Review Summary: A small window teasing a vast universe
Pink Floyd’s career cannot be captured or summarized on a single or even double CD. There have been countless of compilations released over the years, and even though all of them have their merits, none of them can really serve as anything more than a very basic and shallow look at a great band’s legacy and art. Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd was released in November 2001 and is generally considered the best available Pink Floyd compilation album, but only if you do not take into account the live album Pulse.
The album is divided into two CDs, but really the order of the songs seems jumbled up and the album does not seem to follow a certain pattern. As could be expected not all the band’s albums are represented. Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother and Obscured by Clouds do not have any songs included, and even though these albums make up the Pink Floyd’s lesser back catalog it would have been a nice surprise to include songs like ‘Fat Old Sun’ and ‘Childhood’s End’.
Pink Floyd enjoyed their hay day during the 70s, when they released four near-flawless albums in a row. Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall are the band’s most popular albums and for good reason, so rightfully a great portion of the songs are taken from this era. Tracks like ‘Time’, ‘Money’, ‘Comfortably Numb’ and the definition of a perfect 5 minute rock track, ‘Wish You Were Here’, are all recognizable songs for the casual listener and also fan favorites. ‘Sheep’ is taken from Animals, a long and powerfully written social critique with some brilliant guitar work, unfortunately without its companion pieces the song doesn’t quite feel as fulfilling. Still it’s good to see Animals getting some richly deserved exposure.
Monster tracks ‘Echoes’ and the emotional tribute ‘Shine on Your Crazy Diamond’ are also included, although unfortunately at a reduced size. Most bands would have just taken the easy way out, and simply not included 20+ minute tracks on a compilation, it’s not like Pink Floyd didn’t have any other songs to pick. But Pink Floyd never really took the easy way out, so what we get here are chopped up version of great songs. They are still great in this edited version, but when someone is used to gold even silver is seen as an inadequate replacement.
The Barrett era is not forgotten either. This was a different time for the band, with a unique genius driving them forward. It was brought abruptly to an end when Syd Barrett had to leave due to some psychological problems. Gilmour, Waters, Mason and Wright would pay tribute to their comrade frequently in the future. ‘See Emily Play’, ‘Arnold Layne’, ‘Jugband Blues’ and ‘Bike’ are Barrett songs, and they show the earlier more whimsical nature of Pink Floyd. Sadly, the instrumental epic ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ is not included.
As pretty much everyone in this universe and beyond knows, Pink Floyd’s end was anything but smooth. Waters had a falling out with the rest of the members, and after releasing what is essentially a solo album, he left Pink Floyd. Gilmour, Mason and Wright went on and released two decent but at the end disappointing releases to bring to a close Pink Floyd’s musical journey. ‘Learning to Fly’ is a great and very popular Pink Floyd song from this final era. The lyrics are powerful and colorfully descriptive, and although Gilmour’s vocal performance is a bit monotone, it is still a worthy song. ‘High Hopes’ is also one of the band’s best songs, and is also significant since it’s the last song on the very last album, but only a reduced version is included. Fortunately, the song is cut only by about a minute so it comes out relatively unharmed.
Pink Floyd is an album band, and here the listener gets exactly would is expected, snippets of a whole. The casual listener will enjoy hearing the radio hits, but the more avid follower might start missing the unity that is a part of all of the band’s great works of art.