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Pink Floyd: Atom Heart Mother

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: EMI Records
Released: 1970.10.10
Category: Pop/Rock
Producer(s): Pink Floyd
Rating: ****...... (4/10)
Media type: CD
Web address: www.pinkfloyd.com
Appears with: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright
Purchase date: 1998
Price in €: 7,99

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Atom Heart Mother Suite (R.Geesin/D.Gilmour) - 23:39
     a. Father's Shout
     b. Breast Milky
     c. Mother Fore
     d. Funky Dung
     e. Mind Your Throats Please
     f. Remergence
[2] If (R.Waters) - 4:30
[3] Summer '68 (Wright) - 5:28
[4] Fat Old Sun (D.Gilmour) - 5:23
[5] Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast (D.Gilmour/N.Mason) - 13:00
     a. Rise and Shine
     b. Sunny Side Up
     c. Morning Glory

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

ROGER WATERS - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
DAVID GILMOUR - Guitar, Vocals
RICHARD WRIGHT - Keyboards, Vocals

Additional personnel:

PETER BOWN - Engineer
NORMAN SMITH - Executive Producer
HIPGNOSIS - Design, Photography, Cover Design

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

1987 CD Capitol C2-46381
1970 LP Harvest SMAS-382
1995 CD EMI 7243 8 31261
1994 LP Mobile Fidelity 202
1994 CD Mobile Fidelity 595
1994 CD Mobile Fidelity 595
1990 LP Capitol 382
1987 CS Capitol C4-46381

Recorded at EMI Studios-Abbey Road, London, England.
All songs written by members of Pink Floyd except "Atom Heart Mother Suite" (Nick Mason/David Gilmour/Roger Waters/Richard Wright/Ron Geesin).

ATOM HEART MOTHER was a collaboration between Pink Floyd and avant-garde composer Ron Geesin.

Ultradiscs are mastered from the original master tapes using Mobile Fidelity's proprietary mastering technique, then plated with 24-karat gold and housed in a stress-resistant, lift-lock jewel box.

Appearing after the sprawling, unfocused double-album set Ummagumma, Atom Heart may boast more focus, even a concept, yet that doesn't mean it's more accessible. If anything, this is the most impenetrable album they released while on Harvest, which also makes it one of the most interesting of the era. Still, it may be an acquired taste even for fans, especially since it kicks off with a side-long, 23-minute extended orchestral piece that may not seem to head anywhere, but is often intriguing, more in what it suggests than what it achieves. Then, on the second side, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Rick Wright have a song a piece, winding up with the group composition "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" wrapping it up. Of these, Waters begins developing the voice that made him the group's lead songwriter during their classic era with "If," while Wright has an appealingly mannered, very English psychedelic fantasia on "Summer 68," while Gilmour's "Fat Old Sun" meanders quietly before ending with a guitar workout that leaves no impression. "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," the 12-minute opus that ends the album, does the same thing, floating for several minutes before ending on a drawn-out jam that finally gets the piece moving. So, there are interesting moments scattered throughout the record, and the work that initially seems so impenetrable winds up being Atom Heart Mother's strongest moment. That it lasts an entire side illustrates that Pink Floyd was getting better with the larger picture instead of the details, since the second side just winds up falling off the tracks, no matter how many good moments there are. This lack of focus means Atom Heart Mother will largely be for cultists, but its unevenness means there's also a lot to cherish here.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine - All Music Guide
© 1992 - 2001 AEC One Stop Group, Inc.

In the grand, color-bending tradition of psychedelic experimentalism, Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother takes as its title an inscrutable phrase and under the title launches a similarly inscrutable--or at least dense--musical concatenation. The title suite features French-horn-led brass melodies riffed on by David Gilmour's guitar and the rhythm section, all of which veers into choral passages that recall György Ligeti's vocal works and then almost atonal pulses of keyboards that mask reams of audio snippets swirling underneath. And then there's some moody folk from Roger Waters, an almost Kinks-ish rambler from Richard Wright, then more moody folk (this time from Gilmour) on "Fat Old Sun," and, to close, the spirited melodic runaround of "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast." There's a range of emotion here, from doleful to crazed to humorous (especially the dramatized comments on macrobiotics in the closer). Atom Heart Mother was a spotlight ahead for Pink Floyd, showing the extensions of form the band would engage in so successfully on Dark Side of the Moon just a few short years later.

Andrew Bartlett - Amazon.com essential recording

Bob Eichler:
Most Floyd fans seem to either love or hate this album. Many feel it's one of the band's best, but I'm afraid I'd have to rank it as possibly my least favorite (although there really aren't any Floyd albums that I'd call out-and-out bad). The studio version of the title track leaves me cold. Having heard bootleg versions of just the four-piece band playing the song, I much prefer the stripped-down version. The album version just seems to drag, and while I'm generally a fan of Ron Geesin's work, the chorus and orchestra he added to this piece just seem to suffocate it in a heavy-handed and pretentious layer that it didn't need. The three acoustic ballads in the middle of the disc are pleasant enough, if maybe lacking a little in substance. It puzzles me why the final song, "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", is generally slammed by fans. The sound clips of someone making and eating the first meal of the day might wear thin quickly, but there's also some wonderful music on this track. There's one fugue-like section in particular that is one of my favorite bits of the Pink Floyd catalog. In general, if you're into Floyd you should eventually pick this up. But don't put it at the top of your "must have" list.

Sean McFee:
This 1970 album from Pink Floyd can be divided into two halves; the strong side-long suite being one, and the mixed bag making up the rest of the album being the other. The title track is a 23-minute "orchestral psychedelic" affair, containing extended vocal passages from a bizarre choir, duets between Wright's organ and Gilmour's guitar and a few moments of relative cacophony. While this track suffers from some of the same things as Meddle's "Echoes", there is generally more here to keep the listener's attention through the whole piece. I remember when I first heard this song being a bit put off by the female vocals about halfway in, but in retrospect they aren't any wilder than most of the prog I listen to nowadays. A reasonably strong side, if somewhat sprawling and overambitious. The second side unfortunately has little going for it. The ballad "If" is somewhat of a snoozer. "Summer '68" gets about halfway there with a nice intro and chorus but the lyrics seem half-done and the coda detracts rather than adds. "Fat Old Sun" is just kind of there. "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" shows the band's fascination with making music out of different sounds, but there just isn't very much going on here either. As with Meddle, I see this album having somewhat limited appeal to prog fans. Perhaps the idea of a 23-minute song will be enough for some, but the best was yet to come for this band.

Eric Porter:
This one is a headphone listener's delight. The CD runs about 50+ minutes, which was quite long for the days of vinyl. It finds the band working with a cast of orchestral musicians on the 23+ minute title track, using horns and strings. Set up as a suite consisting of seven seperate movements, "Atom Heart Mother" offers an array of sound effects, musical jams, orchestra, and a captivating wordless vocal section. At times this vocal consists of mellow interludes and reminds me at times of what Anglagard tried (successfully I might add) to achieve with Mellotron and atmosphere. It amazes me that it is almost 30 years old. At times it does show its age, but I am always enthralled when I listen. "If" is a mellow acoustic Waters tune that sounds like it could work on The Wall. Rick Wright's "Summer of 68" appears to be a song of personal experience with groupies. At times it has a very Beatleish flavor. "Fat Old Sun" returns to the acoustic format, written by Gilmour. "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" closes the CD as a 3 part song made up of bits of music weaving into moments of sounds including a trip to the kitchen for some frying, crackling, and talking. Listening to the older material lets you hear how refined their writing became, as much of this is a bit raw but it works. Listeners Advisory: Do not listen to Alan's Psychdelic Breakfast while you are hungry, as you will be consumed with a ravenous craving for bacon and eggs!

Brandon Wu:
The side-long title track on this album is a gem. Those outside the prog-rock fan circle might find it overblown and pretentious, which it probably is. But I love it, for whatever reason: the parts done by the orchestra are quite good, I think. The French horn sounds suitably grand and imposing when it carries the melody, which it does quite often. Otherwise, the melody is mostly in Gilmour's electric guitar, which here takes on a tone which sounds something like a cross between later Gilmour playing and some of Mike Oldfield's more delicate electric guitar work. The piece is somewhat disjointed and rather longer than it needs to be (the lengthy vocal section in the early middle of the piece builds up for much longer than necessary, for example), but that shouldn't be anything new to prog fans. I don't have much to say for the rest of the tracks; they seem to be somewhat dated, though still enjoyable, British pop songs, with the notable exception of "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", a 13-minute journey into weirdness which I find most enjoyable when I'm trying to fall asleep. I don't really mean that in a bad way, actually. However, let's just say that 13 minutes of sound effects isn't all that enthralling. Overall, this is an extremely uneven album, but for progressive rock fans, the title track is worth the price of admission.


Pink Floyd started to stretch out its long numbers here, with the orchestrated title track taking up an entire side of the album. Still not as focused as they would be, the group nevertheless was beginning to show the musical ambition that would lead to their later successes.

William Ruhlmann - All-Music Guide

In 1970, Pink Floyd released their fifth album, Atom Heart Mother. The title came from a headline bassist Roger Waters saw about a pregnant woman with an atomic-powered pacemaker. This was the band's first collaboration with studio wizard, Alan Parsons (who later engineered the classic 'Dark Side of the Moon' as well). When I did an A/B test between with MFSL's Anadisq II vinyl pressing and the recently remastered Capitol CD, the MFSL vinyl put Capitol's remaster to shame. It sounded warmer and much more natural.

On the side-long title track, the orchestra was rich and vibrant. Waters' bass on "If" is much deeper than the remaster. The album really shines on "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast". You can practically smell the eggs cooking when you hear the track. David Gilmour's acoustic guitar work on the cut is clear as a bell. One of the coolest things about MFSL's vinyl pressing of Atom Heart Mother is that it includes the dripping water runoff groove. On the original album, the last thing you hear as the album ends is the sound of water dripping. It didn't fade out like most albums would. If you had a manual turntable, the dripping would continue into an endless void until you actually lifted the needle from the record. Some things, you just can't do with CDs.

When Capitol reissued Atom Heart Mother on CD last year, it included the lyrics and new photos, but omitted the original inside gatefold cover art (included in MFSL's vinyl pressing). Unfortunately, it also included a lot of tape hiss. MFSL's vinyl pressing was breathtakingly quiet. Purely in terms of sound quality, the Anadisq 200 pressing can't be beat. The dynamic range and channel separation are excellent, as you'd expect. The bottom line here - if you want lyrics, new photos and tape hiss, pick up the Capitol CD. Otherwise, stick with the MFSL pressing.

© 1996 Steve Marshall

"Erst hier begreift man so richtig, in welchem Ausmaß und mit welcher Raffinesse Pink Floyd in jeder Schaffensperiode nicht nur Musik, sondern aufregende Hörspiele gezaubert haben."

M. Inhoffen in stereoplay 4/95

"...criminally underrated--the long title suite, benefitting from Ron Geesin's crazed but accomplished musical wit, is among their best work..."

Q Magazine 1/95, p.275 4 Stars - Excellent

Atom Heart Mother was Pink Floyd's first No. 1 record. Up to their ears in avant-garde experimental ideas, the Floyd teamed up with the electronic composer Ron Geesin to create the side-long title track, their most ambitious piece of work so far. By now the group were producing themselves.

Nick Mason: "It's an averagely recorded album but a very interesting idea, working with Ron Geesin, an orchestra and the Roger Aldiss choir. Roger and I were quite friendly with Ron. I think I met him through Robert Wyatt. The thing that Ron taught us most about was recording techniques, and tricks done on the cheap. We learned how to get round the men-in-white-coats and do things at home, like editing. Ron taught us how to use two tape recorders to create an endless build up of echo. It was all very relevant to things we did later. Now I listen to it with acute embarrassment because the backing track was put down by Roger and me, beginning to end, in one pass. Consequently the tempo goes up and down. It was a 20-minute piece and we just staggered through it. On the other side, Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast was another great idea -- gas fires popping, kettles boiling, that didn't really work on record but was great fun live. I've never heard Roger lay claim to it, which makes me think it must have been a group idea."

There is also the beautiful song "If" and "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast", with great sound effects. The thing most people remember "Atom Heart" for these days is its spectacular cover, featuring nothing but cows.

David Gilmour: "At the time we felt Atom Heart Mother, like Ummagumma, was step towards something or other. Now I think they were both just a blundering about in the dark."

The title track is embellished with horns and a choir. It is split into six different, named parts, although there is some controversy over where each section starts and ends. The two versions currently accepted are described below. Most of the divisions are marked by a return to the main theme of the piece, played by the group and the orchestra. Stanley Kubrick wanted "free rein" to use music from "Atom Heart Mother" in his film "A Clockwork Orange." The band didn't agree.

The album was named during the sessions for the BBC radio show, when the title track needed a name, and Ron Geesin suggested to Roger Waters that he'd look through The Evening Standard and see if he could find a title in there. The paper carried an article about a pregnant woman with a pacemaker, headlined ATOM HEART MOTHER, and the rest (as they say) is history. During this song, there are two voices that can be clearly heard:

17:28 - "Here is a loud announcement"
19:08 - "Silence in the studio!"
Alan, from "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" is Alan Stiles, a roadie of Floyd's back then. It's his voice you hear on the track. The kitchen sounds were recorded in Nick Mason's kitchen. The band was never very happy with this piece, which might explain why it was performed live only a few times. During the live performances the band was served tea on stage. Early British pressings of the album had the sound of the water dripping from the tap continue into the trail-off groove in the record, allowing some turntables to play dripping water forever (or until someone turns it off, whichever came first). Alan Stiles can be seen on the back cover of Ummagumma.

The cow on the album cover is Lulubelle III. The cow-cover came to be because the band wanted a cover that was as ordinary and un-psychedelic as possible.


 L y r i c s

Atom Heart Mother Suite



If I were a swan, I'd be gone.
If I were a train, I'd be late.
And if I were a good man,
I'd talk with you more often than I do.
If I were to sleep, I could dream.
If I were afraid, I could hide.
If I go insane, please don't put your wires in my brain.

If I were the moon, I'd be cool.
If I were a book, I would bend.
If I were a good man, I'd understand the spaces between friends.
If I were alone, I would cry.
And if I were with you, I'd be home and dry.
And if I go insane, will you still let me join in with the game?

If I were a swan, I'd be gone.
If I were a train, I'd be late again.
If I were a good man, I'd talk to you more often than I do.

Summer '68

Would you like to something before you leave?
Perhaps you'd care to state exactly how you feel.
We say goodbye before we've said hello.
I hardly even like you.
I shouldn't care at all.
We met just six hours ago.
The music was too loud.
From your bed I came today and lost a bloody year.
And I would like to know, how do you feel?
How do you feel?

Not a single word was said.
They lied still without fears.
Occasionally you showed a smile, but what was the need?
I felt the cold far too soon in a wind of ninetyfive.
Have you time before you leave to greet another man
Just to let me know, how do you feel?
How do you feel?

Goodbye to you.
Childish bangles too.
I've had enough for one day.

Fat Old Sun

When the fat old sun in the sky is falling,
Summer evening birds are calling.
Summer's thunder time of year,
The sound of music in my ears.
Distant bells,
New mown grass smells so sweet.
By the river holding hands,
Roll me up and lay me down.
And if you sit,
Don't make a sound.
Pick your feet up off the ground.
And if you hear as the warm night falls
The silver sound from a time so strange,
Sing to me, sing to me.

When that fat old sun in the sky is falling,
Summer evening birds are calling.
Children's laughter in my ears,
The last sunlight disappears.

And if you sit,
Don't make a sound.
Pick your feet up off the ground.
And if you hear as the warm night falls
The silver sound from a time so strange,
Sing to me, sing to me.

Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast


 M P 3   S a m p l e s

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