A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)


 
1. Let There Be More Light 2. Remember a Day 3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun 4. Corporal Clegg 6. A Saucerful of Secrets 7. See-Saw 8. Jugband Blues

 

It must have been a shock for everyone - fans, record executives, and even the band themselves when they found that after their very exciting debut album, that founder and leader Syd Barrett was slowly deteriorating in terms of his mental stability and would be banished from the band shortly afterwards. It was around this time that David Gilmour, a childhood acquaintance of the band, was asked to join on guitar. He wasn't really asked to replace Barrett, although that proved to be true in the near future, but only asked to enhance the band's sound since Barrett was becoming too erratic in the studio and on stage.

This album does feature Barrett on a couple of tracks, including one he wrote, Jugband Blues. It's ironic because the track is arguably the worse thing on the album, and after the brilliance that Barrett displayed on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, it seems as though his sacking was with merit. The song is so fragmented, that it sounds as though it's actually several different songs "mixed together" without any intention of cohesiveness. A bit sad, since it sounds like there was still some genius under all of the confusion.

So without Barrett, the rest of the band, including newcomer Gilmour, are called on to be more in front in terms of songwriting, singing and overall visibility. For the most part, they all succeed quite well - especially Bassist (and sometimes vocalist) Roger Waters. Waters, who had one composition on the band's first album, is given a total of three solo compositions on this album and they range from good to outstanding. His tune Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun is arguably the best thing that the early Pink Floyd ever did. It still contains all of the abstract space travel eeriness that is heard on the debut album, but it seems a bit more focused here, if such a thing is even possible when discussing this type of music. The highlight is drummer Nick Mason's strange pounding on the tom drums throughout the track that manage to brilliantly enhance the mood. The opening track Let There Be More Light, while not as strong, is good enough to hold its own and show us that it is quite possible for this band to survive and flourish after the departure of Barrett. Waters other song, Corporal Clegg is the first of what would be many (some would argue too many) of is anti-war songs. It almost sounds too "normal" to be included here - at least with its message.

Keyboardist Richard Wright handles two of the tracks. While neither are as strong as Waters' songs, they do indicate that this band still had some solid singers and songwriters. See-Saw is the better track of the two. It could almost pass as "normal", or as normal as this band could hope to achieve, with very light, almost pop overtones. Perhaps the favorite for many a Pink Floyd fan is the twelve minute epic title track, which would seem to be an adequate "commercial" for the style of music that this band was known for in its early days. People would think nothing of a twelve minute Floyd track a decade later, but in the era of the three minute single, this song had to be heard to be believed. It's instrumental, and manages to capture everything spacey, weird and surreal that this band had to offer. Just don't listen to it alone in the dark.

Yes, there was life after Syd Barrett.

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