on July 8, 2004
Before The Wall, before Wish You Were Here, before Dark Side Of The Moon, before Meddle, before David Gilmour, there was the magical, psychedelic masterpiece that was Piper At The Gates of Dawn. An album which captures Pink Floyd at its most experimental and challenging, Piper At The Gates of Dawn embraces the essence and pushes the limitations of the psychedelic sound. Written almost entirely by guitarist Syd Barret, whose penchant for wild and reckless experimentation extended far beyond the purely musical, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn takes on a life wholly independent of other Pink Floyd albums.
It is a difficult, almost feral, album filled with songs that project a view of the world that is almost childish in its naiivety, and yet, at the same time, maintains a very dark, menacing edginess. It is an album which manages, somehow a very delicate tension between the whimsical and the sinister, a tension which, perhaps, reflects the personal turmoil of Syd Barret himself.
Tough to say what might have transpired had Barret not lost the edge. Perhaps his psychological collapse (brought about by the over-use of psychotropic drugs), was necessitated by the nature of the art he created: a brilliance not made to last, like a star going nova. Conjecture aside, Piper At The Gates of Dawn remains a unique artistic statement, wholly unlike anything that would be produced by the subsequent incarnation of the group following Barret's departure. It is an album which captures, in a very real way, the nature and essence of psychedelic music, and may in fact be the best Pink Floyd album.
[NOTE: for the casual Floyd fan, the incarnation of the band present on Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is the Pink Floyd you know and love in title alone. Consequently, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn make take some getting used to, particularly for those either unfamiliar with late 60's psychedelic rock or those expecting a Darkside-esque album.]
on June 30, 2004
1967's "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" is the one that started it all for Pink Floyd, back in the early days when bassist Roger Waters, keyboardist Richard Wright & drummer Nick Mason were led by the genius, but doomed singer/guitarist Syd Barrett. Psychedelic rock doesn't get much more trippier than "Piper," a totally far-out collection of avant-garde space rock, songs about gnomes and scarecrows, off-the-wall production and sound effects, and superb performances by a tight British art-rock band that were destined to become Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Famers.Although he made one last "cameo" appearance with the Floyd on their second album, "A Saucerful Of Secrets" with that album's closing number, "Jugband Blues," the lion's share of Syd Barrett's legacy with the band is all contained right here on "Piper," barring a few early singles. Writing all but one song, and, with a charismatic singing voice and incredible guitar-playing skills, Barrett was truly a musical genius, and his equally-talented bandmates match him song for song. Every track on the album is a highlight in it's own right, but certainly worth mentioning are such tracks as the opening space rock of "Astronomy Domine," the before-there-was-alternative alternative rock of "Lucifer Sam," the far-out instrumentals "Pow R Toc H" and "Interstellar Overdrive," the frenetic rock of "Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk" (written & sung by Waters, in his debut composition for the band), the charming tale of "The Gnome," and the classic, half children's song/half freak-out finale, "Bike," which starts out cheerily enough before giving way to some deliciously wacko noises and sound effects.Sadly, and tragically, shortly after the release of "Piper," Syd Barrett's experimentations with psychedelic drugs ultimately destroyed him, and he was finally ousted from the band. Roger Waters more-or-less took over as the group's leader, and Barrett's vacated slot was filled by guitarist David Gilmour. Barrett, despite his drug-addicted state, would record a pair of solo albums before dropping out of the music business altogether. Not well enough to look after himself, he's been quietly living in the care of family members ever since. Pink Floyd, meanwhile, would go on to major superstardom and sell millions of albums, with such classics as "Dark Side Of The Moon," "Wish You Were Here," "Animals" and "The Wall." But "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" was the band's very first chapter, and one that would not have been possible without the great Syd Barrett. "Piper" is outstanding psychedelic rock, and a Pink Floyd classic. And thank you, Syd, wherever you are.
on September 3, 2006
As a budding Pink Floyd fan, I got this album a few months ago as maybe the fourth after getting the mid 70s albums I knew. I heard it was genious and Syd Barrett was amazing on it. Well I bought it and 13 others. Syd gave the music a poetic stance that the band lost after while, still my favorite but hearing the band experiment and then find the sound with Meddle is awesome. This album is fantastic but it takes some open mindedness and getting used to for the main stream Floyd fan. Give it a chance and you will not be dissapointed.
Shine on Syd, you Piper and Painter!
on July 11, 2000
I don't necessarily like writing long, lengthy reviews, so I'll try to keep the review medium length...
Don't buy this CD if you're expecting the Floyd sound and material from their seventies heyday. Buy this album if you want to listen to some excellent, trippy, spacey psychedelic music at its very best. For one thing, this isn't the classic lineup of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason, with Waters at the helm of such timeless albums as The Wall and Wish You Were Here. This is the ORIGINAL lineup of Syd Barrett, Waters, Wright, and Mason, with lead guitarist, songwriter, and singer Barrett at the controls, and it proves to be one of their best albums (I think it is actually THE best.)
The one major factor which makes this album so great is that the songs are simply amazing. I don't mean that in a real technical way (as in super fast guitar playing and Keith Moon style drumming,) but the fact that this CD really will blow your mind if listened to properly (the real effect comes only if you're stoned, but for a nice substitute, put it on the stereo, turn out the lights and kick back and close your eyes.)
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn combines a nice mix of longer, spacey songs (Interstellar Overdrive, Astronomy Domine, Pow R. Toc H., etc.) with short, extremely catchy pop songs (The Gnome, Lucifer Sam, Bike, Scarecrow, and pretty much the rest) for a pleasant, out of this world listening experience.
If you're new to Floyd, I recommend you pick this album up first, for it is much better than the seventies stuff (don't get me wrong, Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall are all EXCELLENT albums, and I own each one of them, but this still beats them.) If you've already got their material when they peaked, perhaps you should download a few MP3's before purchasing right away. If you like one song, you're pretty much guaranteed to like the rest.
To sum, pick up this psychedelic classic for a guaranteed out of your mind experience. You won't be disappointed that you paid $13.00 for it... in fact, you'll probably listen to it over and over again.
Most importantly, Syd IS Floyd!
Rock on, brothers and sisters!
on June 16, 2000
Although just about everything from the sixties sounds today dated and flat, Pink Floyd's seminal first album still sizzles with the energy of the LSD that powered it. Syd Barrett, the enigmatic and mercurial genius who led the band at that point, successfully used his opus The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn to showcase two sides of psychedelic experimentation. Both the bright, glittering and fun aspect of LSD, and its shadowy, dangerous underbelly with undertones of chaos, are shown here.
Pink Floyd's Piper is so much more than the acid-pop and space-rock that show up at first glance. Underneath the bright exterior, we see flashes of extreme disorder. "I've got a clan of gingerbread men," sings Barrett illogically in the album's stunning conclusion 'Bike'. He goes on to speak of talking mice and living music before the song disintegrates into a series of warped chimes and ticks, sounds that could never occur in the physical world, but almost appear as if they could.
The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn successfully stands up to great post-Barrett Floyd albums like Wish You Were Here and The Dark Side Of The Moon. At its best, it eclipses them; unlike Waters, Barrett knew the secret of composing melodies as well as dense aural landscapes. He balances short, poppish numbers like "The Gnome" with longer space-rock freakouts such as "Interstellar Overdrive".
In 1967, famous albums like the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper", the Velvet Underground's "Velvet Underground & Nico", and Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" were created. Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn, one of the ultimate masterpieces of all time in the psychedelic genre, at times surpasses them all.
on May 22, 2000
The blatant trippiness of London's hottest underground act in the latter 60's was led by Syd Barrett, well known for his strong pop tunes and propensity for strong psychadelic drugs. Syd Barrett continues to roam the earth, a recluse living off the fruits of the songs he created as a young man. Despite his mystery now, Syd's contribution to Pink Floyd when they started cannot be overestimated; Syd WAS the band. He sang, he wrote, and he influenced many aspiring British musicians. When he was kicked out for severely erratic behavior later on, Barrett provided large quantities of inspiration for such classics (dare I say masterpieces) as "Wish You Were Here", "Dark Side of the Moon," and "The Wall". In short, Syd Barrett ruled The Pink Floyd when they started, and he became a symbol later on, mostly a symbol of sheer madness. "Piper at the Gates" as an undeniable 60's vibe that many modern listeners may not be able to shake off. "Astronomy Domine" leads off "Piper," one of the albums best tracks, a tune easily identifiable to the Floyd's spacey, far-out image that followed them everywhere, both on record and performing live. With his soft, very clipped British voice, Barrett wonderingly sings, "Neptune, Titan, stars can frighten." His guitar on the leadoff track spirals downward very fluently, as he croons about images perhaps only his mind ever fully comprehended. "Lucifer Sam," with its Batman theme-song guitar work, is a tribute to Syd's all-revered cat: "that cat's something I can't explain." One could argue the same about Syd and many of his tunes. "Matilda Mother" is a dreamy and beautiful fairy-tale concoction that some pop stars today couldn't or wouldn't write with hand written instructions. Even better is "Flaming," almost overly melodic, wonderfully written, with extremely far-out lyrics like "laying in the foggy dew," "Yippee, you can't see me but I can you!" Midway through, "Piper" takes an interlude,as Barrett's voice is not heard for three straight songs, although his influence strongly remains. "Pow R. Toc H." contains jazzy piano from Richard Wright, but turns typically foreboding, with strange yelping and voices in the background. The record's biggest mystery is the woefully inept "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk", written by future mastermind Roger Waters. With its hyper, senseless lyrics and overdrive guitar, it's drastically out of place and ranks as one of the worst song in the entire Pink Floyd catalog. Luckily, the instrumental "Interstellar Overdrive" picks the album back up. It starts off scratchy and quite live sounding, then of course slows down and turns pokey. It's all worth it, however, when the guitar jam reasserts itself and switches from one side of your speakers to the other, a technique I've only heard on one other album (Def Leppard's "On Through the Night - 1980). Although such songs aren't ear candy, Pink Floyd were always very experimental and ahead of their time. Not the greatest musicians in the world (save for David Gilmour and Barrett), the Floyd eventually found a way to reward their faithful listeners. The upbeat and strong "Bike" ends "Piper," but Barrett makes sure things end on a severely apprehensive note, as the poppiness turns ugly; sounds of wayward clocks, lots of chiming, and a very disturbing, duck-like laugh. It's scary to see how many "normal" people actually connect with this band and Syd Barrett. Whatever Barrett's flaws, he set the launching pad for a group that would become world renowned, the most popular of their time. Faceless and secretive, Pink Floyd would someday rule the world. "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" fittingly never gets any airplay. That's as it should be, as these songs are priceless, too good to be placed along the likes of Rush and Steve Miller.
on May 12, 2000
"Piper at the Gates of Dawn" is a great album. It's not their best. (Dark Side of the Moon is.) It's not my favorite. (That would be Meddle, duh.) In fact, as an album, it is not all that cohesive. This is not an epic work of art in the vein of their later works, but instead contains 10 songs, each about 3-4 minutes long, that are Syd Barret's greatest works ever. One of these is my favorite PF song ever. And as an extra special added super bonus, you get to hear Roger Waters' first song. This albumn's lyrics are evocative of the great English psychedelicist of the 1800's... Lewis Carrol. Then it was opium, for Piper, it's acid (or ASyd, if you will) but the effect is similar.
Let me go track by track, since you need not listen to all of "piper" at once.
Astronomy Domine: This is the first Syd song I ever heard, at a Floyd cover band's show. I was floored then, and I still am. Great rock song that manages to intoxicate you when you hear it.
Lucifer Sam: Floyd does pop. Sorta reminds me of the Who, or the Beatles. You will be singing "Lucifer sam, siam cat/Always sitting by your side/always, by your side." over and over and over...
Mother Matilda: This song is my favorite Floyd tune ever. I get dizzy during the first 2 minutes, and then at exactly 2:01, my brain goes through some sort of orgasm. This is everything great about Syd-led Floyd.
Flaming: Not my favorite song on the album, but it still rocks. Has a great line, very descriptive of the band: "Hey ho, here we go, ever so high" I would have no idea what they meant, of course.
Pow R Toc H: I love this song. Sort of a prototypical "Careful with that Axe" this instrumental has weird noises, a great groove, and it's only 3 minutes long!
Take up thy stethoscope and walk: Roger Waters first song on LP... I like the last two minutes. Alot. The first minute is experimental, and it did not age like the other 44 minutes of this record.
Interstellar Overdrive: I can't say anything too novel about this song. It is Syd's masterpiece. It's 10 minutes long. I suspect the sober crowd hates Syd, so they bash this song. Ignore them. This track makes me happy.
The Gnome: I suspect this is why Waters worshipers hate piper. The song's about a gnome. It's silly. It's poppy. And yet, it is Floyd. My next pet is gonna be named Grimble Gromble, so obviously, I like it.
Chapter 24: I'm told this refers to the I Ching. Huh. This is your typical hippy "rubbish", with ramblings about the circularity of existence. Being a hippy, I like this song.
Scarecrow: Again, I think side two of Piper is the Anti-Wall. I love Waters, but these songs touch me. I get a smile on my face, my feet start moving, and I get that weird numb spine feeling.
Bike: Syd's lyrics are stupid. We know. I like Primus, too, so I don't need every song to be a monumental epic about the evils of society. Still, this comes of (to me) as being very communistic (as in hippy communes), and the tune is catchy. Phish covers this alla time.
Again, this is not the Floyd of the 70's. Floyd's early stuff is reminiscent of other music from the same era. Remember, this album was recorded at the same time as Sgt. Pepper, and even in the same studio. Both bands swapped ideas, and these two records are among the greatest ever made. Don't get me wrong, I love Gilmour and Waters, but Barrett is a genius on par with them, for different reasons.
on May 9, 2000
There is a small but vocal minority among Pink Floyd fans who insist that the group was at its peak when Syd Barrett was at the helm. Count me among them. Don't get me wrong - I love the post-Syd stuff: Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, Saucerful of Secrets (true, Syd plays on that one, but his presence is barely felt). But when Syd went his own tragic way, the group lost something very special. That they were able to make great albums anyway is a tribute to their talent, discipline and vision.
Talent Syd had, although he did seem to lack discpline. But he had a passion and a strange view of the world that comes through very clearly. I don't profess to understand what Syd was trying to say; I've said before that his music seems to bypass the head and go straight for the heart.
As for the music, it sounds recognizably like Floyd, but peppered with Syd's loopy lyrics and even loopier guitar playing. He wasn't a good guitarist in any conventional sense, but he was interesting and unique. His lyrics recall Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland stories and childhood nightmares. The tone of the album is by turns whimsical, melancholy and spooky.
That's about the best I can do to describe it. Mainly, I suggest that you take a listen for yourself.
on May 6, 2000
"Piper", much like all of Floyd's material, defied odds and even logic at times. It sounds nothing like any other Floyd release, and comes close to being one of their best. Led by the incomprable Syd Barrett, Piper takes off on a magical trip of sound and vision:
Astronomy Domine: The crunchy guitars and thumping drums send a driving beat for the albums opener. It is still one of Floyd's eeriest songs. Lucifer Sam: A great guitar riff from Barrett in a James Bond spy type beat. The lyrics relate to a girl Syd knows who claims to be a witch. Matilda Mother: One of the albums best. Brilliant lyrics, and the music is some of Floyd's best. Flaming: A happy song about being alone but being conent. POW R TOC H: What Originality! Great jazzy instrumental and wonderful piano from Rick. TUTSAW: Roger's first song. Strangley, the song starts off with "Doctor Doctor". Now anyone familiar with Amused to Death will know the last song starts off "Doctor, Doctor". Not a bad first attempt. Interstellar Overdrive: A masterpiece of controlled chaos. I hear new things in the song all the time. The version her on this album is shortend to 9 min, but the guitars and drums are standouts. The Gnome: A slightly creepy story about a gnome named Grimble Grumble. It is rumoured that Barrett was a big fan of Tolkein, with may have had an influence here. Chapter 24: A simple song with lyrics taken from the I Ching The Scarecrow: A fantastic "Beatlesc" type song about a lonley scarecrow which I believe is a metaphor about Syd. Bike: Absolute genius. Barret trying to show his most prized possesions to someone by explaining their flaws. A bit like Syd himself, a misunderstood and highly underrated musician, poet, painter, and all around good guy.
Syd's candle probably burned brighter than almost anyone's. It's as almost like he was the Superman, while Roger Barrett, his real personality and self , was the Clark Kent.
Okay, maybe it's a bad example but those who care understand the point.
Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is an incredible album that pushed boundries that never would even be attempted today.
on March 16, 2000
I wanted to comment on what "Chris from outside the wall" said (3-14-00) regarding this album. He had said Syd Barrett's lyrics were "odd, tedious, and lacking meaning." If artists weren't allowed to have odd lyrics, rock would not be where it is today...actually, rock would not exist.(Don't you agree, the lyrics to "Rock Around The Clock" sound a bit "odd?" Yet it is called the first rock 'n' roll song ever...) If you find Syd Barrett's music tedious, I have to ask why, because that is not the word I would use to describe his lyrics... Chris, do you find "Interstellar Overdrive" tedious? I would like to find at least one other person who agrees with your assessment of this very talented man. And of all the things you criticized Syd Barrett about, saying that his lyrics "lack meaning" is the most outrageous. Syd Barrett NEVER did a song that didn't mean anything...everyone and everything meant something to him, and he expressed that in all of music, no matter how tedious or odd some may perceive his music to be. His lyrics may lack meaning to you, but that doesn't mean they lack value. If you honestly believe that his music lacks meaning, I would like for you to find me another artist comparable to Syd's genius whose music DOES have meaning, and more so than his.... As for the "no-flow" album and the non-blending songs that have "no direction," my understanding is that the album is based on the book "The Wind in the Willows," so all those criticisms need to be directed toward the author of the book. It takes a great deal of talent to be able to create an album that is based on a popular book, and I think Syd pulled it off very well...As for "his guitar playing being no match for Gilmour" (another outrageous statement), I think you need to remember who came first between the two...I think Gilmour is no match for Barrett...anything Gilmour learned on the guitar he had to have learned from Syd. I mean, come on! How can you listen to "Interstellar Overdrive" and (still) say he is "no match" for Gilmour? What planet are you from?
You are right in saying that Syd meant nothing more to "Pink Floyd" (can they still call themselves by that name?) than as a "valuable stepping stone," and that is unfortunate, but he will always be known as as the creator of Pink Floyd, and nothing anybody says can change that. (People, if you agree with me, back me up on this!) :-)