Obscured by the dark side of the moon
Pink Floyd had ‘found themselves’ with the album Meddle - having managed to step out of the long shadow of their first leader, Syd Barrett- and were recording what was to be their greatest masterpiece, The Dark Side Of The Moon. It could be said that they were in the best moment of their career, the group was still functioning as such, and all four members were contributing. It was at this time that they received a call from director Barbet Schroeder, with whom they had already worked on More, to score his new film, The Valley. As they had to stop anyway to do a mini-tour of Japan, they decided to return via France and in two weeks made one of the most interesting albums of their career, Obscured By Clouds.
Clearly this is a soundtrack and a far cry from how well constructed their most famous albums were, but, as I said at the beginning, the band was at their creative peak and several of the songs on here can be considered forgotten gems in their discography. Especially because the band itself, except for Nick Mason who considers it one of their best works, turned their backs on the album, mainly because the production was not the best, with abrupt or over-long endings, and a sequencing that they also felt was disappointing; and therefore only a few of these songs were ever included in their live repertoire.
The album opened with two instrumental pieces, which had some interesting textures, but which sounded inevitably like filler, having been made with the intention of accompanying images rather than standing on their own, yet the two instrumentals that close each side are better than these first two and give many clues to the sound of The Dark Side Of The Moon. However, Obscured By Clouds is at its best when it comes to the actual songs themselves. They are not long pieces to improvise on - like Echoes or Shine On You Crazy Diamond - but three-minute pop songs, some with a more country feel, others with a more hard rock feel and some even with echoes of the Kinks.
First up is Burning Bridges, a composition by Rick Wright with lyrics by Roger Waters, sung by the keyboardist and David Gilmour, it's a gentle, almost pastoral track that sounds wonderful when the two voices harmonise and Gilmour's guitar comes in - first the Black Strat and then a pedal steel. The Gold It's In The... is a hard rock song that gives Gilmour a chance to show off his guitar work, and even better is Wot's...Uh the Deal? a tune with music by the guitarist, and lyrics by Waters, reminiscent of Fat Old Sun, with its acoustic echoes and beautiful melody.
The second side opens with another marvel, Childhood's End, the first (and last until Waters' departure) song with lyrics by Gilmour in the band. It is a very interesting track that can be seen as an antecedent to Time, followed by Waters' only solo composition, Free Four, which was chosen as the only single from the album. Musically it is reminiscent of the late 60s Kinks, although the lyrics deal for the first time with the death of the bassist's father during World War II. The last little gem on the album is Stay, another Wright song with lyrics by Waters, with slight country touches, especially on Gilmour's guitar.
Obscured By Clouds is, in short, the best of the band's soundtracks and the album that is most worthy of vindication, within the lesser-known ones, despite its faults. I think that, without being a masterpiece, it is the band's most underrated album and, possibly, the best outside the tetralogy made up of The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall, their debut album (led by Syd Barrett) and the fundamental Meddle. The album was called Obscured By Clouds but it could have been called Obscured By The Dark Side Of The Moon, and when Dark Side came out it was buried under the latter’s enormous success; an unfair fate that it really didn't deserve.