Review Summary: A less loved album of Pink Floyd. Still, it represents a turning point in their career.
“Atom Heart Mother” is the fifth studio album of Pink Floyd and was released in 1970. The line up on the album is David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Roger Waters and Nick Mason. The album had also the participation of Alan Styles, Haflidi Hallgrimsson, John Alldis Choir and Philip Jones Brass Ensemble as guests.
As many of we know, Pink Floyd was an English prog rock band formed in Cambridge in 1965, which achieved the international success with the psychedelic and the prog rock music. Their work was marked by the use of philosophical and political lyrics, musical experimentation, innovative album covers and elaborated shows. Pink Floyd is one of the most influential and commercially successful prog rock bands, having sold over 200 million albums around the world.
The band originally consisted of Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and Syd Barrett. Initially they became popular in the late 60’s in London’s underground scene. Under Barrett’s leadership, they released a successful album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”. David Gilmour joined the band in 1968, months before Barrett’s departure from the band, due to his state of mental deterioration, aggravated by drugs. In the end of the 60’s they released, “A Saucerful Of Secrets”, “More” and “Ummagumma”. “Atom Heart Mother”, which is the subject of this review, was released in 1970.
Gilmour described “Atom Heart Mother” as “a load of rubbish... we were scraping the barrel a bit at that period” and Waters said that if anyone was foolish enough to ask him to perform it now, he would tell them unequivocally: “You must be ***ing joking”. And yet, “Atom Heart Mother” marked the moment that Pink Floyd came in from the cold of their post-Barrett era and found the way forward and towards everything we now remember of them best for. Not simple psychedelia or mere prog entertainment, but a clearly thought-out. It’s faltering, enticing, yet gloriously individualistic.
“Atom Heart Mother” can be divided in two parts. The first and the last tracks are the lengthiest and the collective efforts of the band and the third, fourth and fifth tracks are the individual efforts of the musicians. “Atom Heart Mother” was the first recording of the band with a full orchestra in collaboration with the avant-garde composer Ron Geesin.
The title track is the lengthiest track and occupies the entire side A of the vinyl disc. It’s an orchestral piece. This is an excellent, interesting and original instrumental piece where the connection between the band and the orchestra is very good. It’s probably the lengthiest instrumental track made by them. “If” is a simple and beautiful ballad, very melodic, pleasant and relaxing, almost played on the acoustic guitar. “Summer ‘68” is a beautiful song more complex and interesting than “If”. Here we have the contrast of the soft piano with the bombastic trumpet. It’s the most energetic track. “Fat Old Sun” is a typical Gilmour’s song. It’s a peaceful, beautiful and relaxing ballad. “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” is the other lengthiest instrumental piece. It has sound effects and dialogues between each part, made by the then roadie Alan Stiles, a Pink Floyd roadie who appeared on the back cover of “Ummagumma”, preparing, discussing and eating his breakfast. It’s a funny piece with good instrumental moments. It’s a great instrumental track.
The art cover of the album was designed by Hipgnosis and it was the first not to feature the band’s name on the cover or contain any photographs of the group anywhere. It would be a trend mark for the group. The album’s cover is one of the most enigmatic of all in the music history. The most famous bovine of the rock appears on the album’s cover. The cow, named Lulubelle III was photographed in a rural farm in the English countryside by Storm Thorgerson, who is an English famous graphic designer known for his works for prog rock bands like Pink Floyd, 10cc, Dream Theatre, The Mars Volta and The Cranberries. He said his work was inspired by Andy Warhol’s famous “cow-wallpaper”. Curiously, the record company paid to the property owner about a thousand pounds for the image rights of the animal. And even more curious, the property became a tourist attraction, and Lulubelle III a true celebrity in the show business world.
Conclusion: Despite the unfavorable opinions of Waters and Gilmour, I think this is a very important transitional album for Pink Floyd. We can say that “Atom Heart Mother” is an album with many progressive features and that turned out to be the real turning point in the band’s music. These changes would culminate on their next studio album “Meddle”. “Atom Heart Mother” can be considered a true classic Pink Floyd’s album. From its epics and calming tracks, to its memorable and original Thogerson’s cover of Lulubelle III, it should be recognized as a great album, by any Pink Floyd’s fan and critic. However, as a transitional album, like “A Saucerful Of Secrets” was, I wouldn’t recommend it, to anyone that intend to be introduced to the Pink Floyd’s music. “The Dark Side Of The Moon” or “Wish You Were Here” are the right places to start, but “Atom Heart Mother” remains, definitely, a must have for any decent musical collection.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)