Review Summary: An outstanding and ambitious effort that is underappreciated.
Every successful band has a breakout album. Some take advantage of excellent debut records, while others take years to define their sound. In the case of Pink Floyd, the band had released several moderately successful psychedelic records, including debut “A Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” Throughout the late 60’s however, Pink Floyd began their shift to a more progressive sound while still retaining the psychedelic elements. Much of this was due to the need to replace lead guitarist and musical mastermind Syd Barrett in 1968, who showed signs of mental insanity. David Gilmour would replace Barrett, and would be instrumental in defining the band’s progressive sound. In 1971, Pink Floyd released “Meddle” in which would serve as their breakout album. It can be argued that without “Meddle;” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “Animals” never would have happened.
“Meddle” marks the beginning of Pink Floyd’s prime. In many ways the record is similar to masterpieces such as “Dark Side of the Moon,” but is somewhat inferior. This 45-minute piece is a typical progressive record in which has only 6 tracks, four of which exceed 5 minutes. The 23 and a half minute Echoes
is one of the band’s greatest accomplishments to this day and their longest track ever recorded. This record has a tremendous contrast in atmosphere, from the spacey and powerful One of These Days
to the soothing A Pillow of Winds
. In fact, the transition from the high-energy opener into A Pillow of Winds
is brilliant, and a complete change in mood. One of These Days
serves as an incredible opener complete with a perfect buildup. The track begins with wind-like sounds and a powerful bass line, and is complemented by engine-sounding leads by Gilmour. As the noise grows louder and stranger, drummer Nick Mason exclaims, “One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces!” The track proceeds with thumping bass, wailing guitars, and Mason beating his drums to a pulp. One of These Days
is extremely significant, for it illustrates the sheer originality that is associated with Pink Floyd.
A Pillow of Winds
offers a stark contrast to the opener, and is highlighted by soothing vocals by Gilmour. The track is overall very mellow and gives off somewhat of a “floating” vibe. This psychedelic trend is displayed throughout the remaining tracks; the upbeat yet relaxing Fearless
features spacey breakdowns and even crowd chanting at the end. Much of this album demonstrates that Syd Barrett is still very much with the band, even if he is not contributing. San Tropez
is a bouncy and “poppier” track that would not be out of place on “A Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” This trend continues with Seamus
, which is arguably the weakest track here, but serves as an excellent segue to the sheer masterpiece that is Echoes
proves to be Pink Floyd’s most ambitious effort, for it is a track that defines progressive music. Bell sounds, atmosphere changes, and excellent harmonies are only several significant characteristics. As you may imagine, Echoes
is a slow burning track that follows a bit of an A-B-A format. The song has several solo sections, which is where Gilmour’s guitar and Rick Wright’s keyboards shine. About eleven minutes into the song we are introduced to the strangest and most “boring” section of the track. The wind sounds of One of These Days
re-occurs here, and are complemented with screeching noises. While this is the least enjoyable section of the song, the effect that is given off is brilliant, displaying that Pink Floyd is still not afraid to go out of the box. It becomes clear around the 17-minute mark that Echoes
is building to a powerful and fitting climax as Gilmour utilizes a palm muted riff and Mason is quietly beating his drums senseless. Just as you expect the track to build to something greater, you are stunned when the track returns to the beginning once again, with Gilmour and Wright singing, “Cloudless everyday you fall upon my waking eyes, inviting and inciting me to rise.” The lyrical effect cannot be undermined, for the message of the track is truly tragic. Gilmour and Wright's final phrase is incredible, “And no-one sings me lullabies, And no-one makes me close my eyes, And so I throw the windows wide, And call to you across the sky.” As the wind sounds return and the track fades out, you can help but feel awed. The band for sure had to of felt a great sense of accomplishment, for this is arguably their most underappreciated work. “Meddle” deserves to be mentioned along with the other outstanding Pink Floyd records and really marks the beginning of the band’s prime.
One of These Days