One of the more unfairly overlooked albums in the Floyd canon is this little gem, a soundtrack recorded on a break during the sessions for their next real album. Obscured By Clouds is supposed to accompany a little-seen film about hippies in the jungle called The Valley; chances are the only people who’ve seen it are the few who already own the album, which likely cuts its numbers down a bit.
Unlike their last half-baked attempt at film scoring, Obscured By Clouds includes several decent songs, a few themes, and nothing really embarrassing. The title track is a simple drone with slide over drums, extended into more of a melody on “When You’re In”. “Burning Bridges” is a gentle seesaw of a melody shared by David Gilmour and Rick Wright, which fades just as it’s settling in. “The Gold It’s In The…” provides a good rock stomp, most likely to match some kind of carefree romp in the film, before “Wot’s…Uh The Deal” turns more contemplative. “Mudmen” is an extended instrumental interpolation of “Burning Bridges”, and a good showcase for Hammond organ and lead guitar.
“Childhood’s End” begins with another tenuous fade-in, before emerging as a trademark Floydian beat. Something of a surprise hit comes with “Free Four”, a jaunty acoustic number (punctuated nicely by Gilmour, naturally) that approaches such soon-to-be common subjects as death, war and the music business. “Stay” doesn’t seem to fit in here, being a little too slick for the band, amidst lyrics about a one-night stand that would be better suited for almost any other band from the ‘70s but this one. It’s not the best lead-in for the finale, another rumbling instrumental cut into by some tribal chanting.
Despite the few drawbacks mentioned above, Obscured By Clouds should prove a nice surprise for anyone seeking a decent Floyd album without fear that the songs are being overplayed on the radio. It seemed to be a good exercise for the band, who were able to get back to the matter at hand of completing their newest big thing.
Pink Floyd Obscured By Clouds (1972)—4