Capitol Records, 1971
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/27/1998
It seems like everybody sings the praises of Pink Floyd's 1973 epic The Dark Side Of The Moon -- maybe that's one of the reasons we've avoided reviewing it as long as we had. (Hard to keep an objective view of it when we hear parts of it played on the radio every damned day.)
But what many people might not realize is that Roger Waters and company almost had all the pieces together back in 1971, when Meddle was released. This might be one of the best efforts that Pink Floyd ever put together -- and at times, it's also one of their most challenging.
The opening track "One Of These Days" is a longtime concert staple, but nothing has ever come close to matching the mystique and intensity of the original version. Starting off only with Waters's echoed bass line, then building to include Richard Wright's keyboards, David Gilmour's chainsaw guitar lines and Nick Mason's drum work, "One Of These Days" is one of the songs in Pink Floyd's career that captured its essence perfectly. (Listen for a small snippet of the "Doctor Who" theme in the bridge.)
Were this the only worthwhile performance on Meddle, it would have secured its place in the rock annals. But Gilmour shows just how gentle his singing and playing could be on the very next track, "A Pillow Of Winds". The gentle acoustic guitar line paves the way for the rest of the track to unfold. For that matter, each song on the first half of Meddle not only examine slightly different genres of music, but they all seem to be natural progressions from the other. "Fearless" examines a more subdued style of rock (great line a teacher buddy of mine always quoted: "Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd / Smiling." That one's for you, Buzz.), "San Tropez" delving a little bit into jazz, and "Seamus" taking a bizarre look at blues - including a dog doing vocals. (If memory serves me right, a version of this without Gilmour singing - that's right, only the dog - was called "Mademoiselle Knobs" on a bootleg release. I'll have to dig that out of the Pierce Archives to check.)
The centerpiece of Meddle is "Echoes," a 23-minute piece that is the first truly successful merge of psychadelia and rock that Pink Floyd attempted. The interplay between all four band members is quite smooth - it does seem like it's the most natural that Gilmour had sounded since replacing acid casualty Syd Barrett in 1968 - and it could have been the most creative the band had ever been in this vein. But there are times that the concept is stretched a little too thin - especially around the half-way point in the song. However, this is a small complaint.
When you listen to Meddle, you notice that it seems like the seeds for The Dark Side Of The Moon are occasionally heard. And while it might not have been quite as spacy as the album that was to follow, Pink Floyd definitely had entered "the zone," an almost impenetrable field where they could do no wrong -- a field they'd be in for three more albums. (Sorry, but I don't include The Wall in this "zone" - the floor is now open for debate.)
Meddle is probably the second album you should buy if you're just starting to get into Pink Floyd, the first being The Dark Side Of The Moon. If you want to discover more about this album, check out the video Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii.