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Pink Floyd

Atom Heart Mother

Review by Gary Hill

The various members of Pink Floyd all basically said that they regretted this album. I can sort of see why. It has a real wandering kind of feel to it. It often feels without direction and disjointed. The thing is, it works well enough despite that to be worth having in your collection. There are some particularly strong moments throughout the set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Atom Heart Mother
This multi-part suite makes up the first side of the original vinyl. Rising up gradually, there is a real film soundtrack vibe to the start of this thing. It is quite symphonic. It works outward to more rock based concepts, but still has that symphonic edge to it. As it approaches the four-minute mark it begins to resemble the kinds of sounds one expected from Pink Floyd at that time. There is some killer guitar sound in the mix as the piece grows outward. Around the five-and-a-half-minute mark, it drops to just keyboards and gradually begins to build back outward from there. Non-lyrical chorale styled vocals emerge after a time. The cut seems to merge psychedelia with symphonic elements as it continues. Those vocals represent a big part of the mix at times. The music shifts a bit more toward bombastic rocking modes, but the vocals remain. It drops way down again after a bit of a crescendo. Then keyboards bring it back out from there. They start to move forward in a more typical Pink Floyd way. Gilmour's guitar puts in some particularly expressive soloing. They work it into some more rocking zones as the keys and guitar seem to play off of one another. This has some shades of sounds that would be a part of the Floyd sound pretty much forever. It gradually works toward spacier zones from there. Some rather theatric vocals that seem in some strange language emerge. The vocals make their way toward the chorale zones of the earlier ones. There is a vibe a bit like some strange religious rite to them in some ways. After the fourteen-minute mark the cut makes a transition toward more rocking zones again. As it turns more bombastic, symphonic instrumentation really augments the sound. Then a shift to even stranger sounds is made abruptly as it drops way down. It builds in spacey atmospheric ways from there. Symphonic elements are at play along with some major psychedelia. The piece seems to gradually be fighting itself with movements into different directions creating a sort of strange chaos. It eventually seems to settle in mellower zones as it gets around the 20-minute mark. Symphonic elements continue to lead the way from there. Eventually it grows outward into a real powerhouse passage. The non-lyrical chorale vocals are in the mix, as are the symphonic instruments. There is a powerful crescendo as it approaches the closing. They sort of take their time with that, and the piece ends more than 23-and-a-half minutes after it started.
If
Coming in mellow, there is a psychedelic and stripped back arrangement to this at first. The vocals are barely accompanied, giving this an almost lullaby approach. Lyrically there seem to be some hints of what was to come later with Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. When the electric guitar paints some lines of melody over the top later, it still remains sedate and mellow. This doesn't rise up far, but it does get a bit more vitality and sound later.
Summer '68
This comes in fairly mellow, but eventually works out to a more rocking number. It has some catchy hooks and a lot of class. There are horns in the mix, too. This is among the most "song like" stuff here. It definitely has a lot of psychedelia and folk rock in the mix. It gets some symphonic augmentation as it shifts toward the bombastic further down the road. It drops way down after that, though, with piano and voice serving as main factors of the arrangement. I'm reminded just a bit of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" on that section. The cut continues to evolve and explore from there, with the symphonic bombast really taking over later. This gets very powerful.
Fat Old Sun
An acoustic guitar based structure begins this piece. The number grows out from there with a rather classic old-school Pink Floyd sound. Further down the road it turns more rocking as Gilmour puts in some electric guitar soloing. The track has some killer bass work, too. It gets somewhat pounding and quite tastefully psychedelic as it continues.
Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast
This is a three-part suite. It is almost just over 13-minutes long. Some various sounds, like studio banter and oddities is heard at the beginning. In fact, that makes up the first minute or so. Then some pretty typical psychedelic Floyd rises upward from there. Piano takes control after a bit. It gets other keyboards and textures added to the mix as it continues in a purely instrumental way. That drops away leaving more ambient found-sound type things. The sounds of someone pouring cereal into a bowl are included in that. As you can hear the sounds of that person eating, acoustic guitar drives the music end of things. It takes on a delicate, spacey kind of aspect as it grows outward. After the seven-and-a-half-minute mark it drops back away. We get a lot of spoken stuff along with more found-sound things. Some new music gradually comes into being amidst that. It works out to more of a rocking element that is among the more mainstream stuff here. It's also decidedly proggy. As the piece continues, more spoken stuff is heard in the mix. Eventually the music works out and we're left with the odd sounds of the day.
 
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