A Momentary Relapse
On the birthday of the demi-god that is Syd Barrett for some a hefty package arrived at Atagong mansion. So heavy that we thought at first it was a tax file from one of the six Belgian governments.
As you might have guessed it was our copy of The Later Years that, thanks to an observant member of the Steve Hoffman Music Forum, we could buy at half the price.
Despite our many criticisms about this box, see The Later Years: Hot Air & Co, we have to confess it simply oozes a scent of 'extensive luxury' and our first thought was (and still is) that it is worth every penny we spent on it. A quick remark about the cover and inside art that is exquisite Hipgnosian as well and not the ersatz from The Endless River.
Opening the box, like one of these medieval manuscripts, immediately confronts you with four booklets. Three are Pink Floyd tour books, because this is mainly a live set. The fourth contains the lyrics of AMLOR, TDB and TER, if these abbreviations mean something to you. All glossy and not on the grey recycled toilet paper that made the Early Years booklets so unreadable.
When you remove the booklets, there is another thick photo book you can kill a kitten with. Unfortunately its pages are also made of carton; using normal paper would’ve certainly doubled its content. But perhaps that would’ve been overkill as we have already been confronted with about three hundred pictures of Gilmour and Co.
Don’t think you can get to the music now. Hidden under the book is an envelope that contains tour artefacts, posters, stickers and other memorabilia and… two one sided 45RPM singles with etched B-sides.
One contains a rehearsal tape of Lost For Words, the other Arnold Layne as performed by the band at the Barbican on the Syd Barrett tribute concert in 2007, although they were not billed as Pink Floyd if our memory is correct. (For the completists: it appears that both singles exist in two versions, with different artwork on its B-side.)
A Momentary Lapse of Reason
The surprise the ardent fan, your Reverend included, was hoping for is the updated and remixed version of the Floyd’s comeback album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. We have compared both versions and what we think of it will be put hereafter in one of our fantastic Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit reviews.
Warning: Syd Barrett content – none.
Signs Of Life
This very ambient and very dreamy piece is enhanced with an almost Keith-Emersonian keyboard piece of Rick Wright. Magical stuff for those who believe that Rick was the hidden musical force in the band.
Learning To Fly
For me there is almost no difference, perhaps a little guitar lick at 25 seconds that I don’t remember hearing before. The keyboards are a bit more to the front during the middle ‘flight’ section, as well as the musique concrète bits .
Dogs Of War
The Pink Floyd song everybody loves to hate. Basically a simple blues stomper that has been enhanced with Floydian sound effects. Although loathed by a majority of fans this song is much closer to the Floyd’s default (or vintage) sound than – for instance – One Slip or Learning To Fly.
Overall I can’t hear a big difference between both versions, except that the vocals, basses and the rolling keyboard have been given extra emphasis. So one could say it sounds much fatter now than it did before. A few of the saxophone’s weirder noises have been removed as well. So is this one better? Absolutely. Even better.
The one with the Kraftwerkian intro. Classic Wright keyboards added throughout and new drums by Nick 'here I am' Mason. As someone remarked on a music forum, this one gives you ‘goosebumps and shivers down the spine‘ throughout the track. The drums are much softer now and also some guitar bits seem to have been added (or mixed from oblivion into the foreground).
I almost consider it a Floydian classic now.
On The Turning Away
This song brings back some memories for me, frightening me a bit how it would sound now. A keyboard drone has been added in the beginning and some scarce keyboard parts throughout the song. As some alumni have pointed out there are new vocals that may or may not have been taken from a live performance. At least David Gilmour doesn’t strain his voice like on the original or at least so it seems.
Many hate this new version, calling it a Frankensteined mess, but I simply can't. For me this has suddenly turned into a Comfortably Numb #2, although the neutral observer will call that a very hyperbolic statement.
Yet Another Movie / Round And Around
The song I prefer the least on Momentary Lapse. It’s a bit boring and one dimensional, if you ask me.
The 2019 version opens with boing boings that threaten to euthanise your loudspeakers. This version has more echo than the original one – listen to Tony Levin’s bass for example that has got a much deserved upgrade. I have also the impression that little pieces of additional music have been added here and there and that the guitar is a bit less in your face. It also seems that Nick Mason has had more than a helping hand in this new version.
Still not the greatest Pink Floyd song, but what a remarkable improvement indeed.
A New Machine / Terminal Frost / A New Machine 2
I’m putting this song cycle together as I have always seen this as one Floydian suite. When it comes to review Pink Floyd I always seem to belong to another planet than the rest of the world anyway. I like A New Machine, evidently not as a song on its own, but as an introduction and coda to Terminal Frost.
And I have always loved Terminal Frost as well. But this re-adapted version seems a bit weird to me, there is something wrong with the piano and overall it sounds a bit bland, with far inferior drums than on the original. Suddenly this has turned into the worst song of the album for me with a mix that was much better in its original version.
A missed chance.
If one Lapse song merits to be described as a Floydian classic it is this one. When David Gilmour started to play Sorrow, on the 28th of July 2016 in Tienen (Belgium), his guitar grumbled so deeply it promptly removed my kidney stones. (See: Coming Back To Life (David Gilmour, Tienen))
The 2019 version of Sorrow tries to imitate that haunting intro, without a doubt. But perhaps I’m still in a lousy mood from the subpar Terminal Frost treatment because it appears to me that also this remix is muddier than the original (and I seem to be the only person on this globe to find that). A plus however is the addition of Rick’s keyboard, especially at the end solo.
I deliberately played Lapse 1987 and Lapse 2019 side-to-side without tinkering, but here is a song I feel the urge for to play with the sliders. Perhaps it will sound better with some of the basses toned down a bit.
Second opinion (after having tinkered with my equaliser settings): it does indeed sound better now, but I can't really vow with my hand on my heart that this version is much better than the original.
So what is the end result? I’m not really sure. A Momentary Lapse of Reason has never been into my favourite top 10 and this remix will probably not change that. For the moment I do seem to prefer this version to the original and I can only hope it will get a separate release one day. For those that rely on streaming or download services I think this is already the case. Those who still believe in CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays will have to buy the entire box, I'm afraid.
Now let’s hope Pink Floyd will finally find the time to re-record Atom Heart Mother one day. However, this seems highly improbable.
Other reviews from what is in this box, may or may not appear in the
future. The Church wishes to thank the many collaborators on Steve
Hoffman Music Forums and Yeeshkul.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Steve Hoffman Forum Thread: Pink Floyd The Later Years Box Set
Yeeshkul Forum Thread: Pink Floyd - The Later Years