This is an excellent compilation album for those who wish to investigate Pink Floyd's highly productive early years, especially those with Syd Barrett.
Two of Barrett's most renowned and revered compositions are included, 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play'. The former is a curious tale depicting a barmy fellow who enjoys stealing women's undergarments, and is a characteristically idiosyncratic cut from Barrett, being both delightfully playful and flawless musically. 'See Emily Play' is even better; a psychedelic masterpiece, made distinctive due to the hallucinatory organ sounds and Barrett's blithe and effervescent lyrical imagery. These are two fantastic examples of Floyd's Syd Barrett era, where the band was able to churn out playful, childlike, almost whimsical slices of psychedelic pop, which were quintessentially English. The inclusion of Barrett's 'Interstellar Overdrive' also demonstrates his experimental and progressive leanings, aptly underlining the many dimensions of early Floyd.
This compilation isn't all about Barrett, though. Also included are early tracks from keyboardist, Rick Wright, 'Remember a Day' and 'Paintbox' (although Barrett plays guitar on the former). These tracks undoubtedly intended to recapture the Barrett-era zeitgeist of psychedelic sounds and dreamlike lyrics. Though whilst Rick has a pleasant voice, the songs lack the distinctiveness of Barrett's work. However, they are still interesting artefacts from the band's distant psychedelic past.
On 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene', Pink Floyd's successful progression away from the Barrett sound is evident. The song is a hugely atmospheric jam, driven by Rick Wright's wondrous eastern-sounding organ playing and interpolated forebodingly with ghostly shrieks from Roger Waters. The song is almost unnerving, and is a sign of Pink Floyd evolving both musically and thematically. Additionally, the hard-rocking, 'The Nile Song', is reminiscent of The Who and shows the band in a new light, adding greatly to the variety of the album.
The album concludes appropriately, ending where it began, with a Barrett pop song, 'Bike', which typifies the initial Pink Floyd's quirky sound. This serves to emphasise what a well-constructed compilation 'Relics' is and, resultantly, the album is perfect for both seasoned Floyd fans and newcomers, as there will be something to satisfy everyone on here. My only (minor) gripe is the lack of two oft-forgotten Barrett songs: the winter 1967 single, 'Apples and Oranges', which would ultimately be Syd's final single; and the b-side to 'Arnold Layne', 'Candy and a Currant Bun'.