I won’t rehearse the sorry history that any Pink Floyd fan knows, but it’s sort of neat that one album survives that features both outgoing guitarist Syd Barrettt and incoming guitarist David Gilmour.
This has always been one of my favourite Floyd albums, although I can’t defend it against the accurate criticism that it’s a bit of a mixture of styles (not surprisingly, considering the differences between the Barrett-led and Waters-led Floyd and considering the role Gilmour came to play in the band). So, for example, “Jugband Blues” and “Corporal Clegg,” two of the shorter songs on the album, are kind of sore-thumb-stick-out-ish. But man, “Let There Be More Light,” Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and the title track are killers.
What Else Is There?
Richard Wright’s “Remember a Day” is another favourite piece of mine on this album, written by him and showcasing Wright’s vocals (many people don’t realize how significant Wright’s vocal contributions were to the Floyd’s music – and we won’t even talk about his unique keyboard playing). In fact, it’s on this album that we first hear the beauty of Wright’s voice combined with Gilmour’s – in the wordless singing on “A Saucerful of Secrets.” (If you need more convincing, watch the superb concert film Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii – you can find the whole thing on You Tube.)
Well, the Floyd dabbled in soundtracks (their next album was a soundtrack for the film More) and gave us a double album, half live and half new stuff, Ummagumma; but their next significant album was another of my favourites, Atom Heart Mother, whose innovations led directly to those on Meddle – and, inevitably, to my least favourite Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon. But I know I’m in the minority, and I happily acknowledge its genius and influence. Nevertheless, they never could have arrived at Dark Side without doing what they did on A Saucerful of Secrets. But that’s not why you should re-listen to this early gem: you should do so because it will make you happy.
GW (four stars)