When Director Adrian Maben decided to film Pink Floyd live in the ancient amphitheatre at Pompeii, the band was just about to reach the height of its inventiveness. Meddle was the mesmeric album that year; Saucerful Of Secrets and Ummagumma were already well established with the discerning fringe-element listener; and Dark Side Of The Moon was to follow two years later and break all records (and reach the wider public).
Woodstock (the film) had shown bands together with their flower-power audiences. Maben was looking for something different, and decided that the eerie calm of Pompeii, with its haunting history, would fit perfectly with the extraordinary (and uniquely identifiable) sound of Pink Floyd. He was right.
Listening again to Echoes after so many years ("Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air / And deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves / The echo of a distant time comes willowing across the sand..."), it seems obvious.
Is there anyone out there that doesn't know Pink Floyd's music? Other than The Wall and the cheesier elements of Dark Side Of The Moon, that seem to be continually reused in the most inappropriate ways? Possibly. In which case, there could be no better introduction (or refresher course) than this new Director's Cut of the original 1971 film.
Maben has cunningly built modern space elements into the original footage of planets, volcanoes, bubbling mud at Pozzuoli (near Pompeii) and ancient frescoes to resurrect tracks such as Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, One Of These Days and Careful With That Axe, Eugene (there's a wonderful volcanic erruption when you reach the scream).
All this is interleaved with fascinating, and at times revealing, clips of the band members chatting, cocking things up in the studio while recording DSOTM (1973), and generally acting just as you would expect a band who produced the most inspirational and infuential music of a generation. And this even though they did have extraordinarily posh accents, all having been to good schools in Cambridge...
The music still sounds inspirational and influential, and reminds us what is lacking in so many bands today. The musicianship is fantastic, whether it's guitars, synths, drums, Roger Waters bashing away at a huge gong against a background of rising steam... Us And Them could almost be classed as classical music, with its piano and soft sax creating an amazing atmosphere of calm introspection.
There's also a delightful aside called Mademoiselle Nobs, filmed in Paris (no, I don't know why), in which a very elegant Afghan hound of that name proves herself to be a star in her own right, howling in perfect pitch and at the appropriate times to accompany some deep blues.
Anyone who experienced Pink Floyd first-hand will relish the chance to relive some of their finer moments. Anyone who thinks The Wall was their greatest achievement should buy this DVD immediately and hear some of the really good stuff, before the splits and the bitterness crept in.