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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover

UMMAGUMMA

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.48 | 1214 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One half live, one half studio, Ummagumma is arguably Pink Floyd's most controversial album. The experimentation and the creativity on this album is astounding, but sometimes ideas are a little too contrived and a little too forced, in my opinion, as well as sometimes it seems that certain points of the studio side drag and are used to fill the gap of time. The live half of it, though, is a masterpiece, because at this time Pink Floyd live was an exciting thing to see, with every song getting some new tweak and some little addition that makes each listening a unique and profound experience. The idea behind the studio side of the album is that each musician in the group got 10-12 minutes of space to create and experiment with whatever they wanted, sometimes the results are astonishing and thought-provoking, and sometimes they are just a little too... how do you say... out there... regardless, though, this is a strong album mainly because of the stellar live portion.

The live half of the album opens up with Astronomy Domine, and is a bit of an homage to the old days of Floyd when Gilmour had not yet joined and Syd Barrett was the leader and the shaper of the band's sound. The extended middle section features great musicianship from Wright and Gilmour. Careful With that Axe, Eugene is an instrumental piece that got it's only truly official release on this album (as far as I know). Smooth drumming and jazzy overtones are augmented with spacious and echoey vocals, which is shortly followed by mixed noises. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun has always been a better song live than in the studio, and this version is no exception. The orchestral sounding percussion from Nick Mason is joined by a strong guitar melody and haunting organ work from Wright. A Saucerful of Secrets ends the live section of the album, and it really ends it with a bang (literally). Mason is a machine on this track and really shows that he can play the drums well when he puts his mind to it. Waters also joins him on percussion on this track, and he goes on a tangent of his own as well. Wright and Gilmour are the rhythm section on this song, and their dissonant chordal passages fit well with the sonic chaos from Mason and Waters. To sum it up, this is some of the best live stuff you can get on record from Pink Floyd.

But is it all that good? The studio, however, seems to me to have forced bits that are only there to help fill the gap of time. Sysyphus, Rick Wright's piece on the album, is a dissonant experiment on the piano and various organs. The dissonant chords seem randomly played and the improvisational nature of this track is stunning, yet it does seem to go on a bit and at points you may get tired of the insanity. Grantchester Meadows is the first of two Roger Waters tracks, and it really is a brilliant counterpoint to the insanity of Wright's work. A quiet acoustic tune accompanied by mixed wilderness noises is what you can expect here. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict is the second Waters tune, and it really takes the experimental nature of Floyd and gives it a twist. The haunting track is a series of random noises and seemingly shocking voices being repeated for about 5 minutes. It doesn't really compare to Waters' first track on the album, though. The Narrow Way is David Gilmour's piece on the album, and it certainly is the strongest on the whole studio side. The melodies that he presents are strong, heavy, dissonant, and beautiful all at the same time. The studio portion is rounded off by Nick Mason's expected drum solo. It kind of drags and it seems that Mason was really trying to waste some time on it in my opinion.

Overall, this album is strong in the live aspects, but weaker in the studio aspects. I can respect the creativity and the experimentation that Pink Floyd were... dare I say... experimenting with on this album, but in the end I feel a bit cold about the studio side and often revert to the live portion of the album. For Pink Floyd aficionados, this album should be right up your alley, if you can stand the experimentation that is. 3.5/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 3/5 |

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