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Pink Floyd – Los Angeles 1975 4th Night Mike Millard Master Tapes (Sigma 242)

Los Angeles 1975 4th Night Mike Millard Master Tapes (Sigma 242)

Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA, USA – April 26, 1975

Disc 1 (63:31) Mike Test, Intro, Raving And Drooling, You Gotta Be Crazy, Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1-5, Have A Cigar, Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 6-9

Disc 2 (56:52) 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 (24:37) Audience, Echoes

To date the Lost and Found series has presented fresh transfers of previously unavailable first-generation copies made by Mike himself for friends like Stan Gutoski of JEMS, Jim R and Barry G. These sources were upgrades to circulating copies, and in most instances marked the first time verified first generation Millard sources had been directly digitized in the torrent era. Now, we are ecstatic to present what had been previously unthinkable, unimaginable, perhaps even impossible: a direct, high-resolution transfer from Millard’s original master tapes.

Yes, you read that correctly, Mike Millard’s master cassettes, long rumored to be destroyed or lost, have been found. Not all of them, but many, and with them a much more complete picture has emerged of what Millard recorded between his first show in late 1973 and his last in early 1992.

The reason the rediscovery of his master tapes is such a revelation is that we’ve been told for decades they were long gone. Internet myths suggest Millard destroyed his master tapes before taking his own life, an imprudent detail likely concocted based on assumptions that because the master tapes had never surfaced and Mike’s mental state was troubled, he would do something that rash WITH HIS LIFE’S WORK. There’s also a version of the story where Mike’s family dumps the tapes after he dies.

The truth is, Mike’s masters remained in his bedroom for many years after his death in 1994. We know at least a few of Millard’s friends and acquaintances contacted his mother inquiring about the tapes after his death to no avail. But in the early 2000s, longtime Millard friend Rob S was the one she knew and trusted enough to preserve Mike’s work.

Here’s Rob’s account of how Millard’s master tapes were saved:

After Mike left us, I visited his mom Lia occasionally, usually around the holidays. She’d talk about the grandkids and show me pictures. She had no one to help out around the house so I did some minor improvements like fixing a kitchen shelf that collapsed and another time a gate that hadn’t worked for years.

After a few visits, I explained to Lia how the tapes were metal, up to 25 years old already and would eventually deteriorate. She agreed to let me take the tapes and make copies. We went into Mike’s bedroom and it was exactly like I remembered it when I was there years before. I loaded up every tape I could find and went to work copying them. Oldest first, some requiring “surgery.”

Months later when I was done copying, I compared what I had copied to a list Mike had compiled of his masters and realized there were many shows missing. I returned the tapes and asked Lia if we could see if there were any more somewhere else in the house. We went into a back bedroom and found a bunch of boxes filled with more original master tapes. I loaded them up, thanked Lia and left. This was the last time I would see her. I copied the rest of the tapes and stored the masters in a cool dry place until late last year when Jim R. reached out. We had known each other through Mike. After speaking with Jim, and later BK who had tracked him down, I knew their partnership was the “right way” to get this music out to everyone who wanted it, and I’m sure Mike would have agreed.

Initially, Rob copied a large batch of Millard’s master cassettes to DAT and returned them to the house. The second time around, he was given a large portion of the cassette collection, different from what he had copied to DAT. The first round of DAT transfers features some of Millard’s most famous recordings of Led Zeppelin, ELP, the Rolling Stones and Jethro Tull. The second traunch of actual cassette masters includes his captures of Yes, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Rush and Pink Floyd.

As exciting as it is to access Millard’s masters of the shows we know and love, there are many new recordings in both collections from artist like Elton John, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Eric Clapton, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Guns N’ Roses, Linda Ronstadt, David Bowie, the Moody Blues, U2 and more.

Even with an information gap in the mid ‘80s when Millard was surely taping but there is no tape or written evidence as to what he captured, we have now confirmed some 280 shows Millard did record. Of those, there are master cassettes for approximately 100 shows, DATs off masters of another 75 and first generation analog copies for 20-25. Together, that nearly quadruples the number of extant Millard recordings. In the coming months we will release more amazing shows from the recovered treasure, some familiar, some entirely new. But we had to start somewhere.

And so we begin this new era of Mike the MIC master tapes with one of the most beloved recordings in the Millard canon: his incredible capture of Pink Floyd on night four of the band’s five show stand at the Sports Arena in LA on the Wish You Were Here tour. This recording has been bootlegged and circulated in many forms, most recently from what are claimed to be (and in fairness probably are) first-generation sources that sound excellent. In fact, we were preparing to post Jim R’s first generation cassettes made by Mike (which have particularly brilliant cassette art) before this fortunate turn of events.

Mike’s master recording is sublime, a sonic marvel not merely for what it captures from the stage but for how little the audience can be heard, save for when you want to hear them. It is full, rich and close in a way that makes the argument for why the best audience recordings can be more satisfying than a soundboard tape. Mike used TDK KR 90 cassettes, an early chrome tape which would soon be rebranded to the more familiar SA 90.

The tapes were recorded Dolby on, but for this edition transferred Dolby off, as Mike did himself when he made copies for friends. The sonic signature should be familiar to those who have done close listening to the best first-generation sourced versions (like buffalofloyd’s update of Sigma’s Definitive Millard), but hopefully that title more accurately applies to this version.

To our ears, the Millard master transfer is everything you love about the extant recording and more: lower lows, clearer highs, less hiss. It is balanced, warm and immersive. We’ve made the recording available in both consumer friendly 1644 and audiophile 2496 editions, with mastering at a bare minimum to let the pure power of the capture shine through.

Millard’s dear friend Jim R was with Mike at the show and shot the original unpublished photos we are fortunate to include with this release. Here’s what he recalls:

Mike and I attended the Pink Floyd concert on April 26, 1975. I pushed him in the wheelchair. It was the fourth night of a five night stand at the LA Sports Arena. Due to Pink Floyd’s popularity, tickets were in extremely high demand and expensive. As a result, we attended only the one night. Since the LA Sports Arena was owned by LA County, all of the choice seats were controlled by downtown ticket brokers. Fortunately, we were in tight with several of them and had our choice of where to sit.

Ahead of time, we heard about the high quality sound system Pink Floyd was using and that it would be a Quadrophonic setup. Knowing that, we decided on seats a little further back than normal, in the 16th row in order to pickup some of the Quad sound. Indeed it was a fantastic sound system with PA stacks in each corner of the floor. What really makes this show one of the most memorable of the 200 or so concerts Mike and I attended together was the fact that there were over 500 drug busts made during Pink Floyd’s LA run (detailed in a big LA Times story about the crackdown). Regardless, we were able to sneak in a Nakamichi 550 cassette recorder, which is the size of the yellow pages phone book and nearly 15 pounds. Amazingly, people got busted for a couple joints and somehow we smuggle in a huge tape deck and get away with it. What a rush!

The recording turned out superb and it was aided by a very polite crowd. At the very beginning of the recording Mike says “testing 123.” The lighting was on the dark side (pun intended), and since we sat 16 rows back, my pictures turned out a little on the fuzzy side. Oh well.

Wow, what a story and for music collectors, some of the best and most important news to arrive for some time. I thought the information included on the torrent was worth repeating here, it gives a large amount of information on how the tapes began to make it into circulation and will be able to be enjoyed for years to come. The first concert to debut from the Millard masters is as stated, his incredible recording of Pink Floyd’s performance at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Spring 1975. This recording has seen several releases over the years, Dogs and Sheeps (Flashback Productions FLASH 01.93.0197/1&2), Movin Time (Rock Calendar Records RC 2123/2134), Hogs In Smog ’75 (Shout To The Top STTP 108/109), The Late Great Millard Tapes (Highland HL644/645/646), Pink Millard (Sigma 31), Los Angeles 1975 4th Night (Sigma 148), and most recently Definitive Millard (Sigma 228). Like many of the great sounding tapes, Sigma has their share of rehash titles, I own Pink Millard and stopped there, it had its short comings specifically cropping some audience cheering and Millard Mic check to fit it on two CDs but the sound was incredible, it is this title I am using to compare the sonics to.

First off this new release is a three disc title and since it is a direct copy of Millard’s master tape, contains all known tape and there are none of the tape markings he was known to do. The sound is a perfect stereo audience recording, it has just a touch of tape hiss common with Millard’s tapes. There is a bit of audience noise near Millard and the recording picks up the atmosphere of the event as well as the acoustics of the arena, when people say they prefer a good audience tape over a soundboard recording, this tape should be used as reference. The differences between this and Pink Millard can be summed up rather quickly, this one is better. It has a better range of frequencies and its clarity is a bit clearer but not the monumental increase I was expecting. The first thing I notice while listening is the bass frequencies are deeper, when I put on Pink Millard then this new Millard Master I could feel the bass vibrations of this new title. The upper range is just a tad cleaner, yet the tape hiss is the same or a little bit more prominent than Pink Millard most certainly due to the mastering Sigma used.

This new recording is so vivid when you close your eyes you feel as through you are in the arena and can feel the music around you, this new transfer has a more open soundscape not present on Pink Millard. You can feel the air of tension from Roger’s introductions as well, “you either get it or you won’t…there it is”. As most know there was a thick police presence at these shows, coupled with a typical mid 70’s Rock concert, general lunacy, fireworks, etc… you can feel Roger is quickly tiring of the larger crowds. With a recording like this, its perfect balance and incredible clarity you can take the time to not only enjoy the music as it is being played, but you can easily drift from one musician to the next and listen to the individual playing, when I listening to You Gotta Be Crazy I seem to focus on Roger’s bass playing. It is very good, each instrument is part of making the music, having its own voice versus laying down a simple foundation one thinks of a “rhythm section” providing. His playing is very much in the lead bass style, he punctuates alot and hits what Dead Heads call “Phil Bombs” often, really good stuff.

The tape cut / flip at the 2:11 mark of Have A Cigar is very well done, you can detect it easily but rather smooth I feel, the version of Cigar is really nice, Roger and Dave’s vocals are pretty well synced up and Dave turns in a great solo to boot, the whole song has a certain swagger to it. Nick has some old school drum fills thrown in there as well, the more structured the band got, the more his free form drummer style was suppressed so it’s nice to hear even small old school bits thrown in. It’s really easy to get lost in the Shine On Parts 6-9 jam, it flows effortlessly, there is a bit of mood, a bit of Funk, a small touch of Jazz, it seems to cover a lot of ground. The mellow vibe of the music does not calm the “Dogs”, Roger tells the people in the yellow shirts (security) to quit patrolling the front of the stage after the first set is over.

Millard gets the complete and long intro to the second set, fireworks at the beginning and it’s at the 5:34 mark when you first hear “I’ve always been mad”. I love the ambient lead in, you hear the heartbeat very faint along with nice audience anticipation and we are treated to one of THE best audience recordings of Dark Side Of The Moon in all its splendor. These 1974-75 versions are so lush, Richard Wright plays Great Gig In The Sky very light and Jazzy, it is so good with the back up singers doing their thing over the top, very smooth. The layers of synthesizer and instrumental separation can be fully appreciated during Any Colour You Like, Richard Wright’s playing is incredible, light and airy wonderfully building until Dave Gilmour finally makes his “entrance”, the tape cut / flip at the five minute mark, like the one in Cigar is wonderfully handled and while detectable does not interrupt the flow of the music. This tour featured a full compliment of musicians on Echoes, the backing singers occasional moaning and sax solo did take me some time to come to grips with, when one surrenders to the inevitable one can often find out it’s actually pretty good.

Sigma do a great job with the cover and inserts, they use all of Jim R’s photos found in the original torrent as well as pictures of Millard’s ticket stub, master tape, and J-Card. If I could change one thing it is the cropped picture on the front cover, I would have used the whole picture, a minor quip. First off props go to Jim R and the JEMS collective for giving this music out to fans, the transfer is first rate and to have a recording from the master tape is incredible. This is an absolutely stunning release and should be how it’s done, complete respect to the tape and original documentation presented in perfect fashion by Sigma. Buy this set and retire your old copies of this concert, you won’t need them anymore.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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3 comments

  1. Great Review, as usual. Thank you so very much!!

    Just a quick note to let you know that Empress Valley – the premium japanese label, just released the same show in a 3CD set claiming to be also a direct copy from Millard’s master tapes. They called it Crazy Diamond. It would be nice if one could compare both Sigma’s and EV’s.

  2. Careful Axeman Eugene

    For those who aren’t already aware, the much-less-expensive Moonchild label recently released their own 3CD version that may or may not be an exact copy, probably only slightly different if not an exact copy. A considerable $$$-saving alternate/alternative option that I myself personally chose not to take a risk on & just went with Sigma’s version even though it’s considerably more $$$.

  3. Careful Axeman Eugene

    Thanks very much for another spot-on review. My very first thought when this release was first announced on the Lighthouse site, having already owned Sigma’s “Definitive Millard” that was released in early 2019, was to have very serious doubts about yet another probably slightly tweaked rehash being worth all the $$$. But gradually I changed my mind, and I ended up ordering it along with Sigma’s new “Cincinnati 1973 1st Gen” a few weeks ago. Now if only the postal mail delivery services hadn’t been slowed down so damn much due to this horrible worldwide coronavirus crisis…..

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