Sunday, January 28, 2024

Pink Floyd - Vantage Point (upgrade)


Pink Floyd - Vantage Point

(soniclovenoize reimagining)

January 2024 UPGRADE

Side A:

1.  Ibiza Bar

2.  No Man’s Land

3.  Long Gone

4.  Octopus

5.  Crying Song

6.  Rhamadan 

Side B:

7.  The Nile Song

8.  No Good Trying

9.  Love You

10.  Swan Lee

11.  Embryo

10. Late Night

Here is a long-overdue upgrade to one of my favorite series of album “re-imaginings”, which postulates: “What if Syd Barrett hadn’t been fired from Pink Floyd?”  Vantage Point is the second in a trilogy of Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd albums (joined with 1968’s The Shapes Of Questions To Heaven and 1970’s Themes From an Imaginary Western), that would have theoretically been released in early-ish 1969.  Vantage Point is a combination of the band-oriented The Madcap Laughs-era tracks, and various other 1960-era Pink Floyd tracks that seemed to compliment and gel the entire album together.  This upgrade is noteworthy, as I’ve used Ozone Izotope to rebalance the instrumental mix of some of the Madcap Laughs tracks to match the rest of the album.  I have also created my own, unique eight-minute edit of the rare Barrett track “Rhamadan”, to act as the album’s centerpiece “epic” improvisational soundscape track.  Admittedly, I should have probably renamed the album, as “Cymbaline” is no longer featured here; I am keeping the name regardless for the sake of clarity and continuity.  

After Syd Barrett’s unanimous dismissal from Pink Floyd in February 1968, manager Peter Jenner followed the exit, believing Barrett as the creative genius of the band.  Promptly starting sessions for his first solo album in May and June using Soft Machine as his backing band, Syd and Jenner tracked a handful of songs that expounded on his signature pop-psychedelia: “Silas Lang”, “Late Night”, “Clowns and Jugglers”, and a musical accompaniment of a James Joyce poem, “Golden Hair.”  There were also several aimless and monotonal improvisations, such as “Lanky” and “Rhamadan.”  Despite its promise, the tapes seemed more like demos and fragments, and the project was shelved, leaving Barrett in self-imposed seclusion after a brief stint of psychological care, and Jenner’s notion of Barrett as a solo star dashed.  

Meanwhile, Pink Floyd were busy searching for their own muse.  After completing their sophomore album A Saucerful of Secrets in June and a series of scant psyche-pop singles that failed to chart, the quartet shifted gears to their experimental and improvisational prowess, notably with the extended jams of b-side “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”.  While the band began demo sessions for their third album in November with “Embryo”, their trajectory changed; impressed by the cinematic scope of this new incarnation of the band, director Barbet Schroeder drafted The Floyd to compose the soundtrack to his new film, More.  Grouping at Pye Studios for two weeks in January and February 1969, the band wrote and recorded a number of new songs, including “Cirrus Minor”, “The Nile Song”, “The Crying Song”, “Green is The Colour”, “Cymbaline” and “Ibiza Bar”, as well as a number of instrumental pieces in varying genres, meant as incidental music for the film.  

Barrett’s luck improved by March 1969, having received the greenlight for a solo album under EMI’s new progressive rock umbrella Harvest Records.  This time produced by Harvest head Malcolm Jones, the duo reviewed the tapes from the previous year’s Jenner sessions, to see what was salvageable.  Throughout March and April, overdubs were added to the tapes, and a handful of new songs were recorded, ideally to round out an album: “Love You”, “Opel”, “It’s No Good Trying”, “Terrapin”, “No Man’s Land” and “Here I Go.”  Despite the barrage of work, the sessions became grueling as Barrett’s erratic recording nuances and inability to articulate what he actually wanted, led him to seek guidance from his old friend and literal replacement in Pink Floyd: David Gilmour.  

Gilmour & Co. themselves were in the midst of a series of performances of their conceptual piece The Man and The Journey, which included “Cymbaline” and “Green is The Colour” from More, as well as newer pieces “Grantchester Meadows”, “The Narrow Way”, and a number of instrumental interstitial pieces.  The later two songs were also destined for their third studio album proper, Ummagumma, which was being crafted as solo recordings from each individual member of the band.  Inbwteen mixing of Ummagumma, Roger Waters and David Gilmour rejoined their former band-mate to save his solo album and shape something listenable out of the mountainous jumble of recordings from both Jenner and Jones.

In June 1969, The trio recorded brand new versions of “Golden Hair” and “Clowns and Jugglers”--now retitled “Octopus”-- as well as new compositions “Dark Globe”, “Long Gone”, “She Took a Long, Cold Look”, “Feel” and “If It’s In You.”  Final mixing of the album occurred in August, with “Octopus” released as the lead single in November, a week after Pink Floyd’s UmmagummaThe Madcap Laughs was finally released in January 1970, nearly two years after the sessions had begun!  Both albums became cult favorites, with Barrett continuing with a slightly less schizophrenic second solo album Barrett, and Pink Floyd continuing, well, into eventual superstardom.  

But could this have all played out differently?  This reimaging continues the “Pink Floyd featuring Syd Barrett” timeline began in The Shape of Questions To Heaven, and uses the earlier (and decidedly weirder) Jenner sessions as the base of a theoretical Pink Floyd album led by Syd Barrett; ironically, those sessions sounded more like a plausible Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd than the later sessions that actually featured David Gilmour!  To bookend the album and gel it together, we are going to utilize Pink Floyd’s earlier 1969 session material–notably “Embryo” and some of the More songs–which seems to fit in with the Jenner sessions.  Note we are going to exclude the More and Ummagumma tracks destined for The Man and The Journey, so that it and Vantage Point can coexist in the same timeline; perhaps they could be considered separate discs of a double album, or an intentional compromise of separate “Barret Songs Album” vs “Band Concept Album”?  

Side A begins with Waters’ “Ibiza Bar” from More, an outlier in the Pink Floyd canon because of it’s awesome heaviness, but here sets up the dark psychedelic album that Pink Floyd never made.  This is followed by my own demaster of “No Man’s Land” from The Madcap Laughs, and “Long Gone” from, again, Madcap Laughs.  Next is my demaster of “Clowns and Jugglers” from Opel, using the more weird Soft Machine version, which seems to fit better with the album.  Breaking the tension is “Crying Song” from More, which works well as a deep-album cut.  The side concludes with my own eight-minute edit of “Rhamadan”, sourced from a lossless stream via TIDAL; I included several of my favorite sections in this edit, and becomes a fairly interesting listen when assembled in this fashion.  

Side B unintentionally (I swear!) follows the pattern of opening with Waters’ heavy psyche “The Nile Song” from More, and then a dual of Barrett’s “No Good Trying” and “Love You” from The Madcap Laughs.  Following is my demaster of the wonderfully bizarre “Swan Lee” from Opel, which is followed by the band studio demo of “Embryo”, a long lost gem from The Early Years.  The album closes with my own demaster of “Late Night” from The Madcap Laughs, as if we were waking from this psychedelic nightmare.  

Sources used:

Pink Floyd – Soundtrack to the Film ‘More’ (2011 remaster)

Pink Floyd – The Early Years (2016 box set)  

Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs (2006 remaster)

Syd Barrett – Rhamadan 2010 Mix (rip of lossless TIDAL stream)

Syd Barrett – Opal (1994 Harvest remaster)