Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets | Live at the Roundhouse-CD/DVD | (SMG)
4 1/2 out of 5 stars
It’s likely that many Pink Floyd fans aren’t familiar with much of the band’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon work, let alone experienced it live. Even if a few scattered singles like “See Emily Play,” “Arnold Layne,” and “Lucifer Sam” sneak onto Best Of compilations, that leaves seven full albums of material released from 1967-’72 (Dark Side… came out in 1973) that have largely gone unheralded, appreciated by few except deeper Floyd followers.
Floyd founding drummer Nick Mason decided to rectify that.
Mason, the only member of the band that has played on every Floyd studio album, hired four talented musicians dubbed the Saucerful of Secrets (SOS) to tour 90 minutes of choice tracks, some quite obscure, from PF’s formative years. Since many were never played live, and some haven’t seen a concert stage in decades, there was a fair amount of leeway in how this new ensemble would interpret compositions from over 50 years ago without losing the magic of the late 60s recordings. The resulting concert, a mind-bending mix of music and visuals, proves how successful the experiment was.
Now available as a DVD and double CD, Mason and his SOS group (appropriately named after Floyd’s second album), avidly dig into those early sides. They excavate such Floyd oddities as “Obscured by Clouds,” “Childhood’s End,” “When You’re In” (all from 1972’s Obscured by Clouds), the rare single “Point Me at the Sky” that even hardcore fans might not know and Syd Barrett’s bizarre “Vegetable Man,” performing them with the studied intensity and occasional humor with which they were written.
Mason skillfully weaves these rarities into a set interspersed with more recognizable titles like Meddle’s “One of These Days” (but sadly not the epic, side long “Echoes” from that disc), “Astronomy Domine,” and the above singles. It’s a stunning show with audio and rare video that will appeal not only to Pink Floyd’s existing base, but to anyone interested in the roots of the psychedelic space rock the band practically invented and undoubtedly popularized. Some might miss the Gilmour, Waters and Barrett vocals, but the SOS singers do the songs justice without aping the originals. A few selections are reimagined for the stage such as combining “If” with “Atom Heart Mother” in a medley that didn’t previously exist.
The audio is exquisitely recorded, and even if the DVD video– with its multi-camera shoot– is a little busy, it’s far from distracting. An expansive 5.1 mix on the Blu-ray—the preferred medium for those with surround systems– gets you as close to being at the UK’s Roundhouse for the May, 2019 gig as possible.
Since future Floyd reunions are unlikely, let alone one that dips into these “relics” (Floyd reference intended) from the past, this is as important a historical document as it is a wildly enjoyable experience.
Take a trip back in time, and space, without leaving your coach.
Pre-order on your favorite digital service.