An Italian Tale (Godfather Records GR 735/736)
Palazzo delle Manifestazioni Artistiche, Brescia, Italy – June 19th, 1971
Disc 1 (55:36): Atom Heart Mother, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Fat Old Sun,The Embryo
Disc 2 (67:10): The Return Of The Son Of Nothing, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Cymbaline, A Saucerful Of Secrets
When Pink Floyd toured Europe in the summer 1971 they planned their first visit to Italy in three years. Initally, they were booked to play at the Palasport in Milan. But after the promoter failed to obtain the proper license, the show was moved two hours way to the Palazzo dello Sport in Bologna. When licensing fell through for that gig, it was moved yet again to Brescia, two hours to the south of Bologna, at the Palazzo delle Manifestazioni Artistiche.
The accommodations were so fast that the show couldn’t even be properly advertised.
An Italian Tale is the first silver release of this tape, another Godfather exclusive. The recording is distant but clear and quite atmospheric. The taper paused between every song eliminating all of the song introductions, tunings, and in most cases the opening notes. Also, there are small cuts 4:14 in “Echoes” and at small one at the very end of “A Saucerful Of Secrets.”
The British press didn’t pay much attention to the band during the summer. Pink Floyd’s big event in the UK in the first half of the year was their appearance at the Crystal Palace Garden on May 15th. There were several newspaper articles about Syd Barrett, but nothing about Floyd until they started their fifth US tour in October.
The Brescia show follows the same setlist as the other concerts that summer. The tape cuts in at the beginning of “Atom Heart Mother.” It flies by at a brisk tempo for almost fifteen minutes, sounding as if the band are sick of the piece. In February that year they held several massive performances of the song with brass section and choir conducting it as if it were a sophisticated rock-classical fusion.
But this performance sounds much more heavy metal than anything else. David Gilmour’s abrasive fuzz on the guitar cuts through the melody and lends genuine excitement to the piece before it comes to a loud, screeching halt.
“Careful With That Axe, Eugene” follows. Gilmour’s guitar is surprisingly melodic during the languid first half, but after Roger Waters’ scream the song picks up steam and turns extremely violent. Waters’ vocalizations are in counterpoint with deep moans of pain and agony from Gilmour’s guitar. And since Waters doesn’t take control of the piece as he does in later versions, it becomes an interesting live set piece for the guitarist.
After “Fat Old Sun,” the first half closes with “The Embryo.” The middle section of the piece becomes interesting when Richard Wright plays bizarre other-worldly whale songs as a duet with the cooing infant. Not sure exactly what he has in mind, but it is an interesting variation of the ever-evolving piece.
The second set begins with “The Return Of The Son Of Nothing,” the still unreleased masterpiece “Echoes.” It is still in its early stage of development. The sonar pings are missing and Glimour sings the old “space” lyrics, “Planets singing face to face / Bound to the air of life, how sweet! / If purposely we might embrace / The perfect union deep in space.” Wright plays jazzy keyboards during the first half and Gilmour’s seabirds aren’t too vocal in the middle.
After the new piece they continue with “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun,” one of their earliest pieces. During the first half the rhythm section plays quicker and more violent than in other performances. Wright’s keyboards take on an interesting middle-eastern or Indian sound, almost like a snake charmer trying to calm a king cobra.
The song calms down about halfway through. Wright’s keyboards are much more tense and contemplative while Waters lightly plays the melody on the bass guitar.
After “Cymbaline,” Pink Floyd close with an excellent nineteen minute version of “A Saucerful Of Secrets.” The cut at the end at the 19:42 mark, eliminates the entire “wordless chorus” section of “Celestial Voices.” Still, it is an compelling and dramatic encore for what is a very nice concert.
Brescia is a bit of a swan song for the band in their relationship with Italy. The night after this gig the band would play in Rome which would be Pink Floyd’s final visit to Italy until 1988, when they returned for A Momentary Lapse of Reason.
An Italian Tale is packaged in a trifold gatefold sleeve with many and various photographs from the proper era and extensive liner notes in an insert. Overall Godfather have been doing a great job documenting previously unpressed Pink Floyd shows and are perhaps at this time more relevant than Sigma, the Japanese Pink Floyd dedicated label. This is another highly recommended Pink Floyd release worth having.