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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover

UMMAGUMMA

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.48 | 1507 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Many popular bands of the ages seem to have an album that divides the fans. For some it is the zenith of their experimental creativity, yet for some the most unlistenable pompous codswallop that could be unleashed onto unsuspecting ears. But more often than not, the truth lies somewhere in between. For the 60s psychedelic rock masters PINK FLOYD, their 1969 double album UMMAGUMMA (purported to be one of the roadie's made up slang for "sex") is that such album which equally titillates and tortures alike but one thing is for damn sure: there exists no other album in all of music history that even comes close to capturing the unique soundscapes that David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright conjured up during the turbulent times after Syd Barrett left the crew and took with him his dominant psychedelic influences. While the band fully intended to simply release a live album that was to include the extra tracks "Interstellar Overdrive" and "The Embryo," it was thanks to Richard Wright whose desire to make new music that ultimately resulted in the idea of each member composing solo material and using it as the second half of the album. And since the band was actively seeking a new way to construct an album, with UMMAGUMMA they found their perfect solution.

Equally divided up onto two LPs or two CDs, the first side contains contains the live material which despite some earlier copies claiming it was all recorded in June 1969, it actually took place on 27 April 1969 at Mothers Club in Birmingham, England as well as on 2 May at the Manchester College of Commerce. Side one starts things off with the exemplar "Astronomy Domine" which not only presents to the world that the FLOYD can pull off the Syd Barrett material with David Gilmour on board but also how they were evolving into more progressive territories by almost doubling the time length from the original on "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" album with an extra verse and lengthy instrumental music in between. Likewise "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" was significantly extended to add progressive noodling and extravagant creative liberties whereas the title track to "Saucerful Of Secrets" remained fairly true to the original although i've always found it a little lackluster to the studio version. The true treat came from the B-side track of the non-album single "Point Me At The Sky." "Careful With That Axe Eugene" is nothing more than an organ-based jam session that is accompanied by Roger Waters screaming like he's in the shower scene in the Psycho movie but it offers a glimpse into their seductive hypnotic grooviness that made PINK FLOYD such a popular live act in those most psychedelic years of the 60s.

The second side contains the highly experimental, somewhat controversial and what i deem woefully underappreciated solo offerings where each of the band members took a stab at creating the most unapologetic experimental solo material they could muster up. While Wright, Gilmour and Mason opted for lengthy grandiose suites that were composed of various parts, Roger Waters conjured up two distinctly opposing styles of songwriting in only two tracks. Richard Wright, the impetus for the solo side of the album naturally began with his epic sounding "Sysyphus" which consists of four parts and displays a bombastic approach with a thundering timpani and Chopin inspired piano sequences that allow him to show off his best Keith Emerson inspired chops that slowly cede into the avant-garde world of John Cage that climaxes in pure cacophony. On Part 3 he reveals that he is the mastermind for the freakiest aspects of early Floyd such as the similarly sounding cacophonous roar heard on tracks like "Saucerful Of Secrets." Waters took the opposite approach and delivers a subdued acoustic guitar ballad with vocals that recounts a dreamy meadow scene in the English countryside complete with bird chirping in the background. Also a glimpse into Waters' contributions to the more "regular" sounding aspects of PF's songwriting. Following the serene visions of kingfishers is the avant-garde " "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict," which consists only of animal noises, microphone taps, vocals and tape manipulations. This is by far the most bizarre track ever to grace a PF album and remains one of the most avant- garde pieces of music of all time IMHO.

Gilmour jumps back into a more "normal" sounding FLOYD sound that is fairly ubiquitous on later albums with calm acoustic guitars on his three part "Narrow Way" suite that showcase the segments that reveal his future vital contributions that made albums like "Wish You Were Here" so very, very catchy and emotional. However, this was his license to experiment as well and all hell breaks loose as it transmogrifies into lysergic heaven before landing back on earth and providing a blueprint for the future "Dark Side Of The Moon" material. Nick Mason ends it all with his percussion vs ambient three part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" which perfectly exemplifies the world of Sultan's and Viziers of Ottomon Empire days of which is the subject matter. While mostly based on his instantly recognizable drumming style, the trippiness level is turned up to 11 as a calm flute ushers in pleasant melodies only to be replaced by a drum roll and timpani series of sounds that not only give a psychedelic feel but also one of epic days of past. Mason reveals how his unique rhythmic percussive drive has also been vital for the overall FLOYDian sound. After the appropriate percussive drive is established Mason gets all freaky and creates an ambient ethereal passage and then gets all weird with sound dynamics that include a staggeringly original variation of percussive techniques.

When all is said and done, PINK FLOYD were making a statement to the world that they were still alive and kicking despite their main creative member losing his marbles and being forced out of the band. UMMAGUMMA was an early indicator of where PF were heading in the sense that the album serves much like the refraction of light through a pyramid as later seen on the "Dark Side Of The Moon" album cover. Meaning that the members demonstrate on UMMAGUMMA the true magic of the sum of their parts as heard on the live side of the album where it's impossible to distinguish which specific member contributes which specific aspect of the music that creates the larger picture but also the solo studio side of the album clearly indicates which colors of the spectrum emanate from each retrospective band member and allows the listener to pinpoint their retrospective roles in the larger PINK FLOYD discography making this the musical sleuth's essential listening experience.

All time favorite album this may not be for anyone but i can't think of a more interesting and utterly unhinged flow of creative juices that needed to erupt in order for the band to carry on and coalesce into their second personification of space rock. While this is clearly a sort of transitional point between these different phases of the band's history, i find UMMAGUMMA to be the perfect totally whacked out album to soak in when i'm in the mood for something that runs the gamut of tastefully performed classics to the outrageously experimental craziness. Perhaps not an album that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but rather one that digs deep into the souls of the musicians thus allowing the listener to get a glimpse of creative musical minds and how their idiosyncrasies contribute to the making of one of the greatest bands to ever have emerged into the world of rock music. For me this is not only one of the greatest historical artifacts that perfectly demonstrates where the world found itself during the awkward odometer change of the 60s to the 70s, but also is an album that i personally still find exciting after countless listens many decades after its initial impact on the world. One star for each member of the band.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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