Obscured By Father Time (Godfather Records GR340/341)
Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York, USA – March 18th, 1973
Disc 1: Obscured By Clouds, When You’re In, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes
Disc 2: 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, One Of These Days
For a good portion of the last decade, virtually all sources of Pink Floyd’s March 18th, 1973 concert were attributed to The Palace Theater in Waterbury, Connecticut due to the fact that it was the venue corresponding to the date on their tour itinerary, however Floyd in actuality performed twice on the 18th; though scheduled for a late show at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on March 17th, the band didn’t actually take the stage until well after 1 a.m. the following morning in front of a massive Saturday night audience.
Early tape traders knew the recordings they had were from Radio City Music Hall, but when additional sources surfaced years later with the March 18th date, determined to be of the same show, you can just imagine the confusion that swept through trader’s circles as people started insisting they were from Waterbury based upon the date alone.
Of course, it’s natural to become excited, ambitious, and overly-enthused at the notion a previously unreleased tape has come to light – unfortunately, sometimes this results in blindness towards logic; let’s just contemplate a few facts here: there are at least 5 known sources from the March 18th, 1973 Floyd concert – now, consider in 2008, the population of Waterbury is roughly 108,000, while New York City’s five boroughs alone boast a number close to 8,275,000 people. Next, rewind almost 26 years and consider the likelihood that there were 5+ tapers in the audience of a small Connecticut city – 20 miles from both Hartford and New Haven on a Sunday night, yet none present at the famous Radio City Music Hall on a Saturday night? I’m afraid that concept is simply preposterous.
Add to all of this the fact that it is widely known amongst Deadheads that the Grateful Dead, who were in New York City performing several nights at Nassau Coliseum the same week, attended Floyd’s concert at Radio City Music Hall to witness the New York debut of Dark Side Of The Moon live in quadraphonic sound, and on one of the sources someone close to the taper is overheard saying “the Dead just left,” subsequently confirming this concert is in fact New York City and not Waterbury.
Finally, a quick surf around the ‘Net to the various Floyd reference sites reveals that even databases that once attributed this performance to Waterbury now indicate there is no known source for the Connecticut show, and that all existing sources are different perspectives of the Radio City Music Hall concert!
What this all boils down to is all of the fan-produced and ProCDR titles from the past – from Pigs On The Wing’s Dark Side Of Radio City to the Siréne Waterbury 3 Source Matrix bonus disc are in actuality from the New York City show, thus Godfather’s aptly titled Obscured By Father Time finally puts an end to all the mystery and confusion with the silver debut of Pink Floyd at Radio City Music Hall, March 18th, 1973!
As usual, Obscured By Father Time is housed in the trademark Godfather tri-fold cardboard sleeve, and I have to say that the label is making great strides graphically with every subsequent release as this one features even bolder use of color, insightful commentary, plus era-appropriate photos. In terms of packaging, there are few other labels coming even remotely close to Godfather, and with more “exclusive” releases/debuts each month, they’re starting to set a standard by which all others will soon be judged.
This would all be for naught if the audio content were shite, however this is seldom the case and more often than not quite the opposite, considering the majority of Godfather releases are sourced from soundboards or low generation copies. The only exceptions appear to be when they have the opportunity to release something extremely rare/valuable to collectors in the form of a silver debut, such as the case in point here.
The audio content can be characterized as clear, favoring the mids, and having a very lively quality. The drums, while audible, tend to be a bit distant compared to the guitars, keyboards, and vocals which are very forward in the mix. Roger Waters’ bass cuts through but again has more of a upper-midrange quality here, so dialing in a bit of extreme lows along with a touch of highs should yield the ideal balance for most listeners. The only negative sonically is the fact that there is a bit of upper end distortion, particularly during the loudest passages, throughout – however, if played at a loud volume through large speakers, Obscured By Father Time would register few complaints (and even with headphones this minor issue fades into the background as you acclimate to the recording). This is primarily due to the fantastic performance of the band which finds them well-rehearsed and inspired, eleven dates into their first North American tour of 1973.
The droning opening of “Obscured By Clouds” sets the tone for the first set of the evening, which is the more spaced-out of the two due largely to the dominance of Richard Wright’s keyboards, in this case the Mini Moog (model D). Though little more than an intro piece, it is nonetheless effective as a perfect segue into the uncharacteristic bombast of “When You’re In” – certainly one of the heavier and harder rocking songs in the Floyd discography. Floyd would only perform songs from the Obscured By Clouds soundtrack from the end of 1972 through 1973, so documents such as this are extremely valuable and welcome.
An audience member is overheard commenting “It felt like I just took a little trip” after “When You’re In,” and this sums up the first set perfectly; “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” begins with another unique drone that is much deeper and darker than “Obscured By Clouds,” featuring ominous, slowly drifting chords courtesy of Richard Wright before Gilmour enters with the main motif. It is clear at this point that we’re leaving the terrestrial realm for the remainder of the first half with three lengthy, spacey epics in a row.
One of the highlights of this concert is “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” which is bristling with tense energy from the outset, and replete with a large quantity of Waters’ maniacal vocalizations. The quadraphonics surely had the audience looking over their shoulders and shivering at the sounds of madness captured here! A brief fade follows the last strains of the piece, but no music is lost and the intro of “Echoes” is likewise intact.
It’s difficult to discern whether or not Richard Wright was intentionally developing the intro “pings” a bit or if it’s the simply the results of tweaking the Binson Echorec, but either way this anomaly provides a good identifier for this concert and sounds fantastic. The audience recognize the song instantly and roar with approval from the very first hint. What follows is a fabulous rendition of what many consider to be Floyd’s crowning achievement, and this is one of the last tours before Dick Parry’s saxophone solo was incorporated much to the chagrin of some longtime fans (including myself, though sometimes I don’t mind it). There is a brief “skip” at the 20:05 mark, but literally only a second or two is missing and there is no drop out.
Disc 2 features the “Dark Side Of The Moon” suite in its entirety, and this would be the first post-LP release performance of the massive work in front of a New York audience, who would’ve been largely unfamiliar with it due to the fact that the album had only been released 8 days prior in the USA and differed greatly from the primordial version performed at Carnegie Hall the previous May.
As per usual, the sound seems to improve slightly for the majority of “Dark Side Of The Moon” but there are a couple small issues to address here beginning with another “skip” at the 3:51 mark in “The Great Gig In The Sky” (again, no drop-out, just a couple seconds or less missing). More significant than that is the rather harsh editing in of another source at the 1:10 mark in “Brain Damage” that carries us through to the end of the song where another edit brings us back to the previous source for “Eclipse” – this is a bit jarring but at least it’s musically complete.
Needless to say, the band perform flawlessly and there are some very cool details that make this version special including Richard Wright’s tweaking of the cutoff filter towards the end of “On The Run” to a succession of rather frenzied bends from Gilmour about 6:45 into “Any Colour You Like.” Overall, the suite sometimes feels a bit “pushed” as if the tape is running a touch fast, but it lends a powerful driving feel to “Money” and prevents any lulls otherwise.
There’s one final fade out and back in before the encore “One Of These Days,” but as with the rest of this collection, most of the tune-up is there and no actual musical content is lost. There is a brief instance of tape deterioration at the 1:14 mark, but it passes swiftly. As with the majority of this concert, it is the minute details that make it special, in this case Wright’s Moog-based experiments at the conclusion of the song set it apart from other renditions. Unfortunately, towards the end of the disc, the upper end distortion grows increasingly audible, however this doesn’t soil this release much due to the quality of the performance.
Thus, while Godfather’s release is a combination of sources, the editing is handled professionally with the sole exception of the “shocking” sonic twist in “Brain Damage,” but it’s likely this is the best they could do with the copy they procured (several fan-produced titles of this performance opted for the matrix method, and I imagine Godfather received a copy of one of these, then remastered it…but without ALL of the original source tapes, it would be difficult to smooth out a previous patching job that was somewhat shoddy).
Nevertheless, Obscured By Father Time is an extremely important and welcome release from Godfather, as this show in particular did indeed contribute directly to the changing fortunes of the band (as mentioned in the liner notes), with so many important people in the audience(and a horde of tapers as well); though Floyd would return to North America for a 2nd leg in June of 1973, the next tour proper (in 1975) would find them performing in venues double or triple this size – not only the result of the unexpected success of “Money” on the radio, but also years of legendary live spectacles such as this.
Obscured By Father Time marks the third silver Floyd debut in a row from Godfather Records, and I say “keep ’em coming!” Yes, it’s a bit more raw once again (compared to some of the Springsteen, Zeppelin, or U2 releases from the label), but this release in particular is something of a coup in that after all the assumptions, conjecture, and speculation related to the March 18th, 1973 recordings, Godfather have delivered a resounding statement that eliminates all the past confusion related to these tapes – considering the historical relevance of this concert, it’s about damn time someone pressed it on silver!