Creative Intelligence (Sigma 19)
The Palace Theatre, Manchester, UK – December 9th, 1974
Disc 1: Raving And Drooling, You’ve Got To Be Crazy, Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Disc 2: Speak To Me, Breathe, On The Run, Time, Breathe (Reprise), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse
Disc 3: Audience, Echoes
Pink Floyd’s 1974 British Winter Tour produced some of the most widely circulated recordings of all time including the well-documented Wembley concerts in mid-November and the infamous Stoke-On-Trent show which immediately followed that Empire Pool residency (and was the source for what is believed to be the first mass-produced Floyd bootleg, British Winter Tour ’74, reportedly selling in excess of 100,000 units at the time!).
Taking its title from the very cool comic-style winter tour program, Creative Intelligence represents the first of a four night run at The Palace Theater in Manchester and the seventeenth date of the tour overall, so it’s not surprising to find the Floyd performing with more chemistry and confidence than the aforementioned dates, which were panned by critics and the band alike (but much-loved by the fans regardless).
Unlike past releases such as Shout To The Top’s Manchester Day (STTP 146/147) or private pressings like Kings Of The Palace, Sigma elected to divide the recording up over 3 discs, one for each of the two sets and a third for the encore, resulting in a much more accurate and enjoyable re-creation of the actual concert (as opposed to some versions that split up “Dark Side Of The Moon” into halves, which is always unfortunate). Some folks might complain about the added cost of a 3rd disc containing only the encore, but in terms of overall cohesiveness, I find this approach to be preferable.
Sourced from a low generation audience recording, the sound is very clear and extremely well-balanced, with every instrument, vocal, and sound effect perfectly audible, despite evidence the taper was slight distance from the stage. Musically, the set is complete and includes all the tune-ups, introductions, and hell, we’re even given an entire track of the audience prior to “Echoes!” There are brief cuts after “Raving And Drooling” and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy” but only a couple seconds of tuning are omitted in either case. The audience is attentive and appreciative throughout, with only an occasional side conversation audible during some of the softer bits – there is a good amount of distinctly British banter during the tune-ups but nothing too distracting during the actual performances.
The setlist for the entire tour consisted of the same material – the only variation being “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” opening the first seven dates and then subsequently shuffled to the end of the first set from the final Wembley date onward. More than likely, the logic behind this alteration in running order is because “Raving And Drooling” made for a more energizing opener compared to the melancholy of “Shine On.”
Both “Raving And Drooling” and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy” come across with more confidence than earlier performances from this tour, but there are no major developments in either piece compositionally compared to the initial dates; “Raving” has the familiar driving pulse and is structurally close to it’s later incarnation “Sheep,” but features some different lyrics and lacks the 23rd Psalm variant. Some nice “Eugene” screams about 11 minutes in that are worth mentioning though!
The guitar and synth interplay throughout the instrumental portions of “You’ve Got To Be Crazy” are truly awe-inspiring moments of musical synergy, and the results are significantly more interesting than the harmonized guitars we ultimately get on “Dogs” years later. It’s kind of a shame the contrapuntal ideas were shunned in favor of straight 3rds harmonies from Animals onward, but it is fortunate they were captured here; the interweaving melodic lines really benefit from the great sonic balance offered on this recording, and are without question among the highlights of this performance.
Unfortunately, the vocal parts aren’t as successful; Gilmour’s verses, though melodic, are far too wordy for the space they’re alotted and Waters’ performance on this song is at times cringe-inducing as he struggles to hit the notes. Also on the downside is the fact that some sections are performed at a lethargic pace, resulting in a bit of a dragging sensation. But those lengthy instrumental passages are absolutely worth revisiting numerous times!
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was presented as a complete suite throughout this tour and this is one of the last dates for which a recording is known to exist with the song performed in this fashion. More wonderful musical conversations between Gilmour and Wright are captured here and the emotion of this piece really comes through in spades. Moreso than either “Raving” or “You’ve Got To Be Crazy,” “Shine On” is once again the most familar-sounding in relation to it’s final form of the new material showcased here (apart from the fact it’s not separated into halves).
The entire performance of “Dark Side Of The Moon” can be considered a highlight of this show with several passages of particular note: all of the tapes/effects are extremely vivid, “On The Run” is invigorating having been performed at a brisk tempo, Gilmour’s vocals on “Time” are outstanding as are those of The Blackberries on “Great Gig In The Sky” (which has an unique uptempo twist before settling back to the original feel), “Us And Them” is gorgeous and the extended solo sections of both “Money” and “Any Colour You Like” would make Clapton envious! Really, this stands as one of the better performances of the complete suite captured on tape.
Disc 3 features a good two minutes of audience activity before the well-received encore “Echoes” is introduced. For the most part this is a very good albeit standard performance of the epic, but it’s worth noting that this rendition includes Dick Parry’s sax solos that would be commonplace throughout the 1975 dates, and though I have mixed feelings about these improvs, I think they’re pretty successful on this occasion. The highlight of this rendition of “Echoes” is most certainly the fabulous synth solo beginning at the 17:27 mark which makes a great transition to Gilmour’s lead break during the triplet section. A fine conclusion for a great concert that is absolutely worth owning.
I’m of the opinion that between Siréne and Sigma, pretty soon there will be no need to hold onto the majority of older Floyd releases considering the high ratio of upgrades/definitive versions to duds (which can literally be counted on one hand) and Creative Intelligence is no exception, if naught else for the logical distribution of the set over 3 discs, and it sounds fantastic for an audience source, so don’t hesitate on this one or you’ll regret it later!