wright's Sisyphus Part 1-5 is both very classical and experimental especially the dissonance, also used to good effect of Saucerful Of Secrets prior to the percussion section. The all instrumental piece ends on a classical themed climax. Not an easy listening piece at all but not to worry it is worth it for the more open minded listener. Brave music.

Roger Waters' song Daybreak on The Man is re-titled Grantchester Meadows. The Floyd performed band versions as well as duets with him and Gilmour performing it. It's a laid back piece with a very lyrical, gentle nature, the lyrics reveal the point of view is from a city apartment not the river side, where the river effects place it. Water's guitar work is superb and atmospheric. Cannot be beaten. This beautiful track segues into Several Small Creatures Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict. This is very experimental with Waters giving vent to his sense of humour. After Grantchester Meadows the mood is rather damaged (IMHO) but some may like the funny effects e.g. chasing the buzzing fly, the mad Scots vocal and quoting the words The Wind Cries Mary at the end. Ok for an outtake but I would have preferred the earlier mood to continue, or had been more serious and fitting with vastly superior Meadows.

Still off we go to Gilmour's piece The Narrow Way. For a guitarist of his lead break capabilities he does very little of it so far. In many ways this is the first alt Rock album in terms of his guitar (that has surprisingly few FX attached to it) as well as psychedelic and space rock. He performs bass, drums, guitars, vocals (on Part 3) and keyboards. This is psychedelic, chilling and authoritatively sung, boding well for the future. The Narrow Way is a great idea but released far too early. It would have benefited from a band performance and some further material. While this release is fine it does have a slight feel of not quite realised potential. This does not stop the atmosphere however and is excellent listening.

Nick Masons percussion based The Grand Vizier's Garden Party is a slight cheat as he had his wife play the flute while he orchestrated his percussion for a very difficult feat - to keep people entertained and interested in something that is restrained by it's musical instrument limitations. The band members played every instrument individually on their tracks. Still, as Mason's instrument is the drums then he began at a disadvantage (no melody instruments.) Still it is cohesive, quite atmospheric and they meet the challenge posed by the solo limitations.

Now it's at this stage they should have performed the entire lot as one album, as a band and included the remaining music from The Man The Journey and re-integrated the Ummagumma themes (Sysyphus, Narrow Way and Vizier) into a proper album. As it is we have an album that is separated by the sum of its parts and is almost a series of demos that really needed a producer telling them they have good ideas, now knit them together cohesively and perform a themed album. They would get there with the next release Atom Heart Mother but I can't help but feel this studio album was a slightly wasted opportunity. Great ideas; needed collaborative execution. Had this studio release been a separate (from the concert material) then they may have taken more care. But this is where the compromise I mentioned earlier comes in.

It's been quite an adventure, there have been related material performed live and released on the More soundtrack. All in all three and a half stars. It's not the most yogether PF statement but it is a very interesting one. Unless you get bored by spacey themes, hate dissonance and want the more commercially oriented material and have no desire towards experimental music I recommend you avoid this. If you are a PF fan you probably have this, and know all about it and disagree with my review entirely. If you are not a PF fan but like experimental music that has a great capacity to stand up for decades (despite my criticisms it is very strong compositionally) then by all means get a copy of Ummgumma.

Four stars and guys... play the whole thing (Ummagumma Studio) as an album live one day....9yeah, pigs will fly); the live material while great on LP, can do with huge supplementations on CD formats. Otherwise we shall obtain the ROIO versions and slake our appetites this way.

uduwudu | 4/5 |


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