Imagine a madman being locked into a room with nothing but a handful of instruments. Ya, the results would be pretty crazy. Well Pink Floyd had four madmen. The results: an acid trip through a space jungle, with Pink Floyd as your guide. This tour takes you to the borderline of the sane and insane. It ventures into places with sounds unheard of before, at the time. It takes you to beautiful paradises and to torture chambers of the worst kind. This tour is named Ummagumma. Ummagumma is an experience, with no other quite like it. This Pink Floyd at their most ambitious and experimental.
So let's begin our tour.
Ummagumma starts off with the live disc. They perform only four songs: Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, and A Saucerful Of Secrets. They beef up Astronomy Domine and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun to 8 minute plus epics. This shows Floyd's first development from psychedelic to progressive. Their is more attention to the keyboards on Astronomy Domine and it has several rhythmic changes. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun can't help but sound like a progressive song. It features a keyboard solo, spacey soundscapes, and rhythmic changes. Careful With That Axe Eugene and A Saucerful Of Secrets can be playing a beautiful melody and when you least expect it, it explodes into a wall of noise. The live album is all around exceptional and every song is enjoyable. Though it will leave you unprepared for the second disc.
It begins with a majestic eastern opening, with symbols crashing and horns playing. And then the piano enters, and it is absolutely incredible, though sadly the bliss doesn't last. Richard Wright starts banging on the keys like there is no tomorrow. All rhythm disappears and the song has lost all control. Sustained muddy chords are running all over each other and random notes are played in no order. It is complete chaos. And that's not even half of the song. The first two parts of Sysphus foretell the rest of the song. Their is only a brief moment of beauty before it descends into madness. For example Sysphus continues into part 3 with percussion all over the place and animals screaming bloody murder. It's disturbing and uncomfortable to listen to but, but like in scary movies, your fingers are are covering your eyes but they still leave peeking room, because curiosity keeps you watching. Then part four comes in. He gives you 3 minutes of ambience and then it stops and a horrible piano chord keeps getting louder and louder and you keep thinking its going to explode but it doesn't and keeps getting louder, and louder and the chord just stays sustained while chaotic keyboard leads are playing. And the song ends with the same majestic beginning. Shouldn't any song this mad receive such an outro?
Manchester Meadows is Roger Waters' project and it really drags the album down a notch. It's a very mellow ballad, which is very boring and trying on one's patience. His voice is very relaxed and uninteresting and their is no major instrument work going on. The song wouldn't be near as bad if it wasn't seven minutes long, because it just drags and drags. But Roger's second project is exceptional; it also features the longest song title I have ever heard. Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict sounds just like the title explains. It's a dance track with screaming animals keeping the beat, and strange voices saying things. The animal screams are all over the place and can be quite irritating. At the end a man is saying something and then it fades out. It's quite enjoyable and, the most original dance song you will ever hear.
David Gilmour's project really shows the direction Floyd was headed. The Narrow Way shows faint similarities to Echoes and Hey You. The first part is an acoustic guitar playing a fast paced melody with spacey echo-ladened effects in the background. The second part has a deep funky guitar lick playing while spacey effects in the background create a spacey soundscape. It fades perfectly into part three, which is the best part of all Ummagumma. A chorus drenched chord comes in and it's gorgeous. Gilmour starts singing accompanied by a piano. The song has a dark, dreamy feel to it. The chorus is very soothing and calming, which is rare in this album. The same spacey effects of the previous parts enter and compliment the song perfectly. The piano and guitar play until the song fades out. A dreamy, but haunting song.
The final project The Grand Vizer's Garden Party enters with a flute welcoming all the guests to the party. Then drums with echo come in and it sounds great. The percussion continues and then it quiets down. Then the most awesome part of the album begins. It's simply a synth playing 3 or 4 note but it's incredible. Though all good things have an end and the percussion returns. A drum roll starts playing and it cuts on and off and it sounds pretty strange. Nick then makes a strange rhythm with it all. The unorganized rhythms continue for a while and then he plays a drum solo till the end of the song. The same flute plays a farewell tune to all who listened and it marks the end of Ummagumma.
This is definitely not Floyd's most accessible work. Three out of the five songs on the studio album have rhythm and don't have noises all over the place. While both albums are good, none provide great casual listening. The studio album especially. I recommended this album to Floyd fans and anyone who likes experimental music. It's quite a unique album and the start of Pink Floyd's road to greatness.