The Complete Rainbow Tapes (GR BOX 02)
Pink Floyd by the beginning of 1972 were growing tired of their stage show. In interviews leading up to the Rainbow gigs the members of the band were quoted in the press saying only “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and “A Saucerful Of Secrets” provided any sort of challenge to them anymore. The rigidity of epic pieces such as “Atom Heart Mother,” coupled with their desire to outgrow the cliched appellation of “space rock,” lead them to compose their masterpiece Dark Side Of The Moon.
Several times before they wanted to write an extended piece of rock theater emulating the commedia dell’arte (The Man And The Journey and Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast come to mind). Neither of the two resonated either with the audience or their own talents. But “Eclipse,” the early name for Dark Side Of The Moon, did with its explorations of human madness and vanity.
This presented almost forty-five minutes of new music, and at this point allowed them to improvise to a degree. The band began touring for the new piece on January 20th in Brighton, a full month before the important London shows at the Rainbow. Press reports from the Brighton show were not very promising since they had a serious breakdown in equipment. Melody Maker described the new piece as “not impressive” and “lacking framework and conception.” (But the report singled out drummer Nick Mason for praise).
The month-long preparation tightened up the piece and the four sold-out concerts at the Rainbow were a major success. Melody Maker called the show “Pink Floyd’s Star Trek,” singling out the light show and special effects. New Musical Express likewise mentioned the special effects and called it a “magnificent production.”
And the Sunday Times, in an almost complete reversal of Melody Maker’s assessment of he Brighton show, pointed out that Pink Floyd “have structure to their music, beauty of form” and that their new music has “an uncanny feeling for melancholy for our times.”
All four shows were recorded from the audience in varying degrees of sound quality and completeness, but only the fourth show has received much attention. Given the superlative sound quality (and its alleged BBC source), there were many vinyl and silver disc editions.
The Complete Rainbow Tapes is the first time Godfather have ventured into the risky work of boxsets. They are all around expensive, and oftentimes if an inferior tape is used for even one show then the whole set diminishes in worth to the collector. Furthermore, many boxsets fail because they collect common material and expect collectors to shell out the money for what they should already have.
Godfather avoid both of these mistakes. The source tapes in this set are all as good as possible, and most of these shows are extremely rare to find. Godfather presents the first and definitive versions of these shows in a gorgeous set. This is one of the best Pink Floyd releases to surface in quite a long time and may go down as one of the best Pink Floyd releases to ever be produced.
Day 1 (GR BOX 08 A/B)
Rainbow Theater, Finsbury Park, London, England – February 17th, 1972
Disc 1 (46:52): 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
Disc 2 (71:48): tuning & soundcheck, One Of These Days, tuning & soundcheck, Careful With That Axe Eugene, tuning & soundcheck, Echoes, tuning & soundcehck, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
The first Rainbow show exists in a very sharp and clear mono audience recording. There are small cuts in “Time” at 3:04 and 3:42, and a couple minor drops outs, but is nevertheless an excellent, low-hiss recording.
It has seen some commercially produced editions. Time Ends (Shout To The Top STTP 162/163) claims to have the complete show, but the Dark Side set is really the excellent tape from the final night. The second set (“One Of These Days” to “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”) comes from this show but with “Echoes” and “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” reversed.
Rainbow Day 1 (Ayanami 212) was released on CDR with the correct tape, in the correct order, and with the speed adjusted. Godfather is the first silver pressed version of the complete first night in the Rainbow.
Given the publicity and importance of this set of shows, and especially of the opening night, Pink Floyd sound understandably tense and nervous. They play the Dark Sidesuite very cautiously, emphasizing each note and trying to be careful not to make any mistake. “On The Run” is a nice jam between Gilmour and Wright, and “The Mortality Sequence” contains the Muggeridge speech.
“Money” is restrained, as is “Any Colour You Like.” Overall the performance is effective, but would grow much better in the ensuing days.
The second half has a similar feel to the first. Roger Waters rarely addresses the audience as they play the older tunes. “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” has some interesting improvisation in the middle as does “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.” Wright has fun in the latter, providing 1950’s b-movie sci-fi sound effects.
Day 2 (GR BOX 02 C/D)
Rainbow Theater, Finsbury Park, London, England – February 18th, 1972
Disc 1 (74:40): 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, encore break (wind tone S.E. & soundcheck), One Of These Days, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Disc 2 (73:04): Echoes, tuning & soundcheck, A Saucerful Of Secrets, tuning & soundcheck, blues, tuning & soundcheck, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Sound quality for the second night at the Rainbow Theatre is very good. It is very top heavy, emphasizing the treble with the bass pushed to the back and a lack of depth prevents this from being an excellent recording. “Set The Controls For Heart Of The Sun” is cut at 6:53 and 7:25. The only commercial release of this show is on Rainbow Day 2 (Ayanami 213) on CDR. This is the first silver pressed edition of the show.
The performance of Dark Side is much more interesting than the first night. Wright on keyboards definitely shines on this night, providing interesting fills and variations in the melodies. His performance is a reminder that, before Waters’ vision (and ego) grew to dominate the band, Wright was singled out as the talent of the band.
He plays a catchy jazzy riff in “On The Run” and switches to a slow, pious organ for “The Great Gig In The Sky.” Gilmour plays a great solo in “Money” which requires him to play double time since there is no saxophone in these early performances. The transition from “Us And Them” into “Any Colour You Like” is a bit clunky, but the ending is spectacular with the audience reacting loudly to the air raid sirens at the end of “Eclipse.”
After a twenty minute break they tune their instruments. The wind sound effect, the one used for “One Of These Days,” can be heard.
Waters introduces “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” as a “golden oldie.” The audience are receptive enough to determine when the flash pots go off during the song. The are noisy between songs, shouting out requests. After “Echoes,” which Wright again dominates, they shout out for “A Saucerful Of Secrets,” and get it.
Again, they shout out requests for obscure songs (“Sysyphus” is a popular choice), but they get the Pink Floyd blues instead. After more shouting, Floyd give them “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” as a final encore. On all counts this is a marked improvement over the first night. Both “A Saucerful Of Secrets” and the blues improv were added to the set and would remain for the rest of the Rainbow shows, making them all over two hours long.
Day 3 (GR BOX02 E/F)
Rainbow Theater, Finsbury Park, London, England – February 19th, 1972
Disc 1 (68:45): Breathe (fade in), 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, Careful With That Axe Eugene,
Disc 2 (63:52): Echoes, A Saucerful Of Secrets, blues, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
The third night, because it exists in fragments, is the most obscure of the four. Only by combining two unique tape sources can the show be heard in its (almost) entirety. The first tape source is good to very good but with slight traces of hiss. It is not noticeably except in quieter passages. “Speak To Me” and all but the final minute of “Breathe” are lost.
A lot of work went into making this tape sound smooth. Drop outs during “Breath,” “The Mortality Sequence,” the beginning of “Money” and the start of “One Of These Days” were smoothed over. It has been speed and balanced corrected to make it quite listenable.
Source two picks up with “Echoes” and runs to the end of the show (the original taper lost his cassette with the first half of the show). It is much brighter since the taper stood closer to the stage. A couple of glitches in “Echoes” have been smoothed over, and there are several small cuts and tape crinkles in “A Saucerful Of Secrets” (points where the taper’s recorder ate the tape in the ensuing years).
Day three has the most uneven Dark Side of the four. Some parts, like Wright’s keyboards in “The Great Gig In The Sky” which sound almost like Phillip Glass and the ensemble playing in “Money” are definite highlights.
But the transition from “On The Run” into “Time” is extremely rocky since Gilmour comes in several measures too early. Also, the power goes out briefly three and a half minutes into “Brain Damage.” The music abruptly stops and some confused members of the audience applaud, thinking the set is over. The band pick up, finish “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” without incident.
“Echoes” features Gilmour’s best guitar riffing of the night. Afterwards someone by the stage makes very strange, ugly noises and says some rude (but inaudible) things. “I like you” Waters jokes. “I have an affinity for you. This next song is called ‘Set…” No, that’s not it at all. The next song is ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets.'”
The “Pink Floyd Blues” has to restart (met with sarcastic cheers from the audience), and the final encore is a thirteen minute long “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” with what the taper describes as “incredible soaring, echoing quadrophonics” which unfortunately do not come across in the mono recording.
Overall it is a strange night at the Rainbow for the band. Equipment problems were kept to a minimum and they were able to overcome early struggles, but it is an uneven performance compared to the others in this set.
Day 4 (GR BOX02 G/H)
Rainbow Theater, Finsbury Park, London, England – February 20th, 1972
Disc 1 (72:34): 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 & soundcheck, One Of These Days, tuning & soundcheck, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Disc 2 (67:09): tuning & soundcheck, Echoes / encore break, audience requests, A Saucerful Of Secrets, blues, audience requests, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
The fourth and final night at the Rainbow is the most famous of the shows and is many people’s very first listen to what would be on of the most important and highest selling rock LP’s in history. Several tapes exists including a superlative sounding audience tape which is so good many thought it was a soundboard recording or a BBC radio broadcast.
No record of any broadcast exists, however, and muffled conversations in the lower right channel betray it as an audience tape. It was used on the first vinyl release The Best Of Tour ’72 (16-421/422) which originated in Europe and was quickly copied in the US and Japan and has been in circulation ever since. The Swingin’ Pig Records released The Best Of Tour 72 (TSP-CD-049) in 1990 on compact disc.
This is one of the titles produced by this label, along with Liver’ Than You’ll Ever Be, which was criticized for their heavy handed mastering using the No-Noise which eliminated the hiss but also clipped the music too producing a horrible sounding affect.
Dark Side Of The Sky (Chapter One CO 25117), Forbidden Samples (Neutral Zone NZCD 89007) and The Live Side of The Moon (Seagull Records) are other releases of this tape. The definitive version of these tapes were pressed on The Best Of Tour 72 (Siréne-135), which is still a good title to have for the unedited tape sources.
Godfather use a mix of all three sources to present the show in its entirety and in the best possible sound quality. It begins with the second audience tape, but then edits into the excellent quality “radio” tape for the Dark Side suite. The cuts in “Time,” “Us & Them” and the latter half of “Eclipse” are filled with the second audience source again.
The second half of the show utilizes another audience recording. The editing job between them is very nicely handled, minimizing the differences in sound quality between them.
“On The Run” is the same arrangement they played throughout the entire year until the LP was released, being a jam between Wright and Gilmour. This version is very intense with Gilmour reaching a tense crescendo before segueing into “Time.”
“Money” has a long bass intro and an extended guitar solo at the end. It sounds like someone missed a cue as happens also in the following song “Us & Them.” Wright misses the time signatures at the beginning and extends the measures two extra beats until Mason comes in and gets the band back on track.
“Eclipse” ends with very loud sirens going off in the theater which impressed the newspapers in their reviews the following week. After “One Of These Days” Waters says: “There are people outside with petition…anti-all-this midnight assembly rubbish which is going through Parliament, so if you can sign it when you go out…”
“Careful With That Axe, Eugene” sounds very creepy in this recording and comes very close to The Doors’ “Not To Touch The Earth” (I sometimes believe that track is Waters’ Jim Morrison tribute).
“A Saucerful Of Secrets” closes the set on a high note despite Wright’s miscue in “Storm Signal.” His wandering head drove the band to the brink several times during the show. The band play the “Pink Floyd Blues” as the first encore, introduced by Waters as “something different.” And finally “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” closes the show and London’s introduction to the new Pink Floyd.
Each of the four shows comes in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve, and all four fit into a box. There is clever use of photographs from the show and appropriate era. Included also is a miniature reproduction of the Rainbow shows programme and a miniature poster with tour dates and liner notes. This is the most gorgeous Pink Floyd collection to come out since The Transitional Period-1968 era (Tarantura TCDPF-3-1-3). The Complete Rainbow Tapes is definitely worth seeking out.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)