Pepperland 1970: 1st Gen Reel (Sigma 99)
Pepperland Auditorium, San Rafael, CA, USA – October 16, 1970
Disc 1 (69:49) Astronomy Domine (1st Attempt), Astronomy Domine (2nd Attempt), Astronomy Domine (3rd Attempt), Astronomy Domine (4th Attempt), Fat Old Sun, Cymbaline, Atom Heart Mother
Disc 2 (63:14) Tune Up, The Embryo, Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets
Of the few audience recordings in existence of Pink Floyd’s American tour in the fall of 1970, the recording from San Rafael is certainly the most popular in terms of CD releases, largely due to the superb performance by the band and the very good sound quality. Previously released under such titles as Brutish Temptation (WPOCM 1090 F059-2), Pepperland in the West (HIGHLAND 172), Break Down Co-Ordinator (Highland 582/583), and Pepperland 1970 (Sirene-073). This new release by Sigma boasts being from a 1st generation tape with “Truly Amazing Sound”, while many releases are granted that title, not all live up to the billing. The sound when compared to the title Pepperland 1970 (Sirene-073) is a definite improvement, less distortion and a much more crisp and brighter sound, one that pushes this recording up a couple notches from very good to now bordering on excellent and is most certainly from a much better generation tape.
As previously stated the performance is excellent, the synergy between the musicians is unmistakable and they give an understanding audience an enjoyable evening of music. This show is famous for the power outages during the opening song, “Astronomy Domine” where it takes the crew some time to fix the gremlins in the equipment leaving the band to stand there and wait. Roger is surprisingly in good spirits and has some playful banter with the crowd. Finally the issue is fixed and they start the song again, picking up close to where they left off. With the technical issues behind them (for now), the Floyd settle into the set in a relaxed mode with Dave’s “Fat Old Sun”. One of his earliest solo compositions it is as melancholy as Roger’s “Grandchester Meadows”, I really enjoy the way the band turns the short song into a long piece that contains much improvisation punctuated by Dave’s incredible playing.
“Atom Heart Mother” is the definite highlight of the first set, and disc. Roger introduces the piece as being from their new record and while the recorded version has brass and choir, tonight it will be “live”. While the very beginning after the tractor intro has the band sounding a little slow they are in superb form by the time Dave starts his scat vocals, the sound is extremely clear for the song, the audience is quiet and respectful throughout. One can certainly marvel at Richard Wright’s keyboards throughout the piece, I also like how after the songs conclusion and the huge round of applause you hear Roger quietly saying “Thank you” as the band exists the stage, proper British of course!
The second set is where the show really heats up, after a bluesy “Embryo” and a sublime “Green Is The Colour” the band play a spellbinding version of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”. It starts so softly but after two minutes in you can hears Roger’s quiet yet insane sounding mumblings and the creepiness of Dave’s scat vocals as the song builds and builds with the tension getting unbearable culminating in a blood curtailing scream and Dave’s blistering playing. The audience gives the piece a nice round of applause with someone saying loudly “YES”, I can only agree.
The early 70s also found the band stretching out the core group of songs in the set, much to our pleasure for sure. The 12 plus minute “Set The Controls” again showcases the immense contribution and talents of Richard Wright as his playing cascades through the deepest realms of space and mind. The last song is “A Saucerful Of Secrets” and is met with great approval from the crowd, again epic in length clocking in at just over 20 minutes it immediately draws the listener in. The “Syncopated Pandemonium” section is just that, pandemonium and when the power fails about 18 minutes in during “Celestial Voices” GS states in his review it was like having a feeding tube pulled, a most accurate analogy. The band manages to finish the song and thus ends a wonderful concert.
As always Sigma’s packaging is classy inserts in a slim lined jewel case, the graphics come from the gig poster which can be seen on the cover as well as the tape box being featured on the back and there is even a numbered sticker included as well. I love Pink Floyd circa 1970, from the early shows with the rarities set lists to the end of the year and the “Psychedelic Breakfast” shows it was certainly a year of progression. This is a nice upgrade and this release stands as, for now, definitive.