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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover

UMMAGUMMA

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.47 | 1130 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Pink Floyd: Ummagumma [1969]

Rating: 6/10

My opinion of Ummagumma falls pretty much directly in line with most other peoples'. The live half of the album is excellent. Many of the studio tracks, however, are somewhat boring at best and dully self-indulgent at worst. This is by far Pink Floyd's most experimental/avant-garde album. The live songs are a fantastic representation of the band's entire 60s period; classics such as "Astronomy Domine" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" are augmented with extended psychedelic jamming, creating a unique and atmospheric experience. The studio LP consists of avant-garde compositions from each of the four band members. These tracks display unbridled experimentation and turn Ummagumma into an oft-maligning and controversial album.

The live portion begins with "Astronomy Domine." It's difficult to out-psychedelic the studio original, but they managed it here with atmospheric synths and fantastic guitar work. "Careful With that Axe Eugene" begins with more quiet keys. Manic screaming enters and the song turns into an intense and fast-paced guitar-orientated jam. "Set the Controls for the Heart of Sun" features an extended middle section with strong percussion from Mason and more deep-space synths from Wright. "A Saucerful of Secrets" takes us even further into the depths of space. This may be the best track here, with a gripping percussion section and a fantastic conclusion; Waters and Mason's rhythm section really shines here.

"Sisyphus", Wright's composition, opens the studio half. This is a minimalistic symphonic piece. It opens with grandiose heavy organ and moves into excellent and intense piano playing. The piano becomes more and more unstructured, and avant-garde noise joins in. The piece ends with an ambient section with no shortage of bird noises and brooding organ; this overextended section lasts much too long. Waters's compositions come next; these are the two highlights of the studio portion. "Grantchester Meadows" is a typical Waters acoustic song. Even though it seems rather out-of-place here, it's still a great track. "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" may be the most bizarre thing ever released on a Pink Floyd album. It's basically four minutes of overdubbed animal noises from Waters. Although this sounds terrible on paper, this track is undeniably charming. "The Narrow Way" is Gilmour's composition, and one of the first songs he ever wrote. It begins with three minutes of acoustic guitar. Heavy guitar and spacey synths enter, and the suite closes with a vocal psychedelic rock song. There are some promising moments during "The Narrow Way", but a lot of it sounds like undeveloped noodling. Wright's piece, "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party", concludes the album. It begins and ends with pastoral flute, but the majority of the piece consists of dark ambient/concrete sounds. This suite mostly fails to hold my interest, although it is somewhat interesting.

While I applaud the band for such brave experimentation, a lot of the studio section here ends up sounding like unnecessary foppery. I don't want to be too harsh on it, though; there are many good moments, particularly Waters's compositions. I enjoy Ummagumma and find it to be an interesting listen. However, I have to agree with the consensus: the live portion is excellent, but the studio compositions are very flawed. This is an intriguing album nevertheless, although many Floyd fans would probably want to do some research before checking it out.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |

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