Where Pink Floyd started and where they ended up are entirely different places. As one of the U.K.’s premier psychedelic bands, they pioneered a style and sound that influenced countless artists over the next several decades. Their discography is as wildly varied as any you’ll find, with soundtrack albums, concept records and de facto solo LPs scattered among their catalog.
After original leader Syd Barrett flamed out with a series of mental and drug-induced breakdowns, the band changed direction, slowly turning into one of progressive music’s most accomplished and successful groups. They were also one of rock’s most challenging acts in the ’70s, but that didn’t stop millions of fans from making them global superstars with such albums as The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, both multi-platinum chart-toppers.
As Pink Floyd’s history grew, the relationships among the four remaining members slowly deteriorated, to the point where ’80s albums like The Final Cut and A Momentary Lapse of Reason are essentially solo albums by, respectively, Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Still, their discography is one of rock’s sturdiest, from the psychedelic masterpiece that kicked it all off in 1967 to the quiet ambient requiem they ended their career with in 2014.
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ (1967)
On their debut album, Pink Floyd both pioneered and refined psych-rock from the era. Syd Barrett, who made only this one full album with the band he founded, pretty much dominates the songs, twisting his words around equally skewed sounds and patterns. As the band moved on without him, it got more ambitious, but it also lost much of its playfulness.
A Saucerful of Secrets’ (1968)
David Gilmour’s first Pink Floyd album, and Syd Barrett’s last, A Saucerful of Secrets was pieced together around Barrett’s deteriorating mental state. It’s less cohesive than the band’s debut, and it often sounds like it was made by a group in transition. Following its release in 1968, the core lineup settled in for bigger and grander things.
Pink Floyd’s first full album without Syd Barrett doubles as a soundtrack album to a little-seen movie by director Barbet Schroeder (who later made Single White Female). The music is among the band’s most experimental, drifting from acoustic folk songs to avant-garde noise rock. It’s more of a curio than an essential work in their catalog.
Over the years, band members have distanced themselves from this double album, which is half live document, half solo recordings. And despite its relatively low standing among the group and fans, it marks another transitional work by Pink Floyd as they inched their way toward mainstream success.
Atom Heart Mother’ (1970)
Pink Floyd’s fifth album, like their fourth, hasn’t always set well with the band (Roger Waters, in particular, never liked it). With The Dark Side of the Moon three years away, they expand their sound into more progressive territory here, with the six-part, nearly 24-minute title track paving the way for things to come.
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