The Psychedelic Four (Golden Eggs EGG 131/132)
Empire Theatre, Liverpool, England – November 29, 1974
Disc 1 (79:06) Introduction, Raving And Drooling, You Gotta Be Crazy, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Echoes
Disc 2 (77:40) Speak To Me, Breathe, On The Run, Time, Breathe (Again), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse, Shine On You Crazy Diamond (alternate source)
Late in the year 1974, mid November to mid December, The Pink Floyd embarked on a tour that was referred to as the British Winter Tour. The month long trek would feature the band playing multiple nights in all cities, most dates scheduled so the band could take in football games during the day and play the concerts at night. This new title features the middle night of a three night stand in Liverpool at the extremely intimate 2,348 seat Empire Theatre. The Golden Eggs label’s latest Pink Floyd offering is one that is much welcomed, a recording that is new to silver collectors CD market and is taken from the British Winter Tour.
There are two known recordings from the second night in Liverpool, a near complete recording with small cuts in Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Us And Them, and Echoes. The sound is very good, slightly distant yet very clear with all instruments and vocals being well placed in the mix. Being a bit distant means you get a great feel for the venue acoustics and the atmosphere this evening is well captured. The second recording is near excellent, recorded close to the stage it has a very clear and detailed sound with very little crowd noise, both recordings have a little bit of tape hiss as one would expect from tapes 46 years old. The Yeeshkull community says that the first disc and set of this concert is taken from a JFE matrix of both sources, I did not download his project to compare but the first set does sound excellent, it has a depth of sound that is more open than just a singular source can offer. The first source is used for the entire Dark Side Of The Moon piece and the encore of Echoes.
Nick Mason’s book Inside Out gives insight to this period in Pink Floyd’s history. The success of Dark Side Of The Moon made the next step difficult, not wanting to repeat themselves they started the Household Objects project that kept them briefly occupied as did new video segments for the rear projection screens, the actual creation of new music was a painful birth. They had also brought in a new audio mixer for live dates and made changes in their road crew, all things contributed to the British Winter Tour getting some average reaction from the music press. With being able to listen so many years later, you find that the press certainly had a point, some parts are captivating, others merely average.
The first set begins with just a recorded voice playing over the PA system that serves as an introduction for Raving And Drooling, the embryonic version of Sheep. Of the two new songs that would eventually find a home on the Animals record three years later, this is the more confident of them. The playing has a nice tempo to it, it’s interesting to hear Nick Mason’s drumming in this recording, it is perfect in the mix which makes it easier. The music demands Nick take more of the role of a traditional drummer and to a certain extent, a time keeper as well. This is even evident on the following track You Gotta Be Crazy, aka Dogs. The band have the structure of the song in place but David plays more of a simple strumming rhythm that sounds safe in the background, the tone isn’t quite right, even Richard keyboards are rather bland and basic. This is what makes listening to these early versions interesting, you hear the progressions from late 74 recordings into the USA 1975 dates. The vocal dynamics are not there yet either, perhaps these early versions prominent issue, although Dave’s Careful With that Axe, Eugene style scat vocals are very interesting, almost ethereal.
It’s interesting to gauge the audience reactions to these new songs, certainly some were in attendance the previous evening, but they are a quiet and respectful crowd and they seem to very much enjoy the newer material and give spirited applause at the conclusion of each song. If You Gotta Be Crazy doesn’t give a cold chill, then Shine On You Crazy Diamond will. To elaborate, it’s cold and mechanical, when I listen I can hear the inspiration of Welcome To The Machine, the growing technology of the synthesizer over the organ, like listening to digital versus analog. Roger introduces the song as “something about Syd Barrett”, Richard’s opening is very morose sounding, he was quite close to Syd in the early days, his sadness is felt in his playing. Gilmour’s iconic notes certainly ring like chimes and Nick’s drumming sounds very thunderous in this recording, powerful. Roger’s vocals are interesting, he lacks the soulfulness of David’s and makes for a bit different sound, albeit really good. The complete Shine On in one 20 minute setting makes for an interesting listen, I prefer the second half to the first as the more free-form feel fits the song well, if the first half is mournful, the second half is serenity in oblivion, aka insanity. To accommodate the concert onto 2 CDs, the encore of Echoes is on the first disc. Roger tells the audience this has been the most enjoyable concert on the tour so far, certainly the appreciative audience had something to do with that, their reward is a standard version of Echoes. The female backing singers and sax solo sound nice in this version, something that shocked me a bit as I am an Echoes purist, the audience erupts in their approval at the songs conclusion.
The second set is the Dark Side Of The Moon played, of course, in its entirety. For me 1974 is where the performances started sounding mechanical, certainly the use of visuals meant some songs had to be kept in time, thus in line. Don’t get me wrong, they are spot on professional versions, they lack the freshness of the 1973 versions or the work in progress of 1972 which I have come to love very much. The recording picks back up with the sound of the heartbeat, this is accentuated by the audience clapping in time and you feel the jovial atmosphere inside the Empire Theatre. The first half culminating with a great version of Great Gig In The Sky, after the backing singers are done Richard gets a few minutes of improv that is very nice, the closing of the half gets a huge ovation, even from the taper who cannot contain himself. Money is a highlight from side 2 of the LP, the band swings as the backing singers sing “Money…..yeah money…” and Dick Parry gets a great sax solo it. An impeccable Gilmour solo follows, you can feel the excitement in the air. The sound slowly begins to fluctuate during Us And Them and will continue for the rest of the Dark Side suite, this also dulls down the overall sound a notch, it is still very listenable thankfully. The bonus version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond is the second recorder version only, sans matrix. The sound, albeit an amateur audience recording, is vivid in its sound, you certainly get an idea of how the Azimuth Coordinator affected concert sound as Dave’s guitar moves around just slightly.
The packaging is a trifold sleeve with live shots of the group from the tour, many of the shots are striking due to the small venues, this tour was visually impressive with the band using upgraded visuals for the Dark Side suite, the live shot in the center featuring an airplane taking off over the top of the band is striking. There is also a fold open insert with liner notes from the Fish Bowl Swimmer, overall nice detail to accompany this concert. Surprising a recording this good has not surfaced before, thankfully the Golden Eggs have “rescued” it and released it for us all to enjoy. It’s nice to have a new concert on CD versus another version of something I already have two or three other versions of.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)