Several years ago, Capitol Records released a terrific 3-CD box set called “Crazy Diamond,” by Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett.
Included are “The Madcap Laughs” and “Barrett” — Syd’s only solo albums after getting the boot from Floyd. Also featured is a third disc of unreleased material and rarities, called “Opel.”
For fans of the group’s early, more whimsical side, these CDs are simply astounding. Gone is the punky pyschedlia of the early Floyd singles that Syd wrote — like, say, the breakthrough, “Arnold Layne” or “Apples and Oranges.”
While it seems deeply influenced by the Beatles, Barrett’s new music was much heavier. His wild-eyed whimsy had evolved into pop songcraft of the highest order.
In no way was this morose flower-power stuff, though, even though it has a vague elegiac tone. In fact, believe it or not, Syd sounds tough — and incredibly modern.
The whole of “Barrett,” in particular, could fit easily into a college-radio rotation.
Capitol lovingly repackaged all three CDs, with generous bonus tracks, a big full-color booklet with great groovy pictures of Floyd when they were mod, even new cover art.
Those bonus tracks are another pleasant surprise: The stripped-down, in-studio glimpses are more enjoyable than they are anthropological. Barrett is almost scary on solo takes of “Baby Lemonade” and “It’s No Good Trying.”
“The Madcap Laughs” includes tracks produced by David Gilmour and Roger Waters; “Barrett” was produced by Gilmour alone.