Pink Floyd releases career-spanning greatest hits collection

by Mark Sweeney | 11/9/01 6:00am

As the greatest psychedelic band in the history of popular music and the alpha and omega of the space rock genre, Pink Floyd has left an indelible mark on mainstream rock over the course of its 35-year career.

Yet, while the group achieved massive commercial success, its style was not that of penning a hit single; rather, most Pink Floyd albums functioned as a cohesive whole, both sonically and conceptually. In effect, a greatest hits album is contradictory to the purpose of the band.

With that being said, the Pink Floyd library is full of spectacular songs that would stand well alone as singles. "Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd" strives to incorporate all their classic tunes into a two-disc greatest hits set, and in general it succeeds.

"Echoes" does an admirable job of including tracks from nearly every Pink Floyd studio album, from 1967's "The Piper At The Gates of Dawn" to 1994's "The Division Bell." The earliest tracks featured are the Syd Barrett-led group's first two hit singles, the psychedelic classics "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play." While Barrett only remained with the group for one full album, the collection contains five songs from the Barrett era.

These tracks provide a solid introduction to the early Pink Floyd sound, which stands out as some of the best British psychedelic rock ever recorded.

The earlier, less notable post-Barrett albums are overlooked, as the album picks up with the Roger Waters-led era with two tracks from the underrated "Meddle" album, "One of These Days" and "Echoes."

As is expected, the record devotes much of its time to Pink Floyd's famous concept albums of the 1970's, specifically "Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here" and "The Wall." Classic rock radio staples like "Money," "Wish You Were Here" and "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" are all present.

Also included from the Waters era: "Sheep" from the "Animals" record, "The Fletcher Memorial Home" from "The Final Cut" and one unreleased track, "When the Tigers Broke Free," which appears on the soundtrack to "The Wall" but had never been featured on an album to this point.

After the departure of Waters from the band in the mid-1980's, Pink Floyd pressed on under the leadership of guitarist David Gilmour, who had originally entered the group to replace Barrett. "Echoes" incorporates five tracks from the generally unimpressive Gilmour-led era. Of these selections, the best-known track is the radio hit "Learning to Fly."

In general, the record is a fine compilation of Pink Floyd tracks that provides the listener with a relatively complete snapshot of the group's remarkable career. Though it cannot compare to some of the studio albums in terms of cohesiveness and importance, this record is a good addition to any Pink Floyd fan's library.