Psychedelia, Then and Now: Andy Burns on Two Recent Pink Floyd Related Releases

If you’re a Pink Floyd fan, you’ll likely look back on 2010 as a banner year for the band. There’s the obvious – the Roger Waters Wall tour that’s sold out just about everywhere it’s stopped. There was also the Waters/David Gilmour reunion for the Hoping Foundation and the promise of a Gilmour appearance at a future Wall show. However, these are live experiences and not necessarily ones that everyone can get to. Flying under the radar at the same time were two Floyd related albums recently released that are just as exciting and interesting.

imageThe first is the new compilation An Introduction To Syd Barrett, a 19 track overview of Pink Floyd’s original singer, songwriter and guitarist. For those unfamiliar with him, the abridged story is that, though he was perceived as the Floyd’s mastermind, Barrett’s drug use during the late 60’s was so prodigious and debilitating that it led to his bandmates decision to oust their leader and replace him with David Gilmour after just one album. Barrett would go on to record two solo albums before disappearing from sight by the early 70’s, ultimately passing away in 2006.

Compiled by Gilmour, An Introduction To Syd Barrett is an excellent compilation of the man’s work, especially since it’s the first to include tracks from the Pink Floyd catalogue alongside Syd’s solo material. As a fan, it’s definitely interesting to hear the progression from psychedelic songs like early singles Arnold Layne and See Emily Play to less produced solo tracks such as Domino and Dark Globe. It’s as though the crazier Syd was in his personal life, the simpler his music became. What that also means is that the brilliance he exhibited as a member of Pink Floyd really doesn’t appear in his later work. That doesn’t mean An Introduction…isn’t good listening; there are lots of songs you won’t hear on the radio that are worth your time and it’s genuinely interesting to hear Syd’s progression (or regression, depending on your point of view). 

imageFrom the old to The Orb…and David Gilmour once again. For years, fans and critics of the ambient electronic band have noted their undeniable Floydian influence, which makes Metallic Spherres, their new collaborative studio album with Gilmour a bit of a dream come true. And dreaming is what you may wind up doing listening to the album, which is 46 minutes of fairly mid-tempo instrumental music that never really goes anywhere. Gilmour’s vocals pop up once early on into the recording, but his presence is felt throughout thanks to that instantly recognizable guitar sound. Metallic Spheres is all about the groove – consider it space-age dinner music that won’t offend or overpower. For Floyd fans or otherwise, it’s not essential but anytime I can hear David Gilmour lay down some licks, I’m happy.

While the appeal of new Gilmour music on Metallic Spheres will understandably appeal to fans, I think the real gem of these releases is the Barrett compilation. With new fans of Pink Floyd popping up everyday, most of whom will always gravitate to the holy four albums (Dark Side Of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall), An Introduction To Syd Barrett gives those interested in finding out whatever happened to the Floyd’s first frontman a solid place to start.

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