A Saucerful Of Secrets

Pink Floyd

Capitol Records, 1968


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


The second release from Pink Floyd is in many ways a new beginning. Founding member Syd Barrett had succumbed to the ravages of LSD and mental illness, and was replaced by David Gilmour. Along with Barrett went the nonsense-pop songs that peppered their early work, replaced with a harder-edged sound and further ventures into space-rock and other psychedelic freak-outs that would form the kernel of the band's identity in the future. This was certainly natural, as Barrett's clever little pop ditties had got them radio exposure, but it was their experimental live shows that had made the strongest impression on their fan base.

Saucerful suffers a bit from a lack of cohesion. From its earliest days many have complained that it sounded thrown together. There may be some validity to this claim, but you have to keep in mind that this is a band regrouping from a major catastrophe. Barrett didn't just leave the band, he slowly imploded in a psychedelic vortex and took his time doing it, with the band trying to cope with this very damaged person who was a long time friend and companion, and agonizing over the decision to replace him. This is on the tail of a fairly successful debut album, a couple of well-charting singles and a fan base in London clamoring for live shows. I can imagine that after getting Gilmour on board they were hot to get some tracks laid down. In the music business, absence rarely makes the heart grow fonder, so it was critical that they have a new recording to keep them in the public eye.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are still arguments going on to this day regarding the departure of Barrett and the subsequent replacement by Gilmour. Whether good or bad, the new Floyd took a more mature direction, and an even more experimental one than the original lineup. Gilmour proved to be an excellent fit. His mercurial guitar style and smoky voice would add new depth and flexibility to the band's sound.

Saucerful has its share of hits and misses, but it largely stands out for its experimental nature, and for eschewing the pop songs of Floyd's early days. At a time when music was in an experimental growth spurt of mammoth proportions, it stands as one of the most important albums of the era. Their space-rock leanings are shoved to the forefront from the opening track "Let There Be More Light" and the now classic "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun," continuing the experimental psychedelic trips that were the highlight of their debut album. Going a few notches up the freak-out scale is the instrumental title track, 12 minutes of disjointed chaos. Interesting for a listen or two, but lacking any truly memorable moments.

Keyboardist Richard Wright pens two tracks, "Remember A Day" and "See-Saw," both of which are a little too melancholy and laid back to stand out in this set. Roger Waters makes the first of his many anti-war statements with "Corporal Clegg," a tongue-in-cheek track about a war veteran that may or may not have gotten a medal from the Queen, and his doting mother.

The closing track pays respect to their lost member. Barrett's final Floyd composition "Jugband Blues" is typical of his penchant for pop-nonsense. Other than being a nice farewell to Syd, this song adds nothing to the album as a whole.

Saucerful is a bit uneven to be sure, but it's hard to dismiss the importance of this album on the growth of one of the most successful bands ever, and the band's subsequent impact on the burgeoning progressive rock movement. It may not be Floyd's artistic high point, but it's a benchmark of how much they influenced the world of music on the whole, and laid the foundation for their later work.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B-



© 2005 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.