Echoes of the experimental psychadelic era, this album conta
Archer Books | Hemel Hempstead, UK | 10/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Meddle" is one great album, and still sounds surprisingly fresh after almost 40 years.
For the younger listener who might still be discovering Pink Floyd's epic musical legacy, some of the albums which followed on from "Meddle", notably the 30-million seller "Dark Side of the Moon" from 1973 (which deservedly took the band from the interesting and experimental fringe into something close to a mainstream supergroup) might be a more accessible gateway. "Meddle" still carries the inheritance of the earlier, more psychedelic and experimental era but the band was starting to find its way to a more structured and disciplined sound, showcasing lyrics driven by the societal-alienation themes which dominated the "Roger Waters" era up to and beyond "The Wall."
"Meddle" divides naturally into different halves of equal length. The original Harvest-label vinyl LP had five tracks on side one:
1. The driving, powerful and essentially instrumental opener "One of these Days" with an insistent single-note bass motif introduced over the recorded sound of howling wind, gradually overlaid with raunchy guitar, held together by powerful high-register keyboard chords over a driving rhythm: a real rocker with a hard edge and a quirky but short distorted vocal phrase right in the middle: "One of these days, I'm gonna cut you up into little pieces" - scary psycho, or what?
2. The whimsical "Pillow of Winds" with Wright and Gilmour providing melodious complimentary vocals and calming down the mood
3. "Fearless", a slow but powerfully insistent song with a slightly syncopated rhythm whose lyrics express ideas of detached alienation later explored so much more fully in DSOTM (the crowd singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" on the soundtrack at the end of the song was the Liverpool Football Club "Kop")
4. The delightfully upbeat "San Tropez" with its summer beach-town feel, written and sung by Roger Waters
5. The peculiar and downbeat blues track "Seamus" which sounds like it might have been recorded when the band was drunk, complete with howling dog on the soundtrack
Then side two: "Echoes", arguably the greatest single track ever composed and recorded by the band. If you've not yet heard "Echoes" but have heard "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" then you have some idea of the long, slow, predominantly instrumental musical form full of richness and complexity of which the band is capable.
"Echoes" is a classic mood-piece, symphonic in concept and execution. With its theme of the sea, of the eternity of rolling waves and coral caves, it builds from a repeated single-note "ping" through a slowly-wake-up intro to a gradually more insistent and rhythmic main theme complete with harmonised vocal line; then moves through a thumping, rhythmic instrumental section into a long, spacey, stretched-out mid-section with eerie but simply beautiful electronically-generated whale-song sounds; rediscovers the main theme and builds melodically to a satisfying climax, and winds down with whale, sea-bird and ocean sounds to leave the listener spaced-out and simply awed. Put on the headphones, recline, crank up the volume and enjoy. You'll be won over. It's an all-time great, one of those rare instances where musical virtuosity, a simple but innovative idea, a kind of intuitive, psychic connection between musicians and the confidence to experiment with new sound techniques whilst remaining restrained and disciplined to form, all came together to distil something unique and wonderful. It's a great, unforgettable piece, a timeless treasure.
"Echoes" of course supplied the title of the 26-track retrospective compilation album, which features a slightly edited version of the eponymous piece sandwiched between "Another Brick" and "Hey You". However, the version here on "Meddle" is the full-length, unedited original.
If you can't work out what the weird image on the album cover is, it's a close-up of an ear. Nice idea.