CK Retro Review: Ummagumma by Pink Floyd

For the sake of thoroughness and morbid curiosity, any retrospective look at the works of Pink Floyd must include Ummagumma, their 1969 double-album that features two sides of live versions of early classics (which, since we’ve already covered them previously, won’t be included in the rankings here again), and two sides of what are essentially solo studio performances of the group’s four members. These solo efforts are nowhere near on the level of the group’s best, but they revealed the individual musical personalities of the four men well enough, if nothing else. Here is a song-by-song review:


5. “Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict”- You would think it would be difficult to accurately represent that title in song, but Roger Waters accomplishes it. Why anyone would want to listen to it more than once is another story.


4. “Sysyphus”- Naming his composition after the mythological rock-pusher (spelling variation aside) proved to be a fitting move for Rick Wright, because his attempt to meld classical and avant-garde keyboard motifs never quite gets up the hill.

3. “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party”- The title sounds like it was borrowed from a rejected chapter from The Lord Of The Rings, so there’s that. The cacophonous combination of percussion instruments from Nick Mason dulls a few minutes in, which is problematic for a piece that spans almost nine minutes.


2. “Grantchester Meadows”- Even though it’s accompanied by a set of lyrics, some boilerplate Waters’ musings on a pastoral scene, the music is what does the job here. It’s hypnotic how the birdsong combines with the flatlined melody and Waters’ soft vocals. Nothing too revelatory, but it’s mildly diverting in a sleepy fashion.

1. “Narrow Way”- David Gilmour’s turn at bat is probably the best thing on this bizarre collection (at least the studio side), which is admittedly faint praise. At least “Narrow Way” rises to some Floydian peaks and captures a little bit of the drama that the band would harness in future releases, even if the lyrics don’t have much to say.

(E-mail me at or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. Check out the links below for books on Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen based on material that originated on this site.)


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