Pink Floyd, Ummagumma

Dan Epstein

By Dan Epstein

on 06.08.11 in Reviews

Ummagumma (2011 - Remaster)

Pink Floyd
Live performances and the band members’ solo work

Pink Floyd's fourth album — their first to land in the U.S. Top 100 chart — is a time capsule in several senses of the term. Originally a two-LP set (complete with a gatefold cover perfect for de-seeding your stash), this 1969 release was split into two halves: one LP of live performances, and another LP of experimental pieces individually composed and performed by Rick Wright, Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason. The first half, taken from shows recorded in Birmingham and Manchester in the spring of 1969, does a nice job of capturing the band's powerful live chemistry during this period, aptly illustrating why they were such a popular concert draw despite their relative lack of chart success. "Astronomy Domine" may lack the presence of Syd Barrett, but it's still a more than respectable version — and the renditions here of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets" are light years beyond their original studio waxings. The second half, however, is considerably tougher sledding. With the exception of Waters's bucolic "Grantchester Meadows," there's nothing here that even vaguely resembles a song; and while formless, self-indulgent tracks like Waters' tape experiment "Several Species of Small Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving With a Pict" and Mason's three-part percussion workout "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" probably elicited their fair share of "Far out, man!" comments when originally heard on headphones, they now just sound like the desperate, directionless dithering of artists with a dearth of creative ideas.