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OPEL

Syd Barrett

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Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album doesn't differ much from his other solo releases, but I think that the track "Lanky" is worth of mentioning separately. It continues the idea of "Interstellar overdrive" from PINK FLOYD's "Piper at the gates of dawn" album, so it is an instrumental improvisation, and a very good and chaotic one too!

Many of the Syd's songs are rotated over and over in different albums, so unless you are a record collector, consider carefully which one you want to buy out of them. Listening before is a wise precaution.

Report this review (#43159)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cluster One
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "A bare winding carcass stark, shimmers as flies scoop up meat..."

A sort of 'studio' album, "Opel" was released in 1989 with a plethora of previously unheard Syd Barrett tunes. This is not an attempt to release recycled material and 'cash-in' at the expense of fans, this album is an attempt to get out more, and ostensibly new, music to those fans. So although it is labelled as a 'compilation' think of this as a long lost Third Syd studio album as it is quite creative, and of decent quality.

The album was named (quite rightly) after the title song, 'Opel', a powerful and haunting poetic piece. Again, Syd's familiar format is followed: His voice, an acoustic guitar, and his songwriting genius. Nothing uplifting here to be sure though.

'Word Song' is one of Syd Barrett's MOST unique musical pieces, and it illustrates how easily he can put words to music. Indeed this entire song is made up of only single words, strung together with a melody. No word is repeated, and no word has anything to do with what precedes/follows it.

'Wouldn't You Miss Me?' is a heartwrenching opus, ostensibly aimed at his former bandmembers who left him, and worth the price of admission alone. "Please lift a hand, I'm only a person. Wouldn't you miss me? COULDN'T you miss me at all....?"

There are a few stinkers on here as well: 'Rats' and 'Birdie Hop' in particular, but not enough to ruin the album. 2.5/5 stars, rounded up because of my blatant Barrett bias! ;-)

Report this review (#45335)
Posted Saturday, September 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Definitely sliding down the slippery slope off the precipice, or it may have already fallen off. I don't know why record companies keep thinking the public is so gullible but ' Opel' is an insult to most paying fans budget. This is rehashed, regurgitated Barrett that shows little or no endearing qualities. I reckon you have to be such a devotee to Syd Barrett that out of scholastic sympathy you took acid right thru the 70's and 80's to lend emotional support to Barrett's plight. Then again the guy may never have had influence over the release of his extremely poor material as record moguls attempted to squeeze the man's creative juices for every last dollar. This music is awful, let's leave it at that. It is an insult that it was released against the backdrop of all the great music Syd's shortlived career supplied in the late 60's.
Report this review (#87286)
Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars First of all, this album is in my collection since 1997 but I've heard it after the Syd's departure, as was the first time.

Nothing special inside, it look just a commerical operation on Syd fame. But there are some version of previous released song that sounds very different, sometimes worst and sometime with "true" feelings.

There's a lot of bad chords and sometimes Syd was not "tuned" with the voice or has not syncronized with drums or other instruments.

I think that the title track is a fantastic song, it's show how great was (is) the genius of Syd, the others are unreleased tracks (very interesting the instrumental jam).

At the end nothing special but if you wanna hear the solo works of one of the last genius of 20th century you must have this record with the first two albums and (of corse) with the first floyd's releases.

Listen the songs in their deep, and you'll feel more than music.

Report this review (#87371)
Posted Wednesday, August 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The last snapshot of a gifted artist.

Admittedly Syd Barrett is not for everyone, not for a broad audience. His solo material is like the paintings that make people ask "is that really art?" And while the answer is YES I acknowledge that Syd's songs on the surface can be loose, sometimes sloppy, and seemingly "stream of consciousness." But for many of us who look below the surface that is precisely what makes him so appealing. Sometimes beauty can be found in places where one doesn't expect it.

"Opel" is not a compilation of previously released material but more like a different snapshot or take on Syd, just like his two solo albums. To understand this it helps to realize how Syd worked and what his approach was. Most musicians go into the studio and lay down a carefully written piece of music knowing what they want it to sound like and working toward that final product. Syd went in and depending on the day of the week would lay down a dozen versions of the same song, no doubt leaving David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and his other producers scratching their heads a bit. Rather than working toward a preconceived final product they would pretty much pick the best take and go from there with overdubs by others. Or they would try to get Syd to follow previous trackings of the song which usually didn't work too well.

Here is how Gilmour described the process of producing his friend: "The potential of some of those songs... they could have really been fantastic. But trying to find a technique of working with Syd was so difficult. You had to pre-record tracks without him, working from one version of the song he had done, and then sit Syd down afterwards and try to get him to play and sing along. Or you could get him to do a performance of it on his own and then try to dub everything else on top. The concept of him performing with another bunch of musicians was clearly impossible because he'd change the song every time. He'd never do a song the same twice, I think quite deliberately." [D. Gilmour]

And where Dave says they "could have been fantastic" I would correct him by saying that they *are* fantastic. They are simply Syd being himself rather than what Dave's definition of the ideal rocker would entail. I doubt he meant to sound condescending and I believe both Roger and David have since praised Syd's material for its own merit. I know more and more modern performers are citing Syd as an influence and recognizing him by recording his songs.

So "Madcap" and "Barrett" were snapshots in time taking the song versions they wanted then and moving forward. "Opel" presents the listener with different snapshots of some of the songs from the two solo albums as well as some previously unreleased material. The songs that are different versions of Madcap/Barrett songs are not necessarily any better or worse than the original, just different. Syd could take the same song and deliver a totally different experience every time he played it and I would say to his critics: That's a GOOD thing guys, not a bad thing!

My point is this; if you are a fan of Syd's solo work, "Opel" is every bit as legitimate and essential as his two classics. You get some different versions of those old songs and you get about a half-dozen previously unreleased gems, the most notable being the haunting 6-plus minute track "Opel" which washes over you like waves with Syd singing:

On a distant shore, miles from land stands the ebony totem in ebony sand a dream in a mist of gray... on a far distant shore... The pebble that stood alone and driftwood lies half buried warm shallow waters sweep shells so the cockles shine... A bare winding carcass, stark shimmers as flies scoop up meat, an empty way... dry tears... crisp flax squeaks tall reeds make a circle of gray in a summer way, around man stood on ground... The other unearthed gems include "Word Song" where Syd rattles off word after endless word which has nothing to do with the others. Poetry with a British humor to it is how I recall Waters speaking of Barrett lyrics. And as pointed out in the liner notes, several others (Milky Way, Birdie Hop, and Let's Split) are classic Barrett whimsy. "Lanky part 1" is a rare instrumental that while more laid back, certainly reminds one of the Interstellar Overdrive days.

I recommend this album in addition to Madcap and Barrett for those who are fans of Syd. Or for better value get the boxed set "Crazy Diamond" which gives you all three of his albums with even more previously unreleased relics. 3 stars for the site, 4 for me.

Report this review (#125293)
Posted Saturday, June 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars This was the first Syd Barrett album I bought, and I did so unaware that this was essentially an album of throwaways. There are very few things on this album that I enjoy, the music is badly produced and loose and the whole think reeks of a melancholic slide into insanity. The only good things about this album are the fact that it is intriguing to see the career of Barrett after Pink Floyd, and a few funny tracks like Effervescing Elephant and Birdie Hop. A pretty poor album all round really, but I suppose it might be interesting to any die hard Syd Barrett fans out there. 1 star i'm afraid.
Report this review (#156425)
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Be warned: "Opel" isn't a missing studio album from the tragic and too-abbreviated solo career of PINK FLOYD's wayward acid casualty Syd Barrett. Instead, it's a collection of (mostly) unreleased outtakes and unpolished rehearsals from the sessions for his two legitimate albums, most of them left in the studio bins for good reason.

The more or less finished songs, as they finally appeared on "The Madcap Laughs" in 1970 and the self-titled "Barrett" later that same year, revealed much of the charm and childlike imagination still untouched by the singer's erratic mood swings. But the unadorned outtakes only expose the sorry degradation of his drug-ravaged mind. Put another way: the completed albums show the damaged genius of Syd Barrett; the outtakes on "Opel" show only the damage.

The highlight of the album would have to be its haunting title track, with a truly heartbreaking chorus echoing the artist's increasing isolation from reality ("I'm trying...to find you...") And the alternate early take of the song "Dark Globe" is far superior to the ragged version chosen (why?) for "The Madcap Laughs".

But too much of the material here is simply too sad and embarrassing, for example the unreleased "Word Song" (the only surviving take, not surprisingly) and the original two-track demo of the song "Rats". The former is a haphazard recitation over a slow, catatonic acoustic guitar chord, and the latter is one of several free association improvs in search of a stable tempo. In both examples (and elsewhere on the album) it sounds like Barrett was either killing valuable studio time in front of a live microphone, or else having a piss in an LSD fog at the expense of his beleaguered engineer.

Compare too the engaging "Octopus", from the "Madcap" album, to the clearly exasperated, overdubbed jamming on the early version of the same song included here. Barrett may have already self-destructed, but his accompaniment wasn't exactly rock-steady either.

In the end the album's only virtue is to suggest something of the superhuman efforts made by his friends and ex-bandmates to help produce two albums of halfway professional quality for public release. And, with unsentimental hindsight, it might also go some distance toward excusing the other members of PINK FLOYD for their seemingly callous decision to abandon Barrett on the eve of the band's inevitable ascent to superstardom.

Report this review (#303104)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Had this been an EP containing only those songs not released in different versions on Syd's other studio albums, I'd have probably given this one an extra star; as it is, it's needlessly rounded out with alternate takes of material from The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, and unless you are an absolutely devoted fan of Syd's solo material there's really little need to have so many alternate takes of songs you already own - especially considering that these versions don't really reveal any hidden beauty or previously untapped magic to the material. (It gets even more silly when you consider the CD versions of this album and Syd's solo albums include *even more* alternate takes as bonus tracks.) Hardcore collectors only, I'm afraid.
Report this review (#465948)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions Team
1 stars 'Opel' is the final 'record' of Barrett. I say this with some reserve because this is a compilation of B-sides and unreleased tracks even recorded before his two solo albums 'The Madcap Laughs' and 'Barrett', both released in 1970.

The story of Syd everyone knows, the beginnings with Pink Floyd, the abuse of drugs, he becoming a vegetable because of this and the band kicking him away to later become the giant that everyone knows.

Much is said about how Syd Barret was brilliant, a lot is talked about how he was a genius, how he had so much to show... the only thing I see in 'Opel' (supposedly the best way to see such a genius in action without any masks) is a lost person who makes an absurdly simplistic music. When I hear a song like 'Opel' I remember 'Bike' from Pink Floyd's first album, a 3-chord song that if it was not for the rest of the band would be the dullest thing on Earth, well, that's it that happens here.

I'm not interested in the fact that these recordings are not the most refined one could have, it's even better, we see how Syd has nothing, the charm came from what happened to him, not the talent itself. Songs sung completely out of time, tracks so silly and ridiculous that even the lyrics of "Rock And Roll" by Led Zeppelin seem like a deep poem when compared. I'll never get back the 3 minutes of my life that I missed hearing something ridiculous like 'Rats', for example.

In short, if you are one of those people who believes Syd Barrett was a genius and who idolizes every note he recorded: this record will make you enjoy life with cheerful excitement. But if you're like me who believe he did (well) his part to the story of one of the biggest bands in history but that solo is just a forgettable Joe: Flee from it!

Report this review (#1816028)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2017 | Review Permalink

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