Labyrinths (Highland HL269/270)
Pavillion De La Jeunesse, Quebec, Canada – November 10, 1971
Disc 1 (65:19) Introduction, Embryo, Fat Old Sun, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, One Of These Days, Atom Heart Mother
Disc 2 (69:37) Cymbaline, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes, A Saucerful Of Secrets
1971 had been a busy year for Pink Floyd, their newest record Meddle had sold well and had provided the band with another stepping stone in the development of their sound. Their touring schedule was strong and the year would find the band not only with their usual European and UK tours but also their second trip to Japan and their first trip to Australia. The last tour of the year would find the band playing an extensive American tour, hitting many markets they had not previously visited, and thankfully there are many quality recordings from the tour. One show that is certainly a hidden gem is sourced from the last of three dates played just north of the border in Canada, in Quebec Canada. Thankfully the incredible progressive label Highland produced an excellent release documented this show. The audience recording has very good, clear and atmospheric sound that comes predominantly from the mid to higher frequencies. All instruments can be heard with the drums being slightly in the background, there are many cuts throughout the recording but the bulk of the show is intact. There was one other release of this show, Quebec City 1971 (SACEM 091-011) that was incomplete missing more than half of the recording.
The show begins with an announcer speaking in French before stating “I hope everybody is stoned”, and gets a huge round of applause as he introduces the band to a fine ovation. The taper pauses the recording quickly and things pick up with a mumble from Roger and the band progress into their opening number “Embryo”. While not as long as the famous version from Cincinnati at the end of the tour the song has all the components of a great version, the sounds of infants coupled with the keyboards of Richard Wright give a surreal feeling that lead into Dave playing a shuffle to get the song moving the middle free jam. The jamming sounds similar to what would be further developed into the “On The Run” jam in the Dark Side suite. There is some tape warble at 10:53 to 10:57. The taper hits the pause button after a thank you from Roger and the recording picks up with the sounds of chirping birds prelude to “Fat Old Sun”, the song gets a nice round of applause from the audience as Dave sings the opening verse. What is most interesting is the playing of Richard during this Dave penned song; he is the lead player during much of the middle jam section and leads the others through the paces.
After a tape pause the sounds of “Set The Controls” come rising from the depths in its typically mysterious manner, Roger’s use of the larger cymbal is most effective. There is tape wobble at 4:18 to 4:24 and what sounds to me like a small cut at the 4:21 mark, possible displacing a very small amount of music. The music is very clear and after the swirling interaction at the Sun’s Heart you get some nice applause from the audience that give perspective on the performance. There is a tape pause between songs that thankfully does not miss Roger’s speaking in French between them as the winds can be heard and the bass is checked. As the band begin “One Of These Days” the audience proceed to clap in time with the group for a minute until they are blown back by the sound. The recording is vivid during the warped center and vocal delivery section, one that has some nice and tripped out improvisation; there is tape wobble at 6:18 to 6:25.
There is a tape cut between songs cutting part of Roger’s French introduction to “Atom Heart Mother”, the song itself has an interesting sound at the beginning, almost like a siren that sounds to announce the coming storm. I enjoy the 71 versions of “Atom Heart Mother”, the band is much more confident and relaxed during the piece and the music really flows. This version suffers from many tape speed issues throughout the song and is sadly incomplete as the recording cuts at the 14 minute mark eliminating the remainder of the song that leads to the intermission. What we do hear is a somber band only version of the piece, the scat vocalization from Wright and Gilmour is quite effective and haunting at the same time.
The second disc picks up with Roger introducing “Cymbaline”. The footsteps section is very clear and the sound of a woman laughing is interesting to some around the taper as some muffled conversation can be heard. There is a small tape cut at 9:37 but nothing of significance is lost, the taper quickly resumes to capture the remainder of the footsteps and the bands somewhat clumsy re entering of the piece. The between song cut finds the recording picking up with the first notes of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” starting softly with a real laid back approach, about 2 minutes in Roger plays some nice bass notes that serve as a prelude to Dave’s scat vocals. The band do not seem in a hurry and meander around until a tape cut a 5:45 leads to the post attack part eliminating all of Roger’s violent screams. The song ends with the same ethereal quality as it began; the tape cut is most unfortunate as it is a great version of the piece.
The weight of the show seems to fall on “Echoes”, thankfully the pause between songs does not miss any music and includes Roger’s introduction to the song. One of the best parts of this recording is the clarity of Richard Wright’s keyboards, his contribution was too vital to the band and is wonderful to listen to his playing. His interaction with Dave is spot on and is a chemistry that would remain throughout his last tour’s with the guitarist in 2006. There is a small cut at 17:04 but little is missing. Much of the clapping and cheering is present as the group return to the stage for the encore, Roger thanks them for coming and introduces “A Saucerful Of Secrets”, something that gets a nice ovation from the audience. The song starts quite restrained but the “Syncopated Pandemonium” section is very dense pushing Mason’s drums to the back of the recording rendering them almost non existent. The “Storm Signal” portion would have been incredible to hear live, all the sound spinning around your head making for a sensory overload thanks to the bands sound system. There is a tape speed issue at 17:17 of the piece but no music is lost and the song is thankfully complete although the version is not as cohesive as one would expect.
The packaging is simple color inserts adorned with pictures of the band with Meddle style graphics and the inner tray has a picture of the concert advertisement. I love the live shot of Dave’s silhouette on the back cover, quite striking. Before I had the Internet I used to rely on local record shops and conventions to get my bootlegs, I was lucky enough to find this title and Process of Creation at the same shop and I am most thankful that I was able to get a copy of this fine show. I have not listened to this for some years and was most surprised when I stuck it in my player. This release is long out of print and I have not seen a lot of copies floating around, this show would be, in my opinion, worthy of an upgrade as it still holds up very well against other late 71 recordings.