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Pink Floyd – Prog Or Not Prog (Part Two)

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Pink Floyd – Prog Or Not Prog (Part Two)

May 12, 2012




Jon Neudorf



So, on to the discussion of whether Pink Floyd is prog, or not. To answer this 'burning' question let us continue our visit to the Pink Floyd catalogue. If memory recalls and yes, it has been quite a while, we left off at Ummagumma. Up to this point Pink Floyd mostly explored their psychedelic roots and were not necessarily considered progressive rock by both music critics and fans alike. Of course, each of those earlier albums showed the band's penchant for experimental and avant-garde music and did show signs of progressiveness. However, for progressive music fans the best was yet to come.

In 1970 Pink Floyd released Atom Heart Mother, an underrated classic that was really a stepping stone for just how great this band would become. With Atom Heart Mother the music became more refined and indeed more progressive, the title track being a prime example. It took up the entire first side of the original LP. It is an ambitious six part epic, varying in mood and texture. All four members share in the songwriting which is probably why this is such a diverse piece. The use of an orchestra is front and center and matches well with Gilmour's innovative guitar playing and Wrights patented forays on the keyboards, including organ and Mellotron. The second side is a collection of four tunes including "If" a lovely ballad from Waters, Wright's psychedelic inspired "Summer '68" with its majestic piano melody and Gilmour's "Fat Old Sun", another beautifully constructed acoustic ballad.

Although Pink Floyd did sprinkle signs of greatness on those early records it was not until Meddle that the band came into its own and produced an early '70s masterpiece. Of the albums discussed thus far this is my favourite and in my opinion one of their best albums. This may in fact be the one I reach for the most. The album opening track "One Of These Days" with its instantly recognizable pulsating bass riff is a demented tour d' force and Gilmour's guitar playing is a highlight here as it is on much of the album. The calming "Pillow Of Winds" is another beauty. Its pastoral elegance is second to none, all wisps of melancholy highlighted by Gilmour's far reaching slide guitar. The blues inflected "Seamus" and the charming jazz flavoured "San Tropez" are both shorter tracks but I always felt they fit perfectly with the rest of the album. Now on to side two which consists of the massive epic "Echoes", one of their best songs bar none. This song is truly amazing, flows beautifully and the best part is the band is able to keep the listener interested for over twenty-three minutes. It's a great way to end the album. Meddle is all about textures and moods and yes, it is progressive with a capital P.

The last album we will look at is Obscured by Clouds, released in 1972. I have to admit this one does not see as much time in my CD player as Meddle and that really is a shame as it is a fine album nonetheless. It was written as a soundtrack to the Barbet Schroeder film La Vallée and as a whole it works rather well. It is perhaps more moodier and atmospheric than Meddle and the textural component is ever present. There are no epics here, just ten very good to excellent songs. Some of my favourites being the poignant "Stay", a beautiful offering from Wright and "Childhood's End", the perfect precursor to Dark Side Of the Moon. There are also some fine instrumentals including the excellent title track which has Wright's Hammond written all over it. Again, another rock solid offering and in my opinion a vastly under rated work. Is it progressive? You bet it is - in that classic Floyd kind of way.

Soon Pink Floyd would become massive players in the (prog) rock world. I think you know what I'm talking about. You likely will never see it, or go there for that matter, but the other side shines brightly in the night…Stay tuned for Part Three.
  

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