What Syd Wants [Harvested 032 2CD Yeeshkul 2069]
CD1 live at Star Club, Copenhagen, Sept 13, 1967 plus TV appearances 1967. CD2 live at Oude-Ahoy Hallen, Rotterdam, Holland, Nov 13, 1967 plus various mixes from 1967.

Two probably-not-quite-complete audience tapes capture the sound of Pink Floyd, Syd and all, as they toured first in the aftermath of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, and then in the prelude to Barrett’s sad departure - the Dutch show dates from November 13 1967(despite what it says on the title); Barrett was gone less than two months later.

Neither is what one would describe as a relaxing listen - the sound is murky, muddled and muffled, and anybody seeking the perfections of the group’s studio material should probably give them a wide berth. But they are a superb historical document, and one that all fans of early Floyd need to seek out.

It’s the track listings that initially astonish, offering us the closest ever glimpse into what a second Syd-led Floyd album might have comprised. Studio performances of "Scream Thy Last Scream," "One In A Million," "Stoned Again" and "Reaction In G" are familiar only from bootlegs and/or the band’s BBC sessions, while "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" would slow down considerably before being preserved on A Saucerful Of Secrets. Even so, at nine minutes, it remains an astonishing performance, while it’s not often that we get to hear Barrett’s bass playing.

Improvisation haunts "Pow R Toc H," too, expanding it to a marathon 11 minutes that easily competes with "Interstellar Overdrive," and while the Star Club show also features relatively straightforward runs through "Arnold Layne," "Matilda Mother" and "Astronomy Domine," still this is very much the sound of a band in transition - and A Saucerful Of Secrets was decidedly not its destination.

Both shows are appended by various odds and ends, rounding up a remarkable picture of the era. A clutch of "collector-quality" TV recordings include a savage "Interstellar Overdrive," and a Canadian TV interview, an alternate "See Emily Play," "Beechwood," and the oft-bootlegged "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man" - nothing that hasn’t been heard before, but it’s good to have them all in one place. - Dave Thompson

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May 25, 2007