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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover

UMMAGUMMA

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.47 | 1126 ratings

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zravkapt
Special Collaborator
Post Rock Team
5 stars One of Floyd's most consistent efforts. Honestly. A strong double album. This is the band at their most avant-garde and experimental. Proggier than most prog and proto-prog at the time. People who claim PF are not prog need to listen to this album and explain to me how it is less proggy than the debut albums by Yes and Genesis. The studio album was conceived as a collection of solo pieces that go beyond rock music. The live album is good but I have heard shows from this era that have better sound, performance and set-lists than this one.

Ummagumma is apparently slang for sex. The music here is not too sexy though. The live album was the only official live document of Floyd until almost twenty years later. As I mentioned I've heard better shows from these guys in this era. Supposedly they picked these shows because they had the best sound of the ones they wanted to use. Not necessarily the best performances. In 1968 Richard Wright sometimes put his organ through a wah-wah pedal in concert. It sounded awesome but unfortunately there is none of that here.

"Astronomy Domine" almost sounds like a different song compared to the studio version. One of the few Barrett songs they were performing at the time. I like the parts where it's just organ. Gilmour does a great solo. It starts off with wah and then gradually has a cleaner tone. "Careful With Axe, Eugene" was the B-side to the single "Point Me At The Sky". Strange choice for a B-side. Based around a minimal bass part and crescendos. Waters screams like a little girl. Love the sound of the organ at the end.

"Set The Controls..." is not as good as the version on Pompeii. Waters is banging a gong. 5 1/2 minutes in begins a spacey section with modified guitar and organ sounds. The drums and bass come back. "A Saucerful Of Secrets" is also better on Pompeii. More gong form Waters. Great guitar with effects. Like the Pompeii version, this has has drums and just Gilmour singing during the 'celestial voices' part.

Many people hate the studio album but like the live album. As I said, I heard better live stuff from this era. The studio album is where it's at. Lots of ideas and good production. Wright's "Sysyphus" is one of the best things Floyd ever did. Part 1 has a great theme on Mellotron. Some drums as well. Wright plays everything. Part 2 has classical piano, then jazzy piano with cymbals. A slowed down piano makes rumbling noises. Part 3 has slowed down pianos with cymbal and drum noises. Some sped up chipmunk vocals. At the end we get a cacophony of all of the above.

Supposedly Part 4 originally began with the loud organ part. On CD it starts off with lovely Mellotron, vibes and Farfisa. Some bird and water noises. You can briefly hear 'Silent Night' played. Then the music fades out and out of nowhere there is a dramatic organ part which scares the hell out of you the first time you hear it. Then there's a drum roll. Sinister sounding organs and then weird effects and dissonant piano sounds. Gradually the opening Mellotron theme comes back to end everything.

"Grantchester Meadows" is a nice folky song from Waters. Double-tracked vocals and acoustic guitars.Looped bird sounds. It may just be me, but I think the fly sound you hear at the beginnijng and end is really the theme to "Sysyphus"; it sounds like it is distorted, paused and looped. There is a song here with a really long title. I'll just call it SSOSFAGTIACAGWAP. The whole song is vocal noises recorded at different speeds resembling little critters. The Picts were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Scotland. Roger does a Scottish accent and you can barely make out what he says. At one point you can hear a sped up Gilmour say: "that's pretty avant-garde, isn't it?" Ron Geesin later made a tribute/parody of this song called "To Roger, Wherever You Are".

Gilmour's "The Narrow Way" is another highlight. Part 1 has backwards effects, acoustic guitar and slide guitar. Part 2 is simply awesome. It has a riff as heavy as Sabbath. Some tabla like percussion. It gets spacier with sound effects and a slowed down version of the guitar riff. Part 3 is the best song on the whole album and points the most to what the band would sound like in the 1970s. Gilmour sings and plays piano, drums, bass and guitar. I love the sound of the bass at the end.

Mason's "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" deserves a mention too. Parts 1 & 3 are a flute theme performed by Nick's wife. Part 2 is something else altogether. Lots of studio manipulated percussion. At one point you hear the flute part played backwards and what sound like vibes. The drums start getting paused/unpaused along with overdubbed percussion. Near the end is an actual drum solo recorded in stereo. It may not be one of the greatest drum solos of the era, but it's one of the best *sounding*.

For 1969 this sounds great and is extremely progressive. Floyd have a few slightly more consistent albums, and their best songs are found elsewhere. Nonetheless this is a unique musical statement. A masterpiece, but not everybody will like this. 5 stars.

zravkapt | 5/5 |

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