Pink Floyd – Chicago 1971 (Sigma 217)

Chicago 1971 (Sigma 217)

Auditorium Theater, Chicago, IL, USA – October 27, 1971

Disc 1 (74:16) The Embryo, Fat Old Sun, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Atom Heart Mother, One Of These Days

Disc 2 (69:50) Careful With That Axe Eugene, Cymbaline, Echoes, A Saucerful Of Secrets

When one looks at the audience recordings from Pink Floyd’s 1971 fall tour of North America several instantly come to mind, San Diego, Washington D.C., and Cincinnati are the ones that most are familiar with. All have excellent sound quality and have not only made the rounds in trading circles but also in the collectors market. Certainly a recording that has gone under everybody’s radar is the Chicago performance on October 27, 1971 and for good reason, it suffered from speed issues most notably at the end of the tape that made it a very difficult listen unless you like your Floyd in Chipmunk quality.

Earlier this year a member of the Yeeshkul collective put some serious work into this tape and the result is astounding. Siege72 deserves ample praise for what he accomplished, there is an audio sample of Echoes in the original torrent and when I first listened it was hard to believe it was the same recording. The sound falls into the good to very good range, distant yet clear with a bit of hiss as one would expect, overall a very consistent recording. There is a nice balance of instruments and vocals, the audience on a whole are quiet and respectful although the taper’s buddy adds some comments here and there and at times you can here distant conversation. The clarity of the recording makes the sound effects of children laughing in Embryo and the footsteps in Cymbaline audible and enjoyable.

The set list for the tour follow a similar pattern with most of the concerts opening with Embryo, the version here is a relaxed trip that sounds very Jazzy, the improvisation is mellow and features some nice keyboard work from Richard Wright. The song is in its last throes of life and in a months time would be forever gone from the live set. Interesting chatter after the song is over, the taper and friend discuss the New Floyd versus Old Floyd, obviously expected something older sounding. There are some interesting Church bell sound effects at the beginning of Fat Old Sun, another song nearing the end of live performance, the band start off again playing very relaxed, no rush or hurry. Gilmour starts the middle improvisation with some tasteful leads, not pushing the pace but letting it develop. Once the small break happens and Wright and Waters begin the transition of the fast rhythmic jam is where the piece really takes off.

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is always a great song live, this version is inline with that assessment. The middle section is incredible, the feeling of a swirling movement and Roger’s hammering of the gong adds to the ferocity of the performance. The version of Atom Heart Mother is solid but fails to really deliver and sounds somewhat average when compared to the rest of the concert. There is a long wait while the band prepares the sound effects for One Of These Days, there is some rumbling of the crowd, tape pauses, mic bumps, all that fun stuff, once they are ready Roger introduces it as “track from our new album called One Of These Days”. The song certainly pleases the audience, they give it a nice cheer and quickly quiet down only to clap along with Roger’s bass at the very beginning. The band seem intent on playing a most perfect version, Nick Mason’s drumming is deliberate as he lays down a staggered percussive sequence like the feeling of gentle waves on a lake. The center section is really great, droning notes sounding like warning sirens and some abrasive sounds from Dave, it’s like the eye of the storm, Rogers comes in then Nick does his vocal line, very audible in the recording although the heavy rocking part is somewhat low in the mix. Some sound effects continue after the song is over, they sound like bubbling water, Roger tunes his bass…

…and the soundscape leads into Careful With That Axe, Eugene. Roger’s bass notes have a resonance sound to them, the pace is solid from the start, one prepares for an aggressive version of the song. Roger does some crazy screams as the song builds in its intensity leading to the violent section, you can hear Dave’s guitar moving in the background thanks to the Azimuth Coordinator. I love how the song keeps going, the last few minutes it winds down to a gentle exhale. The footsteps portion of Cymbaline is a treat for the audience, they respond very well as the sound of footsteps running around the building in the pitch black auditorium. Roger speaks to the audience “This is our last tune. Thank you very much for coming, this is called Echoes”, during the quiet beginning there is some commotion prompting someone to say “shut up alright?” and it does the trick. Where Atom Heart Mother sounds a bit dated, Echoes is fresh with its wonderfully lush textures and harmonizing vocals from Dave and Richard. The jams are free flowing and light, the audience is enchanted with the wind and seabirds section, a typically great 1971 version of the classic track. The tapers misunderstand Roger’s introduction to A Saucerful Of Secrets so there is a bit of chatting as his buddy talks to the girl next to him, thankfully it is not too distracting. A Saucerful of Secrets is the perfect encore, the audience and listener are riveted to the Storm Signal section bristling with sound, the segue into Celestial Voices and the way it builds so beautifully, the soaring vocalization comes in and  it’s truly wonderful. God I love 1971!

The packaging is typical for Sigma, this time the photos are all in black and white, I rather like the four way split shot for the cover with fonts in the middle. Of course pictures on the CD’s and the numbered sticker, yes it’s all here. I love this era of Pink Floyd and to have a performance as enjoyable as this added to my collection is a most pleasing thing.

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  1. Great review! A few weeks ago I was contemplating whether or not to get this one. I then turned to this site hoping to find a review. Until today I didn’t. However, in the absence of a review I decided to take a chance, and boy was I happy having done so! This is such a lovely recording of a tremendous show. In particular I enjoy the recorded and a friend (possibly) providing comments of the performances in between the songs (and have the good taste to be quiet listening during the performances). I find this to add a lovely atmosphere and almost a direct connection back to that day in 1971. I’m not sure an track is better than any other, the performances are simply so confident and feels so natural and organic. A definite recommendation imho.

  2. Yes…I agree very much…excellent review…thanks very much. It surely was a great one to be able to finally add to my factory-pressed collection of original silver(s) a couple months ago, shortly after it was released by Sigma.


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