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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.48 | 1702 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This was one of the most difficult PINK FLOYD albums to assign a rating to, because in spite of its several difficulties, I can't help but enjoy it. The studio disk, an experiment in which each band member did his own composition without any help from the others (including lyrics and playing of all instruments) somehow manages to prove at the same time just how much each member, even in early days, was capable of on his own and just how much they needed each other in order to create that distinctive PINK FLOYD sound. The live disk, on the other hand, is for the most part positively stunning in terms of performance quality--except the recording quality leaves much to be desired.

Here is what, in my personal opinion, each solo composition reveals. The album opens with RICK WRIGHT's "Sysyphus", a very strange exploration including everything from classical piano to complete chaos, and some very eerie wordless vocals from WRIGHT (if you think THAT'S strange, try slowing down the part with all the clanking noises and high-pitched laughter to half-speed to hear what the vocals sounded like in original form!). While imperfect, "Sysyphus" more than any other piece on Ummagumma has a clearly planned structure from beginning to end; his talent for long compositions clearly had emerged early. DAVID GILMOUR's "The Narrow Way" is also a largely pleasant listen, basically an exploration of various guitar stylings. It's also GILMOUR's first lyrical outing, and while what I can hear sounds decent--his vocals are woefully undermixed, and there isn't a lyrics sheet in the liner notes of the CD. A pity, really.

ROGER WATERS' "Grantchester Meadows" is interesting in a far more simplistic fashion--idyllic lyrics and a meandering acoustic guitar and soft vocals far from the angry shrieking of "In the Flesh" are nice, but it feels rather like a demo. This song is much better in live versions. Of course, he doesn't let you get too comfortable; he makes sure to wreck the delicate moment with a rude surprise. Then comes "Several Species", the alternately amusing and annoying experiment with tape effects, one of the album's weaker spots. The weakest spot is NICK MASON's "Grand Vizier's Garden Party", which although like "Sysyphus" supposedly has a structure, it has none of the flow. Aside from a nice drum solo at one point, it's too much for me to wade through, in the end. I can't say what he'd do given the chance in 2004, but I can see that in 1969, his talents were less in composing and more in performing.

Mixing problems plague the live side as well--I have heard bootlegs from the time period that sound much better in technical terms. One cannot even distinguish the voices of the band members from each other without serious effort, and the overall sound is severely muddied. However, that said, if you can hear through all that, what lies underneath is an excellent performance, with the exception of Mr. Gilmour's vocals on "Celestial Voices", which are, as usual in earlier live performances, a bit dodgy. Overall, I feel that Ummagumma is worth the purchase for its live side, as well as for the insight into the individual FLOYD members--but don't be deceived; it's far from perfect, and should not be your first live PINK FLOYD album.

If you have absolutely no tolerance for the studio disc, the Live at Pompeii DVD may be a good alternative.

(P.S.: It doesn't hurt that Ummagumma is quite well priced for a double-album set.)

FloydWright | 3/5 |


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