Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds


Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds

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Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds
Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds.jpg
Studio album / Soundtrack album by Pink Floyd
Released 2 June 1972
Recorded 23–29 February and 23 March–6 April 1972
Studio Strawberry Studios, Château d'Hérouville, Hérouville, Île-de-France, France
Genre Progressive rock
Length 40:08
Language English
Label
  • Harvest
  • Capitol
Producer Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd chronology
Meddle
(1971)
Obscured by Clouds
(1972)
The Dark Side of the Moon
(1973)
 
Singles from Obscured by Clouds
  1. "Free Four"
    Released: 3 June 1972

 

  "Obscured by Clouds" is the seventh studio album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, based on their soundtrack for the French film La Vallée, by Barbet Schroeder. It was released in the United Kingdom on 2 June 1972, and a few weeks later in the United States, by Harvest Records, reaching number 6 and number 46 respectively. A single, "Free Four", was issued in the US only.

The album was something of a stopgap for the band, who had already started work on "The Dark Side of the Moon", and was recorded in two sessions in France between touring, with three days for mixing. The original plan was to just record small sections of music, but they ultimately created enough songs for a complete album. The resulting work has been overlooked in the Pink Floyd canon because of the huge commercial success of later albums, but still has a positive reaction from fans and critics.

 

Background

By 1972, Pink Floyd had recorded the soundtracks to the films The Committee (1968) and More (1969), and to part of Zabriskie Point (1970). On the back of More's success, its director Barbet Schroeder asked the band to record the soundtrack of his next major project as and when it arrived. The new film, La Vallée, featured two travellers on a spiritual quest in New Guinea, and Schroeder thought Pink Floyd would be suitable to provide the music. The group had already started working on another album, The Dark Side of the Moon, including some basic recording and live performances, but took two breaks to Strawberry Studios, Château d'Hérouville, France, either side of a Japanese tour, to write and record music for the film. The album was then mixed from 4–6 April at Morgan sound studios in London.

As they had done on More, the band saw a rough cut of the film and noted certain timings for cues with a stopwatch. From this, they created a number of pieces that they felt could be cross-faded at various points in the final cut of the film. They were not worried about creating complete songs, feeling that any musical piece would be workable without the need for any solos, but nevertheless, under pressure to produce enough material, they managed to create a whole series of well-structured songs. Drummer Nick Mason recalls that the sessions were very hurried, and the band spent most of the time in Paris locked away in the studio.

During the first recording session in February 1972, the French television station ORTF filmed a short segment of the band recording the album, including interviews with bassist Roger Waters and guitarist David Gilmour. In a snippet of interview footage at Abbey Road Studios that appeared in the 1974 theatrical version (later released on VHS and Laserdisc and subsequent "Director's Cut" DVD) of Pink Floyd : Live at Ponpeii, Waters said that early UK pressings of the album contained excessive sibilance.

After recording had finished, the band fell out with the film company, prompting them to release the soundtrack album as "Obscured by Clouds", rather than La Vallée. In response, the film was retitled La Vallée (Obscured by Clouds) on its release.

 

Songs

The songs on "Obscured by Clouds" are all short and economical, in contrast to the lengthy instrumentals found on other Floyd albums. A strong country music influence was present on several tracks, with prominent use of acoustic guitar. The album also featured the VCS 3 synthesizer, which Wright had purchased from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

The title track made prominent use of the VCS 3, and featured Mason playing electronic drums. The following track, "When You're In" is similar in style; its title came from a phrase said by roadie Chris Adamson. The two pieces were played back-to-back live in late 1972 and on the 1973 tours. They were also part of the set used for the group's collaboration with Roland Petit and the Ballet National de Marseille at the Palais de Sports, Paris, in early 1973.

"Burning Bridges" was one of two songwriting collaborations on the album between keyboardist Richard Wright (who wrote the music) and Waters (who wrote the lyrics). "Wot's... Uh the Deal?" was a straightforward acoustic piece. It was never performed live by Pink Floyd, but Gilmour resurrected the piece for his solo tour in 2006. One of these performances features on Gilmour's 2007 DVD Remember That Night and also the vinyl version of his 2008 live album, Live in Gdańsk.

"Childhood's End" was the last song Pink Floyd released to have lyrics written by Gilmour until the release of "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" in 1987. The title may have been derived from the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name. It was performed live at a few gigs in late 1972 and early the following year; the drum pattern opening the track was recycled for "Time" on The Dark Side of the Moon.

"Free Four" was the first Pink Floyd song since "See Emily Play" to attract significant airplay in the US, and the second (after "Corpral Clegg" from A Saucerful of Secrets) to deal with the death of Waters' father during World War II. The title is derived from the count-in "One, two, 'free, four!", spoken in a Cockney accent. The track was released as a single in the US, as the band felt it was suitable for AM Radio.

"Stay" was written by Wright, with lyrics by Waters. It is superficially a love song, except the protagonist cannot remember the girl's name, suggesting she might have been a groupie. "Absolutely Curtains", the closing instrumental on the album, ends with a recording of the Mapuga tribe, as seen in the film.

 

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2/5 stars
Christgau's Record Guide A+
The Daily Telegraph 3/5 stars
MusicHound Rock 5/5
Paste 9.0/10
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars

The album's cover was, like several other Pink Floyd albums, designed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. It consists of a photograph of a man sitting in a tree which has been taken out of focus to the point of complete distortion. Hipgnosis viewed a number of stills from the film on a 35mm projector, and liked the visual effect when the slide jammed. Schroeder later said the band did not want to make the cover particularly good as The Dark Side of the Moon would have to compete with it, but Thorgerson insisted it was given proper consideration like any other Floyd album.

Obscured by Clouds was released in the UK on 2 June 1972 and then in the United States on 15 June 1972, both on Harvest. The album reached number one in France, number six on the UK Albums Chart, and number 46 on the US albums chart (where it was certified Gold by the RIAA in 1997). In 1986, the album was released on CD. A digitally remastered CD was released in March 1996 in the UK and August 1996 in the US. It was remixed in 2016 for the Early Years box set, and released individually the following year.

The album has been overlooked by fans and critics as it was overshadowed by The Dark Side of the Moon, released less than a year later, but Mason has said it is one of his favourite Floyd albums. Retrospective critical reception has been mixed; The Daily Telegraph said "its elegant instrumentals point the way to Dark Side", while Rolling Stone said it was a "dull film soundtrack".

 

Track listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. "Obscured by Clouds" Gilmour, Waters Instrumental 3:03
2. "When You're In" Gilmour, Waters, Wright, Mason Instrumental 2:18
3. "Burning Bridges" Wright, Waters Gilmour, Wright 3:29
4. "The Gold it's in the..." Gilmour, Waters Gilmour 3:07
5. "Wot's... Uh the Deal?" Gilmour, Waters Gilmour 5:08
6. "Mudmen" Wright, Gilmour Instrumental 4:20
Total length: 21:25
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
7. "Childhood's End" Gilmour Gilmour 4:31
8. "Free Four" Waters Waters 4:15
9. "Stay" Waters, Wright Wright 4:05
10. "Absolutely Curtains" Gilmour, Waters, Wright, Mason Instrumental, chant by Mapuga tribe 5:52
Total length: 18:43

 

Personnel

(taken from AllMusic, all personnel uncredited on the original sleeve)

Pink Floyd

  • David Gilmour – guitars, pedal steel guitar, EMD VCS 3 synthesizer, vocals
  • Nick Mason – drums, percussion
  • Rogar Waters – bass guitar, vocals
  • Richard Wright – keyboards, vocals

Additional personnel

  • Hipgnosis – album cover

 

Charts and certifications

 

 

 

Pink Floyd - Obscured by Clouds

UK Harvest SHSP 4020 stereo (1972).

Album produced by Pink Floyd.

The vinyl record attains a strong excellent grading, suggesting few plays.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are free from tears, stains or stickers.

The album's textured cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minimal signs of wear.

The album cover has a strong, undamaged spine, displaying very clear, printed script.

The original company inner sleeve is excellently presented.

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