Pink Floyd – Atomic Ensemble (Sigma 14)

Atomic Ensemble (Sigma 14)

Friedrich Ebert Halle, Ebertpark, Ludwigshafen, West Germany – November 25th, 1970

Disc 1:  Astronomy Domine, Fat Old Sun, 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, A Saucerful Of Secrets

There is one tape source for Pink Floyd’s November 25th show in Ludwigshafen.  A high generation copy was pressed on Mounting Pressure(Highland HL196/197) a decade ago.  The master has since surfaced and can be found on several fan produced roios.  What Have You Done To Him?(DFA-012) sounds better than the Highland but runs slightly slow and was heavily processed. 

Both Ready Maestro? and Breaking The Darkness Waking The Grapevine (R&D) are speed corrected and sound much more natural.  Atomic Ensemble is the first pressed version of this show since Mounting Pressure and sounds similar to the two latter roio productions by running at the correct speed. 

The sound quality is  good but distant with hints of distortion and hiss in louder passages.  It is very similar in sound to the Munich tape four days later (Zirkus KroneSigma-6) but a bit softer.  There are minor cuts between some of the songs and “A Saucerful Of Secrets” cuts out at 16:15 eliminating the very end of the song.

Many would argue that the winter 1970 is Pink Floyd offering the last throes of the first wave of psychedelia.  Through the two hour performance musical themes are merely hinted rather than stated leaving the audience in a state of either enlightenment (or befuddlement).  Emotional states provoked range from the sublimity of “Fat Old Sun” to the creeping malaise of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene.”  

The live standard (at that time) “Astronomy Domine” begins the show, one of the hold outs from the Syd Barret led band.  David Gilmour is emphasized with the next two songs, the beautiful “Fat Old Sun” including a long guitar solo and “Cymbaline.”  Afterwards Roger Waters says:  “I thank you one and all.  We’re gonna do something from our latest album Atom Heart Mother which we’ll do without the assistance of either the brass section or a choir.  Ready maestro?” 

The title track from their latest album in its band only arrangement lacks the long Ligeti-inspired vocal passages that bring some form of humanity to the track.  “Green Is The Colour” is serves as a prelude to “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and provides a good pastoral respite in the middle of the set.  This performance includes the forest sounds at the beginning recalling its studio counterpart. 

“Okay.  This is the last piece we’re gonna play tonight.  It’s an instrumental from a couple of albums back and it’s called ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets.'”  This is one of Pink Floyd’s greatest live pieces and the range of styles and emotions is notable.  This tape is missing the blues encore just like many tapes from this era. 

Atomic Ensemble is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with period artwork including photos from the February Leeds show superimposed around a cow.  Since the sound quality is only good it will appeal to the diehards, but it is a great performance and is worth having. 

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  1. Just received mine yesterday – several days earlier than expected. It’s a pretty solid release, but as I’ve said or implied numerous times in the past, it’s quite sad that Floyd oftentimes didn’t include “A Saucerful of Secrets” in their show, and when they did, so often it gets cut off prematurely, or there’s a power failure or some other type of unfortunate problem.


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