Pink Floyd – BBC Archives 1974 (Sigma 1)

BBC Archives 1974 (Sigma 1)

Empire Pool, Wembley, Middlesex, England – November 16th, 1974

Speak To Me (2:32), Breathe (2:57), On The Run (4:57), Time (5:35), Breathe (Reprise) (1:01), The Great Gig In The Sky (6:45), Money (7:59), Us And Them (7:55), Any Colour You Like (7:36), Brain Damage (3:38), Eclipse (5:16), Echoes (23:33)

Sigma’s 1-CD release BBC Archives 1974 could finally be the virtually perfect version of the Dark Side of the Moon suite and “Echoes” encore of a show that has been previously released so many times by now that it has gotten ridiculous. But the fact that it’s virtually perfect possibly could finally bring a sensible end to the endless re-releasing of these recordings, unless eventually someday someone, possibly even Sigma themselves, decides to tweak the sound quality just a little bit or correct any tiny flaw or imperfection that I somehow failed to detect after having listened to the entire CD a total of 4 times and after having listened to the Dark Side suite in its many various different versions a total of several dozen times by now.

So why have I listened to this particular Dark Side suite so many times by now? Because it’s not only my all-time favorite version of Dark Side of the Moon, even including the official studio release, but also actually even my all-time favorite full album-length recording, period! Surely some of you will strongly disagree with me about the quality of the performance by Floyd of this particular Dark Side suite, possibly even so much that you’ll laugh and ridicule what’s being written here, but I don’t care, as this is the all-time greatest Dark Side in my (personal) opinion. For whatever strange reasons unknown to me, most Floyd or Dark Side fans seem to either love it or have significantly negative feelings about it, even absolutely hating it, as there are apparently very few who are somewhere in-between.

Anyway, whatever, after having listened to this particular Dark Side suite so many times by now, I’m so familiar with it that any slight flaws that might possibly be there are quite unlikely to go undetected, especially after repeated listenings. Very fortunately, none at all could be discovered. Amazing! Siréne’s 2-CD title Wembley 1974 Pre-FM Master (Siréne-009) was probably the best previous version available, but quite unfortunately the famous, or perhaps infamous, lines “I’ve been mad for f-cking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands” have been censored completely out of the mix of the opening track “Speak To Me”, probably the only imperfection noticed after its release in February 2004.

Then in early 2006, Siréne released Absolutely Years (Siréne-119), on which such an imperfection was fortunately corrected by having the “I’ve been mad for f-cking years…..” go completely uncensored. Unfortunately, however, Absolutely Years seems to have noticeably slightly more hiss than Wembley 1974 Pre-FM Master. And even worse is an unusual flaw that’s so subtle that apparently it seems to have gone unnoticed by some who have casually listened to this show, even numerous times. That is, believe it or not, somewhat faintly in the background, what appears to be rap music (or hip-hop, or whatever such type of music is called these days) in reverse can actually be heard, especially if one listens for it in particular where it’s known to exist. It starts to occur approx. 4 minutes into “On The Run” and continues on through the early part of “Time”. At one point even a female voice can be recognized for a brief moment.

So how did this unusual flaw come about? Well, I’m certainly no expert at all on music and/or related matters concerning it, but a cyber-friend of mine said that there must have been 2 sides on the tape that was used for the recording and quite unfortunately a little of the non-Floyd music somehow bled slightly to the other side at the point in question. Regardless of how the problem actually occurred or whatever caused it, it’s quite unfortunate and can be quite bothersome to some people. In addition to being on Absolutely Years, it’s also present on popular Floyd recordings such as Dark Night In Atlanta (Whoopy Cat WKP-0030), Dark Night In London (Red Robin ROB-1027-A/B), the terrifically-titled Brain Damaged Empire (Highland HL604), the non-commercial CDR release Brain Damaged (PF-2001), etc., etc.

The Swingin’ Pig (Records) calls it a “parasite signal” in the notes for the non-commercial release on the Internet of their “Time in London”. Very unfortunately, in my (personal) opinion, TSP dealt with it by masking over it with not-so-natural supposedly “natural” sounds from other parts of the Dark Side suite, which only made the problem even worse. Not long after Siréne released Absolutely Years, they came out with Raving Lunatics (Siréne-185), which apparently used TSP’s “Time in London” files.

So upon receiving Sigma’s BBC Archives 1974, with its claim of being the best-ever version, including even being speed-corrected, the very first thing to be checked was the end of “On The Run” through the early moments of “Time” for the possible presence of the so-called “parasite signal”. After listening very closely and carefully, I was pleasantly surprised. Absolutely no sign of the “parasite signal” at all!

The second question was whether or not the “I’ve been mad for f-cking years…..” was censored in any way(s) at all. Sigma’s claim of it being uncensored was fortunately confirmed as being truthful, whereas Siréne’s Wembley 1974 Pre-FM Master seemed to misleadingly imply that it was uncensored (as well). So far, so good on Sigma’s BBC Archives 1974, but there was another question to be answered. And that was whether or not the end of “Money” or the earliest part of “Us And Them” was edited or cut in any way(s) at all (including fading out and in), because it’s known to be on a few versions, such as In the Sky (Triangle Records PYCD 044), Brain Damage (The Swingin’ Pig Records TSP-CD-176), and Electric Magic (Akashic Records AKA-26). Fortunately, nothing is missing on Sigma’s BBC Archives 1974 and the transition of “Money” to “Us And Them” is seamlessly perfect.

The final test, however, was to listen to the entire CD straight through to see if there were any other possible flaws or imperfections, as just a single one can mar or even ruin what would otherwise be a perfect recording. After 4 complete listenings, the fantastic, magnificent result was that none were to be found. Absolutely awesome! The overall sound quality, which is consistent from the start to the very end, seems to be not any worse than that of any of the Siréne versions, with no discernible hiss. This new version must be the best-ever so far, and it stands to be for good unless anyone can somehow find something to upgrade, improve, or fix. It sounds much better than old versions that were released several years ago, a few of which sound very flat and lifeless, such as Brain Damage (Capricorn Records CR-1001) and Brain Damage (Sigma 6 DSM-1972). And London 1972 (From The Dark Side Of The Moon) (Golden Stars GSCD 1138, also re-issued as Live Storm LSCD 51138), which was the very first live version that I ever heard of this Dark Side performance that’s an absolutely classic masterpiece, but was somewhat disappointed in at the time to find that it sounds as muffled as it is, has now become an obsolete dinosaur, being way inferior in sound quality.

Sigma’s claim of it being pitch-corrected is interesting, as it may very well be just about perfect, but very little correction was necessary, as the previous releases mentioned were off only very slightly, if any at all. The total playing time is approx. 79:44, which means that it was quite close to being a 2-CD release instead of a 1-CD one. If it had been a little slower, 2 discs instead of just 1 would have been necessary.

The artwork is quite good in my (personal) opinion, but not as good as that of Siréne’s Wembley 1974 Pre-FM Master, especially the first pressing of it that has a purplish-blue tint. Sigma continues predecessor Siréne’s recent trend of using glossy inserts that tend to be classy-looking. If you’re looking for the ultimate recording of the Dark Side Of The Moon suite and “Echoes” encore of this legendary Pink Floyd performance, Sigma’s new 1-CD BBC Archives 1974 is highly-recommended. Sigma certainly made a hell of a choice for its very first release to start their new label.  This is sort of trivial, but just for the sake of accuracy, the lines “been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands” were taken from exactly what’s printed by Sigma on the inside of the rear insert (as well as “I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad…..”), but it seems that the true lines could actually be “I’ve been over the edge for yonks, working me buns silly, I mean crikey” instead. (DLee)

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