Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pink Floyd - 1967 [1994] "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn"

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is the debut studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, and the only one made under founder member Syd Barrett's leadership. The album, named after the title of chapter seven of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows[1] and featuring a kaleidoscopic cover photo taken by Vic Singh, was recorded from February to May 1967. It was produced by Beatles engineer Norman Smith and released in 1967 by EMI Columbia in the United Kingdom and Tower in the United States, in August and October respectively.
The release of the album in the US was timed with the band's tour of the US. In the UK, no singles were released from the album, but in the US "Flaming" was offered as a single. The US version of the album has a rearranged tracklist, and contains the UK non-album single, "See Emily Play". Two of the album's songs, "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive", became central to the band's setlist around this period, while other songs were performed only a handful of times.
Since its release, the album has been hailed as one of the best psychedelic rock albums of all time. In 1973, it was packaged with the band's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, and released as A Nice Pair to introduce new fans to the band's early work after the success of The Dark Side of the Moon. Special limited editions of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn were issued to mark its thirtieth and fortieth anniversaries in 1997 and 2007, respectively, with the latter release containing bonus tracks. In 2012, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was voted 347th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

1967's "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" is the one that started it all for Pink Floyd, back in the early days when bassist Roger Waters, keyboardist Richard Wright & drummer Nick Mason were led by the genius, but doomed singer/guitarist Syd Barrett. Psychedelic rock doesn't get much more trippier than "Piper," a totally far-out collection of avant-garde space rock, songs about gnomes and scarecrows, off-the-wall production and sound effects, and superb performances by a tight British art-rock band that were destined to become rock legends. Although he made one last "cameo" appearance with the Floyd on their second album, "A Saucerful Of Secrets" with that album's closing number, "Jugband Blues," the lion's share of Syd Barrett's legacy with the band is all contained right here on "Piper," barring a few early singles. Writing all but one song, and, with a charismatic singing voice and incredible guitar-playing skills, Barrett was truly a musical genius, and his equally-talented bandmates match him song for song. Every track on the album is a highlight in it's own right, but certainly worth mentioning are such tracks as the opening space rock of "Astronomy Domine," the before-there-was-alternative alternative rock of "Lucifer Sam," the far-out instrumentals "Pow R Toc H" and "Interstellar Overdrive," the frenetic rock of "Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk" (written & sung by Waters, in his debut composition for the band), the charming tale of "The Gnome," and the classic, half children's song/half freak-out finale, "Bike," which starts out cheerily enough before giving way to some deliciously wacko noises and sound effects.Sadly, and tragically, shortly after the release of "Piper," Syd Barrett's experimentations with psychedelic drugs ultimately destroyed him, and he was finally ousted from the band. Roger Waters more-or-less took over as the group's leader, and Barrett's vacated slot was filled by guitarist David Gilmour. Barrett, despite his drug-addicted state, would record a pair of solo albums before dropping out of the music business altogether. Not well enough to look after himself, he quietly lived in the care of family members until his death in 2006. Pink Floyd, meanwhile, would go on to major superstardom and sell millions of albums, with such classics as "Dark Side Of The Moon," "Wish You Were Here," "Animals" and "The Wall." But "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" was the band's very first chapter, and one that would not have been possible without the great Syd Barrett. "Piper" is outstanding psychedelic rock, and a Pink Floyd classic. And thank you, Syd, wherever you are.

At the time The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was originally released in 1967, it was one among many aurally ripped, acid-tripped albums including Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced, Cream's Disraeli Gears, Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing at Baxter's, and, of course, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which the Beatles were recording down the hall from Pink Floyd at Abbey Road. But as those albums have gracefully slipped into the mainstream of our music consciousness, Piper, along with The Velvet Underground and Nico, still sounds like it broke through from another dimension. Pink Floyd were employing musique concrete techniques, inventing glissando guitar, and exploring areas of trance with tunes like "Interstellar Overdrive," actually two takes of an extended rave-up laid on top of each other. Mixing sci-fi imagery with swinging London metaphors and pastoral fantasies (the title is lifted from The Wind in the Willows), Pink Floyd's music was even more dappled, swirled, and surreal than the light shows that accompanied their performances. Piper represented Syd Barrett's vision as the sole composer of all but three songs. He was yet to have his acid-induced meltdowns, and all things were possible and beautiful. Barrett mixed whimsy on "Bike" with cynicism on the wordless but ominous "Pow R. Toc H."; goofy innocence on "The Gnome" and mysticism on "Chapter 24." But there's no doubting the contributions of Richard Wright with his swirling, reverb-drenched organ fugues and jazz ellipses and Roger Waters's earth-rooted bass. Nick Mason's underrated drumming, time-shifting polyrhythms, and colorful flourishes pushed Barrett's elliptical pop even further over the edge, especially on the space-music opus "Astronomy Domine." The original album was recorded on only four tracks, making stereo effects and panning somewhat rudimentary and often annoying. But this expanded release includes a full mono mix of the album which provides a more coherent sound and, surprisingly, a bit more depth. Some of the songs are just wacky, some of the technology and tape edits rough-hewn, but The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is one of those albums that actually appears more radical in retrospect.

Tracks Listing

1. Astronomy Domine (4:12)
2. Lucifer Sam (3:07)
3. Matilda Mother (3:08)
4. Flaming (2:46)
5. Pow R. Toc H. (4:26)
6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk (3:05)
7. Interstellar Overdrive (9:41)
8. The Gnome (2:13)
9. Chapter 24 (3:42)
10. Scarecrow (2:11)
11. Bike (3:21)

Total Time: 41:52


- Syd Barrett / guitar, vocals
- Nick Mason / drums
- Roger Waters / bass, vocals
- Richard Wright / organ, piano