1972 – Pink Floyd – Obscured by Clouds
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01. Obscured By Clouds
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Obscured by Clouds is a rock album by Pink Floyd based on their soundtrack for the French film La Vallée, by Barbet Schroeder. Some copies of the album refer to the film by its alternate English title, The Valley.
The LP was released in the UK on June 3, 1972 on Harvest/EMI and then in the U.S. on June 15, 1972 on Harvest/Capitol. The album reached #6 on the UK album charts and #46 on the U.S. album charts (where it was certified Gold by the RIAA in March, 1994). In 1986, the album was released on CD. A digitally remastered CD was released in March 1996 in the UK and August 1996 in the U.S.
At this point in their career, the band was not new to scoring movies. They had already scored the films More and Zabriskie Point in 1969 and 1970 respectively. So when the band went into score the movie, they had a lot more experience and therefore produced a much finer product.
The band was already working on The Dark Side of the Moon during this period, but production was interrupted when the band travelled to France to score the movie. Nick Mason refers to the project:
“After the success of More, we had agreed to do another sound track for Barbet Schroeder. His new film was called La Vallée and we travelled over to France to record the music in the last week of February… We did the recording with the same method we had employed for More, following a rough cut of the film, using stopwatches for specific cues and creating interlinking musical moods that would be cross-faded to suit the final version… The recording time was extremely tight. We only had two weeks to record the soundtrack with a short amount of time afterwards to turn it into an album.”
While recording the music, the band was free to use “Standard rock song construction” to their advantage, and was such the case for “Obscured by Clouds”. The title track featured an early use of electronic drums, or “electric bongos” as Mason calls them. Rick Wright foreshadows what is to come later with his use of synthesizers on this album. A droning note (played on an EMS VCS3 synthesizer) begins the album. This song was often used to open their live shows in the following years. The band also used themes to their advantage. The melody played in “Burning Bridges” is echoed later in “Mudmen”. The song “Childhood’s End” is said to have been inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name.
“Free Four” was the first Pink Floyd song to get significant airplay in the U.S., and the first to deal directly with the death of Eric Fletcher Waters, Roger Waters’ father.
In an interview that appeared in the “Director’s Cut” edition of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, Roger Waters stated that early pressings of the album contained excessive sibilants in the vocal tracks, a problem that was corrected in later pressings.
Obscured by Clouds was the first Pink Floyd album to feature the VCS 3 synthesiser.
Pink Floyd opened some shows in 1973 with an extended jam based on the pairing of “Obscured By Clouds” and “When You’re In”, accompanied by smoke and a light show.
“Childhood’s End” is the only other song from the soundtrack to find its way to the stage. It made several appearances in Europe in 1972 and at the start of the band’s March 1973 tour of North America, usually with an extended instrumental passage.
“Wot’s… Uh, The Deal?” saw revival as part of David Gilmour’s set list during his 2006 solo tour. One of these performances can be seen on Gilmour’s 2007 DVD Remember That Night and on the vinyl version of his 2008 live album Live in Gdańsk.