Obscured By Clouds

Pink Floyd

Capitol Records, 1972


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Pink Floyd's second film soundtrack, for Barbet Schroeder's film La Vallee, is a surprising set (for these guys) of fairly straight-up rock and roll. In direct contrast to their recent work, this album ignores the spacey jams and tripped out weirdness that has been a prevalent feature of their work, and sticks to much more traditional styles than we've come to expect from The Floyd.

On their first soundtrack album More, the incidental theme music, mostly instrumental, dominated the album. In this case only a short time is spent on those ambient pieces, with more effort taken to create original songs with an identity outside the context of the film. The three instrumental numbers are surprisingly fleshed out for what was essentially background music. In fact, the first two numbers, the title track and "When You're In," are fine (albeit brief) instrumental pieces that might have been realized as bigger and better tracks. It's really a shame that they weren't because both of those pieces hint at greater things. Even as short instrumentals, they add some dark atmosphere to the album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One of the great pleasures of this disc is how David Gilmour comes to the forefront on many of the songs, with a lion's share of the vocals and some outstanding guitar work. Floyd's songs were often dominated by keys, but Obscured By Clouds becomes in part a showcase for Gilmour's inspired playing.

If you listen closely, you'll hear some significant glimpses into future Floyd albums, specifically Dark Side Of The Moon. This is no surprise really. At the time Obscured was released they had been performing a conceptual suite called "Eclipse" in their live shows, which eventually would be recorded as Dark Side. Naturally one would expect some creative osmosis to occur. These guys had a tendency to have many projects going simultaneously, so some cross-pollination is inevitable. Most notably these hints occur in the dreamy "Burning Bridges" with its stream-of-consciousness lyrics and Gilmour's breathy vocal and swelling and fading guitars, it foretells bits of both "Us And Them" and "Breathe" from Dark Side.

One of the best tracks, Roger Waters' "Free Four," is one of the most unlikely Floyd songs ever. A fairly straightforward folksy rocker reminiscent of the Kinks, with a simple strummed acoustic guitar, handclaps and a hook borrowed from "Spirit In The Sky," the upbeat tune sounds like a jaunty pop-number, but this deceptive song about waiting for ones inevitable death carries Water's usual streak of dark cynicism: "Life is a short, warm moment / and death is a long cold rest / You get your chance to try in the twinkling of an eye / eighty years, with luck, or even less."

Another unusual (for Floyd) track is the soft ballad "Stay." At first blush it's a tender love song, but the giveaway comes when Gilmour sings "I rise, looking through my morning eyes / Surprised to find you by my side / Rack my brain to try to remember your name."

This is much, much more than a soundtrack, and in this writers opinion it is the most underrated (and overlooked) album of their career. Far away from the psychedelic trips of their first few albums, and more down-to-earth than their grandiose future works, this collection features these stellar musicians setting aside their usual avant-garde tendencies and playing good old rock songs and ballads, strongly rooted in more conventional song styles. A departure from their norm without a doubt, and one that should not be overlooked, but rather embraced.

Rating: B

User Rating: B-



© 2005 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.