Alright, here we are with our first album review! We are starting off with one of my favorite bands: Pink Floyd, but we shall not be doing one of the famous albums just yet. Everyone already knows about Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here. Instead I wanted to do one of the lesser known albums, their second outing “A Saucerful of Secrets.”
Even among their early work, this album seems to be forgotten by a lot of people; overshadowed by the psychedelic blast of “Piper” and the overwhelmingly strange “Ummagumma.” The people that do seem to remember this album only seem to remember it because it’s the only album that both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour played on. This is a bit misleading. While both of them do play guitar on the album, they are only actually playing together on one song, and you would never have even realized it. That being said, I think this is one of the better non-70s Pink Floyd albums.
Saucerful retains much of the psychedelic rock sound the band crafted on their first album, but they also add in a very lavish, creepy, space rock sound to many of the songs. Songs such as “Let There Be More Light,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and the title track really define what space rock sounds like to me. The way the band uses synths behind the guitars, pianos, and vocals to create an uneasy atmosphere gives the songs a character you don’t hear on many of their other releases. The vocals also add to the space on this album, as they are very soft on all songs but one, which I will get into later. For the most part, these are definitely moodier, darker songs than on their debut album.
The album’s first three songs flow very well and are probably my three favorites from the album. “Let There Be More Light” alternates back and forth between creepy, quiet verses and louder more eclectic choruses. “Remember a Day” treats us to some rarely heard Richard Wright vocal work over a blissful and playful piano. “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is a very quiet and ambient track with soft vocals by Roger Waters. This is the only track in Pink Floyd’s entire discography that all five main members played on, but again there really isn’t anything in the song at all to indicate that. It’s still a very good song though.
Despite the fact that I actually quite like the fourth track, “Corporal Clegg” sticks out like a sore thumb and completely breaks the flow of the album. It is a much more upbeat song than the others and even contains an obnoxious kazoo part. I personally like the song and think it’s quite fun, but I know a lot of fans that disagree entirely, so take that how you will. After this, we get to the title track. This is an 11-minute instrumental song and it’s one of the first times we see Pink Floyd get very experimental. It goes through three main sections. The first is an extremely creepy and ambient synth build-up that is bound to give some children nightmares if heard at night. This then goes into a pounding drum pattern with dissonant piano banging and crazy synth explosions. The third part of the song slows back down for a very peaceful and beautiful resolution. It’s a cool song but definitely overstays its welcome quite a bit. There are far better versions of the song on their live albums but I certainly don’t think this one is bad.
The last two songs for me are a very unsatisfactory ending. “See-Saw” is another soft, playful song, but after the title track it almost puts me to sleep. Again, not a bad song, just not a great one. I’ve often heard people say the last song is their favorite from this album, but I actually don’t really care for “Jugband Blues.” This is the sendoff for Syd Barrett and the lyrics definitely reflect that, but musically I think the song is just a little too sporadic and ends too suddenly to leave much of a lasting impact, but I guess that is reflective of Syd Barrett’s time in Pink Floyd: very sporadic and ended dramatically, as he was officially kicked out during the making of this album. All in all though, it doesn’t feel like a great album closer, especially if you know nothing about Barrett.
Now this isn’t a bad album but it does have quite a few flaws. It doesn’t flow very well from front to back and some of the songs can drag on for a little too long. This album also came out around the time when bands were experimenting with hard stereo panning, so that can be very strange and off-putting as well. I would definitely still recommend you listen to the album if you’re into Pink Floyd or enjoy psychedelic rock music. At the very least this should be something unique that you probably haven’t heard before.
Highlights: Let There Be More Light, Remember a Day, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Lowlights: Jugband Blues