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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover

UMMAGUMMA

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.47 | 1155 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Pink Floyd Live and in the Studio: parallel universes at polar opposites

Pink Floyd's 'Ummagumma' is half excellent, half mediocre. The Hipgnosis cover depicts two parallel universes and in a sense that is what we have here. Two albums at polar opposites from one another. One album is incredible, rich with dark textures and free form jamming with cosmic space rock at its highest peak. One album is lacklustre with forgettable miserable songs that nobody cares about. Interestingly, the two pictures on the cover depict two different Floyd leaders; one is of Gilmour leading as the dominant figure, and the other has Waters in the chair, and this is prophetic as the band eventually split into two Pink Floyd groups with these men as leaders.

Enough philosophy, let's start with the brilliant live album. The live album showcases the band in full flight in a concert experience where they are allowed to fly into the stratosphere. The best live version of 'Astronomy Domine' is played with incredible energy and a divine lead solo. I love the 'P-U-L-S-E' version which is chilling, but this version has a wondrous instrumental section I can listen to anytime.

Recorded in 1969, the band launch into a fabulous lengthy version of the chilling 'Careful with that Axe Eugene', with a manic Waters at his sinister best who screams bloody murder as Gilmour's guitar soars and wails, and Wrights' keyboards swell and ascend into the heavens. The sound is astonishing with sonic reverberances and a dominating resonance that may scare off a lot of listeners. I find Waters' screeches rather disturbing and hard to take at times but nevertheless it is powerful prog.

'Set the Controls to the Heart of the Sun' is brooding with bottom end bass and a very ominous melody, streets ahead of the studio version and totally psychedelic.

'A Saucerful of Secrets' is once again a better version of this enigmatic classic with kinetic energy and jaw dropping guitar. The experimental creativity is flowing constantly and the live experience was never captured so well in1969.

Now to the studio album. I do not even want to review this it is so bad. I remember hearing it at a young age and being totally unnerved by the psych prog, and mind jarring trippy hallucinatory passages. I hated it. It really is Pink Floyd's 'Works' (remember ELP tried to go solo and failed). This is Pink Floyd breaking into a solo artist band and it stinks like the sewerage flowing down Barett's blocked drains.

'Sysyphus' is the best track on it; a 4 part feast of keyboard wizardry by Wright with mellotron and effects. But it peters out from there.

'Grantchester Meadows' is a Waters experiment gone wrong.

The best thing about 'Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict' is the overlong title that only true Floydians are able to remember. It is impossible to describe except to say it is all animal noises and effects and another failed Waters experiment. LSD dopeheads need only apply.

'Narrow Way' is more experimentalism but this time Gilmour tries his hand at freaking us out. It is not much to write home about, so I won't and, like all the other tracks on this studio album, you will only find them here, and that's a relief.

'Grand Vizier's Garden Party' is drummer Mason's ditty, and he even roped in his wife to try playing flute passages. He adds tape loops for effect and unearthly sounds that are disquietening at best.

So that's 'Ummagumma' half a delight, half a fright, but it was the best Floyd album until 'Meddle' arrived, but that's another review. 5 stars for the live material, 1 star for the studio material, so we have to round this off to 3 stars.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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