Instrumental in the foundations of psychedelic rock and icons of a generation, Pink Floyd is one of the most influential rock bands of all time. While Floyd’s name is solidified in rock history, to those in Gen X and beyond, Syd Barrett’s name may only be vaguely recognizable. Even though Barrett achieved great success leading Pink Floyd for their first two albums and success as a solo artist, his eventual self-imposed seclusion pushed him far enough out of the spotlight that his influence is barely known to those outside Floyd’s loyal fan base or classic rock enthusiasts.
Now, Capitol/EMI is combining tracks from his work with Pink Floyd and solo career on the same album for the first time. This powerful combo gives listeners a little rock history lesson on a man who was talented, tortured and sadly passed away from cancer in 2006. The 18-track “An Introduction to Syd Barrett” is a rocky road of highs and lows much like the life of the man himself. The Floyd tracks are understandably stronger than Barrett’s solo work, yet the music as a whole still has charm and a place in history.
The five Floyd tracks showcase some of Barrett’s greatest work. “See Emily Play” is arguably Barrett’s greatest track with the band. Its captivating allure and catchy hooks are distinct to the genre, and a perfect example of a highly influential track. Listening you can hear the roots of many modern bands. The accompanying Floyd tracks “Arnold Layne,” “Apples and Oranges,” “Matilda Mother,” “Chapter 24” and “Bike” are digital remasters of the original with the exception of “Matilda Mother.” This track is presented as an alternative version from the 40th anniversary reissue, but given a new mix.
After the gathering of Floyd tracks, the album goes into Barrett’s solo work. All songs here are also digital remasters, or new mixes of his original tracks. While with Floyd, Barrett’s tunes have a certain polish and fluidity, his solo work is more disjointed and less catchy. They reflect a certain somberness and paint a better portrait into the elusive musician. Starting with “Terrapin” the songs lose some of the luster and zeal that made Floyd so popular. With “Here I Go,” you hear glimpses of humor and good hooks, but others like “Love You” are wobbly and it seems as if Barrett is just stumbling through the lyrics. His songs are flawed, at times beautifully, and others erratically as on “Effervescing Elephant.”
The closing track, a cutting tribute to another legend, “Bob Dylan Blues” is a mocking song that is cohesive and pretty poignant. It’s interesting to see the range that Barrett goes through from songs where he seems unsure of the lyrics and just fumbles until the end of the song to this track in which he smartly laughs at Dylan in folk style.
This collection is a landmark for featuring Pink Floyd tracks alongside Syd Barrett’s solo work, and a must-have for Floyd fans and those who appreciate the rich history of rock n’ roll. It showcases the erratic mind of an unhealthy man, and leaves listeners questioning what could have been. It’s more than an introduction; it’s an education.
Words: Lori Bartlett
Artist: Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd
Album: “An Introduction to Syd Barrett”
Release Date: November 9, 2010