Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pink Floyd - 1970-1974 - The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules

Pink Floyd
The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules 
Several Species Of Some Unique Performances Gathered Together In A Box And Making A Joy

(Godfather Records GR BOX 09)

Just like all good bands, Pink Floyd retained seeds of creativity despite reaching some level of success and weren’t afraid to experiment with music idea in order to advance their musical vision.  By the end of the sixties they reached the pinnacle of psychedelic rock to the extent where the press were writing about “How The Pink Floyd Defeated Psychedelia” (Disc And  Music Echo; February 15th, 1969) and used the epithet “space rock” to describe their music, utilizing headlines such as “Pink Floyd Take A Shot At The Moon” (Melody Maker; July 19th, 1969) and “Are Spacemen Floyd On Their Way Back To Earth?” (Disc And Music Echo; November 19th, 1969). 

Ummagumma is both the definitive statement and deconstruction of that genera and would never to be approached by anyone again.

At the time, when interviewed by the press, the band pointed out their future direct lay in film scores.  They scored films such as More and Zabriskie Point, and were looking forward to more work in that direction.  Roger Waters spoke enthusiastically about scoring the Rollo animation cartoons by Alan Aldridge and said his biggest desire would be to score Arthur C. Clarke’s next screenplay. 

At the time David Gilmour was asked whether the band had a strong future direction.  He replied, “I don’t know.  Possibly.  I really can’t say which way we are going.  We’ll carry on and produce a new Pink Floyd classic or two.”

Besides their soundtrack recordings, their original compositions also had a film quality appreciated by Stanley Kubrick, who wanted to use “Atom Heart Mother” for his 1971 film A Clockwork Orange.  But as the decade progressed, Pink Floyd become  much more confident in their abilities in writing long-form musical narratives such as “Echoes,” Dark Side Of The Moon and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” 

The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules 1970-1974 is the amazing box set by Godfather documenting Pink Floyd’s greatest tangent of creativity from Atom Heart Mother through to Wish You Were Here and Animals. 

Four of the five shows have never been pressed on silver disc before and the fifth was released almost a decade ago and is now out of print and impossible to find today.  Godfather utilize the best available generations for the shows and all of them are listenable and enjoyable. 

March 14th, 1970
Meistersinger Halle
Nuremburg, Germany

Nuremberg 1970 (G.R. BOX  09 A/B)

101. Astronomy Domine 10:39
102. Careful With That Axe, Eugene   9:59
103. Cymbaline 10:43
104. A Saucerful Of Secrets 15:47
201. Embryo 10:23
202. Interstellar Overdrive 14:49
203. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun 13:09
204. The Amazing Pudding (Atom Heart Mother) 20:03

Pink Floyd spent much of 1970 on the road and working on the tracks that would be released on Ummagumma‘s follow up Atom Heart Mother.  First was a quick tour of the UK followed by two weeks in Germany and Scandinavia.  The March 14th show in the Meistersinger Halle in Nuremburg circulated in the past under the name Masters Of The Mystic Arts.

Godfather utilize the second generation tape which surfaced afterwards.  It is a big upgrade over what has been out before because of the improved sound quality and because “A Saucerful Of Secrets,” cut in the past, is now present in its entirety.

Before the upgrade some copies circulated with “The Amazing Pudding” at the start of disc two, before “The Embryo.”  But the setlist during this tour was unchanged, and the tapes from Hannover and Lund, Sweden from this period have the long track at the very end so Godfather have the correct sequence of tracks. 

The long set sounds like a hangover from the sixties.  Every song is expanded with long instrumental passages.  Only “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” clocks in under ten minutes long.  They play slow and with deliberate.  Each passage seems to linger in space as the band take their time to express their ideas. 

“Astronomy Domine” starts off the long trip with the most playful and self-conscious performance of the night, but the following song “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is much more dark and serious.  It moves along at a snail’s pace until the middle scream section.  Gilmour’s guitar is particularly loud and abrasive, spitting out much anger and hostility.

“A Saucerful Of Secrets” is a definite highlight of the night.  Richard Wright plays abrasive atonal piano during “Syncopated Pandemonium” and the others try to give as abstract a performance as humanly possible until they get to the final section where the church organ gives a heavenly climax.

“The Embryo” is quite interesting for Waters’ melodic bass at the beginning of the middle improv.  The babies are replaced by a tape of chirping birds beneath Gilmour’s seabird calls.  They follow with “Interstellar Overdrive” which features a strange heavy metal improv by Gilmour in the piece’s middle.  He piles on the power chords, but then the improvisation mutates into a placid contemplative sound scape.

The set ends with their brand new piece of music.  Called “Consequently” when Waters introduces the song the following night in Hannover and “The Amazing Pudding” in other shows, it would eventually assume the title “Atom Heart Mother” in July.   But in Nuremburg, Waters describes it as a new piece that will take up an entire side of the new album and titles it “I Don’t Know What It’s Called.”

Reaching twenty minutes in length, it is obviously a band performance without the orchestra and choir that would augment future performances.  Hearing the suite in context of an early 1970 show lends a different appreciation.  Instead of the free form psychedelia of the preceding hour and a half, “Atom Heart Mother” is much more tonal and traditional. 

February 13th, 1971
Student Union Bar
Technical College
Farnborough, Hampshire

Farnborough 1971 (G.R. BOX 09 C/D)

101. The Amazing Pudding (Atom Heart Mother) 18:28
102. The Embryo 14:13
103. Careful With That Axe, Eugene 12:57
104. Cymbaline   8:49
201. Astronomy Domine   9:08
202. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun 13:23
203. A Saucerful Of Secrets (cut) 14:12

Pink Floyd were almost always on the road in 1970 and 1971.  It remains to this day their most busy period of live activity.  So much so that the press at the time were speculating that the road would be the musical suicide of the band.

They wrapped up recording their fifth LP Atom Heart Mother at Abbey Road Studio in August and immediately hit the road with shows in France, followed by a tour of the US (their second of the year), a short tour of Germany and the UK. 

Their only real break was about three weeks off in January 1971.  They returned to live performance with shows scheduled for universities in England including Leeds University, University of Essex, University of Exeter, and the Technical College in Farnborough, south of London.

The show in Farnborough is the fifth live date of the year.  The recording circulates as Close The Blind on Pink Floyd ROIO torrent sites and, many years ago, was pressed on CDR on Live At Technical College (Ayanami-221), but Farnborough 1971 is the first silver pressed edition.

Godfather utilize a good but dull mono audience recording taped very close to the stage.  The audience are very quiet during the music, so there is no interference in enjoying the music.  Three are also cuts after “Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” and thirteen and a half minutes in “A Saucerful Of Secrets” omitting the rest of the piece.

Pink Floyd start the show with their new piece.  By this time it had been in the live set for a year and achieved definitive form on the LP.  During these early British dates they play a sixteen minute band version which omits the sound “collage” sections and the reprise of the main theme at the end.  The follow with “The Embryo,” the other constant in the setlist at this time.

Good performances, but there is a strange coolness in the air.  It seems as if the audience don’t really care for the new and unfamiliar tunes.  After “The Embryo” Waters is audible having a conversation with someone in front of the stage.  Much of the conversation is inaudible, but he can be heard asking the person “are you having a good time?  This is a radically different piece.  It’s called ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene.'”

Waters is answered with the loudest applause of the entire night.  They play a laid back version of the piece.  A cut in the tape seems to suggest it segues directly into “Cymbaline.”

“Astronomy Domine” sounds upbeat and happy in this performance.  At times, Waters plays a happy and melodic bass line similar to the opening to “Let There Be More Light” (a tune that would fit quite nicely in these set lists).  “A Saucerful Of Secrets” ends the night with a long dose of spook.  Mason on drums plays very primitive, jungle like drums in the “Storm Signal” section only to be met  with long groans from Gilmour’s guitar.  There is a fine transition into the “Celestial Voices” section featuring Wright’s church organ, but the entire passage leaves the audience (and listener) with an unsettling mood. 

April 16th, 1972
Township Auditorium
Columbia, SC

Columbia 1972 (G.R. BOX 09 E/F)

101. Breathe (In The Air)   2:56
102. On The Run   5:26
103. Time/Breathe (Reprise)   7:42
104. The Great Gig In The Sky   3:07
105. Money   8:12
106. Us And Them   7:44
107. Any Colour You Like   5:14
108. Brain Damage (cut)   2:50
201. One Of These Days 10:14
202. Careful With That Axe, Eugene 11:29
203. Echoes 28:07
204. Atom Heart Mother 16:49

October 12th, 1973
Munich, Germany 

Munich 1973 (G.R. BOX 09 G/H)

101. Obscured By Clouds/  When You’re In 13:25
102. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun 14:19
103. Careful With That Axe, Eugene 12:46
104. Echoes 24:37

201. Speak To Me   1:18
202. Breathe   2:56
203. On The Run   8:14
204. Time   6:42
205. The Great Gig In The Sky   5:02
206. Money   7:54
207. Us And Them   8:11
208. Any Colour You Like   8:51
209. Brain Damage   3:28
210. Eclipse   2:09
211. One Of These Days (cut)   5:07

Unlike 1970 through 1972 when Pink Floyd couldn’t stay off of the road, 1973 was a relatively light year for live performance.  They returned to France for and eight show reprise for the Roland Petit Ballet, but this time in Paris instead of Marseilles.  When Dark Side Of The Moon was finally released in March 1973, they toured north America in March and again in June. 

After taking a four month break, they returned to the stage to finish out the year with two shows in Europe:  October 12th in Munich and October 13th in Vienna.  The set list remained the same as it was in America.  The first half of the show opened with the title track from Obscured By Clouds and some older songs, the second half was the complete Dark Side Of The Moon suite and “One Of These Days” was played as an encore. 

The Munich show is one of the better sounding of the era.  It was taped very close to the stage.  The only weakness is a bit of dullness in the upper frequencies.  But it manages to capture the dynamics of the performance very well.  It is complete except for the ending of “One Of These Days.”

The first silver pressing was almost a decade ago on Munich 1973 Collector’s Edition (Siréne-006), a four disc release with the same tape unedited on the first two discs and edited on the second two.  Godfather use the unedited tape which includes all the tunings.

The first half of the show serve as an effective vehicle for Pink Floyd’s unsettling dramatic aural narrative.  Through the use of drones, screeches, echoes and their tension-imbued keyboards, they transform the Olympiahalle into a hall of spook.

Drones start off the show with the instrumental “Obscured By Clouds” and “When You’re In.”  It is particularly dramatic in Munich with the loud, crashing heavy metal riffs in contrast with the pastoral feeling of the rhythm section.  It is one of their most effective show openers and would be played for the last time the following night in Vienna.

“Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” relies upon a nasty, noisy middle improvisation. 

The following number, “Careful With That Axe Eugene,” has been played in every show in the box set up to this point.  It was an almost constant in the set since 1968.  By 1973, Waters dominates the song by whispering the title throughout most of the piece with his blood curdling scream being the song’s climax.  Munich is one of the final live performances of the piece (the following night in Vienna and as a special encore in Oakland on the Animals tour in May, 1977).

The second half of the show is devoted to the Dark Side Of The Moon suite.  Now almost two years old, it is played in its definitive album arrangement but with David Gilmour adding a touch of lyricism to the piece, adding fills to “Breathe” and “Time.”

“Us & Them” becomes a highlight in this performance, striking a careful balance between haunting tension and a modicum of hopefulness.  The jam on “Any Colour You Like” reaching eight minutes in length.  At the end, when they play “Ellipse,” subtly is bypassed by Gilmour’s shouting the lyrics over the bombastic finale. 

The only encore is “One Of These Days,” cutting out after five and a half minutes. 

December 14th, 1974
Colston Hall
Somerset, England

Bristol 1974 (G.R. BOX 09 I/J)

101. Jimmy Young Intro   1:41
102. Raving And Drooling 16:12
103. You’ve Got To Be Crazy 19:02
104. Shine On You Crazy Diamond 23:46
105. Speak To Me   4:43
106. Breathe   2:59
107. On The Run   5:15
201. Time/Breathe (reprise)   6:34
202. The Great Gig In The Sky   6:27
203. Money   9:41
204. Us And Them   8:09
205. Any Colour You Like   6:36
206. Brain Damage   3:50
207. Eclipse   3:03
208. Echoes 25:24

1974 was an even lighter year than 1973 for Pink Floyd’s live schedule.  Outside of some dates in Paris in the summer, the only tour was a short trip around the UK in November and December.  Not only was this the debut of their newest songs, this was also (ironically) the first live performances in the UK of the finished Dark Side Of The Moon, close to two years after its release.

The short tour ended with two nights in Bristol on December 13th and December 14th.  The final live show of the year exists in a good to very good audience recording.  It is clear but a bit flat, lacking in significant dynamics.  There are several drop outs in the left channel during the show, most noticeable during “You’ve Gotta Be Crazy” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” 

Godfather use a remastered version of this tape where the channel problem was addressed and not so pronounced.

The recording begins with the MC on stage introducing the band for the final night of the tour.   Before the first song they play their Jimmy Young introduction.  This was a short piece of tape cutting bits and pieces of the BBC DJ’s voice into little pieces into an absurd collage.  Young was the object of Mason’s threat in “One Of These Days” and this tape is the band’s threat being carried out.

Just like in 1972, Pink Floyd play all new music in the first half of the show.  Unlike that tour, however, the three new songs don’t have any cohesive idea linking them together into a suite.  Rather, all three are reactions to their sucess and describe the result of when art meets commerce. 

The first tune, “Raving And Drooling,” the first draft of “Sheep” on Animals, is the most polished of the three and closest to its final form. 

The second track, “You Gotta Be Crazy,” sounds much different even from the form it would take the following year when Pink Floyd would tour the US twice.  It’s a might more light and airy arrangement with Gilmour rapping out the lyrics. 

The final new song, which Waters introduces as being about Syd Barrett, is twenty-two minutes long and had yet to be split into two sections.  It starts off with a much  more diatonic keyboard riff, although the four note guitar  motif is present.  It is a compelling piece even at this early stage, but it would become even more so in the coming year. 

Dark Side Of The Moon is played in full for the second half of the show, and a long and impressive version of “Echoes” is the only encore.   Their conceptual piece had already been sitting at number one and been proclaimed a masterwork.  The performance in Bristol doesn’t differ from the other performances on this tour.

The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules 1970 – 1974 is a fascinating box set by Godfather.  It doesn’t have the same unity as their other two Pink Floyd box sets, but that is its strength.  There is much more variety in the music and arrangements.  After hearing the more than ten hours of  music, it’s much easier to understand and appreciate their development from the psychedelic “space rock” band to commercial arena rock superstars. 

Godfather package each show in its own gatefold sleeve and are all housed in a box.  The box for this set is thicker than the others to accommodate the additional show.  Plus, they include a thick booklet with detailed liner notes and anther insert called “Eclipse (A Piece For Assorted Lunatics)” containing an essay and the lyrics to Dark Side Of The Moon. 

The subtitle, Several Species Of Some Unique Performances Gathered Together In A Box And Making A Joy is a riff on the Roger Waters song on Ummagumma called “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.”  It’s silly, but in keeping with the bootleggers tradition of coming up with absurd titles for their releases.  Given the rarity of this material, this is a very good collection.