M-502 (Sigma 97)
Grosser Saul, Musikhalle, Hamburg, West Germany – February 25, 1971
Disc 1 (49:32) Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Cymbaline, Embryo, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Disc 2 (76:08) A Saucerful Of Secrets, Atom Heart Mother. Tape Source; Introduction by Roger Waters, Atom Heart Mother
DVD (11:32) Originally broadcast on March 2, 1971 as part of programme “Aspeke” on German TV Station ZDF – Pro shot colour NTSC.
Intro, Atom Heart Mother (Hamburg Feb 25, 1971) Roger Waters Interview, A Saucerful Of Secrets (BGM), At The Airport, A Saucerful Of Secrets (Offenbach Feb 26, 1971), Rick Wright Interview, Rehearsals at Offenbach, Rick Wright Interview, Geoffrey Mitchell Interview, Nick & Roger Interview, Atom Heart Mother (Hamburg Feb 25, 1971).
This is a concert I have wanted in my collection for some time, it has been released before on both vinyl and compact discs, the vinyl was a German boot titled Pink Floyd (M502) and later as Hamburger Live in Germany (CMB 47094). On CD we have M-502 (Ayanami-162) and the latest was M-502 Collectors Edition (Sirene-176), the latter was a botched release and thanks to Gerard Sparaco’s review I decided to pass on it. In his review he stated that the set was re mastered from the vinyl source and suffered from a high pitched squeal and intrusive surface noise. Sigma claims this new title comes from an original first press of the double vinyl German release, the sound quality is excellent, bright and clear with some slight distortion in the upper frequencies, the crowd is very quiet and is there to listen. There is some very slight surface noise but is very faint, not being one who dabbles in music software cannot remark on if it could have been removed. It was barely noticeable and I did not find it objectionable as it seems the vinyl, like Led Zeppelin’s Going To California boot, is our only way to enjoy it as the complete master tape does not circulate.
The opening song “Astronomy Domine” is not present and the recording picks up with Roger’s introduction telling the audience they’ll be playing “Green Is The Colour” followed by “Careful With That Axe Eugene”, something that is met with polite applause. The instrument and vocal balance is perfect and the band play a soft and melancholy version of the song before is transition to the sublime of “Careful”. During the first 50 seconds there is some of the aforementioned surface noise. Roger’s pre scream screams are particularly haunting and are perfectly augmented by Dave’s scat style singing. When the tension builds to climax and Roger lets loose it is simply bloodcurdling and does manage to distort slightly between the scream, guitars, and cymbals. Mason is playing most furiously and to great effect.
The first few notes of “Cymbaline” are missing and it picks up with Dave singing the line “apprehension creeping”, the heavy breathing about five minutes in prior to the footsteps section is interesting and the footsteps themselves are pristinely clear save for a loud mic thump. The beginning of “Embryo” is also cut, starting just prior to the vocals and “Set The Controls” is announced by loud cymbal crashes courtesy of Roger Waters. Curiously in the excellent Embryo book by Hodges and Priston it states that ‘Roger made the introduction of “Thank you. This is called ‘Set The Controls for the Heart Of The Sun” so it is sadly present on this release, I would be interested to know if other releases have the introduction.
Roger does do a nice introduction for “A Saucerful Of Secrets” by stating that they will take a break at its conclusion to set up the stage for “Atom Heart Mother”. “ASOS” has a quiet start where you can clearly hear a chirping bird, another effect in Richard Wright’s catalog of sounds. Clocking in at over 18 minutes the ’71 versions of the song are epic masterpieces, thankfully we have this incredible sounding version to take in, and if you watch the DVD you can see Dave playing a bit of the song from the following nights performance as he sits on the stage with his guitar in his lap and uses effects and a slide to conjure up the phenomenal out-worldish sounds. Sadly about 8:27 some equipment noise comes in but lasts for only a few seconds.
The last side of the four record set is taken up with “Atom Heart Mother” with brass and choir accompaniment conducted by Jeffrey Mitchell who did a short four date European tour with the band. Again one can refer to the DVD to see him work with the choir and gives an added dimension to the event. Although I prefer the band only versions of the song, over the past few years I have grown a particular fondness for the full production piece, the vocals are very interesting. The musicians would play on a lighted stage so the DVD footage of the song is interesting, you can see a bewared Nick Mason looking back to see what is going on and probably to keep in proper time.
The final part of the second CD is taken up from a short fragment of tape from the show, it is the same source as the vinyl release, point in case being 30 seconds into the piece there is some quiet jovial banter followed by a cough from audience members. There is more tape hiss but it still wonderful and clear sounding and if anything has a more full sound to it. The tape source also has a longer introduction by Water’s where he introduces Jeffrey Mitchell, the tape seems pretty rare and was not included in the Sirene release and is a nice addition to this release.
The accompanying DVD is of very good quality, picture is clear and the footage is extremely enjoyable although all interviews and commentary are in German. The “Atom Heart Mother” and Offenbach rehearsal footage shows the wonderful architecture of the halls the band was playing during this period and most certainly it is these halls acoustics that provide collectors with so many good sounding tapes to enjoy. The only negative is the length; at just under 12 minutes it would have been nice to have some bonus footage.
The art work is taken from the bootleg LP, there are pictures of the set on the inside cover as well as photographs of the band playing “Atom Heart Mother” with orchestra. The discs have the cover art work on them and the DVD has a live shot, the set also came with a sticker. A decent release from Sigma and one I am glad to have in my collection.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)