The Early Years 1965 - 1972:
The Individual Volumes
First released as part of The Early Years 1965-1972 box set, The Individual Volumes, as they are called, are now available as six individual multi-disc book-bound CD, DVD & Blu-ray packages filled with rare tracks, outtakes, demos, interviews, and film footage of Pink Floyd before The Dark Side Of The Moon turned them into international superstars. The Early Years 1965-1972 box set that dropped in late 2016 may have lost perspective customers because of its high price tag ($500 and up). Fortunately, for around $50, fans can now narrow it down to their favorite year or period, and still walk away with a hardy selection of sights and sounds.
For this review, the focus is on the three sets from the 1970s — 1970 (DEVI/ATION), 1971 (REVERBER/ATION) and 1972 (OBFUSC/ATION). There’s little debate that the 70s was Pink Floyd’s most fertile period; a time when they found their voice, their sound and their place in outer space. One area where Floyd gained traction was in film soundtracks. In 1969, they recorded the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack From The Film More to get their feet wet. A year later, they refined the process with Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, a soundtrack they shared with the Grateful Dead. Three songs from Pink Floyd made the cut on the original soundtrack album, and a further four showed up on an expanded 1997 reissue. 1970 (DEVI/ATION) compiles remixed and updated versions of the Zabriskie Point material.
The 1970 (DEVI/ATION) set doesn’t stop there. Numerous versions of Atom Heart Mother, the band’s first Number One album in the UK, are featured, including its live debut on the BBC. The DVD and Blu-ray has an original quad mix of the studio album, extracts of the title track pop up in French TV coverage of the St. Tropez festival in Southern France, and the full piece is part of a full hour of footage from a broadcast on San Francisco’s KQED. The Bay Area cable channel somehow managed to capture one of the most complete live performances on film from this period, which made it a heavily circulated favorite within the bootleg community. This restoration, though not without its imperfections, certainly changes its status.
There are more extracts of Atom Heart Mother on 1971 (REVERBER/ATION) — from Germany (brush up on your German for the documentary), Austria, and Japan, with and without choirs and orchestras. This is the time of the Meddle album, which includes the epic “Echoes,” considered to be the forerunner for The Dark Side Of The Moon. The set’s CD includes “Echoes” as a shiny fragment (entitled “Nothing Part 14”) and a live take from the group’s September 30 appearance on the BBC (at the end of a set that includes “Fat Old Sun, “ One Of These Days,” and “Embryo”). The DVD and Blu-ray open up new possibilities with a quad mix of “Echoes.”
The video on 1971 (REVERBER/ATION) includes stirring and dramatic performances of “Set The Controls To The Heart of Sun” And “Cymbaline” before an audience of sophistos in tuxedos and evening gowns in France. More footage comprises interviews and scenes from airports and train stations. There’s a feature news piece on an enterprising gentleman who claims he received an endorsement from Pink Floyd to produce and distribute a bootleg. Manager Steve O’Rourke, sitting with the band, vehemently denies any such endorsement. And there’s another old short piece on Storm Thorgenson and Aubrey Powel, collectively known as Hipgnosis, talking about album covers they designed for Pink Floyd, including Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother.
1972 (OBFUSC/ATION) narrows its contents to Obscured By Clouds and Live At Pompeii. New remixes of both filled the two CDs, while the DVD and Blu-ray have a French documentary (learn your French for this one — David Gilmour did) about the making of Obscured By Clouds, which doubled as a soundtrack Barbet Schroeder’s film, La Vallée, and was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Hérouville, just north of Paris. More live clips from a June 29 Brighton Dome gig colorfully fill in the gaps and, and French news reports about the Pink Floyd and the Roland Petit ballet company are priceless, even in their redundancy.
Ending it all is Live At Pompeii, the film that features the band performing in the historic Roman amphitheatre of Pompeii (without an audience), directed by Adrian Maben. Utilizing the 2003 ‘Director’s Cut,” a new 5.1 mix of the soundtrack makes this especially enticing to audiophiles, already drowning in the audio ecstasy of the quad mixes of “Echoes” and Atom Heart Mother.
Topped off with replicated pieces of memorabilia (postcards, photos, fliers, etc.), these three Individual Volumes covering the 70s hardly tell the whole story, of course. Fans of the band’s origins and Syd Barrett era will certainly want to seek out 1965-1967 (CAMBRIDGE ST/ATION). The other two sets — 1968 (GERMIN/ATION) and 1969 (DRAMATIS/ATION) — are rich with nuggets from Gilmour’s first couple of years with the band. Naturally, with so much unreleased film coming out, one has to wonder if quality concert footage from the mid to the late 70s is sitting in the vault, awaiting public consumption. Even the bootleg market has been sorely lacking full-length concert footage of the celebrated Wish You Were Here and Animals tours. We can only hope that follow-up sets covering “The Prime Years” are in the works.
~ Shawn Perry