Echoes is a double-CD collection of some of Pink Floyd's best songs; it's also an interesting document of the band's history. They began life as Syd Barrett's mandrax-flavoured nursery-rhymers--gnomes, scarecrows, cats and bikes a speciality--before clasping the wings of Icarus and ascending towards the sun on an epic space-rock odyssey, eventually turning left once they reached the dark side of the moon and burning up on re-entry, crash-landing on every earthlings' home hi-fi with the imperious but seething embitterment of their (or more pertinently, Roger Waters') pomp rock; the sociological (Animals), totalitarianism (The Wall) and World War (The Final Cut). And it's all here--30 years of the Floyd's awesome back catalogue trimmed down to two handsome CDs. It is worth reiterating that, despite a fondness for pyrotechnics (and fittingly--and perhaps deliberately--the album was released on November 5th), Pink Floyd were never a prog-rock band. Sure, some of their songs were a bit long, and they never released singles (at least not for 11 years), but the same could be said for Led Zeppelin. Clinically devoid of the cod-classical overtures and vainglorious musicianship of that era, Pink Floyd were a pole apart; Meddle's epic maritime tone-poem "Echoes" remains The Floyds' apogee. But here, on this collection, "the albatross" which "hangs motionless upon the air" has had its wings clipped--seven full minutes are missing, but you'd never be able to tell. The sonar bleeps, the screeching seagulls, the howling winds are all retained and whoever wielded the editorial axe did so carefully, Eugene. Interestingly, the non-chronological track listing works--the summery, childhood enchantment of "See Emily Play" timetabled right next to the square-bashing school discipline of "Happiest Days Of Our Lives"--and at least this way no-one will switch off when material from "A Momentary Lapse in Reason" comes around. Despite the curious omission of "Atom Heart Mother", this really is the very best of the Floyd--from the throbbing "One Of These Days" (conceived as an attack on disc jockey Jimmy Young), to the pop operatic "Great Gig In The Sky" and the genius silvery fluidity of Dave Gilmour's guitar work. This is timeless, as many members of Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Blur, Beta Band etc will no doubt testify. --Kevin Maidment
The first Pink Floyd compilation in 20 (yes, 20) years is, undoubtedly, a landmark in any major record company's calendar. With Christmas soon upon us, it's only right and proper that EMI should be foisting these psychedelic gems on us one more time. With all the old Floydian guns brought to bear - the sleeve design by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis with its multitudinous references to past glories (how many can you spot?), massive multimedia marketing campaign and, as a bonus, the tracks sewn together with a slew of nifty new sound effects - how can this fail to please?
All the usual suspects are here with a few glaring omissions and several quite brave choices. Guitarist David "don't call me Dave" Gilmour has already stated his disappointment that the democratic method of selection left out "Fat Old Sun" from Atom Heart Mother, and one can't help but feel that the Floyd's more experimental years (1968-70) have been passed over in favour of safer numbers. Where are "The Nile Song", "Free Four", "Careful With That Axe Eugene", and "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict"? OK the last one was a joke and these are minor quibbles when we get such treats as Syd Barrett's swansong - the haunting "Jugband Blues" with its poignant self portrait of desolate alienation - and the title track itself, the lovely "Echoes" with its frankly quite funky middle eight.
What brings these tracks back to life after so long at the back of our record collections is the way they've been segued in non-chronological order, creating startling new contexts and contrasts. "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" never sounded lovelier oozing out of "The Great Gig In The Sky". Yet the methodology also has its failings. The fact remains that everything recorded by The Pink Floyd in the 20 years since A Collection Of Great Dance Songs has never lived up to what went before. How could it with the band in a state of slow disintegration? Tracks from The Final Cut and A Momentary Lapse Of Reason sound, in turn lumpen, cynical or just lacking in imagination. Undoubtedly, Gilmour's finest work from this period was always his session work for others and "Learning To Fly" really can't compare to "Us And Them".
Ultimately, however, with the entire album bookended by the first and last tracks of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, the listener is reminded that for at least half of their career this band were truly sonic pioneers. Completing a transition from swinging space cadets to multi-platinum monsters - this album tells the whole story, crazy diamonds and all. --Chris Jones
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PINK FLOYD Echoes The Best Of... (2001 UK 26-track 2-CD set comprising a comprehensive career retrospective of their studio output from 1967 - 1994 from their psychedelic early days with Syd through to the modern rock of The Division Bell including Another Brick In The Wall [Part 2] Money Shine On You Crazy Diamond Comfortably Numb Wish You Were Here and more... presented in a picture slipcase complete with artwork by Storm Thorgerson. Apart from some slight edgewear the disc and contents are in excellent condition)