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Pink Floyd - P-U-L-S-E  CD (album) cover

P-U-L-S-E

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.93 | 533 ratings

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Una Laguna
4 stars This, THIS is a live album. Just, y'know, man... wow. Crikey... um, yeah, the review....

Some bands, like Rush, simply try and emulate the sound of their studio recording. That in itself is fairly boring: why buy a live album which sounds just like the studio album with applauses added? (Rush can get away with it because their musical proficiency makes it a delight to hear.) Some bands, like Tangerine Dream, sound almost like a completely different band live. PULSE shows Pink Floyd as somewhere in between these extremes.

Compared to their earlier live material, the versions of songs here match the studio versions fairly closely. On Ummagumma, for example, songs which were four or five minutes in the studio are extended to eight or nine minutes. Don't expect anything like that here.

That's not to say the renditions of songs on PULSE are note-for-note identical. Some songs have extended or drastically altered intros, others have very different or drastically lengthened solos. Sometimes the overall feel of the track will sound very different, sometimes instrumental sections will be expanded, and sometimes Gilmour will try delivering vocals in a different way.

Money expanded from 6:30 to almost 9:00? Yes please! Comfortably Numb's outro solo extended by three minutes? Oh yeah! Learning to Fly and Sorrow stripped of their cheesy '80s production sound? Give it to me! Comfortably Numb given a darker, more atmospheric and brooding edge and with Wright singing Waters' part? Honk honk!

Every Pink Floyd fan, as adoring as they are, has to admit that Roger Waters was the worst singer in the band. Even Nick Mason beat his mumbling/growling/screaming (listen to Corporal Clegg from A Saucerful of Secrets). On PULSE, Gilmour takes on almost all of the vocal duties. Gilmour is one of the few vocalists whose voice has actually improved with time. This is most evident on the performance of Dark Side of the Moon (more on that later), particularly Money and Us and Them. Gilmour sings Waters' parts on Brain Damage and Eclipse, and to incredible effect. Unlike on, say, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Gilmour's voice is very varied. He uses a lower register on Sorrow, his higher, emotional singing on Shine On, and spooky shouting (in a duet with Guy Pratt) on Run Like Hell. If Waters listened to that live version of Run Like Hell, he was probably kicking himself that, where he had screamed/wailed, Gilmour and Pratt gave a brilliant, unique and slightly terrifying performance which features on no other Floyd track I know of.

The majority of the time the changes are for the better, though there are a couple of exceptions. What there is of Shine On You Crazy Diamond is great, but my favourite part (the last one on the album, the spacey soundscape) is unfortunately absent. This is more of a personal preference, and maybe they couldn't get it to sound right live of something, but I think it's a pity it's not there. What Do You Want From Me, Coming Back to Life and A Great Day for Freedom do not have very radical performances - they sound pretty similar to the studio versions. I would have rather had live versions of Wearing the Inside Out or Marooned. Or One of These Days. Which was released on cassette but not CD. GRAAARGH.

The last of the "Hmmmmrrrnnnngggghhh" moments (for now) relates to High Hopes. If ever I have to choose between the studio version or the live version, I always struggle. The overall sound of the studio version is better: the live version has weaker instrumentation during most of the song (the iffy-sounding piano is a particular gripe of mine). Gilmour's vocal performance is noticeably weaker than on other tracks: he sings in what is pretty much a monotone and sounds quite tired - that may be intentional, given the songs's subject matter, but doesn't sound as good as the studio version. However! The lap steel guitar solo at the end, and the work of the other instruments to create a euphoric atmosphere easily surpasses the studio's offering. Overall, I'd probably choose the studio version, but that live outro solo... duuude...

The real treat on this album is the live version of The Dark Side of the Moon (you read it right, the whole album). I found that after listening to the live version on PULSE a few times, the studio version just felt... weak. Don't get me wrong, the studio version is very good, the production is top-notch, but the PULSE version feels superior. As mentioned before, Gilmour's singing is better. The instrumentation feels more accomplished and spacey. When Nick Mason hits the drums they make a real booming thump sound. BOOM! PSSSHHH! MMPPPHHH! The studio version sounds like... it was recorded in a studio. Which it was. The PULSE version makes that feel constricted, like there was a cap on the epicness of the music they were playing. This live version feel like that cap was taken off. It's not so much that the band play with more energy, but the acoustics of the album are more aesthetically pleasing.

Pretty much all the DSOTM tracks are a huge improvement. The renditions of Breathe, Time, The Great Gig in the Sky and Us and Them are truly exceptional. Speak to Me and On the Run are not nearly as spectacular. Speak to Me is expanded to more than double its original length - I find this removes much of the tension and makes it feel a bit weak and flabby. It doesn't help that most of it is drowned out by the cheering of the crowd. On the Run is, as far as I can tell, pretty much the same as it was in the studio. Its synthesised nature means that, by definition, it's not going to be an exciting track performed live.

But overall, this is probably my favourite live album of all time. It has its weaknesses in the performances of certain tracks, but these are seldom more than slight. The songs are still there in their great glory, and the setlist itself is magnificent. Given a choice between buying the studio version of DSOTM and PULSE, I would choose this version, no questions asked. And that in itself says a lot.

Una Laguna | 4/5 |

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