Hakone Aphrodite 1971 Master Recording (Sigma 138)
Hakone Aphrodite, Hakone, Japan – August 6, 1971
(54:22) Atom Heart Mother, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Echoes
Pink Floyd’s inaugural trip to Japan in August 1971 was made up of just three performances, two at the Hakone Festival and one in Osaka. The Hakone festival produced several recordings, all culled from the audience and none of them complete. There have been several releases of this material, Echoes Of Japanese Meddle (Shout To The Top STTP 153), Aphrodite (Sirene 160), Memories Of The East (Sigma 24), First Time In Japan (The Godfatherecords G.R. 933/934/935), and Aphrodite 1971 (Sigma 133), all of these feature one or more of the three circulating sources. Recently a new recording with a verified generation, 1st for those who care, began to circulate as being from August 7 due to what was written on the tape but upon further investigation it is actually from the 6th, the person who taped this only went to one day so that is the correct date. The recording was originally recorded in mono but during duplication was mixed to a false stereo and given to the tapers cousin, this caused a slight delay in one channel. This issue was fixed shortly after this release and the enterprising folks at Sigma released that fan produced work as Hakone Aphrodite 1971 Remastered & Restored (Sigma 139), something that drew some criticism from collectors, including myself.
The recording is very good and well balanced, all instruments and vocals can be heard, sounds like the taper was close to the stage as the sound levels are better than the other version, the frequencies seem to bulked into the middle and the lack of upper end make it sound rather flat. That being said this is, in my opinion, the best sounding of what circulates. The main highlight on this new tape source is Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, since there are cuts between all songs and the fragmentary nature of the other recordings make it difficult to decipher exactly where in the set the song was played, the version here is a typically wonderful version of the song, Richard Wrights keyboards are perfect in the mix and the song is nicely detailed making for a wonderful listening experience. The other highlight of this tape is we finally get a complete version of Echoes, even Roger’s introduction to the piece is complete “Ok this is a new piece, and it’s called Echoes”. Typical of early versions this one has the alternate “Planets singing face to face” lyrics, despite the long journey to get to Japan, the band sounds refreshed and play a superb version of the song. So there you have it, another piece of the puzzle, I love early 70’s Floyd and was quite excited to see a new tape fragment appear after all these years, and while not complete, highly enjoyable.
The packaging is typical for Sigma, full color inserts with live shots from the festival as well as a picture of the master reel in the inside, there is a numbered sticker and picture on the CD all house in a jewel case. It would have been nice if Sigma would have not been so easy to jump on anything new and do more research, this could have easily been a double disc set with both versions of the tape yet not having two versions released weeks apart look more like a money grab. Needless to say I will not be forking over more cash for the other release.