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Pink Floyd - PULSE CD Print E-mail

Reviewed in 1996 by BDs founder, Glenn Povey
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Plush Perfection Or Wholly Redundant?

The fact that Pink Floyd have openly stated their bitter regret at not having recorded an earlier version of Dark Side of the Moon, specifically at the near-legendary Earls Court May 1973 shows, is the very reason for this release in the first place. That indeed is a pity, as is the non-release of the excellent BBC recording of Wembley in 1974; but still, that's the way it goes. We should have got used to the band's back catalogue policy by now!

Of course cynics will say that the release of a live album next to the last one is a bit much to bear. I can see both sides of the argument and the principle of this is a valid comment; Delicate Sound of Thunder has its moments, but only because there were no other official live recordings available since 1969's Ummagumma. Where DSOT consolidated Pink Floyd's position in the marketplace (and no doubt paid a few bills), Pulse provides the soundtrack to a tour that had the key members playing in top form and playing material that appeared to actually inspire them - the advantage of a much shorter tour and a constantly varying setlist no doubt kept the boredom factor at bay - including the audience!

Pulse has at least given us something a little different to play with and this CD is divided into two neat halves that are similar, but not quite, in the running order of a real show. The hits, old and new, cover the first half and an entire Dark Side of the Moon performance plus encores, the second. This in itself is frustrating, as Pulse starts gaining negative points quite quickly for a running order that makes no sense at all.

Whilst it's good to hear the not often played Great Day For Freedom for instance, I would much rather hear the trippy version of One of These Days than Bricks 2, however re-modelled it is. Similarly, it makes no sense to omit One of These Days from disc one when the removal of Hey You to its correct placing on disc two, with the encores, would give this room for inclusion and make greater sense of the package as a whole.

You could argue that some tracks are edited at the expense of tracks that need not have been repeated from DSOT, but let's face it, the versions contained here are much better by a long chalk, Another Brick included. With much talk of heavy studio overdubbing and the cock-up that constituted the live video of DSOT, Pulse is a positive godsend. I only find it a pity that Gilmour is so vain of his playing that out of all the recorded shows sourced for this release, he found it necessary to overdub (from other performances at least) the bits where the bum notes were hit. Is it really necessary to go to such lengths? I mean, it's not as if he was booed off stage for it at the time! For me that's exactly what makes a good Pink Floyd live performance - the vulnerabilities of a live environment that produce a variation to the studio album. This is what I want to hear when I go to the show. Otherwise why not just cram a stadium and play us the current CD?

Pulse's packaging is as extravagant as you could ever get. I prefer this package to DSOT, there is better use of live photography and although Storm Thorgerson tends to ram the clever logos down your throat at every opportunity (to less effect than 4AD though) and some of the artwork is more than irrelevant, the front cover is a stunning piece of artwork. My only frustration is with the pulsating light that after only two months has given its final flash to the world. Moreover, how the hell do you change the batteries? [In the UK edition it is not straightforward - unlike the US edition - Matt]

But the thing that really bites is Pink Floyd/EMI records pulling off the greatest marketing scam in recording history - the release of Pulse on three formats, each with different material. They probably thought it was all very clever, but all it was was bloody expensive for Joe-public, firmly targeting the completist collector. Little wonder EMI has absolutely no respect or credibility at this office. For instance, the cassette has the full Pink Floyd intro sound effects tape on it as well as One of These Days; whilst the vinyl edition (still delayed for release) is said to include material not on either of these two formats!

Some could argue in favour of bootlegs - at least you get a complete show, in running order! Fortunately the video provides just this, and is the full Earls Court 20th October show, though about 25% different from the TV broadcast. (Note: When the show was videotaped, twenty cameras were used of which many different angles appear on the video, as opposed to the TV broadcast which did not have the luxury of picking and choosing angles over months of viewing.) Although nothing can come close to putting you back in the hot seat, the performance is sharp (although perhaps a touch clinical on CD) and cranked up to 11, it can near as damn blast you back to Earl's Court in a flash!

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