Colchester 1971 2nd Gen (Sigma-258)
Lecture Theatre Block 6 & 7, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, UK – February 12, 1971
Disc 1 (43:10) Atom Heart Mother, The Embryo, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Disc 2 (53:33) Astronomy Domine, Cymbaline, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets
Pink Floyd spent the first month of 1971 ensconced in EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London to begin working on the follow up to Atom Heart Mother. Much of the work was short pieces of unconnected music that would be referred to as Nothing Part 1 and so on. While much of the work seemed tedious, the sessions would eventually lead to the construction of Echoes and One Of These Days. The studio work would be halted for two months to allow the band to return to live performance with dates booked around the United Kingdom followed by several in Germany.
The fourth concert of 1971 took place at the University of Essex in Colchester and a singular audience recording exists for the date. This is easily a very good recording, the sound is just a tad distant but is clear and detailed with all instruments being clear in the mix and the balance is near perfect. The recording is near complete, there are cuts between many of the songs and the very end of Eugene and very beginning of Astronomy Domine are missing but the loss is literally just seconds so nothing too intrusive. Probably the main detriment which people may have an issue with is the level of hiss, I find once your ears adjust you don’t really notice it but it is certainly there, yet to try and lower it would certainly lessen some of the upper frequency range. The hiss is certainly what keeps this recording from being more popular like a few of the recordings from Germany latter in the month.
Once you get past the hiss, you will find a wonderful, albeit shorter, performance by The Pink Floyd. They have dropped Green Is The Colour as a precursor to Careful With That Axe, Eugene and Fat Old Sun is not played on these early dates although it would return sporadically throughout the year. The recording begins with Roger saying “OK, here we go” and the band launch into a 17 minute version of Atom Heart Mother. This is a very nice laid back version, the scat vocals have an ethereal sound and once the sound gets settled you really get a small theatre intimate sound and atmosphere that is quite appealing. Roger drops “The” from his introduction to Embryo and it sounds like either David misses or has equipment issues at the very beginning of the song making for a disjointed start but very quickly recovers and once the full band break into the song it’s quite powerful.
The audience quietly chats between songs and are very receptive to Roger’s introduction to Careful With That Axe, Eugene. A very good version indeed, the playing is not forced and Roger’s scream is bloodcurdling, the very last few notes of the song are missing due to a tape cut. The recording commences with the first few notes missing from Astronomy Domine, Richard’s ethereal organ flourishes only. The tape hiss is just a bit less and the sound is just a tad better on this second disc, nears the excellent range by the time the band get into Cymbaline making for a wonderful ambient recording of the middle section.
The recording picks up the intricate playing of Richard Wright perfectly during Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, the audience seems almost stunned at the conclusion and there is a brief period of silence as the song finishes before a nice round of applause. An 18 minute version of A Saucerful Of Secrets finishes the recording, the Syncopated Pandemonium section sounds very mechanical and the sound sometimes distorts pushing the drums back to the rear of the recording but in a wonderful way, the transition into Celestial Voices is warm and inviting, the song finishes to a loud ovation and Roger thanking the audience just before the tape ends. It is unknown if there was an encore played, Glenn Povey’s excellent The Complete Pink Floyd The Ultimate Reference Book lists Interstellar Overdrive as being played, nonetheless just a relaxed and extremely well played concert.
The mix of photos used on this release are really nice, the posed front cover as well as one used in the interior gives a pastoral view of the band, the remaining are live shots. The CDs share the cover pic and let’s not forget the numbered sticker included with some sets. Like many of the Led Zeppelin titles I buy and review, I tread lightly through the releases as I try to figure out what I need and value for my money. A release like this makes by buying decision easy, a great recording making its silver CD debut and from 1971 to boot! (no pun intended) Great release and certainly worth consideration.