Rock 'N' Roll's greatest acid casualty/ one of the founders of the so-called Progressive Rock deserves a review here and I'm glad to have the honour to bring one to you. "Madcaps Laughs" was a singular statement in rock 'n' roll and was sort of a harsh-yet-essential document of Barrett's breakdown. He was joined there by Waters, Gilmour and Soft Machine's Ratledge, Hopper and Wyatt. In "Barrett" it is Gilmour, Wright and Humble Pie's Jerry Shirley on drums (remember the Seamus dog in Meddle was Steve Marriott's). Thankfully the album doesn't fill you with direct sorrow like the heartbreaking "Vegetable Man" or "Jugband Blues" or even most of "Madcap Laughs". It is a testament to Barrett's brilliance as a songwriter.
The music is very English, absurd and the closest resemblance would be whimsical circus-y mid-60s psych-pop and folk and the sound is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Only it's very much like the short songs on Saucerful of Secrets rather than the obvious guess of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Why? Two words - Rick Wright. Wright brings his trademark jazzy organ touches here and Gilmour plays bass. Gilmour also plays the 12 string guitar on "Baby Lemonade", drums on "Dominoes", 2nd organ on "It is Obvious" and "Gigolo Aunt", all the instruments save guitar on "Wined and Dined" and provides the arrangements for "Effervescing Elephant".
The intro to the Kinks-like "Baby Lemonade" could've come from Roger McGuinn except that it's Gilmour here. It turns to a folk tune with the ominous organ (think "Cirrus Minor") in the background. "Love Song" and "It is Obvious" are more playful. "Dominoes" is a classy outing for Barrett with Gilmour providing the monotonous beats. The other picks are the absurdist Lewis Caroll meets P.T. Barnum and H.P Lovecraft wordplay showcase "Rats"
Bam, spastic, tactile engine
heaving, crackle, slinky, dormy, roofy, wham
I'll have them, fried bloke
broken jardy, cardy, smoocho, moocho, paki, pufftle
sploshette moxy, very smelly,
cable, gable, splintra, channel
top the seam he's taken off
and "Maisie" where Barrett adopts scary grandpa blues vocals, the sort of voice one would adopt to frighten little kids during bed-time stories. The blues is played too. Rick's piano is something like on "Sheep" or even Ray Manzarek's in "Riders on the Storm". In short, very jazzy.
"Gigolo Aunt" is a bouncy romp with an infectious chorus (remember the band who took their name from this tune?). This is the sort that would appear soon in Floyd's recordings in the form of "San Tropez"/ "Free Four". A sparse Randy Newman/ Harry Nilsson gone psych. "Waving my arms..." (two-in-one song) gives out the same vibe though it is less whimsical and more bluesy/ folky/ jazzy. And I always get the similar Jugband blues:
Why I am here? What's meant to be?
"Wined and Dined" sounds similar to Piper's "Gnome". "Wolfpack" begins with harsher vocals amidst acoustic strumming and leads to an 'Alice in Wonderland' atmosphere. The best is saved for last. "Effervescing Elephant" is simply the best piece of nursery rhyme/ whimsy ever done in Rock history. More colour than Kipling's Jungle Book and yes, it is indeed a story in the forest. Something like a circus atmosphere Mr. Bungle would attempt three decades later.
As I finish the previous line, I realize I've said my piece here. I leave it all to you to decide. Whatever you think of Syd, there's no denying that he was special. Or from the fourth dimension!