Pink Floyd and The Incredible String Band.
There are two odd things about this LP. The first is that it is liberally peppered with snatches of almost completely unintelligible spoken interludes. The second is that on both sides of the record, the tracks seamlessly elide into each other, so that you can’t tell where one ends and the next one begins; with one arguable exception.
Track 1 on Side 1 is a Nick Mason composition called “Speak To Me”. This is one of the “instrumentals” on the album, though none of them truly is because of that first peculiarity I mentioned; and that title is strangely ironic in that sense. It is a dramatic, staccato thing, and classic Pink Floyd to my teenage ears.
It becomes Track 2, “Breathe”, credited to the other three members of the band, and again this is classic Pink Floyd. The “principal” song has just two verses, each of 8 lines. In each case the first 4 are soft and gentle, positively soothing, while the second fours are louder and more urgent. Great stuff.
This becomes another “instrumental” called “On The Run”, a Gilmour/Waters composition; a busy little thing featuring much searing Gilmour guitar, and again classic Pink Floyd. This is the arguable exception to the “elision” oddity I mentioned above, because it ends with a “Reprieve” of “Breathe”! This is really strange, and just now I can’t recall any other example of the syndrome. What you get here is a third 8 line stanza of “Breathe”, following exactly the same pattern, ending with the couplet:
“Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells”
There is an almost discernible gap between that and the cacophonous alarm clocks which introduce The next track:
“Time”. I immediately made a connection here, that Cat Stevens had also earlier done a song with the same title. This one is credited to all four members of the band, and is once more classic Pink Floyd. It elides into track 5
This track ends Side 1, and is called “The Great Gig In The Sky”, written by Rick Wright the keyboards player, Not surprisingly then, it begins with an innocuously pleasant piano intro. Quite soon, however, a lady called Clare Torry starts to do some technically brilliant note perfect soul screaming and wailing. This does in fact turn out to be the main feature of the piece. I was just 17 years old when I heard this, having been a great fan of the band in respect of all its previous recordings, and I was horrified! What on earth was this stuff doing on a Pink Floyd album? I have to say that fairly soon after, I came to realise that this was in fact the best album the group had ever made, the first of a classic trilogy, and irrefutable evidence that this was a truly “progressive” band.
This is the back cover:
And, tucked inside my copy of the LP is this cutting from “Melody Maker” of 24 November 1973: