Friday, March 15, 2013

Pink Floyd - Themes From An Imaginary Western (1970)

Pink Floyd - Themes From An Imaginary Western
(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

Side A:
 1.  Father’s Shout
 2.  Baby Lemonade
 3.  Wined and Dined
 4.  Rise and Shine
 5.  Gigolo Aunt
 6.  Mind Your Throats Please
 7.  Fat Old Sun

Side B:
 8.  Love Song
 9.  Wolfpack
10.  Dominoes
11.  Sunny Side Up
12.  Summer ‘68
13.  Effervescing Elephant
14.  Father’s Shout (Remergence)

This is the final installment of a trilogy of “re-imagined” albums that postulates “What if Syd Barrett hadn’t been fired from Pink Floyd?”   Themes From An Imaginary Western, a title derived from an early moniker of the song “Atom Heart Mother”, is the theoretical album that would have been released in 1970 by a Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd, following my other two re-imagined albums, 1969’s Vantage Point and 1968’s The Shape of Questions To Heaven.  The entire album has been crossfaded and edited into two continuous sides of music with the “Atom Heart Mother” theme bookending the album, an aesthetic first explored by Pink Floyd at this time and continued for most of their career; it seemed appropriate for this material.

Themes From An Imaginary Western uses Syd Barrett’s second and final solo album Barrett and Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother as source material, as both albums were recorded around the same time.  As we’ve already established, a Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd would have primarily been a singles-oriented band, as opposed to the largely improvisational, instrumental and experimental quartet Pink Floyd of the late 60s.  This was an easy ethos to mimic on my first two re-imaginings, but the task is much more difficult here, as Pink Floyd’s contributions from Atom Heart Mother began to solidify the artistic visions that saw the creation of the classic Pink Floyd albums throughout the decade. 

My solution was to design Themes From An Imaginary Western as a collection of the decidedly Pink Floydian Barrett solo tracks, all interconnected with instrumental passages from Atom Heart Mother.  This seemed to be an appropriate choice, as the more low-key, less schizophrenic and honestly slick early 70s pop-production of many of the Barrett tracks seemed to pair well with the sound of Atom Heart Mother, a sound Pink Floyd continued to refine.  After much sequencing work was done, we are left with two sides of music that find this Barrett-led Floyd attempting a new musical direction, maybe a response to the lack of obvious hit singles from their last two albums.  Themes From An Imaginary Western, while not immediately abrasive, galactic or even heavy, is at least cohesive in sound and design and introduces the following album, the band’s first foray without Syd Barret, Meddle

Beginning Side A, the main theme from “Atom Heart Mother” (subtitled “A Father’s Shout”, and is indicated as such here) was used to introduce the album and somehow fits perfectly crossfaded into “Baby Lemonade”, which in turn is hard edited into “Wined and Dined”.  An instrumental interlude in the form of “Rise and Shine” (from “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast”) introduces “Gigolo Aunt”, which is crossfaded into a piece of the experimental section of “Atom Heart Mother” (subtitled “Mind Your Throats Please”) and finally into Gimour’s contribution to the album, the majestic side-closer “Fat Old Sun”.  Side B begins with the closest to a hit single on this album, “Love Song”, followed by the paranoiac “Wolfpack”.  “Dominoes” segues into another instrumental interlude culled from “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” (subtitled “Sunny Side Up”) which leads into the epic “Summer ‘68”.  Barrett’s last word with Pink Floyd becomes one of his most noteworthy songs, the child-like “Effervescing Elephant”, crossfaded into the grand finale of the album, the closing reprise of the “Atom Heart Mother” theme (subtitled “Remergence”). 

This unfortunately must be the final Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd album, as he simply ceased to make music after this point.  What few recordings we have from an attempted third solo album in 1974 are musically miserable and organizationally scant, unsuitable for any release, let alone an Album That Never Was.  It’s just as well, as Themes From An Imaginary Western is symbolic of the end of an era for this proposed Pink Floyd.  Listening, we can clearly hear a Syd Barrett simply running out of steam, the arrangements relying on typical post-psychedelic pop forays and arbitrary lyrical subject matter.  We can also hear the rest of the band beginning to surpass their once-leader, ready to tackle broader concepts paired with refined songwriting.  This is the farewell album that, in real life, Pink Floyd never got to make with Syd.  Instead, his ghost haunted Pink Floyd’s albums for some time.  With this trilogy complete, maybe Syd Barrett’s bones can finally rest. 

Sources used:
Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1994 MFSL remaster)
Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (2011 EMI remaster)
Syd Barrett – Barrett (1994 Harvest remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included