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A Mouse Named Gerald
Relics - Pink Floyd
Member Name: Mauri
Relics - Pink Floyd
Date: 16/09/05, updated on 23/06/09 (2842 review reads)
Advantages: Brilliant example of innovative 60's music
Disadvantages: Maybe a little dated for some and quite different from their later work.
Arnold Layne (Syd Barrett)
Interstellar Overdrive (Syd Barrett/Roger Waters/Richard Wright/Nick Mason)
See Emily Play (Syd Barrett)
Remember A Day (Richard Wright)
Paintbox (Richard Wright)
Julia Dream (Roger Waters)
Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Roger Waters/Richard Wright/David Gilmour/Nick Mason)
Cirrus Minor (Roger Waters)
The Nile Song (Roger Waters)
Biding My Time (Roger Waters)
Bike (Syd Barrett)
Pink Floyd originally consisted of Syd Barrett (vocals, guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals), Roger Waters (bass, vocals) and Nick Mason (drums). David Gilmour joined the band to take over guitar duties from Barrett when his drug habits began to affect his performances and eventually when Barrett left he band in 1968 Gilmour became a full time member as guitarist and vocalist.
For those of you who are familiar with the later incarnation of Pink Floyd in the 70's and 80's post- Syd Barrett Relics will be a real surprise. The polished and increasingly epic sounding tracks that we know from albums such as, 'Wish You Were Here' and 'The Wall' were still a long way in the future although clearer musical connections can be made with the more experimental 'Dark Side of the Moon'. The songs we find on this album are excellent examples of the Floyd as the avant-garde psychedelic band of the late 60's experimenting with light shows in live performances and enthusiastically embracing novel recording techniques (as well as copious amounts of 'marijuana' and LSD) to bring out some of the most inventive music of the era.
I first bought this album in the mid 70's for 99p and even then it was great value. Originally it was released as a sampler for the bands early music on a cheaper branch on the EMI label. Since then I've replaced it with a cd re-mastered version and it sounds as innovative on a recent listening as it did when I first played it on my old turntable.
'Relics' is effectively a sampler compilation album containing tracks from Pink Floyd's previous albums 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' (mostly Barret compositions), 'A Saucerful of Secrets', 'More' (a film soundtrack) includes singles, 'See Emliy Play' and 'Arnold Layne' and 'Paintbox'.
The music illustrates what the Floyd were all about before they became the big stadium Prog. rock album band that people are more familiar with today. Song like 'Arnold Lane' and 'See Emily Play' did actually get into the charts but even then the Floyd were aiming at a different audience and concentrated their efforts to suit the more experimental underground scene that provided a more cerebral listening experience that that required by your average teeny bopper...having a couple of spliffs before settling down to listen I'm sure also helped.
One of the main driving forces behind the music at this time was the mercurial, self-destructive genius Syd Barrett. He was one of the major creative elements of the band in the early years as well as the obvious frontman and showman. While some post Barrett tracks are included on Relics such as a reworked version of 'Careful With That Axe Eugene' (featuring Mason) the sound and feel of the record is distinctly that of the Barrett influenced Floyd.
While writing this review I was wondering how to describe the nature of the music to a contemporary listener. Looking for a definition of 'psychedelic' I found
"Psychedelic- characterized by, or generating hallucinations, distortions of perception, altered states of awareness, and occasionally states resembling psychosis", and this does get us some of the way to describing the intended effect of the songs.
This music was supposed to 'mess with you mind' or at least serve as a soundtrack for your (possibly but not exclusively drug induced) journey of 'self discovery', to provide an alternative viewpoint. The Floyd like other British psychedelic bands of the period (e.g. Soft Machine) made the most inventive use of the then new stereo technology and simple multi-track recordings. The composition of the songs themselves often containing long instrumentals either had an hypnotic quality as in 'Interstellar Overdrive' (a cut down version) or possessed quirky changes in tempo designed to take the listener by surprise as seen on 'Bike' and 'See Emily Play'.
The Floyd's version of psychedelia also differed from the equivalent US version. The Floyd always produced a very English sounding music in the same way that The Kinks and The Who and later The Jam did. The feel of the songs often ventured in to the metaphysical and fantastical as witnessed on 'Careful With That Axe Eugene' and 'Cirrus Minor' but just as often it was grounded in ethereal folksy/jazzy vibes. The clear precise and very English vocal intonations on 'Julia Dream' accompanied by a dreamlike flute in the background perfectly brings to mind a balmy summers afternoon, leisurely drifting along in a boat on a willow lined English river. This music could not have come out of New York!
The music featured on Relics has a whimsical quality to it. It is dark and brooding at times as seen on 'Nile Song' but doesn't overindulge in the cynicism that characterised the bands later work. If you like you could say there is still innocence here and the talent and enthusiasm of the band has not yet been jaded by experience. Relics more than any other album represents the transition in the Floyd's music from pure psychedelia to progressive rock.
It is worth looking at some of the tracks in a little more detail to discover the playfulness with which the band approached their music at this time. 'Arnold Layne', which managed a top twenty spot in the charts, is about a very odd character that steals clothes from washings lines and is eventually arrested and imprisoned for his unusual crimes.
"Arnold Layne' had a strange hobby
Moonshine washing line
They suit him fine"
This must have been quite a bold single to release at the time considering the subject matter.
'See Emily Play' the bands most successful single at that time reaching number six, is a quite possibly about LSD, which considering the state of mind Barrett was in at the time is not a far-fetched assumption to make!
"There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play"
'Bike' is the real oddity in this already unusual collection of tracks. It is a playful, unhinged love song
"I've got a bike. You can ride it if you like.
It's got a basket, a bell that rings and
Things to make it look good.
I'd give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it."
All three unsurprisingly were Barrett compositions and I particularly like them for their simplicity their almost childlike feel even though they are not necessarily dealing with childish themes!
There are hints of the bands previous flirtation with Blues and Jazz in 'Biding My Time' written by Roger Waters and giving a slight inkling of the style that was to dominate his later compositions in the 70's and 80's
One further feature to mention is the cover. If you were lucky enough to have this on vinyl who would see a wonderfully detailed drawing (by Nick Mason) or a complex machine on the front resembling a weird Victorian instrument (maybe musical) but essentially a mad creation of some eccentric inventor, indistinct in its purpose. With the CD release they cleverly decided to bring the sketch to life and on the front cover of the new version we can see an actual 3D representation of this strange piece of Victoriana.
Overall if you have yet to discover the delights of early Pink Floyd 'Relics' is well worth having. The collection of singles and album track is a good introduction to British psychedelia and fairly representative of the early period of the bands music. By including Barrett compositions and post Barrett tracks it also illustrated the gradual change to more conventional rock that the band eventually made in the mid 70's. The re-mastered cd version is excellent and considering the reliance and importance that the band set on the exact nature and purity of the sound they produce it is a worthwhile purchase. Unlike many other CD releases of previous vinyl albums the CD does not contain any extras tracks and maintains the same track order of the original.
'Relics' is available from Play.com for £9.99 delivered.
Thanks for reading and rating this review.
© Mauri 2005
Summary: Turn on, tune in and drift away...