Classic Rock Review

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Pink Floyd Meddle (1971)


Self-producing for the first time, Meddle is the album on which the band first truly found the sound for which they are primarily remembered today.

This is also the album on which it really became apparent that the band got very lucky when Gilmour replaced Barrett, as he proves to be a great singer and guitarist whose fluid, melodic, and emotional guitar tone is firmly established here (though in fairness his playing was great on Atom Heart Mother as well).

His confidence as an emerging songwriter was also growing, and Meddle is the album where the Gilmour/Waters songwriting partnership first fully flowered, though the album is also a true group effort, and a sparkling one at that, even if it has one of their weaker album covers and it sold poorly in the U.S.; as usual up until this point, it did better in the U.K., peaking at #3.

Anyway, the album begins with the mostly all instrumental, surprisingly hard rocking “One Of These Days,” a firm fan favorite and live staple whose best characteristic is its driving bass riffs (played by Waters and Gilmour). Wright’s keyboards add color, there are impressive stop and start dynamics, Gilmour adds a classic high-pitched screaming guitar solo, and its various effects (wind noises, the electronically manipulated lone lyric of “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces”) show the band’s increasing mastery of using the studio as another instrument.

The next four songs were never played in concert, but three of them are underrated gems that any fan of classic period Floyd (which began in earnest with Meddle) should enjoy. The dreamy, melancholic “A Pillow Of Winds” is notable for Gilmour’s lovely acoustic/electric slide guitars and typically strong vocals, “Fearless” has a great little groove and more smooth as silk Gilmour vocals and fine guitar work (the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” coda with the choir is a cute touch too), and Waters’ sing songy “San Tropez” is a tuneful, lightly jazzy pop number that’s highlighted by Wright’s classy piano solo.

These pastoral, summery songs see Pink Floyd at their most relaxed and accessible, but let’s face it “Seamus,” which is primarily remembered for Steve Marriott’s dog barking, is the type of novelty joke number that you can listen to once and skip thereafter. Fortunately, it’s quite short, and the next song, the 23-minute, multi-sectioned masterpiece “Echoes,” is something else entirely. This song, another full band composition like “One Of These Days,” has all the elements that make Floyd great, simple as that, and no description I can give will do it justice.

From its echoed piano intro onward, the band proceeds to deliver spacey headphone music along with more grounded folksier sonic explorations, both jam-based and song-centric sections, and lots more besides in one of the definitive Pink Floyd songs, period (it’s especially beloved by the prog-heads).

Among the song’s notable characteristics are Gilmour and Wright’s gorgeous, haunting harmony vocals, Gilmour’s alternately mournfully lovely and soaringly intense guitar leads as he solos extensively, Wright’s keyboards which lead some of the jazzy, jammier sections while Waters’ driving bass propels the more rocking parts along with Mason’s drums, and of course the band’s requisite special effects which are just as important as the band’s actual musicianship.

Granted, for all its brilliance it must be said that the song drags a bit at times; their later greatest hits album Echoes actually trims the song to about 16 minutes and it works just fine. (P.S. The best version of this song is arguably on the Live At Pompeii film but that’s never been formally released on cd and it probably never will be.)

Still, if you cut out the boring parts then “Echoes” is arguably the best thing that the band ever did, as it offers a fascinatingly original and utterly intoxicating world of laid-back cool. On the whole, with two all-time classic tracks, three underrated, endlessly playable album tracks, and only one short stinker, Meddle was the first Pink Floyd album that I could wholeheartedly love.

It was the album where they first found their identity, where Gilmour became the dominant instrumentalist, and it began their creative prime. With the foundation for greatness already in place, a tightening of ideas, even stronger songwriting, and superior production yielded an even greater masterpiece.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Pink Floyd Meddle | | Leave a comment