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Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother CD (album) cover

ATOM HEART MOTHER

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.89 | 2206 ratings

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bfmuller
4 stars Atom Heart Mother is the first progressive rock album by Pink Floyd, and also the first classic album by the band, the kind that defines what is generally acknowledged as the Pink Floyd sound. Still, if this was not enough, it is, in fact, much more than that.

As much as it is easy to dismiss Ummagumma as "rubbish", it is easy to overlook the importance of AHM for the whole progressive rock as a genre. Its stature may be diminished nowadays, outshined by better efforts not only by Floyd itself, but also by other major prog bands. At the time of its release, nevertheless, AHM was a watershed, daring and innovative. Particularly (but not only) for its epic, side-long title track, this album is one of the defining moments that helped to establish and shape progressive rock. Let us not forget (as many people tend or try to) that AHM, the title track, is one of the first epics of the progressive rock. It precedes Tarkus by around one year and Close to the Edge and Supper's Ready by two. And yet there are those who insist in underestimate the impact and importance of Pink Floyd to the whole progressive rock genre!

That said, let's review briefly the music itself. AHM, the title track, is an instrumental piece co-written by the band and avant-garde composer Ron Geesin, arranged for orchestra, choir and the band, divided in six parts. It starts loudly in an fanfare orchestra section (prominent brass) that transitions into a calmer, band plus violin section. Around the fourth minute starts a trademark, fiery-melodic-beautiful Dave's solo. After that, around 5:40 minutes, comes the third part, a very good, soft, evocative choir section that slowly builds up for about 4 four minutes. The next section is again the band, in a bluesy section that features some guitar-piano interplay followed by another, different, choir section, characterized by some mumbo-jumbo words. The section builds up into the return to the orchestrated main-theme followed, by the 16th minute, by a typical cacophony section that lasts about two minutes and slowly transitions into music, during which the main themes of the piece remerge (the last part suitably is called "Remergence"). Keep this transition of sound effects into music in mind, one of the trademarks of the band, and a job that they would improve and master after Echoes. After the music settles down, the violin-band section resurfaces and is followed by another Gilmour solo, clocking at 21 minutes, done over the same harmony as the one in the fourth minute, but this time with a different, equally beautiful, melody. After the solo, the orchestra comes back to finish the piece.

AHM (the track) is impressively fluid and each part comunicates perfectly with the other, making it an excelent example of progressive rock. It is a little overblown and exagerated sometimes, though, particularly the orchestra section. Highlights are the violin + band section followed by guitar solos and the choir in the third part.

Then comes the b side of the album. Apparently trying to keep up with a democratic regime within the band, each member (except Nick) provides a self-penned song in between the two major, instrumental, collective pieces.

The first of this short tracks is If, by Roger, a very good semi-acoustic song that features the first explicit references to the theme of madness, empathy and alienation that would characterize Roger's writing from then on ("If I go insane/ please don't put your wires in my brain", says one of the verses). It is another of those tunes that helps you to track down the evolution of the band.

Through that evolution, the next facet of the band would fastly disappear: Rick's compositions. Summer 68 is a delusioned look at the free-love generation, that is displayed more as disposable love. It starts slowly and beatifully with Rick's voice and piano, and builds up into a faster chorus with slyghtly distorted vocals and keyboards resembling a brass section, that sets the tone for the rest of the song. It follows the aesthetics established by the title track.

The next track is Dave's Fat Old Sun, still a concert favorite, that calms down things just as If did before. The placid vocals from Dave talks of moments of peace and quiet. An atypical uplifting song in Floyd's catalogue, that finishes in a beatiful guitar solo.

The album closes in another long instrumental piece. 13-minutes Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast is divided in three very distinct parts, separated by sound effects. In the first one, the keyboard lead the scene. The second is taken by the acoustic guitar, and the keyboards take the lead again in the third. APB is neither as fluid, nor as memorable as AHM, but provides a suitable ending for the album, completing full cicle (another feature that would become a trademark of the band).

Given its historical importance and groundbreaking music, AHM deserves to lie among the true classics of the progressive rock. Still, as I said before, it pales a little (just a little) in comparison to both Floyd's and the other major prog rock bands greatest works. As good as this album is, it is simply impossible to put it in the same category as Dark Side or Wish You Were Here. Therefore, I give it 4 stars, but in a higher degree than Saucerful, the other 4-stars Floyd album to date.

bfmuller | 4/5 |

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