Pink Floyd

Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (Capitol Records)

Hey, consumer, isn't it just a matter of time before the opportunists plunder the vaults for a Pink Floyd compilation? Oh, here it is now. But given that Pink Floyd is arguably the quintessential album band of all time, who would want this jumbled collection of spaced-out scattershots?

Compiling the "best" of Pink Floyd is bound to create subjective quibbles with the track listing. Nevertheless, some material is conspicuously absent: No "Welcome to the Machine." No "Fearless." No "Interstellar Overdrive." No "Careful With That Axe, Eugene." Nothing from the twee Atom Heart Mother, Obscured by Clouds, Ummagumma, or More. And most egregious, there's no "Have a Cigar," one of the more cynical music-industry indictments ever put to tape. Considering what a thirsty automatic milking apparatus this collection is, "Have a Cigar" should have been the first tune on disc one. But the scathing song would rub raw the sorry post-Roger Waters dinosaur droppings scattered throughout, and the irony would be far too great.

The four sections of The Wall included on this two-disc set are ripped from their conceptual context with the delicacy of a cross-eyed butcher (maybe not "Comfortably Numb," though that tune may well have begun the Floyd's ungraceful slide into a vat of Velveeta). Any casual fan of Pink Floyd already owns The Wall, and no one is served by the tattered, token fragments included here. "Time," "Money," "The Great Gig in the Sky," and "Us and Them" sound similarly stranded after being forcefully plucked from Dark Side of the Moon.

Far more meaningful would have been a few more Syd Barrett tracks -- but give thanks and praise for the singles "See Emily Play" and "Arnold Lane," long-lost relics of a forgotten paisley underground and a disintegrating talent, steeped in playful late '60s psychedelia. While Barrett's acid-casualty tailspin certainly didn't deter the group from success, his absence directly created the hollowness the band gradually filled with bloat, which eventually carried it all the way to the La Brea tar pits, where, like an inflatable porker, it now rests.

Oh, but there's so much good: the entire "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" suite, the sci-fi vignette "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," the bongathon classics "Echoes" and "One of These Days" from 1971's Meddle that are still amazing to encounter. These fresh copies go a long way to point out how much Pink Floyd accomplished with so little. Gilmour's trademark dreamy guitar wail and relaxed, double-tracked vocals may have been Pink Floyd's most recognizable asset, but Rick Wright's underrated keyboard work is boldly rudimentary and perhaps the band's defining edifice.

All but worthless is the Gilmour-led, post-lawsuit material; its mediocrity is thrown into sharp relief against the old stuff, and the collection is dragged down by it. On the cusp of this downfall is "When the Tigers Broke Free," a Waters-sung rarity left off The Wall, and his "The Fletcher Memorial Home," thankfully the only one of six tracks from the dismal The Final Cut he reportedly wanted represented. By the time the band fell apart, it had nothing left to say anyway, as the cuts from A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bellemptily illustrate. The final cut: Echoes capably demonstrates why Pink Floyd should have ended long ago.

 
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