Pink Floyd is, again, arguably the greatest band in history. It’s no surprise that I’ve written about them before, and again, and again, and again. Therefore it’s only logical that I now rank Floyd’s live albums. There’s not a lot of them, only five to be exact. One caveat, this is only a ranking of albums. If it weren’t, I’d definitely have “Live at Pompeii” ranked as number one. Anyhow, let’s get to it.
Released on November 7, 1969, Ummagumma was a double album, with the first two of the sides of the first disc dedicated to live recordings and the other two sides of the other disc for studio work. Recorded during April and May of 1969, side one of disc one had “Astronomy Domine,” from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and “Careful with that Axe, Eugene,” the b-side of a previously released single from the movie Zabriskie Point. Side two of disc one had “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and “A Saucerful of Secrets,” both from Floyd’s second album, also named A Saucerful of Secrets.
This album was well-received upon its release, but in the decades that followed, none of the band members spoke highly of it in the least. Personally speaking, I think the live version of “A Saucerful of Secrets” is the best cut.
4. Delicate Sound of Thunder
Released on November 22, 1988, and recorded in August of 1988, Delicate Sound of Thunder was the live companion to the insanely successful tour following the release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The original release had 15 tracks, spanning historically from 1971-1988. Seven of the eight tracks on disc one were off of Momentary Lapse, but the entirety of disc two were Pink Floyd staples. The band had originally recorded shows in Atlanta, GA, however, they were not too terribly pleased with them, so they re-recorded in Nassau Colesium on Long Island. David Gilmour originally stated that there were no studio overdubs done to augment the recording, but that proved to be inaccurate. Some vocals were redone, and some of the music was cleaned up.
The album was a success, reaching #11 on the Billboard charts, and has since been certified triple-platinum. I like the album, but it sounds too 80s to me, heavy with synthesizers and electric percussion accompaniment. It has, what I consider, one of the greatest visual album covers I’ve ever seen. Done by Hipgnosis, it represents the sounds (man with birds flapping around him) and the light show (man with the lightbulb suit) of a Pink Floyd concert experience. A great bit of trivia is that this is the first album ever played in space. Soviet cosmonauts took it on the Soyuz TM-7 and played it when they were orbiting. Fuckin’ sweet.
3. Is There Anybody Out There?
Released on March 23, 2000, Is There Anybody Out There? is a live recording from two separate performances of The Wall at Earl’s Court in London, in 1980 and 1981. It’s exactly what it says - The Wall, Live. The concert contains two extra songs though, not found on the studio LP: “What Shall We Do Now?” and “The Last Few Bricks.” An interesting note, some tracks are the last ones the band would ever play live together again, prior to their acrimonious split. The quartet would only ever play together once more, in 2005 at the Live 8 Concert.
This is a great live album, especially because I was way too young to see Floyd in concert when they toured back then. Pink Floyd only performed this concert 31 total times in four total cities. I was fortunate enough to see Roger Waters perform this in its entirety in 2012 and it was incredible.
Released on May 29, 1995, Pulse was a massive live album. Like Delicate Sound of Thunder before it, Pulse was recorded during the 1994 tour for The Division Bell. Originally it contained 23 tracks, including the entirety of the album The Dark Side of the Moon on disc two. Disc one contained tracks from the 70s-90s, including “Astronomy Domine” - first heard live on Ummagumma. Overall it was a well-produced, well-played live album. It’s entirely satisfying, with more grit than Delicate Sound of Thunder. There were also no studio shenanigans to fix what the band didn’t like. That doesn’t mean some things weren’t tweaked, but it wasn’t to the extent as previously done.
One curious quirk was that there was a blinking red LED light on the album spine, representing a pulse. Essentially this was representative of the album being alive/live. The battery lasted about six months.
1. Live at the Empire Pool
Ok, this is a rare one. Released on September 26, 2011, this album was recorded in the winter of 1974 while the band toured England. It’s notable because it not only included the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon but also because it highlights three songs that the band was working on which would go on to become classics. These are the early versions of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Raving and Drooling” (an early version of “Sheep”), and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy” (an early version of “Dogs”). The album also includes a great live version of “Echoes,” a fantastic cut. In total, there are 14 tracks.
This album was packaged and released in the album “Dark Side...Immersion Box Set,” so it’s understandable if nobody has either heard of or bought this. That’s why I said it’s a rare one. It’s a hell of an album though.
So there you have it, a ranking of the Pink Floyd live albums. Go download them and give them a listen.