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Pink Floyd - Ummagumma CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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Founding Moderator
3 stars As creative as what came before might have been (Piper, Saucerful, More), little could have prepared the world for Ummagumma, which sees Floyd making gigantic strides in both the studio and live settings. I am not in agreement with some fans that the studio disc is less than amazingly expertimental and brilliant. Indeed, there is nothing on this album which did not presage in one way or another what Floyd would become with Atom Heart Mother, Meddle and, ultimately, Dark Side and beyond.
Report this review (#8310)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first live half is especially good, very well recorded for it's day too, four key early pieces are explored and give Floyd fans the only early live recording of the band on official release, these really carry Ummagumma. The second half contains solo excursions with varying results, none of which are exceptional, but the most entertaining is certainly 'Several Species...', and Granchester Meadows is 'If'-like, acoustic mellow, nice for a lost stoney summer day.
Report this review (#8312)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
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.

Report this review (#8314)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pink Floyd wanted to stop having to play these songs in concert so they could explore a new direction so they put together this great collection of the early years.If any album in history is made for bong hits this is it.Set the controls for the heart of the Sun brother.
Report this review (#8297)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is another Floyd album that is more of a historical document than a truly good listen. The live stuff is fine but not all that compelling. The studio half is a mess that still demonstrates that Gilmour is the ears of the band and Roger is the guiding force. The tracks written by Mason and Wright are the absolute worst of art school music. Pretentious and yet lacking any musical meritit cannot get any worse. Gilmours tracks have a great deal of musicality and yet are not guided by any sense of purpose. Roger's Grantchester Meadows is sweet in the same dark way that Floyd's best ballads.
Report this review (#8298)
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a young man when I first heard "Ummagumma" I remember being totally freaked out and completely addicted to this double album. Years later it still represents one of my personal favourites from the discography of the PINK FLOYD. "Ummagumma" is a sort of fractured double album with the first album representing the studio work and 2nd taking on 4 great live tracks. I personally love the two extremes of this album (live & studio) some times prefering the live album and other times the studio. "Ummagumma" is representative of classic psychedlic-era PINK FLOYD. Atmospheres are dark and foreboding with ravishing psychedelic squawls, sonic distortion and guitar frenzies. Moods change from still quiet to heavy droned out psych. "Ummagumma" explores on both albums a wide range of tympanic beats and sounds and is truely an album of exploration. Live material on this album is simply stunning with excellent versions of FLOYD Classics... "Astronomy Domine", "Careful With That Axe... Eugene", "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" and "A Saucerful Of Secrets" (recorded in Birmingham & Mancdhester College - 1969).
Report this review (#8301)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars A mixed bag, this one... the Live album is largely excellent, with Gilmour, Mason, Waters and Wright generally improving on the studio originals, but the Studio album is half-hearted at best, with nothing really involving to get one's teeth into. Indeed, it's as though all four (undeniably skilled) band members couldn't really be bothered to put much effort into their studio tracks, and so that disc comes off as feeble and unfocused. It must be said that Part 4 of Wright's "Sysyphus" is very atmospheric and effective, and Gilmour's "The Narrow Way" has its moments, but it's on the Live disc that the boys really impress. It's a pity the Floyd didn't release UMMAGUMMA as a double-live LP; it would have surely made for more entertaining, and rewarding, listening.
Report this review (#8315)
Posted Thursday, March 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A good LP...and a not so good one

A game of two halves this double LP. The first LP is a live album with 4 lengthy pieces. These are actually very good psychedelic prog rock, well structured and melodic. What may appear at first to be fairly loose jams, are in fact tightly composed and well thought out pieces. For those who came to Pink Floyd through albums such as "Dark side of the Moon" and "The wall", be aware that the music here bears little relation to the song based numbers which appear on those albums. Even slightly looser tracks such as "On the run" or "Any colour you like" are far more commercial than the spaced out sounds of these pieces originating in the Syd Barrett era (although by the time of this album, he had left the band, Dave Gilmour being well integrated into the line up).

The second LP sees each of the 4 band members being allocated half a side (about 10 minutes) each for a solo outing. This was some years before ELP did a similar thing with their "Works Volume 1" album, but the effect is broadly similar.

All the tracks on disc 2 serve to achieve is to demonstrate that with Pink Floyd, the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts. The best thing on the second album is "Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a Pict" (the title that is, not the track which is a whimsical, meaningless, waste of space!).

Had this been a single LP live album, it would have been excellent, sadly it isn't.

Report this review (#8317)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars 2 words for you... INSANE. yes pink floyd can easily be compared to insanity, for just a year before this record was made they lost their key member, syd barrett, to sevre schizophenia. Also their music has always been known to rot your mind with the intense psychadelia, random sound effects such as bike bells and rubber ducks on piper, UFO's and trumpets on a saucerful of secrets, and strange spanish men and aborigini drumming techniques on more.

Ummagumma is no exception to the rule. If anything pink floyd have excelled themselves this time, for the first time i listened to this album i thought i had lost my mind. 2 discs of mindless racket. sounds good to me. There are very few lyric based tracks on the album. The album seems to follow the concept of a continous instrumental based pieces with "sysyphus" lasting over 15 minutes long. this song sounds like something out of a horror film with the mean sound effects and the melodramatic piano pieces which, if a band was to play these days would seem very over the top and embaressing. look out matt bellamy. If you listened to this in 1969 you would be freaked out by how much music has changed. if you are listening to this at any other time you are wishing it could be the 60's once again. i hope this type of music is never forgotten.

The only lyrical based song on the album, "grantchester meadows", is a solo piece by roger waters on the acoustic guitar. similar to the style of his songs such as "if" and "cirrus minor", and a prelude to songs of dark side, animals and the wall. the only "normal" song on the album. or so it would seem if there wasnt a humming bird singing throughout the song and a few minutes of a crazy man trying to swat a fly at the end. Which leads fantastically into the long and pointlessly titled "several species of small furry animals gathered in a cave and grooving with a pict". over five minutes of insane rambling and alien creature jibberish. i would advise anyone not to listen to this too much if you want to keep your sanity.

Ummagumma keeps to the psychadelia but also stretches furtur into the progressive rock with the brillilant, "the narrow ways", full of a mix of mellow plucking and thundering riffs. The album ends with "the grand visiers garden party" which is a very experimental track using different guitar effects and drum solos. this album takes a few spins to get into but once you get into it, you will never forget how good it is. Sadly Ummagumma was discarded from echoes, the best of pink floyd and this album seems to be very understated because it isnt as famous as the later work. this is real floyd at its best.

but we're not finished yet. Ummagumma marks as pink floyds first double album. A forty minute live album with 4 tracks is also included, as if the studio album wasnt already value for money, you get even more for your buck! The live album includes double length versions of "astronomy domine" (without syd on vocals for the first time) and "set the controls for the heart of the sun" which experiments with lengthy drum pieces and the famous gong bashing from roger.

The higlights on the live album are a revamped version of "a saucerful of secrets" which drops the mellow piano pieces and sound effects to make way for speedy drum pieces, insane guitar sounds and a winning harmony to finish with. The best part of the album is the very first version of rare song "careful with that axe, eugene" and this is the best version you can find. The best nine minutes you will ever hear. This song starts off with simple guitar riffage and seems like any other floyd song until the beautiful twist comes in half way where roger starts screaming like a girl in a horror movie.

listening to this feels like you've died and gone to heaven, but then they realise it wasnt your time so they sent you back home to enjoy Ummagumma once again. Whilst Dave and Rick provide their usual amazingness and excell themselves in experimental sound, Nick and Roger are the real stars on this live album with the intense screaming and gong thrashing backed up by the most speedy and energetic drumming in their carreer.

And if thats not enough for you then this album comes in a pretty little boxset with a hossing poster of the band. w00t. Ummagumma WILL scare and destroy you.

Report this review (#8268)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Quite the bewildering album. This was to mark the first PINK FLOYD album to be released on the Harvest label (other bands on the label included TRIUMVIRAT, ELOY, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, QUATERMASS, SHIRLEY & DOLLY COLLINS,The BATTERED ORNAMENTS, BAKERLOO, and even DEEP PURPLE. PINK FLOYD was of course, to be the most successful band on the Harvest label, but not until "Dark Side of the Moon".

"Ummagumma" is a peculiar double album set. The first disc is live material. The band performs entirely previously released material, like "Astronomy Domine", "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun", and "A Saucerful of Secrets". Without a doubt my favorite going to "Careful With That Axe, Eugene". The song starts off slow and atmospheric, then of course, Roger WATERS lets off his screams then they get in to a guitar jam before eventually fading back the way it started. All these songs are arranged differently or have things added on, making them not clones of the original. Plus they use a string organ here, rather than a Hammond organ like on the originals.

The second disc is basically to give each of the four members the big ego boost. First you have Richard WRIGHT's four piece "Sysyphus". Here he noodles around on his keyboards, such as organ, piano, and even Mellotron (yes PINK FLOYD used Mellotron, but only on this album, "A Saucerful of Secrets" and "Atom Heart Mother"). Lot of it leans to the avant garde, and with a rather sinister atmosphere. It's hard to believe that just two years before there were psychedelic bands singing about "flowers and beads" and "canyons of your mind" (common thing for Central and Southern California bands of the time). Hearing this album, you'd think the '70s already arrived. Nothing remotely resembling the themes of California "pop psychedelia" can be found here! Then next, Roger WATERS gets his time to shine. First you have the acoustic, pastoral, ambient "Grantchester Meadows". It's a song that sounds like something is missing, like maybe more accompanyment. It's a pretty sparse sounding piece. Then there's "Several Small Creatures Gathered Together and Grooving With a Pict". Here you get a bunch of strange animal sounds, then you hear a Scotsman talking in the old Pictish language (which I don't know what that could be, you know right away you can't understand what he's saying, and it's pretty safe to say it's not Scots Gaelic either).

David GILMOUR piece is "The Narrow Way", and for him, it seems like he wanted the whole band to participate. It's a three piece movement which works best. First part is all acoustic, the second piece is a space rock piece. Here you are loaded with tons of electronic effects, effectively sounding like a precursor to many Krautrock bands that tended to the space rock spectrum, or even HAWKWIND for that matter! The third and final part of the song is the vocal part, sounding like classic PINK FLOYD (it could almost fit on "The Dark Side of the Moon"). Then the last part is Nick MASON's piece. Here he simply fiddles around with his drums and percussion. It often gets boring and tedious. This album is certainly bewildering, but it showed how the band was like before they were big huge rock stars, long before "The Wall", way before planetariums and night clubs across the United States decided to hold these "Pink Floyd with laser light" shows, this was PINK FLOYD doing what they wanted to at the risk of alienating their audience. Ummagumma is not for everyone, but recommended for the more adventurous.

Report this review (#8269)
Posted Thursday, May 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars My older brother got this when it was new (i.e., just before I was born!) and described it as "the one I put on when I want people to leave me alone". "Self- indulgent" and "pretentious" are the terms most used to describe this album...come to think of it, that's how most people feel about the progressive rock genre as a whole. The common view is that PINK FLOYD should have stuck to a single disc rather than a double album- ironic, because that's how I feel about "The Wall". "Ummagumma", on the other hand, strikes me as fun, spooky, and crazy in a way that is to me the heart and soul of the PINK FLOYD ethos. I can go for years without listening to it, and then suddenly become obsessed with it all over again; I have purchased this album in vinyl, cassette, and CD form because it always seems to have been lost/ stolen/ destroyed by the time I want to hear it again (I suspect the people I've lived with, but I guess I can't blame them). Every subsequent album after this will see the band getting more refined and less adventurous (and, possibly, gradually having less and less fun). There's plenty to tempt the more casual fan; the live tracks are in each case the best versions of their respective songs, and with "Grantchester Meadows" and "The Narrow Way" are excellent representatives of the band during this period. "Sysyphus" is alternately grand and eerie, with some beautiful piano in the 2nd movement that unfortunately ends too quickly. Okay, "Several Species..." is almost unlistenable...yet I always listen, and marvel at the frame of mind they must have been in to put this together. Like it or not (it drives my dogs nuts, for one thing), what real PINK FLOYD fan doesn't immediately recogize it as the signature track from this album? I can't say that Mason's chaotic drum pieces are easy listening, but they display amazing talent and variety; more so than any of his solo work, which really strikes me as pretentious. And what about the beautiful photo of the band's equipment- I'd love to find a poster of that, even a copy of the Fillmore concert poster which used a bit of it. I am tempted to be controversial by giving this five stars, but objectively I can't in good conscience call this "essential" or say that it belongs in everyone's collection. "Ummagumma" is what it is: the most extreme, experimental album by the biggest name in progressive rock, and I guess that makes it an acquired taste.
Report this review (#8270)
Posted Tuesday, June 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars What have we here...the first record are live performances from consacrated musics which i prefer the studio´s version. The second record is not the improvement of a saucerful of secrets as you may expect but a sign that they got lost without Syd Barret. Beginning with a kind of monotonous classic percussion, going to chaotic piano solo and a quiet acoustic piece sorrounded by birds, insects invasions, hitler speechs, and psychedelic moments. As it is an expensive adiction and hard listening, i recomend only to pf fans.
Report this review (#8272)
Posted Sunday, August 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Still unsure what was actually going on since Syd Barrett lost the plot and was whisked off to the funny farm the rest of the Floyd with Barrett's protege, Dave Gilmore no less somehow heeled into Pink Floyd quickly, the band took of on a college tour and this half live half studio half good half alright veering toward the bad is a result of their exploits. The live stuff is decent enough even if the recordings are poor enough. It starts off with "Astronomy Domine" which they somehow manage to pull off convincingly and the one thing I have always enjoyed about the Floyd is their ability to title songs with ludicrous but interesting names such as the zany "Careful With That Axe Eugene" and the next two tracks sound way more superior to their studio album versions with the epic "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" for me the highlight of the set and "A Saucerfull Of Secrets" which is hanging onto its coat tails. The second album in the set which contains the studio suites is plain boring enough with some splashes of inspiration yet failing to deliver a cutting edge and for me is almost verging on the pompous side of things and extremely overindulgent if nothing else. Each band member gets a writing credit on each piece and while being experimental are nothing if a little unfinished and unconvincing and the Floyd might have better advised to have released a full double live album. Even if that extra album contained some long workouts of a couple of more tracks it might have been more rewarding, as the first few live cuts are entrancing and hypnotic and by the time the studio album kicks in its just mundane boredom and seems an abrupt comedown.
Report this review (#8273)
Posted Sunday, August 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Good album, the highlight being the revised version of ' Careful with that axe Eugene'. Generally though I find the solo works a tad boring preferring Rick Wright's and Gilmour's sections to the other two members.Die hards may find not having this album unthinkable for me it seldom warrants a spin.
Report this review (#8274)
Posted Thursday, September 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A jewel, one of the most intriguing albums of all time, a crossover of jazz, fusion, noise, ambient, rock, folk, etc. there is not enough words to describe this record. Certainly, a complex concept recording that features the itch from every single member of the band to create a soundscapes, an experimental session to the bone!!! you really have to be in the right obscure mood to dig this album at once. Also, the live section is as astonishing as any other performance of contemporary groups (KING CRIMSON & GENESIS mostly). The live versions sound better than the studio recordings, and the energy they transmit through the speakers is magnificent, it is a pity that they featured only 4 songs, anyway, life is peachy. Listen carefully and with an open mind. enjoy
Report this review (#8275)
Posted Sunday, September 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Studio:

Don't listen while on crack, Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma" is nothing like their other albums; this one shows lot's of experimental tendencies and could be considered as an avant-garde album of sorts. Each member of the band wrote their entirely own songs here, but without having a direct song-structure to them except for on a few songs, it seems that the band wanted to do something different here. The result is, even today, very varied on opinions; some look on this one as a masterpiece, others hate it.

Looking on this one in it's musical entirely, it's mostly a mix of psychedelia and experimental music, but yet, all of the individual compositions are very varied from each other with different styles to them. Guitarist David Gilmour's contribution; "The Narrow Way" being the most accessible one, but it still has a very unusual style. The whole album has a dark and entangled feeling, it's in overall very unpredictable and extremely varied, therefore it's unfortunately also a bit uneven. Avant-garde/experimental fans will love this stuff, and PF fans who enjoy their 60's phase will most likely appreciate this, but otherwise, this one isn't something for everyone. I'll give this 3.5/5.


The live disc was performances recorded during the summer 1969. Only four tracks here, three of them taken from their first two albums. The performances are excellent, perhaps even better than the studio stuff, and it's a very promising live album overall. 4/5

Report this review (#8279)
Posted Thursday, December 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ummagumma: divided into 2 parts. 4 first songs are reasonable and melody logical, but second part is totally art prog music with no many logic as into the live part. 1. Astronomy Domine (8:29) Syd Barrett dimension of stars and paranoia, very rockish song, good and dinamic, except middle part. 2. Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Instrumental) (8:50) Song so original i cannot describe that universal song, with Waters chill scream, in the end is a india melody 3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (9:12) Turkish drums, tempo, mystical dark lyrics and voice of Waters. Gooooood. Mystical 4. Saucerful of Secrets (12:48) Psychedelic, 8 minutes, intro with percussions, chilling guitar, and pushing piano, middle section is organ solo, outro is beautiful with Gilmour a capella 5. Sysyphus, Pt. 1 (1:08) 6. Sysyphus, Pt. 2 (3:30) 7. Sysyphus, Pt. 3 (1:49) 8. Sysyphus, Pt. 4 (6:59) Great greece theme, with not so unreasonable tempo or melody, keyboard of Wright is only sound 9. Grantchester Meadows (7:26) British song from Waters, vocal and acoustic with sound of nature, 10. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and (4:59) psychedelic sounds of animals to rip your ear and monologue from some scottish man with pict language 11. Narrow Way, Pt. 1 (3:27) 12. Narrow Way, Pt. 2 (2:53) 13. Narrow Way, Pt. 3 (5:57) Rock story from gilmour, 14. Grand Vizier's Garden Party: Enterance, Pt. 1 (1:00) 15. Grand Vizier's Garden Party: Entertainment, Pt. 2 (7:06) 16. Grand Vizier's Garden Party: Exit, Pt. 3 (0:38) percussion story from Mason

Report this review (#8280)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars The absolute craziness, the epitome of psychedelic music ever made by Pink Floyd. This album ends their first musical phase which has been characterized by very experimental psychedelic albums, fusing the tendencies of an alternative British society fed up with the commercial movement created around BEATLES. So the album is the most psychedelic (delusional, crazy) you can imagine for that time. Just imagine the impact this had in conservator British society, they were seen almost like devil itself (!). I have listen stories of parties, when somebody wanted to finish them and send people away, he just had to put Ummagumma vinyl rocking!

This is a double album, and I was referring to the second of them, which have the studio originals. The first cd has some of their best tracks from the previous records played live, in longer versions reached by longer instrumental passages. It's worth it, very worth it, good live versions. From the psychedelic second cd, the only not instrumentals are Grantchester Meadows and The Narrow Play Part III. It starts with the majestic classic intro of Sysyphus Part I, part II continues with a classical piano sonata which then turns into a psychedelic disturbing piano. Part III joins a very psychedelic mellotron with a not less psychedelic drumming and noising background sound. Pure psycho. Part IV slows a bit the tension with a calm mellotron with background bird singing but then it turns back into part one's majestic arrangements. Grantchester Meadows is a vulgar song with acoustic guitar played for the friends in the calm of the nature. Several Species Of Small Furr shows an interesting knocks rhythm. More instrumentals in The Narrow Play parts I and II, leading to the beautiful melody of Part III (a oasis in this psycho album). Classical flute appears in The Grand Vizier's Parts I and II and part III ends the album with more psychedelic stuff, which I point out particularly the haphazard drum ending.

Ummagumma ends in a good way a cycle in Pink Floyd's music and it shows a convergence to classical music that would be the next album's flag. From now on, they started to point the way in globalizing their music, universalizing the psychedelic and space ideas, even if they have to almost abandon them.

My rate: 8/10

Report this review (#8281)
Posted Thursday, December 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
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.)

Report this review (#8283)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ah, Ummagumma. First of all, the live stuff. Some real nice hard rock here, although this tends to be a bit overrated. They extend all the songs with keyboard solos and kind of drifty moments, to be honest I was expecting more electric guitar work from Gilmour, a bit more solos, but no dice. Nice pieces of work, very well put together, just that it's not exactly marvelous. In some parts I can hear the tape crackling, so not the best audio quality ever. I like how on "Set The Controls..." it's dark and moody but then it peaks and gets very energetic, but then dulls down again, the same happens with "Careful With That Axe, Eugene". Also, I noticed in "Saucerful of Secrets", towards the end before Celestial Voices, the drum pattern is almost exactly the same as that on "The Nile Song". People say you should buy it just for the live stuff, they say it's the best stuff Floyd has ever done, yak yak yak. There's a lot more to the album than the live stuff. THEN TO THE STUDIO ALBUM, Rick Wright's "Sysphus" is all instrumental and at points is very relaxed and melodious, but then at points gets completely random, loud, and a little annoying. Not listening music really, just a glimpse into his mind in the form of sound. Then to Waters' bit, "Grantchester Meadows" and "Several Species...". The first track is a very gentile, relaxed, acoustic piece with beautiful lyrics. The, the infamous "Several Species..." starts out with sqeaking, chirping, small animal noises. Then someone saying what sounds like "cumber happ- eeeeee!" repeats about 200 times, and I thought the "oh, oh, oh, oh" echo noise in "Dogs" was repetitive, oh boy was I in for a surprise. Then a scotsman or someone imitating a scotsman talks for a minute or two in such an accent that I did not even understand a word. Then to Gilmour's "The Narrow Way" which was his first real shot at lyrics and music together, and it turned out very nice. Part I is a completely acoustic piece. Part II is heavier and more intense, the main riff is just like something Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath would do, just with a lot less distortion. Part III is where the lyrics kick in, and is easily the best bit of the studio album so far. It's almost like a glimpse into the future as it sounds like something off of Obscured by Clouds or even Dark Side of the Moon. Marvelous. Off to Nick Mason's "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" which features some pretty psychedelic experimentation. A lot of strange sounds that leave you wondering "Where in the world did that come from?", and a lot of tape work, sounds starting and stopping in a matter of seconds. All of them mixed together. This series can't be considered songs, just a collaboration of different sounds. A lot of people insult it, but I think it's pretty cool because I'll bet he had a lot of fun doing it. Out of the whole studio album, Gilmour's contribution is the best and most musical.

TO SUM UP IN ONE SENTENCE, THE BOTTOM LINE: Live album is very nice but overrated a bit, studio album (for the most part) can't be considered music, just a glimpse into each band member's mind in the form of sound.

Report this review (#8287)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars i am listening to ummagumma right now. and i must say, this album was done really well. this cd definitly takes you on a trip. i like to listen to the studio album late at night as i am going to sleep all alone in my big house, stoned of course, and i just love to hear all the different sounds and i like to get creeped out. the live disc is really good too. i am only 16 years old,a smart 16 year old at that and i dont know anyone else that is my age (excluding my best and only friend) that likes or even knows about this cd by pink floyd. whenever i bring pink floyd up, right away people are like "the wall, dark side of the moon!" if your lucky they will know the cd meddle. when really the best cds that shaped pink floyd into what it is, was the early stuff. syd was an amazing writer and syd was an amazing man, and it is truely sad that he wasnt in collaboration with this cd. (excluding astronimy domine) well done, well [%*!#]in done, i love this cd. definitly give it a 4.
Report this review (#8289)
Posted Monday, February 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Possibly the weirdest album ever (the closest thing to this one is Cream's "Wheels On Fire" and even that one is an ordinary thing compared to this). CD 1 is live and it's really good! I don't like "A Saucerful Of Secrets"'s studio's version, but live it's way better. The other songs are also pretty good, dark and well played. "Careful..." has a very creepy scream too, and it's a good song. The atmosphere of this CD is amazing. CD 2 is a bunch of experiments: each member got about half vynil side to put whatever they came up with. Rick gives us the sometimes scary "Sysyphus" and Roger puts in the "normal" folk song "Grantchester Meadows", but he follows it with "longest song title ever or something like that" which has a bunch of animals' sounds , which is entertaining. Dave's "The Narrow Way" sounds a bit more "normal, especially the last part which is the closest to the well known side of the band. And Nick's contribution sounds like a lot of noises but it creates some atmosphere, surrounded by some nices flutes. If you are into dark and trippy albums, you will probably enjoy it. But do NOT start with Pink Floyd here. CD 1: 4 stars, CD 2: 3 stars, but it's not good enough to get more than 3 overall.
Report this review (#8290)
Posted Monday, February 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars If you are a fan of very early, post-psychedelic Floyd, you will undoubtedly like this album. If you are a fan of sophisticated composition-driven progressive rock, you will likely hate this bizzarre mix of overly quiet acoustic tunes, live psychedelia, and electronic noodling. There is very little here in the way of melody, composition or musicianship. Boring, atonal, noisy and indulgent beyond belief.
Report this review (#8291)
Posted Monday, February 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cluster One
3 stars "Ummagumma" is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it is really only for the hardcore FLOYD fans out there.

As is most often the case with Live FLOYD, the Live part of the "Ummagumma" album is fantastic! The versions of 'Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun' and 'A Saucerful of Secrets' are superior to the studio takes. 'Astronomy Domine' is "PATGOD's" equal, and when you include a live 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene' absolute brilliance is achieved! FLOYD at their experimental and progressive best!

The Studio album of "Ummagumma" however, leaves much to be desired. Experimental: yes. Progressive: most certainly. Enjoyable: hardly. By pursuing solo pieces (much like YES' "Fragile") the member's efforts just do not add up to quite as much as it would have had they written together. Definitely a case of where the sum would haved equalled more than the individual parts.

Roger Waters' 'Grantchester Meadows' with its ambient nature sounds, footsteps, buzzing fly and meandering acoustic guitar is enjoyable but not memorable. 'The Narrow Way' (all three parts) is useful and worth taking note. Gilmour sounds confident, and I see a lot of "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" in his work on "Ummagumma". Very space-oriented, and dark with good use of acoustic, and electric sounds.

'Several Species...' is humourous in a Monty-Pythonesque kind of way (Tim The Magician anyone?) but very self-indulgent. Rick Wright's 'Sysphus' and Mason's (failed) percussion experiment entitled 'The Grand Vizier's Garden Party' are throwaways and seem to be left over from the "More" soundtrack/instrumental sessions.

The Live album is a masterpiece 4.5/5 stars. The Studio album is experimental, but highly flawed, 1.5/5 stars. Together, "Ummagumma" deserves a 3/5 star ranking. It's progressive, but not always in the best way.

Report this review (#8292)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ummagumma is my favourite Pink Floyd Album. The first disc is one of the best live recording ever made by a popgroup. The second disc is a amazing musical journey ( from avant garde to pop ). The highlight is the sublime live version of Careful With that Axe Eugene. I'm not a popmusicfan ( i love jazz and classical music ) but Ummagumma is for me a real 'Classic' and together with 'Islands' (King Crimson ) one of my favourite 'pop' albums ...
Report this review (#8319)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A note to the casual listener; this is an acquired taste. Early Floyd was an explosion of creativity, mostly due to the legendary imagination of Syd Barrett, so, including "Astronomy Domine" on the live section of this release gives him his due, as the others get in the studio tracks. The live performances , as good as they are, really lack their full impact, because you don't get to see the live show. Even the "Pompeii" video lacks this, camera work(good camera work at that) shows the band playing these MASTERPIECES, one can only guess why the show is so stripped down. On stage, they've always been a lights and sound experience, with really cool props, to boot. The live performances grow, breathe, take on a life of their own, a real group effort. Now, to right the wrongs; the studio disc is an exploration of what's possible in a recording studio. "Sysyphus" is broken down into four movements, and, although the CD begins part II with that thundering piano solo, anyone who owns the original vinyl record (remember those?) can tell you that part II is the the John Cage-inspired noisy part with all the Speeded-up voices and pandemonium. Part III is quiet, and part IV starts with the sud den loud organ and tympani, bookending the whole piece with a reprise of the opening theme, now more gothic and bone-chilling. And in its ugliness, beautiful. The Roger Waters segment is in two diametrically opposed parts. The quiet, lyrical "Grantchester Meadows" is a rare occaision where Waters actually sings, compared to later work, i.e. "The Wall." Segue into "Several Species..." a brilliant piece of studio work, that put the collage of sound in The Beatle's "Good Morning, GoodMorning" rightfully in its place. "The Narrow Way, parts I,II,and III", show David Gilmour's virtuosity(it's not spelled "Gilmore," those of you who have no eye or ear for detail), his ability to take you from a grassy field to an underground cavern, and form that into an elegant song and play guitar, piano, drums ,and bass as well. "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is the most underrated piece in this set. All those random drum sounds were sampled by Nick Mason with analog tape, and the creepy part in in the middle is the flute melody, backward. In all, highly recommended.
Report this review (#8323)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars In the days before 'Dark Side Of The Moon', Floyd were already a big underground hit. Nevertheless, after their first two albums, they lost their way somewhat, and produced some very average fair indeed. This was originally a double album, with the first disc being the live material, which makes up the first four tracks here. It is adequately played, and recorded, but nothing essential, the best track being 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene', always a favourite of mine. The second disc was made up of the individual member's compositions, and oh dear, oh dear, what a mixed bag we have here! By far the best is Gilmour's contribution, 'The Narrow Way' which is, whilst not memorable, at least tuneful and Floydian in texture. As for the rest - Wright's effort, 'Sisyphus', is a rambling, non melodic, quasi inferior jazzy piece that doesn't really hang together, and shows why he could never be accused of being in Wakeman's, Emerson's or Bank's league. Mason's contribution, 'The Grand Vizier' is even worse, being nothing more than a series of hesitant, obscurely meaningless tub thumping percussive pieces. Composition is not a word that could be applied here. Even Water's track, 'Furry Animals' is obscurely hideous, though it could be called a tad humorous for maybe the first couple of plays, before the truth of its meaningless reality is discovered. Floyd fans doubtless still play this and attempt to find some deep meanings behind it, but this is the equivalent of much modern art, where a couple of dabs of paint are supposed to point to undiscovered new horizons of genius! And yes, I am a big Floyd fan, but I know the difference between good and bad. It wasn't until 'Meddle' appeared that they were to show their true talent again. Three stars because of their legacy, and because the live material is quite good, but only two stars for the rest.
Report this review (#8325)
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ummagumma is probably the most difficult Floyd album to access. It is a voyage through the excess of psychedelia and experimental rock of the time. Divided in four parts, every member of the group get a chance to show thei talent and songwriting. Some works better than other, of course. The first part is Sysyhus, a Rick Wright mini-suite. It is a showing of his talent as a improvisator on the piano, nothing more. It has no real good moment, as it is a flowing of notes through wich we have to listen. Quite boring. It is for fans of experimental piano sets, with changing key singnatures without any goal. Wright was too self-indulgent here, and it is probably why he would stick to a more mood setting play after this album. Then comes Grantchester Meadows, a folk little song by Roger Waters, wich is a good but then he gives us the psychedelic ''Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and'', wich is mostly experimental and not really melodic and maybe non-musical. David Gilmour's the Narrow Way contains thrre part, all instrumental and showing Gilmour's talent at the acoustic and electric guitars, as well as good work on the electronic keyboards. Of course, Nick Mason's Grand Vizier's Garden Party is using all sorts of percussions in different ways, but then again it is purely experimental.

The live part is quite good, with four great songs all delivered in a great way. It shows that the band starts to hold up together, leaving behind them the great Syd Barret and going forward. The sound is quite different then on the studio versions, as all four songs are played louder and cleaner. Waters' bass is louder than ever, and holds up everything perfectly, especially on ''Careful With That Axe, Eugene''. Astronomy Domine is a great Barret classic and always good, but this version is maybe even better than the original one, as the amps are turned up and the sound has a new edge to it.

All in all, it is great to hear Pink Floyd live, but not if you can find a bootleg, go buy that one instead, as nothing is memorable, but still a good live album, maiking up for the too experimental studio album.

Report this review (#8326)
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Schizophrenic album. One part experimental, the other more Floyd conventionnal (live).

The experimental part isn't constant. Completely unpredictable. The concept is simple: all Floyd members has created a small songs concept:

Sysyphus (organ-piano exercice created by Wright), Grantchester and Several Species (studio works exercices, Waters), The Narrow Way is more acoustic oriented (Gilmour) and The Grand Vizier... is something strange... a morse code-exercice (Mason).

The other part contains four classics, specially the better Astronomy Domine version I ever listened (better than The Piper at The Gates of Dawn version) and CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE (beautiful crescendo). I hate live version but here...

However, I find that the experimental part is sometime TOO experimental for nothing (but Sysyphus and The Narrow Way stay excellent).

GOOD BUT VERY NOT ACCESSIBLE. yours to discover.

Report this review (#8327)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Who needs sanity and "sophisticated composition-oriented prog rock"? (what a snobish term...) Ummagumma is a record in which the listener has to be patient to discover all the secret details that the band put (sometimes randomly, other times very conciously) in this experimental record. I think that is not necessary to be on acid to enjoy this double album set, You just might be patient, lay down in a lawn surrounded by trees with this record in your discman, and open your ears -and mind- to this gift of Floyd. The symbiosis between the record and the nature will be almost immediate. About the live disc, it takes you right out of the place you're in, to make you dwell another dimension of your mind... just open it.
Report this review (#38586)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ummagumma,is a Pink Floyd Sleeper.I dont mean that in the way that its dull ,far from it,its one of those Floyd albums that only the true floyd fans like,one of the albums that the masses dont know about and have no idea about. In a way its like a test to see if your a true believer in there great music,its a great album,some of the best psychedelic music ever recorded.
Report this review (#39317)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Essential: a masterpiece of progressive Rock music. This album "Ummagumma" became the first 2 piece set album for PINK FLOYD. The space with heat and terrible has been born in the live recording. The studio work can learn an experimental desire and the appearance in which it tries and errs.
Report this review (#39415)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Liked by some, hated by many, this is the band's most experimental work, and their toughest one to listen as well. It is an obvious challenge to get into the unstable music found here, but one has to admit that this is one of the most original albums ever done, a very respectable tile of the experimental work wall. It's FLOYD at their most avant-garde and schizophrenic, and it's them at their most daring as well. It is divided in two albums: a live one with four tracks containing amazing versions of their respective studio ones and the studio one where each track is given for each member to work solely on.

The live contains the best rendition of "Celestial Voices" ever done by Dave, and the rest doesn't disapoint either. "Careful with that axe, Eugene" is being played much better here, "Set the Controls" has an amazing synth solo that is not featured on the studio version and "Astronomy Domine" has a long instrumental section at the middle which is very appealing and trippy. A live "Interstellar Overdrive" was meant to be at the album too, but ended up not being there.

The studio on the other hand is an acquired taste. The challenge can be very rewarding, though, as the dark beauty found on the four parts of "Sysyphus" may take a while to show up. Not everyone will enjoy this, though, mainly the ones who are more interested on the more mainstream oriented and easy to listen FLOYD. "Narrow Way" is another gem here and i love all its three parts, and Roger's two pieces aren't as great as Dave's and Rick's but do have some nice moments. "Grandchester Meadows" is a pleasant pastoral song a la "Cirrus Minor", and "Several species..." has probably influenced many post rock bands nowadays. The first and third movements of "Grand Vizier's..." have a neat flute playing by Nick's wife and the second part is quite bland and goes too long.

I think that this album deserves more attention and it is one of the few "grower" albums by the FLOYD. It is complicated and creative music, so give it a chance and Ummagumma may become a pleasant trip through the most insane corners of your mind.

Report this review (#41099)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
2 stars This double album is a perfect example of the progressive rock in the early Seventies: artistic freedom featuring many drugs-inspired experimentation and virtuosic self- indulgence. On the first track you can witness David Gilmour's effort in perhaps Syd Barrett's his most compelling composition "Astronomy domine". In my opinion this is one of the few highlights on this 2-CD set because I'm not realy pleased with the live renditions of "Carefull with that axe, Eugene", "Set the controls for the heart of the sun" and "Saucerfulof secrets", I prefer the "Pink Floyd at Pompeii" renditions. And the solo pieces from the individual members in general makes me cry, what a poor artistic efforts! Sleep well!!
Report this review (#41117)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is one of the Floyd's most complex to listen to. You have somewhat acquired taste for the studio album,but this album shows the indulgent experimental side of all the members. The live album is greatly made with some good versions. Astromoine Domaine is explosive with better guitar showcase then Barret and moving bass by Waters. Wright doesn't show much of a fight on his solo just smooth and relaxing. Careful With That Axe Eugene has some of the best guitar lines by Gilmour not the solo by him just the arpeggieated chimy chords listen to the original on Relics for better guitar work though. Masons durming is powerful.Set the Controls has got the best cresendo in the middle just building and building up to the song. Sauceful of Secerts is also a jam affair building into a little more up-tempo durm sequence and ending with the moving Cestial Voices or what ever the last part is call. The studio version is better we open with the grand opening of Sysyphus and to a classical comtemperary sounds of Wright on the piano ending with him scraping strings and rolling ball bearings across the Strings! typical avant garde like part3. Part four is a mendering organ solo with a bit of Silent Night in some places with reprises back to past one. Waters folkiness shines with the daydreamy wandering of Grandchester Meadows with a studio ending involling a fly being panned across the room with some whacking it dead. The Pict one is a wired one with Waters make animal noises by messing with the speeds on tape and ends with him in scottish accsent telling a story (god knows what). Dave Gilmour give an good Fahey impression with acostic ending with some manic slide work. Two is just a repetitive rift while part 3 has a melodelic rambling song about pasage of rites don't bother with lyrics. Mason's is with flute motif by his wife. Two is experimental with a old-school drummimg solo reprising with the flute song. Worth a listen. Sorry for poor spelling too.
Report this review (#42363)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
4 stars "Ummagumma" is a underground prog gem, it's the important bridge between psychedelic and prog and when you look back it can be considered as the most important step for Floyd to get in newer areas. The studio disc is extremely complex, very hard to listen allthrough. But when you really let you go with the music on this disc, you'll have a trip that you won't forget! It's absolutely magical and the atmosphere make this record work. The best way to listen to this record is to sit under a tree on a field on a sunny day with your discman and enjoy this experimental journey by Pink Floyd.

About the live album I mustn't say any thing more, all was said about this amazing record. You get a long live version of the great "Astronomy Domine", the culty "Careful With That Axe Eugene" and the psychedelic space-classics "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" (IMO the best Syd Barret-era track) and the atmospheric "Saucerful Of Secrets".

Finally I recommend this record to all prog fans in the world, it's one of the most important gems of the genre and is absolutely unique. It's not a masterpiece, the studio album is very experimental in widest parts, allmost unaccessible (except the chilling "Grantchester Meadows" with top-notch lyrics by Roger Waters and the awesome "The Narrow Way", which is a masterpiece IMO) and pretty forgettable.

All in all, "Ummagumma" is a very important historical document for the genre, which any progrock-fan should have in his collection, at least for the historical value. Fans who adore PF only because of "Dark Side Of The Moon", "Wish You Were Here" or "The Wall" will for sure feel turned off by this one. It's definitely not mainstream-compatible stuff, but a hack of interestening psych/folk/avant-garde. Cheers!

Ummagumma studio album: 6/10 points = 3/5 stars Ummagumma live album: 9/10 points = 5/5 stars

album rating: 7.5/10 points = 73 % on MPV scale = 4/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Report this review (#43221)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's an experimental album that has some impressive moments, but some parts are really annoying and boring. "Sysyphus" is a dark and incredible song, Richard Wright is magnificent. I always love Wright's style and compositions, even if it's slower and simpler than Wakeman, Banks or Emerson. "Grantchester Meadows" is simple, acoustic song with a beautiful melody. David Gilmour is starting to show his contrubution and talent with this album. IMO, "Narrow Way" is the best song in the studio album. Live album is better, even the previous studio releases of the songs. But there is so much weak moments in the album. I think I'm not the one who thinks "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is the worst song in a Pink Floyd album. "Several species..." is pointless and goes nowhere. IMO, it's a good album, but not for everyone. Just for Floyd fans.
Report this review (#43924)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I wouldn't recommend this album to people who have just started being Folyd fans.It's a really STRANGE album.The first disc is LIVE.It contains: Astronomy dommine, writteb by BARRETT.In this version Barrett is not in the band anymore.The vocals are done by Wright, Gilmour and, often by Waters.It's much longer than the original(It's two times longer_The original is 4 minutes long, and this one's 8 minutes long, and it's the SHORTEST on this disc!) Gilmour does a HEAD_KNOCKIN'-MIND-BLOWING guitar solo, and Wright does a strange keyboard solo in the middle.Careful with that axe, Eugene, almost gave me a heart attack , when I first heard it.It starts quite soft, but then, Waters says:"Careful with that axe ,Eugene" and makes a loud SCREAM and the heavy rock n' roll starts! It's a really strange song.Set the controls for the heart of the sun has a very mysterious style, Waters plays the gong from time to time, on this song.In the middle-section they do strage sounds with the keyboards and the guitar.The closing piece is A Saucerful of Secrets.The introduction is very good.In the middle, there is a part, in which they start to do strange noises, till it gets unlistenable(but it's a really good song for Floyd fans, like me). The second disc features solo studio projects by each member of the band.First, Richard Wright starst fooling around with the keyboards and some percussion making a four part piece called Sysyphus, it's a very good track for hardcore Pink Floyd fans, but maybe not for unexpierenced Folyd fans.Then comes Waters' two songs.The first one is Grantchester Meadows which is just Roger playing acustic guitar & singing.The other one is really strange, and good for a laugh:Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict , that is a 5-minute piece of strange kinds of animals like:Birds, and other "furry" insects.Gilmour's 3 part piece is "the Narrow way", which I think is the best one on the studio album.Gilmour does EVERYTHING here: He plays the guitar,bass, organ, piano, mellotron, drums and vocals! The last one is Mason's piece:Grand Vizier's Garden Party.He probably "cheated", because the flute is playd by his wife Lindy.Then, he starts creating new and catchy sounds. This album is amazing, but I'll give it 4 stars, because it's not Perfect(just that!), or just because The Wall is A BIT better.
Report this review (#45376)
Posted Saturday, September 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Actually 2,5 stars for a good live performance!

Ummagumma always had a reputation of a "cult" album meant for "enlightened" Floyd aficionados but take that image off and you will find an uneasy and underdeveloped experiment for the sake of experiment. The live set is far better half of the album, with songs arguably much stronger and more confidently delivered than on their earlier studio versions. This is particularly true for "Astronomy Domine" and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", which are still capable of sending shivers down my spine each time I listen to them. The studio set is unfortunately a redundant filler with highly unlistenable and acid- induced "playing with instruments" instead of making music, with possible exception in Waters' "Grantchester Meadows" followed by "Several Species..." where he is at least trying to create an atmosphere, using old sound effects previously heard on the Piper's "Pow R Toc H". You must be either a FLOYD collector or an enthusiastic music researcher to appreciate this album.

Report this review (#46193)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Just before the end of the Sixties, Pink Floyd did the unthinkable, and released a double album of four classic tracks done live in front of small audiences, and another side of freaky, experimental works that, at best, allowed each individual member a chance to display their own unique musical vision. This is Pink Floyd in their relative infancy - exploring uncharted territories of space and time and creating their own genre of art/space rock.

Studio Album

1. Sysyphus, Pt. 1, Pt.2, Pt.3, Pt.4 - . Richard Wright begins this odyssey, with Sysyphus, a hauntigly beautiful piece, full of his keyboard work. A wonderful intro. 4/5

5. Grantchester Meadows - One of the Floyd's best early songs with some of Waters' best lyrics. A great slow song. 5/5

6 .Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict - by far the most bizarre song ever dreamed up by Pink Floyd. If you listen closely, towards the end, one of the voices that make up this song seems to be saying "I need a hit" of acid ? 4.5/5

7 . The Narrow Way: Pt. 1 ,Pt. 2 , Pt. 3 - David Gilmour's guitar driven "The Narrow Way" is by far the most impressive, showcasing his great guitar skills. Beutiful Melody!! 5/5

10 - Grand Vizier's Garden Party: Enterance, Pt. 1- Entertainment, Pt. 2 - Exit, Pt. 3 - is a complex sound collage, which builds layers of percussion and stretches recording technology to the brink. It makes an interesting listen and the drum solo at the end of part two is superb. Nick closes the piece and the album with unassuming flutes. 4/5

Note : 4+5+4.5+5+4= 22.5

22.5 : 5 = 4.5

Live Album

1. Astronomy Domine 4.5/5

2. Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Instrumental) 4.5/5

3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun 4.5/5

4. Saucerful of Secrets 5/5

The live album is fantastic. Just four songs, but they're all classic early Floyd. Some tracks, sounds even better live than in it's original studio version.

Note: 4.5+4.5+4.5+5 = 18,5

18,5 : 4 = 4,6

Final Note : Ummagumma is like a Quantum Physics book ,it is almost impossible to cross ,It is obscure and unique in the way it sounds .But when you understand it ,you penetrate in a real new environment . I highly recommend this album.

4.5 + 4,6 = 9,1

9,1 : 2 = 4,5

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

Report this review (#55668)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the huge dissapointment that was the soundtrack to the film More, Pink Floyd finally get back to form with a double album: one side studio, one side live. The results show the best from both facets of Pink Floyd.

The studio album is split up into five songs, one by each individual member (except bassist Roger Waters, who has two). The studio side starts off with the brilliant, startling composition "Sysyphus" by keyboardist Rick Wright. This four- parts suite play more like a Mozart song than a Pink Floyd song, yet works out beautifully.

Next, Roger Waters treats us with the soothing "Grandchester Meadows", probably the most 'normal' song on the album, with brilliant lyrics and Waters not-really soothing voice making the song a unique part of this otherwise odd and delightful album. He follows it up with what may very well be the oddest song in Pink Floyd's library, "Several Small Species of Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict", which can only be considered as an early techno song made up entirely of animals.

Next up is Dave Gilmour, who performs the best song on the album "The Narrow Way", a guitar song that goes from mellow to thriving to soft before you know what's going on.

Finally, Nick Mason rounds it up with "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party", which is basically a 7-minute drum solo (but what else is a drummer going to do by himself?).

On to the live album, there's not much here that you won't hear on the splendid DVD "Live at Pompeii", but for those who haven't seen it, the song are performed great live and sound different than the album versions. It also includes the best version of "Carefull With That Axe, Eugene" you'll ever hear.

Overall, this is a great album for Floyd fans and a good comeback from the snore that was More.

Report this review (#55753)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Double CD/album Ummagumma (1969) shows how versatile this band were at this point. Two discs/albums in completely different style, and probably they could have made it a tripple album presenting a third musical direction. The first album (live) is hard and loud. The second (studio) is among the most experimental music they have recorded. This second album has an interesting mix of acoustic and symphonic experimental tracks and are far away from "space rock". One of my favourite Floyd albums. The next year they would go on with further symphonic exploring on "Atom Heart Mother".
Report this review (#59217)
Posted Monday, December 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Upon finding this alum at a garage sale and taking it home to listening to it, I was disappointed to find out that there such negative reviews towards it. However, upon listening to it, I was anything but disappointed. I had never heard of this album before, and surprised to find that it competed with their better-known albums in terms of musical originality and ideas. The studio part of the album is decent, and has some truly innovative moments (Several Small Species...) but the true treasure lies in the live tracks. All four six-minute-plus live songs are incredible musical masterpieces, from the mellow, desert- sounding "Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun" to the insane, progressing, surprising view into the mind of a killer of "Careful With That Axe Eugene". While just shy of Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here in terms of fantastic albums as a whole, Ummagumma is definitly worth obtaining, even if your not necessarily a prog music fan, or even a Pink Floyd fan.
Report this review (#59373)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you think that Pink Floyd abandoned the chaos that haunted Piper at the Gates of Dawn and echoed in A Saucerful of Secrets, then you need to listen to Ummagumma. It may not be as frantic as Pink Floyd's first two albums, but there is no question that Ummagumma is the most experimental and eerie album that Pink Floyd ever put together.

The live portion of the album is spectacular, but I prefer those on Live at Pompeii. But since Pompeii is a DVD and can't be listened to/watched everywhere, this is the next best thing. Plus, there is an brilliant and extended Syd-less version of "Astronomy Domine," which is well worth hearing.

What intrigues me more are the original compositions on the album which fully convince me that the individual members of Floyd were fully able to write interesting songs on their own as well as in a group setting. The styles on Ummagumma vary between classical, folk and rock, and always with an experimental mindset. Rick Wright's "Sysyphus" is ominous and foreboding, and is a genuine classical piano piece with plentiful improvisation/chaos in the middle. Next is "Grandchester Meadows," Roger's simple and pleasant folk tune, which gives the impression of a nice spring morning. "Several Small Species." would probably be the worst possible Pink Floyd song to listen to whilst on acid. It is quite scary at points, and shrill "animal" voices seem to chatter and snicker between each other until a booming voice jumps in and calls out in a hilarious made-up language! Gilmour's "The Narrow Way" starts off as an experimental, echoing guitar jam and morphs into a whimsical blues number which sounds similar to "Summer of '69" and "Fat Old Sun" if you've listened to Atom Heart Mother. Now, Nick Mason's contribution, "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party," starts and ends nice, with a soothing flute melody, but it becomes readily evident that this is just a drum solo, and an uninteresting one at that. It's fitting, I suppose, but not enjoyable.

I can see why some people wouldn't like Ummugumma. It is messy and chaotic, but can also be very interesting as well. It is not at album I would like to listen to every week, but at certain times and for certain moods, hardly anything else could do better.

Report this review (#60645)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With time I have grown to like this peculiar album quite much. The slang term of sexual intercourse used as the album title does not much refer to the record's themes, which also are lost to myriad paths of musician's psyche, like illustrated on the gatefold cover.

The first LP has wonderful live recordings from their "The Man and The Journey Tour". Though "Astronomy Domine" works best as opener of their debut studio record, it is interesting to hear extended improvisational play of now tighter quartet. Real high lights when compares to studio recordings are in my opinion both "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" and "Saucerful of Secrets", escaping the sterile calculations into organic interplay awesomeness.

The second vinyl with each musician having their personal art rock fantasy suites is fun, though the musical quality of these innovations seems lower as the revelation of personalities shimmering from these raunchy avant-garde displays. Wright's "Sysyphus" keeps futile pushing the rock on the mountain ever and ever again, the human psyche confronting its internal contradictions being protected from this divine fate via mortality. Maybe some related allegory is found from this unclear keyboard tests. Roger Waters managed to create two "songs" with silly names, visiting experimentation with recorded sounds and more soothing impressions from the summer-caressed pastures. From the album's inner gatefold cover, I was happy to see hove lovely lady a man is able to get, if being quite ugly bass player and beat-boxer of the group which focuses playing stoned [&*!#]. Richard Wright had circled around some ideas already on their earlier BBC radio sessions, crystallizing here as the random studio activities named "The Narrow Way". Nick Mason's final "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" aroused like other ca. ten minute long drum solo mannerisms of the 1960's rock record. Luckily his lady friend brought some flavor to these parties with her magick flute.

As a whole, I think these fine concert captures from the band's best live touring era and weird psychological study of the musicians form a personal double LP. For me this album proved that sometimes musical recording can be interesting and informative, though not being most favorable for intense listening.

Report this review (#61457)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Pink Floyd discography here in Brazil was a problem. "Atom Heart Mother" and "Meddle" were shyly realeased in 1972 and in the following year I guess due to tremendous impact of "Dark Side of the Moon" several 'oldies' were made available: "The Piper...", ASoS, "Obscured By Clouds", "More", "Relics" and "Ummagumma" - all of them alongside with the blockbuster DSotM. Can someone imagine the confusion when the work of 6 years is released almost simultaneously?

"Ummagumma" itself posed other problems: it was double and also it costed double the price! Even so I bought it - my first purchase of a double album, what an effort it was. The album obliged me to another effort: to know more about the band biography and discography and it took me several days to put things in order - remember that Google and Wikipedia weren't available then!!!

With chronology ordered I could enjoy "Ummagumma" more accurately and the result was fair. The double work contains everything that composed the early prog: psychedelism, space, experimentalism - all spiced by rock, blues, jazz and madness (Barrett's echoes perhaps).

It is obvious that certain parts are to be appreciated in special occasions, they are not so easy to be taken. The great track in the entire work is the haunting 'Careful with that axe, Eugene'; other songs from previous albums like 'Astronomy domine' or 'Set the controls...' are listenable as they were before; individual works like 'Sysiphus', 'Narrow way' and 'Grand Vizier's are not for beginners just like the weird 'Several species etc'. A Floyd fan that started his/her fandom after DSotM shall maybe have difficult to swallow "Ummagumma".

A work with several disputable moments but after all an obligatory record for any prog collection. Total: 4.

Report this review (#61536)
Posted Saturday, December 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars First Floyd double album and one of the first ever. First disc contains live material recorded between April and June of 1969. Quality of sound is good and the music quatily is even great. It's fine documentary of early live Floyd. Second disc contains solo work of each band member. It was an idea by Rick Wright. So each of them recorded about 12-13 minutes of material with better or worse (I don't like this word) result. My favourite is Dave Gilmour work called Narrow Way parts I-III. First part resemble a folk instrumental. Second is a dark and grim instrumental with interesting theme. Third part is a dark song with very good atmosphere. Waters offered us folk ballad Grantchester Meadows and experimental thing with longest tittle ever - Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict. Wright's part includes avantgarde piano composition - Sysyphus. Mason gave us composition managed on several percussion instruments.

Generally - album is good.

Report this review (#64724)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Disk One.

The flagship album from the pre DSOTM era, and the last live recordings from the band for some time. The Live side was recorded at various venues in early 1969. It generally has a nice 'retro' vibe, yet one presumes that Pink FLoyd were trying to sound technologically advanced. The Wirr of Dave and Rick's echo units in the space section of Set the Controls... suggests otherwise, bt most excellent none the less. This is really a one off, a good quality recording of Pink FLoyd from 1969. Their Concertgebouw performance form later on in 1969 survives in clearer sound quality, and is arguably more experimental, and their Amogies Pop Fesival performance exists in the form of three charming mono tracks. But thats not entirly relevant.

Disk Two.

Wow, here each band member was allowed a little bit more airspace to 'do their thang', and although they sound a little strained to fill vinyl at times (come on Nick, thats just drum noise editted...) the results are pleasing. Water's Granchester Meadows is lush, and the track survived into the concert listings until 1970, they even filmed a performance of it for the KQED channel! Elsewhere Dave comes up with three interesting peices, although all a little repetetive. The first one is basically acoustic, and extends from an original 1968 idea they recorded for the BBC. This track was resurected later in 1969 for the soundtrack of Michaelangello Antonioni's film Zabreski Point, with a much more interesting version recorded.

Report this review (#68303)
Posted Saturday, February 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars One part live and one part studio, what a great double album! Kidding of course, Ummagumma is almost totally disposable. The live part is great though, but of course you don't really need it, nobody really needs live albums. You'll never listen to it if you have the studio versions of these songs. The studio part of Ummagumma is so horrible that only a hardcore masochist could love it and there's no point in discussing these "songs" because the band is just dicking around. They probably just got some Zappa albums for the first time and were real exited about this thing called avant-garde music. Of course they didn't have a clue what they were doing and pretty much soiled their pants. So stay away, unless you really need those live tracks.
Report this review (#68403)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ummagumma is a good album!!!! I remember the first time i heard it in 1997. I was a teenager and could understand this estrange and ethereal music. That sudden noise in Sysyphus Part 4 is frightening.

Just a masterpiece of progressive and psychedelic music!

I just love "The Narrow Way"...

Pink Floyd lives forever!!!!!


Report this review (#69172)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Firstly let me say that I was exposed to this album as a very young child and fell for it straight away. In fact, it forms, along with The Beatles and The Moody Blues, part of my first exposure to music and as such my attachment to it makes it hard to broach criticism of the record, which I consider to be damn near perfect and fulfills all the criteria I have for great music. The live record contains what I consider to be superior versions of all four tracks, previously available elsewhere - "Saucerful of Secrets" in particular simply "breathes" whereas the earlier studio version sounded a bit stilted and studied. The band sounds loosed from their bonds on each track and each note is played with both an icy precision and an intensity of feeling that makes them, to my ears at least, totally compelling. But it's the studio album that appeals to me most. Generally dismissed in this cynical age as pretentious hippy BS this listener has doted on every track of sides 3 and 4 ever since his first encounter with the record. "Sisyphus" is an utterly evocative tone poem from a seriously talented guy who knows his Messiaen as well as his Mendelssohn. "Grantchester Meadows" invents ambient music years before Professor Eno gave it a label and "Several Species" is a hoot. What's wrong with muso's having a sense of humour?! No-one has the guts to do this stuff now and more's the pity. "The Narrow Way" is beautifully creepy, especially Part Two which gives me the heebie-geebies even now when I play it on guitar. Mason's effort, "The Grand Vizier..." suffers from being a drummer's track but at least it isn't "Toad" - if you know what I mean - and the "Entrance" and "Exit" theme is genuinely pretty. The Floyd themselves may dismiss it and so do loads of other music critics - I once bought a DVD doco of the album which slagged it mercilessly from beginning to end - but I love it simply because it has no barriers, no punk-era limitations on what can or can't be done on a rock record. It's not pretentious because they're not trying to be something they're not. It's not merely "a product of it's time" because it is so utterly unlike anything else of it's time - Remember, by 1969 Dylan had gone country, the Beatles had gone back to basics after the baroque psychedelia of Pepper and their own era of experimentation ( eg Strawberry Fields / Walrus / Revolution # 9 ) and The Stones had gone full circle and become the world's greatest country-blues bar band. It's not a drug album cos I doubt any of the members of the Floyd were dabbling in acid after Syd's "demise". But post 1977 ( Rock's Year Zero, the Stalinist yardstick by which all popular music is judged. "Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust"? I don't think so, Jim. ) "Ummagumma" gets consigned to the gulag with all the other albums which don't conform to the formula. No skinny ties. No dirge-like songs in minor keys vaguely nihilistic lyrics. No adolescent peacock strut. No angst. Just music, made by people not too intimidated not only to step outside the square but blur its vertices. It's music that doesn't have barriers. And that's what I think is so good about it.

Report this review (#69767)
Posted Friday, February 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Close your eyes, open your ears. What do you see, black. What do you hear, a legion of your very own thoughts, circling your head as your past memories and emotions are summoned. If you are smart you are listening to prog, and if you are wise you are listening to Ummagumma, by Pink Floyd. Ummagumma will not only scare you away from it after the first intimidating listen, but it will cause your head to feel these bizarre and frightening emotions and thoughts. Ummagumma will evoke a hostile black in your eyes, a black of many shades. A black of the smoke from Hell in "Sysyphus". A black for the uncharted outer-galactic regions of space in "Astronomy Domine". Or perhaps a black resembling the murkey lands explored by Nick Mason in his "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party". What ever black you see, and what ever thoughts are summoned in your head by this album, just remember that it is the very best Pink Floyd has to offer, pre-Dark Side or not, it is the absolute best of Pink Floyd.

Ummagumma is a double album, consisting of one live disk, one studio disk, and alltogether eight mini-epic songs. The album name sounds like something a witch would say just before her spell would take effect and turn you into a primal spiked beast who's only purpose is to torture with sharp claws and tusks. Upon close inspection, the seemingly simple album cover is truly haunting, disturbingly moving, mind boggling and is only a stroke of genius in this painting of an album. Look at Dave's face on the front of the cover, it's almost as if he is trying to tell you to beware before entering. I'm sure even he was bewildered when he heard the final product. It took quite a surprising amount of skill to match so perfectly the cover art to the music caged within. And that is deffinetly something Pink Floyd have aquired now, is skill. Skillful playing, skillful writing, skillful cooporation when live on stage, and a skillful amount of improvement from their last studio A Saucerful of Secrets. It seems Pink Floyd fit almost perfectly into the progressive section of music, hmm... imagine that.

All four songs on the live album are amazing. No slow blues here, just mind altering space rock jams that set the standard for live prog. Each of them are leaps beyond their studio versions that were already very good. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" is my absolute favorite on the entire double album, and one of my favorites in all the Floyd catologue. The song really is the most perfect example of a rise, climax, and descend. Each section equally entertaining. It's no wonder they perfected the song's dinamic changes, section lengths, and emotion considering three of them came from an architectual school. The song is really a monument that architectual musicians should be required to study if they wish to construct such a song.

Dave justifies his stay in the band and Nick is a bomb just waiting to go off. You never know when the dam* guy is gonna kick it up a dozen notches and actually play some really entertaining rythyms that can get a little tricky at times. The guy may be preety predictable in that studio room behind his drum set, but on stage he really is someone else, putting whatever he can into the music to make you say, "Wow, I wonder how they came up with that idea?", or even make you head bang while bashing imaginary drums in the air. I love Rick in the studio during the 60's so it's needless of me to say he is my favorite live. He isn't fast or unpredictable here, but not to worry, he is really touching with his chords, solo's and melodies. Roger is nothing special with instuments live, but I'm sure he wrote a good amount of the new sections to the live versions, so he did his fair share. Singing though, he can really get in touch with Syd's voice on "Astronomy Domine", especially at the end when him and Rick sing together during that last verse.

Well, I'm sure the live album didn't scare you away like I said the studio would, so don't think you got out of the best part yet. As if the live album weren't mind blowing enough, they throw in another four, this time studio, mini-epics to scare you off.

I like to think of the studio pieces as all one piece, each with their own sections. Don't believe the album and think that Dave's contribution is three connected songs, it is really one song. Roger's two contributions are one song as well. Same with Rick, and the same with Nick. Think of each member's addition as each way you can write a mini-epic. Nick's aproach is to have the main piece bookend by and intro and end. Hey didn't we see the very same thing in the album Animals' layout, ya Pig's on the Wing was a bookend, and that worked perfectly, but somehow many people don't see this and blame Nick for writing rubbish on Ummagumma, and contributing nothing to Animals. Both statements are indeed wrong. Dave chose to have his mini-epic open with an instrumental, then go to an opposite style of playing, then have it go to a nice blues song. Roger chose to write about nature, how it can either be heavenly peacefull, or appocaliptic and scary. He is brilliant for how he chose to switch from one half of his mini-epic to the next, by swatting that fly. Rick's mini-epic has many styles and goes from one to the other rather forcefully, not as flowing as Dave, but I see it as a good thing and just another way this album is so conflicting with itself. It never repeats anything, everything conflicts.

The studio efforts may seem "inferior", "unfocused" or even as claimed by the Roger, "Utter peices of s**t" but that is only at a first glance. This is another heavily overlooked prog album to the fullest extent of the meaning so it deserves just as much attention as any prog album. I'm sure the reason this wonderful album is overlooked so badly is because the studio side seems like meaningless experimentation that should have been collaborated on. I thought the very same thing too at one point, and I was never more wrong in my life. The studio side is much more focused with only one writer per song. It gives it that unchallenged direction that the other members would have misguided. I promise Dave would have put Roger's song on the wrong path if he added anything, Roger knew where to take it, and it went even beyond it's destination.

Think about it, how can the studio side truly be unfocussed if each song is written and played alone? If they really did collaborate the album would be less than half as good. Each member knew what they themselve's wanted to do, and if any of the other members tried to add more to the other's song, then the song would lose much of it's meaning and soul. What could Roger have done to Sysyphus, really? Rick captures the emotion of the song's intent perfectly, there is no way Roger could have depicted life in Hell in the story of Sysyphus any better than it was portrayed by Rick. Rick really shows us his creative, classical, progressive, intelligent and angry side in his four part mini-epic.

Roger finally beats Simon and Garfunkle at their own game with peaceful songs about nature. This song especially shows the production improvement from their last album, the birds are crystal clear, and Roger's voice is like an angel on your shoulder wispering in your ear, you can practically feel his breath on you! However this utter bliss is creatively ended once the seemingly peaceful man swats a poor innocent fly. We soon recieve an instrumental featuring nothing but sound effects and voices put in directions unknown to the unprogressive part of society. At one point Roger's noises and voices are like instruments playing a song, but to soon does it go from instruments to hundreds of scurrying creatures running to produce more chaos in an already anarchic forest. I don't want to talk to much about Dave's mini- epic. I love his but much has already been said and I think Nick's is more important to explain.

Nick decides to open and close with beautiful flute peices that work great for the song, and the ending of the album. Here's something I know that no-one noticed before. At the start of the second movement, the flute part is reversed backwards, BUT the reversed flute part is exactly the same as Rick's melody in movement one of Sysyphus. Whether this was intentional or not I have no idea, but that just goes to show how undeservingly Nick's contribution gets overlooked. Nick really spices the track up with a atmospheric melotron part too. The battle section right after is more interesting once you learn to pay attention you ADD'ers. A lick will be played on the right ear, and then the left ear will play it very simily but with subtle differences, and it's so cool one it gets to the climax and the left and right ear get faster and more precise and then comes a jaw-droping drum solo.

I rambled quite a bit, but I hope you read it all and know that this album is really serious, it's not just some random playing around in a studio with 100% experimentation kind of album. Listen to it alot, it takes a while, but you will soon see you own favorite subtlies to the album, live and studio sides, that make you never want to visit the After Dark Side era of Floyd again. To much emotion and genius was put into this album for it to be thrown aside. For those of you that only like it some, but not as much as I do, give it more time and attention, It is my favorite double album, even ahead of Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans, which is another 5 star double album. I could have written a whole lot more, but I'll spare you, I'm sure you've suffered enough through my insane ramblings, but I guarantee that the songs are anything but insane ramblings. This album is only for prog lovers so don't venture into it and come out thinking it's crap. This should be the last Floyd album you check out because of it's difficulty to get into.

Enjoy it, I know I do.

Report this review (#73987)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars One half live, one half studio, Ummagumma is arguably Pink Floyd's most controversial album. The experimentation and the creativity on this album is astounding, but sometimes ideas are a little too contrived and a little too forced, in my opinion, as well as sometimes it seems that certain points of the studio side drag and are used to fill the gap of time. The live half of it, though, is a masterpiece, because at this time Pink Floyd live was an exciting thing to see, with every song getting some new tweak and some little addition that makes each listening a unique and profound experience. The idea behind the studio side of the album is that each musician in the group got 10-12 minutes of space to create and experiment with whatever they wanted, sometimes the results are astonishing and thought-provoking, and sometimes they are just a little too... how do you say... out there... regardless, though, this is a strong album mainly because of the stellar live portion.

The live half of the album opens up with Astronomy Domine, and is a bit of an homage to the old days of Floyd when Gilmour had not yet joined and Syd Barrett was the leader and the shaper of the band's sound. The extended middle section features great musicianship from Wright and Gilmour. Careful With that Axe, Eugene is an instrumental piece that got it's only truly official release on this album (as far as I know). Smooth drumming and jazzy overtones are augmented with spacious and echoey vocals, which is shortly followed by mixed noises. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun has always been a better song live than in the studio, and this version is no exception. The orchestral sounding percussion from Nick Mason is joined by a strong guitar melody and haunting organ work from Wright. A Saucerful of Secrets ends the live section of the album, and it really ends it with a bang (literally). Mason is a machine on this track and really shows that he can play the drums well when he puts his mind to it. Waters also joins him on percussion on this track, and he goes on a tangent of his own as well. Wright and Gilmour are the rhythm section on this song, and their dissonant chordal passages fit well with the sonic chaos from Mason and Waters. To sum it up, this is some of the best live stuff you can get on record from Pink Floyd.

But is it all that good? The studio, however, seems to me to have forced bits that are only there to help fill the gap of time. Sysyphus, Rick Wright's piece on the album, is a dissonant experiment on the piano and various organs. The dissonant chords seem randomly played and the improvisational nature of this track is stunning, yet it does seem to go on a bit and at points you may get tired of the insanity. Grantchester Meadows is the first of two Roger Waters tracks, and it really is a brilliant counterpoint to the insanity of Wright's work. A quiet acoustic tune accompanied by mixed wilderness noises is what you can expect here. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict is the second Waters tune, and it really takes the experimental nature of Floyd and gives it a twist. The haunting track is a series of random noises and seemingly shocking voices being repeated for about 5 minutes. It doesn't really compare to Waters' first track on the album, though. The Narrow Way is David Gilmour's piece on the album, and it certainly is the strongest on the whole studio side. The melodies that he presents are strong, heavy, dissonant, and beautiful all at the same time. The studio portion is rounded off by Nick Mason's expected drum solo. It kind of drags and it seems that Mason was really trying to waste some time on it in my opinion.

Overall, this album is strong in the live aspects, but weaker in the studio aspects. I can respect the creativity and the experimentation that Pink Floyd were... dare I say... experimenting with on this album, but in the end I feel a bit cold about the studio side and often revert to the live portion of the album. For Pink Floyd aficionados, this album should be right up your alley, if you can stand the experimentation that is. 3.5/5.

Report this review (#77429)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is downwright wierd. If you're not use to PF, you aren't ready for this one. The live is amazing, although I thing Astronomy Doming and Set the COnrtols are a litttle drawn out. The versions of Careful With That Axe and Suacerful of Secrets (I prefer Gilmour's vocals instedat of the choir in the studio album) are awesome to the nth degree

Here's my opinion on the studio album

Sysphus (3/5): an odd track by Rick Wright, mostly loud jamming, that kind of gets repitive but remains interesting

Grantchester Meadows (4/5): Generally considered the best track on the stuido side, and I would agree, while a little drawn out and mellow, it is by far the most interesting and thoughtful

Several Species.....(5/5): I have to love this track just because it is so downright wired. Two parts: animal noise and then inane babblings of one of the band memebers (I think Gilmour)

The Narrow Way (5/5): Another good song, and the vocals on pt 3 are different then what I'm used to, but still pretty good

Grand Vizier's Garden Party (2.5/5): a prog version of "Moby Dick" with out guitars, that's the closet I can describe it. Interesting drum work by Mason, but a liuttle drawn out and boring

4 stars

Report this review (#78525)
Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This was the first album that I listened from Pink Floyd in 1975 or in 1976. My oldest brother bought it then. This album has one of the funniest cover designs (also one of the best) that I have seen, done by Hipgnosis.

The music in this album is psychedelic and experimental. Some parts even sound like "musical hallucinations", "mind trips". I have to say that I never have used drugs, but this album is maybe "like a LSD trip", or something like that.

The recording of this album is not very good. This is more reflected in the live tracks, being recorded in 1969. From the live tracks I prefer "Astronomy Domine" and "Careful with that Axe Eugene". "Set the Controls to the Heart of the Sound" and "A Saucerful of Secrets" also have some interesting things, but they become noisy and they even sound like "horror movie music" in some parts.

The studio tracks are more interesting, and they are more experimental, even with some humour in some parts. They were recorded individually by each composer, so every member of the band had the chance to experiment.

"Sysyphus" has good keyboards and percussion by Rick Wright. He even plays a very good piano section.

"Grantchester Meadows" and "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" are two songs by Roger Waters, with sound effects and a bit of humour.

"Narrow Way" is another experimental piece of music by David Gilmour, with guitars,drums and sound effects, plus a bit of keyboards, and some funny noises too.

"Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is a musical piece composed by Nick Mason, with his wife playing brief flute parts. In this musical piece, Mason plays drums and percussion, adds sound effects, tape effects, and even adds some funny noises too.

Maybe this album is not very easy to be listened and liked. It really deserves repeated listenings to appreciate better the best parts of it.

Report this review (#81784)
Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars There were about 20 albums that were a sure bet to take me to outer and inner space and be a great trip when mellowing out from multiple hits of Owsley, Windowpane, or Sunshine. This was one of them. Haven't listened to it since; it's in a storage shed... I've moved multiple times since then and haven't discovered any forgotten stash.....too bad. I just heard some Floyd on Sirius and it reminded me of Ummagumma.

I saw Pink Floyd live just a little before this album came out. I'll never forget it, so for me maybe this album brought back some of that nostalgia as well, and I'm over-rating it as I probably would all the 60's bands I saw. Then again, I probably only took the trouble to spend the money and time on the ones that I thought were great.

For those of you who missed this era, this album is quintessential psychedelic rock and is absolutely required listening. My ears aren't so good any more, but there really are some beautiful and weird sounds in this one that make great music as well. When they did the gong live, it was in 4-channel and went around the room one way while the drums went around the other. It was truly 'far out'.

Others rate more recent Pink Floyd albums as better; I disagree....this was their peak.

Report this review (#88011)
Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmmm, it's strange that in an era when the Floyd were seemingly writting soungs with their eyes closed that they issue perhaps this rag-bag of odds and ends.

The live side is generally fine, allthough the actual recording is not the greatest of quality. The studio side includes perhaps this eras finest momments in Granchester Meadows and The Narrow Way, but the rest of this side leaves a lot to be desired.

Consider how good this album could have been had it included the Embyro and some of the Zambriske Point tracks - of even just issuing "The Man / The Journey" - Floyds live extraveganza from 1969.

An interesting piece, but considering the bands song writing talents at this time, a MASSIVE missed opportunity.

Report this review (#88862)
Posted Sunday, September 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I had boughten the pink floyd collection backwards. I started with CDs like a momentary lapse of reason and division bell and worked my way throug.( the wall, darkside of the moon, animals, wish you were here, medel) Then i bought ummagumma for 20 bucks and I was impressed. A coupke of songs don't have beat or rythem but the songs that did were excellent. For anyone to experience what it was like making music in the 60s, i suggest this CD.
Report this review (#89968)
Posted Monday, September 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Team
3 stars I have known this album for quite some time. It was one of my early introductions to Pink Floyd. A friend had this, and "Dark Side of the Moon." I took to the latter right away, and soon had my own copy. "Ummagumma" remained more of a novelty. It was just so freaky, that it seemed cool. I had no idea what the musical or creative benefits were. There wasn't much deep analysis going on then.

Years later, my college roommate had it. The live stuff was great (I still had yet to her the original versions of these songs). The studio side was selectively played. There was still no patience for detailed investigation of the longer pieces.

A few years back, I finally got my own copy. "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" and "A Saucerful of Secrets" had become favorites since my college days. The live versions still enthralled, but the studio tracks continued to elude me.

I must say that I have always enjoyed the Roger Waters tracks. "Grantchester Meadows" is a lovely piece, and points the way to his later sound. "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" is a great experimentation with sound samples, and effects.

My opinion has changed on Gilmour's "The Narrow Way." I used to find it a tad boring, but now I appreciate the subtleties. The only problem is the whirring noises added to part one. It detracts from what is otherwise a quality piece.

Nick Mason's "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" leaves a lot to be desired. The winds on the "Entrance" and "Exit" are quite nice, but those parts are brief. The percussive noodle-fest that makes up part 2, while interesting, does not hold up to repeated listens.

I find Richard Wright's contributions to be nothing more than experimentation without much of a purpose.

This is an album that should be checked out. However, I would hardly call this necessary for a collection. "Careful With that Axe, Eugene" is unique to this album, and the Waters and Gilmour originals are good. If not for that, this album would only get two stars.

H.T. Riekels

Report this review (#93415)
Posted Wednesday, October 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Ummagumma" is a two album set, one live & one studio, released by Pink Floyd in 1969. Due to the length of the songs on the live album, and the solo nature of each of the songs on the studio album, I've decided to rate & review each song individually, and then give some comments about the albums in their entirety at the end. Keep in mind that the song ratings are only partially related to the overall album ratings. There are some real gems on this double album. How they work together, however, is a different story. Anyway, here goes.

Live Album:

"Astonomy Domine" (4/5): This is quite good--doing justice to the original studio version by Syd Barrett. Those who have only heard the version on "Piper..." may be shocked to hear how good it is without the original singer, but it must be noted that Gilmour needed to play this song live most of the time due to Barrett's inability to perform with his rapidly deteriorating mental state. It's a bit long in the tooth at the 5:30 mark, but it comes back nicely.

"Careful With That Axe...Eugene" (5/5): As far as I know, this is the only version of the song on an album until Relics was released in 1971. It was very well done, with Water's screams about as primal as they can be. Each of the movements has theme and directionality, and so, carries the listener to another place. This is the best track on the live album.

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" (4/5): It contains a great instrumental/drum roll intro that was better than the studio version released in 1968. The lyrics are too soft, just barely audible. The instrumental section blows away the studio version. There is an interlude of sound effects for those who appreciate them. But the song fades out at end with no audience feedback. I Wonder what that's about. Maybe the particular version they liked happens to go on for another twenty minutes, so they cut it back.

"Saucerful of Secrets(4/5)": I don't think I truly appreciated the studio version until I heard this live version. It's very spacey. As with the studio version there are three distinct parts of this song: free-form space, drums & space, and finally, a requiem. The first and second parts are excellent and due justice to the studio version. However, I believe the vocal portion of the requiem is a little better on the studio album than live. But I should mention that it is a bit longer live, and it's somewhat more satisfying in that regard.

Studio Album:

"Sysyphus, Pt.1" (4/5): This is a great start to the album, which totally sets the dark mood for what is to follow. It sounds like the beginning of some science fiction movie, with banging orchestral drums, eerie keyboards. Unfortunately, it moves, without a break, right into Part 2, a less than satisfying instrumental.

"Sysyphus, Pt.2" (3/5): The beginning of this part marked by light Piano work which sounds like it could be taken from any great piano concerto. About a minute and a half into the composition, it degenerates into extreme atonality. Luckily,that portion of the composition only lasts for about 2 minutes. Three stars may be too generous for this ultimately unsatisfying, piece, but it is original and experimentative.

"Sysyphus, Pt.3" (2/5): This piece is a combo of piano, drum cymbals, and some sound effects, many of which will be used later in Waters' "Several Species..." song. The inital sound is reminicent of the soundtrack for "Planet of the Apes". But it becomes rather cacaphonous and atonal from about the midway mark until the end. It's pretty redundant in relation to Part 2.

"Sysyphus, Pt.4" (4/5): Here we have very spacey sound effects with some organ tapping out some light and somewhat atonal movements. In the middle comes the orchestral drums again, then it moves back into the spacey sound effects/organ. There is a crecendo of atonality before it moves back into the orinal theme developed in Part 1. Here at least, the experiment in atonality has some direction. It's better than parts 2 & 3.

"Grantchester Meadows" (4/5): This is the first of the two lyrical pieces on the studio album. It provides light acoustic guitar accompanyment to a very pastoral, folksy kind of song (birds are chirping in the background). The lyrics are extremely image laden, and are sung very well with a rhythm that seems to break at the end of each line of the chorus. It's similar to a Simon & Garfunkel acoustical rhythm & melody, but with better lyrics. This could have been a 5/5 song if only there was guitar accompanyment from an accomplished guitarist, especially during the musical interlude between the 2nd and 3rd verses.

"Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict" (4/5): It begins with sound effects reminicent of those on Sysyphus, Pt. 3, but developed further to mimmick the pittering of tiny feet. Towards the end, Waters starts speaking like an angry pict (Roman era Scotsman), who seems to be talking with the small furry animals. There is experimentative and original use of tape effects, and is quite novel and amusing, but I'm not sure you can call this music. I AM sure the stoners will enjoy it.

"The Narrow Way, Pt. 1" (4/5): Tape effects lead into a light acoustical song. It's very soothing after "Several Species...", and very nice to listen to. Spacey effects build up later in the song and lead in to the heavier sound of part 2.

"The Narrow Way, Pt. 2" (4/5): This track provides a heavy, gloomy electric guitar with bongo style drumming and tape effects accompanyment. Effects become more prominent as the song progresses, but always that gloomy guitar line, albeit at a much lower volume.

"The Narrow Way, Pt. 3" (4/5): The spacey guitar picks up the effects from previous part and moves into a lyrical piece that's pretty good. It has a certain Beatle's feel to it, similar to "She's So Heavy" off "Abbey Road", but much better, and without the repetitive riff. As with "Grantchester Meadows", parts 2 & 3 of this composition could have been a 5/5 song with proper accompanyment--in this case, the drums.

"The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, Pt. 1" (3/5): This is a short, pleasant flute piece that gives way to a drum roll.

"The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, Pt. 2" (2/5): The tape effects and drums sound like 1970's spooky background TV music. It's spacey and experimental, finally moving into a conventional but short drum solo. One gets the feeling that this composition wants to go somewhere--build towards something magnificent, but ultimately falls flat. It's fine for stoners, but doesn't really seem to go anywhere for the rest of us.

"The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, Pt. 3" (2/5)= Here's the same flute piece from Part 2, but without the drum roll. It's repetitive and unnecessary.


There's not much to say about the live album other than it is very enjoyable. The music is great and very satisfying, but the sound quality leaves much to be desired. I give it a solid 4 stars. The fact that "Interstellar Overdrive" could have been included and wasn't, the barely audible vocals on "Set the Controls...", and the poor audio quality in the rest of the pieces prevent the live album from getting a rating of 4.5 or better.

The studio album requires a bit more explanation. The primary concept of this album was to give each band member a chance to demonstrate their skills, each with about half an album side to pursue a solo project. It's kind of like each member saying, I've got a right to be in this very progressive/experimental rock band, and here's why. In that regard, the studio album is moderately successful.

This album is brimming with potential, but it is hampered by the solo member concept that it was wedded to. I can't help feeling that this album could have been much better if this concept was ditched after the songs were written, but prior to recording. The two lyrcal songs ("Grantchester Meadows" & "The Narrow Way") could have been better if they had some collaboration, or at least accompanyment, by other members of the band more practiced in their respective crafts (guitar & drums). Furthermore, a change in song position on the album alone could have produced a better flow, rather than resting on the flawed and unimaginative concept of segregating each member to their walled portion of the album. And some of the pieces could be dropped completely without any loss to the album, and perhaps much gain. "Sysypus Pt. 3" is redundant and directionless and should have been dropped. And "Grand Vizier's Garden Party, Pt.2" is so poorly developed, it should have been dropped or at a minimum, re-worked. There are some real gems here, but the album could have been much better with more professional accompanyment, collaboration, better song position & some song drops. So, I give the studio album 3 stars.

Even with all its flaws, "Ummagumma" (as with many early Floyd albums) becomes more listenable, the more one listens to it. Four stars for the live album, and three for the studio. So, overall I give "UmmaGumma" 3.5 stars. So, there it is. What could have been a 4 or 5 star effort is reduced to an official 3 stars.

And here is a special note to all casual Floyd fans, BEWARE! This is not "Dark Side of the Moon", nor is it "Wish you were Here". This is Pink Floyd in their most experimental phase. Atonality is incorporated into several of the pieces. Tape effects are used on nearly every studio track, lyrical and instrumental alike, and the studio album is comprised almost entirely of the latter. It's very progressive, but is obviously not for everyone. If all you know is "Dark Side..." or "The Wall", then I would suggest that "Meddle" or "Obscrued By Clouds" are better albums on which to cut your teeth.

Report this review (#103184)
Posted Friday, December 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Pink Floyd's early works are trippy, dark, experimental, creative, and generally cool. This double LP is one of their more jagged and uneven early albums. It is often very boring and bland, but bearing patience, one can see past that. It is in no way essential to any collection, however, and the live album doesn't do it for me, what with its sloppy playing and absolutely horrendous sound quality.
Report this review (#105083)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I guess this is the only example in my musical addictivity that a double album will provide such mixed feelings to me. I discovered "Ummagumma" in 1973, and I was deeply impressed with the live album. I did not know those four gigantic numbers (I entered the Floyd catalogue in 1971 with Meddle). It was hard for me to believe than the same band could produce a live masterpiece and a studio crappy LP at the same time.

Each of the band member has a part on this studio album to "develop" his own music. This quite experimental effort should never have taken place. The Floyd though will repeat this later on with AHM but this is another story. The studio album starts with Wright's stuff. This "Sysyphus Part" is quite boring in general. Only part four is better structured than the rest. It is a bit reminiscent of "A Saucerful of Secrets" and is quite interesting. Actually, I did not remember that there was even one interesting song like it on this LP (besides this review, I have never listended to it for more than thirty years. I guess it will take me another thirty to do the same).

I really believe that the one who can listen till the end of "Grantchester Meadows" would deserve a nice present because it is such a crappy song than really you need a lot of patience to do so. " Several Species ..." is of the same caliber (or even worse). I would like to understand how it is possible for such a genious like Waters to come up with something like this. It will remain a mystery for ever. This is five minutes of the most boring moments you can imagine.

During this track at 4'32" precisely (you can download this part from the Floyd's web- site. According to the instructions, to hear it properly you need to play it at half speed), Gilmour says : "This is pretty avant-guarde, isn't it ? I bet you !

If this studio album deserves five stars, I wonder how many would deserve DSOTM or WYWH : ten ? fifteen ? or more ?

Gilmour parts are a bit more psychedelic and less boring than the other's ones. Part 2, is probably the more interesting (if I may use this term).

Mason's input starts and ends bizzarely with a flute short instrumental (59 and 40 seconds). It is his best contribution. The other number is equivalent to the rest : unbelievably disappointing.

I can tell you, it is quite a challenge to listen to these studio tracks in a row (boy, I would deserve a bonus !). The first time you do (like myself in 1973) you think : well, the next one will be better till you reach the last one. And then you sit and say : "Hell. I've been such a fool to have listened to this !".

To highlight how "great" the band felt about this "masterpiece", the Floyd will include TWO songs from their "marvelous" studio album : "Sysyphus" played FOUR times and "Granchester Meadows" also four times but on other occasions (I guess no audience would have deserved such a treatment to get both of them during the same show).

The live sides though should really be considered as a masterpiece. Four mythical tracks from the early Floyd repertoire. Great rendition of each composition. It starts with "Astronomy Domine" which is quite an extended and fabulous version (although for me, it will never be extended as it could / should be).

If you are interested in extended versions, there is one on the boot "Interstellar Highlights" recorded live in Stockholm in March 1970 which lasts for nine minutes and another one on "Interstellar Fillmore" that features a ten minutes version of it.

Next track "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" was never released on an album. The first (and shortest) version of the song was called "Murderistic Women". This version was first played live in John Peel's radio-show Top Gear on June 25th 1968. In December 68, it will be featured as B-side for the single "Point Me At The Sky" and will be a Floyd classic for decades (still one of my fave). One year later, it will be released as "Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up" for the film Zabriskie Point.

The incredible and oriental "Set The controls For The Heart Of The Sun" is a another marvelous live performance. Psychedelic at its best. Great version again. This LP transports you to unreachable limits of joy and admiration.

The last track is an absolute must own - must listen. I have described my vision in lenght in the review of their second effort 'A Saucerful of Secret". The only thing I can add is that the closing sections "Storm Signal" and "Celestial Voices" surpassed the studio ones. It is probably one of the best live version of this song ("If you can call this a song" - I quote Waters). Originally this live album would have featured "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Embryo" but space was lacking. They should have been better inspired to cut the studio album than the live one. I guess it is thanks to this two live sides that the album reached Nr. 5 in the UK chart (Nr. 74 in the US).

I would have liked Ummagumma to be a single (or double) live album. It would have deserved a five stars rating. But since it comes with the burden of the studio sides, I can only rate it three stars. Grab some boots of the era if you can like : "BBC Archives" (featuring "Embryo") or "Interstellar Highlights") to discover how great this band was on stage in those ancient times.

Report this review (#107747)
Posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars An appropriately schizophrenic album comprised of two contrasting discs. The first is a near masterpiece of late 60s psych, possibly a pinnacle of psych music. This is the 'live' disc, though you are barely aware of any audience presence, even during the quieter sections. Arguably, this disc contains the definitive versions of its four tracks, each of which is a Floyd and psych classic. For lovers of the genre, this disc is an essential purchase.

The snag is it comes complete with a lacklustre studio affair in which each group member contributed half an LP side of material. Wright's effort is technically the most accomplished, but not very interesting, and only Waters delivers anything worthy of the group name. The languid, summer-hazy Grantchester Meadows is a wonderful restful acoustic number complete with swans and fly-swatting before setting off onto the nutty found-sounds of Several Species .... Overall a very mixed bag indeed. You probably don't need this album unless your preferences lean heavily toward psych.

Report this review (#107969)
Posted Friday, January 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Did is denfintly something different from the past albums. First is the live album. Very good version of Astronomy Domine, good version of Set The Controls..., and the best official release of Careful With That Axe, Eugene (but, there are better bootleg versions). Then the studio album. Sysyphus is showing great talents of Richard Wright. Maybe the whole song is too long, but it's a good start, with dark psychedelic moments. Granchester Meadows is a beautiful ballad, played and sing by Roger Waters. For this period it will be a live classic. Several Species... is a musical collage, funny but not very interesting. The Narrow way is another fine track. Starts with avery heavy riff, then goes into ballad. The ballad part is a live classic for that time also. And at last we have Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden Party. Strange track, opens and ends with flute, beside that we have only strange drumming sound. Well, it was something new for 1969. The whole album was something different as well. This is IMO the last true psychedelic Floyd album.
Report this review (#109353)
Posted Monday, January 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is one of the earliest experimental rock albums, and truly was visionary piece of music. On the other side, this is one of the most self-indulgent albums I have ever heard. And, I feel that this is totally unique and original. So, why I give only two stars rating to this one? There are few reasons. First of all, this album lacks some musical beauty that i search in every piece of music. I am fan of experimental music, but it needs to have some special, light, picturesque atmosphere. The biggest part of this album is just uninteresting noise and playing with some percussion. Sysyphus, which is built of first four tracks of experimental part of album is probably vision of LSD trip, which I hate. I do not like heavy influence of psychedelic drugs on music. The Grand Vizier's Garden has beautiful flute, but it lasts too short and second part is again some senseless drumming. Pink Floyd went too far this time. This is not album that could make me enjoy. If this is suposse to be top of progressive music, than I would just avoid it. I would rather listen to some aliens music. Might be more interesting!
Report this review (#110934)
Posted Wednesday, February 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I can't really add much to the discussion about this particular album. The studio disc is too experimental to be entertaining, and the live disc is astounding, featuring extended versions of their more well-known songs at the time. I found this at a good price, so I'm not to concerned about breaking the bank for half an album, but it may be an issue for some people. Gotta love the live half, but the studio half nearly kills its value.
Report this review (#110936)
Posted Wednesday, February 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Second album of the year, a skillful sample of which a PINK FLOYD can obtain when Integra of total way and finally takes off of above the shade of the previous member, finally a recording that demonstrates the interpretativo power of the band in direct, to listen to PINK FLOYD that doubtless good combination of the simply good band without a doubt, the interpretation has in case single intoxicating a sound different but equal of, this disc comes in two discs, first as it already mentions is the alive one, the second is an individual participation of the members that are divided in four parts the disc to do what they want to show, the identities of each one of them are seen clearly in where the parts can be felt that each one contributes to the band in this beginning of the creation of a sound I authenticate that final mixture is divided to be shown like the skeleton, the visors, the skin and the hair, each part interpreted and orchestrated of precise way, in truth a compendium of subjects that are forced to know and to crumble to PINK FLOYD completely and to understand the origins of the experimentations and sounds that later were generated.
Report this review (#111574)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ummagumma: Pink Floyd's beginnings and experimentation. Almost essential.

It is very difficult to listen to the Studio Album because, except "Grantchester Meadows" and "The Narrow Way", all other songs are quite experimental, in the wave of Pink Floyd in that moment. The year 1969 was from great creativity in the Progressive Rock. In spite of this difficulty, I think that it highlights the great experiment, quite well made, by the way, of "Several Species...".

But if the Studio Album can be boring and heavy for any (I do not include myself), the Live Album is simply brilliant and indispensable for all Pink Floyd fan. The four songs ("Astronomy Domine", "Careful with that axe, Eugene", "Set the controls..." and "A saucerful of secrets") are one of the greatest works of Pink Floyd. All the versions of this Live Album overcome the original versions of the songs.

In conclusion, a hard-to-listen work but also an excellent addition to any prog and non-prog music collection.

Report this review (#114127)
Posted Saturday, March 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The vestige power music of Pink Floyd, by the entire psychedelic serenity and the outbreaks of "popular" force and "common" shingle, restricts Ummagumma to be the album of dastard dexterity, grand aphasia and soft creation, all three in a mix which comprises several main dynamics, about two main stresses of the usual obscure quality and one of the fighting contradiction (I'll resume later telling which are them, or details will simply allude one after another), and a lot of music which to correspond to ideals and "current" symbols, changes and new aspirations, differences and varied impressions over how the stretch comes at. Therefore Ummagumma is entitled with a kaleidoscopic effort, a craft with extra bonus on chosen nuisance and original counterpoints, and with great prejudices.

Perhaps the entire period would go marked by these prejudices, expanding to ideas having the both the out form and the out rave. Negatively said, all of Pink Floyd's mental challenge psych phase has the prejudice of full intuitions: the debut being too acclaimed for its superficial round, the saucerful special deep album being instead the one with no grand art, the soundtracks of More and Zabriskie clouting too much typical madness or adverted light numbness, Ummagumma having the confusing aura of something in a strange motion or a complete exaggeration and Atom Heart Mother sinking the boat with the pathetism of several new dimensions. Rather contrarily though, Pink Floyd psychedelic would (should) stay like so: Piper as an exhausting simple bang, the mark of a "blow-up" in music scythe, Saucerful as magisterial and profound, the soundtracks as pieces of clotting visionary ambition and Atom as a living desire of organic changes and melodramatic numb chances. While Ummagumma is an album of experimental uniqueness, with no such better time to explore the huff, the rock, the diagram obsession, the bucolic expressions or the killing foams of sound and bitter topiary. So what isn't full of prejudices in the early strong art of Pink Floyd? And what isn't outlined as a panoramic special or septic suggestion, equivocally, in a loud-touch creation by Floyd? Ummagumma is barely different from a point where the creativity and the strange outlooks of the band "collapsed" into an impressive choice of an album, a project, a vision, a caricature.

Ummagumma has two essential parts, of fully different kinds and reunited Floyd spirit. The Live cut of the album is considered royal, essentially, comfortably excessive, while the studio greets some low vibrations of appreciation and some entire asperities of being liked, understood or resembled in any of the fondled Floyd great moves. To my opinion and the objective quality desponded from Ummagumma, the studio cover is by nothing strange or distant from the stating live experience, making a two-headed beast of music concept, Floyd psych contractions and, more or less, influential inspirations. One on the side of everlasting correlations, the other one on the never so better improved untitled marks of novelty and conspiracy.

Ummagumma Live is a four grand epic pieces splendid dark show, with an impressionable orientation towards improvisation, towards massive psych respect and infusive deep sinking gravity, despite the luxurious fact of a repertoire that stands, generally, out of the Floyd box into the grand recognition of their music accurate styling and great illusory inlay. It's a short of live of full expressions and illustrious senses, perhaps biased by a too macadamized emotion and subtle familiar design, yet full of un-glowing dispersions and of the rehearsal of thousand clashes, inside the more logistic or frenzy psychedelia, inside the unknown taps of free-sound, inside the render of a trounce corrals by the band's impeccable numb trademark, dark roasting and assembling smoke sonic magic. Other concerts like Pompeii do a large and exemplary spread of concert raot and spree passion, so I guess the live from Ummagumma is carefully a great listening, a deep trend and a passionate way of memorizing the standard static parallels of movement over concision, of experiment over the mass gray matter, of scolding over the normal emotions. A full complex performance, with normal leans, but some good relaxed sizzles of rock, psych and galore as well.

Ummagumma Studio is a living phenomenon of abstract, experiment and ubiquitous composition, along the side effects of various tomes, incisive music special language and a deep, impersonal, claustrophobic attention toward the minimal, the render, the scythe and the convincing attitude. A fully-essence album and persistence of strange concept above the relaxed infusion of power, a clear-obscure noise above the great party of smokes, and hovering streaks of unknown sound-forms over the great and massive means of psychedelic triumph. Mostly a great creation, though minimal and hidden-within an implosion of exaggerated movements and deeply-learned extracts. The only departing thought of it should not be why the studio's nonconformist pleasure sounds so various and so untruthful to the regular liaison of Floyd, but only why the album is a mixture of music made by the Floyd artists, separately. Something, though, not to think of greatly, since the idea(l) comes up decisive and sufficiently good, by an eclectic tone from one artist to another. Richard Wright is quite sensitive with Sysyphus , though there is a gross of experimentalism, a subtle panic of noise, respectively a good share of high rises and deep tonalities. Psyche in opposition, almost. Waters' Grandchester Meadows is a gem of some sorts, though the imperative tone is among the least abstract of the overall performance. Dark sounds, cameral melodies and rhizomes of an inner release ritual are made into a piece of open sources and black tones. There is then the Several Species. multi-animal collage, made astonishingly brandish (the popularity shares its ruin, naturally), but also in a good impulse of the abstract promoting the locomotive expression. David Gilmour uses a lot of deranged symphony and absurd streaks into his special composition, The Narrow Way, something very atypical and classy for his "solo" kind, yet absolutely masterful in touch of a sensible shock and a distant dream recall. Music of deep marks and trenches, but mostly something of a pitch atmosphere. Last is Mason with a work of massive elutriation, but also very amoral, kinetic and sophisticated experimental minimalism. In a short presence of vibrations greeting the entire wheeze of psychedelia, but also the multi-forced instrumentality of a visionary kind. The studio impression is simply blossoming and captivating, no wonder the time spend on it is equal to the level of perception. And no wonder that the errors strike the pretentious manners and the havoc of composition, each and every time.

As a judging new side of full-blow experimentalism and psych-tabooing emphasis, Ummagumma is half the live perfection of extremely known essential studies, and the personal study deep in the layers of sound, rock, rag and psych-umbra. The sense tells that this is the least affordable Pink Floyd early phase album; then again, the great dedication and addiction to nonconformism and the hard listen of the studio-clench can't sound better under the augmentations of natural music and common cluster. By my personal pleasure, this album is worth astounding, once in a while.

Report this review (#126255)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars "Aye an' a bit of Mackeral settler rack and ruin ran it doon by the haim, 'ma place. Well slapped me and I slapped it doon in the side and I cried, cried, cried..."

Don't tell me that you don't enjoy 'Several Species Of Small Furry Animals' (off UMMAGUMMA) - it's so much fun! Back in the dark days of the mid-seventies, when HiFi systems were comparatively rare and many of us played psychedelic albums on portable record-players (in Dutch we called them pick-ups!) my friends and I loved the Floyd for all of their far-out sounds... On THE PIPER there was this guy who went "Boo-hoom, shh shh!"; on ATOMHEART MOTHER there was one notorious instance of bacon-frying; and UMMAGUMMA was famous for the bloke who noisily descended a flight of stairs and swatted a fly. Ah, wond'rous days! UMMAGUMMA's outrageously fake animal noises enchant me still, and 'Grantchester Meadows', which precedes them, is definitely one of Roger Waters' most delightful pastoral tunes. (Grantchester Meadows is an area of lush greenery along the River Cam, between Cambridge and the picturesque village of Grantchester.)

A pity that the remainder of UMMAGUMMA's studio album seems so uninspired. The solo contributions from Gilmour, Mason and Wright are all eminently forgettable. Wright's dire 'Sisiphus' is notable only for a single brief moment when the composer (ahem!) plays a bit of piano. Nick Mason's 'Garden Party' may even be the greatest waste of vinyl in EMI's distinguished history.

Undeniably, UMMAGUMMA's live album has proved more influential, particularly the dreamlike, organ-dominated middle sections of songs like 'Astronomy Domine' and 'Set the controls for the heart of the sun', when the drums are silent (or virtually silent). If I'm not mistaken, such moments really had an impact on Krautrock, and on the first five years of activity on the ECM label: Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal's gorgeous first albums (from 1972 and 1973 respectively) and American bass player Barre Phillips' masterpiece MOUNTAINSCAPES (1976) must have been inspired by the Floyd's trance-like soundscapes.

Report this review (#130950)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Apparently, I haven't reviewed this one yet. As it is one of the few Floyd albums I still own, I suppose I should get to it!

Obviously, the reader is by now aware that the live disc is quite enjoyable to die hard Floyd fans and is pretty much required listening for anyone who likes space rock or Kraut rock. Every song is great, IMO, and while I can't say they are quite definitive versions (see Pompey for those), they are nonetheless quite excellently done. Seeing as how this was the only official live release of Floyd until the 90's, I'd say it's pretty essential for any prog fan (though I will say, there are more interesting bootlegs out there, many with equal or even better sound quality than this). 4 stars for this disc.

Then we have the problematic studio material. For myself, when I heard this at age 19, I felt that it must be some fault of my own that it didn't make a lot of sense to me. After all, this was a legendary band with a huge international following. Musical geniuses and all that. I must be missing something, some artistic deepness within Sysyphus, some brilliant purpose in the Garden Party. Well, I have since learned that I didn't miss anything. It was all pretty much aimless hammering on the piano and other keyboards, and running tapes of uninspired drum solos backwards. Still, all is not terrible here. Several Species is a wonderfully wacky piece of electronic manipulation, always good fun, if not exactly something you want to hear regularly. The Narrow Way is certainly not a great piece, but I happen to like it in all it parts. The first part is the best, with layered acoustic guitars and slide guitar soloing from Gilmore. A very nice bit of music, if fairly unremarkable. Part two threatens to veer off into Sysyphus territory, but is thankfully short and when I was younger was suitable weird enough for me to enjoy it. Part two features the actual song, which has an interesting chord progression and melody, though Gilmore sings a bit too high for his own good and the lyrics are quite indistinct (which was intentional, according to Gilmore, since he wanted Rodger to write the lyrics for him but Rodger said no, so Dave had to write them himself and has never felt they were any good at all............which, they probably are not). 2.5 stars for this disc, though it does have sentimental value. During one acid trip in my early 20's, I finally felt I understood Sysyphus and the rest of disc 2. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Floyd had been under the influence of similar substances when the put it together.

All in all, not one of their best, but an interesting experiment. Especially for a band that had a good deal of cult status but not really the popular fame they would later receive. A double album of this nature was a bold move, especially in 1969. So more or less averaging out the two discs, I'd say it's a 3 star album as a whole. Well worth having if you are a fan of Floyd or space rock and Kraut Rock, but probably a later purchase for those new to Floyd.

Report this review (#131099)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Pink Floyd took a cue from Cream when they put together Ummagumma. Like Wheels of Fire, it features one disc of new studio material and one of live intensity. Unlike Wheels of Fire, the studio material isn't very good. The first part is the live section, which rocks. Astronomy Dominé is longer, louder, and better than the original. Careful With That Axe, Eugene is a fun little instrumental that makes it's only official appearance here. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun and A Saucerful of Secrets both sound great, with extended sections that give mainly Wright and Gilmourt the spotlight.

The studio half is, sadly, vastly inferior to the live side. Small Furry Animals and is one of the last whmsical Floyd tunes (they started getting deep and usually depressing soon after this). It's no classic, but it's a fun ditty to come back to from time to time. The rest of the album is devoted to individual compostions, which foreshadows tracks on Yes' Fragile and ELP's awful Works. Of these, only Wright's Sysyphus is worth listening to, as it demonstrates his considerable skill which was largely wasted at the hands of Roger Waters. Waters' acoustic "Grantchester Meadows" is decent but completely forgettable, while Gilmour's use of symphony on Narrow Way comes close to being a good track, but it still fails to excite. Mason's Grand Vizier's Garden Party is by far the worst of the individual compositions; it is uninspired, dull, and the only even decent parts are the winds at the start and finish.

Ummagumma's live half is a great snapshot of the band at the tail end of their psychedelic pre-prog days, but the studio material (funnily enough the band's first concrete transition into full prog) is incredibly flawed and even its best moments are easily forgotten. Things would start improving vastly for Floyd, but this remains an album only for established fans, and even then you'll probably only want it for the live stuff.

Grade: D

Report this review (#131202)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ummagumma was originally released as a two-LP set back in 1969. Two words come to my mind every time I listen to this: insane and genius. Ummagumma is clearly the most experimental work released under the Pink Floyd name. What is so interesting about this is that the studio LP was basically divided up into four, with each group member composing their quarter of the disc. What also catches my attention is how skilled each of them were in composing "solo" material for this project. Every song on the studio LP is remarkably done with an eerie weirdness to each piece. The effects employed on Several Small Species... is just mind-blowing.

The other LP is made up of live material and the selection is superb, including Astronomy Domine, Careful with that Axe Eugene, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Saucerful of Secrets. This is the perfect material for what was considered a psychedelic jam band at the time allowing them much room for aural explorations. These live performances are simply stunning. Unfortunately, they will be the only live material the band would release until 1988's Delicate Sound of Thunder.

Some listeners may find this album difficult to get through due to its experimental leanings, but nonetheless, I'm one that enjoys stuff like this and have considered this a masterpiece since my first listen many eons ago. It's not like a Selling England by the Pound or a Close to the Edge. It is a very different kind of masterpiece. You might want to avoid if you don't have a liking for the experimental (try Wish You Were Here instead if this is so). Otherwise, five stars and another piece of the foundation for future experimental explorations.

Report this review (#132167)
Posted Tuesday, August 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I first heard this album sitting in my buddy's basement as an impressionable 17 year old pot and acid head. The only Floyd album I had heard prior to that evening was The Wall - that was another night when I walked into his house tripping on acid and The Wall movie was playing on the television. The movie moved me so deeply that I went out and bought every Floyd album (on cassette) that had been made and listened religiously and exclusively to Pink Floyd for the next couple of years. And the first one I picked up (because it was the first one I saw in the music store), was Ummagumma. I had never heard anything like it before. As I listened I pictured a band of long haired, drug induced, [email protected]*n crazy people standing on a stage in a small club in the sixties, with the lights turned down and starry, mellow lighting accompanying the spaced out music. I was blown away. Music has always been very central in my life, but nothing I heard prior to this had such an impact on me. They were the band that inspired me to look into the many different genres of progressive rock music. I would have rated this cd much differently all those years back, but after having heard so many other brilliant albums from other progressive bands like the Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, PFM, VDGG, etc. I now tend to compare it to other albums which were just as experimental but which were arranged and performed much better. This is definitely a band trying to find a sound. It would be about another 2 albums before they would find that sound that they became famous with - the background female singers with the oohs and aahhs, the soaring, melodic guitar solos, the hummable riffs, etc. Here is a young band experimenting and noodling with psychedelic soundscapes in smoke filled music halls. Not yet rich and famous. The live album is totally f#@n laid back. If you're gonna smoke a joint and listen to this cd, make sure it's at the end of the day and you have nothing to do. No energy kicks here. Just spaced out, mellow-ass [&*!#]. You won't want to get off the couch except to take the kids to the pool. The studio cd is weird. Broken into four parts, each part written by a different member of the band. Waters' and Gilmours' parts are the best (tracks 9 thru 13). The Sysyphus songs (from Rick Wright, the keyboardist) have a medieval quality to them, would have been a good soundtrack for the movie 300. And Mason's (the drummer's) songs, the Grand Vizier's Garden Party, could have been played by a three year old kid with no hands. Maybe this is a bit harsh, and I do like Nick Mason as a member of Floyd, but he's no Bill Bruford, that's for sure. Between 1973 and 1979, Pink Floyd made music that had not up till then, and still has not been equaled by any other band, in my opinion. If you love Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and the Wall, I encourage you to check out the earlier stuff from Floyd also, including Ummagumma. But I would start with their first, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. 3 stars. Essential for Floyd fans, not essential if you don't like Floyd's well known stuff.
Report this review (#133582)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is the best musical collection offered by the band at their most adventurous and progressive moments. "Ummagumma" contains all Pink Floyd classics from their first era. No need to search more about the band, the rest of the discography is terribly conventional if not commercial. You can also give a listen to "A saucerful of Secrets" & "Live at Pompeii" but seriously it stops here concerning albums with constant quality (from start to the end). "Ummaguma" is exclusively reserved to intense, highly emotional and shimmering psychedelic jams. I only regret the sung parts which bring nothing to the "trip". Compositions as the cloudy, dreamy spaced out "Careful with that Axe Eugene" and the experimental psych epic "A Saucerful of Secrets" simply represent the best pieces written by the band. Closed to a few instrumental jamming sessions of kraut classics from Agitation Free, Gila (their two first), early TD ("Ultima Thule" & "Electronic Meditation"), Amon Duul II ("Tanz der Lemminge", particularly for the "Marilyn Monroe Memorial Church"). "Set the controls for the heart of the sun" is an other talented psych composition, including really stoned, floating harmonies, rolling drums and a nice "exotic" flavour. "The great Vizir's garden party" (part II) alsor delivers impressive, gorgeously "hallucinatory" sequences within a brilliant enigmatic, atmospheric, experimental soundscape. A classic so recommended!
Report this review (#137930)
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ummagumma is a 1969 double album by Pink Floyd. It is a little unusual in that it contains live tracks on one disc and studio tracks on the other. The live section on disc 1 contains excellent performances of "Astronomy Domine", "Careful With That Axe Eugene", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", and "Saucerful of Secrets". The band was becoming ever tighter as a live unit thanks in large part to David Gilmour. The Syd Barrett inlfluence was clearly waning.

By 1969, Pink Floyd had also begun to spread its creative wings in more experimental ways than ever before. They still had the jones to create daring and artful sounds post-Barrett, as heard on disc 2 . However, giving the individual members of Pink Floyd carte blanche in the studio to create their own personal suites, leaves this album with something to be desired (i.e. a true Pink Floyd album).

Richard Wright's 4 part "Sysyphus" suite wreaks of self-indulgence as does Nick Mason's 3 part "Grand Vizier's Garden Party".However, David Gilmour's 3 part "Narrow Way" suite has moments of musical excitement, but alas is still somewhat indulgentl. Roger Waters' "Grantchester Meadows" comes off much less so with the beautifully panned bird sounds to nice effect in concert with the mellow yet trippy folk. "Several Species of Small Furry Animals...", however, brings Ummagumma back down to Earth with an indescribable series of sounds, noises, and chants.

The real problem with this double album is that the 2 discs don't really go together. Disc 1 is an fact a very good live album, but disc 2 is not a good studio album. They cancel each other out to an extent. It is for this reason that Ummagumma is only recommended for Pink Floyd purists. 2 stars

Report this review (#138020)
Posted Thursday, September 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Music that's about has hard to injest as the name would suggest. (and hey, that rhymes).

Following up on previous freakouts it would seem natural that an album like this would mozy along. This is the result of each band member wirtting their own songs as part of a larger canvas, the result is interesting as it seems that only Waters and perhaps Gilmour were really capable of doing this at the time. The songs are split into different tracks, but really, it's the songs that count, so I'll review them as such. SYSYPHUS is the Write penned track, and it's a fantastic piano journey of all out freakyness that's all in all a little inaccessable to the listener with lack of lyrics, and sometimes all around direction, but still a great piano track in the end. GRANDCHESTER MEADOWS is perhaps the most solid song on the album, written by Waters, this is a laid back track that's quite enjoyable and very typically Pink Floyd. SEVERAL SPECIES... is a bit bizzare and follows on the heels of Pow R. Toc H. from their debut, but the next songs are definately worth the wait. Gilmour penned THE NARROW WAY is a great lost Pink Floyd gem that stands out above the rest here with great instumentalism and overall structure all around. THE GRAND VIZIER'S GARDEN PARTY is a strange song written by Mason that acts as an all around good outro.

While this studio LP most definatly has it's high points it's certainly not Pink FLoyd's best and is at best a 2 star effort, it's the next LP that makes this album worth while.

The live side of this album is fantastic, with several Floyd classics contained within the grooves. Each of the songs presented within were great as a studi track, but with the live energy put into them seem to have gotten better, it's even tempting to say that this live LP is better than any other live release by Pink Floyd. But while the old studio tracks do shine here the likely standout is the original CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, EUGENE (which would later be release as a studio track on Relics, but not nearly as good) which features some great zoney-outy playing by the band until (I think it's) Gilmour kicks in with his death scream of death that still, to this day, gets down into your very soul. A fantastic disc by any accounts, unmissable, even.

So, for it's combination of two albums, the interestingly acquired taste studio side (2 stars) and it's fantastic live side (4 stars) I'd have to give this labum an overall rating of 3 stars. Good, but not essential as a package, although, if you can ind it at a good price, definately buy it.

Report this review (#138891)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars You can probably guess the age of any Pink Floyd aficionado by his regard for this 1969 double album. To older fans it encapsulates everything that made the original band so different and dangerous, but newcomers will likely hear only a junkyard collection of post-psychedelic flotsam.

I suppose it all depends on which side of the 1960s you're standing. Either way, the album remains an invaluable (if not always successful) artifact, and unique in the way it confounds the Prog Archives rating guidelines: yes, it's an excellent 4-star addition to any Prog music collection, but at the same time it's strictly a 2-star treasure for collectors and fans only.

For anyone (like myself) too young to recall the turbulent end of that decade, the album provides a vivid snapshot of the young Pink Floyd struggling with its identity at the dead end of the avant-garde cul-de-sac. It was an uncertain time for the band, back when Rick Wright was always playing oriental arabesques on that weedy Farfisa organ; when Nick Mason was embellishing his floor toms with enough echo to fill the Grand Canyon; and when newcomer Dave Gilmour was overworking his slide guitar in a transparent imitation of Syd Barrett's more cosmic digressions.

The live disc is still the best concert album the group ever released, with superior (better yet: essential) adaptations of four early Space Rock classics: "Astronomy Domine", "Careful With That Axe Eugene" (dig that hair-raising Halloween scream by Roger Waters), "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun", and a truly awesome "Saucerful of Secrets". The studio disc, divided between the solo conceits of each player, is understandably more of a mixed bag, and in retrospect one I'm sure they would rather have left on the curb for the trash collector.

My own assessment is a little less harsh. It's true that Rick Wright's four-part "Sysyphus" can be an aptly titled exercise in ersatz film score frustration, like its mythological namesake putting a lot of effort into getting nowhere. But Roger Waters actually revealed something like a sense of humor in his two songs, in ironic contrast to the mirthless dirges of his later album concepts. David Gilmour meanwhile all but announced in "The Narrow Way" his willingness to lead the band by example: Part Three in particular was an obvious signpost to the future, sounding not unlike a premature demo of "Comfortably Numb".

And the less said about Nick Mason's late '60s time capsule percussion doodles the happier we'll all be, including (I suspect) the composer himself.

Dissecting it like this leaves a lingering sense of four rather desperate artists beating the air for any musical idea to replace the inspiration lost along with Syd Barrett. But if nothing else their individual efforts showed a group that even then was greater than the sum of its parts.

Keep in mind too this would be the Floyd's last truly underground album, released the same year Neil Armstrong left his footprint on the Sea of Tranquility. It would take the band a little longer to likewise reach the "Dark Side of the Moon", but in many ways the failed experiments on disc two of this set were at least one small step in the right be followed by the giant leap of "Atom Heart Mother" in 1970.

Report this review (#146785)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I thought about giving this album 3 stars, but I decided that the good outweighs the bad, so 4 it is. Obviously there're mixed feelings about this album, but that's pretty appropriate considering that there's a lot of contrast between the two halves of Ummagumma. I think that most of the reviewers have done a fine job of pointing out what's good and bad about this work.

The live portion is excellent and accessible, while the studio portion is, er, strange. Sysyphus Pts. 1-4 starts the studio album off in a weird brooding way, followed by the pleasant pastoralGrantchester Meadows. Several Species of Small Furry Animals... is good for a laugh I suppose (it's probably interesting if you're stoned). In my opinion The Narrow Way should've been the last section instead of the less successful The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, but it's not a big deal.

For the adventurous listener there're lots of good things to be heard here.

Report this review (#149477)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars A double album, 'Ummagumma' consists of one half 'live' recordings (though heavily overdubbed), one half studio recordings. This record confirms that in the empty post-BARRETT late 60s PINK FLOYD did not have a single useful musical idea.

The rehash of four of their more experimental psychedelic tracks is poignant to say the least. Apparently these tracks were reproduced here in order for the band to feel able to retire them: in other words, they were already stale. Further, the selection of these tracks without the leavening influence of the shorter, melodic BARRETT tracks exposes their lack of compositional merit. The fact that they managed to leave off 'Interstellar Overdrive' is inexcusable. Finally, it signals their intention to become a group of vast soundscapes. Fortunately, this is a direction they soon dropped in favour of - well, vast soundscapes coupled with exemplary songwriting.

That said, this live album is well worth listening to. Each track has become the definitive version, replacing the studio version in the PINK FLOYD canon.

As for the studio album, it is wholly execrable.

Look, there's 'experimental' and there's - er, awful. It's often a blurred line for a reviewer when drawn far from his/her comfort zone. I get no pleasure from tuneless music, but I do enjoy much ambient and atonal work which has a well thought through overall shape and creates an atmosphere within which my mind is encouraged to roam. This has none of those things. As an experiment it must have failed, as these sounds were abandoned for their next record. I'm forced to plump for 'awful'. I much prefer silence to these sounds.

If we ever needed confirmation that none of these gentlemen would shake the world with their solo recordings, it is to be had here. The second disc of 'Ummagumma' is a collection of tracks written and (largely) played by the individual members of the band, and without exception they are ill-conceived, tedious and bereft of musical inspiration. The highlight is WATERS' 'Grantchester Meadows' only because it is not offensive to the ears. The rest of this dross was forced upon the band members because they had no success in writing anything together. It's as though someone passed an Ideas Removal Magnet over the compositions and forced the band to record what remained.

Special dishonourable mentions must go to WRIGHT's 'Sysyphus', in which he out-pointlessnessess even KEITH EMERSON, and to NICK MASON, yet another drummer who can make the better part of ten minutes pass in agony. Has anyone listened to this more than once for pleasure? WATERS offers us the best song title of the late 60s but unfortunately doesn't back it up with anything but childish tape effects.

Some of GILMOUR's stuff isn't actually unlistenable, but in the context of this, perhaps the worst single disc of music ever issued, it barely rates a mention. So, dutifully, I barely mention it.

You really don't need this. It's like listening to four ten-minute versions of the single-musician pieces from YES' 'Fragile'. No, it's more like listening to the sound of someone hitting their head against a wall at the end of the cul-de-sac of the 60s. Repeatedly.

I'm an enthusiastic PINK FLOYD fan, but I'm not blind to their deficiencies. This album is a showcase of them all, a testament to what happens to a band without direction or a way of harnessing their talent. Fortunately that harness was very much in evidence within a year of the issuing of this record.

Report this review (#149624)
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A recording with a split personality, Ummagumma presents a combination of a live recording with highly affected (and sometimes effective) studio work. The first part of the recording comprises the live set. The live version of Astronomy Domine (an old Barrett classic from Piper at the Gates of Dawn) is well handled by the band as a whole and Gilmour's guitar work is highly charged. The price of admission is worth it just to hear his work on this recording. (Even so, stylistically I prefer the original studio version.) Next comes Careful With That Axe, Eugene, a psychedelic epic that starts slowly with gentle percussion by Mason and a repetitive and simplistic baseline by Waters, then followed by the addition of some really neat reverberating organ textures by Wright, one spoken vocal line (the title of the song) followed by a long agonizing scream and then wild out-of-this world psychedelic guitar by Gilmour as the rest of the band goes berserk in support before gradually softening and ending- a startling piece for the time with truly murderous guitar by Gilmour (guitar= axe, is Gilmour Eugene??). Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun is a live rehash of the Waters piece from Saucerful of Secrets and is good but provides nothing particularly new and exciting in live play. Saucerful of Secrets is quite good, but again, I prefer the original. The studio work on this double album is highly experimental in many regards and my opinions are quite mixed. Sysyphus is a dark but colorful work marked largely by highly textural and classically influenced piano play by Wright with a number of interesting percussive and sonic effects.( As an aside note, around the time of this record, consideration was reportedly given by the band to producing an experimental album comprised solely of nonconventional instrumentation and musique concrete involving such instrumentation as rubber bands and aerosol cans. Since that plan was aborted, I wonder if parts of Ummagumma are the compromise.) At times, Sysyphus drags under the weight of the muddy keyboard figures and tempo but remains an interesting piece because of its elements, even if the sum is less than the parts here. Grantchester Meadows is a lovely folk-like acoustic ballad tastefully sung by Waters with fine acoustic guitar work by Gilmour. Although an interesting effect, the fly being swatted at the end of the song is really unnecessary and detracts from what is otherwise a nearly flawless little piece of music. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict is a remarkable piece of studio engineering replete with altered voices, strange animal-like noises and a crazed rhythm. This is a highly polarizing piece of music that frankly shows the band at its most experimental. Some of the repetitive figures sound like tape loop effects similar to what Steve Reich was doing in serious music circles at the time and some of the electronic effects are reminiscent of electronics pioneers like Morton Subotnick. It is a daring piece, and frankly, the band never got this daring again musically speaking... too bad. Narrow Way is a highly evocative but sometimes slow moving guitar showcase for David Gilmour with a number of interesting studio effects superimposed. The vocals are wonderful on top. Although not as flashy as some of the later output, this experimental piece of guitar work by Gilmour remains a decided favorite of mine after all these years. In my opinion, Grand Vizier's Garden Party is the weakest link on the record. The flute play adds a nice touch, but it is not special. The background music is highly forgettable and overindulgant. Overall, this is a somewhat flawed and somewhat overindulgant recording with many intriguing moments. The live recordings provide an excellent insight into the capabilities of the band in concert. While not an essential masterpiece of progressive music, the degree of exploration and innovation by the band in this recording were never to be duplicated or exceeded by the band again. They approached the edge of the experimental cliff and then sheepishly stepped back. Their future focus was on refinement of studio recording and outlandish and sometimes overblown stage presentations. At times, the stage presentations have been the most innovative in live rock performance, but their musical output never compared with the level of musical innovation on this record despite its frequent excellence. Despite the fact that much of the studio work is a difficult listen, the overall product rates 4 stars because of the daring nature of the studio work and excellent representation of the band in concert during this period.
Report this review (#150994)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is one of the most difficult albums I have had to rate.The trouble of course is that it's a new studio record combined with a live album, two very different animals.The live album is incredible while the studio recording is PINK FLOYD at their most experimental and adventerous. It's kind of cool that each of the four members had the freedom to pretty much create anything they wanted to for the studio album. I actually like each of their compositions except for most of Mason's contribution.The strange part of all of this is that we really don't get music from the band PINK FLOYD other than the live disc. While this experiment of each of the guys recording their own music seperate from each other was never repeated, Richard Wright felt it was a worthwhile adventure stating "I thought it was a very valid experiment and it helped me". And so while this may not have been an overwelming success it had to help each of the guys individually as they moved forward as a band. They've moved from EMI to the Harvest label but Norman Smith is still the producer. It was recorded in Abbey Road studios as well as in various home studios.

The live record was recorded in 1969 and opens with "Astronomy Domine". I like the way it builds and especially the amazing sound after 3 minutes. The guitar is great. A long quiet interlude ends 6 minutes in. "Careful With That Axe Eugene" might be my favourite on here. It opens with light drums and organ that eventually builds as some excellent guitar comes in.This is great ! They're just jamming now.The song calms down to a whisper 7 1/2 minutes in to end the song. "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" has those almost whispered vocals with drums and synths.The drumming dominates from the 3-5 minute marks. A spacey calm follows.Vocals return 8 minutes in. "A Saucerful Of Secrets" is the longest song at almost 13 minutes. It gets chaotic 3 minutes in before the drums take over. Spacey sounds end up competing with the drums for the spotlight until the drums stop and organ replaces them.This is an amazing passage. Drums return and then guitar. I really like the vocal melodies 11 minutes in to end the song.

The studio album begins with Wright's 4 part composition called "Sysyphus". It opens sounding quite epic with slow, heavy drums.There is mellotron on 3 of the 4 sections. Part two features piano melodies that get dissonant 3 minutes in. Part three has percussion and some strange sounds on it, while part four opens with some amazing mellotron. An explosion of organ kicks in at 3 1/2 minutes. Dramatic synth and organ sounds 5 minutes in. Waters composed two tracks.The first "Grantchester Meadows" features birds chirping,reserved vocals and acoustic guitar. I like it. Then some experimentation as we can hear a fly buzzing around and someone getting a fly swatter and flattening it. His second song is called "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict". It sounds at the beginning like we are in a jungle. A spoken line is repeated over and over.The Scottish sounding words 4 minutes in are hilarious. Gilmour's contribution might be my favourite. It's a three part song called "The Narrow Way".The first part is pastoral and the acoustic guitar reminds me of LED ZEPPELIN. Part two is heavy with some loud spacey sounds coming in. Part three has vocals on it and would not have been out of place on the "Meddle" record. It also reminds me a little of THE BEATLES. The final composition is Masons'. It's called "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" and is divided into three parts. Some guest flute on the first and third parts are good, but the second part has some really annoying sounds on it.

4 stars is my rating after a lot of thought and debate. I can see why some would rate it three stars because of the studio album though. I like the studio disc a lot but I love the live disc.This would be the highest charting FLOYD album so far, hitting number 5 in the UK. Love the album cover and the back cover with the band's equipment in front of the Land Rover at Biggin Hill Airport.

Report this review (#153689)
Posted Sunday, December 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A similar style of album to Wheels of Fire, from Cream, with a Live Disc and a Studio disc, only the studio disc contains solo projects. The live part of it is amazing, showing the Bands ability to jam in a concert setting easily, and their ability to communicate, with solo-trading going on all over the place. Careful with that Axe Eugene is probably one of my favorite floyd songs of all time, with some superb screaming from Waters, a previously underrated singer. The second disc is more experimental, with solo projects for each of the band members. Wright is up first, with 4 parts of a great suite, using almost every keyboard known to man at the time, mellotron, piano, organ, even a little synth here and there. Waters' solo is a folky song call Grantchester Meadows, on which he might be playing an acoustic bass, or just an acoustic guitar. Gilmour follows with another multiple part piece, showing us some very interesting guitar work that he would soon develop into his own style. He goes from acoustic and slide to heavy distorted to light and spacey with some cool singing to accompany it. Several Species of Small Furry animals is perhaps the oddest Song in the floyd repetoire, and Nick Mason's Solo project is slightly boring. Ask yourself, do you really want to hear a 7 minute drum song? it gets boring with random sounds, but the introduction and outro on the flute are quite good.

Overall, the album where they start to branch out in many different directions, and end up following the one they originally were following in the first place. A good step to the next classic, Atom Heart Mother.

Report this review (#154510)
Posted Thursday, December 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 10 years after discovering my favourite musicians I finally complete my collection 3 years ago with Ummagumma...and the Floyd wowed me once more. It is their most unusual album, and easily the most inaccessible. The whole of it reminds of old horror films, rendering Ummagumma also Pink Floyd's darkest album. Here a suite-by-suite:

The Wright suite (Sysyphus) - 7

Its best moments are the quiet phases of part 4 and the Floyd take on capoeira (part 3): dark, organic matter squelching through the plains of Mordor. The piano piece (part 2) starts well but gets a little on the self-indulgent side. The slightly cringe-inducing moments are those big pads of impending doom found in part 1 and at the end of part 4. Overall, Sysyphus is a very interesting listen.

The Waters suite - 8

Grantchester Meadows is a likeable folk song, about English meadows and its nature. The suite then shows us the albums' most eccentric moment: Furry Animals cannot be described, it has to be heard. I like it, but it is very strange. What I don't like is the tail-end of it which features an over-the-top Scottish brogue lamenting.

The Gilmour suite (Narrow Way) - 8

This works the best as a suite, the 3 separate pieces melt into each other to form one whole. We have a nice and uplifting acoustic instrumental guitar-led piece followed by a lesson in the black arts: the second instrumental piece is a slow trudging riff surrounded by is actually pretty good. The suite closes with the anthem of the album: a rocker with a darkly infectious signature, in-keeping with the avant-garde macabreness of Ummagumma.

The Mason suite (Grand Vizier) - 8

My favourite piece of music from the entire album is the first two-thirds of Mason's main piece (part 2): it is so warmingly dreamy. It reminds of doing peyote around a fire searching for your spirit animal. It ends with a Mason drumathon which is pretty good, but no equal of the beautiful moments before it. Mason bookends this main part with two short flute 'n drum pieces, which barely add anything to the album.

The live songs - 7

The performance of Set The Controls is excellent, A Saucerful Of Secrets has a strong end section with Eugene and Astronomy Domine fairly good without adding much to the originals.


Ummagumma is no essential masterpiece. But it is heartily-recommended for lovers of the strange. I'd also add that it is the least-typical Floyd album (not including the post-Waters dirges).

Report this review (#157331)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ummgumma, you may have gathered is a bit of an odd ball album. Live, studio, solo, themed and constructed from other slightly suites such as The Man: The Journey (best available as a ROIO, the 17 Sept 69 FM Concertgebeouw Amsterdam 1990s rebroadcast.) This featured two of the studio tracks here, Grantchester Meadows by Waters and the 3rd part of The Narrow Way by Gilmour. Celestial Voices (the end of A Saucerful Of Secrets ) and Beset By The Creatures Of The Deep, aka Careful With That Axe Eugene, unreleased other than as a B side of single but featured as live performances inn their own right here. First the live album. I really think it should have been an all concert affair over two volumes, and it's not right that Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is faded early - they could have fixed that for the CD release. That said the soundboard recording issued contains superb performances. There are spacey, slightly improvised but based on identifiable themes. Careful With That Axe Eugene would not see a studio LP release until Relics. Eugene was also known as Come IN Number 51 Your Time Is Up (Zabriskie Point soundtrack), The Murderotic Woman (a gentler version from a 1969 UK FM short version of The Journey) and Beset By The Creatures Of The Deep (on the normal length concert version of The Journey.)

A Saucerful Of Secrets is performed and this piece that veers through three parts, the percussion dominated rhythms to the slide guitar psychedelic workout section until Celestial Voices, this section also used for The Journey. This features a word less vocal by Gilmour and is quite a statement in the dignity of death; the concept behind this piece.

Astronomy Domine the one Syd Barrett composition played (and reprised on P*U*L*S*E casting ahead many years...) is the first piece. Gilmour has fitted in superbly. Nut his guitar playing is restrained as PF remain faithful to the original arrangements. Really this is the equivalent of The Who's Live At Leeds or Genesis Live - a single live album that, while classic in and of itself, would benefit from expansion.

Now for Ummagumma The Studio / solo album. Each section is actually quite short now that our CD length perceptions have increased. Wright's Sisyphus Part 1-5 is both very classical and experimental especially the dissonance, also used to good effect of Saucerful Of Secrets prior to the percussion section. The all instrumental piece ends on a classical themed climax. Not an easy listening piece at all but not to worry it is worth it for the more open minded listener. Brave music.

Roger Waters' song Daybreak on The Man is re-titled Grantchester Meadows. The Floyd performed band versions as well as duets with him and Gilmour performing it. It's a laid back piece with a very lyrical, gentle nature, the lyrics reveal the point of view is from a city apartment not the river side, where the river effects place it. Water's guitar work is superb and atmospheric. Cannot be beaten. This beautiful track segues into Several Small Creatures Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict. This is very experimental with Waters giving vent to his sense of humour. After Grantchester Meadows the mood is rather damaged (IMHO) but some may like the funny effects e.g. chasing the buzzing fly, the mad Scots vocal and quoting the words The Wind Cries Mary at the end. Ok for an outtake but I would have preferred the earlier mood to continue, or had been more serious and fitting with vastly superior Meadows.

Still off we go to Gilmour's piece The Narrow Way. For a guitarist of his lead break capabilities he does very little of it so far. In many ways this is the first alt Rock album in terms of his guitar (that has surprisingly few FX attached to it) as well as psychedelic and space rock. He performs bass, drums, guitars, vocals (on Part 3) and keyboards. This is psychedelic, chilling and authoritatively sung, boding well for the future. The Narrow Way is a great idea but released far too early. It would have benefited from a band performance and some further material. While this release is fine it does have a slight feel of not quite realised potential. This does not stop the atmosphere however and is excellent listening.

Nick Masons percussion based The Grand Vizier's Garden Party is a slight cheat as he had his wife play the flute while he orchestrated his percussion for a very difficult feat - to keep people entertained and interested in something that is restrained by it's musical instrument limitations. The band members played every instrument individually on their tracks. Still, as Mason's instrument is the drums then he began at a disadvantage (no melody instruments.) Still it is cohesive, quite atmospheric and they meet the challenge posed by the solo limitations.

Now it's at this stage they should have performed the entire lot as one album, as a band and included the remaining music from The Man The Journey and re-integrated the Ummagumma themes (Sysyphus, Narrow Way and Vizier) into a proper album. As it is we have an album that is separated by the sum of its parts and is almost a series of demos that really needed a producer telling them they have good ideas, now knit them together cohesively and perform a themed album. They would get there with the next release Atom Heart Mother but I can't help but feel this studio album was a slightly wasted opportunity. Great ideas; needed collaborative execution. Had this studio release been a separate (from the concert material) then they may have taken more care. But this is where the compromise I mentioned earlier comes in.

It's been quite an adventure, there have been related material performed live and released on the More soundtrack. All in all three and a half stars. It's not the most yogether PF statement but it is a very interesting one. Unless you get bored by spacey themes, hate dissonance and want the more commercially oriented material and have no desire towards experimental music I recommend you avoid this. If you are a PF fan you probably have this, and know all about it and disagree with my review entirely. If you are not a PF fan but like experimental music that has a great capacity to stand up for decades (despite my criticisms it is very strong compositionally) then by all means get a copy of Ummgumma.

Four stars and guys... play the whole thing (Ummagumma Studio) as an album live one day....9yeah, pigs will fly); the live material while great on LP, can do with huge supplementations on CD formats. Otherwise we shall obtain the ROIO versions and slake our appetites this way.

Report this review (#160296)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Oh my, Ummagumma! I don't know what to make of the title as much as of the whole album. The live versions are average (I like the studio versions better), so I don't really need this. The studio versions of each band member are very different. I must say I find the stuff by Gilmour and Mason unlistenable, but the tracks by Wright and Waters have always lured me to explore them. SYSYPHUS by Wright has some very menacing and bombastic parts, very exciting and interesting. GRANTCHESTER MEADOWS is a nice acoustic song by Waters in the Floyd style of Atom Heart Mother. SEVERAL SPECIES... is an odd piece, also by Waters, depicting exactly what title of the song refers to. Sounds like the incantation of an evil magician to me. The album is not without appeal, but I have fun only with one of the four sides of the vinyl version. I think 2 stars are fair as a very personal rating.
Report this review (#162566)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably the most 'difficult-to-get-into' Pink Floyd album. Double album, which contains a live disc (the first) and a studio disc.

The live part was erecorded in Birmingham and Manchester, at Mothers, in 1969. Here there are 4 tracks, 4 long tracks, and all of them are magnificent. The pinacle is probably the almost-13-minute version of A Saucerful Of Secrets...or maybe the 8,40 minutes of Careful With That Axe, Eugene. The two side-stoppers. There is, however, bad news : the sound is cheap, really cheap.

On the second disc are 5 (or 12, as you listen to it on vinyl or on CD) tracks, which are composed each one by a different member (except Waters who had two tracks) : Wright composed Sysyphus, divided in 4 parts, a long and sometimes terrifying suite - for me, the best part of the studio album ; Waters composed the song Grantchester Meadows (very folkish) and the craziness of Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict (phew !), on which he sang both. And with a very special scottish accent on the second track ; Gilmour composed the three parts of the suite The Narrow Way (he sings the last part) ; Mason composed, with the help of his wife on flute, the drum solo of The Grand Vizier's Garden Party suite (on three parts).

It's hard to get into Ummagumma, especially the studio part, but in the end, i's probably the most intriguing and interesting Floyd album. In 1969, it won the Grand Prix de l'Académie du Disque Charles- Cros. A very important distinction. Among the other albums which receives this award, are Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom and the first Peter Gabriel solo work. Great albums, as you can see.

Report this review (#164821)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars If not for Careful with that Axe Eugene this album might be worth skipping, but this track is awesome. Grantchester meadows is also an essential PF piece, so peaceful and serene. Some of the other tracks are good, Narrow Way pt 1 is a good track. Still no where near the quality that Floyd will bring to the table in upcoming years.
Report this review (#177128)
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ummagumma is an album that must be heard! Not that it is a masterpiece (actually far from it), but for its unique strangeness. A double album with the first being a live album of past glories in the form of 4 songs all of which meet or exceed their original studio workups. The second album gives half a side to each of the 4 members. Wright's SYSYPHUS is broken into 4 parts of keyboard experiments, of which 3 work well and 1 is just Wright banging around. Gilmour's The Narrow Way as an acoustic section, a rocking instrument section and ending with a laid back/vocal section. Parts of it will be worked on and polished up on Meddle. Roger Waters was allotted 2 songs: a folky Grandchester Meadows, which ends with a funny stereo testing of someone running stairs to get a paper to swat a fly. Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict, is an experimental tape effects laden tune with vocal help from Scottsman Ron Geesin of Atom Heart Mother fame. Bizarre would sum up this track. Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden Party never gets much respect but I like it alot. His 3 part instrumental starts with a flute intro from his wife Lindy and progresses into a fun tape effect / drum solo. I can't help it but again I like his piece the most!

A taste that is not acquired; you either like this type of stuff or you do not. I want to give this 4 stars, especially for the live album and also for the mostly successful experimentation on the second. So I think I will!

Report this review (#178991)
Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With their first two albums, Pink Floyd shaped and refurbished the emerging trend of psychedelic rock that was taking place in the British underground rock circles in the second half of the 70s. "Ummagumma" is the official manifestation of the band's intentions to keep moving on artistically from the challenging standard that they had set for themselves; it is also the album that reinforces the role of then newcoming guitarist Dave Gilmour. The first volume is a live set that finds the band maturing the vision previously accomplished in "A Saucerful of Secrets" and stating a solid sound beyond the urgent naivety of their debut release. 'Astronomy Domine', arguably the epitome of Syd Barrett's vision, starts the live set with a robust combination of strength and eeriness, in no small degree due to the relevant organ layers and expansions by Wright. The beginning of the live set is really climatic, perfectly coherent with the increasingly sinister kind of sound that the band was particularly interested in the 1968-70 era. 'Careful With that Axe, Eugene' preserves the overall mood turning more closely toward the languid side of psychedelic prog. This sense of mystery is properly fed by the track's ever-expanding flow. The ambitious live rendition of 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' sets a proper reelaboration of the two preceding tracks' mood, with the advantage implied in the enhancement of the original idea's exotic vibe and dynamic rhythmic structure. And of course, there is the archetypical rendition of the second album's title track: the rough muscle and raw bizarreness possible in this live environment are the result of a shared inspiration in the momentum. Of course, we can find lots of faster and/or louder renditions in other bootlegs, but this live rendition has its mixture of magic and sonic power as a relevant asset. The ethereal intro, the second section's neurotic tribalism and the soft third section inevitably lead to the electrifying ending, a real showcase for Wright's essential input for the Floydian thing. Volume 2 is a studio effort in which the band decides to make room for individual exploration. Wright's 'Sysyphus' is a majestic 4-part opus. It starts with a sequence of ceremonious mellotron and pompous tympani, followed by a piano sequence that flows from classicist reflectiveness to creepy tension. Next comes a portion based on avant-garde chamber (something like Varese-meets-Cage), followed by an eerie section dominated by mellotron and organ, distant yet captivating. The final section is the most sinister, with a horrific emergence of distorted organ segued into the initial theme's reprise. Great!! Waters penned 'Grantchester Meadows' and the long-titled next track: the former is a pastoral ballad that sets the pace for other acoustic pieces to appear in following albums; the latter is an experimentation on processed voices and noises that create rhythms, cadences and atmospheres, plus a touch of humor, too. Gilmour's 'The Narrow Way' is the other highlight in this studio item: with a first part that explores a candid mixture of country and acoustic blues ornamented by weird slide guitar intrusions, and a second part focused on Western- flavored psychedelic hard rock, the main section consists of a melancholic rock ballad with heavily bluesy undertones. Mason's 'Grand Vizier's Garden Party' is a demonstration of multiple percussions and a drum solo developed in crescendo, refashioned through studio processes: its entrance and finale are mellow flute solos. A very interesting ending for a very interesting experiment: the traces of this double album's endeavor will be fairly noticed all the way to the "Meddle" album, so the most important value (not the only one) of "Ummagumma" is its way of reshaping PF's vision in its avant-rock context.

[I dedicate this review to the memory of the recently departed Richard Wright].

Report this review (#182632)
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Oh... so much strange album by Pink Floyd. Half-live and half-studio double album by Pink Floyd. What about the first part of the album - The first disc of Ummagumma proves Pink Floyd to be one of a few bands with better live abilities even than their studio recordings. It's a magnificent live disc. I would like to comment the second disc - the studio one - more! It's extremely experimental album with some unlistenable parts for the majority of the people, but not for me at all! Each of the musicians had made a composition of himself divided into parts. There are songs,but there are sounds,too! I think all of the songs are brilliant works of art. It's very hard for me to define the sounds; they are just sounds, maybe without a sense! They are hard for listening, and because of that I consider this album not as studio one at all, but as experimental session of the sound. Probably this experimental session helps the musicians to develop their own style of playing. Who knows? I thought over giving 4 stars, but because of that experimental session disposition of the album with so much sounds without sense, I have to define it: good,but non-essential!!!
Report this review (#185195)
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Uneven. Experimental. Interesting but ultimately cold.

"Ummagumma", as all PINK FLOYD albums, has been reviewed so many times than my describing the album here wouldn't be really useful. I can give reasons for the rating I'm giving it, though.

The first disc, the live album, leaves me completely cold and unmoved. I don't enjoy "Astronomy Domine" that much (even though this version is better than the one in "Piper at the Gates at Dawn") and, in general, live recordings don't do it for me. The sound is weak, the performances are uneven, and the music, in this case, while not terrible is nothing extraordinaire. It sounds like a glorified jamming session between four accomplished musicians who have no idea what direction their band should ultimately take.

The studio album, on the other hand, while not brilliant is actually interesting. All four members of the real PINK FLOYD (that is, Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason) get a chance to have their ideas played in the disc. The first one, by Wright, is very unique and quite advanced for its time as a track on a rock album. It gets lost after the brilliant beginning, but the keyboard work is good. Waters' hadn't yet acquired the songwriting talents he would later on, and that's proven by his weak contributions, which sound more like the ravings of a maniac than actual songs. Gilmour's turn to shine is actually far more pleasing, and even if at times the piece also gets lost in a sea of noise and experimentation-for-experimentation's sake, when the voice arrives it actually makes for the best moment in all the album. Finally, Mason proves us he knows how to tune drums. He proves us that he knows how to play drums. Sadly, he proves us he doesn't have the same skills to compose interesting music.

The first disc gets a 1.5-star rating from me; the second gets 3.5. The average of 2.5 demands me to give this album a rating of 3 stars, as sadly I don't have any option to put it between the better "Atom Heart Mother" and the inferior "Piper at the Gates at Dawn", which have 3 and 2 stars respectively in my review catalogue.

It's an important musical document, though, and it's historic value it's still a reason to warrant a recommendation.

Report this review (#187279)
Posted Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Dedicated to Rick, gentle man, wonderful musician

Overview: A common misconception perpetuated over the years is that the live half of this album is essential while the studio portion is rubbish. That is absolutely wrong in my view. It is the studio half of Ummagumma that is important for its wild experimentations that would make it one of the most important, influential and liberating releases to many bands in the 1970s. Tangerine Dream and Cluster cited the album as a direct influence. It is the studio album that marked the progress of this band at this point in time. It was also successful to the hard core Floyd fans of the day and sold very well for a record company that had no idea what to make of it. One writer doing a positive review for WYWH called it their best work since Ummagumma, meaning Umma was being placed higher than everything between it and Wish. I'm not going that far as I find Atom Heart more successfully captured a spirit of experimentation with melodies that are more pleasurable for repeat listening, as did Dark Side. But make no mistake: the true Pink Floyd fan who considers him/herself a "progressive" rock fan needs to hear this important link in the growth of one of music's finest recording units. I will discuss the studio album at some length but the live album, while entertaining, should really be considered a bonus disc. It is a snapshot of the Floyd covering material they were genuinely bored with playing by this time, including a terribly mistaken attempt at a Syd track that does not work (and how could it, really?) Still it's certainly a nice disc to have despite the sound problems and my assertion that the studio album is the bang here.

People often use the latter day Floyd members disowning of this period as a reason to reject it which is another common mistake. While the old men of PF may consider themselves too distinguished for such excursions these days you have to ignore their revisionism and look back and read the quotes from their press clippings at the time. The fact is that the Floyd were excited about this material, about the chance to create their own piece and about having material to try live that was less structured than past albums would be. As Rick said in early 1969 "we are getting into a live rut..we're going to force ourselves to do new things." Did they ever!! Though I'm not sure much of this album made the live set, the band was off into AHM mode shortly after the release of Ummagumma. While they may have soured on these heady days in later life there is no reason their fans need to. If anything the early albums represent PF at their most exciting and most interesting. They would later claim the album could have been better had they taken more time and worked more together than separate. This is possibly true although given that Ummagumma represents their experimental peak why regret that it was made differently? It seems fitting and gives the pieces unique character.

Press: Patrick, The Pink Floyd Fandom website: "At their peak of their most psychedelic musical experimentation comes my favorite Pink Floyd album: Ummagumma. The studio album shows what each artist was capable of as an individual during the maturing of the group as a whole. I believe that it gives a great portrait of each member as a soloing artist. It is this individual soloing which then allowed the band to create long masterpieces (Atom Heart Mother etc.) where playing together and understanding each other musically is so important. Ummagumma is definitely an important piece of the puzzle of Pink Floyd, both as a building block and as a work of art everyone can enjoy."

UK's Record Mirror, Nov 1969: ".a truly great progressive album. They mix psychedelic and classical patterns, and explore sounds, music, and gimmicks to their fullest extent. The recordings are beautiful."

International Times, Oct 1969: ".an essential purchase for anyone who has ever got into the Floyd..these two albums are a really magnificent package. The first disc comprises four pieces from their live repertoire beautifully played and well produced."

The Music: The most interesting thing about Ummagumma is that it is Wright and Mason who really excel here. Their two sections are the best while Water's stuff is the weakest. That is a trend that would not continue but it is a reminder that PF remained very much a "group" until after Dark Side and that Wright was a potent force at this moment. It reminds that prior to the Waters led heyday of 1973-1983 the other members of the band often had good ideas too and led rather than simply taking orders.

Richard Wright: Wright more than any of them embraced the spirit of Ummagumma and the results show it. He had been telling the others that he was ready to make some "real music" as he'd been the only one with formal training, albeit brief. His 4-part concerto is called "Sysyphus" - the title of which was taken from a Greek myth about a soul condemned to hell. The music is quite dramatic as you'd imagine beginning with murky Gothic flavored dirge announcing doom and gloom. In part 2 things lighten considerably as we move to some gorgeous piano playing, among Wright's nicest moments in the band's cannon. The emotion of his solo piano is palpable to me, fresh, alive, buoyant. I imagine the piece to be about the passive reflections of a young man looking at the life and death process, the section starts with peace and sunny vibes and slowly escalates into chaos, perhaps signaling madness and death. The 3rd part shifts gears as Wright borrows some of Mason's pots and pans and Waters' small furry animals for some general mischief-making. In the last part Wright stretches out with what I believe is mellotron over bird sounds creating some relaxing moments once again before the mood crashes again with heavy organ and percussion, eventually leading us back to the doomy march of the first part. While he later felt the work was "pretentious" there was no reason for shame: "Sysyphus" remains one of the hard core Floyd fan's many truly wonderful gems and was no doubt a great experience for the undervalued hero of the band.

Roger Waters: Roger's "Granchester Meadows" is an ultra-pastoral ode to a special place in his past employing mainly acoustic guitar and double-tracked voice. Sound effects of nature are also used throughout to create the bucolic mood of the lyrics. Along with "If" on the next album these pieces are not convincing and have to qualify as among Water's most underwhelming work. It's no wonder he doesn't like Ummagumma, his material is the weakest on the album. The problem with Granchester is that it just lays there. It doesn't really pack the beauty needed to convey the feeling of the place in his mind and the singing is so whispered as to be nearly inaudible unless one can get to the volume to crank it up. He follows this with the all time gimmick track "Several Species" which every teen thrills to two times in their life: the first time they hear it, and the second time when they play it for their best friend. While an impressive exercise in the construction of those effects the track is one you will likely skip when you play this album. Water's used his voice and drumming away on his own body as the origins of the sounds and then altered tape speed and used echo to create the piece. The coolest part of the track is the way he seems to create conversations between the creatures and you can imagine the dialogue as they scuttle about alarmed with some unseen threat. He would comment that "The Final Cut" meant a hell of a lot more to him that "Ummagumma" and that's fine, but not every album has to have heavy conceptual, literal overtones. Occasionally people like to let their imaginations roam with abstract sound- or at least they used to.

David Gilmour: The 3-part "The Narrow Way" was Dave's contribution to the studio side of Ummagumma and like Waters, Dave has claimed it is basically bits and pieces of fooling around that he hadn't listened to in years. He recalled being so mortified with the idea of writing his lyrics for this piece that he phoned Roger and asked for help; Roger of course told him NO and to get on with it himself. As with the Waters tracks I find some feelings of contrivance with portions of Dave's contribution, for whatever reason Wright and Mason's works just seems so much more natural and successful. But "The Narrow Way" does have fine moments too. Part 1 finds Dave easing in slowly with his back-porch acoustic ramblings accented by some oddly Syd-sounding slide flourishes (think the "Remember a Day" scrapings) Part 2 is really cool in the way the mood taps into what Wright was doing on the sinister gothic parts of Sysyphus. Dave comes up with a doomy riff that almost sounds like a bit of Sabbath and gives the album a feel of recurring themes that add some depth. Part 3 is the payoff for most Floyd fans though with a drop-dead gorgeous, smooth Gilmour vocal played off of some delicate piano. It's the one moment of Ummagumma that provides some melodic oasis to the mainstream Floyd fan wondering what the hell they just got themselves into here. As Sinkadotentree says it could fit in effortlessly among the tracks on Meddle.

Nick Mason: "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is a fitting title for such a grand little piece which begins and ends with some lovely baroque flute sections performed by Mason's wife Libby. The beefier mid section called "Entertainment" is a truly insane collage piece constructed with percussion and tape effects and perhaps influenced by Stockhausen. Of note here is the over the top stereo-separation which surely blew the mind of many a stoned music fanatic playing this album in the dark after sparking up. Mason's piece is truly quite erratic and disruptive to one's expectations of what Pink Floyd *should* sound like and hearing it for the first time can be difficult. It needs to be approached without expectations of the typical drum solo. Like the others Mason is a bit dismissive of his work these days which is unfortunate, in his mind apparently polishing fancy cars is a more important endeavor than experimentations in sound. But I love the little percussion call and answer he does with these little rolls around the 5 minute mark. Sure it's not the highlight of progressive rock but then Mason will admit he was never the world's great drummer. I give him much credit for going with the spirit of the album rather than playing it safe.

Conclusion: The funny thing about Ummagumma is that it's the ace in the hole of the long time Floyd fan. Once you have heard Dark Side and Animals and Meddle to death for decades and have every note imprinted to memory, Ummagumma serves as a choice reservoir for some vintage moments of Pink Floyd that sound strangely fresh the older and more patient one becomes. Who would have guessed that fresh on the heels of Wright's tragic early death it would be this album, written off by many as irrelevant, that would provide me with some real "lump in the throat" tribute listening for Rick and for a time when the Floyd were a real band: Rick's majestic piano clashing with the doomy organ in one of his most poignant and unrestrained moments in Pink Floyd. Dave's peaceful "pillow of wind" voice floating you away as gorgeous as any vocal he ever did. Nick's ode to Stockhausen sandwiched between wife Libby's beautiful flute parts providing a wild ride on the stereo-separation roller coaster. It's a treasure chest of little moments that are the very essence of what "progressive music" fans claim to be about-opening their minds and accepting that which isn't always an easy hum. Ummagumma falls well short of a masterpiece but remains a crucial step in the evolution of a musical force. The band would improve on the next album by incorporating more accessibility into what was still sound experiment. They would then move away from this phase of splendid curiosities and into the realm of the '70s music machine which would have its own set of peaks and valleys. But any progger who purports to be a Floyd fan must eventually come to terms with Ummagumma and see the pearls that hide there. And I'm not talking about the live disc, which again, should really just be considered a bonus disc on this release. In a time when many of the most popular "progressive" bands are slick, predictable and little more than elaborate pop music with syrupy vocals/sentiments, it is somewhat refreshing to revisit a time and place when something like Ummagumma could actually be released by a major label. When a band could be both popular and on the edge. 7/10

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Posted Sunday, December 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Neo Prog Team
4 stars As I've been listening to this album for some 30 years now, I feel qualified to give a reasonable opinion. This is of course much different from the easily recognisable Floyd from the mid to late 70s.

The album is split in 2. One disc is live, recorded at Manchester and Birmingham in 1969, the other is a studio disc, with each band member contributing a quarter of the material.

I will start with the studio disc, which for me is the poorer by some way. The quality is very inconsistent. The sections of Richard Wright and Nick Mason are in the majority quite dreadful. With the exception of the opening minute or so, Part 1 of Wright's Sysyphus is a jumbled mess, although things do improve on parts 2-4. Mason's contribution is certainly avant garde, but may be a bit too weird for most tastes. The sound of a toothbrush being rolled around a beaker are a bit extreme for me! It is amusing, but I have to say that these days I do not listen to either Mason or Wright's sections.

Fortunately, Waters and particularly Gilmour rescue the situation. Waters' Grantchester Meadows is a lovely acoustic pastoral piece, which always reminds me of a lovely English summers day. As I write this in deepest January, that would be very nice! Several Species is hilarious, complete with the wierdest possible sound effects, and an indecipherable Scotsman. Again, this piece may be a bit too much for many. Gilmour's The Narrow Way, in 3 sections, is a fine, normal piece of music, which would not have been out of place on Meddle. Gilmour's guitar work is tremendous throughout.

The live disc is absolutely superb. Four classic tracks, all of which are much better than their studio versions. It is stunning to hear how tight the band were, the guitar and keyboards blending as one to create heavenly and shivering sounds which drift across the listener. This is surely one of space rock's finest moments. Wright's majestic organ playing really stands out, showing just how important he was to the Floyd sound. It is difficult to pick a favourite from the live disc, each is equally brilliant. However, I will single out the floating middle section of Set The Controls... as my personal highlight. Gilmour and Wright produce possibly the most amazing spacey section of music that I have heard.

Rating this album is tough. I would give the studio disc perhaps 2-2.5 stars and the live album easily 5 stars. Therefore, as the live disc is SO good, I will award 4 stars on the whole. As far as space rock is concerned, this is an essential album.

Report this review (#197459)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Ummagumma' - Pink Floyd (5/10)

Lets take a look at the two disks separately.

The first is a Live EP, showing the remarkable talent these guys have as musicians. Despite the long, jam- like lengths and structures of the songs, the songs are constructed in such a way, where they can actually be considered individual compositions of their own, as opposed to random improvisation. Each of the songs 'goes somewhere.' Of particular note is the epic finale to 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' which manages to perfectly translate the drama and emotion of the original into a live setting. For a live recording (especially at the time) the sound quality is amazing.

On the other hand, we have the Studio disc. Each band member wrote their own 'epic' composition for this album. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Gilmour tracks, the songs are boring, and at times downright ear-hurting. From the scratchy sounds of 'Sysyphus Part III' to the inane, pointless (albeit whimsical) drone of '...Grooving With A Pict' to the monotonous rhythmic pulse of 'Grand Vizier's Garden,' there just isn't enough here to keep interest. The Gilmour songs, along with 'Grandchester Meadows' are decent, but are by no means anything incredibly fantastic.

Of these two CDs, I would give the excellent Live recording a 4, and the boring studio session a 2. Average it out, and you get 3. Simple enough?

Report this review (#202425)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I know I shouldn't be rating this a 5, but 4.5 technically rounds up to five.

The first disk gets a 5, the second gets a 4, so it averages out to that. Plus, I think UmmaGumma deserves a little more than what it has.

Personally, UmmaGumma is a very fun album to listen to, as it is extremely experimental. Now, the first disk comprises of 4 live songs, Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe, Eugene, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, and A Saucerful of Secrets. These are 4 of the greatest Pink Floyd song ever. Each is extended from what they originally were to about twice the length, with the exception of A Saucerful of Secrets (However, there HAVE been bootlegs where it is extended up to around 20 minutes or more).

When played live and improvised upon, the songs certainly sound a lot more epic. In the finale of A Saucerful of Secrets, rather than just chanting vocals, they add in the rest of the instruments (as they have always traditionally done).

So that's the first disk. The second disk, personally, I give it a 4, but that's just me, and I understand that people might be a little frightened by it. It's EXTREMELY avant garde, to a new level, where it's hardly rock music anymore. The prog and experimental influences became so great that they drowned out the original rock genre that they used to have. I personally love it, and when people say that it's weird, and just a bunch of noise, I explain to them that music like this is like a Picaso painting... it looks totally weird and bizarre, but if you are open minded, you can truly see the art in it.

Sysyphus begins with a haunting organ followed by a quiet piano solo that slowly builds up into its avant garde-ness by adding strange noises and percussion. During part 3, the strange noises and percussion is all that is left, along with bizarre, howling animal noises making you feel like you're running through a wild jungle of some sort... then it suddenly ceases... and you're left with a quite organ melody along with the sounds of birds chirping and rivers running... then suddenly the organ becomes loud again, and the original haunting melody is played, much slower, until it ends. This is Richard Wright's contribution to UmmaGumma

Roger Waters wrote Grantchester Meadows and Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict. Grantchester meadows is a nice and quiet ballad... much like If, and Fat Old Sun. Not very progressive in my opinion, just a quiet acoustic song, but it's peaceful nonetheless... and randomly ends with the sound of someone trying to swat a fly.

Several Species is very bizarre, and can only be described as the perfect song to scare away campers... Roger Waters recorded spoken phrases and sped them up, increasing the pitch. This is a very experimental song as all that it is, is sped up voices. The voices are made to sound like chirping, chattering animal sounds like birds, squirrels, raccoons, etc. Halfway in, a Scottish Pict can be heard going on a rant with his animal buddies in his cave. Playing this loudly to campers in the forest can certainly scare them away. And it also works on the black rappers too, as my father once was annoyed at the rap music in the courtyard below, so he stuck his speakers out and played this song, and when he looked back, they were all gone.

David Gilmour's section is the Narrow Way. This is the only song on this album that is slightly rock n' roll sounding, but it still sounds bizarre. A quiet acoustic section leads into an electric guitar section with strange sound effects, followed by a ballad type song at the end, featuring David Gilmour on vocals. This and Sysyphus are the best songs on the album.

The Grand Vizier's Garden Party is Nick Mason having fun in a room full of drums. It begins and ends with a flute solo, and has Nick Performing basically a huge drum solo. People usually can't appreciate this, but I love it, it's a piece of art, and I can easily listen to it for pleasure.

So yes, this album is AMAZING, however, it's EXTREMELY avant garde, and experimental to the point of being extremely bizarre. Many people label this as just noise so I suggest that you listen to it for yourself before deciding whether to buy it or not. Because you might be disappointed if you don't see the art in it, for you have just paid 20 dollars for screeching animals, weird sound effects, and clanging percussion. But anyone who understands Pink Floyd can easily see the Masterpiece in it.

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Posted Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
4 stars Ummagumma is a very experimental album. One of the two discs contains four live songs and the other one is a studio recording. I'm going to start with the studio disc.

The studio disc is made out of solo contributions from the band members, because the band at that moment was lacking inspiration. The contributions all are very experimental, definitely one of Roger Waters' contribution is very experimental.

First up is Richard Wright's contribution to the album it's "Sysyphus". The song lasts about thirteen minutes and is divided into four parts, the first one lasting only one minute. This part, however, is very powerful. The second part lasts three and a half minutes, it's a jazzy jam, probably the best part of the song. The second part changes from jazzy piano to very experimental, after a while it segues into the even more experimental part three. Part three is pretty short and contains slide guitar on the background and experimental keys as lead instrument. Part three is soon joined by percussion and has a somewhat abrubt ending. Part four is the longest part of Sysyphus, it lasts seven minutes. Part four starts out very mellow and pretty, after a coouple minutes it segues into the much more experimental reprise of part one. Overall Sysyphus is a pretty good song, maybe a bit lengthy but hey, it's prog.

Next up are Roger waters' contributions. The first of them is "Grantchester Meadows", a very quiet folky song. The song is guided by acoustic guitar, which is played by Roger Waters. On the background constantly birds are heard, they prevent the song getting too quiet. In the end a fly is heard, and eventually the fly gets squashed. Grantchester Meadows is a very mellow song, lovely.

Roger's second contribution is "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict". It is definately the most experimental song of the album, All it contains is Roger's voice, sometimes sped up and during the entire song Roger's whistling is heard. The song is very funny, but not neccecary good. I prefer most of the other songs on this album.

Next up is "The Narrow Way", David Gilmour's contribution. Just as Sysyphus, this one is splt up into three parts. Part one has some lovely acoustic guitar playing, with powerful, psychedelic sounding slide guitar on the background. When the first part reaches it's end the slide guitar and synths start taking much more lead. It segues into part two, which is based around a very dark riff. Just as in part one on the background slide guitar is heard. Eventally the riff fades and the song becomes a trippy, experimental jam. Part three is the longest of the parts, it lasts six minutes and is the only one that contains vocals. The vocals are pretty dark in the verses, though the chorus is very mellow. As the song progresses more and more instruments will be heard. The Narrow way in my opinion is the best contribution to the Ummagumma studio disc.

The final contribution is Nick Mason's "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party". This song also is divided into three parts. Part one only lasting one minute, it contains a gentle flute and eventally some snare drums. It segues into part two, which starts out with some tom's. The song is very psychedelic, definitely in the middle, smooth synth plays the lead role in this song. The part ends with funky drumming and part three is another short part with gentle flute. Nick's contribution is not too exciting I think.

The other disc of the Ummagumma album is the live disc, which is a great disc I think. The live disc starts out with "Astronomy Domine", of Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Originally sung by Syd Barett, but David Gilmour does it just as good. The solo which the studio version has is replaced by a lengthy jam, characterized by David's powerful guitar with wah-effect and Rick's keyboards. The song lasts more than eight minutes, which is two times the length of the studio version, an amazing performance of a great song.

The second song is "Careful With That Axe, Eugene". The song starts with a simple bassline and is soon joined by Rick Wright's organ. I've got to say the sound of the organ is incredible, it is not too loud, but you definitely hear it. Rick plays a sort of Egyptian sounding music. This goes on for about three minutes, till the tension gets higher. Roger's powerful scream is heard and is joined by David's distorted guitar. The high scream of Roger is heard later in their carrier in the very beginning of Another Brick In The Wall Pt.2, from their album The Wall. After the powerful middle part the distorted guitar solo goes on for several minutes and slowly the song gets more quiet again, until it sounds just as in the beginning, guided by the beautiful organ. Careful With That Axe, Eugene is a true masterpiece, one of their most psychedelic songs.

The next track is "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", one of Pink Floyd's most mysterious songs. The song is lead by a powerful riff and powerful drums. Roger Waters softly sings and the song raises it's tension. The song speeds up and is joined by Rick's organ, which sounds a lot like the organ used in Careful With That Axe, Eugene. After a bit more than four minutes the loeder part stops and the song turns into a mellow jam, with very high slide guitar and smooth organ. Soon the riff and drums join and the song goes back to basics again, the organ is slightly different at this part, it sounds a bit like a trumpet. The song ends with Roger singing again. I think Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Song is the least good out of the four live songs, it still is a nice one, of course.

"Saucerful Of Secrets", the title track from their second album is also played live. Just as in the previous song, the song starts out with a quite simple bassline and Egyptian sounding organ. After a little while cymbals and slide guitar can be heard. The first part of the song, which lasts until three and a half minute is called "Something Else". The second part, "Syncopated Pandemonium" is characterized by the drums, the cymbals and the lots of spacey slide guitars, it's the most bombastic part of the song. In the studio version the third part "Storm Signal" shall be heard, but in this live version it's skipped. We head on straight to "Celestial Voices", which I find the most beautiful part of the song, it is lead by soft drums and organs. Celestial Voices gets louder after several minutes and eventually David Gilmour can be heard singing, no lyrics are used although. A Saucerful Of Secrets is a very mystical, epic song, really worth listening, it's great.

So, this was my review of Ummagumma, The live disc is fantastic, it's really worth five stars. The studio disc, however, is less good, sometimes even pretty weak and is definitely not worth five stars. In the end I think this album is really worth buying, because of the fantastic live disc, the studio disc also has some good and funny songs.

Report this review (#211832)
Posted Monday, April 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars The studio album is almost not worth listening to, apart from a few nice moments mostly in Glimour's projects, and one apiece for Wright and Waters. "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" is what it sounds like. In general, this album is pretty uninteresting.

1.5 stars

The live album on the other hand is great. 4 stars. The live version of "A Saucerful of Secrets" here far surpasses the studio version on the previous album. Where that one lagged and went nowhere, this one is almost top notch and builds very epically (on par for me with the climax in "Echoes" shortly after the comeback from madness that is the middle of that song. "Careful With that Axe, Eugene" is a generally very good song, featuring waters screaming as the band explodes into sound. I like "Astronomy Domine" here more than on their debut, and while I have never really been much of a fan of "Set the Controls for the heart of the Sun", this version is a bit better I think.

4 stars

total: 2.75 stars

Report this review (#217931)
Posted Saturday, May 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Every Floyd album is one of a kind. They all have different goals and distinguished facets. Yet, they can be roughly put together in two main categories (in the late sixties and seventies): the first era, psychedelic; the second era, progressive. Ummagumma is caught right in the middle of this transition.

Ummagumma shows very clearly a band fumbling for new horizons. It has, therefore, a wave to past - the live album - and a blind search for the future - the studio, experimental album. Being conceived that way, as many has already put, it is actually two distinct albums rather than a double album. Therefore, it is fairer to evaluate each album separately.

The live one shows pretty much how it was the sound of the band live during the first era. If we consider that in the beginning Floyd first earned its reputation for live sets filled with psychedelic spacey jams, one can actually say that the Live Album from Ummagumma in fact displays the most genuine sound of the early times of Floyd. It is composed of 4 long pieces, spanning from 8 to 12 minutes. They are, therefore, much extended versions of the studio recordings - except for A Saucerful of Secrets, which was already a long track.

Astronomy Domine has the same power of the studio version, but filled in with a climatic, spacey interlude, where the keyboards set the tone. Very good version. Careful with that Axe, Eugene, is a very creepy tune, as the title suggests, with a feel of controled chaos. This time, the guitar takes the front, along with the famous Roger's scream you can see also in Live at Pompeii. This song has a much shorter and much less impactant studio version that you can find in the compilation Relics. Set the Controls is another track extended by spacey sounds dominated by the keyboards. The live version A Saucerful of Secrets is much more powerful than the studio one, with some very nice vocalisations from Dave in the end. This album shows how much the studio didn't always do justice to the Floyd sound. In short, this live versions are all as good as or even better than the studio ones. Plus, they all show significant differences, making them almost like new songs. That is, everything you would expect from a good live album (at least what I would expect). Still, none of these songs belong to the pantheon of absolut classics of the band - the best was yet to come. Therefore, it gets 4 stars.

The Studio Album is a whole different story. Very much different indeed. I certainly wouldn't call it as "psychedelic". It hints some progressive rock, but it's not exactly progressive either. It is, like I said, a transitional album, characterized by pure experimentation. It is divided in four sections, each one commanded by one of the members of the band.

The first section, Sysiphus, is Rick's, and very different from the sound we are used to associate with Rick's keyboards and songs. The four pieces of this sections, all instrumentals, are dominated by a dark, gloomy, dissonant sound, the first one being a fanfare, the second, a piano solo, more rythmic than melodic; the third is a piano followed by drums and sound effects with ascending cacophony; the fourth showcases the organ. First in a lighter moment more familiar to Rick's style. By the third minute the track changes to a creepy organ sound that grows in ascendind chaos and then fades into an also dark march - very much like the soundtrack of a horror movie. In all, the tracks are odd but interesting. You might even enjoy it if you dare to listen to it for a few times. In fact, it is perhaps the best section as whole (the best isolated track is Gilmour's, as you'll see).

Next is time for Roger to shine. He actually provides only two tracks. The first one, Grandtchester Meadows, is an acoustic, folk song with sounds of the country. Listenable but quite forgettable. The next track, Several Species..., is indeed a collage of animal sounds, but in a certain way catches your attention and marks the rythm only by the sound effects. It should not be compared to actual songs, but rather with tracks like Revolution 9 (The Beatles), in which the comparison works to its favor - in my opinion.

The next section is The Narrow Way, by Dave, divided in three parts. The first is acoustic piece, ponctuated by some electric guitar effects. Fine, but nothing special. It is followed by a darker piece composed of a repeating riff, again with guitar effects. Expect no great guitar solos in either of the tracks. The third part of The Narrow Way is the closer you can get to a "normal" song in this album, and in fact it will remit you to better known songs of the next phase in Floyd's history, especially because of the combination of Gilmour's guitar and emotional vocals. Clearly the highlight of the studio album, but nonetheless not a great track either - at least not as great as it could be; it would benefit from a better guitar solo in the ending.

Then comes Nick's section, which is composed of two brief flute solos intermingled by a long (seven minutes) and forgettable drum solo without any special appeal except for the play with the two stereo channels.

It's easy to dismiss this studio album as rubbish, and it is certainly hard to get it or enjoy it. Yet, one has to acknowledge the boldness and commitment of the band to try new sounds and reinvent itself. Plus, if you have the patience to go through the experience a few times, you will certainly find a clue to the great things yet to come. The use of sound effects here, for instance, should be regarded as the grandmother of the ones you find in Dark Side of the Moon. In short, if Floyd hadn't have the will to hit and miss - process in which this album was made - we probably wouldn't be today celebrating the timeless classics the band made in the next years.

That said, I don't mean, by no ways, that this is not a flawed album. Many of its shots indeed miss the target, the others fail to qualify as true classics. A Floyd fan (like me) will certainly have fun trying to recover the steps of the band and searching for clues to the future of Floyd through this album. Nonetheless, we don't really need to know Ummagumma to fully appreciate Meddle, Dark Side or Wish You Were Here. Therefore, it is only fair to give it 3 stars. It is important to note that most of the prog fans who like to call themselves open-minded and avant-garde have no real reasons not to give it a try and should be fair to acknowledge it for its importance. I know I came to appreciate it more through the years, as I became more familiar to experimental, avant-garde music associated with progressive rock, even though it's never a constant hit in my stereo.

Live Album - 4 stars

Studio Album - 3 stars

Final rating - 3.5 stars; I'll round down to 3 stars: good, but non-essential.

Report this review (#226034)
Posted Saturday, July 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Ummagumma" is the 4th full-length studio album (partially live) by UK psychadelic/progressive rock act Pink Floyd. The album was released through Harvest Records in October 1969. The original release was a double LP. The first LP features 4 tracks recorded live and the second LP features new original studio compositions by the band. Or maybe more correctly each band member contributed their own songs to the project. "Ummagumma" is Pink Floyd´s second 1969 album, as they had already released "More" in July of 1969.

The 4 tracks featured on the live part of "Ummagumma" are great quality live tracks performed by an inspired and probably tripped out young band, featuring a pretty good sound quality (for the time) and a great atmosphere. The live versions of "Astronomy Domine" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" are quite brilliant and the psychadelic trips "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" and "Saucerful of Secrets" are stunning too.

Unfortunately the studio part of the album can´t match the brilliance of it´s live counterpart. The Roger Waters´s penned "Grantchester Meadows" and the David Gilmour penned three part suite "Narrow Way" are decent contributions, but both the Nick Mason penned "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" and the three part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Part 1: Entrance; Part 2: Entertainment; Part 3: Exit)", and the Richard Wright penned four part "Sysyphus (Parts 1-4)", are pretty redundant to my ears.

The high quality of the live recordings on the first LP, are worth the price of admission alone, and they are the reason why "Ummagumma" is a worth while release even though the studio part of the album is decent at best and redundant at worst. A 3 - 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#228480)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Although this basically is a live album, it's the essential early Pink Floyd for me. It shows their ability to make their somewhat obscure and indulgent studio work come alive on stage. All tracks easily take twice the length of their studio counterparts but they do that without any dull moment.

Astronomy Domine is here in its ultimate version. Infinitely better and more developed then the studio version of only 2 years earlier, Careful with that Axe is one of my Pink Floyd favourites, especially in this frenzied and spaced-out version. Heart of the Sun and Saucerful of Secrets have completely outgrown their amateurish studio versions and feature a Nick Mason who must have had the time of his life! Also Gilmour and Wright shine with their bewildering noisy climaxes.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, there's an additional studio CD you have to indulge when buying Umma Gumma. Apart from Water's and Gilmour's contributions it's rather forgettable (not to say annoying). But the 5 star rating is entirely deserved by the live album alone and a true testimony what a extraordinary band Pink Floyd was in these days. Their most essential 60's release for me.

Report this review (#236833)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm one of those who thinks the studio album from UMMAGUMMA is some kind of near- masterpiece. If you love Brian Eno's instrumental albums, you might really enjoy this album; it's some sort of prototype, and sits comfortably beside albums such as Cluster's ZUCKERZEIT. (If this isn't a "rock album," it is the vein of what some "Krautrock" bands were doing at the time.) Floyd fans might want this for Waters' "Grantchester Meadows" and Gilmour's "The Narrow Way," the two vocal numbers on this album. Waters' song perhaps could have done with some editing; and while I think Parts 1 and 3 of Gilmour's suite are both perfect, I do find that part 2 mars both the album and the song. If I had the technology, I would edit it out entirely and somehow connect part 1 with part 3 (I wish it was done for the ECHOES compilation; part 3 really is one of Gilmour's finest moments and, for me, far more preferable to the overrated "Fat Old Sun"). Richard Wright's "Sysyphus" is awesome as well, and has some beautiful moments, and Nick Mason's conclusion is fine as well.

Too bad "Embryo," which was recorded for the album, was left off (it appeared instead on the compilation WORKS). I'm not positive, but I think "Biding My Time" was also recorded at the UMMAGUMMA sessions (it appears on the comp RELICS). Perhaps one day these two songs will hopefully be featured as bonus tracks.

As for the live album, it really is a great snapshot of the band's live sound (although that would get better and more interesting in subsequent years), and most of the songs are an improvement over the studio versions. I wish however that it was released separately from the studio album; it really doesn't make sense for the two to be paired together.

Report this review (#247206)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars My opinion about Ummagumma is close to usual point of view. I like their live part, consisting of perfect versions of their best songs from very early period. ( Only pity, that this part is too short!).

Re. second CD I think that their bulky studio recording of unstructurised psychedelic songs is more material for Pink Floyd heavy fans. It is not so bad ar raw music, that it is not possible to listen it, but too long for sure!

Whenever the album exists only as double CD, let say that both together it is above average set. Live part is perfect, and studio part is more for fans, but very representative. All album is excellent example of best psychedelia of it's time. In total 3,5.

Report this review (#249319)
Posted Monday, November 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ummagumma is a really perplexing affair, to say the least. Although it's hardly Pink Floyd's masterpiece (for most), it was undoubtedly the exemplar of their pre-Dark Side records; the avant-garde compositions, the lengthy instrumentals, the blooming lyrical brilliance; it's all here, but not in the conventional way found in Meddle or Atom Heart Mother. It has its share of masterpieces...the brilliant classical-tinged "Sysyphus", the folk-influenced Waters song "Grantchester Meadows", the unexplainable "The Narrow Way", and, most importantly, the haunting "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" are all among Floyd's best work. Despite the high quality of these tracks, they're all exceedingly experimental, which can be something of a put off to the casual rock listener.

Pink Floyd was always a great live band, which is exemplified excellently by the record's first side; in fact, several of the renditions on here far exceed the studio originals, and the spectacular "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" ranks among the group's greatest material. The studio half, however, is almost completely unaccessible...unless you adore avant-garde (or you're a Floyd collectionist), I wouldn't recommend this album.

Report this review (#259358)
Posted Monday, January 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ummagumma is one of the albums that is special. Special, because it is a unique album, in a style not done by others, certainly not before. It is also an album that creates a specific atmosphere, a specialty that belongs to Pink Floyd anyway. But is the music exceptionally good? Are there songs on this album that ask for special attention? I am afraid that my answer is no. It is nice to listen to, but it is not the music that you often listen to. I have to say that especially the "solostic" parts on the original second lp weaken the album to a rating of only a 3. That is a pity because the first LP is maybe not excellent but at least essential due to the uniqueness.
Report this review (#264980)
Posted Monday, February 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars When listening to this album, you can be one of 2 people. You can A: find the album to be quite weird and to be just random noise and to be honest, is a bit unlistenable, or you can B: find it as a major achievement in experimental music and hail it as a classic piece of experimentation.

I will go with B, due to the fact that this album is incredibly intriguing and very interesting. The album is incredibly experimental and, like Yes' Fragile, it puts across solo efforts from the band.

The album easily could have been fiddly virtuosic solo pieces that show off the instrumentalist's skill, or it could show each member's own experimental sides and their achievements as songwriters and how to go beyond with the use of their instrument.

Ummagumma personifies this expedition and shows us what really does go on in Pink Floyd's heads.

The live album that came with the studio album is very good as well (live albums don't really interest me, either you're their for the experience, or you're not.

1.Sysyphus - Rick's experiment. A great intro. Now we know where Antonius Rex got their influence from. Part 2 is an intermezzo, with some nice piano playing, with some classical styled discords thrown in. Part 3 sounds like monkeys kicking a harpsichord to death. Part 4 has some very beautiful mellotron parts that remind me of King Crimson. The bit in the middle of the song scares the hell out of me. The piece ends with the Antonius Rex part, just like the beginning.

2. Grantchester Meadows - Roger's experiment part 1. This song is very beautiful and has a John Martyn vibe to it. The birdsong in the background adds more solemn to the song. I felt sorry for the fly at the end of the song.

3. Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave & Grooving With A Pict - Roger's experiment part 2. The first time I ever heard this song was on a cold winters afternoon, when a friend of mine told me about the song and made me listen to it on his iPod. To be honest, the song was quite weird and I had stories about this song from my dad. This song is incredibly experimental. Roger did all the noises and voices in this song and to be honest it does sound very much like an orgy of animals. I didn't think that repeated mention of the word cum was a good idea. The Scottish bit at the end was a bit weird as well.

4. The Narrow Way - Dave's experiment. Part 1 reminds me of Black Sabbath fighting with Hawkwind. Part 2 again has a very Black Sabbath feel to it. The last part also has some beautiful themes presented. I think the lyrics at the end were also improvised.

5. The Grand Vizier's Garden Party - Nick's experiment. The entrance and the exit have a very nice Jethro Tull vibe to them. I like how the entertainment section has a more experimental side to the percussion section. A great piece of music.

CONCLUSION: This is probably one of the best examples of experimental music. Go and buy it now.

Report this review (#270346)
Posted Monday, March 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars What is there to say? Words lack for a majestic masterpiece like "Ummagumma"... The live versions of "Astronomy Domine", "Careful with that axe, Eugene", "Set the controls" and "A saucerful" are stunningly beautiful! Especially "Careful" is hauntingly beautiful... Should the taxman ring at the door, put on this track and he'll be gone forever...

The studio album is as brilliant. Richard Wright's "Sysyphus" proves again that he was a very important factor in the Floyd sound (see my review of "More"). "Grantchester Meadows" has the same tranquil effect as "Cirrus Minor" and gives a lazy summerafternoon feel... the effects at the end always sends a smile on my face as does the next Waters piece "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict"... Pure madness and what effects!!! Gilmore's "The narrow way" isn't too bad either though it is the track I like the least. Mason's "The Grand Vizier"s Garden Party" is another gem on this double album. Great stereo effects...

1969 was a fantastic year with albums like "More" and "Ummagumma", just like 1975 was for electronic music...

I think I'll have another helping of this musical feastly meal...

Report this review (#275404)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars "Long" is the term that comes to mind. Very, very long.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good double album, but I can't help but get that feeling of tiredness after hearing Ummagumma. It feels like it's about 3 hours long, and that's because it's so cold and unforgiving. Speaking in terms of the studio side, it is the only Floyd album where the experimental ramblings outweigh the ACTUAL songs. Sure 'Saucerful...' had it's title track, and 'ATM' had 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast', but there was some actual songwriting on those albums too. On here, there is very little. Water's acoustic piece is fine, but unneccesarily long (why leave the tape recorder on while you kill a bee?), and Gilmour's 'Narrow Way: Part III', his first actual Floyd composition, is a good, solid rock song. Other than these two tunes, 'Ummagumma' proudly bears some of my lowest rated "songs" on iTunes. Apart from sounding like a sexually transmitted infection, 'Sysyphus' shamefully exposes all of Rick Wright's weaknesses. He really should have stuck to the same calibre of his previous compositions; delightfully hip rock songs with lyrics and a groove. Instead, it's a mixture of not-so-delightful piano tinkering and lengthy (boring) soundscapes. I just don't consider it progressive. And Mason's is even worse; I don't want to go there. The trouble with this disc, is that it's very individualistic for a start (the band play more comfortably as a unit) and everything is seperated out into little boxes, and smaller boxes within those. Theres no windows in these boxes of experimentation, no communication between band members, and no real emotion whatsoever (other than humour, on 'Several Species...').

The live disc is better. Extended psychedelic noodling goes down well and the playing, singing, and production are all, for want of a better word, fine. Thats all I can say really. This disc doesn't do a lot to rescue the album from the depths of experimentation, even if it does come first. Thus, 'Ummagumma' gets a single star for it's original material, and one extra one for the live tracks, as their content comes from other albums.

Report this review (#277920)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Pink Floyd Live and in the Studio: parallel universes at polar opposites

Pink Floyd's 'Ummagumma' is half excellent, half mediocre. The Hipgnosis cover depicts two parallel universes and in a sense that is what we have here. Two albums at polar opposites from one another. One album is incredible, rich with dark textures and free form jamming with cosmic space rock at its highest peak. One album is lacklustre with forgettable miserable songs that nobody cares about. Interestingly, the two pictures on the cover depict two different Floyd leaders; one is of Gilmour leading as the dominant figure, and the other has Waters in the chair, and this is prophetic as the band eventually split into two Pink Floyd groups with these men as leaders.

Enough philosophy, let's start with the brilliant live album. The live album showcases the band in full flight in a concert experience where they are allowed to fly into the stratosphere. The best live version of 'Astronomy Domine' is played with incredible energy and a divine lead solo. I love the 'P-U-L-S-E' version which is chilling, but this version has a wondrous instrumental section I can listen to anytime.

Recorded in 1969, the band launch into a fabulous lengthy version of the chilling 'Careful with that Axe Eugene', with a manic Waters at his sinister best who screams bloody murder as Gilmour's guitar soars and wails, and Wrights' keyboards swell and ascend into the heavens. The sound is astonishing with sonic reverberances and a dominating resonance that may scare off a lot of listeners. I find Waters' screeches rather disturbing and hard to take at times but nevertheless it is powerful prog.

'Set the Controls to the Heart of the Sun' is brooding with bottom end bass and a very ominous melody, streets ahead of the studio version and totally psychedelic.

'A Saucerful of Secrets' is once again a better version of this enigmatic classic with kinetic energy and jaw dropping guitar. The experimental creativity is flowing constantly and the live experience was never captured so well in1969.

Now to the studio album. I do not even want to review this it is so bad. I remember hearing it at a young age and being totally unnerved by the psych prog, and mind jarring trippy hallucinatory passages. I hated it. It really is Pink Floyd's 'Works' (remember ELP tried to go solo and failed). This is Pink Floyd breaking into a solo artist band and it stinks like the sewerage flowing down Barett's blocked drains.

'Sysyphus' is the best track on it; a 4 part feast of keyboard wizardry by Wright with mellotron and effects. But it peters out from there.

'Grantchester Meadows' is a Waters experiment gone wrong.

The best thing about 'Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict' is the overlong title that only true Floydians are able to remember. It is impossible to describe except to say it is all animal noises and effects and another failed Waters experiment. LSD dopeheads need only apply.

'Narrow Way' is more experimentalism but this time Gilmour tries his hand at freaking us out. It is not much to write home about, so I won't and, like all the other tracks on this studio album, you will only find them here, and that's a relief.

'Grand Vizier's Garden Party' is drummer Mason's ditty, and he even roped in his wife to try playing flute passages. He adds tape loops for effect and unearthly sounds that are disquietening at best.

So that's 'Ummagumma' half a delight, half a fright, but it was the best Floyd album until 'Meddle' arrived, but that's another review. 5 stars for the live material, 1 star for the studio material, so we have to round this off to 3 stars.

Report this review (#279241)
Posted Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars I heard a little bit of this album and it sounded pretty good, so I decided to buy it

I remember that I never really got into it very much. It is not a bad album, but I never thought many of the songs were interesting enough to bother listening to all the way through. I liked about three songs out of the whole thing.

"Astronomy Domine" is good and I enjoyed it at first, but I like the studio version by Syd Barrett much better.

The next one I liked is "Grantchester Meadows." It is relaxing and very cool.

The last song is "Several Species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a Pict." It is wild and interesting.

The rest of the album I can take or leave. While it is not a bad batch of tunes, I just didn't want to keep hearing much of it. Therefore, I give it 2 stars, this time for LACK OF INTEREST.

Report this review (#280405)
Posted Monday, May 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
5 stars Much like In the Court of the Crimson King was a tremendous musical jolt that helped spawn the symphonic wave of progressive music, I think it is fair to state that Ummagumma inadvertently almost single-handedly created the Krautrock scene. Reading up on several of the gurus inside the wondrous and magical world that is Kraut, i saw a similar pattern emerging of general love of Pink Floyd and especially this album. Split into two discs you get a live album, that shows Floyd at their most aggressive primal side, and a second disc containing a studio recorded album of all the members coming up with whatever they felt like. The whole thing feels like a giant [%*!#] you to the general music scene, and the combined mass media consensus of how music is suppose to sound like. Direction less and quite the opposite at times, that it in reality doesn´t even fit in anywhere if we´re going to slip stickers and signs on the mother. Here we´ve got a genuine artistic statement of pure innovation and letting your imagination run wild in a studio and see what comes up at the break of the day. You also get one of the best songs David Gilmour ever penned in "The Narrow Way pt3" which seems to end in something much like a waterfall-choir cascading washing guitar wails, that take you places only Gilmour can. Bereft of any cohesion and pattern we are also served with the creepy "Several species of small fury Animals gathering together and grooving with a Pict" (!!!!!!!??) - that keeps all of it´s lyrical promises sonically... Keeping with the anti-cohesion I thought I´d bring up one of the most bone-chilling, scary and iconic musical outbursts that Pink Floyd ever did. I am of course speaking of the incredible "Careful with that Axe, Eugene", that delivers a primal scream from Roger Waters mid-song which cuts through flesh and metal like Conan the Barbarian slicing up human fillets. The extraordinary thing about the way Roger uses his voice, is actually that he doesn´t exhale as he scream- like we normally do when we talk or sing, no- he is sucking up the words like a vacuum cleaner gone metaphysical, almost as if the sounds come from outside of himself. Pure horror and certainly one of the most violent episodes ever to be recorded in the history of music. -This is coming from a guy who grew up listening to Napalm Death and Obituary... I still stand by my words. This short moment truly transcends its media - momentarily watching through the keyhole. Whether this record tries to disguise itself in mystic wordless ramblings or is tinkling your spinal cord with gooey wild spacerock, you can never honestly say that it get´s boring. Then again I always pictured Floyd as the British musical counterpoint of the Monty Python philosophy, meaning that whatever you do - you´d better do it in spite of everything and with peepers wide open and restlessly tuned into the greatest human attribute: the imagination. -And imagination is loose and twisting and often eluding you, when you try to explain it or make use of it, making it genuinely hard to transcript it elsewhere than in art, -and nowhere better than within the musical realm, where true meaning of things we can´t fathom seems to exist buried deep in vast oceans of notes. Like the Egyptian carpet ride unfolding before your ears in "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" with Nick Mason thundering away on the drums like a rare hypnotizing shaman of the west, or maybe the understated suppressed beauty of "Grantchester Meadows" will better put into perspective the manner in which this record was approached in - treating sounds and noises as tapestries of sometimes unparalleled funny music, but even more so an altogether new way of generating moods within the modern airwaves. This is probably why I think of this record as the father of the Krautrock movement, that exploded all through Germany in the 70´ies - bringing with it music that tried to free itself of every jagged imprisoning boundary out thunk by the laws of the universe. Safe to say we don´t need any laws to impose on our music, but it is rather seldom, we breach our mental levies and LISTEN to something that is truly free of any prefabricated recipes. Break on through to the other side! Right on Jim! Right on!
Report this review (#280856)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ummagumma is quite weird, even for Pink Floyd. The first disc is a live album, containing fantastic renderations of fantastic tracks, the other is a studio album, consisting of four pieces. Each piece is composed and performed by a single member.

On the live album, the performance isn't the best, but still very good. The production is probably the among best you could have in the sixties, so you can hear the layers and stuff. Instellar Overdrive and Embryo were also recorded, but not included to keep the sound good on LP. I would have liked to see them, especially the latter, on the CD reissue when there is enough space. Good album though, 4+ stars.

The first half side of the studio album contais Rick Wright's avant-garde piece Sysyphus. It starts out pretty well and ends good too, but in the middle it get's a bit too weird, and as texture quite boring as there's only piano. There is however an interesting ambience and atmosphere here.

Next half side written by Roger Waters, and as you might excpect it's a bit more conventional. Grantchester Meadows is one of the most beautiful PF songs ever. Psychadelic folk performed on only three acoustic guitars, vocals and various animal and nature sounds. Very calm and idyllic. The other Waters piece is the ridiculously titled Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict, and it sounds just like that too. No instruments here, just vocals and effects. Creepy but cool song, or perhaps more so called concrete poetry.

Gilmour's side is by far the most accomplished here. One track, called The Narrow Way, consisting of three movements. The first one is just layered acoustic guitar with weird sound effects, the next one electric guitar and percussion and the third more of the future style PF. Very good song by David.

The last one, Nick Mason's effort, is prett much just a drum solo with a flute intro and outro. It's good at times but not very coherent and "studio material".

This is an good album, not very solid but fantastic songs are present here. It also shows that PF work much better as a group than as solo artists. It's still worth to get only for disc 1, and disc 2 isn't bad either.

Rating breakdown: (4 + (2,5 + 4 + 5 + 2)) / 5 = 3, 5 ≈ 3 stars. However I think it's essential if you're a PF fan, but there are albums that you should buy before this.

Report this review (#281808)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars "Ummagumma" is the album where Pink Floyd seems to finally turn the page (musically, not conceptually) on the Syd Barrett era. The first album, is a collection of live tracks, each one over eight minutes long. emphasizing spacy, mostly instrumental jams. The second album is broken up into four parts, each by a single member of the band.

The live album is roughly recorded, but shows what a great band Pink Floyd was at the time, and shows how much more lively Nick Mason and Richard Wright were before Floyd became Roger Waters' backup band. In fact, the wntie band shows an energy that rarely came up in the highly polished music that the band became known for.

The second album, to me, is just brilliant. Wright's piece, the four-part Sysyphus, played on keyboards and drums, begins with a mellotron, then moves to an almost classical sounding piano piece, then goes completely avant-garde before finishing back on the mellotron. It may be the best playing I've ever heard from this usually non-assertive keyboardist.

Waters' Grantchester Meadows is the song that is most like the classic era Floyd. Played over a loop of simulated bird noises, Waters sings lightly over acoustic guitars. The pleasantness of this song offsets the darkness of Wright's contribution, and the weirdness that follows. That weirdness is Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict, a collage of rhythmic simulated animal noises that end with a speech in Scottish dialect. You will not hear anything more bizarre on any Pink Floyd album.

david Gilmour's three-part Narrow Way shows off a few of the guitar styles that will grace the coming albums, but doesn't flow ell from one section to another. No matter, the heavy second part is just too cool for words.

Instead of hitting us with a plain drum solo, Nick Mason instead created Grand Vizier's Garden Party, a three-part piece mixing disjointed drum patterns with other dropped in noises and tones, and actually is fun to listen to.

I'd say 3.5 stars for the live album, 5 stars for the solo pieces. Total 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#303771)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is where Pink Floyd starts for me, before Ummagumma, Pink Floyd was a band that was dependent on Barrett, one way or another. But from now on, the band would be Pink Floyd and nothing else. This is also the only Pink Floyd album where all members writes their own songs and no one overshadows anyone. And the reason for that? It's because this is not really a Pink Floyd album, it's rather 4 solo pieces by each band member.

And then there's that live vinyl, it's perfect, I can't say anything else about it. If I only was reviewing that, this would be a high 5-star album, however, now there's the studio vinyl too, which by the way is also good, but not as good as the live vinyl. I don't think I will be saying so much more about the live vinyl, since I have already reviewed the songs on my other PF reviews. And yes, the live versions of the songs are better than the studio versions.

The studio vinyl starts with Rick's piece, which is my favorite on this album. It's a four piece song, where Rick plays all the instruments, from the drums to Mellotron to the bass guitar. This has alot of resemblances to contemporary classical music, the song is really written and performed is that sense, and if I'm not mistaken, Rick was the one that liked this album even after 30 years, and there might a good reason to that, since this is the only song here which seems insipired and willing to progress. This is in my opinion the highlight of avant-prog, some may argue that this is not avant-garde enough, but for me, it's just perfect, nothing has been sacrificed for the concept and the music is always in the focus (which alot of Avant composers fail to achieve).

Roger is the next one up, and he has written one amazing song (in the similiar style as More) and one song which, while not very musical, is enjoyable. The first song, which is called Grantchester Meadows and is the only song on the album with almost the whole band playing. This is the second best song on the album and is propably one of the best acoustic songs Roger ever wrote, and it's propably one of the few songs he still likes from the early era of PF. This is the least experimental song on the album, and this is what the studio side needed, since there had to be a relaxing break somewhere, for the fan who was not interested in 10 minute long instrumental pieces.

Now, take away the vocals and the instrument from Grantchester Meadows, and now you have Roger's next song (which I wont write by it's name, to save my fingers from collapsing). Alright, rather than removing the instruments, replace them with the sounds you heard. Because alot of stuff is actually happening in this song. This is in my opinion a good song, but not in the same way as the previous song, this is just a very well performed and interesting song, I would love to hear someone play this live, I understand that this is a very hard song to perform live, but with some work it could work.

The next song, which is written by David. Seems to be the favorite here on PA, and I understand where that is coming from, because I really enjoy this song, and from time to time this can even be the song I enjoy the most from the album, but as I said before, this song is a bit too uninspired to be my favorite, while Rick exactly knew what he was aiming for in his song, this song just feels like a jam. And I can clearly understand that, David has even said himself that he has no idea what he should do, but in the end he managed to write something, and he managed to do it well. You may have noticed that I have barely analysed the instrumentation of this album, and that is just because this is not an album you can really look at from that direction, since the sounds fly in from all different kind of directions and angles, must be a real drag for the RIO/Avant specialists to review albums.

And lastly there's Nick's piece, and this is the only song where Nick has been only one credited for a song, even if Ron Geesin helped him, with the Flute solo, he didn't recieve any credit, just like for Atom Heart Mother, however, he seemed pretty neutral to that choice. This song consist of the flute solo and afterwards a 7 minute drum solo, and then a reprise of the flute, I don't like the flute solo at all, but the drums are actually really interesting, even if Nick has never been known as a good drummer, he could make the drum solo enjoyable with some studio techniques.

As I said before, the live vinyl is without any doubt a 5-star work and the studio not nearly as good, I have a bit of a problem with this albums rating, since I feel that the studio side is a very high 4, so, if a mathematician would give this album a rating he would give it a low 5, but I can't really give it that, since it doesn't feel right, so I will give a special rating.

A 4-star album with potential the become a 5. Just wait, I will have rewritten this review in a few months!

Report this review (#313288)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars One of Floyd's most consistent efforts. Honestly. A strong double album. This is the band at their most avant-garde and experimental. Proggier than most prog and proto-prog at the time. People who claim PF are not prog need to listen to this album and explain to me how it is less proggy than the debut albums by Yes and Genesis. The studio album was conceived as a collection of solo pieces that go beyond rock music. The live album is good but I have heard shows from this era that have better sound, performance and set-lists than this one.

Ummagumma is apparently slang for sex. The music here is not too sexy though. The live album was the only official live document of Floyd until almost twenty years later. As I mentioned I've heard better shows from these guys in this era. Supposedly they picked these shows because they had the best sound of the ones they wanted to use. Not necessarily the best performances. In 1968 Richard Wright sometimes put his organ through a wah-wah pedal in concert. It sounded awesome but unfortunately there is none of that here.

"Astronomy Domine" almost sounds like a different song compared to the studio version. One of the few Barrett songs they were performing at the time. I like the parts where it's just organ. Gilmour does a great solo. It starts off with wah and then gradually has a cleaner tone. "Careful With Axe, Eugene" was the B-side to the single "Point Me At The Sky". Strange choice for a B-side. Based around a minimal bass part and crescendos. Waters screams like a little girl. Love the sound of the organ at the end.

"Set The Controls..." is not as good as the version on Pompeii. Waters is banging a gong. 5 1/2 minutes in begins a spacey section with modified guitar and organ sounds. The drums and bass come back. "A Saucerful Of Secrets" is also better on Pompeii. More gong form Waters. Great guitar with effects. Like the Pompeii version, this has has drums and just Gilmour singing during the 'celestial voices' part.

Many people hate the studio album but like the live album. As I said, I heard better live stuff from this era. The studio album is where it's at. Lots of ideas and good production. Wright's "Sysyphus" is one of the best things Floyd ever did. Part 1 has a great theme on Mellotron. Some drums as well. Wright plays everything. Part 2 has classical piano, then jazzy piano with cymbals. A slowed down piano makes rumbling noises. Part 3 has slowed down pianos with cymbal and drum noises. Some sped up chipmunk vocals. At the end we get a cacophony of all of the above.

Supposedly Part 4 originally began with the loud organ part. On CD it starts off with lovely Mellotron, vibes and Farfisa. Some bird and water noises. You can briefly hear 'Silent Night' played. Then the music fades out and out of nowhere there is a dramatic organ part which scares the hell out of you the first time you hear it. Then there's a drum roll. Sinister sounding organs and then weird effects and dissonant piano sounds. Gradually the opening Mellotron theme comes back to end everything.

"Grantchester Meadows" is a nice folky song from Waters. Double-tracked vocals and acoustic guitars.Looped bird sounds. It may just be me, but I think the fly sound you hear at the beginnijng and end is really the theme to "Sysyphus"; it sounds like it is distorted, paused and looped. There is a song here with a really long title. I'll just call it SSOSFAGTIACAGWAP. The whole song is vocal noises recorded at different speeds resembling little critters. The Picts were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Scotland. Roger does a Scottish accent and you can barely make out what he says. At one point you can hear a sped up Gilmour say: "that's pretty avant-garde, isn't it?" Ron Geesin later made a tribute/parody of this song called "To Roger, Wherever You Are".

Gilmour's "The Narrow Way" is another highlight. Part 1 has backwards effects, acoustic guitar and slide guitar. Part 2 is simply awesome. It has a riff as heavy as Sabbath. Some tabla like percussion. It gets spacier with sound effects and a slowed down version of the guitar riff. Part 3 is the best song on the whole album and points the most to what the band would sound like in the 1970s. Gilmour sings and plays piano, drums, bass and guitar. I love the sound of the bass at the end.

Mason's "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" deserves a mention too. Parts 1 & 3 are a flute theme performed by Nick's wife. Part 2 is something else altogether. Lots of studio manipulated percussion. At one point you hear the flute part played backwards and what sound like vibes. The drums start getting paused/unpaused along with overdubbed percussion. Near the end is an actual drum solo recorded in stereo. It may not be one of the greatest drum solos of the era, but it's one of the best *sounding*.

For 1969 this sounds great and is extremely progressive. Floyd have a few slightly more consistent albums, and their best songs are found elsewhere. Nonetheless this is a unique musical statement. A masterpiece, but not everybody will like this. 5 stars.

Report this review (#322054)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Ummagumma" is one of the most difficult albums to rate, not only in the field of progressive rock but in music in general. The two discs are so different from each other that they are often considered separate entities; as such, public opinion on the complete package tends to be split rather evenly. Some love the album without objectively examining all parts; some enjoy the album while keeping in mind the studio disc's faults and treating it for what it is - an interesting, though failed experiment; and still there are others who loathe the album's second half and curse that powers that be that made them pay twice the money for the one disc they actually wanted. I fall into the second category; I love the live performances, and I enjoy the studio set with full knowledge of its shortcoming and accepting the fact that it could be worlds better.

The first disc is what gets most of the praise, not only due to the strength of performances but also due to the fact that it gets closest to capturing the classic lineup's prowess as a live act. At its peak years the band in concert was as powerful and compelling a listen as the band on their studio albums, and sometimes even more so. It's a shame that the band hasn't released more of the great Waters-era live material later, but I digress ? what we ARE given is pretty damn good. "Astronomy Domine", a track penned by Syd Barrett for "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", gets a radical makeover. While the original was dominated by guitar, the live rendition is very keyboard-heavy; at one point in the middle Waters, Gilmour, and Mason drop out and let Rick solo away on his Farfisa organ. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" comes next, and for many this is the first time they heard this breathtaking song. The band had already recorded it in the studio and released it as the b-side to "Point Me at the Sky", but that version is incredibly tame compared to how they played it live. I won't spoil it for those who haven't heard it yet, but let me just say it is one of the eeriest and most trippy pieces of music of ever, and it's my favorite jam of all time. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" also gets a makeover for the better, with it taking on a more exotic, Eastern atmosphere. "A Saucerful of Secrets" sheds much of its haunting subtlety for a chaotic assault on the listener. Though "Something Else" suffers from this change, "Syncopated Pandemonium" more than makes up for this by giving the slow studio version a much-needed shot of adrenaline.

Now on to the studio disc. It begins with Rick's piece, "Sysyphus", an instrumental impression of the Greek myth. The music does an effective job of conveying the laborious trip up the hill and the ultimate descent of the boulder back down; my one real complaint is that parts of it, particularly III & IV tend to overstay their welcome and border on tedious. Roger's "Grantchester Meadows" continues the psychedelic folk style he utilized on several songs from "More". It's a nice, relaxing piece, but live versions, with the addition of Farfisa organ and David sharing vocals, are vastly superior. Water's other piece, "Several Species?", consists of Waters imitating animal noises and clapping, even shouting out in a heavy Scottish accent at one point; this foreshadows some of the material he would make with Ron Geesin on "Music From 'The Body'". Music it ain't, but it sure is entertaining. David's piece, "The Narrow Way", is the most successful in my mind. Part I is a nice acoustic-based piece with slide guitar and strange sound effects that segue into Part II, a darker, experimental piece that almost evokes images of an ancient cult ritual. Part III, the longest section, features good guitar work, though David's vocals are not very strong. The final piece is Nick's "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party", which, IMO, is the album's one true failure. The flute passages that bookend the piece, courtesy of Nick's wife Linda, are nice enough, but "Entertainment" grows tedious very fast, with percussion work that goes nowhere. With other musical backing it might have worked, but alone it is very weak.

I advise listeners to approach the album with both caution and an open mind. It is definitely not the place to start with Pink Floyd, but when you do get there it can be a very enjoyable listen. However, one has to be willing to hear the whole album out, with the mindset that it's not a group product, but instead the experiments of each member. These are not the solid band performances that one expects, but one can see that each member had plenty of creativity, if not enough skill yet to pull these pieces off.

Report this review (#341487)
Posted Friday, December 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Surely this album doesn't need one more review, but I want to add my pence.

First of all the albun title: How many people knows that Ummagumma is a slang word for "making sex" in use in Grantchester's area ? We are in 1969 and Brrett is gone. Pink Floyd have been criticised by the old UFO Club fans that have missed Syd Barrett. In the same time the four Floyds haven't found their way yet.

The result is a double album with a live and a studio disc. They are very different and this is the reason of many controversial opinions of the fans during the years.

The live side is in general very well considered because it features very good arrangements of the classic "Astronomy Domine" and of the two best tracks from Saucerful of Secrets: The title track and "Set The Control For The Heart Of The Sun". It features also the only official vinyl release of "Careful With That Axe Eugene", a song which had several titles and was reused also for Anotonioni's Zabriskie Point as "Come on Number 51, It's Your Turn" and is the soundtrack of the last epic moment of the movie.

I want to spend more words on the studio side that's in general less appreciated. Like for ELP "Works", making an album with a side or half written by each band's member was a common practice in that period. The bad is that the four Floyds were still in search of their definitive style. The good is that they are free to experiment. The Disc two of Ummagumma is the most experimental thing that Pink Floyd have ever done.

Rick Wright is the author of "Sysyphus". It's a myth coming from the ancient Greece. The most famous part of the myth is when he's doomed to carry on a rock to the top of a hill and when done he has to restart from the beginning. As in the myth, the track, divided in 4 parts, is conceived as a circle. The structure is clearly symhonic but the use of dissonances and noisy parts add a touch of psychedelia so I would define it as a psychedelic symphony.

A typical Roger Waters acoustic ballad follows. "Grantchester Meadows" is the place Dave Gilmour and Syd Barrett are from. On this song Waters tries to use the sound of the words to create adliterations as Barrett was used to. "See the splashing of the kingfisher flashing to the water" is an example, comparable to "Oberon there on the run". At the end of the song there's one of the most famous gimmicks ever: a fly, somebody running and smashing it.

This gives the start to "Several Species of Little Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict". I tooko years to understand what a Pict justified the Scottish accent imitated by Waters at the end of the song that, as the title says, is made of sounds supposed to be produced by the little furry animals. I really like this track for its rhytmic noises.

One of the first compositions of David Gilmour is effectively a medley of two songs already performed live by Pink Floyd plus a central section. I think this song was underrated by Pinkn Floyd themselves, but the third part in particular contains the seeds of future Gilmour's compositions like Fat Old Sun.

I have some doubts about the whole "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" being totally composed by Nick Mason. I'm not sure that he had the musical skill to compose the flute part of the first and third sections. I trust that all the percussions and cymbals are his, indeed. Also this track is very experimental and possibly the most in line with things like Interstellar Overdrive.

To summarize, this is one of my favourite Pink Floyd's albums. I'd like to rate it 5 stars but basing on PA ratings I have to stick on 4.

A must have in any case.

Report this review (#348676)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ummagumma is loved by a lot by fans but it was never a favourite of mine. The first half is a live set which is very good, especially for lovers of early PF. The second half is the studio work which probably features the craziest and most eccentric of all the band's work.

There are contributions from all band members and one of my favourites is the spooky, eerie "Sysyphus" by Richard Wright. David Gilmour's "Narrow Way" pieces are softer in comparison, very nice too. Another favourite is Waters' Grantchester Meadows. It's a very quaint acoustic track with whispery vocals but "Several Species of Small Furry Animals...." whilst quite amusing, doesn't float my boat so well. Sometimes the music gets a little too over-ambitious and experimental. However, through the chaos there are a lot intriguing things on here too .

I always liked the cover, with the picture within a picture on the wall mysteriously showing the band members in different positions. In all, not a great album to start with if you are new to the band. It is still good though and would be a nice addition to your prog rock collection. 3 stars.

Report this review (#394295)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pink Floyd - Ummagumma (1969)

This is a strange offering by Pink Floyd. A double vinyl with a nice cover that's inspired by a process called 'feed-back loop'. The back shows an interesting photo of the bands equipment put together in a the shape of a space ship.

The first record is a live album on which Pink Floyd plays their best live-material of the sixties very well. The band plays extended versions (and partly re-interpretations) of Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun & Saucerful of Secrets. If I'm completely honest, I must admit I think the played the last three songs better on the famous Live at Pompeii concert, but that was years later! Somehow this live set of Ummagumma has a slightly different (more abstract) atmosphere and that's precisely the reason why I think this is still an excellent addition to your collection. The playfulness the band shows in how it treats it's compositions is really a great quality of the band. The slightly darker way the material is played gives the material a new layer of atmospheric quality. Had this record been released as a single live album, I bet it would have become one of the best selling and highest rated albums of the band.

The second record is.. well.. an experimental record on which all members of the band take time to explore drugs whilst making... well.. experimental music. The unpleasant listening experience many had whilst listening to the second record made them condemn the whole Ummagumma release, which is a pity. Though the second lp is not too strong, it does show how early Pink Floyd was confronted with the fact that progressive rock isn't allowed to be endlessly experimental. Of the well known progressive rock acts Pink Floyd was the first to understand this and they wouldn't go over the top on the moment the progressive movements collapsed during the mid-seventies.

Sysyphus by Wright is an avant-garde piece with piano and some bombastic symphonic arrangements. This gathering of single ideas and improvisations seems to lead no-where, but I must say it has some sort of well-made dark atmosphere. Grantchester Meadows by Waters is an acoustic 'somehwere out-there-but-not-here' slight psychedelic kind of track that reminds me a bit of the later released 'If'. Several Animals by Waters is a silly mix of animal and vocal sounds that you wouldn't want to be caught listening to by your friends. It's tremendously stupid and un-asked for. The second side of the second lp begins with Gilmour's The Narrow Way. This three-part compositions has some nice guitar-playing and some nice psychedelic vocal sounds. Luckily this song was recorded properly. The vocal section is a relaxing conclusion. Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden Party opens with a flute solo by Mason's wife, just before the strange percussions start. Mason uses loops and effects, and he creates an interesting atmosphere that would have suited a movie- soundtrack.

Conclusion. Ummagumma is a strange combination of one of the band's best live recordings and their most troubled studio-effort. The second record is mainly interesting for fans of the band. Only Gilmour's piece stands out as really interesting. As a live album (which by the way is a rare recording of '69 Pink Floyd!) I can surely give this the full four stars and I'll treat the second record as bonus material. Four stars it is then.

Report this review (#446185)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ummagumma the word may or may not be a slang term for sex, but Ummagumma the album is the sound of a band hedging its bets, split as it is between a live album of older material and a studio album of what are essentially solo compositions. The album starts off well with a version of the Barrett-era track Astronomy Domine, which introduces a strange little quiet interlude towards the end of the song which doesn't quite work but otherwise succeeds at matching, though not quite exceeding, the thunderous, apocalyptic majesty of the studio version of the track. However, the versions of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, Set The Controls For the Heart of the Sun are actually better than the studio versions, to my mind, whilst the version of A Saucerful of Secrets turns the pure celestial merging of organ and choir at the end of the studio track into an opportunity for a triumphant instrumental workout, making the live disc of Ummagumma the best representative of the 1968-1969 post-Syd Pink Floyd sound which tended towards spacey instrumentals/almost- instrumentals rather than particularly tight or structured songwriting.

The studio album is a bit more of a mixed bag - inevitably, given the way it's given over to solo compositions. Richard Wright's Sysyphus has a bombastic opening that gives way to extended piano and organ noodling that doesn't really go anywhere - Wright evidently going for something like A Saucerful of Secrets or Careful With That Axe but not getting that such extended instrumental workouts tend to be much better realised as group compositions.

Well, Waters could also put them together at this point - as seen in Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun - but he was a somewhat better songwriter at this point. But only somewhat; his two contributions to the studio album just aren't up to his usual standards, consisting on the one hand of a dull not-quite-folk knockoff with birdsong effects obscuring the somewhat boring acoustic guitar play and horrible lyrics that drags on for seven minutes when there aren't enough ideas there to fill two and on the other hand of a joke track which, again, would be OK if it lasted a couple of minutes but in fact drags on for five.

The second side of the studio album is also somewhat undercooked: we are presented with David Gilmour's The Narrow Way, which consists mainly of Gilmour noodling away on his guitar with some synth effects added here and there over the top and some singing towards the end (actually, this is probably my favourite of the studio tracks, the closing song actually being pretty good) and Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, which eventually degenerates into a musique concrete drum solo.

The album as a whole might have been improved if the studio tracks were tightened up a bit and presented in the context of the "Man and the Journey" suite that the band were performing live at the time, rather than being sliced up and presented as solo tracks, but even so this studio material just isn't up to the band's usual standards. Overall, I'd give Ummagumma a low three - there's a good, solid four-star live album there, and a two-star studio album which at point almost dips down into one-star territory.

Report this review (#452563)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars GREAT ALBUM! This Pink Floyd at one of their most expiremental times. The first part of the album has great live performances. "Careful With That Axe Eugene" is a great song to listen to live. The Pompeii version is probably the best, but this is good to. All of these songs are great prog pieces of work by a great prog band. Then the actual album begins. With Ummagumma each member has written their own songs. "Sysyphus" is Richard Wright's work. Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4 are all wild pieces with mixed sounds. They are all very good and have a classical feel to them. The Roger comes in with his bit. "Granchester Meadows" is for me the best song, but it's filled with sounds of the outdoors with chirping birds and running water. Roger sings and I believe he plays the acoustic guitar on the track as well. Roger is actually a very good guitarist on the acoustic. This album has one of the most bizzare songs I have ever heard. " Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict", is a song which sounds like something written by Ron Geesin. But this one is done by Roger. It starts off with these odd sound of animals then Roger starts talking in a foriegn language. It was the first song I listened to off this album and I have loved it ever since. "Narrow Way" is David's number. It is split into 3 parts. To me the best is Pt. 2. I could listen to it over and over and it would never get old. Part 3 David begins singing. Though I think Roger is the better writer of mostly lyrics, David is not bad at all. His best part though is writting music. Nick Mason seems to be the one who has the least of work on an album. " Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is a nice way to end the album. The "Entrance" part starts it off with the flute. Then "Entertainment", and ends with "Exit". All in all this is a good album. You have 16 great prog rock songs to listen to. This is one of those last true "spacey" albums. After this I think is when they left some of the psychedelic sounds behind and became a much more progressive band. Still though they have all ways had that "space rock" feel to their work.
Report this review (#460793)
Posted Monday, June 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A tale of two sides of the story.... or something like that.

A double album with one live and one studio disc. The ball opens with the live album which is very good. Some of their best songs from the Syd Barrett era is here. Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe Eugene and Saucerful of Secrets is hard to argue against. I am not that happy about the third live track Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. But the live part is great.

The studio part is a lot less accessible and the least commercial material Pink Floyd has ever done. A lot of The Beatles can be detected though. But most of this is plonking avant garde which is not even good avant garde music. But I still prefer this stuff to their overly commercial stuff on their two final albums.

This is overall a good album. Nothing more and no less. This is by no means their finest hour though. I leave it like that.

3 stars

Report this review (#578377)
Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars A quite strange set of an excellent first era repertoire live record together with an uneven studio one in which the members of this mythical band seem to be looking for new paths to explore. In their searching, not everything found is worth so the results are uneven. This added to the fact that the explorings are individually made makes of the studio album an untight piece with brilliant moments here and there but at times uninteresting.

The live album, on the other hand, is the best end for the psychedelic-era Pink Floyd with good renditions of four unquestionable classics.

Some have criticised the cover by Hipgnosis. I remember having the poster included pinned up on our bedroom wall (the album was my brother's) and for me was as obvious as Frank Zappa's sitting on the WC. A classic. The back cover may seem naïve now with its candid exhibition of a now old fashioned equipment but in 1969 was the last word in rock technology.

Four stars for the live album and three for the studio one.

Report this review (#617610)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The album that will probably take most Pink Floyd fans the longest to appreciate, unless you were hoping their previous three albums to be even more experimental. Wright's "Sysyphus" is one of the most daring compositions in their catalogue, "Part Three" taking the acid-washed soundscapes of "Quicksilver" to the next dimension, and "Part Four" being possibly the best example of his ability to make the Farfisa organ, an instrument that was mainly used in pop music at the time, sound absolutely creepy. Waters' "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving With a Pict" is even more daring, using accelerated tape loops to make some very atmoshperic and humorous musique concrete. Mason uses the same approach for his piece, "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party", coming up with a very complex, sonically treated and artistically panned drum pattern. There are a couple relatively "normal" songs on the second disc, Waters' grandly lulling "Grantchester Meadows", with some well played and recorded acoustic guitar and harmonies that always make me regret the song coming to a close. Gilmour's "The Narrow Way", in "Part Three", at least, sounds very foreshadowing of the Meddle through Dark Side of the Moon period, with an ominous chord progression, a semi-swing drum beat, and delicate, gorgeous harmonies. The live disc is very different, but just as strong, including memorably confident performances of 4 of their extended classics, and while I prefer the studio version of "Astronomy Domine", this more relaxed version does fit the ambience of the whole disc perfectly, and I do like the ending section of "Saucerful of Secrets" better here. The album is presented in a way that shows exactly what the band were made of in 1969, seperating the live and studio material into two seperate discs, making it an essential document of their early period.
Report this review (#690816)
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars Ummagumma is by far Pink Floyd's most experimental album, but on that same note it's also their worst. Many of these songs lack a strong structure and go nowhere musically, and many of the parts are just plain annoying.

The beginning song, 'Sysyphus' is Wright's piece. This is really hard to listen to; there are weird sounds everywhere, and the keys don't really help, except for the mellotron.

'Grantchester Meadows' is a Water's composition and is the only bearable track on the album. It opens with a pleasant backtrack of birds chirping and gives the image of a summer day in a field or something. Acoustic guitar enters along with Roger's vocals to give a very relaxing atmosphere.

But his second song is the experimentally poor 'Several Species.' I don't listen to Avant-garde at all, and this is why.

The Narrow Way is Gilmour's first attempt at serious songwriting in the band, and like the rest of the songs on this album, it backfires. The beginning part is some nice acoustic guitar, but with no substance. The middle features some nice riffs, but they don't develop well and repeat too much.

Getting your drummer to compose a song is usually a bad idea, and 'The Grand Vizier's Garden Party' is no exception.

I'm not going to pretend I like this album, I simply don't. There's too much noise and Avant-garde weirdness which is simply not my cup of tea. While I appreciate many of the soundscapes Floyd used in their later albums, I simply don't get this.


Report this review (#771361)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Say what you will about the old record biz monopolies and their power to decide the fate of any particular artist or group due to there being no alternative to getting one's music out to the public but in the 60s some labels' willingness to support a band like Pink Floyd while they matured over time is nonetheless remarkable. That altruistic, nurturing attitude evaporated during the 70s but thank heaven it lingered long enough for progressive rock to cultivate an audience. Otherwise we wouldn't have the works of Yes, Genesis or even Deep Purple to cherish and enjoy today. "Ummagumma" is an example of a record company having the courage to let an entity go through their growing pains, wagering that the ends will justify the means and all parties involved will reap huge benefits further down the line. I'm not convinced a risky, capital-involved investment such as that is even feasible in the 21st century and that's what makes an odd, experimental album like this one such an interesting relic.

The background briefing goes somewhat like this: Syd Barrett's undeniable genius got Pink Floyd a contract. Their debut, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," was a breakthrough recording. Then poor Syd misplaced his marbles, causing their sophomore LP to be a disappointment on many levels. When the trio of Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright realized that brother Barrett was gone and not coming back they promoted stand-in guitarist David Gilmour to full-fledged member and moved gingerly ahead by doing a soundtrack for an art flick, "More." This puts "Ummagumma" into proper perspective as being the initial LP of the 2nd version of Pink Floyd and, therefore, it should be granted a sizeable amount of slack. Even more astounding is that it's a two-disc set! From comments I've read from those who were involved in its conception/assembly the foursome had very little idea about what the hell they were doing and, considering the circumstances, that's understandable. The boat captain jumped ship so the remaining crew had to learn the ropes on the run and steer the vessel as best they could. If not for sheer determination and innate talent, "Ummagumma" would've foundered Pink Floyd on the rocks and the group would've faded like yesterday's daisies but, to the label's credit, the suits didn't give up and continued to believe in their potential. We proggers should be thankful.

One thing the band had going in their favor was they were a damn decent live act so releasing two sides of vinyl culled from taped concerts was a smart move on their part. Their rendition of Syd's "Astronomy Domine" showed their fans that, despite their inner struggles, they had ripened into a tight, confident quartet that could more than hold their own in front of a crowd. Of special note here is the admirable sounds emanating from Wright's keyboards. They aren't tinny or thin but possess rich, thick tones. Next is the band-written "Careful With That Axe, Eugene." I particularly like the jazzy aura that Richard injects into the piece via his Hammond B3. No doubt the startling explosion-of-screams section must've caused a slew of conniptions among the chemically-altered in attendance (Wasn't that the objective, though?). It's pretty much a free-form jam wherein Gilmour gets to experiment with his effects but the controlled fade-out is impressive in and of itself. Waters' "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" follows with its dominant Egyptian vibe. Wright's Mellotron-generated flute is soothing for a while but then it gets buried by the wild cacophony that ensues. The noisy number turns cosmic in a decidedly you-had-to-be-there sort of way before returning to the song's original theme. Disc 1 ends with the collectively-composed "A Saucerful of Secrets," a large slice of dreamy psychedelia fortified with David's demonic slide guitar. Hard on that section's heels is a monotonous drum pattern courtesy of Mason that anchors a genuine "freak out" movement that grates on one's nerves until Richard's organ restores sanity by establishing a repeating chord progression that builds to a crowd-pleasing finale.

Disc 2 was more of a challenge. They chose to let each member contribute their own original stuff to the cause and let the chips fall where they may. What came out of this endeavor is hit and miss, at best. Wright goes first, presenting a 13-minute, four-part epic entitled "Sysyphus." Part 1 sports a Gladiators-entering-the-arena ambiance and Part 2 is a lovely piano etude that gradually turns wonderfully abstract. Part 3 is an arrhythmic din of piano noodling wading amid a host of assorted noises while Part 4 is a serene soundscape that roams aimlessly until it implodes violently and becomes a surreal circus of notes, ending with a hearty bash on the gong. At this juncture of his career, "Sysyphus" highlights Richard's compositional naiveté a lot more than his musicianship. The sweet chirpings of various birdies leads to Roger's acoustic guitar-based "Grantchester Meadows." It's an improvement over the previous cut in that it's a bit of relative normalcy but its not exactly memorable fare, either. Waters gets another stab at greatness with his "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict." More fowl utterances are heard shimmering over a fast-paced fingertip rhythm accompanied by a bunch of what I refer to as fun-in-the-studio-with-tape-loops-and-queer-sound-bites shenanigans. Hey, it's fantastic fun if you can get away with it and I don't hold it against him for taking advantage of the opportunity but it's not exactly high art in my book and gets to be tedious quickly.

Gilmour's two cents worth arrives in the form of the three-part, twelve minute "The Narrow Way." Parts 1& 2 are acoustic guitar-driven ditties surrounded by scores of incidental fiddle-faddles wafting around in the background. Part 3 features a slightly metallic electric guitar riff resounding over a pool of echoing weirdness. David has been quoted as saying he didn't have a clue as to what he was up to at the time and it sounds like it. Drummers aren't often permitted to participate in the creative conclave (with good reason) but when he's just as experienced and capable as everyone else in the group his input is equally viable. Nick was given a task and he gave it the old college try by concocting a three-part deal called "The Grand Vizier's Garden." Bringing in Lindy Mason to play some pleasant flute lines turned out to be a positive for Part 1 but closing it with an unadorned snare roll spoils the mood. Part 2 is a tom-tom tuning session layered over ghostly effects followed by strange affectations involving different drums and percussion instruments with Part 3 being a predictable revisit to Part 1. None of it bears repeated listens but I'll give the man an E for effort, at least.

In light of the lofty heights Pink Floyd would eventually attain, listening to "Ummagumma" is akin to gazing through Van Gogh's kindergarten coloring books. You can tell their adventuresome, fearless blend of aural colorings belies incredible potential but they're also having difficulty in staying inside the lines and forming cohesive, comprehensible songs. As examples of psychedelic, acid-drenched eargasms the pieces found on this album are commendable yet still embryonic in nature. (The album elicited a ho-hum reaction amongst my peers, as I recall.) But, as stated earlier, the moneymen who didn't pull the plug when the success of "Ummagumma" in the UK (#5 on the charts) failed to materialize on the other side of the Atlantic (#74 in the US) should be applauded for their patience. A few years later they'd have the biggest group in the world on their hands. 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#791142)
Posted Thursday, July 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ummagumma is Floyd's most experimental album and also the first live album released (and only until "Delicate Sound of Thunder" nearly 20 years later). It begins with the live album featured older concert staples:

ASTRONOMY DOMINE - This Syd Barrett classic, played live without Barrett is a slower, heavier and more maniacal piece on Ummagumma. My least favorite piece on the entire album, it is still takes you to a bizarre universe, especially with the keyboard solo. Other than the extensions and the spooky, slower variation, it's not so much different than the original.

CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, EUGENE - Always a favorite in every variation, this CWTAE is similar to the Pompeii version and is extremely eerie and very groovy. There is no version of "Eugene" that is disappointing.

SET THE CONTROLS - Again, much like Pompeii, this atmospheric classic is a bit monotonous, but you can't help but be hypnotized by the drumming of Mason and Waters' mesmerizing vocal chants.

A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS - Although the Pompeii version is superior, the Ummagumma version of ASFOS is far better than the studio album version.

All the live songs are highly recommended and give the album quite a boosting in rank.

Rick Wright's contribution is an exercise in avant-garde classical music and, although he is no Bartok or Penderecki, he has quite a talent for the strange and spontaneous. The opening of Sysyphus is a heavy strings-laden piece with an ominous, almost war-like march that slowly fades in to part II's atmospheric piano that flows from beauty to decay before transforming into Part III, which sounds like animals running around inside a piano and back into a Mellotron for part 4. The mellotron is very peaceful and mellow, but has a sort of underlying eerie feeling - much like a Tales from The Darkside feel - until your worst fears are confirmed with a sudden organ blast and the return to part I's war march sound. Overall, a very disturbing atmosphere, much like the story of Sisyphus (Sysyphus).

Waters contributes two songs: Grantchester Meadows is an acoustic piece that is laden with sounds of nature mixed with gentle guitar and pastoral lyrics. The song ends with the swatting of a fly and journeys into the strangest song - and longest title - on the album "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict". This is just a lot of Roger Waters speaking in foreign lingo and sound effects that create a sort of world with freaky little animals and some crazy man "grooving", apparently.

The David Gilmour contribution begins with some great smooth guitar picking that segues into a sort of Black Sabbath heavy guitar riff continuing into the best "song" on the album - The Narrow Way part 3; this song could've been on Obscured By Clouds or More or Atom Heart Mother easily. It is the most "normal" song on the album and Gilmour's voice and guitar give you a small break from the barrage of insanity beforehand.

Finally, Nick Mason's genteel, rather boring Grand Vizier's Garden Party has to be listened to more than once to appreciate. Lindy Mason's flute playing and Mason's percussion work is highly progressive and goes well together. Frankly, I enjoy Grand Vizier the more I hear it, although I have been guilty of falling asleep to it.

Overall Ummagumma is one of the most experimental albums of all-time and deserves points for that. Floyd and other bands have pulled off much better, but Ummagumma was brave, solid and very creative. The studio mixed with the live album brings me to give it a solid 4.

Report this review (#802392)
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 12/15P.: Pink Floyd's first huge statement in their band history. A groundbreaking live album, the first of its kind in its energetic sound, in a bundle with a dazzling studio album in which liberating pieces of beauty follow bits of total madness. A problem occurs only when the pastoral and avantgarde parts run simultaneously, but this merely applies to a few minutes.


Let's face it. Many people who praise this album, or who at least come to its defense, whitewash it quite a lot. "A band must be allowed to experiment", "a Floyd album with a high Schoenbergian demand" or "it's a good album to trip on", the reviews often say. I've always loved the live record, but I have to admit that I too had lots of problems with the studio record.

For me, the key to understanding this complicated album was understanding The Grand Vizier's Garden Party. The flute intro and outro, in fact composed by Ron Geesin and performed by Nick Mason's wife, are beautiful pieces of classical music with fairly stiff and serious melodics. At the first listens it sounds like a pretty chaotic arrangement of sound effects, but soon you realize that the Entertainment part itself consists of four different movements. The first one is minimalist in the gradual adding of different percussion samples (a gong, a triangle, a wood block and a snare drum) on a tape loop of Mason tuning a timpani. Now why is this experiment successful? It's one of the few percussion solos which are really atmospheric. Movement one adds an eerie melody on top of the carefully orchestrated percussion tapes, and movement two consists of xylophone, (supposably) Mellotron and timpani which together form surreal, but completely harmonious chords in the vein of Saint-Saens' post-romantic works (I think of The Swan, in particular). In the end Mason constructs an unexpectedly tribal and grumpy drum solo which rises and rumbles on top of a partly-erased tape loop of wood blocks and cymbals. The drum sound is similar to Ginger Baker's, but Mason is more deeply rooted in jazz music, hence working a lot with subtle timing differences between the overdubbed drum takes. Many rock musicians were experimenting with avant-garde around the year 1970, but only few were successful. And Nick Mason is one of the few who makes it, thanks to an accomodation of classical structures to jazz-influenced drum music instead of really free-form noodling.

David Gilmour's The Narrow Way is to me the most impressive work on the studio album - not only because he's the only one to record a piece of rock music playing all instruments himself, but also because The Narrow Way, especially Part Three, is the musical blueprint of the characteristic Pink Floyd sound of the 1970s. Add Rick Wright's ambient keyboard playing and Roger Waters' philosophy and you are closer to the spirit of Dark Side of the Moon than on any previous Pink Floyd recording. In the acoustic guitar-dominated Part One Gilmour transforms his country finger-picking influences to something bigger, into Gilmour's typical peaceful sound which totally sets your mind at ease if you just listen to what he plays. You cannot discern which genre of music Gilmour borrows from, you cannot determine what kind of music it really is or what it's about, but the clean slide guitars and the constantly flowing acoustic guitars lead you into a sonic ground which, being neither real nor surreal, you need to have listened to. Weird swirling tape effects mark the beginning of the more sombre Part Two, consisting of more stirring tape effects on top of a menacing guitar riff. A loud siren's sound leads you into Part Three which brings all of the previous elements together in a majestic piece of psychedelic rock. It's got a heavenly chorus of Gilmour's overdubbed falsetto voices with lots of swirling guitars flying around in every direction, Gilmour's distinctly chunky bass guitar playing, the floating drum rhythm (played by Gilmour as well) which is surprisingly stable in its timing and sounds a lot like Mason. The lyrics might not mean anything concrete, but they manage to create a never-changing movie in my mind, a movie similar to what the lyrics of Yes' South Side of the Sky express in a clearer fashion. I cannot point out how much I like this particular piece of music, and it's barely understandable that Gilmour today is that dissatisfied with this work of his. Still I have to admit that the tape effects in Part One do overshoot the mark a wee bit.

Rick Wright's Sysyphus is the most difficult piece on Ummagumma. It ventures a lot into atonal and avantgardistic realms, and at some places it is recklessly shocking and expressionistic - something which you might not expect from Rick Wright who otherwise was responsible for the quieter moments on the Pink Floyd albums. Not only once I feel reminded of what King Crimson did around that time and also a bit later. Part One is a pretty mindblowing starter to this album with the huge Mellotron overdubs, the sophisticated leitmotif and Wright's mighty timpani overdubs. King Crimson's Mars, the precursor of The Devil's Triangle, which they performed in 1969 with Ian McDonald on Mellotron, springs to my mind in special. Parts Two & Three are fractured and atonal piano pieces with rhythmically unsteady percussion work, the former actually beginning quite neatly with sensitive impressionistic grand piano playing. But during the following four minutes Wright bashes the piano as heavily as Keith Tippett on Cat Food and parts of Lizard, but still ties it together with his characteristic harmonic concept of layering perfect and augmented fourths. As soon as Wright adds sped-up tapes of him wailing and singing on top of this nearly industrial beat the music cuts totally loose - and this is where Wright carries on with a most beautiful keyboard solo of 3 minutes: bird sounds, organ, some spot-on bass guitar tuning and a bit of slide guitar, and interestingly he uses the Mellotron strings again, augmenting his typical Farfisa organ sound considerably. Then comes the moment which supposedly gave many intoxicated listeners a bad trip: an unexpected and frighteningly loud cluster chord shakes you up from the previous sweet sounds and begins a tour de force of accumulating sound effects and keyboard chords, including fading slide guitars, merging into an even more majestic reprise of the main theme with Rick Wright providing harmony vocals to accompany the Mellotron. A good key to approaching this work is making oneself familiar with the Greek Sisyphos myth. Contrary to, for instance, Anthony Phillips' interpretation of Orwell's 1984 which doesn't bear any relationship to the original book, Rick Wright stays quite close to his literary topic. Reprising the main theme in the end after an excruciating central part of cacophonic sounds is a striking interpretation of the futility of Sisyphos' work.

Roger Waters' part might be the one which leaves the biggest question marks in my head. Grantchester Meadows is basically an acoustic blues piece (in terms of chord progression) which feels absolutely like British folk due to its metre and melody. The song is calm, it profits a lot from Waters' warm vocal timbre (even though he doesn't hit all the notes perfectly) and is beautifully arranged for two acoustic guitars and, but after all there's not a lot happening during the 7 minutes. In live performances Rick Wright performed a lovely organ solo in the middle of the song with a tone similar to an English horn, and I miss this solo a lot in the studio version. The little acoustic guitar solo which Waters performs here doesn't attract any attention, after all he isn't a really inventive lead guitarist. But nonetheless there's too much atmosphere and too good lyrics to be bothered by this piece, and after the maelstrom Sysyphus this piece is located at a very good position. The legendary fly chase in the end of the piece is one of the first inventive sound effect ideas by Roger Waters and serves as a suitable introduction to Pink Floyd's most unorthodox piece, Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict. The title itself reminds me of a Joseph Beuys artwork (cf. Beuys' sculpture Backrest of a slender human (hare type) from the 20th century p.chr.), and the sounds confirm this presumption. In fact Roger Waters merely beatboxes, sings, speaks and thumps on a table in different tape speeds, ending up in a manic speech in a mock-Scots accent. Strictly no instruments used here! Interestingly the whole track is absolutely rhythmic since there's always a tape which is looped at one place or another. Even though you cannot evaluate such a mad piece of music I find it absolutely impressing, specifically because it allows Waters to practise the impersonation of a dictator for the first time, speaking most meaningless sentences with maximum conviction. The way from that speech to the more operatic stuff on The Wall isn't too far!


Pink Floyd always were a difficult live band, actually from the late 1960s until their last concerts in 1981. They could easily reproduce the magic of their studio recordings live and enhance them with their quadrophonic Azimuth Coordinator system, but quite frequently the concerts suffered a lot from sloppy playing, wrong singing, strange setlists and technical dropouts. Many concerts, however, shall never be forgotten. For instance, the groundbreaking Man And The Journey concert in Amsterdam on September 17 1969 during which they rearranged their material as two song cycles about life and a strange journey, featuring one part where the band were served tea on stage and - amongst other great moments - a storming version of the last part of Saucerful of Secrets with Wright playing a giant church organ. I still don't know why the band didn't release one of these concerts as a live album, but the Ummagumma live album has the big advantage of being more of a piece and less fragmentary. The band presents an authentic summary of their live show, focussing mainly on material conceived without Syd Barrett's participation. The band is in perfect form, gliding through 40 mind-expanding minutes, and especially the dynamically varied moments work out extremely well.

Astronomy Domine and Set The Controls for the Heart of The Sun are doubtless 5 star moments of first-class psychedelic rock. The Farfisa organ wafts and quivers, David Gilmour - although he still hasn't found his distinct guitar tone - bends and strums himself impressively through the material and Roger Waters drives the band further with some competently played bass lines. While Gilmour's and Wright's playing style doesn't differ a lot from their studio playing (which I do not critize at all!), it's Waters (frequently playing the Rickenbacker bass) and Mason who energize the performance just like Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker of Cream did as well. Astronomy Domine is enhanced by a really beautiful organ solo in the middle with minor, but substantial sonic dabs added by the band, leading back into the well-known vocal part again. The band acts in concert, Gilmour and Wright provide a fittingly dusky vocal performance and Barrett's gritty rhythm guitar playing is recreated faithfully by David Gilmour, although hints of his own playing style are already listenable (e.g. the slide guitar playing which is unusually creamy compared with other slide guitarists). Set The Controls for the Heart of The Sun floats in its own sonic space, the Farfisa organ swells up and down and Waters chants his captivating lyrics perfectly in tune. A previously unlistened feature is the ambient part in the second third in which Gilmour (on slide guitar) and Wright (on organ) create an echoed soundscape with two Binson Echorec tape delay machines before Waters and Mason enter again. The big advantage: while Hawkwind and other space rock bands often sounded a bit stoned and too far-out, the jazz and avantgarde background of Wright and the sublimity of Gilmour's playing give this kind of psychedelic rock an elegance, structure and respectability rarely found in this genre.

I agree that I always have had slight problems with Careful With That Axe, Eugene, neither with the first part, nor with the scream, but with the lengthy ending part which - possibly deliberately - lacks the cohesiveness of the beginning. But when you try to switch off your brain and stop thinking about cohesiveness, simply letting yourself go and float in the sounds, things turn out alright. Pink Floyd teach you to avoid analytics and rather feel the music, which is hard if you're used to jazz fusion and polyphonic stuff. This particular version is blessed with a perfectly balanced organ beginning, the shimmering ride cymbals and Gilmour's falsetto wailing which is totally in tune; a lot of bootleg recordings are proof of that this wasn't always the case. Anyway, this version is the most atmospheric one which has been released officially and I enjoy it quite a lot. Yet still I think that I haven't fully got what the track really is about. (Curiously, the first measures of the track were - in the school subject of music - an important topic of the German A-levels/school-departure-exams in 2011; the precise task was to compare the studio version to the live version. As anticipated, things turned out a bit more academic than fruitful, but at least I was glad that Schubert and Vivaldi weren't the only topics to deal with.)

A Saucerful Of Secrets is as reckless as it has always been whilst this version replaces the mass of tape effects and sound twiddlings of the studio version with a tighter band sound. My favorite version is doubtlessly the one from Live in Pompeii, thanks to the priceless drum sound and its more condensed form, but it's the Ummagumma version which comes closest to the vandalism of punk music, Rick Wright working around on the Farfisa with his two favorite intervals (the tritone and the major seventh) and Nick Mason playing his signature drum fill balancing between forte and fortissimo (actually adapted in faster speed from the early Pink Floyd recording Nick's Boogie). And again it's the quasi-classical agogic structure this piece is in which makes it so compelling and great - a cacophony without a frame would have been a difficult territory to play in. The first movement creeps broadly like an endless lake of boiling pulp, erupting in the mad slide guitar shredding and the drum rolls of the Syncopated Pandemonium part, calming down for a grievous middle part before the many minutes of atonality lead into the anthemic tonality of the Celestial Voices finale. Instead of the three-part harmony vocals of the studio version, David Gilmour takes over the lead vocals for the final part - a wise decision, particularly if you don't have a Mellotron or - as I stated a few paragraphs above - a church organ on stage. The courage of this piece has often been tried to reproduce by bands of the 1960s and 1970s, but it's damn complicated to construct a functioning avant-garde longtrack from disarranged sounds. This experiment is a real tough listen, but if you're in the mood it's a great and singular listening experience.

A 12-minute version of Interstellar Overdrive was also recorded for the live LP, but there was not enough space to add it. While bearing similarities with the original Barrett version, it is fairly deconstructed and a more academic affair than any of the other four tracks. I like the little surreal parts of plucking and clicking, and I'm sad that the wave of Pink Floyd reissues didn't incorporate recordings such as these, but I think that in 1969 the band threw the right song out of the list - given that they needed to throw one out in order to stay underneath the 50-minute mark.

All in all there's no part on the album which might tear the overall impression down. The whole double album is a huge statement, it's absolutely diversified and it works very well - in most part it works brilliantly, in others it "only" works really well. The actual rating is based only on how I feel about this album and - apart from what I mentioned in the headline of my review - I cannot find a particular point of criticism I could mention. It might as well be 5 stars. Buy it anyway!

Report this review (#830358)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars the 4th work of PF, in 1969 was titled "Ummagumma", a double album. the first disc, it's a live performance playing 4 classic songs: "Astronomy domine" a song originally released to their debut album, a composition of Syd Barrett, but of course in this album, Barrett doesn't still in PF. the second track it's "Careful with that axe, Eugene", a song originally released as a single, the original version of this song really sucks, the version of the concert of Pompeii it's good, but only the version of Ummagumma it's amazing. unfortunately, doesn't exist a video of this performance, so the people who was in this concert were very lucky. then we had two songs extracted of the second album "Saucerful of secrets": "Set the controls for the heart of the sun" and "Saucerful of secrets", the performance of this last song is awesome, i like to follow Nick Mason in the drums (i'm an amateur drummer).

the second disc is the studio album, including a four chapters song of Richard Wright called "Sysyphus", it's very groove, in ocassions quiet, in others a little darkness. then two songs of Roger Waters, "Grantchester Meadows" a nice song, acoustic and very soft to the ears, and "Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict", a very creepy song full of strange sounds like growlings. then "The narrow way" a song in three chapters composed by David Gilmour, with a great lyrics, and to close, we have "The grand vizier's garden party" the song of Nick Mason and like it's predecessor, in 3 chapters, completely instrumental, and a kind of darkness too.

Ummagumma, is one of the best works of PF, pity that doesn't have the recognizement what diserves.

Report this review (#992998)
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars Ever wonder what John Cage and "Ummagumma" have in common? Well, the answer explains the extremely rare path Pink Floyd undertook to develop their unique sound. (And read the whole review before you jump to conclusions.)

All bands, no matter what they play or how famous they are, usually tend to follow the path of the tried and true sound, with a few tweaks along the way, or the path of most resistance, taking a complete 180 halfway through their careers, a la Beatles.

And then there's a little band from England called Pink Floyd.

They started where the Beatles left off, in psychedelica land: kinda catchy, but fairly forgettable. Then again, this was the late 60's: taking acid everyday was considered healthy for the human body. But Pink Floyd decided to undertake something fairly radical, especially at this point in time:

They changed their sound with each forthcoming album.

Sure, elements of trippiness remain. "Saucerful Of Secrets" began with "Let There Be Light", which fused the fading drug-tinged rock n roll vocals with prototypical guitar solos that would later become a staple in the Floyd repetoire. It seemed irrelevant then, as it's still long forgotten even in the mind of the true progressive fanbase. No coincidence that the most famed off the album is "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", a prototypical space-out jam, something Pink Floyd mastered during their hayday.

And yet, no seems to remember the title track, the longest one, filled with spacey sounds, organ jumbles and slow, soothing chords at the end. Hmm, I wonder why? Ignoring the "More" soundtrack (fairly forgettable), "Saucerful Of Secrets" was comprised of the psych rock of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, and the acid-tripping experimentation of this album, "Ummagumma". Ignoring the first four tracks, live versions of older songs, this is, by far, the most complicated and difficult Floyd album to breach, mainly because of the many similarities with 20th-century classical music.

Those of you who know your classical music will know that tonality (pieces with key signatures) died in 1909 when Arnold Schoenberg published his Drei Klavierstücke in 1909, marking the first time a piece was published that contained no key signatures and truly abandoned harmony and tonality. Ever since then, composers expanded his twelve-tone theory technique and fiddled with creation compositions in various means, using microtones, unusual instruments, adding electronic sounds, finally coming to a head when John Cage published his now infamous "4'33" in 1953, in which a composer sits at a piano for 4 mintues and 33 seconds, doing absolutely nothing.

But what does that have to do with this album, you ask? Everything.

The album truly begins with "Sysyphus", which begins with ominous timpani and low drones, heralding doom and despair. Probably. At least, Part 1 does. You'd think it would be the start of a grand prog epic, but actually, Part 2 is, essentially, a piano solo. Think of "Sysyphus" as a classical composition. Part 1 is the theme of dread, whereas Part 2 begins with lush, beautiful piano harmonies, effortlessly flowing through key signatures and slight hints of chromaticism all around. Halfway through Part 2, Richard Wright's piano playing deters from the traditional happy, melodic sounds and immediately descends into atonality, "stressful music", exactly the kind of stuff that Schoenburg had essentially conceived back in 1909, thus ending in a flurry of tone clusters which was probably just Wright punching his piano over and over again. I mean, that's what it sounds like. I've tried that.

Part 3 continues along the evolutionary line of classical music. Without insider knowledge, it sounds essentially like the inner pluckings of a piano, highlighted by sporadic cymbal mutes and snare drum crushes... and screaming babies. I think. But again, the similarities of this album and the progression of classical music in the 20th century are astonishing. The birth of the percussion ensemble in the 1930's was the result of the melodies created, but with whatever sounds could be produced by hitting instruments and other things.

Part 4 sounds almost exactly like a Morton Feldman composition. Feldman took music to new heights when he composed atonal music with normal instruments, but then expanded the lengths of the pieces so vast, it would make a Yes album feel puny by comparison. With no percussion or noticeable rhythm, the entire piece floated on in ghostly fashion, much like Part 4. Even when the organ enters, there's nothing for the listener to grab onto, no noticeable theme, no catchy melody, until the main theme from Part 1 slowly hovers back into view with roughly a minute left to go. It's a marvelous composition when taken as a whole. Not really something you'd hear on Q104.3's classic rock station, though.

"Grantchester Meadows", then, comes as a surprise. It's not particularly catchy, but it's traditional Pink Floyd prog folk. Perhaps an experimentation of traditional British folk tunes? Possibly, composers like Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughn Williams were masters at taking British folk songs and incorporating their elements into more modern compositions composed with modern means.

Still not convinced by the relations with contemporary classical music? The next track drives the nail in the coffin. "Several Species" is essentially 5 minutes of noise, or, if you're John Cage, music. It was this extreme philosophy that forced people to rethink music. If coughing or sneazing could be considered music, something had to change, but it was this experimentation that defined the 20th century in terms of classical music, and it was this experimentation that also defined Pink Floyd. Unlike contemporary composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen or Milton Babbit or Brian Ferneyhough, they realized they had no gone too far the other way in terms of the musical spectrum, so they decided, "let's try to meet in the middle!"

"The Narrow Way" begins with a nice little acoustic passage highlighted with synth sounds and wooshes, followed by Part 2 which sounds a bit omminous a la "Sysyphus Part 1", which fades out into drones and whistles before vocals enter in Part 3, and we finally hear a bit of that gaping, cavernous echo which defines Pink Floyd's best known materials so well. Here, then, for the first time in the Floyd's career, do we finally find a meeting of both extremes, which would meld into one of the greatest sounds by one of the greatest rock bands ever made.

Except we're not quite done, there's still the "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" to attend to. It begins with a lovely flute melody, highlighted by the crack of the snare drum and a fanfare-esque roll. Now, it sounds like a modern symphonic prog epic! doesn't. In reality, it turns out to be a collage of percussion oriented sounds, much like a contemporary percussion ensemble, which then evolves into a sort of (no offense) a half-assed drum solo highlighting an electronic soundboard. And then the exit reprises the happy flute melody. So, again, more experimentation.

But therein lies the crux of this album. This is 1969. Pink Floyd haven't discovered their sound yet. So, like most people, they set off to find it, so they recorded what they made, put it on a record and sold it, predictably, to minimal results. But while many elements comprised in this album are mimicked and noticeable in future albums, they weren't created to this extreme. This is the closest any rock or prog fan will get to what classical compositions by the likes of Cage, Stockhausen, Xenakis or Babbit would sound like.

So, finally, to explain the lone star that accompanies this review. This is one of, if not, the most experimental prog-related albums by far ever made. You're certainly not going to hear it on the radio, and most tunes you probably won't like, mainly because it just sounds foreign to you, like 20th-century classical music does to almost anyone that doesn't play it (unlike myself). My father, a huge Pink Floyd fan, despises this album immensely, so surely even some collectors of Pink Floyd material will either hardly hear it or admit they just don't like the music from it.

Yet, what this album lacks in catchy listenable tunes, it does make up for in the genius the Pink Floyd's compositional and songwriting skills. This is a landmark album in the progression of Pink Floyd's sound. Much like Cage's 4'33 sparked the Minimalist sound movement with Terry Riley and Steve Reich, the quartet realized they had reached to such an extreme to find their own unique sound, that they had gone TOO far, and realized there must be harmony and equilibrium between catchy, accessible music, and continuous storytelling through unique sounds, auras, progressions, instruments and technology.

Happy music died in 1909. But what Pink Floyd discovered in 1969, they reprimanded 4 years later. Something classical composers today in 2014 still have not done. This is a landmark album. No doubt about it.

Report this review (#1193764)
Posted Sunday, June 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars A classic album that few - if anyone - listens to anymore. Both Pink Floyd and music in general have come a long way since 1969. Back then it was considered as groundbreaking effort that, in turn, paved the way to and inspired countless psychedelic releases. 45 years later, such works are still coming thick and fast. On the side of understandable nostalgia, "Ummagumma" still commands due respect - even if it doesn't get much play these days.

Rating this work represents quite a challenge because the two discs are very different. Disc 1 is a pure psychedelic trip. With headphones on, one could go on astral travel into outer space. It would deserve a rating of 4, or 5, even by today's standards.

Disc 2 however is an overly indulgent recording that was typical of that era. The excesses of that time today wouldn't be tolerated, let alone lead to a record contract. The individual members largely just fooling around, perhaps exploring the (then) new stereo effects. It may have been somewhat amusing then, but in musical terms it only contains fragments of engaging bits. It is seen as "Collectors/Fans only" to a rating of 2.

So, which way do I lean? Do I knock the whole work over disk 2? No, I won't, I'll just give that one a miss. But disc 1 remains a worthy addition, deserving due attention, so I can't rate it as "good, but non-essential". And this one wins the contest to a weak 4.

Report this review (#1194874)
Posted Monday, June 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars "I agree that it's art. But can one dance to it?"

No, one does not dance to Ummagumma. That's not what the album was created for. Ummagumma's importance is generally overlooked by the prog community, especially as a major catalyst for the development of the kruatrock genre, and the album's influence on German artists like Tangerine Dream, for starters.

Recorded after the more rock friendly offering of the OST album More, Ummagumma was a brave and expensive concept with both live and studio albums combined, I believe, for the first time on a record. And a double record at that.

The first album is the live counterpart with selections from Saucerful Of Secrets and Piper At The Gates of Dawn redone with the Gilmoured version of Pink Floyd, as well as expanding the songs in the case of Careful With that Axe, Eugene and Saucerful's title track. These live recordings find the band more confident and accomplished, to state the differences between the studio originals and live versions simply. Even Astronomy Domine without Syd Barrett's vocals or guitar playing is not missed. Except for the ultra sentimentalists. A good starting point for this ultra ambitious undertaking which finds the second studio album divided equally amongst the four group members as what is essentially solo offerings.

First up is Rick Wright's four part keyboard opus Sisyphus which works quite well as separate movements that evolves and dissolves into dissonant sounds that seem be tape manipulated and altered piano chords with tympani that collides with Wrights' stately piano and later, his eerie mellotron, which evokes the feeling of building up, pushing up, giving up and collapse. Just like Sisyphus' futile attempts to push the giant stone up the hill in the Greek legend. This is the first song to demonstrate the group's preoccupation with recording tricks that will culminate in the Nick Mason's closing piece entitled The Grand Vizier's Garden Party.

Indeed, it's electronic recording effects that dominate the heart of the studio album in much the same way that Sgt. Pepper's dominated the mindset of the Beatles. The effects came first and the music suffered. Not intentionally. But studio recording tape manipulation at this time required labor intensive effort on the part of both the musicians as well as the recording engineers.

Water's attempt to simulate chasing a fly at the end of his understated and under developed pastoral outing titled Grantchester Meadows demonstrates this missappropriation of studio time that necessitated the hours required to record, overdub and rerecord numerous vocals (by trial and error) and then have those recorded pieces played back on tape loops at wildly different speeds or completely backwards, and then deftly synced together in order to the create the mind blowing Dadaesque absurdist instrumental piece titled Several Species Of Small Fury Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict (which immediately follows Grantchester Meadows) . This piece features the first of Water's spoken personas and you can almost hear the "Stand Still, Laddie!" character trying to breakthrough his faux Gaelic ranting that concludes the piece. The folky Grantchester Meadows seems underdeveloped because of it's stark and simple acoustic guitar strumming that sounds like Waters trying his best to conjure some body from two double tracked acoustic guitars, but failing miserably. A lead guitar solo by Gilmour, either acoustic or electric, would have greatly complemented and completed this sleepy lackluster song. But Gilmour is sadly AWOL.

Was David too busy with his own repeated guitar overdubs and experimentation with backwards and forwards recorded guitar sounds for his own song? And, even possibly, of playing a lead passage in reverse order and reversing the playback of the tape only to find another completely different set of sounds than those that were originally envisioned? A common experience with studio experimentalists in that era. And again, very time consuming for a band that made its living from heavy touring.

Gilmour's three part song The Narrow Way starts out with a more sophisticated acoustic guitar introduction, supported by dissonant tape manipulated electric guitar tones, that's more reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's acoustic outings from that time, but never develops into a truly memerable song. The second part features heavy guitar riffing that never develops into a climatic lead guitar frenzy that this kind of song calls for. That would come later in Pink Floyd's recording career. And Gilmour's meandering lyrics will not hold the listeners attention.

Two strikes for the band so far until Nick Mason saves the day with the most avant-garde piece ever recorded in the Pink Floyd canon, the Grand Vizier's Garden Party. Bracketed by mournful flute, this Stockhausen-like percussion based collage piece is the absolute apex of combining recorded music with studio effects that, to my opinion, has never been bettered since.

The final tally on the studio disc: two hits and two misses. But at least the Floyd were brave enough to try and that's what really matters with Ummagumma. The type of risk taking by a popular group that one would never see attempted again in the age of modern pop music.

Despite Waters' and Gilmour's songs coming up short, both Sysyphus and the Grand Vizier show just how talented and creative Wright and Mason were at this juncture of Pink Floyd's development, and why they are regarded, quite correctly by those in the know, as Floyd's secret weapons immediately after the departure of Syd Barrett.

The true magic of an album that contains music like this is that it's so subjective that another listener might reject my favorites and replace them with songs that did not impress me. Or one listener might appreciate all the songs on the studio disc, while another might dismiss all of them.

So, is Ummagumma a collection of fine dance songs? No would be my opinion. But for those with two left feet, or think with the right hemisphere of their brains, this album will do quite nicely. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1454290)
Posted Monday, August 17, 2015 | Review Permalink

Ummagumma, to me, was the beginning of what I call "the experimental Floyd era" that began in 1969. Sure Floyd experimented prior to this album with jams like Interstellar Overdrive and A Saucerful of Secrets, but they expanded those efforts and honed in on them with precision on Ummagumma. Three things that make Ummagumma different (and special) are 1) Along with Atom Heart Mother, it is their most exploratory effort into the realms of the avant-garde, and yet, 2) unlike any album before it, Ummagumma was also a live album featuring extended versions of previously released songs and some of Floyd's main concert staples at the time. Finally, 3) it is a double-album that gives you the best of Floyd's psychedelic showmanship on Disc 1 and their most far-out journey into the depths of progressive music on Disc 2.

Track by Track: (Disc 1 - The Live Side) ASTRONOMY DOMINE : The opening track to their very first album, a Syd Barrett tune, opens the Live Side with David Gilmour taking on the role of Barrett. With the exception of bootlegs, the only version we have to compare it to with Barrett is the studio version and that's not really a good comparison. The studio version is cleaned up, polished and a lot less atmospheric than the live. It is comparing (dare I say it) apples and oranges! The Gilmour version of this song isn't really that much different from Barrett's original with the exception of the pacing and more haunting atmosphere Gilmour brings to the table. It is said that Interstellar Overdrive was supposed to be on this album, and I would really have preferred it to this song. Meh.

CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, EUGENE : Personally one of my favorite Floyd tracks of all-time, this version is definitely one of the best. Previously released as a studio B-side in 1968, CWTAE became a concert staple and fleshed out to become creepier and much more powerful than the almost-silly studio version. Although I prefer the Pompeii version of this song, there is really nothing left to want from Ummagumma's version here. The tense build-up, Gilmour's haunting wordless vocals, Roger's incredible spine-chilling scream and the bombastic drumming by Nick Mason (some of his best), is underscored by Rick Wright's creeping and sweeping keys. The buildup is extended but perfectly timed, and the blistering guitar soloing by Gilmour while the band is crushing it is as heavy as Floyd gets. It is raw, hypnotic, extremely dark and demonstrates the variety of Floyd all in one instrumental.

SET THE CONTROLS ? : This Roger Waters favorite became a concert staple like CWTAE in nearly all of the Floyd's late 60s and early 70s shows (and even Waters' solo concerts in the 80s and 2000s). The song is relatively unchanged from the studio version with the exception of being extended and (again) the pacing was a bit slower to add more atmosphere. This track has a ritualistic feel to it due to Waters' mantra-like, repetitive chanting of lyrics, Wright's "Middle Eastern" adventuring on the keys and Mason's tribal drumming. Gilmour chimes in some experimental guitar soloing and the combination of all the musicians' efforts creates a hypnotic trance into some otherworldly realm.

A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS : One of the very first structured, experimental tracks after Syd Barrett left. Created by Waters and Mason's architectural mapping, this song may sound improvised or even like the band just randomly playing around with sounds at some points, but it is a very organized piece of music. The studio version sounds a lot more structured than the live version and is, in my opinion, a different animal. Although it is one of the creepiest Floyd songs this side of CWTAE, there isn't much difference between this version and the studio with the exception of Gilmour's moaning vocals during the finale (which I prefer to the studio versions' "voices" track used). Again, this one isn't as good as the Pompeii version, but it is a slight improvement over the studio version. Lots of guitar experimentation from Gilmour, haunting keys from Wright, more Mason's tribal drumming and Waters going insane on a gong! Beautiful!

(Disc 2 - The Studio Side) SYSYPHUS I-IV : With each member receiving space on Side 2 to experiment individually, this Rick Wright effort was his attempt at making what he called "real music" (probably meaning classically-influenced) and it comes out extremely interesting, if not coming up a bit short perhaps. The track has four parts with part one coming in heavy, straight-forward ominously like a heavier classical piece from Orff or Wagner. The foreboding strings call to mind at times Gustav Holst's Mars suite, while the Mellotron underpinning brings to mind King Crimson. This very warlike first section segues into a hauntingly beautiful classical piano piece that seems to be not unlike something you might here from Grieg, until Wright begins to break it down into some very Penderecki-like atonal playing that brings to mind a mental breakdown. Part 2 than falls into part 3 which sounds like metal scraps falling out of the back of truck or something. It is a very industrial and a bit too "experimental" for my taste. Finally part 4 brings us out of the metallic tornado into a very eerie soundscape that reminds me of something you may hear on a "Tales From The Darkside" episode. An unsettling sort of midday, "something is not right" vibe that clarifies itself later in the piece to prove you right, before it follows up with a reprise of Part 1's bombast.

GRANTCHESTER MEADOWS: Waters' offering begins with this pleasant pastoral track. Opening with the chirping birds reminiscent of Cirrus Minor, the light acoustic guitar and Waters' soft singing takes the listener to a very pleasant stroll through the countryside after coming through Wright's nightmare world. The double-tracked vocals, continuous atmospheric birdsong and the sticky acoustic song gives this song a relaxing, yet tense feel at the same time because you don't know what will come at anytime. Is Pink Floyd really allowing us to breathe again or will the hammer come down at any minute? Fortunately, it never does, but a swatting does take place when it seems a pesky fly enters the environment.

SEVERAL SPECIES ? : Ok ? the full title is "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving With a Pict." Whew! I wonder if Waters just meant to be funny or pretentious or pretentiously funny? Either way, this avant-garde piece is strictly loops that sound like little creatures squeaking and squalling, cave-like ambience and Waters eventually ranting and raving in some thick Scottish accent about who knows what. It is the strangest and, by far, the most far-out piece of work that Pink Floyd has ever released. It needs to be heard to be believed.

THE NARROW WAY I - III: Ah, leave it to David Gilmour to bring us back to some Floydian normality (if such a thing exists), The Narrow Way is divided into three sections with the first being Gilmour playing some sort of acoustic jig-along stuff while dissonant effects seem to create an alien presence involved. Part 2 comes in and takes into darker territory with a raga guitar repetition being underscored by some insanely spooking experimentation reminding us of the place we were in Wright's Sisyphus piece at times. Finally Part 3 is probably the closest we come to even remotely getting a taste of the classic Floyd sound on this entire disc. The off-putting chord strums create a distant, detached feel that eventually seeps into a "real song" complete with words, standard playing of guitar, piano and eventually bass and drum ? a group effort to complete this piece allows us to feel that we know Pink Floyd again.

THE GRAND VIZIER'S GARDEN PARTY: This is not the best or most favored track on Ummagumma, but I feel it is highly underrated. Divided into three parts like The Narrow Way, the first and last sections are essentially the same thing ? Mason's wife, Lindy, playing a very pleasant piece on the flute. This rather simple, but enjoyable tune bookends Mason's real effort ? part 2 which features some experimental drumming and looping done by Mason that is actually very progressive and quite impressive. Grand Vizier's Garden Party is often referred to as the weakest effort on the album (and that may be the case), but it is not really a bad effort at all.

Overall: This album is definitely Pink Floyd's darkest album followed by Animals and The Wall later on, but it is also their most adventurous effort ever put to record. This is truly the beginning of the progressive era for Floyd that led to later masterpieces. Ummagumma is far removed from previous Floyd albums and takes it to another level. Although dismissed by band members now and many critics, Ummagumma is a milestone for Pink Floyd and progressive music in general. It is way ahead of its time, but still dated a bit in parts. It is the Floyd at the peak of their curiosity about music and sound. It deserves multiple listens and the appreciation will grow. 4/5

Report this review (#1554856)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Trailblazer Album.

Not knowing where they wanted to go as a band, just following their musical noses, the Floyd (well before ELP's Works, Yes members' solo albums, etc) decided they should cut an album in which they gave each member one quarter of the space for their own composition. They also decided they should record a live album, not only so they could archive their live show at that point but also so that they could move on to new things. Ummagumma acheived both in one double-go. The first album is the live album, and it features live versions of four of their key catalogue that were very different than the studio version. In each case, these are better versions of these classic tunes, with longer solos and more developed crescendos and well-worked out improvisational sections. These live versions of "Careful with the Axe, Eugene" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" in particular were advances on the studio versions, and would become the standard against which the Floyd shows would be judged. I always loved "Saucer Full of Secrets" and the version here is wonderful too (as is the version on the Live in Pompeii). The second album is the studio album, with each member taking one quarter. As other reviewers have commented, this showed just how innovative and avant-garde the members of the Floyd were (as well as Roger Waters' sense of humour - "Several Species of Small Furry Animals..." is not only one of the strangest avant-garde pieces ever recorded (as noted by reviewer siLLy puPPy) but also one of the funniest and lightest). Nick Mason's "Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is also quite avant-garde, obviously dominated by percussion, but very interesting. But a number of these solo tunes are also quite musical. Waters' "Granchester Meadows" is a very soothing acoustic number, an ode to natural beauty, and they played this song live a number of times. David Gilmour's contribution ("The Narrow Way") is the most "Floyd-esque". It is very musical, I wish they had played this song live in concert (I have so many Floyd bootlegs, but no live versions of this tune!). But my favourite of all the solo-studio recordings is Rick Wright's "Sysyphus". This is an awesome composition, dark and grandiose, but also delicate and introspective. A wonderful track, among the best on this double album. On the whole, despite sound quality that left something to be desired, this album stands as an important innovative and experimental album of the kind that is rarely (it seems) made any longer. I give this album 8.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to (upper) 4 PA stars. Definitely worth the effort!

Report this review (#1695844)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review Nº 113

"Ummagumma" is an album of Pink Floyd which was released in 1969. It's a double album divided into two different types of musical works. The disc 1 is a live album of their studio musical catalogue at the time, while disc 2 is a studio album that contains several musical compositions, all composed by each member of the group as solo artists.

"Ummagumma" has sixteen tracks. The disc 1 is the live album and has four tracks. They were recorded live at Mothers Club in Birmingham, and in the following week at Manchester College of Commerce. The first track "Astronomy Domine" is a live version of a song originally released on their debut studio album "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn". The second track "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" is a live version of a song never released on any of their studio albums. It's an instrumental piece of music that was originally released as the B side of their single "Point Me At The Sky". It was also released on their compilation album, "Relics". The third track "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" is a live version of a song originally released on their second studio album "A Saucerful Of Secrets". The fourth track "A Saucerful Of Secrets" is a live version of the title track of their studio album "A Saucerful Of Secrets", too.

In relation to this live album, all the live versions on it are great. "Astronomy Domine" and "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" always were two of my favourite songs of the psychedelic musical phase of the group and the only thing I can say is that they are even better than their original studio versions. I must say that I never was a great fan of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene". However, I also must say that this live version is superb and because of that I became a fan of this version of the song. "A Saucerful Of Secrets" is without any doubt my less favourite track of this side of the album, because it has too much improvisation for my taste. However, it's also a great track that doesn't harm the great musical quality of this side of the album. Overall, all these live versions are stranger, wilder, longer, sometimes considerably so, sometimes slower, faster, or louder, at times hypnotically pretty and otherworldly, other times frighteningly creepy and intense, and still otherworldly. In short, the live disc shows the early Pink Floyd at their best.

The disc 2 is the studio album and has twelve tracks. Still, it was divided into four parts, where each part corresponds to each band member. The first part "Sysyphus" is from Richard Wright and is divided into four parts which correspond to four tracks. The second part is from Roger Waters and has two tracks, "Grantchester Meadows" and "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Growing With A Pict". The third part "The Narrow Way" is from David Gilmour and is divided into three parts which correspond to three tracks. The fourth part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is from Nick Mason and is divided into three parts which correspond to three tracks.

In relation with this studio album, I must say that in general it's a little bit disappointing for me, because of its low overall quality. "Sysyphus" is my favourite part of this studio album. This is an avant-garde piece of music very strange and with a rather sinister atmosphere that sounds like something out of a horror movie. It's, in my opinion, a very good piece of music with some great musical parts. "Grantchester Meadows" is the only solo piece of music on the acoustic guitar with lyrics on the album. In my opinion, it's a typical acoustic song by Roger Waters, very simple and soft, but also very vulgar and extensive. Definitely, this isn't one of his best compositions. "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Growing With A Pict" represents a complete waste of time. It's a song almost inaudible and I sincerely can't see anything positive on it. This is probably the worst composition ever made by Waters. "The Narrow Way" is, in my humble opinion, an unbalanced piece of music with some low and high points. It's basically an exploration of several guitar styles and is fortunately largely pleasant listening. "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" is, in my opinion and surprisingly, the second best piece of music on the album. It's a track with an interesting musical structure, very pleasant to listen to, and is for me, the underrated piece of music of this rather strange studio album.

Conclusion: Everything about this album is weird, from its cover, another Hipgnosis classic, to its title, apparently a British slang for sex, its structure and finally its actual contents. "Ummagumma" is comprised of an excellent live disc that represents Pink Floyd's "space rock" peak, followed by a second studio disc that ranges from very good to truly awful. In relation to the live album, we can say that all the four live versions are superior to their studio originals, made longer, louder, harder, all with a real edge of playing. In relation to the studio album, it isn't a musical collective effort of the band and I must confess that I never was a great fan of those types of albums. I must confess that it was very hard for me to rate "Ummagumma". I completely agree with Easy Livin when he says that we are in presence of a good album and a not so good one. This album probably proves that Pink Floyd members are better as a band than as solo artists. It represents really the band's artiest, most experimental, avant-garde, and flat-out album ever made by them.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1705153)
Posted Sunday, March 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Many popular bands of the ages seem to have an album that divides the fans. For some it is the zenith of their experimental creativity, yet for some the most unlistenable pompous codswallop that could be unleashed onto unsuspecting ears. But more often than not, the truth lies somewhere in between. For the 60s psychedelic rock masters PINK FLOYD, their 1969 double album UMMAGUMMA (purported to be one of the roadie's made up slang for "sex") is that such album which equally titillates and tortures alike but one thing is for damn sure: there exists no other album in all of music history that even comes close to capturing the unique soundscapes that David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright conjured up during the turbulent times after Syd Barrett left the crew and took with him his dominant psychedelic influences. While the band fully intended to simply release a live album that was to include the extra tracks "Interstellar Overdrive" and "The Embryo," it was thanks to Richard Wright whose desire to make new music that ultimately resulted in the idea of each member composing solo material and using it as the second half of the album. And since the band was actively seeking a new way to construct an album, with UMMAGUMMA they found their perfect solution.

Equally divided up onto two LPs or two CDs, the first side contains contains the live material which despite some earlier copies claiming it was all recorded in June 1969, it actually took place on 27 April 1969 at Mothers Club in Birmingham, England as well as on 2 May at the Manchester College of Commerce. Side one starts things off with the exemplar "Astronomy Domine" which not only presents to the world that the FLOYD can pull off the Syd Barrett material with David Gilmour on board but also how they were evolving into more progressive territories by almost doubling the time length from the original on "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" album with an extra verse and lengthy instrumental music in between. Likewise "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" was significantly extended to add progressive noodling and extravagant creative liberties whereas the title track to "Saucerful Of Secrets" remained fairly true to the original although i've always found it a little lackluster to the studio version. The true treat came from the B-side track of the non-album single "Point Me At The Sky." "Careful With That Axe Eugene" is nothing more than an organ-based jam session that is accompanied by Roger Waters screaming like he's in the shower scene in the Psycho movie but it offers a glimpse into their seductive hypnotic grooviness that made PINK FLOYD such a popular live act in those most psychedelic years of the 60s.

The second side contains the highly experimental, somewhat controversial and what i deem woefully underappreciated solo offerings where each of the band members took a stab at creating the most unapologetic experimental solo material they could muster up. While Wright, Gilmour and Mason opted for lengthy grandiose suites that were composed of various parts, Roger Waters conjured up two distinctly opposing styles of songwriting in only two tracks. Richard Wright, the impetus for the solo side of the album naturally began with his epic sounding "Sysyphus" which consists of four parts and displays a bombastic approach with a thundering timpani and Chopin inspired piano sequences that allow him to show off his best Keith Emerson inspired chops that slowly cede into the avant-garde world of John Cage that climaxes in pure cacophony. On Part 3 he reveals that he is the mastermind for the freakiest aspects of early Floyd such as the similarly sounding cacophonous roar heard on tracks like "Saucerful Of Secrets." Waters took the opposite approach and delivers a subdued acoustic guitar ballad with vocals that recounts a dreamy meadow scene in the English countryside complete with bird chirping in the background. Also a glimpse into Waters' contributions to the more "regular" sounding aspects of PF's songwriting. Following the serene visions of kingfishers is the avant-garde " "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict," which consists only of animal noises, microphone taps, vocals and tape manipulations. This is by far the most bizarre track ever to grace a PF album and remains one of the most avant- garde pieces of music of all time IMHO.

Gilmour jumps back into a more "normal" sounding FLOYD sound that is fairly ubiquitous on later albums with calm acoustic guitars on his three part "Narrow Way" suite that showcase the segments that reveal his future vital contributions that made albums like "Wish You Were Here" so very, very catchy and emotional. However, this was his license to experiment as well and all hell breaks loose as it transmogrifies into lysergic heaven before landing back on earth and providing a blueprint for the future "Dark Side Of The Moon" material. Nick Mason ends it all with his percussion vs ambient three part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" which perfectly exemplifies the world of Sultan's and Viziers of Ottomon Empire days of which is the subject matter. While mostly based on his instantly recognizable drumming style, the trippiness level is turned up to 11 as a calm flute ushers in pleasant melodies only to be replaced by a drum roll and timpani series of sounds that not only give a psychedelic feel but also one of epic days of past. Mason reveals how his unique rhythmic percussive drive has also been vital for the overall FLOYDian sound. After the appropriate percussive drive is established Mason gets all freaky and creates an ambient ethereal passage and then gets all weird with sound dynamics that include a staggeringly original variation of percussive techniques.

When all is said and done, PINK FLOYD were making a statement to the world that they were still alive and kicking despite their main creative member losing his marbles and being forced out of the band. UMMAGUMMA was an early indicator of where PF were heading in the sense that the album serves much like the refraction of light through a pyramid as later seen on the "Dark Side Of The Moon" album cover. Meaning that the members demonstrate on UMMAGUMMA the true magic of the sum of their parts as heard on the live side of the album where it's impossible to distinguish which specific member contributes which specific aspect of the music that creates the larger picture but also the solo studio side of the album clearly indicates which colors of the spectrum emanate from each retrospective band member and allows the listener to pinpoint their retrospective roles in the larger PINK FLOYD discography making this the musical sleuth's essential listening experience.

All time favorite album this may not be for anyone but i can't think of a more interesting and utterly unhinged flow of creative juices that needed to erupt in order for the band to carry on and coalesce into their second personification of space rock. While this is clearly a sort of transitional point between these different phases of the band's history, i find UMMAGUMMA to be the perfect totally whacked out album to soak in when i'm in the mood for something that runs the gamut of tastefully performed classics to the outrageously experimental craziness. Perhaps not an album that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but rather one that digs deep into the souls of the musicians thus allowing the listener to get a glimpse of creative musical minds and how their idiosyncrasies contribute to the making of one of the greatest bands to ever have emerged into the world of rock music. For me this is not only one of the greatest historical artifacts that perfectly demonstrates where the world found itself during the awkward odometer change of the 60s to the 70s, but also is an album that i personally still find exciting after countless listens many decades after its initial impact on the world. One star for each member of the band.

Report this review (#1710016)
Posted Tuesday, April 11, 2017 | Review Permalink

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