(4 out of 5)
For many classic rock bands, the documents of their formative years are somewhat less than beguiling. Yet while the early catalog of, say, the Beatles and the Stones offer only limited rewards beyond a look at the bands’ influences, it could easily be argued that, when it comes to Pink Floyd, the band hit it out of the park as soon as they got started. Floyd’s early, jangly psychedelia doesn’t, to be sure, have a whole lot to do with the album-side opuses and movie-concept albums of their later career, but from their very first single — 1967’s “Arnold Layne” — the group definitely stood out in a crowded sea of acid-dipped British rockers, mainly due to the sensitive and slightly cracked presence of the band’s primary songwriter and vocalist, Syd Barrett. By the time he died in 2006, the singer had become pop-culture shorthand for “drug casualty,” but his stylistic sway over Pink Floyd’s formative years ensured the group was charting a highly unique course into experimental rock n’ roll. This 18-track compilation — with a third devoted to early Floyd cuts and the rest culled from Barrett’s solo career in the early ‘70s — is a solid primer on Barrett, although casual Pink Floyd fans who are only familiar with Barrett through references on THE WALL and WISH YOU WERE HERE may be somewhat shocked by the stark emotion of cuts like “Dark Globe” and the goofy weirdness of something like “Effervescing Elephant.” More devout fans won’t find many surprises; although the alternate version of “Matilda Mother” is a revelation, new David Gilmour-directed mixes of cuts like “Octopus” may seem somewhat misguided.
First appeared Nov. 9, 2010 at Shockhound.com.