Full disclosure part 1: I listened to this on a streaming service so a few tracks were missing, the videos were included in the track list, and I really have no idea how it would compare to the actual boxed set. (No booklets, etc.)
Full disclosure part 2: the time for me to have listened to this is long past, as I am both not the Pink Floyd fan I used to be (they were one of my absolute favourite bands for many years) and I am no longer the completist I used to be. There was a time in my life where I would have absolutely eaten this up and probably called it essential. There was a time when I was just desperate to hear all the Floyd’s non-album tracks. (So desperate I got my hands on the special edition of Zabriskie Point, which probably tells you all you need to know.) But I am no longer that guy.
This thing is immense. By RYM’s count, it’s over 45 and a half hours long. That’s longer than my work week, you guys. (And that’s why I’ve been listening to it for weeks to write this review.) You could argue – I would say, probably quite rightly – that nobody needs a 45-hour boxed set of anything. But fans feel differently. And, as I noted, I would have felt very strongly that this was entirely necessary had I listened to it in, say, 2010. (Yes, it didn’t exist yet.)
Perhaps the coolest thing for me, still a fan of the band despite not loving them as much as I did when I was younger, is to hear the clear evolution, particularly in the earliest recordings. The Floyd (“The Pink Floyd Sound” or whatever they were called) started out as a generic British R&B band. Who knew? These earliest recordings give you perhaps the best idea yet of Syd Barrett’s genius. I am a post-Barrett Floyd guy forever, but this set finally shows me how radical Barrett’s vision was – he completely transformed this band from a dull, generic British R&B band to one of the most exciting underground acts in the UK. (The most exciting?)
The rest of the set is every single record they put out before The Dark Side of the Moon plus non-album tracks, rarities and a ton of live material. If you like the live version of the band on Ummagumma (and you should, right?) then you will enjoy the many live tracks. (A few have pretty terrible sound quality, at least on my streaming service.) It does do a good job of showing off how diverse the early Floyd were – both a good thing and a bad thing – but I’m not sure you wouldn’t get that same impression from Ummagumma or More or Atom Heart Mother or from Meddle. (Basically, you’d get the impression of their diversity for good or ill from any studio album around this time.)
There’s just so much stuff here, and a hell of a lot of it is numerous versions of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” (plus many versions of “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”). If you love 1968 Pink Floyd, you are going to love this, I think. But if you more find that music interesting, or important in the band’s evolution, or you have some other feeling other than love for it…well, you’re going to hear these songs again and again and again…and only sometimes will the differences be enough to care about. And there are also multiple versions of “Atom Heart Mother” and “Echoes,” in case you were worried the selection favoured too many of their, um, shorter epics.
This collection is for fans only, obviously. But I think it’s actually for super fans, only. I loved a lot of this music when I was younger and still love some of it. used to adore More for some reason, I was quite fond of Obscured by Clouds too (I don’t know why). And of course I love “Echoes” and “One of These Days” and I will die on a hill about “Atom Heart Mother.” And there is plenty of other stuff from this period I like. I think “A Saucerful of Secrets” is one of the most important rock music pieces from the ’60s but even I don’t need this many versions of it.
As these types of collections go, it’s extremely complete. But I have a hard time saying it’s more than just “extremely complete.” Because it’s nearly 46 hours long. I’m not sure how many bands I’ve loved enough to listen to 46 hours of their music and not gotten bored. (Okay I didn’t get bored here, but that’s in part because I was doing other things while I listened.) At the height of my Beatles obsession, I probably would have loved 46 hours straight of Beatles’ music. I think I might with the Floyd too, at the height of that obsession. (Particularly when I was desperately trying to get my hands on “Apples and Oranges” and “Candy and a Currant Bun” for some reason…) But right now, 46 hours just seems like too much time to spend with anyone.
7/10 for its thoroughness