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Syd Barrett - Wouldn't You Miss Me? CD (album) cover


Syd Barrett


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3.97 | 21 ratings

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4 stars I'm a late convert to the cult of Syd Barrett, the fabled crazy diamond who gave PINK FLOYD its name, and the ghost haunting almost every subsequent album the band ever recorded. His brief, troubled post-Floyd solo career needs no introduction here, but for anyone unfamiliar with Barrett's unique psychedelic vision (a blend of instinctive musical genius and acid-ravaged mental illness) this may be the best one-stop, single disc primer available.

The generous 22-track selection is drawn more or less equally from his two completed solo releases and the aborted sessions later compiled on the belated 1989 "Opal" album, and may surprise listeners who never delved too deep into Pink Floyd's back catalogue. On his own, Barrett's music is even more intimate and personal than his signature songs on "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" (the Floyd's 1967 debut disc), built around simple, unadorned acoustic guitar ballads, with modest instrumental backing provided by various sympathetic friends, chiefly Barrett's ex-band mates and members of SOFT MACHINE.

We can thank all of them for making the music here sound as coherent as it does, after coaxing (with what must have been superhuman patience and understanding) a semblance of a genuine performance from the rapidly disintegrating Barrett. Still, it's not impossible to gauge the singer's fragile state of mind from the way each song begins and ends in a somewhat arbitrary (and occasionally downright ragged) fashion.

A lot of the tunes were obviously written before Syd went supernova and collapsed into his post-Floyd black hole, and reveal something of his once-magnetic charm and playful pre-LSD personality. It's hard not to smile when hearing the deprecating humor of "Here I Go", or the Kipling burlesque of "Effervescing Elephant", or the tongue-in- cheek satire of the previously unreleased "Bob Dylan Blues". The latter is an album highlight, with Barrett (out of professional jealousy?) ripping through the folk hero's homespun superstar hypocrisies in a note-perfect parody of the Dylan song style.

But elsewhere Barrett's whimsical imagination is uneasily matched to his sometimes heart-wrenching, near-naked lyrical candor, giving even his lightest flights of fancy an undercurrent of indefinable sadness. In particular on the song "Opal", the jewel (no pun intended) of this collection, and one of the clearest views Barrett ever allowed us into his battered psyche. The song sounds almost as if it was improvised on the spot, just Syd by himself strumming his acoustic guitar, the evocative, otherworldly imagery of his words gradually giving way to a haunting, plaintive refrain of, "I'm find you..."

Could he have been talking about himself?

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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