CK Retro Review: Obscured By Clouds by Pink FloydPosted: December 30, 2013
The soundtrack to a French film entitled La Vallee, 1972’s Obscured By Clouds is notable mainly for the increased influence of David Glimour’s soaring guitar work on the band’s sound. There’s also a left-field hit of sorts from Roger Waters that hints at the sarcasm and cynicism that would dominate his lyrics on future works. As a whole, the album holds up pretty well, even if it was just biding time until the breakthrough album that the band had already begun composing.
10. “Absolutely Curtains”- Keyboard beds that could shift from warm and inviting to foreboding and spooky at the drop of a hat were Rick Wright’s calling card, but he doesn’t really do much new on this closing instrumental that ends with the tribal chants of the Mapuga tribe.
9. “Burning Bridges”- The lyrics are frustratingly vague; maybe they applied to the film in some way but they’re weightless without context. Luckily, Wright’s off-key chord changes (which are revisited on the instrumental “Mudmen”) and Gilmour’s always evocative guitar keep things intriguing.
8. “When You’re In”- This instrumental builds off the opening title track with a full-band jam. It’s muscular if not too memorable.
7. “Stay”- It’s an odd combination of Wright’s sumptuous piano melody and Waters’ lyrical cynicism concerning romance on the run. Gilmour’s wah-wah solo is one for the books though.
6. “The Gold It’s In The…”- It kind of reminds me of “Living After Midnight” by Judas Priest. I’m not sure if that’s what Floyd fans desire, but at least you can say that they handled this grinding rocker capably, especially with Gilmour in rock-god mode on lead guitar.
5. “Mudmen”- This dreamy instrumental certainly comes off like soundtrack music, but the slow-motion pace and Gilmour’s piercing, elegiac guitar work make for a fascinating combination.
4. “Childhood’s End”- Even if Gilmour’s lyrics about the ephemeral status of mankind are nothing new, he conveys them well enough thanks to the gritty energy of the music, his attitude-drenched vocal, and, of course, his stinging guitar solo. Sort of a dry run for later successes like “Welcome To The Machine” and “Young Lust.”
3. “Obscured By Clouds”- They always could create atmosphere with a minimum of elements. Here it’s just synth washes from Wright, Nick Mason’s pattering drums, and Gilmour’s guitar wailing in the distance, and voila! You’ve got an album-opener dripping with moody portent.
2. “Wot’s…Uh The Deal?”- Maybe this ballad with the spell-check-flaunting title is a bit straightforward in terms of structure for such an experimental band, but it’s pulled off with such lovely restraint that it’s hard to complain. Wright and Gilmour stage a gorgeous instrumental duet in the break, and the melody is movingly melancholy. Waters lyrics, sung by Gilmour with typical placidity, muse in contemplative fashion on how the things that seem important to us change each day, so you should be careful what you wish for.
1. “Free Four”- This song is full of elements that shouldn’t work together: jaunty, back-porch acoustic guitar and hand claps, glammed-out bass notes that go on forever, Gilmour’s ferocious electric guitar in the breaks, and Waters’ snide commentary about the road all runners come. Yet the mixture is irresistible, which is why the song was a radio hit, one of several in Floyd’s career that was ironically unrepresentative of the bulk of their body of work.
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