Obscured by Clouds
Pink Floyd, 1972 (40:30)
David Gilmour: guitars, vocals
Nick Mason: drums
Roger Waters: bass, vocals
Richard Wright: keyboards, vocals
Obscured by Clouds is Pink Floyd's eighth album, released in June of 1972. Like the band's 1969 release More, Obscured is the soundtrack to a film directed by Barbet Schroeder, known as The Valley, Obscured By Clouds but more commonly La Vallée. Also like More, it was recorded in just a week; this time at the Chateau D'eherouville, four months before releasing it. Obscured was Floyd's first Top 50, peaking at #46, and eventually going gold.
This is one of the less-well-known Floyd albums. It comes at the end of one style of sound — the compositionally quirky, nonmelodic/sing-songy style of Barrett — and marks the beginning of a new style created by the band — an epic feel with formidable orchestration and Waters' talented songwriting. The album fits well as the precursor to the band's next release, Dark Side of the Moon; so well, in fact, that some say it seems like Obscured is made of tracks that were omitted from Dark Side at the last minute. Because of its place in the band's discography, this album serves as the "missing link" between the familiar Floyd of the 1970s (Dark Side/Wish You Were Here/The Wall) and the completely different post-Barrett sound of late 1960s Floyd (Piper at the Gates of Dawn/A Saucerful of Secrets).
The first track starts (as almost all Floyd albums do) with a gradual crescendo, and turns into exactly what you'd think an ambient track from Floyd would sound like — semi-spacey, somewhat rhythmic, with a wailing guitar to top it all off — and then fades into the next track, a rockier instrumental. "The Gold It's in the..." is unusual for Floyd, reminding me more of The Who (except for the distinctive Gilmour guitar lines, both blues-based and experimental-spacey). Midway through the album you begin to see similarities to Dark Side, culminating in Gilmour's guitar work in "Mudmen", "Childhood's End" and "Free Four". The rest of the band isn't spectacular, but nothing to be sniffed at — they've finished getting a feel for each other, and are starting to adapt to each other's playing styles. Waters' songwriting talent also starts to take shape on this album with "Free Four", "Wots... Uh the Deal" and "Mudmen", and he also shows the familiar vocal work seen on Dark Side and The Wall. Wright also sings more on this album than on previous ones, appearing on four of the eight tracks with lyrics.
In the course of writing this node, I listened to the album several times back to back, and it's quickly becoming a favorite. Since seasoned Floyd fans will have already heard this album, I recommend it to anyone who likes Waters-era Floyd but wonders where it all started, or for Barrett-era fans who wonder how the same band that released Piper would later create Animals. (Though this doesn't do anything to explain where The Division Bell came from...)
- "Obscured by Clouds", written by Waters/Gilmour, instrumental (3:05)
- "When You're in", written by Waters/Gilmour/Mason/Wright, instrumental (2:23)
- "Burning Bridges", written by Wright/Waters, vocals by Gilmour/Wright (3:24)
- "The Gold It's in the...", written by Waters/Gilmour, vocals by Gilmour/Wright (3:03)
- "Wots... Uh the Deal", written by Waters/Gilmour, vocals by Gilmour (5:05)
- "Mudmen", written by Wright/Gilmour, vocals by Wright (4:17)
- "Childhood's End", written by Gilmour, vocals by Gilmour (4:30)
- "Free Four", written by Waters, vocals by Waters (4:11)
- "Stay", written by Wright/Waters, vocals by Wright/Waters (4:02)
- "Absolutely Curtains", written by Gilmour/Wright/Mason, instrumental (5:51)
In the spirit of the Dark Side of the Rainbow, Obscured by Clouds synchs up with A Clockwork Orange. See Pink Floyd Synchronization phenomena for details.
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