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A Nearly Symphonic Magnum Opus
on August 24, 2003
Before The Wall, before Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd created a very different kind of masterpiece. While their later albums were a triumph of concept, it is on Meddle where one can hear the *musical* peak of Pink Floyd's career. This is not a concept album--it is a musical journey showing off a variety of musical styles. The lyrics do not demand--they suggest, and allow the music to do the rest of the talking. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Meddle is the fact that the band was truly functioning as a *band* here. Everyone's talents can be clearly heard, and no one shouts anybody else down.
There is no such thing as filler, on Meddle. Bookended by the mindblowing tracks "One of These Days" and "Echoes", the four "interior" tracks are severely underrated. "A Pillow of Winds" and "Fearless" are both pleasant, leisurely guitar-driven songs, and seem fairly well appreciated by fans. However, I believe that the much-maligned "San Tropez" and "Seamus" are also deserving of appreciation. "San Tropez" is particularly notable for some very unique Roger Waters vocals--rather optimistic and even a touch bluesy...a style he unfortunately never pursued after that point. "Seamus" gives a rare glimpse of the fun side of Pink Floyd, as well as a flashback to the band's origins as a blues cover band. This was never a song meant to be taken so seriously as some do. "One of These Days" is an explosive, energetic instrumental that perhaps foreshadows the angry, driven rock of Animals, but with only one lyric--a rare appearance by Nick Mason, whose processed vocals growl menacingly, "One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces!"
The album's final piece, "Echoes", may be Pink Floyd's greatest work ever. From first to last "ping", this brilliant near-symphony is fantastic. Each bandsman's talents are clearly audible, even the simple-yet-effective contributions of Nick Mason and Roger Waters. The vocal harmony of David Gilmour and Richard Wright is mesmerising. Without question, this song contains the best verse Mr. Waters ever wrote: "Strangers passing in the street, by chance two separate glances meet, and I am you and what I see is me. And do I take you by the hand, and lead you through the land, and help me understand the best I can?"
Unfortunately, this reminder to walk a mile in the other man's shoes was a lesson Mr. Waters forgot in later years, at the price of devastating consequences to the band's output and to the members themselves. This moment in Pink Floyd's history is therefore one-of-a-kind, completely irreplaceable. The entire album can be summed up by the "jam" sequence in "Echoes". Never before, never again do the pieces fit together so seamlessly, each a joy on its own and in combination.