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Pink Floyd’s first UK number 1 album was released in 1970. This was the band’s first recording with an orchestra, the title track ‘The Atom Heart Mother Suite’ taking up a full side of the original vinyl release. The new Discovery version presents the original studio album, digitally remastered by James Guthrie and reissued with newly designed Digipak and a new 12 page booklet designed by Storm Thorgerson.
The ‘Discovery’ collection: 14 Remastered Studio Albums
Since 1967 Pink Floyd have produced one of the most outstanding and enduring catalogues in the history of recorded music. All 14 original Studio albums have now been painstakingly digitally remastered by James Guthrie (co-producer of The Wall), and are reissued with newly crafted packaging and booklets created by the band’s long-time artwork collaborator Storm Thorgerson.‘Discovery’ albums are designed as an introduction to the artist, with all booklets including full album lyrics.
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Always a task trying to find a decent vinyl copy original – the length of the LP at just over 52 minutes did for its fidelity too. But all of that is thankfully part of the past because this 2011 James Guthrie and Joel Plante CD Remaster is a massive improvement on a dog’s ear of a recording (relaunched January 2016 on Pink Floyd Records). Here are the Holy Cows and the Funky Dung...
UK re-released 8 January 2016 – "Atom Heart Mother" by PINK FLOYD on Pink Floyd Records PFR5 (Barcode 5099902894027) is a straightforward 5-track reissue CD using the Remaster from 2011. It's once again housed in a gatefold card digipak, has a stickered sleeve (on the outer shrinkwrap) with the new catalogue number PFR5, a 12-page colour booklet with photos and lyrics and the same barcode as the 2011 issue (52:06 minutes). The original album gatefold is the centre pages of the booklet while the lyrics (never on the original) are now featured over new photographs of shovels and a pair of boots and other useless and pointless images. It looks nice for sure but informs you of nothing – no history – no liner notes – no updates or insights. It’s a damn shame that 2016 wasn’t used as a way to pump up the booklet into something special from their laughable 'discover nothing' from our 'discovery' editions of 2011. In fact you could argue that this 'Pink Floyd Records' 2016 reissue is in itself 'corporate' – the very thing they raged so much against on "Animals" and "The Wall" in 1977 and 1979.
The original version of this Remaster was released 26 September 2011 as a 'Discovery Edition' single CD on EMI/Harvest 50999 028940 2 7 (Barcode 5099902894027) – this 2016 version on Pink Floyd Records uses that 2011 remaster and the same artwork. The 'Discovery Edition' sticker is gone as is the horrible 'green and blue Ds' reinvented CD artwork that came with the 2011 issue – that's thankfully been replaced on the CD with the front album cover artwork.
1. Atom Heart Mother (Suite):
(a) Father's Shout
(b) Breast Milky
(c) Mother Fore
(d) Funky Dung
(e) Mind Your Throats Please
2. If [Side 2]
3. Summer '68
4. Fat Old Sun
5. Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast
(a) Rise And Shine
(b) Sunny Side Up
(c) Morning Glory
Tracks 1 to 5 are their 5th album "Atom Heart Mother" – released 10 October 1970 in the UK on Harvest SHVL 781 and in the USA on Harvest SKAO-382. Produced by PINK FLOYD and NORMAN SMITH – Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in 1970 – it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 55 in the USA.
PINK FLOYD was:
DAVID GILMOUR – Lead Guitar and Vocals
ROGER WATERS – Bass, Guitar and Vocals
RICHARD WRIGHT – Keyboards and Vocals
NICK MASON – Drums
Guests: JOHN ALLDIS CHOIR on parts of "Atom Heart Mother"
Mastered by JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE at Das Boot Recording Studios in Tahoe in California in 2011 - the original 1st generation master tapes have been given a thorough going over (Guthrie is a Sound Engineer associated with the band since 1978). In fact - each song feels like these experts have spent a staggering amount of time worrying over every single nuance - because the audio result is truly impressive. That 2011 remaster has been reused for the January 2016 reissues.
The entirely instrumental Side 1 six-part suite "Atom Heart Mother" runs to 23:42 minutes and typically fades in with mad brass and a droning synth note. Avant Garde artist RON GEESIN being the fifth accredited writer along with the four boys in the band – gives us a cornucopia of sounds - cars starting up – engines turning over – until it all settles down into a "Meddle" like duo of Richard Wright on Organ and Gilmour on Guitar. The clarity as Gilmour solos over that brass and lone organ is impressive – and as the still unidentified leading lady of the John Aldiss Choir comes sailing in – you can so hear where Mike Oldfield got some of his more orchestral ideas for "Tubular Bells" and "Ommadawn" from. When they fade out and we’re in "Funky Dung" – the Remastered Wright/Gilmour combo of Organ and Guitar is superb and certainly more muscular than I’ve ever heard it - and I still can’t make out what the Kate Bush-mad chanting voices are saying (very cool though).
After the indulgence of Side 1 - Side 2’s "If" comes as an Acoustic relief – Roger Water's delightfully upbeat "...if I go insane...please don't put your wires in my brain..." lyrics feeling like 1977 and not 1970. The audio on Gilmour's guitar is beautiful and even the background Richard Wright Organ/Piano playing is more evident. Richard Wright then stumps up "Summer '68" which feels like the kind of pretty song that would have not been out of place on 1972's "Obscured By Clouds" or even Kevin Ayers 1971 Harvest Records LP "Whatevershebringswesing". The brass and piano are loud and open for all the right reasons. Gilmour vocals his own "Fat Old Sun" but I've always felt it was not a great song. The album ends on the nutty 13-minutes of "Alan Psychedelic Breakfast" where someone babbles on about liking Marmalade and Porridge as they potter about in a kitchen before keyboards take over. After the musical interlude - it returns to our still unidentified hero warbling this time about 'breakfast in Los Angeles' with 'macrobiotic stuff'. It's fun but that's about all and you can't help thinking that they would have been better just allowing those lovely Acoustic Guitars in the centre passage simply play out the album (music boys - remember).
"Atom Heart Mother" is part genius, part knob and very much an example of an experimental time and a label prepared to let their artists go a bit bonkers for the sake of their art. But at least on this 2011/2016 CD Remaster - you can now hear it. And that faucet tap dripping that looped on the Side 2 run-out groove as your needle went over to the label can now be heard too. Moo moo indeed...
PS: OK - Cue the cow jokes:
I'd review this if only I 'cud' - you should see the 'udder' guy - let's 'milk' this one again - I'd lift this CD but it's too 'heffer' - check out the 'teats' on this one - I think we're 'dung' here...
I was into "Quadrophonic" (very early surround-sound) and this album's "SQ" encoding is why I bought MY FIRST Pink Floyd vinyl LP in late 1970. The Floyd was, like me, an early adopter of multi-channel sound and that is the primary reason I have always considered them a "Progressive" band. To listen to "Atom Heart Mother" suite on modern multi-channel audiophile equipment is to appreciate how close to a fully realized state of musical genius this band was at the dawn of 1980's. Even (comparatively) weaker works like this clearly show that Pink Floyd was WAY ahead of their time.
While I never was a big fan of pre-"Meddle" Floyd this and many other of the band's early songs clearly deserve an occasional listening. We are fortunate that the "Discovery" albums were so lovingly remastered; I doubt that any of the recordings in that box set will ever sound better. That said, IMHO inclusion of this into any "Best Of" compilation is essential :)
Which is why we'll never repeat the days of music taking chances like Pink Floyd's storied career, going from pure insane psychedelia with Syd Barrett to proto-industrial and jazzy on "Dark Side of the Moon" to paranoid and conceptual on "The Wall". Were Floyd to start today, they would not be allowed to move past their debut album's sound, or would do so at their own risk. "Atom Heart Mother" is not one of their stronger albums, and does not get mentioned as one of their essentials, but it is nonetheless an important developing stage for Pink Floyd.
Other bands, most notably Deep Purple, the Moody Blues and Frank Zappa had been toying with classical influences and to some that led to the bloated progressive music of Yes and ELP. However, while recognizing that classical music is the most influential form of Western music, it can be very dull and equally pretentious. Pink Floyd managed on "Atom Heart Mother" to avoid the dull stuff, and utilized orchestral instruments to a more psychedelic direction. The album thus contains some orchestration but also has plenty of what is becoming the more recognized Floyd sound, with Rick Wright's organ and David Gilmour stepping in more confidently as the master guitarist he is. A few quiet pieces separate the two larger movements, and the album ends with "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", which is more sedate than the title might suggest, but still interesting in its merging of the musical instruments of the past with the sonic experimentation that defined the trippy music of 1970.
Hard core fans are advised to check "Atom Heart Mother" out, and new fans need to be cautioned that this is not what they may expect, as is the case with anything pre-"Meddle" era Pink Floyd. This CD falls just shy of where "Meddle" takes off. It's a good CD on its own, and very much shows the progress of one of the world's greatest bands of all time.