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Pink Floyd - Relics CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.57 | 352 ratings

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4 stars Relics is a look back to the early days of Pink Floyd: the days of Syd Barrett, of psychedelia, and of catchy pop songs co-habiting with drawn-out lysergic experiments. It charts, quite visibly and more or less sequentially, the group's progress from humble beginnings as Barrett's backing band, through years of innovative studio experimentation as Barrett was replaced by Gilmour, to a point of technical proficiency yet languishing in a despond of creative destitution.

Albums like Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother are much revered by Prog fans and the group's following was rapidly expanding, yet they had produced no hit singles since Syd Barrett left in early 1968. I assume EMI were simply intending to fill this perceived commercial gap in the wait for the next studio album [Meddle], but unwittingly produced both a neat summation of Pink Floyd's early career as well as providing us with some 'rarities' as no less than 6 of the 11 tracks had not been previously released on LP.

Arnold Layne, a story of an infamous Knicker Snatcher, was Pink Floyd's first single. A typical piece of Barrett whimsy, this mono presentation is the original Joe Boyd single release. Interstellar Overdrive is the 'Piper' version in stereo, a lengthy slice of instrumental space-rock experimentation which would become a staple concert piece for several years. See Emily Play was the band's second single from 1967, another Barrett slice of psych popsiness probably inspired by one of the 'in-crowd'. Remember A Day is the version from Saucerful Of Secrets, a song by Richard Wright about the happiness of childhood. Notable for Norman Smith [their producer] playing drums instead of Nick Mason, it also credits both Gilmour and Barrett playing guitar.

Perky yet slightly derivative, Paintbox is about the music industry, another Wright song from '67, originally B-side to third single Apples And Oranges. Julia Dream is Floyd's first post-Syd single, recorded in February 68 shortly after Gilmour had joined, it is more spacey than psych as emphasised by Wright's stately Mellotron. About uncertainty and paranoia, it was of course written by Roger Waters in a similar laid-back vein as Grantchester Meadows. Careful With That Axe Eugene is the second space-rock experimental jam, presented here as a previously unreleased shortened studio version.

The next two songs are taken from the More soundtrack album. Cirrus Minor, a metaphor for a drug experience, is another Waters' stroll through the countryside somewhere near Grantchester Meadows, devoid of drums but with lots of Wright's Hammond and massed chorus of gulls. Appropriately about a beautiful siren luring her man to his doom, The Nile Song is a Proto-Heavy-Metal thrash courtesy of some very aggressive guitar work by Gilmour.

The lolloping Biding My Time features a long coda with some lovely liquid guitar from Gilmour, and Richard Wright playing some decent multi-tracked trombone. Though not previously released, this song formed The Afternoon section of The Man, a song-suite often played in concert but never officially released on record. Finally, the album returns to the genius of Barrett and the brilliant Bike, written for his then girlfriend with some superb rhyming couplets and inspired silliness. This is psychedelia at its best, but also a portent of things to come with chiming clocks and scary effects pre-dating Dark Side Of The Moon by 5 years.

Collections like Relics are no longer the essential buys they once were. For today's turned-online generation of Prog lovers, a quick splash around the Wild Wacky Wilderness will find many ex-obscurities and solve most old puzzles, one way or another. All of these songs are now legally available in other packages, but in 1971 this was a little gem, especially at a bargain-bin price. It is clearly not a 'Best Of', more like a retrospective look back at the group's past at a time when they were about to change gear and head for the moon.

Though essentially a simple and cheap collection of old material packaged for the masses, Relics became an integral and much loved part of the Pink Floyd discography and is still to be recommended today on CD. The sound is a little dodgy in a couple of places, but otherwise it has transferred well. My only gripe about the CD is the cover - sadly, gone is Nick Mason's wonderful doodle, to be replaced by photos of an impressive model of it.

Hugely recommended for anyone who is looking for an idiosyncratic resumé of Pink Floyd's early career.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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