Ummagumma (1969)

Live Disc

Studio Disc


Disc One 1. Astronomy Domine 2. Careful With That Axe, Eugene 3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun 4. A Saucerful of Secrets Disc Two 1. Sysyphus 2. Grantchester Meadows 3. Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together and Grooving with a Pict 4. The Narrow Way 5. The Grand Vizier's Garden Party


All sorts of things come to a Pink Floyd fan's mind when the name of this album is mentioned. It was quite a strange one. Actually, you could argue that this is two very different albums. One is a live snapshot of their not-too distant past, while the other one is a new studio effort that finds themselves still elusive of what they, as a band, were trying to sound like. In summary, I think the studio disc is lacking in most areas, whereas the live album sounds superb. That has to leave me to speculate whether they intended on a studio album only, realized that it wasn't up to par, so they decided to package a live album along with it to up the quality several notches.

This was the band's "experimental" stage. They seem to focus less on music and more on how strange they could get their instruments to sound. Maybe they were under the influence of a lot of drugs, or maybe this was the style at the time amongst those in certain circles. My guess is that it was probably a bit of both. At this point, everything in their catalog was a bit loopy, but the earlier stuff seemed to at least be somewhat musical. You could actually sing, or hum along the early work, even if it was a bit bizarre. This is what made the band so unique in its early days. They seemed to have forgotten that during this phase in their career.

For the studio album, each member gets a "turn" at a song, or series of related songs. Richard Wright begins with the Sysyphus songs that are all instrumental featuring different keyboard workings throughout. O.K., he gets an "A" for effort, but the instrumental tracks sound as though they're written as background music for a very bad nightmare. If Pink Floyd was attempting to scare the hell out of their listeners, then they succeeded. Roger Waters is next with a couple of "nature" pieces. They're not scary, but they're equally as bizarre. The first track, Grantchester Meadows almost sounds like it could have been a decent song, but it's almost as if the band purposely avoided that on this album, and decided they needed to muck it up with more guttural sounds and strange sound effects. This is really apparent on David Gilmour's series of songs, The Narrow Way. They show off very good guitar work, but again the mood is spoiled by bells and whistles. Ditto for the mad percussion work on Nick Mason's The Grand Vizier's Garden tunes.

Fortunately, the other album does a complete about face. It's a very powerful live set of some of the best early known Pink Floyd songs. Each song is at least eight minutes in length, so there are only four songs total here, but that's not a deterant. Each of these songs demonstrate the powerfulness of the early Pink Floyd. All of them feature the same freakish, spooky sounds prevalent to the early sound, yet none are short on melody. In fact, all of these songs actually sound better than their studio counterparts, which is a big compliment to the band since you could argue that all of these songs are "studio" pieces. Especially creepy is the homicidal Careful with that Axe, Eugene, which had never been released on album, only as a single.

It wouldn't surprise if all across the globe, there exists copies of this 2 record set with the live album worn and scratched and the studio album almost immaculate. They were still re-finding their way.

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