St. Louis 1973 1st Gen Scotch Reel (Sigma 260)
Kiel Opera House, St. Louis, MO – March 9, 1973
Disc 1 (60:58) Echoes, Tuning, Obscured By Clouds, When You’re In, Childhood’s End, Tuning, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Disc 2 (54:45) 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, Tuning, One Of These Days
As I tread lightly through the recent Pink Floyd releases by Sigma, one title that certainly intrigued me was the St. Louis March 9, 1973 release. I knew from the Yeeshkul site the source was good as was the transfer and since I didn’t have a previous version of this concert in my collection, this purchase was easy. There has been only two previous issues of this concert, The Dark Side Of America 73 (Pink Floyd Archives PFA73) is a six disc set featuring the March 73 St. Louis, Boston, and Radio City Music Hall concerts and St. Louis 1973 (No Label), a CD-R release.
The recording from St. Louis falls into the very good near excellent range, the quality of sound certainly has to do with the venue itself, the Kiel Opera House has an intimate 3,100 seats and is known for its excellent acoustics. The sound is clear and detailed, the mix is near perfect, Roger’s bass is very clear and just a tad louder than the other instruments, all of which are clear in the mix. There is some audience noise occasionally and just a very small amount of hiss present, as well as distortion on the vocals during the Dark Side suite but these issues do not detract from ones listening pleasure. The cuts in the tape are during Childhood’s End, possibly one on Careful With That Axe, Eugene, and Us And Them, none of which are more than the time it takes to switch a cassette.
This the first known full concert recording from the North American tour of 1973, there is a short fragment of the previous evening in Detroit, 5:40 of Echoes recorded by the late Jared Houser. Echoes is the opening song for the early dates of the tour, the sound starts off quiet but the taper soon begins to adjust his equipment and a couple minutes in the sound clears up very nicely. The small venue atmosphere is very well captured in this recording, you can hear the seabirds overhead much to the delight of the audience. There are gremlins about, David Gilmour’s mic goes out and Richard Wright is left to sing the third verse and chorus, a unique event, one that finds Richard caught off guard, this is what live music is all about…spontaneity. “One, two…that’s better…took your time”, David gets his microphone working.
From the sound of this tape it sounds like it was recorded fairly close to the stage, as much of the crowd sounds distanced. You can hear the crowd become noisy during the tuning and just as Roger goes to speak, a firecracker explodes, something you wouldn’t expect in a house of culture. The audience seem well versed in the Floyd’s music, they give Obscured By Clouds a nice ovation, this is only the second known recording of this material which would only be played during 1973. Roger’s bass gives this version of Obscured and When You’re In a great steady pulse. Childhood’s End was also played at the early dates, there is a small cut at the 6:08 mark, it’s during the mellow spot and the recording begins again just before David plays a really fantastic solo. The last spot in the first set goes to Careful With That Axe, Eugene, and what a version it is. The tempo is nice during the build up, and holy crap is Roger’s scream incredible, blood curdling violence at its best. How the tape recorder manages to survive the vocal onslaught is beyond me, just perfectly captured and really the only spot on the recording that distorts, but in a good way. It does sound like there could be either a cut or pause at the 8:30 mark, the sound quality goes down and will stay low for the rest of the song.
The Dark Side Of The Moon set is good, Breathe is strong with David’s vocals distorting just a bit. I Find On The Run to be a bit ho hum, perhaps it’s the location of the taper and he was not privy to a full mix, but to me sounds a bit flat. Certainly some of the issue is that this is early in the tour, certainly the band and back up singers are getting used to their new roles, you can hear this in Time. There is more microphone troubles during The Great Gig In The Sky with the vocals not being heard for the first minute and a half giving a rather flat beginning of what is usually a dynamic piece. Once the issue is fixed the girls really get it going and the end is really strong.
Typically Money gets this really rolling, the band move past a few of the issues of the first half and get it rolling. The band get into a groove with Roger providing a real groove that holds the whole thing down. Richard plays some great electric organ over it, almost funky just before Dave rips into some really great leads. There is a cut and 2 seconds of silence at the 1:28-1:30 mark of Us And Them just after Dave finishes “ordinary men”, the recording starts back at the second verse “Blue…blue”. Where On The Run was flat, Any Colour You Like is fantastic, lots of great interplay between the four Floyd’s, perhaps far away from the more controlled nature of the piece. The overall feel I get from this version of Dark Side is that the new presentation is getting the bugs worked out. The encore is One Of These Days, this song had major issues on the original tape with sound fluctuations due to the recording machine batteries dying. A fellow by the moniker vince666 of the Yeeshkul community painstakingly worked on this issue and the results is as near perfection as one could get. The work on speed correction and equalization make this important piece of the concert enjoyable and it is a great, aggressive performance, it sounds like the band had spent the past 45 minutes harassed so they take their frustrations out by hammering this song out in fine fashion.
The packaging is typical for Sigma, full color and black and white shots with added rainbow colors, all very Dark Side-ish. Picture discs are the norm and some editions come with a numbered sticker. Like many Sigma releases, the heavy lifting was done by the Yeeshkul community, so again props to them for the work done on this tape to make it sound as good as it possibly can. Always nice to get a concert that has not seen widespread circulation get some love, this is a nice release geared to the Floyd collector.