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Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.88 | 2030 ratings

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4 stars In my opinion this album has the best brass sound in Progressive Rock, brass being used to good effect in both the title piece and 'Summer '68'. Session musicians, conducted by Ron Geesin (who wrote the orchestral score), played French horns, trombones, trumpets and tubas.

The 'Atom Heart Mother' piece - or "suite" as it is sometimes called - is atmospheric and could easily have been the soundtrack to a First World War movie (it comes complete with horses shying, shelling and a motorbike). Wright's excellent keyboard, with morose violin (viola?) over the top, sets the mood. Waters' bass line is simple yet so effective. There is plenty of Gilmour's trademark guitar to satisfy fans of the later albums. The use of orchestral instruments and a mixed choir give the piece a classical feel, although the conventional choral vocalisations give way to unusual Maori-like chanting in one place. The piece changes mood, varying from depressing to groovy and laid-back. There are also the expected FLOYD artefacts: sound effects reminiscent of a spooky cave, a PA announcement, and a train with Doppler effect. It's an ambitious and pretentious piece but I think the band pulled it off, and is a 5-star effort as far as I'm concerned.

'If' is a nice enough song, starting in a very laid-back manner with acoustic guitar. It's melodic, pleasant and relaxing, although nothing special in my opinion.

I adore 'Summer '68' though, which again uses brass effectively. It also uses piano in a simple but very pleasing way. The weekly BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs allows the guest to choose eight pieces (as opposed to albums); 'Summer '68' would definitely be one of my eight. The disdainful and seemingly acerbic lyrics appear to be about a casual fling or a groupie ("tomorrow brings another town, another girl like you") and, to me, seem at odds with the instrumentation and music itself. I find it almost impossible to listen to this track without singing out loud the vocalised refrain (which, incidentally, was used in the early 1970s as the introduction to the evening news on Brazil's largest TV network).

Softly peeling church bells herald 'Fat Old Sun', which is rather like 'If' in that it's a nice, lazy song. I like this one too. With the pace, lyrics and artefacts (the aforementioned bells, plus children playing) it sounds very 'English summer evening'. The vocals - the whole song, actually - sound Beatle-esque to me, reminding me of McCartney. The trademark FLOYD guitar rocks it up a bit towards the end and the track fades out to the sound of the church bells. Not a masterpiece by any means, but pleasant, melodic and relaxing.

A dripping tap introduces 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast', named for the roadie Alan Stiles. Recorded in Mason's kitchen it includes sounds such as the striking of matches, the making of a cup of coffee/tea, and the pouring of cereal into a bowl (the slurps and exaggerated grunts only making me want to tell him to keep his mouth shut when eating). The whole thing does have an easygoing Sunday morning feel to it, especially when the sound of an egg frying begins. It's moderately amusing and easy listening, but sounds like pure filler to me. Apparently the band thought it was lousy. Finishing with the running of the tap, the draining of the sink and the tap dripping - which is where we came in - this track is the antithesis of the title piece.

If more of the album had been up to the standard of the title piece and 'Summer '68' then I would have been able to award the album 5 stars but, as it stands, I have to go with 4 stars (Excellent addition to any progressive music collection). All four members of the band were very critical of the album - embarrassed even - in later years. Even so, it's one of my favourite FLOYD albums, although certainly much rougher than the polished and more commercial "Dark Side Of The Moon" and later albums.

Fitzcarraldo | 4/5 |


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