Monday, November 21, 2011

I'd Love To Turn You On #44 - Pink Floyd - Meddle

The recent flurry of Pink Floyd reissues has primarily focused on their most famous albums.  Deluxe editions of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here have already been released with The Wall due in February.  These are all great albums and the bonus material is welcome.  However, the story of Pink Floyd goes well beyond this Big Three.  All of their other studio albums have been remastered and re-released, both in a box set and individually.  My favorite Floyd album is the one that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, 1971's Meddle.  It's often referred to as a test run for Dark Side, but Meddle is truly a masterpiece of its own, each of its six tracks showing a different side of the band and demonstrating what makes Pink Floyd great.
Album opener "One of These Days" begins ominously with a pounding Roger Waters bass line and distorted effects.  The drama increases with Nick Mason's thundering drums announcing the diabolical voice that screams "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces!"  The song then explodes into full on rock & roll led by some excellent slide guitar from David Gilmour.  The album's most intense song leads into its most relaxed, the pastoral "A Pillow of Winds."  Gilmour's acoustic playing and airy vocals are augmented by psychedelic effects to produce a hazy, laid back vibe.  "Fearless" is the great lost Pink Floyd classic, a song that should be just as famous as "Money" or "Comfortably Numb" but is held in similarly high regard by hardcore Floyd fans.  Anchored by an infectious acoustic guitar riff and some of the band's best lyrics, "Fearless" offers one of the best arguments for digging deep into the Floyd catalog.
Next comes "San Tropez," perhaps the most whimsical post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd song.  Ironically enough, this is the only song on the album where Roger Waters receives sole writing credit.  It's a million miles away from the dark and angry material Waters would be writing by the end of the decade, but it's still a fun little number that shows a rarely seen lighter side of Floyd.  The acoustic blues "Seamus" is also a nice change of pace.  With so much forward-looking material, this tune is a nice reminder of the blues roots that influenced so many British musicians in the early to mid-60s, Floyd members included.
Finally, we reach "Echoes," the 23 minutes closing number that originally comprised all of side 2 on the vinyl release.  Floyd had previously attempted extended composition on 1970's Atom Heart Mother, but even there the two long pieces were divided into individual sections.  "Echoes" is definitively one piece organically growing and changing.  It starts with a single mechanical blip and slowly grows to a full dramatic theme.  After the two initial verses the band locks into a groove and gives a solid example of the instrumental prowess of all four members.  An interlude of pre-recorded whale calls anticipates the ambient music Brian Eno would soon pioneer.  This again organically develops back into the song's main theme and final verse.  "Echoes" may truly be Pink Floyd's finest moment.  It became a live staple throughout the 70s and the band thought so highly of it they named their 2001 2-CD career retrospective after it.  If you only know Floyd through their big albums and radio hits, Meddle is the best point of entry for discovering the rest of the catalog.  If you're already familiar, the new reissue is a great excuse to revisit a classic.

- Adam Reshotko

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