Pink Floyd – “Meddle” (1971)

Based on what you hear on classic rock radio, you could be forgiven for thinking that Pink Floyd only released two albums, Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.  OK, maybe sometimes you’ll also get a song from Wish Your Were Here, specifically one of the songs not called “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.  There were a few great songs on A Momentary Lapse of Reason, though I couldn’t tell you how long it’s been since I heard either one of them.  Meanwhile I can’t seem to go more than an hour without the radio giving me “Comfortably Numb”, “Another Brick In the Wall (Part II)”, or “Time”.  All of which are great songs.  Tremendous songs, quite frankly.  But what about poor Animals?  It’s like that album never even existed.  Where’s the love for “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”?  As for anything recorded prior to A Dark Side of the Moon, it may as well have been recorded by a completely different band named Pink Floyd given how widely it’s ignored. (♠)

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Which brings me to Meddle.  I’m spinning this for the first time in, I don’t know, probably 30+ years.  And frankly I’d forgotten how excellent it is.  “One of These Days” is truly one of Pink Floyd’s best songs, and if “Fearless” had been on Led Zeppelin IV, which came out the same year as Meddle, it would be played on classic rock radio daily (though I’m not sure Zep could have pulled off the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” sample at the end).

Not sure why Meddle is so overlooked.  Sure, “Seaums” is weird, and the entire B side is given over to a single 23+ minute track.  But there are still some truly great songs here.

(♠)  Floyd fans, I’m not dismissing these works.  On the contrary.  I’m just pointing out that they basically don’t exist as far as most people are concerned, but that in fact they’re worthy of being played just as much as their more popular brethren.  So please, no hate mail.

Pink Floyd – “Wish You Were Here” (1975 / 1980) Half-Speed Mastered

I have way too many albums in my “To Listen To” pile.  In fact there’s so much that it is no longer one pile but instead has spread into multiple places like an infestation.  A few dozen in the Flipbin dedicated to new arrivals, another 40 or so on various Ikea shelves, and two stacks of CDs and cassettes on the dining room table.  It’s an embarrassment of riches, and quite frankly it stresses me out.  I don’t plan on writing about everything, but it’s still a lot to get through!

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A few weeks back I got three big boxes of stuff from someone at work who was going to give them to Goodwill.  There turned out to be some fun stuff in there.  I’d never gotten into The Who, but now I have a half dozen of their albums to play.  Everything from Black Sabbath to Nancy Sinatra, Flock of Seagulls to Sherlock Holmes mystery box sets.  But perhaps the most intriguing gem was this 1980 half-speed mastered version of Pink Floyd’s 1975 classic Wish You Were Here.  I’ve heard this album a hundred times or more over the years, though always on CD.  I’m very familiar with it, including its minutiae, so I’m wondering how this version will sound.  The half-speed mastering process is supposed to render a more accurate recording and CBS also invested in higher end vinyl for these pressings.  The question is, will I be able to tell the difference?  Will it live up to the hype?  I have a great starting point, because this copy is pristine and fresh from a cleaning on the Okki Nokki.

Wish You Were Here is a perfect choice for this kind of high-end treatment.  Lots of quiet parts, slow builds, and isolated instruments and vocals.  And I have to say, this thing sounds tremendous. (♠)  The sonics are bright, especially the vocals on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, and the saxophone section on that same track is out of this world.  The most noticeable parts are the quietest – the sound is coming at you from a truly quiet background with no hiss or residual noise.  The intro to “Welcome To The Machine” captures this perfectly, as does the transition from “Have A Cigar” to “Wish You Were Here”.  If anything sells me on how much of an effect this is having on me it’s that I’m not singing along, something I always do when I listen to Wish You Were Here.  I’m not staying quiet because my singing sucks (although it does, massively), but because I want to hear the vocals as clearly as possible.  There’s a subtlety to the harmonizing that frankly I’ve missed over all these years, a hint of low end that provides a base for the parts that soar.  You also hear a rawness to the vocals on “Wish You Were Here” that make you feel like you’re in the room with the musicians.  And the synths… well I’m sure you can guess that the synths are like having the instrument output plugged directly into your brain, like you’re actually living inside Blade Runner.

It looks like this 1980 version typically sells in the $70-100 range, with recorded sales as high as $150.  Is it worth it?  Well… dammit, it might be.  It’s definitely one of the very best sounding records I have on my shelves.  If you’re a major fan of Wish You Were Here I have a hard time believing that there’s a better sounding version than this one, and if you have a stereo that’s good enough to take advantage of the fidelity, you’ll love the listening experience.

(♠)  I’m playing it on a Rega P6 turntable, through a Rega Brio amp and using Rega bookshelf speakers.