Sound — 9
Do you wanna know how Dark Side of the Moon was born? Well, according to Wikipedia, it was from a discussion in Nick Mason's kitchen in late 1971. At some point of the next year the band started to perform live something that resembled the legendary album, and were recording it at Abbey Road. However, they were invited again (remember "More") by Barbet Schroder to record a soundtrack for the French film "La Vale" (or "The Valley"). So, the band went to record it in a break of the DSOTM sessions, and the job was done in just a few days. The record was very succesful in France, but after DSOTM broke, this one was highly underrated by fans and critics. Even though it contained the first Floyd song that was highly played in US rock stations. Well, I consider it as a little brother to Dark Side, sadly unknown by many fans of it, but if you love that, you may purchase this. Now, let's start with the songs if you don't mind. First, the highlights. The album kicks off with the title track, "Obscured by Clouds," an instrumental song. It features the first appearance in a Floyd song of a synthesizer called VCS 3, later used prominently on "Any Colour You Like" and "On the Run" (remember "Live at Pompeii"? The thing played by Waters on a briefcase). Great solos. It segues into "When You're In ", another instrumental, but this one follows the simple yet effective "three chords" formula. It was played along the first one at some 1972 and '73 shows. Then we have Burning Bridges, that it's almost the precursor of Breathe. Soft vocals by Wright and Gilmour, and a beautiful and dreamy atmosphere. And there's Wot's, the Deal, a great folky song, possibly the best here, it's oh sooo gorgeous, with some slide guitar and great vocals. However, personally, there's one song that may dispute the first place with it, the amazing instrumental Mudmen. It starts like a reprise of Burning Bridges, but with piano, some more VCS 3, and two incredible solos by Gilmour! It's so great that I can't simply describe it with words. But, the highlights don't end there. There's Childhood's End, and it incredibly sounds like Time! It's a Gilmour solo composition, and it starts with the bass playing just like in the intro of Dark Side's seven-minute odyssey (that thing that sounds like a clock). In fact, there's another DSOTM element here, if you hear the final seconds of the song, you'll notice the Dark Side heartbeats! But that's another story. Then the "first Floyd song that was heavily played on US rock stations", the incredibly catchy Free Four. It starts as every catchy song should start: "One, two, three, FOWAH!" And features a great instrumental section (doesn't it sound like One of These Days). Finally, there's the piano ballad Stay, which is not bad, and features a great guitar (reminds me of the Any Colour You Like solo, talking about resemblances). So, if I said that I loved the so much, why a nine and not a ten? Cause there's some tiny bit of filler. The pseudo-disco hard rock of The Gold It's in the, it's just a shiny and a bit softer update of the hard rock numbers on More. Oh, and there's Absolutely Curtains. Just as someone pointed it out above, it has a cool title, but it's one of the worst songs in the Floyd catalogue. Just a bunch of boring keyboards, a pseudo tribal drumming, and a stupid vocal climax. It ends with a two minute bore: some tribal chanting from the film. I recommend it to people that adores world music, otherwise, I should have cut off a point from the rating, but the greater stuff is so amazing that I just can't.
Lyrics — 9
The album isn't only the little brother of DSOTM musically, it is also lyrically. After all, the themes of desperation briefly seen in Wot's... Uh The Deal, and heavily seen in Childhood's End (which was inspired apparently by a book of the same name). Also there's Free Four, the first song in which Waters discusses openly the death of his father in the war and violence, the main theme of Us and Them. Perhaps the album is almost half instrumental, but the lyrical products are very strong.
Overall Impression — 9
Yeah, DSOTM is the quintessential album, but even if I rated a bit higher that, I listen to this more frequently that the first one. If you loved Dark Side, you may enjoy this as well. A fascinating and exciting little brother of Dark Side, and a beautiful listening experience as well. Sadly forgotten by some fans, but still is amazing. Highly recommended.