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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover

UMMAGUMMA

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.47 | 1148 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Umm-a-gada-da-gu-mma

After the parenthesis of More, Floyd comes back with a new album that they chose a double (very en-vogue back then) but unfortunately, this will prove a little ambitious for them yet. Coming with an uninspired picture in a picture in a picture from Hypgnosis, one can only regret that the back cover did not become the front cover. If the live disc is outstanding, the least we can say is that the studio concept disc is heavily flawed.

The first disc nears perfection, being a selection of their best moments live in concert. All four tracks featured are in a fairly to very different version of the original studio version, with Astronomy Domine being lasting a good 9-mins+ and losing their vocals, gaining much power, even if Mason's drumming is perfectible. Eugene is also much-enhanced and is really the live disc's high point, showing Floyd extremely tasteful use of dynamic peaks, and in itself blows the illustrated version featured in Antonioni's Zabriskie Point movie. Heart Of The Sun also sees its length greatly increased, Floyd trying a light, celestial and graceful improv in the middle section. The closing Sauceful Of Secrets track is probably the closest to its studio version (although slightly elongated), but the four movements are so much more naturally linked together. Apparently, Floyd had also planned to include a version of Interstellar Overdrive, but sadly it was left out and inexplicably never added as bonus in CD reissues. Clearly with this live album, Floyd reaches its early peak (in concert anyway) and this will be the backbone for the next few years (there are still three from the four tracks featured on the Pompeii movie) and it will take DSOTM to finally bump most of these out of the set list.

The studio disc is a vastly different affair, an ambitious conceptual failure; each of the group members would benefit of a half of side of vinyl to feature their ideas, something that only Kiss (the 4 solo albums) and ELP (Works I) would have the pretension to top. Gilmour's first attempt at songwriting (Narrow Way) is not exactly a success, his four-part guitar piece being patchy and not very cohesive (some of which will be featured in The Man And The Journey concept) is not really successful, even if the first and last parts are pleasant, the middle section is a big "n'importe quoi". Waters is actually the one that pulls the winning straw, with the superb Grandchester Meadows. His second track is an hilarious musique concrete piece about Several Species Of Furry Animals sharing a cavern with a Scot ancestor (a Pict) - hence the last few slurs at the end - all these noises being produce by Roger's rather large oral utensil. Wright's Sysyphos pieces is way to ambitious for his frail shoulders, mixing dissonances with pompous neo-classicism, and the mellotron intro and outro will not save the suite. Mason's Grand Vizier is (you guessed it) the weakest part of this concept. Already not the best musician in the group, he's also not the best composer, so this explaining that and we can forgive Nick's weak areas (we're sure this individual effort concept was not his idea) to concentrate on his ability to produce twisted sounds, something that will help him produce some well-known albums for other artists. This second disc is probably Floyd's low point in their early career, the group being over-ambitious, limit pretentious. Clearly the proof that Floyd was a group and not a sum of individuals.

Hardly an essential album, although there are a few shades to that opinion, partly because Floyd's official live discography is parsimonious in its early stages. As mentioned above, if you have the Pompeii film, then you can almost forget Umma (despite the chosen tracks being at their best or almost), even though you'll miss Domine. If you have some live boots (anything but rare, even back then) at home, you might want to skip it as well. But the usual Floyd detractors that took Barrett's songwriting to sky high are generally also fairly supportive of the studio disc, which goes to show that their conduct towards this band is more attitude than substance.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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