Sound — 8
This compilation album was released in 1971, and almost all of the content here is great, containing some singles, B-sides, and relatively obscure songs. However, even if wish to give this a ten, I can't because they didn't released all the B-sides so you could own something similar to The Beatles' "Past Masters" collections, which put all the B-sides available in two precious CDs. Instead, they go ahead and re-release "Interstellar Overdrive" (too long to even be considered for being released as a B-side), "Bike", "The Nile Song" (duh), "Remember a Day" (do you really hear poor songwriting by Wright again), and "Cirrus Minor". And sadly, all the early singles with their B-sides were released in a compilation of that name ("The Early Singles", I mean) only included in the expensive "Shine On" box set. Anyway, the unreleased stuff is great for most of the time. There's the classic "Arnold Layne", an amazing example of psychedelia by Syd Barrett, and a fundamental addition to a Floyd collection, along with another classic Barett track: "See Emily Play". Then we have the catchy Wright number "Paintbox", and the dreamy "Julia Dream". And the studio cut of "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", which is inferior to the live version, but is not bad. And finally, an underrated gem, a pseudo jazz rock number "Biding My Time", which wasperformed live at the "The Man/The Journey" suites, but was scrapped ultimately after Ummagumma studio section was conceived. Great guitar, piano, and horn section.
Lyrics — 8
Two words: "Arnold Layne". One of the funniest lyrics I ever heard, about a transvetite who steals women clothes. Ha ha. Go figure. And "See Emily Play", apparently inspired in a girl Barrett saw in an acid trip. And "Paintbox", which was about drinking. And the menacing screams of "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", which, of course, aren't as shocking (or surprising) as the amazing live version of "Ummagumma", but is nevertheless menacing.
Overall Impression — 8
OK, unless they decide to compile all the early rarities and B-sides in a single release, this is a fundamental purchase, and, along with "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", a good place to start with your sixties Floyd. Even though the half is already available on studio albums, it may be a good introduction/overview of the early band. And no true Floyd fan can live without "See Emily Play" and "Arnold Layne".