Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (Sigma 29)
Empire Pool, Wembley, London, UK – November 17, 1974
Disc 1: (55:52) Raving And Drooling, You Gotta Be Crazy, Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Disc 2: (57:35) Dark Side Of The Moon – Speak To Me, Breathe, On The Run, Time, Breathe (Reprise), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse
Disc 3: (25:43) Audience, Echoes
Pink Floyd played four consecutive nights at the Empire Pool during their British Winter Tour starting on November 14, 1974. This run of shows has been well covered over the years with the exception of the first night which has yet to be documented. The most popular by far is the show on the 16th where the Dark Side Of The Moon portion was recorded and broadcast by the BBC and is probably the most booted Floyd show in existence. Two good audience sources also exist for this night but have been overshadowed by the excellent broadcast. More recently surfaced is a new alternate audience source for the 15th which has been released on How Time Flies (Rover Records) and You Gotta Be Crazy (Sigma). With all the different tapes from these shows, it is surprising that nothing exists so far for the first night.
Decline And Fall Of The British Empire covers the final night and to the best of my knowledge is the first silver release of this show. There is only one known source for this night and was used for some CDR releases as well as some fan produced titles. The first three tracks from this source were featured on The Screaming Abdab, a limited bonus CDR that came with Raving Lunatics (Sirene) and was taken from the bootleg LP, The Screaming Abdab, on the Wizardo label. Sigma and Sirene’s predecessor, Ayanami, also released this on 3CDR as Amazing Wembley. DLee reported here that it contained ticks at the track changes but Sigma has corrected this issue.
The sound quality is excellent being clear and very detailed and could be the best sounding audience source from 1974. Roger’s bass is clear and Sigma did a great job adding some depth into the recording especially when compared to the old vinyl source. The mix between the instruments is also very good and the vocals cut through nicely. The recording is virtually complete except for a tiny cut at the start of “You Gotta Be Crazy”. As with the North American Tour from 1973 Pink Floyd once again employ Dick Parry on saxophone and Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams on backing vocals.
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was used as the opener during all 74 shows up through the first three Empire Pool dates but is now moved to the third slot where it will remain for the rest of the tour. This was a wise decision to move this as “Raving And Drooling” works very effectively as the opener and “Shine On” is a great closer before the break. The show starts with a tape of some very bizarre and comical rambling from Radio 2 DJ Jimmy Young before the opening notes of “Raving And Drooling”. These shows from 1974 are notable for giving us some of the earliest versions of this, “You Gotta Be Crazy” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. “You Gotta Be Crazy” is the least developed of the newer tracks and “Shine On” is played as one continuous piece instead of in two halves.
There is a very small insignificant cut at the start of “You Gotta Be Crazy” during Gilmour’s opening strums and during the second harmony solo, it sounds like he either breaks a string or slips out of tune. He plays tentatively and is avoiding some of the notes. Roger’s vocal cuts in a few words late in “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as if the engineer had his channel muted. The transition between the two halves flows seamlessly together and is a pleasure to listen to this way.
After a short break, the band comes back with the complete Dark Side Of The Moon. This is no doubt what the audience has been waiting for and has really developed nicely in the live setting since the official release. Some collectors have even commented on preferring the previous evening’s broadcast over the original studio arrangement. The sole encore, “Echoes”, strays slightly in arrangement and features saxophone solos from Dick Parry. Opinions are mixed on this arrangement but I’ve actually grown to like it and Parry plays some nice melodies in this version. “Echoes” is featured on a third disc which Sigma found necessary to avoid breaking up the Dark Side suite.
Decline And Fall Of The British Empire is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with some nice photos and is another highly recommended Sigma title. This label has been very consistent in offering stellar Floyd releases and this is no exception. A thank you to Sigma must go out for finally making this show commercially available.