Friday, 21 August 2015

"The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" (2007 EMI '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 3CD Book Set – James Guthrie and Joel Plante Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Prowling Shifting Sand..."

Iconic, groundbreaking and damn it - cool. Pink Floyd's debut album "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" is all of those things - but it has been plagued with half-assed CD reissues for years now. At last - this 2007 '40th Anniversary' 3CD celebration does that aural brute some justice. And that's before we even talk about the astonishing MONO mix. Here are the many-faced Astronomical and Interstellar details...

UK released September 2007 –"The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" by PINK FLOYD is a '40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 3CD Book Set on EMI 50999-503919-2-9 (Barcode is the same) and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 – MONO MIX – 42:15 minutes:
1. Astronomy Domine
2. Lucifer Sam
3. Matilda Mother
4. Flaming
5. Pow R. Toc H.
6. Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk
7. Interstellar Overdrive
8. The Gnome
9. Chapter 24
10. The Scarecrow
Tracks 1 to 11 are the MONO MIX of their debut album "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" – released August 1967 in the UK on Columbia SC 6157 and October 1967 in the USA on Tower T 5093. The US album had 9 tracks instead of 11 and featured the UK non-album single "See Emily Play" as its opening track. Using Disc 3 in this compilation and Disc 1 above – the US Mono LP can be sequenced as follows:
Side 1: 3 (from Disc 3), 5, 6, 2, 3 and Side 2: 10, 8, 9 and 7

Disc 2 – STEREO MIX – 41:58 minutes:
As per tracks 1 to 11 on Disc 1 – Stereo LP catalogue numbers are Columbia SCX 6157 (UK) and Tower ST 5093 (USA)

Disc 3 – BONUS TRACKS – 32:06 minutes:
1. Arnold Layne – non-album track, the A-side of their debut UK Mono 7" single released 10 March 1967 on Columbia DB 8156
2. Candy And A Currant Bun – non-album track, the B-side of "Arnold Layne" in Mono
3. See Emily Play – non-album track on UK release – the A-side of their 2nd UK 7" Mono single released 17 June 1967 on Columbia DB 8214 (B-side was "Scarecrow" from the Mono LP)
4. Apples And Oranges - non-album track on UK release – the A-side of their 3rd UK Mono 7" single released 18 November 1967 on Columbia DB 8310
5. Paintbox - non-album track, the B-side of "Apples And Oranges" in Mono
6. Interstellar Overdrive (Take 2) (French Edit) - Mono 
7. Apples And Oranges (Stereo Version) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
8. Matilda Mother (Alternative Version) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
9. Interstellar Overdrive (Take 6) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

The outer hessian-feel Book Pack has been designed by STORMSTUDIOS (Storm Thorgerson has long been associated with Pink Floyd LP artwork) while the reproduction of the Syd Barrett 'Fart Enjoy' booklet is courtesy of Andrew Rawlinson. The facsimile booklet (60% size of the original) amounts to little more than painted sketches and random typed words - and with the centre booklet providing only the lyrics (no appreciation nor history of the album) – it all feels 'pretty' but lacking somehow. Thankfully the real meat and potatoes comes in the sensational new Audio...

JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE at Das Boot Recording (the same team who did all the 'Discovery Edition' Pink Floyd CD Remasters) have handled the Audio Transfers and Remasters and a stunning result has been achieved – especially on the elusive MONO mix (an extraordinarily expensive vinyl item out of the reach of most collectors). As you can see from the playing times provided above – they mixes of the LP differ in that the Mono variant is slightly longer (Disc 3 is all Mono except where stated).

When you play lead-in voices and plucked guitars of “Astronomy Domine” for the first time (on the Mono version) – the Audio kick is quite amazing. There’s the same punch applies to the almost 60ts Spy Series of “Lucifer Sam” with those strange background noises pushed further back as the guitar and bass take centre stage. But I’m properly amazed at the clarity on “Matilda Mother” – I played the Stereo version right after the Mono and I prefer the sound stage given to the vocals – but both are different beasts of the same colour. The voice-chants at the beginning of “Pow R. Toc H.” are so clear in the Stereo version – but the Piano notes have more centre impact in the Mono mix actually.

The lyrics to the wicked “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk” where Syd gives us “Gold is lead...Jesus bled...Ghoul greasy spoon...” still sound so Doors to me. I think I still prefer the Stereo mix where they flange that wild guitar across the speakers. Some people love the near 10-minutes of “Interstellar Overdrive” – I’ve always felt it was an instrumental indulgence taken too far – but there’s no denying the Audio kick in the teeth the MONO mix gives it – like I’m listening to something new. “Gnome” and “Chapter 24” are much improved compared to my battered copy of 1973’s “A Nice Pair” – but if I was to nail down one track that shows up how good this remaster is – it would be the bare and percussive “The Scarecrow”. It sounds unbelievably clean – those vocals and that thinny organ – and then as the guitars fade in – amazing.

Disc 3 makes a good bedfellow – it allows fans (using “Scarecrow” from the Mono Mix) to sequence the A&B-sides of their first three UK 45s on Columbia – “Arnold Layne”, “See Emily Play” and “Apples And Oranges”. The French Edit of the Mono “Interstellar Overdrive” cuts the album take down from 9:40 minutes to 5:16 minutes but sounds to me like its been dubbed from a very used disc – its good but hardly great. Far better is the Previously Unreleased Take 6 of “Interstellar...” - again just over five minutes and is also in Mono. It offers different guitar parts and is heavy on that distorted Bass (wild soloing towards the end passage where the organ floats back in). The Alternate Take of “Matilda Mother” is almost Pop for them and probably closest to the finished album mix. How bizarre is it to hear “Apples And Oranges” in STEREO and with a small bit of studio chatter at the beginning – love it...

They would go on to bigger and better things with "Atom Heart Mother" (1970), "Meddle" (1971) and "Obscured By Clouds" (1972) – never mind "Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973) and "Wish You Were Here" (1975)...and beyond (I've reviewed all but "Atom"). 

Admittedly this over-the-top Sonic Psych barrage will not be everyone's cup of Typhoo in the 11's – but if you're a fan – the amazing Audio make it a must own...

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