The Early Years 1965-1972 reviews

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Re: The Early Years 1965-1972 reviews

Postby Dyolf » Sun Feb 04, 2018 7:56 pm

1969: Dramatis/ation

CD 1

More non-album tracks:
1. Hollywood
2. Theme (Beat version)
3. More Blues (Alternate version)
4. Seabirds
5. Embryo (from Picnic, a Harvest Records sampler, later released on Works)
BBC Radio Session 12 May 1969:
6. Grantchester Meadows
7. Cymbaline
8. The Narrow Way
9. Green Is the Colour
10. Careful with That Axe, Eugene
Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam 9 August 1969:
11. Interstellar Overdrive
12. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
13. Careful with That Axe, Eugene
14. A Saucerful of Secrets

CD1 - rarities from the period around Ummagumma and More. Before I start I just want to say that this set is much more interesting than the previous two. The four More non-album tracks are something which got the Internet in a bit of a stir. I saw a lot of excitement around the forthcoming release of "Seabirds". Well, "Hollywood" is an acoustic re-working of the music from "Cymbaline" and it's only 1:21 - nothing spectacular. "Theme (Beat version)" is a jam type thing based around the More theme, which should have been on the More album really, it's the best non-album track here. "More Blues (Alternate version)" is just a longer version than what appears on More. "Seabirds" is dull; it's cymbals in the background with a not-so-interesting keyboard part laid over it, which develops into glockenspiel tinkering, crashing cymbals and slide-guitar noodling - it's really nothing to get excited about. This is followed by "Embryo" - the version from Works.

The BBC radio session is a good quality recording of some of the songs Floyd played during the era, but I prefer the versions from the KQED performance on the Devi/ation volume. David's vocals add something to "Grantchester Meadows" - one of the arguments for why the studio portion of Ummagumma should have been the band, not solo efforts. The rendition of "Cymbaline" is quite good. There's less guitar and more keyboard, with the guitar being used for backing (sounds like David is using the volume knob to fade it in and out). I'm glad "The Narrow Way" is on here, it's Part 3 only but has clearer vocals than on the studio version. "Green Is the Colour" is another nice, clear recording which sounds good. I won't lie, most of this BBC session is going to find its way onto my iPod. I'd love to see David resurrect one or two of these songs if he tours again. "Green" seagues directly into "Eugene", which is interesting, because we lose the slow bass-driven intro and it's straight into David's noodling and Nick's cymbal-tapping. Whereas this is a very good, clear recording of "Eugene", it's one of the less energetic performances of it. It's also accompanied by sounds of crashing waves and a less-distorted guitar. If this BBC session gets onto my iPod, I'll probably leave off "Eugene", there are better versions in this box and on Ummagumma.

The Live at the Paradiso section is kicked off with "Interstellar Overdrive" (uh-oh, we're regressing back to Cambridge St/ation!), albeit a short rendition at only 4:20, I can just about stomach it; almost half of this is Nick drum-tapping and Rick noodling - it doesn't kick off until around 2:30! This is followed by a lengthy rendition of "Set the Controls..." which is a song I get bored on easily, and 12:25 is too long to drag this out to. It sounds good - nice and clear. Now, I've heard rumours that, on occasion, they'd perform an instrumental version of this at shows where they'd do a short set - and this may be one of those. Either that or Roger's vocals aren't audible - but you do hear him whisper "set the controls for the heart of the sun... the heart of the sun..." and it sounds like whispering, not distant or quiet vocals, so maybe it is meant to be a largely instrumental version? Either way I skipped on at around 8 minutes to "Eugene". This is a proper 10:10 rendition of "Eugene", similar to Ummagumma. Okay, seeing as "Eugene" seems to be omitting Roger's spoken line and screams I'm going to say that it's likely that his mic wasn't picked up because David's scat vocals can be heard, so I'm guessing that "Set the Controls..." wasn't instrumental. The set, and the CD, closes with "A Saucerful of Secrets" at 13:01, it's one of the longest performances of it I've come across, the "Celestial Voices" section lasts around 6 minutes. It sounds pretty good apart from David's vocals being drowned out by the guitar and organ. I prefer the Ummagumma and Live at Pompeii versions.

CD2: The Man and The Journey

1. Daybreak (Grantchester Meadows)
2. Work
3. Afternoon (Biding My Time)
4. Doing It
5. Sleeping
6. Nightmare (Cymbaline)
7. Labyrinth
8. The Beginning (Green Is the Colour)
9. Beset by Creatures of the Deep (Careful with That Axe, Eugene)
10. The Narrow Way, Part 3
11. The Pink Jungle (Pow R. Toc H.)
12. The Labyrinths of Auximines
13. Footsteps / Doors
14. Behold the Temple of Light
15. The End of the Beginning (A Saucerful of Secrets)

I won't lie - when I heard that they were releasing an actual recording of The Man and They Journey I got excited. It's one of the earliest examples of Pink Floyd history where people who saw it can be smug and say "I was there!" But anyway - the CD! It opens with "Grantchester Meadows" re-titled as "Daybreak", it's a fairly good recording of a live show from 1969. I mean, the bar was set by The Who's Live at Leeds, which sounds brilliant for the time. Live recording back then was basically sticking mics in front of the PA. I believe Yes were the first band to release a properly-recorded live album (Yessongs) in 1972, using a mixing desk. But I'm digressing - "Daybreak" sounds good, vocals are clear, David augments it with some nice acoustic guitar flourishes which would be beyond Roger's capabilities and Rick adds a bit of organ. It's also quite long at 8:14 but doesn't outstay its welcome (unlike "Overdrive" or "Set the Controls..."). After "Daybreak" we get "Work"... now this is an odd one, it opens with a tin-whistle and recordings of a steam-engine (probably a train). The band then proceed to use hammers, a saw and maybe a glockenspiel? I suspect Rick is playing the glockenspiel due to its keyboard-layout. The weird thing is, it sounds good! It's got a good beat laid down by Nick and the hammering and sawing fits in-between; it's not surprising they went on to do the Household Items project. This track is utterly bonkers and always makes me smile. :lol: There's a bit of silence for the first 1:25 of "Biding My Time" (or should I say "Afternoon"?) where I assume the band are taking up their instruments again, which could have (and should have) been edited out to keep the flow. So despite a track time of 6:38 it's considerably shorter than the studio version which runs at 5:18. Yes, Rick plays the trombone on it and it's brilliant and Dave's guitar solo is pretty fucking epic. I think it must be the first time a Pink Floyd song ended with a David Gilmour solo! and it's bloody great! I never did understand why "Biding My Time" never made it onto an album... it could have gone on Atom Heart Mother instead of that shite "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" :roll: "Afternoon" ends on a high and then Nick takes up his drumsticks for "Doing It", a musical sex scene which is supposed to depict shagging... but if anyone shags like this they'd do themselves an injury! According to Wikipedia "Doing It" was usually a mix of "Up the Khyber" and "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Entertainment)"... I'm not going to look into how true this is though. It sounds good and doesn't last too long (unlike John Bonham's "Moby Dick" or Ginger Baker's "Toad"). "Sleeping" begins with someone snoring and leads into some guitar noodling, and gentle glockenspiel to give a dreamy atmosphere... maybe you had to be there. ;) Rick's organ comes in around the 3-min mark to relieve us from David's guitar noodlery which doesn't stop until the end... :? So "Sleeping" isn't that interesting but it has its place in the set, so it's not all bad. Your reward for sitting through "Sleeping" is "Cymbaline", or "Nightmare". "Cymbaline" sounds good with Dave's vocals pretty clear, this version is 9:14 and has a fairly lengthy organ based jam in the middle. The song fades out with more of Rick's noodling and Dave sliding along his strings, as he does. "Labyrinth" opens with the sound of a ticking clock which runs throughout the 1:11 track - I'm not sure what this is supposed to be about really, but the audience seemed to like it! They then begin playing "Green Is the Colour", renamed "The Beginning", again it's a nice recording for the time, Dave's vocals sound good - nothing to complain about here. David even manages to sneakily change from acoustic to electric guitar without you noticing ;). Like the BBC sessions "Green" segues into "Eugene" ("Beset by Creatures of the Deep"), longer than the BBC performance but shorter than average, it sits at 6:27 (similar to Pompeii I think). As it's retitled we don't get Roger's spoken line, but we do get the screams :D I still prefer the Ummagumma version, but this sits well in the set. David has a great talent for scatting along with his guitar - I swear the guy has perfect pitch. You don't need me to tell you how good "Eugene" is, so I'll move on. "Eugene" segues into "The Narrow Way", a bit abruptly, which sounds like an editing thing than a performance thing. Dave's vocals on here don't sound as good as the BBC performance, maybe his voice is strained or something, or maybe he's been on the funny-fags, who knows? Dave's habit of looking down at his guitar while he sings means his vocals getting quieter and louder throughout the song, but it's not as annoying as it could be. "The Narrow Way" quietly comes to a close with the sound of birdsong, which leads into "Pow R. Toc H." ("The Pink Jungle") with David taking over Syd's vocals noises and Roger irritatingly screeching over Nick's drums. David's guitar slowly builds the tension and then it becomes more of a guitar jam. The only part of "Pow R. Toc H." is the intro really, the rest is just jamming, with Rick's organ sounding a bit like "Cymbaline" in places, but at 4:56 it's not too long. The song fades out much in the same way as it began, with Roger's screeches and David replicating Syd's vocalisations it segues into "The Labyrinths of Auximines", which sounds like a reworking of the music for "Let There Be More Light", particularly the bass line and drums, with David doing some "Storm Signal" type stuff with his guitar, this is over in 3:19 though and we're into "Footsteps/Doors" - 3:12 of footsteps. I'm not sure if these are of someone walking on-stage or if they're pre-recorded. Amongst the sound of footsteps we also hear doors opening and closing. I have no idea what this is all about and I have no idea what was going on on-stage either. Persevere with it and you're rewarded with "Behold the Temple of Light", which is basically the intro to "The Narrow Way (Part 3)" which was absent from the actual performance of "The Narrow Way" earlier in the show, except here it's greatly expanded and has some organ added, followed by cymbal (or gong?) flourishes. This goes on for over 5 minutes and then we get "The End of the Beginning" which is "Celestial Voices" - a great way to end a gig, extended to 6:31 here.

This is one of the most historically interesting parts of the whole box, in my opinion. I remember when I first heard about The Man and The Journey tour years ago; I found a website (before the days of Wikipedia) where it told you which versions of which songs to play to get a feel for what The Man and The Journey was. It's one of the reasons I bought the Zabriskie Point CD. I put all these on a cassette to listen to on my bus journey to college. But now we have an actual, relatively well recorded, performance on CD! Happy days.

DVD/BD

1. Forum Musiques, Paris, France, 22 January 1969

Here the band mime "Set the Controls..." and "Saucerful" because, as the TV host says, they wanted to hear everything that the band is capable of on record which was impossible for them to reproduce live, so they had to mime. There's also an interview with David (because David speaks French) so remember to turn subtitles on! David coyly declares that the band has no leader, nor a main songwriter... oh how simple it was in 1969.

2. The Man and The Journey: Royal Festival Hall, London, rehearsal, 14 April, 1969

Probably the most interesting portion of the DVD/BD. A 14 minute film showing the band rehearsing The Man and The Journey at the Royal Festival Hall in London (where David recorded his David Gilmour in Concert DVD in 2002). It must have been at one of these shows where David famously electrocuted himself by touching his guitar and mic stand because the guitar wasn't earthed properly. Anything like this interests me, behind the scenes stuff - it's a pity nothing was filmed of Syd. We can actually see David and Roger working together on the show and it's easy to see how Roger became the "leader" of the band. Oh, and from this footage I can see that Rick was playing a vibraphone, not a glockenspiel. Again, it's worth watching this with the subtitles on. It's cool watching Rick play the hall's organ for "Celestial Voices", proper church organs sound so cool in rock music! (Just go listen to Yes' "Close to the Edge", "Parallels" or "Awaken" for proof).

3. Essencer Pop & Blues Festival, Essen, Germany, October 11, 1969

Black and white performances of "Eugene" and "Saucerful". Interesting to see, but again, there are better versions around. The mixing during "Eugene" is all off - David's scat vocals are far too loud to the point where it sounds comical, so it's worth watching once for that. Hey - at least they're not miming again! "Saucerful" sounds a little better but with David's guitar too loud during "Celestial Voices". I must say that it looks like a very sweaty venue, and very atmospheric.

4. Music Power & European Music Revolution, Festival Actuel Amougies Mont de L'Enclus, Belgium, 25 October 1969

This one is in colour! The Frank Zappa bit. They kick off with "Green Is the Colour", which sounds okay - they play it completely electric so it doesn't sound quite as nice as it does on the usual, acoustic performances, but David's voice sounds good. "Green" segues into "Eugene" as appears to be the norm during '69, which is a pretty good version. More "Set the Controls..." *yawn* the vocals aren't that good here... and we're into "Overdrive" with Zappa. This is a particularly noisy rendition of "Overdrive", David has been relegated to the role of "noise maker" by just sliding his tone bar up and down the strings of his Strat while Zappa solos away on his Telecaster and this goes on for 11 minutes. I really don't understand the hype around this performance. It was another thing which caused a lot of fuss around the internet "OMG Floyd and Zappa!" But as far as I can see it's just Zappa noodling on top of "Overdrive" rather than contributing to it.

Highlights

1. Some of the More tracks are nice to have.
2. The BBC radio session is well recorded and well performed, nice live renditions without the crappy way live albums were recorded.
3. The Man and The Journey on CD. It's not the best sounding live album but it is legendary and it's not the worst sounding live album. Definitely a highlight of the whole box.
4. The Man and The Journey rehearsals. A good opportunity to see the band actually at work.

Not-so-good stuff

1. Embryo isn't new - could have been left out.
2. "Seabirds" is not worth the hype.
3. "Eugene" from the BBC sessions is too short.
4. The Paradiso live set has no vocals.
5. Frank Zappa killed "Overdrive".

I'd recommend this set to anyone who likes Ummagumma and More. It's a good insight into that era and gives some context to the performances you here on Ummagumma. Not only that but you get to hear other live stuff like "Green Is the Colour", "Cymbaline", "The Narrow Way" etc. Plus it has that Zappa nonsense if you're interested in that. Cambridge St/ation and Germin/ation are somewhat less accessible than Dramatis/ation, I think more Floyd fans will appreciate the content here. I recommend it for The Man and The Journey alone - everything else is a bonus.
CYMRU AM BYTH

"O’r ynys yma yw Cymraeg, o’r pridd yma.
Iaith hynaf pobl Prydain.
A hardd yw Cymraeg."
- Prof. J. R. R. Tolkien.
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Re: The Early Years 1965-1972 reviews

Postby Alec Taylor » Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:18 am

I've heard bootlegs for The Man and the Journey, so I'll have to see how this official release compares. I hope the sound quality is at least improved a little, because the bootleg I found was rather rough.

Also, the whole box set is on Spotify now, so I ain't paying hundreds of dollars for it now when I can listen to it for free on my phone the way God intended.
Was it all a dream? - Alarm set for Autumn 2018
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