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4.1 out of 5 stars
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2001
One of rock's most famous recluse's, the first of Syd's solo album contains some of his most fluent, and also incoherent work. Painstakingly put together this documents an amazing revolutionary artist in free-fall. Yes, "Piper..." may always be superior, but it will never have the emotional depth and intrigue this offers the listener. Ranging from the fuzzy "No good trying", to the frightening mental pain of "Dark Globe" ("Wouldn't you miss me?!?" he roars, titling his won best of 32 years later) and the sweet borrowed poem of "Golden hair". The range of moods and emotions, the way you can feel the difficulty Syd was going through this heartfelt work is amazing. This album is wonderful, and anyone considering investigating him should defiantly start here, not at that evil commercialised best of and see what this incredible songwriter managed to produce under the worst of circumstances. Miraculous.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2001
The opening track of the album 'Terrapin' sets the scene for what any listener unfamaliar with the work of Barrett is about to encounter. It is a bare skeleton of a song, with just a single acoustic guitar playing at a snails pace, and Syd singing a simple love lyric with all the soul he can muster. A beautiful yet strange song, it is one of my favourite tracks on the album. If the track doesn't draw you into Syd's world, it is probable that this record won't be for you.
The rest of the tracks on the record are made up of up-tempo songs such as 'Love You', 'Here I Go', and the superb 'Octopus, yet also has its share of undescribably painful songs which feel as if they came directly from the nervous breakdown from hell. 'Dark Globe' is one such track, yet even it sounds together when compared to 'If it's in You' and 'Feel'. Although these tracks have false starts, and would not be to everybody's liking, I have a lot of affection for both, particular 'If It's In You'. While some of the record may be deemed as "way out", there is no doubting the fact that the album contains several classic tracts, by whatever standards you use to judge it by. No Man's Land, 'Long Gone' and the gentle beauty of the closing track 'Late Night' are all superb, not to mention Golden Hair, where Syd imaginatively puts music to a James Joyce poem with great results. I
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2002
This album is just Syd, his guitar and some simple accompaniment. Everything is focussed on the lyrics and Syd's voice. Don't expect it to sound like ' The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' as his voice has lost it's happy quality. At times though, especially on the slow and beautiful love songs 'Terrapin' and 'Late Night', the sound is sweet toned and together.
The 13 tracks and 6 retakes are lifted out of the ordinary by Syd's wonderfully poetic lyrics and that emotional quality his voice has. In my opinion his lyrics have never been bettered. There are dark tracks, the prophetic 'Dark Globe', 'Feel' and the unbearably sad 'If it's in you' that reflect his growing unease and despair. But it's not all sadness, the extraordinary 'Octopus' is a stream of consciousness as image after image flows and shines from his brilliant mind. The funny 'Love You' and the wryly amusing 'Here I Go' help to lift the spirit.
Of course the songs are imbued with what was happening to Syd at the time. He recorded this album already suffering from a terrible break down. For the past decades, this album has been an eloquent testimony to what has been lost; a rare poet, a composer of music and a free spirit.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2009
The Madcap Laughs contains some of my favourite of Syd's songs, there are memorable tunes a-plenty, some songs are bare bones fragile voice and guitar performances, some are bolstered with creativity by a band (though it is unclear if Syd played any artistic role in these augmentations). If I had to pick a favourite song it would be Octopus, but there are many classic Syd performances on here, mostly congregating up front, before the album starts to unravel before our eyes. These later songs in particular possess a disarming, heartbraking honesty. He's communicating from over the horizon, but it's a horizon too close for comfort, inside the head.

Syd's story is trapped nowadays in a romanticized mythology, we love him because he was extraordinary, talented, buoyant, charming, beautiful, clever, whimsical, young, and also, because of his disintigration. Like it or not, the combination of beauty and tragedy is alluring, and goes some way to explaining the popular attraction to him. He might be a genius, that is incidental, we need him to have been a genius to make the picture perfect so we declare him one, just as all those fallen soldiers of whichever war on whichever "our" side was were saintly heroes. So we proclaim his music the work of genius. His story also acts as an evocation of how precarious a tightrope walk through life can be, particularly when his delivery wavers, as on Feel. Think also of Nick Drake and others who have left too soon. The throngs of musicians inspired by Syd are likely enchanted by the beautiful tragic mythology as much as by the music, for the two are inextricable. Through our hazy gaze the truth evolves and blurs, and we like what we see.

Clearly Syd was held in very high esteem by the people around him, and this album seems to be also a testiment to their faith in him, that he could work magic even in the adverse conditions that were coroding him. Saying that, I am concerned that the original album, which showcases not just Syd's brilliance but his disintigration, should not have been released in this state, that perhaps some cynicism crept in or the people who should have been looking out for him were sleeping. The fact that the reissue was plumped-out with further fractured bonus cuts indicates to me that his demise is simply entertainment, and hey folks, here's some more of it for your listening pleasure. Members of the Pink Floyd crowd were shepherding the process of creating Syd's solo albums, so I wonder why reissues of Dark Side Of The Moon et all haven't been similarly augmented with false starts and confusion, duff demo's or whatever might be dredged up from the bottom of the pond...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2000
One of the most beautiful albums ever recorded. All the songs are very simple and melancholy. What is apparent is that between the writing of "Piper" and this album Syd certainly did change. he now appears more incoherrent in his writing ability. All the songs seem somehow unfinished, but somehow special nonetheless. If listened to with friends the album will seem embarrasing. However, if you listen to it alone, in context, it is shudderingly sad and beautiful. A genius in artistic freefall which will become apparent if you listen to Syd's next album "Barret".
Basically, if you loved "Piper" and are fascinated with the myth surrounding Syd then this album is essential listening. If you don't normally "listen" to music, as many people don't, then do not purchase this album. You won't enjoy it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2012
The Madcap Laughs is a fragmentary, but frequently beautiful, album:

"And I borrowed the page
from a leopard's cage
& I prowled in the evening sun's glaze,
her head lifted high to the light in the sky,
the opening dawn on her face..."

If you discovered Pink Floyd via The Dark Side of the Moon on The Wall there's a distinct possibility you may not like Syd Barrett's solo recordings - after all, he left the band half a decade before TDSOFM was released. On the other hand, you may like it very, very much & find you have no inclination to listen to Gilmour & Waters' dismal (in my humble opinion) "conceptual" posturing ever again. That's what happened to me anyway. So it goes.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2008
Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968; his final contribution to Pink Floyd was the last song on "A Saucerful of Secrets", the very apt Jugband Blues. From here he left to focus on a solo career, whether he left of his own accord or was pushed we can leave for another day, but it took a further two years for Barrett's first solo outing to be released.

"The Madcap Laughs", released in 1970 on Harvest, was two years in the making and had production assistance from various people most notably Roger Waters and Dave Gilmore, as well as session musicians of some esteem to perform overdubs on most of the tracks, musicians including Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie on Drums. It's also worth noting that some of these esteemed musicians never actually met Barrett.

The various sessions involved in writing and recording the songs for this release were dogged with Barrett's internal and well documented mental turmoil, but this record was recorded in the end and what a record it is. The album opens with "Terrapin", despite the number of producers involved throughout the album; this opening track echoes the style, which will make Madcap Laughs the album it is.

Every strum is heard, the lyrics are quite mysterious, the vocals are eerie and because the overdubs are done after and away from Barrett's erratic musicianship, the beats and bars are quite unpredictable, which I happen to believe is a good thing. This trend, which I like to think of as classic Barrett recording techniques, continues with "No Good Trying", the marvellous "Octopus", "Golden Hair" and the beautifully composed "She Took a Long Cold Look" and "Dark Globe".

The album does have some upbeat moments, "Love You" and "Here I Go" are probably as close to pop songs Barrett ever got, but thankfully he's still a million miles off the norm.

Along with "Barrett", another album from Syd Barrett released in 1970, The Madcap Laughs remains a beacon of the talents of this great songwriter, a man whose demons would tragically halt his career but thankfully did not result in this record never being released. Yes, some of the vocals are erratic and sometimes off key, yes some of the songs go off on one a bit with the overdubs trying to keep up, and yes this album is far from being polished, but don't let that stop you, the sum of all the parts of this album make for an unbelievably addictive and surprisingly wholesome record.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2015
Some of the reviews of madcap seem to be written by boring closed minded people going on about Syds breakdown and how he lost his talent. I totally disagree. Madcap laughs is great. Syds songs just changed course into abstraction. Lunacy? No. Syd was an artist more than mentally ill and to me you cant compare madcap to piper at the gates cos theyre just different to eachother. My favourite song on madcap is "Feel" its so haunting and poetic yet people never seem to notice just what a great song Feel is. Strange that. But the whole of madcap laughs is is great, funny, strange, poetic and nutty! I just wish people would stop comparing it to other Pink Floyd albums. Its Art and it stands alone without comparisons and chin stroking critics droning on tediously about Syds breakdown. Just listen and let Syd draw you into his world
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2012
At first like many others the Floyd I knew was The Wall and Final Cut, and then I started going back in time, to Animals, Wish You Were Here, Dark Side OTM, Umma Gumma. At first I didnt like Floyd as they seemed to regress in time into a stranger and stranger past, until finally I hit Piper at the GOD...and at first I didnt like it, it didnt sound right, off kilter, jarring, screwy, bizarre, hysterical, clownish and forlorn...

...and then I realised there was this other guy called Syd Barrett who had done all these strange songs in the 1st album and who had disappeared, and I thought who would leave PF and why?

...and then I heard Syd's solo songs and at first I only listed once and then some again, until after many years when I could no longer stand the syrupy sweet superficial sound of pop music, I found myself drawn back again to Syd Barrett, who had said goodbye to it all, and started falling in love with his songs, thats the only way you can like them, if you fall in love with them. So now, I cant really listen to PF albums made after 1973, but when I do I hear Syd's voice in almost every song they did after he left.

...each song takes a few minutes to listen, but will last you a lifetime...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2009
First listen screams a lack of direction and an element of clutter. Mainly acoustic based, a vast majority could have been cut from the final product to leave a more meaningful offering with lashings of impact.

However, putting aside some of the disorder, there's definitely some jewels to be uncovered. The most impressive tracks include `Octopus', strongly driven by a rich sounding acoustic guitar, a catchy melody, enhanced with twangs of classic `60's style electric guitar. `Late Night' has an appealing creativity with overtones of delicate slide. `Golden Hair' is a truly magical composition that perhaps would not be out of place on Pink Floyd's `Saucerful of Secrets'. `Its No Good Trying' and `No Man's Land' offer more late 60's psychedelic tones. `Feel' is purely acoustic and is a quality listen.

Mostly produced by both David Gilmour and Roger Waters, it certainly has its relevance and place, but it's no `Piper at the Gates of Dawn'.
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