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160 of 173 people found the following review helpful.
Planting the Seeds For Later Brilliancy
By Bud Sturguess
The Amazon.com synopsis of "Ummagumma" is a little off, factwise; the part-live/part-studio "Ummagumma" was not the sole vision of bassist and, later, lead songwriter Roger Waters. It was in fact a group idea, sparked by the suggestion of keyboardist Richard Wright. With the studio album, each member was given half a vinyl side with which to experiment (key word), a move which some called self-indulgent, but it was no more self-indulgent than much of the Beatles' work (especially their films).The live half of "Ummagumma" would be Pink Floyd's only official live release for nearly 20 years before 1988's "Delicate Sound of Thunder." The four selections are the ultimate document of Pink Floyd's psychedelic era, when they enjoyed playing live at smaller venues, as opposed to the arenas and stadiums of their post-"Dark Side of the Moon" days. Tracks that were already infinitely psychedelic in their studio parts are sent even further into space; 'Astronomy Domine' features an extended keyboard (or is it a mellotron?) solo, that brings a bit of beauty to an often spooky track, like the grim instrumental descent into insanity 'Careful With That Axe Eugene.' 'Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun' epitomized Pink Floyd's sound of the era, and the ominous 'A Saucerful of Secrets,' a conceptual instrumental about war, soars much higher than its studio version; David Gilmour's wordless vocal cries are much more emotional and powerful than they were before (and stronger than the version on the "Pink Floyd At Pompeii" film).A late-70s "Encyclopedia of Rock" claimed that these live versions sounded "too close to the album versions." The writer obviously never listened to this album.The material on the studio half is understandably difficult to enjoy if you're a new fan, or just not used to such unsual songs. But over time, one will find little pleasures in each one. Wright's operatic four-part instrumental 'Sysyphus' ranges from the dark and haunting to the serene and lovely. Roger Waters' 'Grantchester Meadows' is a surprisingly peaceful track from one of the gloomiest men in rock and roll, with a melancholy vocal reading, one of the most non-psychedelic of the Floyd's psychedelic era (the same can't be said about 'Several Species...' which is one of the most bizarre, erratic songs under Pink Floyd's belt). David Gilmour's winding, three-part 'The Narrow Way' shows his blossoming talent with both guitar and vocals, and never becomes boring. The final effort, 'The Grand Vizier's Garden Party,' is done by drummer Nick Mason and features opening and closing flutes, filled with engaging drum solos, with a melancholy tape effect at about the middle of Part 2; it's hard to tell exactly what makes that haunting sound, but it's nonetheless the highlight of the song.Although most of the members of Pink Floyd share the same opinion that "Ummagumma" was a failure in artistic senses, they all seem to agree that its conceptual ideas--creating long, unbroken pieces of music that go through various themes--were the seeds for later triumphs such as the 'Echoes,' and various moods and ideas that wind through such albums as "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here."
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful.
Pink Floyd's American breakthrough gets a stellar remastering
By Terrence J. Reardon
Pink Floyd's fourth (and first double) album entitled Ummagumma was released in November of 1969.This double album is basically two albums in one package. The title of the album is an old Cambridgeshire slang term for a word I cannot use.I first got this album as a Christmas present from my paternal grandmother whom unfortunately passed away on Valentine's Day 2004 on cassette (which, on the US version, was missing three live tracks present on the CD and LP issues) in 1987. Then, I first acquired on CD in August, 1991 with the full album (to hear the live tracks which were wrongly excised from the cassette).The first disc is a live album that the band recorded at a club called Mothers in Birmingham, England and the Manchester College of Commerce in Manchester, England in April and June of 1969 respectively.The first track is a wonderful, extended reading of "Astronomy Domine" this time featuring keyboard player Rick Wright singing the lower parts Syd originally sang and guitarist/singer David Gilmour singing the higher harmonies. The song is a great showpiece for David's excellent guitar work and Rick's fantastic keyboard work. Next is "Careful With That Axe Eugene" (deleted from the original US cassette issue) which is more sinister and longer than the hurried studio version with bass player/vocalist Roger Waters' demonic screaming and excellent drumming from drummer Nick Mason and excellent playing by Wright and Gilmour as well."Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun" (also deleted from the original US cassette issue) follows and buries the studio version once again featuring extra keyboard work by Rick whom was one of the best keyboard players in rock history (although unjustly overlooked) and Roger sang this track with more passion. The first disc ends with "A Saucerful of Secrets" (blasphemously deleted from the original US cassette issue) which surpasses the studio version although I love the version from Pompeii too. The ending section of Saucerful is way different than the studio as Rick's organ is this time joined by bass guitar, drums, electric guitar and David's scat vocal making it more of a jam than a funeral hymn that was on the studio version.Disc two consists of a solo piece or two by the four band members and came about because of Rick's frustrations with doing just rock music. We start this with Rick Wright's solo piece was the four-part "Sysyphus" which features Rick's jazz and classical influences and his keyboard work on the mellotron and piano and organ gives me a shiver down the spine each time I hear it (some may call it pretentious but I love it). Roger has two solo pieces. First, is the folk-tinged acoustic number "Grantchester Meadows" which was his song about his childhood in Cambridge and was the third song he ever had a lead vocal (Stethoscope on Piper and Set the Controls on Saucerful were his other two lead vocal tracks by then). Next, was the avant-garde tape effect with Scottish dialect rant laden "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict".David Gilmour for his solo piece combined his rock, blues and folk influences in the three part "The Narrow Way". The first part was preliminarily recorded on the BBC as "Baby Blue Shuffle" in early 1969. Then part 2 is Gilmour displaying his guitar and bass guitar playing with tape effects. Then part 3 has Gilmour's vocal plus David singing harmonies with himself plus he plays guitars, bass guitar and he also handles drums and keyboards (his drum and keyboard debut on record by the way). The Narrow Way is, hands down, my favorite solo piece on the second disc. The solo disc ends with Nick Mason's three part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" which is a Nick Mason drum solo and shows that he is a great drummer. Nick's then wife Lindy did the flute solos on the intro and outro sections.Ummagumma was Pink Floyd's first album to crack in the U.S. Top 100 on Billboard peaking at #74 in early 1970 (thanks in part due to word of mouth and college kids blasting out of their dormatories back them) and the album eventually went Gold in early 1974 (after the success of Dark Side of the Moon) and eventually Platinum (in March, 1994).In 2011, as part of the Why Pink Floyd? campaign, the album is re-released in a remastered version which is (to my ears) an improvement on the 1994/95 remaster which sounded lifeless (even the 1980s Capitol/EMI CD was better than the 1990s remaster) and also comes with booklet featuring credits, photos and COMPLETE LYRICS (even including the lyrics to "The Narrow Way" which was absent from the 1990s remaster).If you like the Floyd from 1973 forward then you may be turned off by some of the pieces but if you are a hardcore Floyd fan and/or have an open ear like myself, I highly recommend this album.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful.
Stockhausen and space rock collide
By Jeffrey J.Park
Released in 1969, this experimental album consisted of solo works by each member of the band along with a disc of live material. I think that of the pre-Dark Side of the Moon albums, this may be the most difficult to listen to for most folks, although I really do like this album and appreciate the fact that the band was experimenting with different approaches to composition. The lineup at this point included Rick Wright (organ, piano, mellotron, vocals); Roger Waters (bass, vocals); Nick Mason (drums and percussion); and David Gilmour (electric and acoustic guitars; vocals).The solo works are quite different from one another with Rick's moody keyboard opus demonstrating his fondness for Stockhausen and featuring some very dissonant and atonal sections. Dave's piece was a bit more of a straightforward rock piece and very good, although he has been quoted as saying he did not like it very much. Nick's drum piece is excellent and demonstrates just how creative a drummer he was (and still is) - for those of you that are curious, his track is not just a drum solo, but a very interesting "sound collage" with drums. Roger's pieces range from the pastoral (Grantchester Meadows) to the downright bizarre (Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict). The latter piece is purely a sound collage, with little in the way of what one would regard as melody, harmony, etc. Still, it is interesting nonetheless.The live disc is what I used to get excited about and features excellent versions of A Saucerful of Secrets and especially Careful with that Axe Eugene - the screams are positively hair-raising. The energy of the live performances is pretty intense and the brooding and creepy mood of tunes like Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun is something that never fails to excite (or frighten depending on your perspective).This remastered version is pretty good and features a mini-poster along with the two CDs packaged in a green cardboard case. The sound quality of the studio pieces is not bad, although the sound quality of the live disc is a bit grainy - very listenable though.All in all, this is a good album by Pink Floyd that features the group experimenting through their solo works, and demonstrating what an exciting live unit they were. In fact, the live set is an excellent document from this early phase of Pink Floyd. Ummagumma (which is slang for copulation I believe) is recommended along with Piper at the Gates of Dawn 1967); A Saucerful of Secrets (1968); More (1969); Atom Heart Mother (1970); Meddle (1971); Obscured by Clouds (1972); and Animals (1977).
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