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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Pink Floyd

Meddle

Review by Steve Alspach

This album shows how well Pink Floyd was able to make the transition from experimental band to a song-based unit without losing any sense of musical adventure. Gone are the more exploratory pieces that graced their last two major releases ("Ummagumma" and "Atom Heart Mother"), and in their place are a collection of songs that stand up as among the best in the band's career.

The lineup at the time was David Gilmour, guitar and vocals; Nick Mason, drums and percussion: Roger Waters, bass and vocals; and Richard Wright, keyboards and vocals.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
One of These Days
A lonely howling wind starts the album. Waters' bass comes in, driving and echo-laden, and the keyboards lay down the chord pattern. The song builds in intensity, but halfway through, there is a slight transition, and then Nick Mason's growl: "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces!" (And not, as one web site would have you believe, "One of these days I'm going to dance with the King of Sweden.") The tension breaks, the drums lay down a steady beat, and Gilmour's guitar lays out an interesting solo - not so much melody-driven (since there is no melody), but full of slow, bluesy lines. The music comes to an abrupt end, and all that's left is the wind.
A Pllow of Winds
After the force of "One of These Days," this song is a welcome relief. It features Gilmour's acoustic guitar and an electric slide used to a soothing effect. The tone is dreamy, although changing in mood between minor and major keys.
Fearless
A mid-tempo rocker, this one is noted for it's walk-up-the scale riff and the strange bedfellow - a tape of a soccer crowd singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Rogers' and Hammerstein's "Carousel." The song has a simple, relaxed feel to it, and it isn't until the end that we hear the football crowd in full. It's a rather strange effect, indicating that the band hadn't lost all of its sense of adventure.
San Tropez
Surprising by today's standards, this track shows Roger Waters in a sublime mood. The piece has a bouncy jazz feel to it, and the lyrics are lighthearted - certainly unlike the later works of Pink Floyd in the 1970s. There are some nice, breezy solos in the end by Gilmour and Wright.
Seamus
The band thought this composition to be absolutely hilarious, and it must have been one of those "had to be there" moments. The song is a back porch 12-bar blues with acoustic guitars (one slide) and a piano. Throughout the whole piece is a dog howling along. The end, with the dog giving one last howl and Wright's final piano flourish, is probably the funniest moment in the Pink Floyd canon. (The movie "Pink Floyd at Pompeii" shows the band going through the chords with Wright holding a microphone to a singing pooch. Just in case there were any doubters.)
Echoes
Ping...ping...ping...The sounds of a keyboard, modified to sound like musical water drops, introduces us to this 23-minute opus. The band slowly builds its introduction, and then the verses, sang by Gilmour with Wright on harmonies, are quite effective - delicate yet slightly haunting. After the first two verses (and an instrumental third verse), the band goes into a prolonged jam. No soloing per se, but a period that shows the band functioning as a very tight unit. Halfway through the song, though, the composition slowly gives way to a weird, ethereal passage. Keyboards and wind effects portray a hollow, sparse landscape, pierced with high-pitched sounds similar to seagull's cries. After this, the band slowly comes in again, this time in a 6/8 mode, and then switches back to the final verse. The end of the cut has the chord structure of the verse, but this is joined by ambient voices that slowly, gradually ascend in tone. The instruments fade out to leave the voices that keep ascending. This effect is the crowning touch to an extremely powerful work that cemented Pink Floyd's position among progressive rock's elite.
 
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