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Pink Floyd - A Saucerful Of Secrets CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.66 | 1703 ratings

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4 stars Pink Floyd was probably my first real foray outside of heavy metal though I still looked for heavy guitars as heard in parts of 'The Wall' and 'Animals'. Having an interest in music of the late sixties, one of the earlier Floyd albums to enter my collection was 'A Saucerful of Secrets'. Released in 1968, this was the second Pink Floyd album and notable for being the first to feature David Gilmour and the last to include material penned by the madcap, Mr. Syd Barrett, as the album's recording actually began in 1967 while Barrett was still a contributing member. Barrett appears on the tracks 'Remember a Day', 'Jugband Blues' and 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun'.

The album sees the band moving ahead, focusing more on darker, seriously-themed music with the childlike quality in the lyrics and playful approach to the music relegated to only a song or two. There is also one long experimental piece in the title track.

Side one of the album is in my view the more enjoyable, all four songs being of interest. The first track, 'Let There Be More Light' is in two parts, beginning with a rather quick bass line and rapidly developing into a space rock instrumental with Richard Wright's keyboards providing eerie tones that at times seem a little improvised as though he was asked to record them while listening to the backing track for the first time. The music then slows down for the song part and the vocals are shared by Wright and Gilmour. The song winds down with a guitar solo by Gilmour. The article on Wikipedia delves into the lyrics, describing the many references.

'Remember a Day' and 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun' are both slow songs, the former featuring some pretty piano work by Wright but also some eerie, spacey slide guitar work by Gilmour who creates some very high tones in a psychedelic approach to slide guitar playing. The drumming picks up pace throughout the verses of the song but the vocals by Wright are still soothing and soft. The song looks back on childhood. 'Set the Controls' develops the haunting space theme further, slowing down to a mysterious and almost unsettling journey through the unknown. Nick Mason's percussion here is based on a repeated rhythm of light drumming and cymbal crashes while Richard Wright provides eerie tones.

The mood lifts for the final track, 'Corporal Clegg', a Water's song that begins his war themed lyrics. The song is more guitar-oriented with very sharp and harsher sounds. It's about a retired war veteran whose career is actually not as esteemed as he makes it out to be, with his one medal being something he found in the zoo (metaphor?). The song becomes very cacophonic near the end as a slowed down polka theme is gradually layered with more and more sound effects and voices. The whole mess reaches an abrupt conclusion.

The title track opens side two and is in three parts. It is a long experimental piece with lots of Floydian psychedelia. Though it has its moments, I personally find this uninspiring and a bit of a chore to get through. As my musical tastes evolve I come back to this track from time to time to see if I can understand it better; however, to this day I still find little to appreciate. It does indicate, though, the direction the band would take for 'Ummagumma', so if that's your preference then you'll possibly enjoy 'A Saucerful of Secrets'.

Interestingly, I read that someone called the next track, 'See Saw' the most boring song in the history of rock. I have always liked it even back in my high school days. Richard Wright's soothing vocals and the pretty piano cascades appeal to me and I also like how the innocence of a song of non-innocence is maintained by the naivety of the lyrics and musical theme which only occasionally drops suddenly into a darker theme with a crash, only to return to the prettier sounds once again.

The final track is Syd Barrett's only contribution to the song writing and this is obvious because of the rather bizarre lyrics. 'It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here and I'm much obliged to you for making it clear that I'm not here.' Barrett was no doubt referring to how the band was keeping him as a member but beginning to make decisions about the band without him. 'And I'm grateful to you for throwing away my old shoes and brought me here instead dressed in red.'

The music is typical of Barrett's playful themes with a joyous phrase of la-la-las and some jaunty brass band music played by a Salvation Army band. The music, however, soon becomes an adventure in crossing sounds of repeated la-la-las to inserts of guitar effects, fade ins and outs of brass band music in a different key and other effects. The final segment of the song is a strummed acoustic guitar and Barrett's closing lines 'And the sea isn't green / And I love the queen / And what exactly does it mean / And what exactly is a joke'. This final part is reminiscent of music that would later appear on the album 'Opel'.

As I said above, for me the best of the music is on side one with 'See Saw' having its charms and 'Jug Band Blues' having its moments as well. The title track remains too far outside of my music appreciation capabilities though I respect that the band was eager to try this. I do prefer this album over most of Floyd's pre-'Meddle' days and I give it four stars for being mostly enjoyable while also creative.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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