. . .
“Echoes” was where Pink Floyd became Pink Floyd for good.
While there had been prog-leaning experimentation on both 1969’s Ummagumma and 1970’s Atom Heart Mother — and both records have their adherents, even though my favorite part of either record is the recursive Ummagumma album cover — to my ears, “Echoes” was the first time (and only time, if you don’t count “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”) they truly pulled off a side-long song. (Sorry, “Atom Heart Mother.”)
And unlike their contemporaries who were doing the same kind of thing: Yes with “Close to the Edge,” Genesis with “Supper’s Ready,” Jethro Tull with “Thick as a Brick“; ELP with “Tarkus,” Pink Floyd wasn’t really interested with breaking their songs up with jazzy solos or tricky time signatures. I mean, let’s face it: Roger Waters and Nick Mason couldn’t play a 9/8 if their lives depended on it; Richard Wright was always more interested in providing atmosphere than he was cramming as many notes into a measure as was humanly possible and David Gilmour was always more into bluesy rock noise than anything else.
And I will argue that Pink Floyd’s relative lack of virtuosic players was what made them so interesting — their long songs tended to get by on two seemingly disparate things: groove and dynamics. Both of which “Echoes” had in spades.
There are also lyrics to “Echoes,” sung by a double-tracked Gilmour, but I haven’t really ever paid attention to them, partly because the first line mentions an “albatross” which automatically makes me think of John Cleese screaming “Albatross!” and partly because it’s really the long instrumental passages that make “Echoes.”
After the ping-filled slow build — it isn’t a proper Pink Floyd song without a slow build — and the initial set of verses and choruses, there’s a long Gilmour guitar solo that’s somewhat buried in the mix until it figures out to fight its way out just in time for Waters & Mason to change into what I can only describe as a “funky groove” over which Gilmour and Wright trade licks, solos and random noises.
Eventually the groove fades underneath a cacophony of spooky noises, bird cries — “ALBATROSS!” — and dolphin wails, and just when you think “that’ll do, pig,” “Echoes” hits the reset button and the pinging starts again, building back towards actual music, with a Wright synthesizer riff that kinda echoes the riff of Meddle’s opening track “One of These Days” and eventually interrupted by a Gilmour guitar fanfare until they finally go to the last round of verses and choruses and guitar blasts, until “Echoes” finally slips beneath the water.
“Echoes” Live at Pompeii (Part 1)
“Echoes” Live at Pompeii (Part 2)
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