It’s been 40 years since the release of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the seminal debut by the band that employed Syd Barrett before his insistent drug use and erratic concert behaviour would necessitate his release from the band. The departure was never an angry one; the band had hoped to maintain his lyrical genius while newcomer David Gilmour would play his parts in live settings. That never worked. Syd Barrett had joined company with the very psychedelia that he so easily created, and yet was unable to find an exit.
The psychedelia of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn defined the sound and drug culture of 1967, a sound and element that continued for a few years more but forever became the trademark of an era. The songs of this album, mostly written by Syd Barrett, are classic embryonic Pink Floyd in every sense. Their sound is evolved in future albums but the unique core of the sound, as heard on this album, always remained. Barrett’s whimsy took simple concepts and used child-like phrases to evoke a mental freedom, liberated by drug use by the entire band. The music of Waters, Wright, and Mason was a perfect complement to Barrett’s fanciful lyricism. Future Pink Floyd works would turn into philosophical masterpieces, solidifying the perfection of Pink Floyd forever.
On this 40th Anniversary reissue, James Guthrie would use his own brand of experiential perfection to update the music found on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in what is a splendid remaster of this classic debut. As he did for the latest remaster of Dark Side of the Moon, he has done for The Piper at the Gates of Dawn; clarifying the magic by sharpening the sound. On the 2CD edition, the set is expanded by adding a Stereo version of the album, originally released very shortly after the Mono version.
Pink Floyd is one of few bands whose music readily opens itself up to a multi-channel interpretation. Originally released in Mono, and then followed up with a Stereo release, one can easily feel the manipulation of effects and music that added to the sound experience of the album.
The 2CD booklet does not follow the grandeur of the music so well. It has lyrics, and some photos scattered throughout its 16 pages but little else. There are virtually no credit listings and there is no essay to add to the historic weight of the album. The 3CD version, released a week later on September 11, 2007, is better prepared. Within the confines of the book-sized cloth-bound Special Edition, there are the same booklet offerings however there is also a pocketed 16-page reproduction of Syd Barrett’s original collage work notebook from 1965.
The Special Edition also offers up additional non-album and alternate-take tracks that include pre-release monophonic singles like the perfect “Apples and Oranges” (here as mono and as a previously unreleased stereo track), “Arnold Layne,” “Candy and a Currant Bun,” “See Emily Play,” and “Paintbox.” There are 3 alternate monophonic takes of original tracks that include a previously unissued “Matilda Mother,” and “Interstellar Overdrive.” Another version of “Interstellar Overdrive” is included, a recent ‘fallen in the lap’ French edit that had been forgotten about.
If you’re a song and covers collector, attempt a collect of “Apples and Oranges” by Harald Lowy’s Euro-pop band, Chandeen, found on their Bikes and Pyramids (1992) release. It is infectious all of its own.
The evolution of Pink Floyd, with and without Syd Barrett, was a magnificent trip rarely equaled in strength and music by any other of their kind. It’s why Pink Floyd sits on a pedestal, higher than many. This 40th Anniversary release of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn ushers in the excellent debut of the band for the new millennium. Pink Floyd purists and collectors should likely navigate to the 3CD version with its bonus tracks but for those satisfied with the album itself rather than the historical significance, the 2CD version is perfect.