Pink Floyd is not only one of the greatest bands of the 20 century, they are also one of the greatest stories. Broken into triads, Floyd is the narrative of three men, each grappling for his own view of what it means to be alive, what it means to be real and what it means to be human.
Roger Waters’ personality was hated but his music loved. David Gilmour’s musicianship was respected but his records’ were ignored. Syd Barrett’s ideology was explored but his career was destroyed. All three are tragic in their own way. Each the owner of a decade that somehow sums up the band and themselves. Syd — the discovery of the hippie movement 60s. Roger — the inherent fear of the cold war and authoritarian 70s. David — the lack of self-awareness of the 80s.
Pink Floyd were legendary, creative, exploratory and impactful. Dark Side of the Moon was on the Billboard Top 200 from 1973 until 1987. Think about that. But now, in 2016, it seems the band is never to reunite, and so, the archiving projects begin. This two-disc set is culled from the larger 27 disc released on the same day. The large set looks to be what it promises, 27 discs of mostly unreleased Pink Floyd stuff for super fans (there are many).
This smaller selection though, had the capacity to be exactly what many fans who aren’t in their 60s living on their 401k’s wanted. To take the best and rarest moments from the set and toss us a bone. That is not what happened. The two tracks that are most desired are “Vegetable Man” and “Scream Thy Last Scream” — unreleased until now Syd Barrett tracks, of which there are precious few. What we got though, is a confusing mix of Relics and random live tracks.
We start out with four classic Barrett songs that have all been released more than once on various projects. Following those, “Paintbox” was widely released on Relics. “In the Beechwoods” is basically the selling point of this compilation, a Syd Barrett jaunt, but its missing his haunting vocal. As an instrumental, it does little to move or inspire. “Point Me At The Sky” was their failed attempt at a non album single, which caused them to not release one again until “The Wall Pt. 2”, the song itself pops huge on the chorus and has hooks for days, but again, it was released in ’92 on a singles collection. “Embryo” is a hard but not impossible to find Floyd song, getting released on a compilation in the 70’s and then on the Works compilation later.
The stuff here from Zabriskie Pt. has its charm and could be combined with the 1997 bonus disc release of the record to form a sort of lost album. But then again, the 27 disc version has a full disc of Zabriskie songs making it an easy choice to purchase when these are released separately in 2017. The Ummagumma radio ad is semi-interesting but mostly confusing. The live content is awesome but feels a bit confusing alongside a basic reissue of Relics under a different name. The best track here is the full band version of “Atom Heart Mother” the title track from a polarizing Floyd release, but here, instead of massive horns and inconsistent time signatures, we have the 18 minute prog opus not as pastoral but as rock and roll. It works well and could become a more definitive version of the song. The early version of “Echoes” is a fun listen for a completist but again hardly necessary. The record ends with 3 songs from Obscured By Clouds. The track titles say (2016 Remix) so I suppose that’s something, but not anything that warrants inclusion on this set.
All in all, we have another confusing compilation in Pink Floyd’s catalog. Big fans should purchase the 27 disc set (it is not streaming as of now) and casual fans would be better served to purchase Relics. Pink Floyd has one of the deepest and most rewarding discographies on the planet. Skip this set and dig in to Atom Heart Mother or Obscured by Clouds or that Gilmour and the Orb record, there’s a lot of stellar material not on The Wall or Dark Side but it this isn’t the best starting point. C PLUS