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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pink Floyd Meddle

Pink Floyd Meddle
Pink Floyd Meddle:

Produced by Pink Floyd
Released in US October 30, 1971
Released in UK November 13, 1971
Recorded in AIR Studios, EMI Abbey Road Studios and Morgan Sound, January and March through August 1971 Cover Design by Pink Floyd Inner sleeve photo by Hipgnosis
Outer sleeve photos by Bob Dowling

Tracks:

One of These Days

A Pillow of Winds

Fearless

San Tropez

Seamus

Echoes

Meddle was the album that is widely credited as the source of Pink Floyd's future sound, mainly from the 23 minute epic Echoes. It was recorded at various studios in between the band's live touring commitments from January to August 1971.

Meddle can be seen as a transitional album, but I think of it as a climax; a final statement for Pink Floyd "vers. 2.0" before changing the way they present ideas on an album. In the same way that "Red" completes King Crimson's second cycle, "Meddle" wraps up the loose ends of the post- "Piper", pre- DSOTM period with refinement of past ideas and a glimpse of things to come.

Meddle confirmed lead guitarist David Gilmour's emergence as a real shaping force with the group. Gilmour had been in the band for at least 2 years and he put his indelible stamp on the group with his amazing work right here. If only Igor Waters had let Gilmour lead the band again after The Wall! Without question, this album contains the best verse Igor Waters ever wrote: "Strangers passing in the street, by chance two separate glances meet, and I am you and what I see is me. And do I take you by the hand, and lead you through the land, and help me understand the best I can?" Unfortunately, this reminder to walk a mile in the other man's shoes was a lesson Waters forgot in later years, at the price of devastating consequences to the band's output and to the members themselves. This moment in Pink Floyd's history is therefore one-of-a-kind, completely irreplaceable.

The beginning of all the epic studio albums from the 'Floyd. Meddle is without doubt an absolute masterpiece. From the opening ageless 'One of these days', the dreamy 'Pillow of winds', the fearless 'Fearless' ( no other way to describe the song really) to the epic 'Echoes' which takes up the entire side 2 of Meddle. Echoes is special, there is nothing out there quite like it not even other PF pieces, it transcends dimensions which is what Floyd were beginning to do from 1970 onwards right thru to 1994 with varying degrees of success. Meddle is pure genius. There is no such thing as filler, on Meddle--this album is absolutely, completely perfect. Not a single note should be changed.

The first cut, "One Of These Days (I'm Going To Cut You Into Little Pieces)" sticks to the usual Floyd formula (sound effect -- slow organ build -- lead guitar surge & climax-resolving sound effect), but each segment of the tune is so well done, and the whole thing coheres so perfectly it comes across as a positive, high-energy opening. Howling wind sets the tone as a pulsing doubled bass line (complete with tape echo) pumps along. Intensity grows with organ stabs, reversed cymbal rolls, and fierce slide guitar. After a creepy bass interlude, Nick Mason makes his (distorted) vocal debut with "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces!!" and slams the song into overdrive. Pounding drums and stinging slide guitar dominate for the next two minutes until nothing but wind remains.

Next, we have a series of ozone ballads like "Pillow of Winds" and "San Tropez." A Pillow of Winds is made up of acoustic guitars and sparse bass, this is a beautiful floating piece that takes advantage of Gilmour's tranquil vocals. This gentle mood is held through Fearless, a relaxed mid-tempo summer breeze of a song, again driven by Dave's voice. San Tropez and Seamus show off the Floyd's eclecticism as well as humor. The former invokes a bouncy cocktail lounge jazz feel, while the latter stars Steve Marriot's dog Seamus who "sings" along with Gilmour on some acoustic blues.

And then there's Echoes. 31 years later, this epic sound journey stands as one of the band's greatest achievements. Every element that would become synonymous with Pink Floyd was crystallized in this one phenomenal song. Swirling, bubbling keyboards and liquid guitar lines mix with floating vocal harmonies and a dynamic rhythm section to move the music through several dramatic and powerful moods. Truly the band's musicianship had taken a monstrous quantum leap forward from Atom Heart Mother. Of exceptional note is David Gilmour who, after years of struggling, managed to firmly define his role in Pink Floyd with complete confidence. That he asserts his unmatched talents on this track is an understatement. Fluid guitar lines; silky bends; gorgeous vibrato; subtle slide; tremolo bar antics; funky rhythms; and soaring leads abound. A significant part of his style - playing sounds and textures as well as notes - is also well represented. In the intro, he caresses the strings with a steel slide (much like an E-bow) to produce a shimmering string section-like feel. During the middle section, when darkness falls, his echo-laden feedback cries can be heard over ominous keyboards, swirling wind, and the distant screech of crows. Then, as daybreak comes in the form of a musical buildup to the final verses, the track ends with a multi-layered guitar part that sounds almost like a ghostly choir rising higher and higher. All this over the single echoing piano note that started the piece off.

The secret of Echoes is a piano through a Leslie rotary speaker. Gilmour's guitar is subtle, although less so than the rest of the instrumentation until the drums come in. Three minutes in, the hypnotically beautiful vocals enter, full of mesmerizing lyrics. The guitar riff after the verses is intriguing, fitting the enigmatic nature of the song. Following several minutes of guitar soloing, a funkier, bass-driven ride gives Gilmour more freedom to run about on his guitar. Things take a turn for the strange, though, as the funky groove gives way to out-of-this-world psychedelic noises, all of which are the result of heavy experimentation or sheer accident. Waters used a steel slide on his bass and fed the signal through a Binson Echorec. The ear-piercing screams occurred because Gilmour accidentally had his cables switched around on his wah pedal. Wright contributed to the sonic experimentation by pulling certain drawbars on his Hammond organ. When the music becomes coherent again, reviving the Leslie-induced piano, Gilmour palm mutes rapid notes on his guitar while playing a lovely melody, and the sound builds with Mason's steady cymbal work. The music climaxes in this part to some creative guitar work, but unexpectedly brings the verse section back around. One of the greatest audio illusions ever, a Shepard tone, concludes the piece.

Pink Floyd began production on the album at EMI's famous Abbey Road Studios, where most of their other projects had been recorded and mixed. Lacking a central theme for the project, the band decided to work on new material individually without listening to the other band members' contributions. They had already tried such an approach with limited success for Ummagumma. However, this time the band resolved to work on one collaborative piece rather than separate solo efforts. The result of one such experiment, which centered around the sound of a grand piano sent through a Leslie speaker, provided inspiration for what would later become "Echoes".

Unfortunately, Abbey Road was still only outfitted with 8-track multitrack recording facilities, which Pink Floyd found insufficient for the increasing technical demands of their project. They transferred their best efforts, including the opening of "Echoes", to 16-track tape at smaller studios in London (namely AIR and Morgan) and resumed work with the advantage of more flexible recording equipment. Engineers John Leckie and Peter Bown recorded the main Abbey Road and AIR sessions, while for minor work at Morgan studios in West Hampstead Rob Black and Roger Quested handled the engineering duties. The band also spent several days in late September 1971 preparing a quadraphonic mix of the album at Command Studios. Reportedly, this was played at the album's press premiere. However, it has never been released to the public.

Outtakes from the album sessions are rumored to include an unreleased song entitled "The Dark Side of the Moon", which later became "Brain Damage", and two demo versions of "One of These Days", both of which have been made available on bootlegs and include cut-up speech samples of Radio DJ Sir Jimmy Young.

Sound clips from the album were used in the 1990 film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.


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1 Comments:

Anonymous AudioExMachina said...

The Binson Echorec Bible is a new (2012)guide covering 38 different Echorec units, starting with the 1957 prototype and including all the models used by the Floyds (Baby, Echorec2, PE 603) . The guide is freely accessible at http://audioexmachina.wordpress.com/the-audioexmachinas-echorec-bible/
Thank you.

July 22, 2012 at 9:01 AM  

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