Pink Floyd – Ossiach Festival 1971 (Sigma 83)

Ossiach Festival 1971 (Sigma 83)

Internationales Musikforum Ossiacher, Stiftshof, Ossiach, Austria – July 1st, 1971

Disc 1 (57:23):  Tuning, Return Of The Son Of Nothing, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun

Disc 2 (31:47):  Tuning, Atom Heart Mother

The Ossiach Festival in Stiftshoff, Austria was a week long event in the summer of 1971. Featuring world renowned orchestras, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream were the only “pop” acts to perform. In keeping with the festival’s nature, they performed four of their longest and most symphonic pieces to a very quiet and respectful audience. Although some sources claim they played six songs (“Cymbaline” and “A Saucerful Of Secrets” at the end), only four songs were played that night.

Ossiach Festival 1971 on Sigma presents a low generation tape.  Unlike Nothing Parts 1 To 24 (Highland HL 609/610), Sigma is complete including the tunings and song introductions.  It has slightly better sound and is much more enjoyable as a result.  

Their set begins with ”Return Of The Son Of Nothing.” Floyd would rename the piece “Echoes” the following month when they made their first trip to Japan. They perform the song in its early version with differences from its final form on Meddle released later in the year. The first three verses are the “space” lyrics which would be later dropped:

“Planets singing face to face / Bound to the air of life, how sweet! / If purposely we might embrace / The perfect union deep in space / Ever might this once relent / And give us leave to shine as one / Our two lights shining better / Than one light can / And in that longing to be one / The parting suns shine as one / I’ll see you’ve got to travel on / And on and on, around the sun.”

These lyrics were dropped by Waters since he was becoming annoyed with Pink Floyd being labeled as “space rock.” The theme of “Echoes” had always been about alienation but the new lyrics emphasize the internal, spiritual dimension without using the overbearing image of space to express the point. Musically it is similar to the final version and Gilmour and Wright also engage in a dramatic duel between guitar and organ before the middle seabirds section.

“Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is fascinating for the build up and anticipation to the bloody scream in the middle. It is played with deliberation upon every doom laden note and the first part turns out to be much more interesting than the second. But the weight of the performance lays upon the best recorded version of “Atom Heart Mother” with choir and orchestra on record.

There is about a three minute tune up before the piece and unlike other orchestral versions, which sounds tentative and unrehearsed, this is tight and sounds more like Gustav Mahler than Pink Floyd. The choir almost overwhelms the electric instruments and seems to inspire the band in the middle since they play very lyrical improvisations.

This is one of the more interesting Pink Floyd tapes from 1971.  Some reviewers on the Pink Floyd ROIO page say this is one of their greatest performances and rave about Gilmour’s guitar playing in “Echoes.”  Sigma provide a worthy upgrade and perhaps the definitive version on silver pressed disc.    

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