164 of 177 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2004
The Amazon.com synopsis of "Ummagumma" is a little off, factwise; the part-live/part-studio "Ummagumma" was not the sole vision of bassist and, later, lead songwriter Roger Waters. It was in fact a group idea, sparked by the suggestion of keyboardist Richard Wright. With the studio album, each member was given half a vinyl side with which to experiment (key word), a move which some called self-indulgent, but it was no more self-indulgent than much of the Beatles' work (especially their films).
The live half of "Ummagumma" would be Pink Floyd's only official live release for nearly 20 years before 1988's "Delicate Sound of Thunder." The four selections are the ultimate document of Pink Floyd's psychedelic era, when they enjoyed playing live at smaller venues, as opposed to the arenas and stadiums of their post-"Dark Side of the Moon" days. Tracks that were already infinitely psychedelic in their studio parts are sent even further into space; 'Astronomy Domine' features an extended keyboard (or is it a mellotron?) solo, that brings a bit of beauty to an often spooky track, like the grim instrumental descent into insanity 'Careful With That Axe Eugene.' 'Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun' epitomized Pink Floyd's sound of the era, and the ominous 'A Saucerful of Secrets,' a conceptual instrumental about war, soars much higher than its studio version; David Gilmour's wordless vocal cries are much more emotional and powerful than they were before (and stronger than the version on the "Pink Floyd At Pompeii" film).
A late-70s "Encyclopedia of Rock" claimed that these live versions sounded "too close to the album versions." The writer obviously never listened to this album.
The material on the studio half is understandably difficult to enjoy if you're a new fan, or just not used to such unsual songs. But over time, one will find little pleasures in each one. Wright's operatic four-part instrumental 'Sysyphus' ranges from the dark and haunting to the serene and lovely. Roger Waters' 'Grantchester Meadows' is a surprisingly peaceful track from one of the gloomiest men in rock and roll, with a melancholy vocal reading, one of the most non-psychedelic of the Floyd's psychedelic era (the same can't be said about 'Several Species...' which is one of the most bizarre, erratic songs under Pink Floyd's belt). David Gilmour's winding, three-part 'The Narrow Way' shows his blossoming talent with both guitar and vocals, and never becomes boring. The final effort, 'The Grand Vizier's Garden Party,' is done by drummer Nick Mason and features opening and closing flutes, filled with engaging drum solos, with a melancholy tape effect at about the middle of Part 2; it's hard to tell exactly what makes that haunting sound, but it's nonetheless the highlight of the song.
Although most of the members of Pink Floyd share the same opinion that "Ummagumma" was a failure in artistic senses, they all seem to agree that its conceptual ideas--creating long, unbroken pieces of music that go through various themes--were the seeds for later triumphs such as the 'Echoes,' and various moods and ideas that wind through such albums as "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here."
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2011
Pink Floyd's fourth (and first double) album entitled Ummagumma was released in November of 1969.
This double album is basically two albums in one package. The title of the album is an old Cambridgeshire slang term for a word I cannot use.
I first got this album as a Christmas present from my paternal grandmother whom unfortunately passed away on Valentine's Day 2004 on cassette (which, on the US version, was missing three live tracks present on the CD and LP issues) in 1987. Then, I first acquired on CD in August, 1991 with the full album (to hear the live tracks which were wrongly excised from the cassette).
The first disc is a live album that the band recorded at a club called Mothers in Birmingham, England and the Manchester College of Commerce in Manchester, England in April and June of 1969 respectively.
The first track is a wonderful, extended reading of "Astronomy Domine" this time featuring keyboard player Rick Wright singing the lower parts Syd originally sang and guitarist/singer David Gilmour singing the higher harmonies. The song is a great showpiece for David's excellent guitar work and Rick's fantastic keyboard work. Next is "Careful With That Axe Eugene" (deleted from the original US cassette issue) which is more sinister and longer than the hurried studio version with bass player/vocalist Roger Waters' demonic screaming and excellent drumming from drummer Nick Mason and excellent playing by Wright and Gilmour as well.
"Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun" (also deleted from the original US cassette issue) follows and buries the studio version once again featuring extra keyboard work by Rick whom was one of the best keyboard players in rock history (although unjustly overlooked) and Roger sang this track with more passion. The first disc ends with "A Saucerful of Secrets" (blasphemously deleted from the original US cassette issue) which surpasses the studio version although I love the version from Pompeii too. The ending section of Saucerful is way different than the studio as Rick's organ is this time joined by bass guitar, drums, electric guitar and David's scat vocal making it more of a jam than a funeral hymn that was on the studio version.
Disc two consists of a solo piece or two by the four band members and came about because of Rick's frustrations with doing just rock music. We start this with Rick Wright's solo piece was the four-part "Sysyphus" which features Rick's jazz and classical influences and his keyboard work on the mellotron and piano and organ gives me a shiver down the spine each time I hear it (some may call it pretentious but I love it). Roger has two solo pieces. First, is the folk-tinged acoustic number "Grantchester Meadows" which was his song about his childhood in Cambridge and was the third song he ever had a lead vocal (Stethoscope on Piper and Set the Controls on Saucerful were his other two lead vocal tracks by then). Next, was the avant-garde tape effect with Scottish dialect rant laden "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict".
David Gilmour for his solo piece combined his rock, blues and folk influences in the three part "The Narrow Way". The first part was preliminarily recorded on the BBC as "Baby Blue Shuffle" in early 1969. Then part 2 is Gilmour displaying his guitar and bass guitar playing with tape effects. Then part 3 has Gilmour's vocal plus David singing harmonies with himself plus he plays guitars, bass guitar and he also handles drums and keyboards (his drum and keyboard debut on record by the way). The Narrow Way is, hands down, my favorite solo piece on the second disc. The solo disc ends with Nick Mason's three part "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" which is a Nick Mason drum solo and shows that he is a great drummer. Nick's then wife Lindy did the flute solos on the intro and outro sections.
Ummagumma was Pink Floyd's first album to crack in the U.S. Top 100 on Billboard peaking at #74 in early 1970 (thanks in part due to word of mouth and college kids blasting out of their dormatories back them) and the album eventually went Gold in early 1974 (after the success of Dark Side of the Moon) and eventually Platinum (in March, 1994).
In 2011, as part of the Why Pink Floyd? campaign, the album is re-released in a remastered version which is (to my ears) an improvement on the 1994/95 remaster which sounded lifeless (even the 1980s Capitol/EMI CD was better than the 1990s remaster) and also comes with booklet featuring credits, photos and COMPLETE LYRICS (even including the lyrics to "The Narrow Way" which was absent from the 1990s remaster).
If you like the Floyd from 1973 forward then you may be turned off by some of the pieces but if you are a hardcore Floyd fan and/or have an open ear like myself, I highly recommend this album.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Released in 1969, this experimental album consisted of solo works by each member of the band along with a disc of live material. I think that of the pre-Dark Side of the Moon albums, this may be the most difficult to listen to for most folks, although I really do like this album and appreciate the fact that the band was experimenting with different approaches to composition. The lineup at this point included Rick Wright (organ, piano, mellotron, vocals); Roger Waters (bass, vocals); Nick Mason (drums and percussion); and David Gilmour (electric and acoustic guitars; vocals).
The solo works are quite different from one another with Rick's moody keyboard opus demonstrating his fondness for Stockhausen and featuring some very dissonant and atonal sections. Dave's piece was a bit more of a straightforward rock piece and very good, although he has been quoted as saying he did not like it very much. Nick's drum piece is excellent and demonstrates just how creative a drummer he was (and still is) - for those of you that are curious, his track is not just a drum solo, but a very interesting "sound collage" with drums. Roger's pieces range from the pastoral (Grantchester Meadows) to the downright bizarre (Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict). The latter piece is purely a sound collage, with little in the way of what one would regard as melody, harmony, etc. Still, it is interesting nonetheless.
The live disc is what I used to get excited about and features excellent versions of A Saucerful of Secrets and especially Careful with that Axe Eugene - the screams are positively hair-raising. The energy of the live performances is pretty intense and the brooding and creepy mood of tunes like Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun is something that never fails to excite (or frighten depending on your perspective).
This remastered version is pretty good and features a mini-poster along with the two CDs packaged in a green cardboard case. The sound quality of the studio pieces is not bad, although the sound quality of the live disc is a bit grainy - very listenable though.
All in all, this is a good album by Pink Floyd that features the group experimenting through their solo works, and demonstrating what an exciting live unit they were. In fact, the live set is an excellent document from this early phase of Pink Floyd. Ummagumma (which is slang for copulation I believe) is recommended along with Piper at the Gates of Dawn 1967); A Saucerful of Secrets (1968); More (1969); Atom Heart Mother (1970); Meddle (1971); Obscured by Clouds (1972); and Animals (1977).
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2002
There is little doubt that 1969's "Ummagumma" substantiated Pink Floyd's psychedelic cult band status further than they had before, whether intentionally or not. To say the least, it is different from the Floyd's later, more successful, works; there is no central concept or theme. There are no moody outbursts against a rigid educational system or campaigners for censorship. There is no united co-musicianship (though this time it is not the result of bitter feelings among the members). But there is one essential element that paints this album with an intriguing color; ruthless freedom of experimentation.
According to the band, one purpose of "Ummagumma" (the title is enough to suggest its strange yet inventive manner) was to allow each individual member his chance to experiment half a side of vinyl, doing whatever he wanted with it. The result may seem self-indulgent and needless to say, weird, by our naive standards, but it was undoubtedly innovative and natural.
Through the live disc, we are introduced to the atmosphere of "Ummagumma" until we can clearly see into the world that lies ahead; the spacey psychedelic sounds form an imagery that is complex beyond measure. I remember playing the extraordinary live version of "Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun" for a friend, who remarked, "If I walked into someone's basement and they were playing this music, I'd get out of there as fast as I could." This reaction is not unexpected upon the first listen to the disc. But once one realizes that Pink Floyd's intention was not to scare--and that none of the memebers were on drugs at this time--they will be able to appreciate the world they've created here.
Then comes the unappreciated but undeniably inventive experimental concoction that is the studio album. We are greeted with keyboardist Rick Wright's four-part opus, "Sysyphus." Named after a character of Greek mythology, the instrumental comprised of heavy organ and piano movement, seems to tell its own story of the mythological character without intending to. An example of Wright's talent as a musician. From here we are cradled by bassist Roger Waters' acoustic peaceful melody, "Grandchester Meadows," complete with early foreshadowings of his moody yet assuring brilliant lyrics. But after the final acoustic notes, we hear the unexpected sounds of a man swatting at a fly, and are thrown into, perhaps Pink Floyd's most unusual song to date, "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict." The "instruments" Waters used were his own belly and coffee tables as drums, with several sound effects. The raving spoken word lyrics go (officially) undeciphered to this day. From here, guitarist David Gilmour provides a reasonable aftershock with the three-part "The Narrow Way." With this song, Gilmour blossomed, in an early stage in Pink Floyd's history. And then we are flung from heavy guitars to the flute intro of drummer Nick Mason's opus "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party." The entire second part is one long percussion solo, besides some sound effects sprinkled throughout the track's surprisingly pleasant effect. Another pair of flutes punctuate the album's exit.
I strongly recommend "Ummagumma" to those dabbling in the psychedelic space-rock arts; this is the unsung vanguard of its genre, a feat Pink Floyd has accomplished more than once. Presented here in limited edition deluxe packaging and pure remastering, "Ummagumma" can be fully appreciated for what it is; a world of its own, ready to be discovered again and again.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2002
Pink Floyd's collossal ability is showcased here, on this phenomenal double album. As a musical statement, it is often misunderstood, but it's brilliance lies in its striking originality. At just over 86 minutes long Ummagumma is the Floyd's unique exposition on the capabilities of experimental music. It consists of one live disc and one studio disc. The live album blows away all competition in a dazzeling explosion of glorious space rock-Pink Floyd style. The studio album allows each member to record individually. The results reveal deep talent and imagination and it's a shame that so few people bother to listen to it.
The live album is just too cool not to be Floyd. The four tracks, extended versions of "Astronomy Domine", "Careful with that Axe, Eugene", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets", all achieve such incredible sonic depth that it's difficult to imagine that sound coming from any physical object or being. Few bands had the intuitive chemistry of the Pink Floyd and, in my humble opinion, none had the composing ability or distinctive sound. In all honesty, the Who were probably THE greatest live band of all time, but my personal preference is for the Floyd (but I still think "The Who Live at Leeds" is the ultimate live rock'n'roll album).
The Floyd's brand of psychedelic jamming is unique and these live cuts are a treat for the enlightened listener's ears. The instruments are at one with the muscicians and the musicians are at one with each other. Roger contributes pulsating bass, hearty whacks to a gong and some terrifying screams. His whispered vocals on "Set the controls..." are suitably mysterious. Dave goes at his guitar like a demon and his wordless vocals on "Saucerful..." are exceptional. Rick's keyboards, both the sinister soloing and the shimmering chords, are integral to the sound and Nick lays down more dynamic grooves than you'd think possible in just four numbers. The track selection is faultless (not that they were spoilt for choice at this stage in their career!). "Astronomy Domine" is the perfect opener, with its many explosive climaxes. Daves guitar seems to roar gently inbetween notes but there is nothing gentle about his playing on the fearsome "Eugene", where his wall-of-sound approach, which kicks in after Roger's famous scream, consists mainly of menacing powerchords, punctuated by high-pitched feedback shrieks. The hypnotic dirge, "Set the controls..." builds up to a frenzied clatter of drums and various edge-of-the-universe sounds. Then the band treat us to a truly memorable rendition of "A Saucerful of Secrets". It begins with the sombre bass and organ soundscape of the first movement (titled "something else") before the first glass-splintering organ licks signal the start of the chaotic second movement (aptly titled "syncopated pandamonium"). The third movement, "storm signal", is dominated by Nick's insistent drum pattern. The final movement, "Celestial voices", is a beautiful dreamscape that lifts the soul with a sensational mixture of drums, bass, organ, guitar and soulful wailing. This is the pure undiluted sound of Pink Floyd putting all of their effort into making music and never bothering with a lyric when a murderous scream will do.
On the studio album, each member does his own thing, sometimes to jaw-dropping effect. At other times they are content to merely make the listener aware that some sounds exist that nobody ever made before. It begins with Wright's keyboard-orientated, avant garde classical instrumental, "Sysyphus". It's indulgent and over-serious but brilliant and it proves what an excellent composer Rick is.
After the classical grandeur of "Sysyphus", Roger gives us the wonderfully mellow ballad, "Grantchester Meadows". It really does bring "sounds of yesterday into this city room". The birdsong, trickling water, acoustic guitar, smooth singing and soothing lyrics create a dreamy seven minutes of relaxation, which ends with the sound of an unfortunate fly being swatted (typical of Water's humour). Roger's other composition is the mad piece of entertainment: "Several species of small fury animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict". (the pict is almost incomprehensible but I'm sure he says something about "the wind cried mary" and "Bob is dead!"
Dave created something wonderful with "the narrow way", a three part epic that begins with a tuneful acoustic guitar section that has heavenly backing vocals and weird effects in the background that jump beautifully between the guitar notes and gradually get louder and then sink into a dark and unnerving riff that sounds like Tony Iommi playing "set the controls..." on a worn out telecaster with only three strings. Part three is really classic though. The singing is really good and the fact that Gilmour uses keybourds, bass and drums as well as guitar make it sound more like a group effort than the other studio cuts.
"The Narrow way" would have made a climatic ending but as an encore comes Nick Mason's effort. "The Grand Visier's Garden party" is a complex sound collage, which builds layers of percussion and stretches recording technology to the brink. It makes an interesting listen and the drum solo at the end of part two is superb. Nick closes the piece and the album with unassuming flutes.
Ummagumma is a monument of couragious sound experiments that has every right to the respect it never gets. Incidentally, "ummagumma" is an English euphemism for shagging.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2000
My God, this album! When our poshly spoken psychedelic hero'sfirst unleashed it upon an unsuspecting record buying public, mostFloyd fans were still lamenting the departure of arch-loon Syd Barrett from the band. `Piper at the Gates of Dawn' was a distant memory and `Saucerful of Secrets' had given us a first glimpse of the new David Gilmour-driven musical re-energisation of the weird world of Roger Waters' mind. The live album of this two record set has blistering versions of four pieces drawn from previous albums and those of us lucky to have caught them live at this stage in their career, will never forget the raw power and weirdness of `Astronomy Domine', `Careful With That Axe Eugene', `Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun' and `Saucerful of Secrets'. `Careful with that Axe Eugene' must have one of the eeriest openings of all time, building quietly, menacingly, until Waters' bass line seems to pause in one key before the awful agony of that inhuman scream. The cosmic sounds of `Set the Controls', made it easy to imagine oneself alone aboard an old twenty-third century doomed space wreck, whilst the inexorable crescendo of the last section of `Saucerful of Secrets', has to be one of the great moments in rock history - up there with the opening riff of `Voodoo Chile', or Jimmy Page's classic chord sequence in `Stairway to Heaven'. As if this wasn't enough to satisfy the cravings of fifty million space cadets, the studio recording took the listener to a place further out than Timothy Leary's mind! People who don't remember what sound recording was like before stereo, will have to try and imagine what effect the luminosity of this music had on the listener of the day. It wasn't that stereo was new technology, but this was the first time I can remember it being used in such a way. From it's ominous opening and Rick Wright's Satie-esque piano meanderings which eventually collapse into madness, on through the surreal pastoral tranquility of `Grantchester Meadows' and the utterly lunatic and wonderfully satirical, `Several Species of Small Furry Animals etc'. Having revisited this music in the year 2000, this reviewer is pleased to report that it still has the power to amaze and enthrall and to those younger music fans who are unaware of Pink Floyd pre-DSOTM, I urge you to beg, borrow or steal a copy of the re-mastered 1994 version and take a couple of hours out, to set sail on this venerable ocean of weirdness.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2007
It was pretty hard for me to choose a Floyd album to review as I consider most of their records close, personal friends. But after mulling it over, I settled on Ummagumma. It isn't my favorite Floyd album. Heck, it's not even in my top five, but I chose to focus on this album for a number of reasons.
When this record first came out, Pink Floyd's future was anything but certain. They had just lost their lead singer and chief composer, Syd Barrett, and the rest of the band (including newly joined Dave Gilmour) was struggling to take up the reins. Saucerful of Secrets, their second studio album, was the band's first outing without Syd, and while it wasn't necessarilly a bad album, it had failed to live up to their groundbreaking debut. What they really needed at this point was to solidify their fan base while exerting their own skills as songwriters. Ummagumma was their attempt to do just that.
This double disc is divided into live tracks and studio compositions. The first disc is a glorious, if brief, return to roots with early songs performed alongside newer compositions, such as Water's beautiful deep space psychedelic 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.' This live material is entirely satisfying due to the quality of the performances, but also on account of the fact that little of Floyd's early live work is documented. Other than bootlegs, Live at Pompeii is perhaps the only other live recording that addresses this critical phase in Floyd's development.
The second disc, however, is where the fun starts. Each member set out to write his own compositions... and what results we are treated to. Waters' song, 'Several small species of animals... ,' is perhaps the weirdest track you will encounter, but it's just the tip of the psychedelic iceberg. 'Grandshester Meadows' is a delicate piece that anticipates such future ballads as 'If' and 'Is there anybody out there?' 'The Grand Viziers Garden Party' is a long psychedlic piece that builds to a climax with Waters laying down a wailing vocal. The songs are as varied as imaginable... and it quickly becomes evident that from this primordial and multi-colored ooze the Dark Side of the Moon would someday emerge.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2001
I bought this album right around my 13th birthday back in 1970. It sure knocked me for a loop back then. I didn't play it all that much (with the exception of the live sections) until 4 years later. For the most part, the studio material is a real hodgepodge of half baked musical and non musical ideas. This is not the stuff that one would associate with Pink Floyd, the rock icons, yet I'm perversely drawn back to it from time to time. I don't expect today's 20 year old to get " Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving Withe A Pict" Unless of course, he has it blasting from his car stereo and is cow tipping with his friends at 3am under the influenece of Window Pane LSD, and no, this is not an endorsement of such behavior :)~ But I digress. The live part of the album is really quite good. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" "Astronomy Domine" and "Saucer full Of Secrets" are classic acid drenched Floyd. The began to refine and tone down that aspect of their sound with each passing release after this. Why only 3 stars? I give the live half 4 and the studio half 2. Mainly because Timothy Leary's dead
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2001
Yes, I can hear all you classic rock dunderheads now - "No way, man - The Wall is the best one, man! This one isn't even music!" Well, go turn on your fave rock radio station now and you'll hear the same 4/4 floyd prog rock/concept tomfoolery they play every 9 minutes and you can pretend to be the rebel you're not like you do every other day of your life.
As for the rest of you, buy this album! Put on the studio album, turn out the lights, and CRANK IT. This is what true musical experimentation is all about. This album is more influential than you might think - anyone who listens to the current wave of ambient/noise/electronica will recognize it's value. Anything goes, boys and girls. Whoops! Gotta go - a giant bat is chasing me!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2006
This was one of the first Floyd albums to be remastered and repackaged about ten or eleven years ago, when I first really started coming around to FLOYD. It came with a bitchin' poster, that I still keep on my wall today. If you had to choose between one of its two discs (one is studio, and one is live) I would definately suggest the live side. The disc contains uncontained versions of early FLOYD live circa 1969, back when the show wasn't anymore overly psychedelic, but was still pretty much entirely for acid heads. This is very SPACEY type stuff, with little to know lyrics found anywhere. You can put this on in your bedroom and stare at your lava lamp for hours on end and not even blink once. I used to do it ALL THE TIME!! The four tracks that make up this half of the album are WAY superior and far more complex than their earlier studio counterparts. If you are familiar with the earlier version of ASTRONOMY DOMINE or even the version found on the live PULSE album, be warned... this is a whole different beast! CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE is my absolute favorite, caged insanity, very nasty stuff. By the time you get to SAUCERFUL you'll be too F'd up to know whats going on, but its great too.
AS for the studio half, WATCH OUT! It's friggin' bizarre as all get. Highly experimental, you may not be sure what you are listening to. This half was divided into four sections, each composed by a different member. ROGER WATERS boasts longest song title here..(ready?)... SEVERAL SPECIES OF SMALL FURRY ANIMALS GATHERED TOGETHER IN A CAVE AND GROOVING WITH A PICT...its sort of like an orgy of little creatures having a party, while a drunken scottsman watches in awe and spouts gibberish. The best section, in my opinion, though, is DAVID GILMOURES' THE NARROW WAY. There are lots of fancy guitar tricks going down here, and Gilmoure was the only one to bother with lyrics.
I really dig this album, but have to admit it took a while to grow on me. Don't go thinking that its a DARK SIDE or a WALL or even a WISH YOU WERE HERE, cuz its far and away from any of that. This stuff is like waving bye bye to earth, and subtly going insane for about two hours. If thats what your looking for, well then, what are we waiting for?