4 December 2008, Plomerus @ 9:24 pm
Heavy Hung (Sigma 27)
Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California, USA – May 1st, 1970
Disc 1: Grantchester Meadows, Astronomy Domine, Cymbaline, Atom Heart Mother
Disc 2: The Embryo, Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Interstellar Overdrive, A Saucerful Of Secrets
Here’s another release that several of us here have been waiting for: Pink Floyd’s May 1st, 1970 concert at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California! Incidentally, if this came about on account of our various requests, thanks for listening Sigma, and if not, cheers nonetheless!
Initially this concert was only available as a fan-produced matrix of 3 sources until a 1st generation reel surfaced in April 2008 (also download only), so to say this is a rarity among Floyd shows would be an understatement. Heavy Hung appears to be derived from said 1st generation source as the track lengths are virtually identical (give or take a second here and there), and represents yet another silver debut in the Sigma canon.
Floyd’s first Santa Monica concert in 1970 was the 11th overall on their first North American tour for that year (they would play the Civic Auditorium again during the second U.S. tour on October 23rd – which incidentally is another concert long overdue for an upgrade). The first half of this performance has a subdued vibe similar to the KQED TV appearance the previous day (represented by An Hour With Pink Floyd (Sigma 26) which was scheduled for simultaneous release), while the latter portion sees the band letting it rip a bit more.
Disc 1 fades in for the last 30 seconds of “Grantchester Meadows” which despite being incomplete makes for a nice intro, although a complete version would be preferable of course. Given that the song was performed throughout the first North American tour in 1970, Sigma could’ve taken the missing portion from another date, but this is a practice they seldom employ, opting to maintain the integrity of their sources, which is understandable. Perhaps at some point another source will surface with a complete version of “Grantchester Meadows,” but for now, the excerpt is treated professionally with the subtle fade-in.
This of course allows the listener to get the gist of the perfectly orchestrated segue into “Astronomy Domine” – every time I hear this transition I can’t help but be impressed by the very natural flow between these 2 songs which were composed several years apart, yet appear to fit together in a fashion that makes it seem like this was always intended – even if this is just a benefit of hindsight.
It is during “Astronomy Domine” that the overall character of the recording is revealed; Heavy Hung presents a fine audience recording with great balance between the instruments – all of which are audible, with a slight preference towards the low-end. This results in occasional low-end distortion, but the typically subtle mastering of Sigma smooths most of this out. The vocals are also quite audible, although they could’ve used a boost of 2-3db, as the instruments tend to be in the forefront.
While the overall recording is clear, it should be noted that there is a mild amount of tape deterioration throughout, and likely the reason the reels were transferred to digital format at this time. This does not however infringe upon the listening experience whatsoever.
At any rate, it is fairly standard 1970-era performance of the Syd Barrett song with some great wah-wah from Gilmour, an effect he would abandon in the future in favor of the UniVibe and various phase shifters. There is a slight edit around from the 4:16-4:20 mark which apparently removed a damaged portion, and while audible, passes by quickly. Apparently, some of the other fan tapes of this show had drop-outs and other problems during “Astronomy Domine,” but thankfully that isn’t the case here.
Roger Waters articulates that “Dave seems to have a couple of problems which he’s sorting out at high speed, and when he’s finished we’re going to do a song called Cymbaline” prior to a brief tuning segment, then the band launch into the song in question. The low-end distortion is a bit more audible during the chorus sections of “Cymbaline,” but doesn’t completely overpower the mix as it sometimes does on these early recordings.
Following a fantastic guitar solo, Richard Wright’s organ interlude beginning around the 3:00 point, marks a profound shift in onstage dynamics and leads into a “walking section” that is certainly much longer than the KQED performance the previous day. The audience obviously weren’t familar with the song as they started applauding before this section even had started, not realizing the song was far from over!
It is reported that the 3rd verse through the final chorus were taken from the October 23rd, 1970 Santa Monica show, and a slight change in level seems to confirm a punch-out exists around the 10:00 mark, however considering this edit comes at the conclusion of the “walking section,” I doubt the casual listener would even notice, but as we strive to be thorough here, it was worth noting.
Before ”Atom Heart Mother,” Roger Waters announces “This is something we’re recording at the moment for our next album and when we finish this we’re going to take a break, but we’ll be coming back to go on.” What follows is a fantastic rendition of the small band arrangement for “Atom Heart Mother.”
It appears Gilmour hadn’t resolved all of his problems as his slide guitar melody is missing from 3:06-3:26 apart from a couple intermittent “blips” until he comes back in full force around 3:36 – it’s a small detail, however the section in question is rather barren without his contribution.
One of the coolest aspects of this version of the song is the amount of delay on Nick Mason’s drums which creates spiralling syncopations and polyrhythms - particularly around the 11:00 mark leading into the “Funky Dung” section.
At the 14:08 mark the left channel is lost for a bit, but gradually recovers, however there is more evidence of mild tape deterioration as the song progresses. Fortunately this never really prevents the music from coming through, and the “Remergence” section is absolutely glorious.
Disc 2 begins with about a minute of tuning, followed by a raw, bass-heavy version of “The Embryo” that clocks in close to 13 minutes. Over the course of the next 18 months, this song would grow longer and longer with extensive improvisations, easily becoming one of the highlights of any Floyd concert, and this evening is no exception; there is some great guitar and keyboard interplay beginning around the 6:26 mark unique to this version (just prior to the “Seagull section” which in itself is more expressive than usual).
8 minutes into the song, the improv metamorphs into a mega-trippy, free form freak out, complete with maniacal Waters vocalizations until the band gradually finds their way back to the final verse (albeit slightly out of tune after the aforementioned cosmic exploration!). This track alone makes Heavy Hung a worthy purchase for sure!
A particularly expressive rendition of “Green Is The Colour” follows, and although Gilmour fails to pull off some of the higher notes, he really comes across with more soul compared to say…the Fillmore gig a couple nights earlier. As the dynamics build up towards the end of this short but beautiful piece, the low-end distortion really overshadows most of the band, but Gilmour’s vocals are still audible thankfully.
This tour marked a turning point in the “art of segue” for the band in my opinion, and as with the KQED version, the transition from “Green Is The Colour” into “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is flawless – this time via a great rolling tom fill courtesy of Nick Mason. Gilmour offers up some great bluesy leads off the cuff in the first couple minutes of “Careful,” a slightly different approach compared to the standard droning harmonized with his vocals.
There is an edit at the 2:38 mark omitting at least a minute of the build-up to the main scream; Floyd never shifted abruptly from meditative to full throttle in this song, instead gradually building the tension until the climax, but on this recording, there is sudden propulsion into the couple bars preceding Waters’ big release. While the edit isn’t razor-precise, it seems to work ok in context and results in a unique version of this song. Hopefully a complete version will surface along with “Grantchester Meadows” someday, as Gilmour is absolutely on fire throughout this version!
Roger Waters says “This next song is a bit less down to earth and it’s one off one of our LP’s and it’s called Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” before the shimmering gong introduction, and he’s not exaggerating; though in later years he’d grow to loathe the term “space rock,” this, his own composition no less, truly is the epitomy of “space rock” – at least in the form of the arrangement the band utilized for all of their tours in the early 1970′s. Building from a quiet meditation into what I refer to as a raga and then onto an early electronic improv before returning for the final verse/chorus, this (along with “A Saucerful Of Secrets) is the prototype for an entire genre which developed soon after, the world over. This performance is another highlight of the set.
“Interstellar Overdrive” is announced by Waters as something they’ve been doing since they were teenagers, although it’s taken on much more of a “cosmic” quality with time despite the fact it’s always involved quite a bit of jamming and improvisation. This near 15 minute version is rather raw and even bombastic at times, with quite a few unexpected twists – it seems the Binson Echorecs were out en force once again! This is one of the instances where a little low-end distortion actually contributes in a positive way, therefore I have no complaints about that issue whatsoever.
Pink Floyd would only perform “Interstellar Overdrive” at a handful of other concerts including a couple festivals that summer, again in Santa Monica October 23rd, and for the last time in Montreux, Switzerland on November 21st, so we’re fortunate to have another complete version documented here on Heavy Hung.
The set is rounded out with an almost-complete version of “A Saucerful Of Secrets;” despite a brief edit at the 19:43 mark, this is show-stopping performance that completely levels the venue; you can almost see the expressions of shock and disbelief on the faces of the audience as Gilmour mangles the tremolo bar in true Hendrix fashion around the 11:45 mark! The audience is clearly transfixed as evidenced by the dead silence during the “Storm Signal” section, and make no mistake, this is a colossal performance of the song (reported to be one of the longest versions ever). As one might expect, the audience erupts with cacophonous approval at the song’s conclusion, and I assure you, after this rousing performance, the band is more than deserving of all the adulation they recieved!
Despite the fact that almost all of “Grantchester Meadows” is missing and taking into account the tape deterioration/mild low-end distortion factors, as well as the handful of brief edits, on the whole Heavy Hung makes for an excellent listening experience and is an extremely welcome silver debut. Avid Floyd collectors everywhere should not hesitate in procuring this release, as the sound quality is great for a 1970 audience recording, and barring the aforementioned issues, the set is otherwise presented in its entirety. Unless a more complete source surfaces at some point, Sigma have issued yet another definitive document, and given quite a few folks around here a great early Xmas gift with Sigma 27!If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Pink Floyd - Heavy Hung (Sigma 27),