Montreux 1970 Day 1 Recorder 1: New Remaster (Sigma 239)
Super Pop 70 VII, Casino de Montreux, Montreux, Switzerland – November 21, 1970
Disc 1 (67:55) Astronomy Domine, Fat Old Sun, Cymbaline, Atom Heart Mother, The Embryo
Disc 2 (65:57) Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Just Another 12 Bar Blues, More Blues
Much of the confusion that stemmed from the Pink Floyd’s two performances at the Super Pop 70 VII festival at the Casino de Montreux, Montreux, Switzerland stem from a tape made by the enterprising taper Victor who recorded the band’s concerts on both November 21 and 22. He made a compilation tape of his reels that circulated, eventually around the world and into the hands of bootleg companies. When his master reel for the first night, November the 21, began to circulated it made collectors re-evaluate the recordings and many changes were made.
Sigma jumped at the new tape making the rounds and released it as Victor’s Montreux (Sigma 60), a very nice sounding title that shared the master tapes flaws, Fat Old Sun, Atom Heart Mother, and A Saucerful Of Secrets all ran too slow, Careful With That Axe, Eugene was not recorded so there was that large gap to deal with. There were a few tape cuts to deal with as well as 140 sporadic dropouts throughout the recording. The folks at the fantastic collective known as Harvested would address these issues. Their incredible and detailed work of patching gaps using the other two sources of the concert, the painstaking speed correction and fixing of dropouts made for the Definitive version of the concert and released it as Too Late For Mind Expanding (Harvested HRV CDR 036), this was subsequently copied and released as Too Late For Mind Expanding (No Label), an excellent title by the No Label folks. Curiously Sigma never tried to upgrade or amend their Victor’s Montreux until now.
This new title from Sigma is a remastered version of Too Late For Mind Expanding, the label has tried to provide better sound separation and make it more detailed and improve the frequency range. The results show that they did do what they set out to, but does it sound better? First off the title did as they advertised, they have added clarity and separation, as they described, that really gives the tape a bit more punch. The increase of treble and upper frequencies has been increased, this is where I find fault with this new release. In my opinion it is a bit too much, while it does add a nice bright sound the upper frequency range on the cymbals makes for a swishing sound, I do not detect any metallic sound due to the use of heavy compression or noise reduction and there is still a bit of tape hiss, a positive. Again this is my opinion based upon how I hear this tape and is subjective to the listener, if they would have only done 75 percent of the treble boost it would have sounded better. I guess my bottom line is I am just not blown away by the mastering, the good is better clarity while maintaining a nice bottom end, the bad, and its not necessarily bad, is too much brittle cymbal.
The performance is excellent, I love the November 1970 recordings, long performances in front of music lovers who are there to listen. The intimacy between performer and audience that is achieved during these concerts is spectacular, you get the feeling of early Grateful Dead shows, a band of music followers going to see their favorite group. The acoustics of the Casino de Montreux is second to none and makes for an incredible ambient sounding document. There is no distance in this recording and sounds like Victor was close to the stage as he seems to pick up every little detail.
Gerard would write reviews for both Victor’s Montreux and Too Late For Mind Expanding that do a wonderful job with the details of the performance. Personal highlights are the flowing version of Astronomy Domine that opens the concert, Gilmour’s flange effect guitar over the masterful bass lines from Roger Waters fuels the song. The small band versions of Atom Heart Mother give the song a heavier less cluttered feel that I prefer over the versions with Orchestration. The jam in the middle of The Embryo just prior to the seabird section seems to be based on a Jazz shuffle and flows freely, certainly the band showing their influences. I pick up a bit of James Bond music about 5:20 into Careful With That Axe, Eugene that I hadn’t heard before, it sounds like a typical bit of music from one of the movies from a tense scene. A sublime version of A Saucerful Of Secrets is performed, you can hear the hush of the audience on their first notes, this is a song they have been waiting for…the ultimate. A unique encore of two Blues songs is unique to this performance, the band showing appreciation for the wonderful audience.
Typical packaging from Sigma on this title, posed shots from the time period and a group of photos from the Montreux performances themselves are on the inner portion. The front cover picture is used on the CDs and some copies come with a numbered sticker. A curious release, I don’t love it but I don’t hate it, and for me has not replaced or bettered Too Late For Mind Expanding but more enhanced it.