Nick Mason Re-Psychedelicizes Early Pink Floyd on New Live Release: Review

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Compared with Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the other surviving members of the core lineup of Pink Floyd, drummer Nick Mason has been relatively quiet. Largely retired for two decades, the now 76-year-old musician has contributed to a handful of projects over the years, but he has issued no albums under his own name since 1981.

That changes with the release of Live at the Roundhouse by Nick Mason‘s Saucerful of Secrets, which you can buy as a double vinyl LP set, a double CD set that comes packaged with a DVD, or a Blu-ray disc. (For some reason, no CD/Blu-ray combination is available.) The release finds Mason working with Guy Pratt, who previously played bass with Pink Floyd and Gilmour; guitarist Lee Harris, from Ian Dury’s Blockheads; guitarist/vocalist Gary Kemp, from Spandau Ballet; and keyboardist Dom Beken, a composer and producer. The 97-minute program preserves versions of Pink Floyd material from concerts the band performed in 2019 at London’s Roundhouse, a venue where the original group also appeared in its earliest years.

Don’t look here for songs from Dark Side of the MoonWish You Were HereAnimals or The Wall, the megahits that turned Pink Floyd into an international phenomenon—or, for that matter, for anything that doesn’t predate Dark Side. Mason’s focus is solely on the earlier, more psychedelic (and to these ears, significantly more exciting) material from the group’s formative years, at least some of which has rarely been performed on stage.

Watch a performance of “Astronomy Domine” by Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets

From Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut, come “Astronomy Domine,” “Lucifer Sam,” “Bike,” “Interstellar Overdrive” and “See Emily Play.” And from 1968’s Saucerful of Secrets, the concert includes “Remember a Day,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Let There Be More Light.” Mason’s outfit also serves up “The Nile Song” and “Green Is the Colour” from 1969’s More; the title track and “If” from 1970’s Atom Heart Mother; “One of These Days” and “Fearless” from 1971’s Meddle; and the title track, “When You’re In,” and “Childhood’s End” from 1972’s Obscured by Clouds.

Speaking of obscurity, the band additionally offers Pink Floyd cofounder Syd Barrett’s “Arnold Layne,” the group’s 1967 debut single; “Point Me at the Sky,” a 1968 single by Waters and Gilmour; and “Vegetable Man,” a 1967 Barrett composition that remained unreleased until 2016, when it showed up on Pink Floyd’s mammoth boxed set, The Early Years 1965-1972.

Related: Mason has moved the band’s next tour to 2021

Mason’s focus on the period from 1967 to 1972 is quite deliberate. In a recent Billboard interview, he spoke somewhat negatively of the aforementioned blockbuster albums and said, “I’ve always been interested in the idea of exploring the old catalog. After the Pink Floyd Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition [in London in 2017], I was reminded how special and undervalued the early period of Pink Floyd is. It has been [about] 25 years since I’d been out with a band playing live, but it made me realize I wanted to play this music live again.”

Nick Mason performing with Saucerful of Secrets, 2018, London (Photo: Jill Furmanovsky; used with permission)

Mason’s idea was not to ape the old album versions and become “my own tribute band,” but rather to echo the spirit of the originals, which were loose, fresh-sounding, and at times improvisational. His band succeeds at that, delivering exciting, edgy music that includes new embellishments—“The Nile Song” appears to reference the Sex Pistols’ “Holidays in the Sun,” for example. The songs manage to sound reimagined while also seeming redolent of the old Pink Floyd records.

Any fan of those albums should relish these performances. “One of These Days,” a bass and keyboards showcase, has never sounded more menacing, for example, and a 12-minute “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” combines sections that are hypnotically rhythmic with moments that are as trippy as the sounds you hear near the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. “Atom Heart Mother” also shines, as does a tightly constructed reading of “See Emily Play.” Moreover, these and all the other tracks pack an even bigger punch when you see them performed—and hear 5.1 audio—on the DVD and Blu-ray.

Watch the band play Syd Barrett’s “See Emily Play” at the Roundhouse

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  1. Daniel G
    #1 Daniel G 25 September, 2020, 05:05

    Spot on review!!
    This release is a ton of fun and brings the Pink Floyd story full circle. Helps me relive that excellent show i saw in NYC (2nd night).

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