All Together Now – Hakone Aphrodite (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1423/1424)
Hakone Aphrodite, Hakone, Kanagawa, Japan
Disc 1 (42:04) Soundcheck / Opening Announce, Atom Heart Mother, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Disc 2 (44:33) Echoes, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Closing Announce
Pink Floyd’s first trip to Japan consisted of three concerts, the first two were at the open air festival ’71 Hakone Aphrodite in Hakone, Japan, a city roughly two hours drive south from Tokyo, the third was at the Festival Hall in Osaka. While there has not been any confusion regarding the Osaka date, there certainly has for the Hakone performances. There are five different recordings from one of the dates, some giving the date as August 6, others listing it August 7, while others simply labeling it as August 1971. There have been two recordings that have surfaced that begin to provide much needed clarity. First off is recorder 4 that surfaced back in mid 2015, a 55 minute recording featuring three songs, Atom Heart Mother, Echoes, and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. This recording was issued by Sigma as Hakone Aphrodite 1971 Master Recording (Sigma 138) and its immediate follow up Hakone Aphrodite 1971 Remastered and Restored (Sigma 139). I own Sigma 138 and on the interior there is a picture of what is assumed the master reel, it is dated August 7 which would be the second Hakone show. The next recording surfaced a year later, a near complete audience recording released as Complete Aphrodite 1971 (Sigma 160), these recordings originate from the same performance and while the Sigma 138 title does not give a specific date on the artwork, Sigma 160 clearly states August 6.
In October 2020 Empress Valley began to tease an upcoming release with a photograph that was clearly from the Hakone Festival, and when the title finally was released in December, is was quickly uploaded to the intra-web and the discussions began. The new recording is dated as being from August 6, the first day of ’71 Hakone Aphrodite, this is corroborated by the closing speech by Goro Itoi:
Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
The band was supposed to play for about an hour, but Pink Floyd played for almost two hours.
They played a total of five songs. Some of the reporters asked me to tell you about the songs they played, so here is a brief introduction of the songs they played.
The first song was the well-known “Atom Heart Mother”. Japanese title is “Genshi-shin-bo”.
The second song is “Careful With That Axe, Eugene“. Eugene is a person’s name, “Eugene yo, Ono ni kiwotukero”.
The third song is “Echoes,” a song that uses the echo machine to its fullest extent. Echoes. In Japanese, it means “Kodama”.
The fourth song was “Set The Controls For The Heart Mother Sun”. Set The Controls For The Heart Mother Sun, not Atom Heart Mother.
The fifth song is “A Saucerful Of Secrets”. It’s called “Osara ippai no himitsu”. This is the literal translation.
They played the above five songs.
Sponsored by Nippon Broadcasting System Inc, the first day of Hakone Aphrodite, the first day of today, it has ended successfully thanks to everyone.
Thank you very much. Please have a safe trip home. Thank you for your cooperation.
(Many thanks to Yeeshkull member shuffle who not only uploaded this recording quickly, but who also provided this important translation)
Based upon this recording we can firmly date the other recordings as firmly being from the second concert on August 7. This new Hakone recording is very important from a document standpoint as it provides the much needed information for us to properly date the Hakone recordings, so in that regards it is an essential piece. An essential document does not always translate into a must listen for the casual collector, in fact just the opposite. The recording featured on this new release from Empress Valley is an overall good recording, at times it dips into just a fare rating, other times it goes into the very good range. It’s best attributed is its clarity, even in the worse areas of the recording, you can make out what is happening. The volume goes from muffled to bright and back continually during the performance. The bass frequencies are very deep yet it does not lead to excessive distortion and there are many instances of wind noise on the microphone and is the source for the majority of the distortion present. The tape is also incomplete, the taper paused the machine between songs and Set The Controls ends just a couple seconds before the end of the song.
The recording does have a good balance and as I mentioned before is clear with virtually no hiss. We do get a few instances of between song introductions, just prior to Atom Heart Mother you get Dave mike testing “One two…one two”, Roger introduces the following song “This is called Careful With That Axe, Eugene, and he also gives the final introduction “Ok this is the last tune we’re going to play tonight it’s called A Saucerful of Secrets, thank you very much for coming”. Even with the continual fluctuation of the sound, the distortion is minimal and is a very listenable tape for the committed. Once you surrender to the sound you are treated to an excellent performance by Pink Floyd. Atom Heart Mother is the shorter 15 minute version, and for me works extremely well as it is a more focused piece. The audience is very excited to hear Pink Floyd, they cheer, laugh and clap at the beginning of the piece in obvious joy. The version of Careful With That Axe, Eugene is just tremendous, Roger’s scream is bloodcurdling and very intense, a fantastic version of the song. The fact that the band did not play Green Is The Colour as a prelude lends me to believe they were under time constraints.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is a very unique version, about eight minutes in during Richard Wright’s soundscape section he plays the child laughing tape, one can only think there were many people looking around for the crying infant. Echoes is excellent, it’s interesting to hear as it sounds fresh and even while the band play a laid back version, it is very dynamic and makes Atom Heart Mother sound dated. The band are still using the “Planets singing face to face” lyrics and the band just soar after the lyrical portion is over leading into a great funky section. Roger’s bass at the beginning of A Saucerful Of Secrets is very powerful and deep in a good way. There are some casual conversations during the Syncopated Pandemonium section, Nick’s drums are fine in the mix and even when they fade they still can be heard only to rise again in sound, Dave’s sound effects are also moving and mysterious. Celestial Voices clocks in at almost eight minutes and is excellent, the band just let the final piece just build naturally, a very strong ending to the band’s first concert in Japan.
The packaging is beautiful, the entire front and a third of the back is the event poster, the interior features the site map from the program as well as two pictures of Roger, Nick, and David in their hotel lobby looking rather casual and relaxed. There is a postcard size picture included of a shot perhaps taken by the taper looking up to the stage with Roger Water’s manning his cymbals. The CD’s have different pictures on them as well, again superb packaging that pays homage to the event itself, something I am a big fan of. When I first read that this cover was going to be a 7″ size, I wasn’t thrilled, but after looking it over I can’t fault it, only applaud it. For the serious Pink Floyd collector this is a must have, but is not recommended for the casual collector, from what I have read it is sold out but certainly Empress Valley will release a second version.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)