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Pink Floyd

Ummagumma

Review by Gary Hill

Pink Floyd's Ummagumma is a really strange album. I don't think anyone will disagree with that. The set has a split personality, with one disc (vinyl originally, CD as reviewed here) a live set and the other studio. The live set is an unreserved success. It features some great live performances of early Floyd classics. The studio set, though, is a mixed bag. It has a tendency to be too strange and bizarre for me a lot of time. That said, there are parts that work pretty well. So, I would consider this to be an uneven set that's worth having for the live disc and a couple tracks here and there on the second one.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Live Album
             
Astronomy Domine

This rises up gradually from silence with trippy psychedelic, echoey keyboard textures. The bass comes in after a time bringing a driving intensity and insistence. The drums pound in, and then the guitar. This classic old-school Pink Floyd song gets such a powerful live rendering here. A mellower keyboard section takes over mid-track is style. They gradually bring it back upward from there as they continue.

Careful with That Axe, Eugene
Another that rises up gradually, this comes in more insistent as it does. As it builds upward the whispered "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" gives way to screaming and driving harder rocking stuff. It eventually settles back down to mellower psychedelic sounds to continue.
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
I've always loved this song. They really capture the magic of it as they get things moving along. This gets into some powerhouse intensity and craziness as it builds and drives forward. It works to some seriously trippy space music mid-track.
A Saucerful of Secrets
This classic Floyd piece of psychedelic space gets a cool live treatment here. I love the drum dominated section later in the track. This gets incredibly freaky and weird, but in a great way. When it works out to more melodic stuff, it really is magical and surreal
Studio Album
                    
Sysyphus (Part 1)

There is a symphonic, almost movie soundtrack like sound to this. It's dramatic, mysterious and powerful.

Sysyphus (Part 2)
A piano solo piece, this comes in classically oriented and work through like that before turning noisy and crazed.
Sysyphus (Part 3)
Weird banging and other elements are on the menu here. There are things that sound like screaming animals on this. The track is freeform and so strange.
Sysyphus (Part 4)
Coming in much mellower, this feels like a respite from the craziness of the last movement. Around the halfway mark this turns intense with a crescendo that seems to come out of nowhere. From there it drifts to more weirdness of the psychedelic space variety. As it turns rather symphonic later and non-lyrical vocal sounds come over the top it gets so dramatic and powerful.
Grantchester Meadows
Nature sounds bring this into being. Acoustic guitar rises up creating a rather folk music like concept amidst that. Vocals come in over the top, lending more of a psychedelic feel to it. In the later instrumental section the guitar weaves lines of melody as nature sounds really dance over the top. This ends with the sound of someone chasing, and seemingly killing, a fly.
Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict
Weird animal like sound effects start this. Frantic rhythmic elements rise up to join. The animals seriously intensify. Then a weird sort of tribal chanting joins. This is pure psychedelic weirdness. Weird sounds that seem to be early working of the song that would be "Echoes" are heard as this continues. Other strange things emerge from a weird voice to more animal effects. This track really feels chemically induced.
The Narrow Way (Part 1)
Studio effects start this. The cut works out with some intricate acoustic guitar work from there. There are definitely things about this that make me think of Hawkwind's debut album. Freaky space rock elements begin to dominate as this continues. It shifts into the next movement with some electric guitar.
The Narrow Way (Part 2)
Dramatic and somewhat menacing, this is another thing that makes me think of that debut Hawkwind album. It's a classy movement with a lot of space style.  The rocking angles fall away later as it drifts into trippy space music that again makes me think of "Echoes" before it segues into the next movement.
The Narrow Way (Part 3)
This is a much more song-like number. It definitely has a David Gilmour like vibe to it. There are some Beatles-like elements at points, too. This is classic Pink Floyd really. It has some elements of what would later become the Dark Side of the Moon sound.
The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Part 1: Entrance)
Starting with what feels like chamber music, That melodic music gives way to some drumming that ends this short movement.
The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Part 2: Entertainment)
Echoey, trippy drumming brings this one in. The cut eventually works toward space music from there. This works through a number of strange movements. There is weird start and stop sort of tape effect later. A percussion section takes control later and holds the movement until its end.
The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Part 3: Exit)
The chamber music type elements that started this suite return to end it. The cut continues in that sort of a vibe with some classical elements really taking command of this playful piece.
 
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