A YEAR IN MUSIC: PINK FLOYD – A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)

A YEAR IN MUSIC: 1968
Review by: Victor Guimarães

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A Saucerful of Secrets is a very meaningful album for an iconic band such as Pink Floyd. Not only because the album was referred to by drummer Nick Mason as his favourite, but because of the events related to it and to the band’s progression – band leader and lead singer, guitarist and composer Syd Barrett left due to (drug related) mental illnesses and, to replace him, the band recruited David Gilmour as new guitar player. This makes A Saucerful of Secrets the only album to feature all five members, which is another meaningful milestone (even if they only play together in one track).

The record kept the same space rock and psychedelic approach as its predecessor, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. On the time of release, it divided critics, mostly because of Syd’s contributions, now far less numerous. Better recognition came with time, specially after the band’s golden age. For this reviewer, this 7-track piece of work is not anything less than great. Expect amazing instrumentals, with beautiful guitars riffs and solos, strong and creative drums, captivating bass and the distincts time signatures, distortions and production-added stuff that marked the genius of the age of psychedelia. The record is also filled with a somewhat gentle mood, full of the expected space-like sounds, but touches darker and more distorted sounds that would be more present on the band future works. The lyrics are varied as well, reflecting the same past/future Floyd progression that makes the record iconic. Lyrics include: the full instrumental track who names the album, tracks based on past-Floyd themes, such as childhood, on future-Floyd themes, such as war, and there is the emotional final track, Jugband Blues, the only composition by Syd Barrett, who probably was aware of his incoming departure. The lines “It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here / And I’m most obliged to you for making it clear that I’m not here” make me chill every single time.

And, as I want to be fully honest here, I gotta say I kinda agree with the general reviewing perception of this record. And why? I confess I didn’t like it the very first time I listened to it, many years ago (and way before reading any reviews on the album). But! – and emphasizing that “but” –  After a second or third try, I actually started to enjoy it. And why is that, mate?!? I could say my critics are like either: a) while the songs are mostly great by themselves, the album may not function too well as a whole or b) this album may be too much for the untrained ear, even if you’re used to and like Pink Floyd’s golden age albums or c) both of the previous letters.

Finally, I could only say there’s no reason to refrain from listening to A Saucerful of Secrets. Both the fanbase and the band itself revere it as an iconic album, the start of their independence from Syd and harbinger of their future potential. May your reason be to dig into Pink Floyd early works, check out the only collective work of all band members, see why it divided critics, love for psychedelia and space rock, see if this review is accurate or just sheer curiosity, it definitely deserves one or two tries. And for that I mean for you to get your phones ready. It’s time to unveil the secrets of that saucer.

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