Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Pink Floyd Filmscores - Ummagumma - 1969

There's an odd gap between A Saucerful of Secrets and what most would consider Pink Floyd's next legit LP, Atom Heart Mother (and even that fits poorly into the Pink Floyd Canon). During this period, Pink Floyd ventured into the obscure world of film soundtracks and filmscores (soundtracks being songs that serve to underscore a film, and filmscores as incidental music; think American Grafitti - 50s and 60s radio hits that accurately depict 1962 - vs. Star Wars).

Following Saucerful, Pink Floyd provided a 15-minute score for The Committee. The original recording of "The Committee, Part One" was recorded then reversed for use in the soundtrack. The remaining tracks consist of random noises, voiceovers and several instrumental smatterings. Life is short, so skip this one if you don't have a lot of time on your hands.

A legitimate filmscore came next with the release of Barbet Schroeder's More in 1969. Considered the third Floyd studio album, More was more about foreshadowing what was yet to come. Barbet Schroeder didn't want the film to have a score, so to speak, and opted for a soundtrack approach in which music is a part of everyday life; there's always a radio on or someone singing or a TV spot. While technically a Floyd LP, there are few who include the work in their repertoire. More has its moments, though, with hints of Meddle and Dark Side in addition to Floyd with its hardest edge in songs like "The Nile Song" and "Ibiza Beach." Interestingly, the vocals are exclusively Gilmour's with Waters playing no role (the only LP in which this occurs). The filmscore received universally negative reviews.

Next in the series was Pink Floyd's contribution to Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, which they shared nearly equally with odd-bedfellow The Grateful Dead. While Ummagumma was released prior to this soundtrack, that LP's odd mix of live Floyd and solo efforts keeps it from fitting the canon proper. Zabriskie Point included a reworking of Ummagumma's "Careful With that Axe, Eugene" called "Come in No. 51, Your Time is Up," the opening track, Heart Beat Pig Meat, a ballad known as "Country Song" and several instrumentals. Most interesting is the track known as "The Violent Sequence" which was cut from the film. The track would later be reworked and appear on Dark Side as "Us and Them."

These three projects and Ummagumma fit peculiarly between Saucerful and Atom Heart Mother. Out of context, it would seem that after Syd, Pink Floyd had a bit too much avant-garde and too little focus, yet when one analyses the soundtrack work, it's clear how the Pink Floyd sound was honed for its pinnacle years from Meddle through The Wall.

One final soundtrack/filmscore would come in 1972 with another Barbet Schroeder film, La Vallee (Obscured By Clouds). Recorded while the band was already working on Dark Side, the behemoth greatest-album-ever status and the success of Meddle overshadowed its release to the point of obscurity, and that's absurd. This is a curiously underrated release, that while far from the Dark Side, is well worth more than a casual listen, and reamins the hidden gem of Pink Floyd's discography.

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