Rome 1971 (Sigma 243)
Palaeur, Rome, Italy – June 20, 1971
Disc 1 (62:11) Announcements, Atom Heart Mother, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Fat Old Sun, Embryo
Disc 2 (72:22) Announcements & Tuning, The Return Of The Son Of Nothing, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Cymbaline, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Announcements
Disc 3 (10:47) Tuning, Astronomy Domine, Announcements
Pink Floyd played two concerts in Italy in June 1971, and both were not without hassle. Riots at other concerts would cause the venues to change, thankfully despite the concerns of these concerts being “unsuitable events”, both went off without incident. These two concerts would also be the last performances in Italy for 17 years, thankfully both were recorded and this new title from Sigma documents the second of the two, at the 11,000 seat Palaeur in the capital city of Rome.
The recording from Rome has circulated for some time and has a history dating back to the vinyl days, Rome20-6-1971 (Queen Records) and 2011’s Recorded Live In Rome, June 20th 1971 (Pigs On The Groove Records POTG 09). The compact disc editions have been a bit more plentiful, Live In Rome, Palaeur, June 20, 71 (Aulica A2155), A Perfect Union Deep In Space (Spiral-018/19), Live In Rome (Live Records PF200671), and the CD-R title Rome 1971 (Windmill-011) which is considered the best. I have none of these in my collection so this is my first taste of this wonderful concert.
The source tape is an almost complete good to very good audience source, it is slightly distant yet very clear and detailed, there is a bit of tape hiss present but does not hamper the ease of listening. All instruments and vocals are clean in the mix and there is a bit of distortion present in the low end, typical for the era. It has a nice airy sound to it and the audience is respectful making for a recording with very nice ambiance. There are cuts between most songs but we get the between song introductions, there is a small cut nine minutes into Fat Old Sun with minimal loss and a brief hiccup during Celestial Voices. This version comes from the stratcat58 collection and is considered to be a low generation tape. It has also been speed adjusted and this is the reason for the concert being spread out over three discs. This release has been in a regular rotation over the past month.
The recording begins with an Italian announcer introducing the band “The Pink Floyd” to a nice round of applause, there is a quick tape pause then Roger says “OK here we go” and the tractor intro to Atom Heart Mother begins. Once the full band breaks into the song you get a feel for the sound. By mid song it is in the very good range and quite dynamic, just in time for some great playing by David followed by Richard Wright getting into the mix, like much of the early Floyd music, the interplay between both musicians is the source for the jamming and improvisation. The audience is dead quiet for an ambient Careful With That Axe, Eugene, Roger’s pre scream cries sound like they are floating in the distant and all of his “voices in my head” whispers of “careful with that axe, Eugene” add to the atmosphere and Roger’s bass is almost a solo lead in to his scream, very, very heavy stuff.
David seems inspired, he plays some really nice fast strumming rhythm during the middle guitar/ organ jam part of Fat Old Sun, once the band break back into the song they receive a nice ovation for their efforts. After the pastoral Fat Old Sun, The Embryo follows in true bombastic style, almost in complete contrast. An early version of Echoes is introduced as “The Return Of The Son Of Nothing” and features the original Space lyrics. What’s curious about these lyrics is in the excellent book The Complete Pink Floyd by Glenn Povey, he lists much of the studio work for Echoes was finished by April 1971, including vocals. While information on other sessions is not complete it begs to wonder if there are outtake versions of this song with the Space lyrics and when they decided to redo the lyrics to what was released on Meddle on October 30, 1971 (in the US). Nonetheless, musically this version is close to the studio version and finds the band tight and totally in sync with the elaborate piece.
A twelve and a half minute version of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun follows, even in this average recording you can just feel the overwhelming power of the band. The first six minutes are intense, not sure what effects Dave used but his fast strumming put through what ever makes the swirling sound is just incredible, the full band break through to the other side, and garner a nice ovation for their efforts. The floating keyboard guitar instrumental interlude is incredibly clear and equally as moving, it’s versions like this that solidify this song as one of my most favorite Floyd pieces. In the assessment of this singular recording it is noted that there is bleed through from another recording during Set The Control and Cymbaline, while I do not here actual music I do hear a fluctuating tape hiss, it is not consistent and assume that is the source. This defect is on all known generations of this recording, both songs surprisingly sound a tad louder and clearer than the rest of the tape. This fluctuation of hiss certainly does not diminish ones enjoyment of these two songs, Cymbaline is very ethereal and dreamlike, the footstep section is well captured in this large arena.
The final song of the set is a glorious nineteen minute version of A Saucerful Of Secrets, the beginning Something Else portion is particularly nightmarish, this expansive soundscape continues through Syncopated Pandemonium even though Dave seems to have some brief technical difficulties that work in his favour. The songs wonderfully majestic Celestial Voices climax brings a dramatic close to the concert that garners an ovation and clapping and chants for more. The ovation brings the band back for an encore, the last live performance of Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd Mark III. Of course it would return to the stage in 1994 during the Gilmour led Floyd’s Division Bell tour. Being the last performance it does still retain an air of freshness to it, the only remnant of the early Syd era fades into the passages of time. One last thing in regards to this concert is the inclusion of the stage announcements, they really add to the recording and enjoyment of the performance.
The packaging is very nice, the covers and inlays all feature pictures from the concert plus some magazine and newspaper articles about the concert plus a ticket and gig poster scans. Picture discs, numbered sticker, no expense has been spared. A really great concert given the respect it deserves from Sigma, the recording is a very easy and enjoyable listen and I think this title should be in every Floyd Fan’s collection.