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Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother CD (album) cover

ATOM HEART MOTHER

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.89 | 2161 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars The Atom of your Mother's Heart

AHM is a very controversial album, decried by many as boring and pretentious (this usually the Barrett unconditionals pissing on Floyd's successful convalescence of their Syd-loss), almost disowned even by some Floyd members and hailed as the first giant step to the group's ascension to perfection ? it was after their first chart topping album. Despite the album's flaws and it not always ageing well, I rank in the last category of fans, even if I wonder sometimes how this album became so successful. No doubt Hypgnosis' cow un-tagged pastoral artwork helped out (it was a fad that Crimson and Zep tried before they did), but that doesn't explain much, especially with the sore studio experience of Ummagumma.

On the A-side, Floyd tried more successfully what many failed to do before them: integrating classical music and the symphonic orchestra and choirs into the rock fusion. Purple had failed as would Caravan later (although un-rehearsed), Procol only doing a readaptation of their better stuff, The Nice failing miserably on Ars Longa (etc..) but Floyd managed it well enough, but had to resort to outside help in the name of Ron Geesin. If you're not sure about Geesin's role in the AHM track, listen to his collab with Roger Waters's The Body, and it'll all become clear, even if musically there is no resemblance between the two albums. The birth of this epic was not an easy one, the group starting on a Gilmour idea following the More soundtrack and brainstorming led it to become a suite, which was then tested live, bearing the name of The Amazing Pudding (a few recordings exist or this work-in-progress). Apparently, something was missing and Geesin was called up (they had met a while before at the Technicolour Dream extravaganza) for his classical training, which lead directly to the awesome cello-filled Breast Milky. Geesin is the one who also found the final name of the epic, legend has it from a tabloid article about an atomic-powered pace-maker for a pregnant mother. This epic suite has many aerial and celestial moments, when the brass section had a field day taking the track into bombasticland and most notably the choirs, which take on a Kobaian overtone at the end of their second intervention. Floyd's group intervention in Funky Dung is coming as a just-in-time breath of fresh air, Gilmour's outstanding solo piercing your armour of indifference while Wright's Farsifa organ is underlining the group's tightness. While the dissonant musique concrete passage Mind Your Throats may be an interesting piece on its own, it is always a tough intervention on anotherwise marvellous and melodic piece like AHM, but one does learn to appreciate it with repeated listenings.

The flipside is completely different with the three songwriters grabbing one song each, thus almost recreating the Ummagumma pattern, but this time obviously the other members looked into what the others were doing, each singing their own song. This last aspect sort of breaks the side's unity, but it's not a big deal. Waters' If track is already pointing at his future obsession of alienation from society behind his acoustic guitar strumming; gentle but ambiguous stuff, especially in the light of their future. Next to that, Wright's Summer Of 68 is a very (overly?) ambitious project with the orchestral fanfare taking it over the top, but at least it has dynamics and almost rocks. Gilmour's first real songwriting effort (can't call is Narrow Way from UG a "song"), Fat Old Sun is an acoustic strumming guitar with added bottleneck (or is it lapsteel?) and the group's full participation is excellent, even Mason's drumming. Closing up the album is one of the remains of the Man And The Journey project that was never officially released and only once recorded live in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in Sept 69. This mini-suite is a bit of a non-event describing sonically Alan's start of the day with shower and scrambled eggs. Short instrumental pieces (jams) separated by their roadie's mumblings, nothing fascinating comes out of this, but it is 13 minutes of non-offensive slightly-soporific easy-gliding (if not filler) stuff that has limited interest for demanding progheads.

With AHM, Floyd emerges from the spacey jams it was known for, and they jump on the prog train ambitiously (maybe a tad too much for their yet self-confidence), taking chances and mostly succeeding. While the album might seem that it hasn't aged as well as its successor, it is probably due to that then-refreshing na´vetÚ that pervades through the album, prolonging the hippy era a few more years. But this slightly-flawed album is certainly no less essential than the following masterpieces they will astonish the world with.

Sean Trane | 5/5 |

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