1970 was an interesting year for music. It was the year of many great distinguished albums which have stood the test of time, and still remain relevant and influential today. Albums such as Fun House by The Stooges, Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Bridge Over Troubled by Simon And Garfunkel, were all making waves and creating a solid blue-print for generations ahead. Their music was uncompromising, they defined Hard-rock, avant-rock, folk-rock and led us through to what would become an eclectic decade of prog-rock, disco, soul, hard-rock, heavy metal, Country-rock, reggae, blues-rock, soul, Hip-Hop, synth-pop, new-wave and punk music.
Yet 1970 was the year of the reluctant rock star, who stayed true to his musical roots and was an authentic product of his own vulnerability and his artistic integrity. 1970 was a significant year for the year of music as it will always be the year that crystallised Barretts’s solo catalogue of work, that would sanctify his mental, emotional state and erratic behaviour. 1970 would be the year both The Madcap Laughs and Barrett were released and would bare the soul of this gifted and tortured artist. Where The Madcap Laughs was very much a raw and stripped-down catharsis, Barrett would see Syd return to his psychedelic origins and create a more abstract, impressionist, surreal, mystical body of art.
Overall Barrett was a more polished production, whereas The Madcap Laughs was a heart on sleeve commentary, Barrett consolidated his own Jungarian process, through the magic of his creativity. It’s an album which delves deep into the shadows, whilst projecting a kaleidoscopic looking glass. It’s sensory overload, streaming synesthesia, whilst revisiting past lives. Produced by David Gilmour, with Gilmour on bass guitar, Richard Wright on keyboards and Jerry Shirley on drums, Barrett the album is sugar-coated with dark-romanticism, and reiterates Syd’s love of nature, nostalgia and children’s literature, with the thematic use of animal imagery. It’s a captivating , delightful and intriguing album, which firmly places Barrett, in the tortured genius category, gaining cult status amongst the dionysians, misfits and moon-children.
1) “Baby Lemonade” tinkles and side-saddles from the wild west back to the land of the living, leaping on a dream bubble and emerging as a psychedelic prophetic. Through the illuminated riffs, “Baby Lemonade” returns Barrett to his bluesy roots, floating majestically through the farfisa fog, passing the macabre clowns, sipping the acid rain lemonade. It’s hauntingly beautiful, which firmly sets Barrett apart from his Madcap Laugh predecessor, incorporating a more multi-instrumental and atmospheric soundscape. Through the dead-pan vocal delivery and eerie ambience, Barrett awakens the ghosts of psych horror and regresses and renews his groovy demeanour. Along with splashes of percussions and jangly riffs, “Baby Lemonade” effervesces, staggers and descends back down to earth.
2) “Love Song” saunters carefree along a quintessential English, psyc-folk path. It’s a sprightly track whose celesta piano, flutters its dandy wings, amongst the honey-bee stung tempo and bobbing bass. It’s a wondrous track, oozing a Georgian grandiose previously depicted in The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, conveying a sort of romantic outing by the river-side on a hazy farfisa day.
3) Through the Hazy Hammond prowling stomps and melodic riffs, “Dominoes” chills, thrills and prods the listener into a hallucinatory trance. It’s a mesmerising track, whose stream of razor riffs and back-track tingles cut deep into the recesses of psych-horror aesthetics. Through the hypnotic vocals and pristine enunciation, “Dominoes” offers an abstract narration, whilst encapsulating the dark emotive essence of Barrett. Overlapping with the extensive interval of sauntering riffs, dozy drones and rumbling beats, “Dominoes” unleashes a psych-jazz improvisation, creating a palpable yet jittery soundscape, drifting effortlessly into the realms of blues acid-rock.
4) “It is obvious” astral travels via the translucent tones, hovering above the quasi-jazz-psych infused folk. It’s a pagan-trippy excursion, drifting above the tree-tops amongst the birds and stars, wandering in and out of the hammond haze into metaphysical realms of consciousness. Through the humble vocal delivery, “It is obvious” recalls Barrett’s cool, modest, yet vulnerable reserve, giving us a glimpse into his aloof self. Dreamy but earthy, free-flowing but stagnant, “It is obvious” is Barrett in a nutshell. It’s a track written from his higher-self, conversational yet evasive. It’s a sentimental journey, where Barrett travels over the childhood chalk pits of Cambridge, where he remembers his roots whilst gazing down from lofty heights.
5) What could be a mystical love-child of Diddley and Beefheart, “Rats” is a discordant, scatty, acerbic, spellbinding track, staying true to its bluesy roots whilst creating a shrouded shamanic mantra. It’s a primitive outpour, an inflamed catharsis, smouldering from the ashes, whilst regenerating from the flames. Through the heavy strumming, wayward riffs and idiosyncratic grumbles, “Rats” effortlessly transmutes into cohesive chaos, whilst harnessing its energy through the tapping beats. It’s a track that becomes psyched up, pulsated with a fixated fluidity, metamorphosing through the sexually charged crescendo, whilst soaring smoothly into another realm of consciousness.
6) “Maisie” is your comatosed blues track, a slow burner whose motif is deepened through the macabre musings. It’s an intriguing track, whose illuminate riffs, flicker and clatter aside the tip-toeing beats. It’s dark poetry whose lurking bass slithers stuporously into a neon, tribal underworld, smouldering a shock-rock ambience.
7) “Gigolo Aunt” nonchalantly strolls its groovy blues trail along a hippy trippy track, surfing the whaling riffs on the sardonic sea. Based on Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining”, “Gigolo Aunt” is simultaneously steeped in acerbic wit and bitter-sweet romanticism. Through bolstering bass, “Gigolo Aunt” takes a quantum leap over the hallucinogenic hurdles, passing through the farfisa fuzz. It’s a hypnotic track whose interval of unhinged riffs and shrieks, self-indulges and spellbinds in equal measures. It’s an abstract purge of emotions, ambling on the surface, whilst sinking into the shadows. Through the industrial droplets and runaway ripples, Barrett ingeniously depicts his subconscious self, giving us a glimpse once again inside his self-contained, emotional leakage.
8) “Waving My Arms in the Air/I Never Lied to You” is a breezy, idiosyncratic track, whose whirly riffs, acoustic riffs and piano plods creates an off-beat, bohemian, free-flowing work of art. Along with the unorthodox vocals and sleepy interlude, “Waving My Arms in the Air/I Never Lied to You” captures the oblique, wistful and originality of Barrett’s music. He was a one-off, whose creativity effortlessly poured from every iota of his soul.
9) Written after a love-affair, “Wined and Dined” is a melodic, psych-infused track, whose acoustic riffs twinkle aside the translucent slides and farfisa fuzz. Like a lucid dream, “Wined and Dined” nestles between dusk to dawn, exuding a dazey uncertainty, sentimental yearnings whilst radiating a lustrous serenity.
10) “Wolfpack” sees Barrett unleash a more art-rock soundscape, singing from stellar heights whilst hovering on his prog-rock cloud. Like a more underground Bowie track, “Wolfpack” reaches out to its tribe and creates a wistful fusion of blues, psychedelic rock. Vocally raw, Barrett delivers the goods through a more polished production whilst retaining his chaotic and propulsive presence.
11) Drawing influences from Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children, “Effervescing Elephant” is a sprightly, quirky, comical and enchanting track whose customised crickets and elephant sounds provide the abstract, cartoonish narration for this folky fable. Through the anthropomorphic use of the tuba instrument, Barrett brings the “Effervescing Elephant” to life, emulating the sounds of an elephant and creating a 3D effect.Through the acoustic strums and exhaustive delivery, Barrett stirs up our imagination and delights us with his off the wall originality. Like so many of Barrett’s songs, “Effervescing Elephant” draws influences from children’s literature, reminding us yet again of Barrett’s penchant for storytelling and nurturing the eternal child within.