Pink Floyd - Meddle - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Pink Floyd - Meddle

by Jim Harris Rating:8 Release Date:1971-10-21
Pink Floyd - Meddle
Pink Floyd - Meddle

My first introduction to the art rock band Pink Floyd was the album called Dark Side of The Moon.  I ventured into a basement head shop that smelled of every kind of incense and there was a section off to the right with black lights and posters hung everywhere and in the center of the store piled on the carpeted floor I picked up two vinyl records from their respective new release stack: Dark Side of the Moon and Status Quo’s Hello!  Quo’s album would go Gold in England and I was perhaps one of five people in the midwest of America who would latch on to their 12-bar boogie sound.

I would listen to Dark Side thousands of times in the trailer I lived in alongside a pig farm.  The album would go on to sell 45 million records.  Not bad.

About two months later I would venture back into a couple of albums Pink Floyd had previously released and honestly not be impressed by any of them.  ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’ caught my attention and Obscured By Clouds grew on me some, but it wasn’t until a radio station made ‘One of these Days’ from Meddle their theme song did I venture back into the Pink Floyd pre-Dark Side period and my initial thoughts of Meddle?  The epic ‘Echoes’ and ‘One of these Days’ were on form and the rest was filler.  It was all just a warm up to the concept album Dark Side of the Moon.

Then I went a good 30 years and never listened to virtually any Pink Floyd again.  Primarily because maybe a month or so before Pink Floyd’s follow up to Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, came out, I drove to a small auditorium and experienced a brand of rock and roll that triggered a religious musical experience:  The Ramones.  They were announced as an unsigned band from NYC and they would only play for twenty minutes but when they blasted out One! Two! Three! And played ‘I don’t wanna walk around with you…’  Somehow the epic pretentiousness of progressive art rock was instantaneously rendered invalid.

I would borrow Animals and kind of roll my eyes at it and The Wall came out I found it utterly cringe-worthy, an excessive cluttered bomb of a record that had none of the organic impact of the music I was currently listening to (Paul Weller, XTC, Patti Smith, Joe Jackson…). Such an alternative snob I had become.

And now? Reviewing Meddle?  For some reason I can’t stop listening to it.  Yes, the first side is a collection of unconnected experiments but outside of one song (‘Seamus’) there are a handful of pretty brilliant songs that virtually any band nowadays would die to have on their new album.  

When Roger Waters and David Gilmour mix and match their bass playing on the opening “One of these Days’ and that organ explodes into the layers.  One of the finest instrumentals I can think of.

The next track, ‘A Pillow of Winds’ while edging towards a stilted pretension, showcased everything that made Gilmour and Waters harmonizing together such a powerful thing, and what would inevitably kill the Pink Floyd sound when they split.  Can you imagine what might have come of Pink Floyd if Waters and Gilmour stayed together for more bass trading and harmonizing and collaborative songwriting for a couple more decades?

“Fearless’ is the third track and perhaps as good as it gets when it comes to a great song in the Pink Floyd catalog.  It would have fit nicely on Obscured By Clouds, my personal favorite Pink Floyd album over the years.  It shows just how refreshed the band was to have such a fine guitarist like Gilmour replacing Syd in the band.  David Gilmour, after Pink Floyd blew up, was always an enigma to me.  The following albums were creatively lame Prog rock disasters and just how far can you take a continual stream of soaring, grand, guitar parts? (Yawn)

What I liked most about ‘Fearless’ and the lazy pace and cool guitar progression it perfectly illustrates the essence of the sound I liked most about Pink Floyd.  They perfected the lazy earthy rock and roll song in between the experiments in the Pre-Dark Side era with expert musicianship and wonderful vocals.  (If only the modern throw back surfer bands today were half as talented…)

‘San Tropez’ is the next track and I remember being totally confused as to it being on this album.  It was jazzy and you could practically feel the ocean breeze rattling the fine China tea cups and plates and I thought WTF.  I appreciate it more today.  It’s pretty much a brilliantly executed mood piece.  i could listen to it over and over.

‘Seamus’ might well have been called shameless.  A pointless exercise that shows they can do a blues number of little interest to anyone and then the irritating dog barking?  It presaged Waters’s penchant for providing excessive sound effects to render some pretty solid rock and roll hard to listen to.  ‘Seamus’ is a clunker, folks.

That was side one of Meddle.

Side two is ‘Echoes’.  One song, one eventful epic that put this folksy, art rock band firmly in the Prog rock category of which it would never leave.

Since my introduction to Dark Side of the Moon came ahead of my listening to Meddle I didn’t appreciate this 21 minute song perhaps as much as I should have, but frankly, it still doesn’t hold up all that well for me.  The dramatic pounding drone of the rhythm section, the submarine echoey ping and then the over the top Waters/Gilmour vocals sweep.  They nailed this sound better on their following album.  ‘Echoes’ seemed to be the first real over the top leap Pink Floyd did into Progressive rock, a genre I’ve had no interest in in decades.  The drama, the acute orchestrated sound.  Here Pink Floyd went from a folk-electric band with a penchant for artsy filler to sharing record shelf space with Jethro Tull and Genesis.

But there is no compromise on the quality of Pink Floyd.  Waters/Gilmour/Mason created a type of rock and roll majesty and presentation all their own.  While I lost interest in the band for a very long time and convinced myself in the 80s that the reckless, quickly recorded noisy ‘Animals’ was the only Pink Floyd worth listening to, I have since found my player loaded with Obscured by Clouds and a handful of tracks spread across all the Pre-Dark Side era, including several from Meddle.  These songs for me capture a certain time and place ahead of the egos and politics that would handcuff probably Gilmour as much as Waters.  And as the song goes, “The memories of a man in his old age, are the deeds of a man in his prime…

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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