Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds

pink-floyd-obscured-by-clouds

Get out the lava lamp, warm up that old Marantz, and let Pink Floyd take you into another world

In the late 1960’s and early ‘70s there was a movement among (mostly European) film makers who wanted to include popular music as some sort of modern statement concerning their latest cinema creation, and La Vallée, directed by Barbet Schroeder is no exception. Having only seen snippets of the movie precludes me from forming an opinion as to its merits, however I am familiar with Obscured By Clouds, the music score that was written and performed by Pink Floyd way back in 1972, just as the band were also working on what would turn out to be their seminal masterpiece Dark Side Of The Moon. Now it’s no secret that many of Floyd’s fans were lovers of the old green leaf, toking up while the record turned, especially on albums such as Meddle and Ummagumma. But unlike those albums, Clouds is somewhat less focused overall, which is exactly the sort of thing one would expect on a soundtrack.

The title song and “When You’re In”, both instrumentals, seem incomplete, as if the band decided to put a limit on how far they were prepared to develop their ideas, which isn’t surprising, since who would want to give their best work to some obscure French film producer, when they already had far better material in the can. But it’s the song names that give it away. “Wots… Uh The Deal”, “Mudmen” and “Stay” all betray a certain half-hearted approach to the entire project – which isn’t to say that any of these songs are terrible, because they’re not. More like a b-side to Dark Side, if anything, and a collection of interesting rejects that would never have made the final cut, no matter how polished.

The ballad “Burning Bridges” is a pleasant number, on which David Gilmour and Rick Wright share vocal duties, including atmospheric guitar and organ. The band rock out on “The Gold It’s In The…”, a song which is one of the most unlikely sounding Floyd tunes you’ve probably ever heard. “Wots… Uh The Deal” is nice, although a bit none descript as a whole, as if the band were simply going through the motions, despite the pretty playing. “Mudmen” is another one of those relaxing, calming instrumentals Pink Floyd excelled at, where electric piano and guitar float around together in heaven, to kiss the stars before falling back to earth.

“Childhood’s End” isn’t brilliant; however it does provide an indication as to where the band was heading, especially in the way the tune is constructed and Gilmour’s ever cynical and so English vocals. “Free Four” is a bit of a toss off, but at least it has a decent guitar solo, so good in fact that the listener forgets just what an ordinary song it really is. Likewise “Stay”, which has all the right ingredients, but is ultimately more Jacob’s Creek than Carpineto.

“Absolutely Curtains” is little more than an abstract instrumental, apart from the brief vocal chant toward the end by a tribe known as the Mapuga, from New Guinea, who also appear in the film, hence their appearance here.

And while there are many fine moments throughout, one cannot help but get the feeling that the band were more concerned with their latest project, i.e. Dark Side (then known as Eclipse), than some obscure French cinematic art-house story only seen by people who were probably too stoned to know what they were watching anyway.

Still, there is enough going on, musically speaking, to excuse its existence, and inclusion in your record (or CD) collection. For fans of this era of Floyd, Obscured By Clouds is an intriguing as well as thoughtful document, one which may surprise the listener as much as it has the potential to entertain.

3 thoughts on “Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds

  1. Glad you did this soundtrack as well! Another album I love in the Floyd canon and a great album that showed a more fun side to the band in the studio with regards to some of the tracks. The opening two pieces, Obscured By Clouds and When You’re In were both done together live back to back like on the record as an opening number or following Echoes during the band’s 1973 tour as well as being slightly stretched out to I guess limber up their fingers from just waking up prior to the gig! lol Get the blood flowing ya know? But it was a great way to welcome an audience to a Floyd show eh? Popular bootlegs showcasing this intro was in Cincinnati, St Louis, London and Toronto to name a few. Childhood’s End I have to disagree with you and I find it to be one of my top 10 Floyd songs of all time and was also played live but only for a brief period of time during the ’73 tour in March. Also extended to a much more longer Floydian treatment perhaps the band felt it wasn’t strong enough to keep in the set list as the middle section was rather weak and Rick Wright couldn’t really settle in on a keyboard solo. It doddled. lol But nonetheless really cool to hear live! Mudmen I found to be a great yet slow paced tune that if sped up would almost be a segue piece to Any Colour You Like perhaps. Yes the album seems to have a mish-mash feel to it as leftovers from previous studio sessions for other albums where they felt the songs fell short of being on the final cut of an album but overall I enjoyed this record as much as More and play it often. That said, the Mapuga tribe at the finale of the album really makes people sit up and look at the turntable when they hear it as it’s completely what they are not expecting from a Floyd record! Wots…Uh the Deal is a fun campfire style song to play when everyone is drunk and wants to cuddle lol as well as Stay which like other Rick Wright ballady type songs I always felt he got the shit end of the stick when it came to songs that he wrote or sang leads on. I think Roger always felt he was less than adequate when it came to that and should just have sat behind the keyboards and shut up because he was stated as saying about See Saw that it’s the worst song he’s ever heard bar two! Always felt that Rick was unappreciated in ways because he was more of that Harry Connick Jr balladeer type but in a romance novel love story movie kinda way but Roger kept him around cuz he could play keys really well and harmonized great with Gilmour. Free Four is another campfire side song that hangs on a G chord for the most part and is probably one of the lesser known songs aside from the album because we all know that radio stations don’t play much of any Floyd pre-Darkside. For the film itself, it’s a step up from More but only marginally as being directed by Barbet Schroeder again. This one wallows in agony as well as it was probably not seen much outside of France and if it was it’s not of your top quality cinema verite here. Slow going, find yourself film, sex and stale plot, character disposition is weak and getting lost in the jungle isn’t really a top seller for theatre goers who long for high adventure and fantasy filled themes in a jungle with a tribe that wears giant clay masks and walks around you only to do really… nothing. Cheers

    1. Wright was such an important part of the whole dynamic, obviously along with Gilmour. Waters was more the concept man. I enjoy Childhood’s, but my only point was that although not an amazing song, a la Comfortably Numb etc, it hinted at the sort of elements that the band would integrate on later albums. Gilmour’s playing is superb, and I should check out any live versions. Overall, it is an extremely enjoyable listen.

      1. Absolutely, I see what you mean now, my apologies for not catching that before. Funny, I love everything The Floyd has done over the years and every album a different facet of the one prior to it but always was and have been drawn to the records pre-DSOTM but so Love WYWH and Animals especially the day I learned the chords to Have a Cigar, Dogs & Pigs(Three Different Ones)

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