First Time In Japan (The Godfatherecords G.R. 933/934/935)
This recent release from Godfather contains both shows documenting Pink Floyd’s first trip to Japan, a short tour consisting of just three dates. Such was the success of this tour that the band would return to the Land of the Rising Sun for a proper tour the following year. What makes this release interesting, for me, is the fact that I have needed upgrades of these shows for some time and finally someone decided to put the shows together in one release.
Hakone Aphrodite, Hakone, Japan – August 6, 1971
Disc 1 (71:55) Buffy Sainte Marie – The Circle Game (Support Act), Introduction / Soundcheck, Atom Heart Mother, Tuning Up, Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Tuning Up, Echoes, Cymbaline
For the first two dates of the tour, Pink Floyd would play the Hakone Aphrodite ’71 Festival and were the headliners for both days. Three incomplete sources exist for the first date and have circulated in trading circles and eventually found there way to bootleggers. Previous releases for the Hakone recording(s), Echoes Of Japanese Meddle (Shout To The Top STTP 153) contains what is considered source 3, Aphrodite (Sirene 160) contains both source 1 & 2 and also included a full size replica of the festival program as well as a higher price and most recently Memories Of The East (Sigma 24)
In his assessment for the latter, Plomerus stated that there has not been a comprehensive release of this material, one that would use all available sources to give us as complete a document as possible.
The recording begins with the just shy of three minute Buffy Sainte Marie, Plomerus ponders the reasoning for its inclusion on the Sigma title, it is a strange addition but since I do not have any of this material prior it makes little difference to me. The sound quality is certainly very good with a slight layer of hiss as well as muffled conversations in the background, the song fades with applause and picks up with a vocal microphone check (one two….one two…) that lasts for 35 seconds before the cut / fade to the announcer and his introduction of “Ladies and Gentlemen…This is Pink Floyd”. His introduction is premature as there is feedback and Richard Wright continues to sound check his organ followed by Roger Waters checking his bass, the audience uses this time to converse but are mostly respectful. The source sounds like it changes to a much lesser briefly for Rogers introduction of “OK, here we go” and the sound switches back to a very good sound and a great tractor introduction to “Atom Heart Mother”. The sound so far can be considered to be similar to the Sigma title as there is a great cheer as the band break into “AHM” on the STTP version and just as in the Sigma review the sound clears up nicely about two minutes in to near excellent quality, the trace hiss is still there but all instruments and vocals are clean and well defined. The scat styled vocals of Gilmour and Wright is simply wonderful in this recording and very atmospheric and I find that Nick Mason’s drumming is particularly dramatic sounding, his playing during this period was much more expressionistic than what the later material would require him to more “keeping time”.
As with the Sigma version the sound quality increases just as Plomerus describes for “Green Is The Colour”, he also describes what is a tape cut at 1:33, Godfathers switches to another source for 10 seconds but for some reason goes back into the previous source just in time for the tape crinkle. A much better patch would have been to utilize the STTP tape as it does not contain the tape cut or crinkle.
“Echoes” contains the alternate lyrics for the piece and clocks in at 22 minutes and is the longest version of the song to be released on silver so far. Gilmour sounds as if he is having guitar issues as they go into the funky dung section but eventually gets it together. The first source fades at the 19:56 point and source three is utilized for the last two minutes of the piece giving collectors as complete a document as possible. The remaining song on the disc is the source 3 version of “Cymbaline”. The sound begins somewhat muffled but clears after a minute into the piece, it must have been popular in Japan as the audience claps along but thankfully the taper had a good position and it does not interfere with the music but in fact accents it. There are a couple of what sounds like fireworks being blasted off at the 2:24 mark, this is somewhat striking to me as it seems like the Japanese audiences were much more well behaved than their American counterparts who regularly would engage in these activities. The song is cut at the 7:02 mark and an unknown amount of the song is missing as the recording comes back with just a few seconds of the song followed by a huge round of applause and more fireworks.
Overall a well done take on the first Hakone show, other than the small part in “CWTAE” that could have been handled a little better this is, for me, as good as it gets. Due to the fragmentary nature of the three sources I prefer a composite to give the best presentation as opposed to have all three sources separate, Godfathers have given us just that.
Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – August 9, 1971
Disc 2 (48:04) Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Fat Old Sun, Atom Heart Mother
Disc 3 (72:22) Echoes, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Cymbaline, A Saucerful Of Secrets
For the last night of the tour the band would play the Festival Hall in Osaka, a far more intimate setting as opposed to the previous two concerts performed in an open air atmosphere. This would also allow the band to play a full concert and not the truncated festival set. There is only a single tape source for the Osaka date and the recording has been released before, first being Live In Osaka (Zeus Z20102701/2), and most recently in upgraded sound quality on Osaka 1971 (Sigma 67), the sound quality is near excellent, a bit thin sounding with some upper end distortion and perhaps the drums are slightly in the background compared to the other instruments. The audience is extremely quiet and respectful and this recording is certainly the best sonic document of the first Japanese tour. Unfortunately the taper paused the tape machine between songs but other than that the recording is complete.
I only own the Zeus title so that is what I can directly compare sound quality to, and also Gerard’s review of the Sigma titles and find that Godfather’s source is certainly brighter sounding with virtually no hiss but has the top end distortion, similar to what GS describes in his review. Curiously this version Disc 1 is a full 2 minutes shorter than the Sigma version and close to a minute shorter than the Zeus title. The main difference in times between this version and Zeus is “Atom Heart Mother”, Godfather’s is 18:05 and Zeus is 18:50. I did not detect any cuts in the Godfather version and the tape speed sound similar to my ears. The disc times for the second disc are much closer when compared to the Zeus title, but close to 2 minutes shorter than the Sigma title, without having the Sigma title to compare tape speed we can only assume that it is all in the tape speed that Gerard describes in his review. To my humble ears I do not hear this tape running too fast as one would assume. The Osaka concert is a wonderful document that demands repeated listening’s, while the slightly boomy sound may not appeal to everyone may not be to everyone’s taste. It does sound similar to the incredible Led Zeppelin performances at this same venue the following month.
The packaging is wonderful, beginning with the trifold sleeve, the cover replicates the Atom Heart Mother sleeve by incorporating cows in a scenic pasture while the inner sleeve comprises live shots from the Hakone show as well as four individual band shots. There is an 8 page booklet with accurate liner notes from Alex The Gnome as well as individual band pictures possibly from the festival program (?) as well as a second insert, a mini poster for the festival along with an area map as well as performance times on the flip side. This great release by Godfather is an excellent alternative to the older titles and the much more complete version of the Hakone material and Osaka sound quality improvements make this a title worth having.