Spotlight Album Review #12

Reviewed on this page:

Syd Barrett was the original lead singer and founder of Pink Floyd. In 1968, he was forced to leave the band he started, after he had apparently become mentally unfit to perform. The conventional wisdom about Barrett's mental state is that it was a result of taking too much acid, but people who knew him have maintained that he actually suffered a breakdown from which he never fully recovered. Whatever the case may have been, Barrett left the music business altogether in the early '70's, and lived in seclusion for the rest of his life (which ended in July 2006 at the age of 60). To the best of anyone's knowledge, Syd didn't sing or play a note during the last 30 years of his life, but countless artists from the last four decades have claimed him as a major influence. The breadth of Barrett's influence is amazing when you consider the brevity of his recording career. His body of work mainly consists of the first Pink Floyd album (their 1967 psychedelic classic The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn), the early Floyd singles ("Arnold Layne", "See Emily Play", "Apples And Oranges"), and two relatively obscure solo albums released in 1970 (The Madcap Laughs and Barrett).

In 1987, various artists covered Barrett's songs on an album titled Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett. It was released by an England-based label called Imaginary, which later released many similar tribute albums for other artists. The label is now defunct, and Beyond The Wildwood is now difficult to find. Most of the participating artists were unknowns. Among the better-known participants were the Soup Dragons (a few years before they hit it big), the T.V. Personalities (who once sang a song called "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives"), and Opal (David Roback's pre-Mazzy Star band). The song selections were taken from Barrett's solo albums as well as his Floyd work; one band even covered "Scream Thy Last Scream", an early Floyd song which was never officially released.

Tribute albums in general tend to suffer from the problem of having participants who are less talented than the subject, and who consequently bring the original artist's material down to their level. Fortunately, this is not the case with Beyond The Wildwood. The artists involved worked hard to get inside Barrett's psyche, and most of them did a good job of conveying his visions by way of their own sensibilities. The Mock Turtles opened the album with an almost eerily Syd-like take on "No Good Trying". A number of others (Plasticland, Paul Roland, The Green Telescope) created genuinely trippy atmospheres for their selections. Of course, some of these bands tried to update the sound on their tracks; SS-20's "Arnold Layne" and Fit And Limo's "Long Cold Look" have '80's new wave stylings, but both tracks work well. A few artists chose to have fun with the material; the Soup Dragons turned in a happy-sounding version of "Two Of A Kind", and the T.V. Personalities' low-tech "Apples And Oranges" manages to preserve the song's goofiness with minimal use of studio effects. The lesser tracks (tracks 8 through 11, to be precise) are only guilty of paling beside the others. Top accolades go to Opal's shoegazing alteration of "Jugband Blues", and the Green Telescope's deranged "Scream Thy Last Scream", which effectively combines old-fashioned psychedelia with alternative-rock dissonance.

Track Listing:

1. NO GOOD TRYING -- The Mock Turtles
2. OCTOPUS -- Plasticland
4. MATILDA MOTHER -- Paul Roland
5. LONG COLD LOOK -- Fit And Limo
6. LONG GONE -- The Shamen
8. BABY LEMONADE -- The Ashes In The Morning
9. WOLFPACK -- The Lobster Quadrille
10. GOLDEN HAIR -- The Paint Set
11. NO MAN'S LAND -- Tropicana Fishtank
12. APPLES AND ORANGES -- The T.V. Personalities
13. TWO OF A KIND -- The Soup Dragons
14. SCREAM THY LAST SCREAM -- The Green Telescope

CD bonus tracks:

15. SEE EMILY PLAY -- The Chemistry Set
16. RATS -- What Noise
17. GIGOLO AUNT -- Death Of Samantha


Other spotlight album reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)