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"Obscured by Clouds" is the 7th studio album by British psychedelic rock band, Pink Floyd. It was released in 1972 on Harvest Records and produced by the band. The line-up for the album was David Gilmour (vocals/guitar), Roger Waters (bass/vocals), Nick Mason (drums) and Richard Wright (keyboards/vocals).
The album is based on the soundtrack Pink Floyd performed for the French film "La Vallée". The film stars Bulle Ogier, a woman who ends up on a journey of self discovery through New Guinea.
Title track, "Obscured by Clouds", is an instrumental that begins with keyboards , then is joined by drums before David Gilmour comes in on guitar until the end of the song. The song segues straight into "When You're In", which is also an instrumental with a repetitive guitar riff.
Beginning with the rock and roll count in of 'One, two, FREE FOUR!', "Free Four" was written and sung by Roger Waters, and centers on themes of the corruption or 'evils' of the music industry and his father's death. With a heavy guitar solo, the tone is rather mellow during the vocal portions of the song.
"Absolutely Curtains" is mostly instrumental but ends with a chant performed by the Mapuga tribe from New Guinea. The chant was recorded for the film and used in this song. The music is keyboards of Farfisa and Hammond organ, synthesiser, electric piano, cymbals and percussion.
Featuring three instrumentals and one mostly instrumental song, this album showcases the musical talent of the group, giving people a chance to focus on the music for part of the album. The songs that feature vocals are just as dazzling, musically, but enhanced with lyrics that give the songs a true Pink Floyd feel. Definitely an album worth listening to over and over, "Obscured by Clouds" is pure brilliance.
1. Obscured by Clouds
2. When You're In
3. Burning Bridges
4. The Gold It's in the...
5. Wot's... Uh the Deal?
7. Childhood's End
8. Free Four
10. Absolutely Curtains
My rating: 9/10
== Background ==
Pink Floyd released their first album in 1967, the infamous 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' a real sixties album which is a shining example of the psychedelic movement. In those days, the band was fronted by Syd Barrett, the lead guitarist and vocalist, as well as main songwriter.
Syd had a bit of a breakdown, and was replaced by David Gilmour in 1968, during the time they were recording album number two, 'A Saucerful of Secrets', an album which only featured one composition of Barrett's, the poignant 'Jugband Blues'. Roger Waters said in an interview once, that when Syd was replaced, they faced a bit of a problem, and didn't really know where to go with their music, so just did what they new best, hence some of the amazing instrumentals, and long tracks which are on ASOS. This was followed by 'Ummagumma' and 'More' (1969), 'Atom Heart Mother' (1970) and 'Meddle' (1971) before they released 'Obscured By Clouds' in 1972.
Obscured by Clouds was Pink Floyds third album soundtrack, the other two being 'More' and 'Zabraskie Point', and it was created for the French film, "La Vallée" a film which I am desperately trying to get my hands on!
So, the important part of the album, what are the tracks? OBC comprises of 10 tracks, and the album totals in at around 40 minutes long. Since it was a soundtrack, there are none of the long compositions such as 'Echoes' from 'Meddle' which was 24 minutes long.
1 - Obscured By Clouds
The introduction to the album is a nifty little instrumental. Starting rather slow, with just drums and a bit of synthesiser, Gilmour then interjects with some smooth guitar notes. The song is medium paced, and rather relaxing. The song then flows to a finish at 3:03 sliding directly into:
2 - When your In
Starting with some drums and keyboards, with a gentle guitar in the background, a faster paced song which is much more uplifting, naturally, another instrumental, and again the song comes to a natural trail off into the next track...
=== 3 - Burning Bridges ===
The first song to feature some lyrics, written by Waters. The song is sung by Gilmour and Wright, which is always a great pairing, due to the softness of their voices. The song is slower than the previous two, and keeps the relaxing tones of the album. It features another piece of gentle guitar work from Gilmour, which is slightly reminiscent of that which is featured in some Fleedwood Mac, at least that is what springs to my mind. The lyrics are nothing special when compared to some of the lyrics appearing alter in the album.
=== 4 - The Gold it's in the... ===
Starting more upbeat than the previous song, with a gentle clanging of guitar, which resides in the back of the song throughout. As another reviewer has said, this song is a quintessential rock song, the type of which Pink Floyd did not produce many of. The guitar solo in the middle, while not complex like many of the modern solos in songs, is well chosen and flows well, its making me nod my head in appreciation.
=== 5 - Wot's... Uh the Deal ===
The second longest song of the album, at just over 5 minutes long. It's a relatively slow paced piece, with vocals by Gilmour. The music is subtly layered in the background, with the gentle strings of a guitar being heard. Water's lyrics for this song are much better than the previous two, with the final verse:
Hear me shout "Come on in,
What's the news and where you been?"
Cause there's no wind left in my soul
And I've grown old
Which I find particularly poetic.
=== 6 - Mudmen ===
Another instrumental track which some compare to 'Burning Bridges'. It flows beautifully, and is medium paced, until around 1 and half minutes in, when Gilmour bursts out some stunning guitar work, this really adds to the feel of the album, which as I will explain later is very relaxing. This was all written by Gilmour and Wright, and was the last compostion accredited to just them until they worked on 'Cluster One' in their 1994 album, 'The Divison Bell'.
=== 7 - Childhood's End ===
This is my favourite song from the album, starting side two of the Vinyl. Written and sung by Gilmour. The song starts of with silence, then a gradual chord is heard fading in, to be honest this bit annoys me and I tend to fast forward through it. A drumbeat is then heard gradually rising in volume, before the guitar chords come in, and the song begins to really take shape.
The lyrics of this song are the best on the album, the final verse being particaully so:
Who are you and who am I
To say we know the reason why?
Some are born
Some men die
Beneath one infinite sky
There'll be war
There'll be peace
But everything one day will cease
All the iron turned to rust
All the proud men turned to dust
And so all things, time will mend
So this song will end
Gilmour is often down played compared to the lyric writing of Waters, which dominated the band during their most successful stages, but with songs like this, it is clear that Gilmour does have a great ability to write great songs.
=== 8 - Free Four ===
The most upbeat track on the album, written and sang by Waters. This song has a slightly different feel to it that the rest of the album, with a less dominant guitar through most of the verse, being that it only presents an acoustic jangle, and features less of the classic Gilmour guitar. The lyrics of this song are also strong, especially with the final verse:
The memories of a man in his old age
Are the deeds of a man in his prime.
You shuffle in gloom in the sickroom
And talk to yourself till you die.
This is then followed by the missing guitar from the rest of the song, with a beautiful piece from Gilmour which finishes the song off perfectly.
=== 9 - Stay ===
Stay is a very slow song compared to the rest, with a piano base. Sang by Wright, and written by Waters. After all the excitement of the rest of the album, it gives connotations of the evening, relaxing with a glass of wine watching the moon, or something like that. Compared to the rest of the album I find it a bit disappointing, but as a stand alone song, it really isn't too bad, albeit not comparing to a number of the Floyd's other lesser known work.
10 - Absolutely Curtains
The final track on the album and the longest. It starts off rather gently, and the music is underlined by a soft chord, with delicate tamperings of the keyboard. The song flows softly, and is very ambient. By nearly four minutes in, you hear some voices, but not of the Floyd. It is a the Magupa Tribe, from Papa New Guinea, they can be heard chanting, with little music behind them, I think it is kind of wishy-washy really, and so this is never a song I would choose to listen to, other than when I am purposely listening to the whole album through. No doubt that if/when I watch the film, it may serve some purpose.
My Thoughts on the Album
One of the magical things about Pink Floyd is how different all their albums are, from the epic long songs, like 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond' on 'Wish you were Here' to the mind bending songs such as 'Interstellar Overdrive' from 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn'. Obscured by Clouds is a relaxing album, the music driven songs flow gently into one another, which I find perfect for just chilling out. Especially brilliant on a hot summer day, sat in the garden letting the chords and notes wash over you, it transports you away into a different world, and leaves you chilled out and relaxed.
I personally prefer it on Vinyl, which I managed to get a decent second edition copy of from Ebay a few years ago. The odd little crackles and pops add to the songs, and it becomes ever more distant and relaxing.
On the whole this album is great, however it isn't comparable to over Floyd albums. They were in the middle of working on 'Dark Side of the Moon' when they recorded this album, but that doesn't really show, in fact I am sure many would have never expect the monumental success which followed that album. If you are new to Pink Floyd then I don't recommend starting with this album, instead try out Dark Side, since it is a more well known album, and achieved much better commercial success, it is after all a stunning album.
This album is a must for all Pink Floyd fans, and would compliment your music collection perfectly. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
The last album released by Pink Floyd before their groundbreaking masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon remains one of the bands most overlooked works, and perhaps with good reason. Obscured by Clouds was composed for the obscure French film La Vallée, which translated as The Valley, as if you needed me to tell you that. IMDB tells us that La Vallée is directed by Barbet Schroeder, whoever that is, and is a documentary of sorts about some hipp
I mean, sexually liberated young people seeking enlightenment in the rainforest. I admire Pink Floyds strange artistic ethics that saw them turn down Stanley Kubricks request to use their existing music in A Clockwork Orange, but that allows them to compose a whole album of music for a hopelessly obscure French art film.
However noble the bands intentions, no collection of original Pink Floyd material is going to remain particularly rare or obscure, and Obscured by Clouds is readily available in most good music shops online or on the planet Earth, despite being something of a collectors-only CD in terms of its appeal. Even in 1972 the band was hardly unknown, having achieved #1 on the album charts with Atom Heart Mother and proving increasingly popular at live shows. Obscured by Clouds is notably different from the bands other work, following more of a traditional hard rock style in contrast to the more epic and progressive pieces the band are more famous for, and sounding less original and impressive as a result.
Its alleged that Obscured by Clouds took the band one week to write and record. I assume this is true to an extent, but its likely that a lot of it represents ideas that had been circulating for a while, evidenced by the close similarity of some songs to material that would end up on Dark Side of the Moon in a far more refined form. The production job does sound pretty rushed, and as orgasmic as some of David Gilmours guitar solos are, much of the instrumentation could be pretty interchangeable amongst tracks. A lot of the variation comes from mundane changes, like slow versus fast songs and the occasional instrumental. Aside from this, the album follows one type of sound throughout, which isnt a bad thing considering its all intended to link thematically to a film. The album stands alone in the Pink Floyd discography, while also forming an interesting if shaky bridge between two important eras of the bands sound.
This album is dominated by guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour, but Gilmour is aided greatly by Richard Wrights keyboards and Hammond organ backing. As the music follows a classic rock style and ditches a lot of the avant-garde stuff, Wrights duties primarily involve supplementing whatever the guitar, bass and drums are doing, but he nevertheless takes many opportunities to enhance what would otherwise be substandard songs into interesting ditties worthy of a listeners attention. This is most notable in the opening and closing instrumentals Obscured by Clouds and Absolutely Curtains. The first begins with deep, throbbing synth that lasts throughout, providing a real bass line for Gilmours solos to soar over to improve on Roger Waters bass guitar, which is hardly noticeable throughout the album. Absolutely Curtains is similarly synth-led, but at a higher pitch this time, incredibly atmospheric and reminiscent of the bands later masterpiece Shine On You Crazy Diamond. The song Free Four would sound stupidly optimistic without Wrights intermittent bursts of dark keyboard, and elsewhere in the album he contributes piano melodies and understated Hammond organ.
With more freedom than he would be permitted on the more stringently structured releases the band would produce hereafter, David Gilmour really lets his guitar skills shine. He doesnt achieve anything innovative here, as Obscured by Clouds unfortunately tends to look backwards for inspiration rather than forwards for progression, but its great to hear all those chilled out solos, somehow reminiscent of lying on the sand and watching the sun set on tropical beaches Ive never even been to. Almost every song has one of these solos, slow and mellow as was the seventies way (I guess. I wasnt there), but the slower songs feature especially relaxed contributions. Burning Bridges and the inexplicably titled Wots Uh the Deal follow the style of the short acoustic songs on the albums Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, but without the acoustic guitars. Gilmours vocals are light and soothing, one of the few remnants here of the bands psychedelic era, and the lengthy solos in each are freely interrupted by additional verses as if they themselves substitute for vocals.
Also pointlessly titled, Gold its in the follows more of a blues-rock sound, complete with catchy chorus and hard riffs, but like many songs on here ends up either repeating itself or inserting a guitar solo in place of a vocal reprise. Free Four is similar in tempo and vocal style, but the daft opening and bouncy riff detract from its credibility, and confuse the issue of whether this is indeed a parody or just a disappointment. This same aesthetic issue would surface later in the bands career with The Wall. More interesting songs come in tracks 6 and 7 in the middle of the album, both of which contain hints of things to come on the album that would follow, and are among the best here: the instrumental Mudmen has a great atmosphere, and the strange sound effects sound a lot like The Travel Sequence that would feature on the bands subsequent live show Eclipse, later to be re-done and recorded as Dark Sides On the Run.
Similarly, Childhoods End is an obvious precursor to Time, Alan Parsons chiming clocks replaced by some cool spacey keyboards that still proceed to the fast-ticking drum beat and country-style vocals. The original version of Time was slower than what ended up on the album, a can be heard on 1972 live bootlegs, and there are many similarities here although its not as good. Even the lyrics deal with a similar theme of growing old and burning out: life is a short warm moment, death is a long cold rest.
Im not sure how the band went about recording these songs: whether they had footage of the film to hand, or were trusted to do their own thing and come up with something fittingly appropriate. Collected here, its not clear how and why any of the music would be relevant, and its also annoyingly edited in places, presumably to keep within the standard forty minutes. The nice guitar-led instrumental When Youre In fades out just as it starts to get even more interesting, yet the slower songs seem to last for far longer than necessary. Even as a stand-alone album this is nicely arranged, the penultimate song Stay offering a nicely subdued piano ballad and Absolutely Curtains (an appropriate title for once) leading out with some tribal chants.
Its interesting that the bands detractors often dismiss their more well-known, lengthier works as sounding like film scores, when theres very little on this album that I can even conceive working well as part of any soundtrack. The musics far too obtrusive and catchy to sit well alongside La Vallées alleged commentary on the human condition, and apparently the combined end result was indeed disappointing. Thats what Ive read anyway, I wouldnt know, I havent watched it have I? Sounds like a load of boring rubbish about hipp nature lovers. The albums pretty fun though.
Obscured by Clouds sold poorly, but that cant have been a major disappointment to the band, as they already had a canonical studio album (Meddle) and a compilation (Relics) out that year, both of which were more warmly received. The music isnt inherently off-putting, but doesnt represent the bands strength very well aside from Gilmours ability to produce nice guitar solos, which would be heard better on Animals anyway. This album is by no means essential, unlike Dark Side of the Moon which I should hope you own already, and which is far too intimidating to consider reviewing on here. Not like this mediocre thing. I reiterate that the albums pretty fun though, and I enjoy listening to it occasionally.
Soundtrack excuse or no, the music here only sounds tenuously like Pink Floyd, and despite the added vibrance of the live recording, the final product sounds dull, rushed and lazy even compared to their earlier, more interesting film scores for More and Zabriskie Point. At least the improvisation is more restrained and palatable than the bands early days of playing at the UFO club, when Interstellar Overdrive would be extended to about half an hour for the whacked-out hippie beatniks. Dang, I used the H word.
1. Obscured by Clouds
2. When Youre In
3. Burning Bridges
4. Gold its in the
5. Wots Uh the Deal
7. Childhoods End
8. Free Four
10. Absolutely Curtains
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Obscured By Clouds
2 When You're In
3 Burning Bridges
4 Gold It's In The...
5 Wot's... Uh The Deal
7 Childhood's End
8 Free Four
10 Absolutely Curtains