Relics - Pink Floyd

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Relics - Pink Floyd

Rock & Pop - StudioRecording - 1 CD(s) - Label: Capitol - Distributor: Pickwick; Universal Music, Pickwick; Discovery; Universal Music - Released: 01/...

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Review of "Relics - Pink Floyd"

published 25/01/2004 | Potless
Member since : 15/11/2003
Reviews : 20
Members who trust : 3
About me :
Pro A great introduction to early Floyd, with a very varied track selection
Cons None
very helpful
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
How does it compare to the artist's other releases

" Floyd for Beginners, Barrett's Best Bits Included"

Relics - CD version

Relics - CD version

At the age of fifteen I should have been listening to the likes of Slade, T Rex and Wizard, but something went wrong….

I had a school friend who was a record fanatic, the sort of person who would think nothing of buying three albums a week with the proceeds from his paper round, and (in my opinion) excessive amounts of pocket money. It was through him that I was introduced to the weird and wonderful world of Prog Rock, and the psychedelic offerings on this album, which he originally purchased from Robin’s Records, a local (Norwich) music outlet that no longer exists.

If you are keen to hear some late ‘sixties Floyd, you could do much worse than invest in this sampler, which comprises a varied selection of tracks from other albums. I purchased my copy in 1974 (Yikes - was it really that long ago?), and it cost me the princely sum of just 99p (thank you, EMI Starline!).

~ Track Listing ~

Arnold Layne (Barrett)

(2.52) 27th Feb. 1967
Produced by Joe Boyd

This was the Floyd’s first single release. The eponymous Arnold is a cross-dresser, with a penchant for pinching ladies clothing from washing lines. This is a superb track, with a driving bass which will really test your woofers to the limit – even played at a modest volume level, you can almost feel the deep notes hitting your stomach. Rick Wright’s keyboards are well up front in the mix too, especially the meandering organ solo - kudos to Joe Boyd for his excellent production, this being the only example of his craft on the album.

Interstellar Overdrive (Barrett – Waters – Wright – Mason)

(9.38) 16th March 1967
Produced by Norman Smith

This track is the first example featuring Norman Smith as producer (some may remember his gravel-voiced renditions of the chart hits from the early ‘seventies, “Don’t Let it Die” and “Oh Babe, What Would you Say?”, under the name of Hurricane Smith).

“Overdrive” is experimental rock in its purest form. With nothing more than guitars, drums, organ and bass (plus a few effects pedals), the band takes us on a journey of discovery through uncharted territory. It begins conventionally enough, with forceful drums and a repetitive bass line, and gradually metamorphosises into a tonal portrait, with spacey organ effects and complex, ever changing rhythmic guitar. There is a wonderful central passage which suggests the alien strangeness of another planet, with all the bizarre and unearthly sounds associated with such a scenario, created the using the aforementioned “traditional” band instruments, carefully doctored with special effects, and clever use of the human voice as an instrument.

Finally, the drums, bass and guitar come together again for a superb finale, with rapid panning of the entire stereo stage from one side to the other, which when heard on ‘phones is a truly bizarre experience. Bearing in mind that synthesizers were not generally available at this time, it is quite extraordinary how “electronic” this track sounds – indeed, the guitars are played in such a way that they are made to sound like the bleeping and buzzing instruments in a space capsule. It makes a change from synths trying to imitate guitars! The piece as a whole is deceptively chaotic in its structure, but the “improvised” nature of the work is bold and refreshing. A lot of hard graft must have been invested in it by both group and producer to get such an unusual result.

See Emily Play (Barrett)

(2.54) 23rd May 1967
Produced by Norman Smith

A typical psychedelic mini-trip from the year The Beatles released “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The wonderful thing about this song (and others of its time) is its sheer lack of self-consciousness – the pure joi de vivre many millions experienced in the Summer of Love is captured in this track, with all its images of “Games for May” and Flower Power (not that I was into such things at the time this track was released – I was still into toy trains and “Crackerjack”. Still, it was a fantastic time to be young). It has a haunting quality, which is created partly by the low-key vocals, and partly by Smith’s other-wordly production. Syd Barrett’s distant guitar is at its most catatonic, as he struggles to reach high notes that no guitar should ever be forced to attempt, but his sheer virtuosity somehow gets him there. Also listen for the manic little double speed harpsichord segment, which fits into its allotted slot perfectly, rather like a juggler frantically trying to squeeze his act in between scenes of “Swan Lake”.

Remember A Day (Wright)

(4.28) 9th May 1967
Produced by Norman Smith

Another very evocative opus, which features a struggle between Nick Mason’s frantic drumming, and some restrained but powerful vocals. The lyrics are preoccupied with childhood, and the longing to stay young and carefree forever (“Remember a day before today, a day when you were young, free to play alone with time, evening never came…”

The melody has an Eastern flavour, something that came to characterise much of the music of the late sixties, and the fusion of rock, nostalgia and mysticism works very nicely.

Paintbox (Wright)

(3.35) 2nd Nov. 1967
Produced by Norman Smith

There’s not much to say about the rather banal lyrics to this song – this was probably intentional, dealing as it does with being late for dates with girlfriends, “feeling rather empty”, and opening the doors to empty rooms. Whatever the meaning, it’s a powerful tune, liberally seasoned with some nice bar-room style piano, and some really solid guitar chords and bass that demand that you sit up and pay attention. As is usual, Norman Smith gives us an aural treat at the end of this one, the rinky-tink piano bouncing around your head as it fades into echo.

Julia Dream (Waters)

(2.35) 13th Feb. 1968
Produced by Norman Smith

If ever a band knew how to convey the images and feelings associated with dreams, the Floyd are the ones to do it. This MUST be heard on headphones for full impact. Full use is made of the stereo sound stage and a minimum amount of instrumentation, to produce a tiny, but perfectly formed masterpiece. Just listen to the way Roger Waters times his vocals to suit the echo effect he is working with, allowing every “T” and “K” he utters to resonate to wonderful effect. Combine this with some unidentifiable sounds being manipulated on tape machines, some softly flowing flute, and some beautifully alliterative lyrics, and you are on the way to the Land of Nod (or maybe somewhere a little more abstract, if you interpret the lyrics as drug-speak).

Careful With That Axe, Eugene (Waters – Wright - Gilmour – Mason)

(7.45) 4th Nov. 1968
Produced by Norman Smith

We enter somewhat darker territory here, as the boys thrash out some real far-out prog rock stuff, of the kind that was popular at the end of the ‘sixties. The piece opens with solid bass couplets, which are soon joined by cymbals and organ, wordless vocals and vibraphone. Then a disembodied, whispered voice utters the words of the title, closely followed by a blood-curdling scream, which is immediately underpinned by acidic guitar. Things remain in this groove for several minutes, then things start to wind down as some improvised “mouth-noises” (slurps, kisses, lip-licking, etc.) are repetitively echoed for effect, until the piece decays into silence.

Some listeners may recognise this piece as being the basis for the track “Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up”, which was recorded for use as background music to the “exploding house” scene in Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point” (1970).

Cirrus Minor (Waters)

(5.13) March 1969
Produced by Pink Floyd

Of all the tracks on the album, this one captures my imagination the most. The first of the Floyd –produced tracks presented here, “Cirrus Minor” begins with a calming collage of real birdsong, which leads into the gentle vocals which are pre-occupied with lazy rivers, sunshine and churchyards. But the song takes an unexpected twist, as the vocals die and fade into one of the most beautiful and moving organ solos I think I have ever heard. The song builds in emotional intensity, as ring-modulated flutes imitate the real birds still twittering in the background, and softly changing alien sounds drift across the whole sound stage. Then everything begins to disappear, until only the lonely sound of birds can be heard once more. You really do feel you are stranded on another world, happy and fulfilled at last, and with no wish to return to Earth and all of its trials and complications…..

The Nile Song (Waters)

(3.23) March 1969
Produced by Pink Floyd

From the sublime to the ridiculous! It’s difficult to believe that this is by the same band as the previous track – it sounds to me like an experiment in how far the band could take heavy metal posturing. No doubt there will be many people out there who find this very stimulating, but in my opinion it is the worst song on the record, and definitely not representative of their usual field of expertise. Then again, Floyd are no strangers to experimentation, and this track is testimony to their versatility if nothing else. Imagine Motorhead on a bad day, and you get some idea of what this sounds like. CAUTION: if you have just been lulled into a state of bliss by “Cirrus Minor”, remember to take the stylus off the record to avoid having a heart attack, as it blasts into your speakers like a twister….

Biding my Time (Waters)

(5.16) 9th July 1969
Produced by Norman Smith

An initially lazy, blues-influenced outing which may take a few fans by surprise (it’s not as jarring as “The Nile Song”, but just as unusual, especially to those who only know modern Pink Floyd). From its loose laid-back beginning, it acquires brass, and some typical distorted Floyd guitar, to culminate into a full-blown jazz ensemble piece, which collapses in a big exhausted heap at the very end. Features some very good performances from all concerned.

Bike (Barrett)

(3.21) 21 May 1967
Produced by Norman Smith

OK, they saved the quirkiest track till the very end! Another piece from 1967, evoking childhood memories of toys and games, torn cloaks and bicycles. It is sung as if by a child (or possibly a very child-like adult), who goes on at length about his bike, and the fact that he has a mouse called Gerald. During the verses, the guys play around with an electronic oscillator for some bizarre effects which augment the slightly off-the-wall feel.

In the final verse, we are invited to enter a mysterious room full of toys, and indeed we end up following him to the door, which opens with a creak, and the speakers explode with the sound of clockwork gadgets, clocks, xylophones and other mechanical playthings that we can only begin to imagine. And at the very end, we hear an extraordinary tape loop of what can only be described as the rather sinister quack of a mechanical duck (actually a human voice played back at high speed through an echo effect). Weird!

~ The Cover Art ~

Drummer Nick Mason created the somewhat eccentric cover art for the vinyl LP – it seems to have been inspired by Heath Robinson, and features a highly detailed black ink drawing of an enormous music machine, composed of various drums, horns and mechanical contrivances, with the band’s name drawn as huge letters hewn from stone in the background. More than a few hours work went into it, I would venture to say.

~ In Conclusion ~

When I first purchased “Relics” all those years ago, little did I realise that I would be writing about its merits in the year 2004! This is an ideal introduction to historical Pink Floyd tracks, and if you like your music varied, and not just a little experimental, “Relics” is a worthy addition to your record collection for sure.

~ Prices ~

I have seen a used vinyl disc on UK Amazon for £12.00 (how’s that for a return on your investment?), and the cassette album second-hand for £13.00.

Label: EMI Starline. Stereo, some tracks are enhanced mono.

Total running time: 51 minutes.

Record ref. no. SRS 5071

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Comments on this review

  • loki23 published 06/06/2006
    Very good review. I didn't realise that Norman Smith was one and the same as Hurricane Smith!
  • darkangelwing published 20/06/2005
    Hrmm... an excellent step by step review but if there are no disadvantages why give it 4 stars?
  • lazza123 published 22/07/2004
    Gret review, great album too. Larry
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Rock & Pop - StudioRecording - 1 CD(s) - Label: Capitol - Distributor: Pickwick; Universal Music, Pickwick; Discovery; Universal Music - Released: 01/02/1996 - 724383560325

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EAN: 724383560325


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