We kick off an irregular series to offer praise to musical might-have-beens. The lost albums that lurk in someone's attic or vault or under the sofa at your mom's. This week it's Pink Floyd's The Man And The Journey. Dave Thompson explains.

Pink Floyd
The Man and the Journey: Complete
[MoLM 2CD Bootcity 48533]
Live at Concertgebow, Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 17, 1969.

Click on the panels for a better view.

One of the all-time legends in the Pink Floyd archive, The Man And The Journey represents one of the Great Lost Albums with which that band’s career is littered - but, unlike most of the others (a second Syd Barrett set, a disc recorded with kitchen utensils, and so forth), this one actually exists, in the shape of a clutch of concerts performed and recorded across Europe during the second-half of 1969.

Comprising two musical suites, The Man and The Journey, this was not a concert for the hit-happy casual viewer. Although many of the tracks, or at least elements thereof, are now familiar, the likes of "Grantchester Meadows" (aka "Daybreak"), "Cymbaline" (aka "Nightmare") and "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" (the marvelously titled "Beset by Creatures of the Deep" were all more-or-less new back then. Other "oldies" - "Pow R Toc H" (restructured as "The Pink Jungle"), and an improv based around "Interstellar Overdrive" ("Behold The Temple Of Light") are only marginally recognizable

But the audience’s silence (respectful or confused? You decide) works to the recording’s advantage. The Man And The Journey never made it into the studio in its own right, but the lack of interruption here is so pronounced that it might as well have.

It’s not all brilliant. The conceptual percussives of "Work" go on way too long and, in and around some moments of sublime loveliness, the band is clearly still struggling to locate the thin line that divides masterful improvisation from pointless noodling. There’s also, clearly, a lot more going on onstage than the microphones picked up ("Sleep" was very aptly titled). But an electrifying "Biding My Time" (aka "Afternoon") is a genuine treat, nailed down by a Gilmour guitar solo that transforms the familiar Relics ballad into a full-fledged rocker, and "Green is The Colour" (aka "The Beginning") is an absolute treat.

The sound quality here is superlative - this is surely the best rendering we’re ever going to hear - and the only real drawback lies in the fact that each of the suites is served up as one long track, meaning you cannot easily skip either the boring bits, or an endless drum solo. For all that, however, The Man And The Journey is a vital chapter in the Pink Floyd story, and this is its definitive rendering.

Note: Veteran music writer Dave Thompson is a regular contributor writing on hard-to-find rarities. Dave is the author of many well reviewed rock biographies, including the recent Virgin Books' Red Hot Chili Peppers biography, works on The Cure and Kurt Cobain. He wrote Cream: The World's First Supergroup which was published early last year. In the past, Dave has written for Live! Music Review and he is also a regular contributor to Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q magazines. Click here to buy Dave's e-books.

Click here for article by Dave Thompson:
Krautrock Nacht
Sounds Of The Sixties, Seventies and Eighties
Have You Got It Yet? - Syd Barrett's Beyond Rhyme And Reason
Apple Singles Collection
Reviews by Dave Thompson

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March 9, 2007