Syd Barrett, whose short career scaled the heights of experimental pop as well as the lonesome corridors of psychedelic isolation, has his work featured on a 3-CD box set due out on EMI next month. And no fewer than 23 unreleased recordings, together with a detailed booklet, are promised on what's already - even by EMI's standards - being described as a particularly fine package.
Titled "Crazy Diamond" the set is based on the original Pink Floyd frontman's two official solo albums, "The Madcap Laughs" and "Barrett", plus "Opel", the collection of out-takes which appeared in 1988. Designer and rock archivist Phil Smee, who is behind the project, told us: "Our main plan was to find Syd's acoustic takes, before the other musicians were drafted in to overdub them. But we stumbled across some fascinating material that sheds new light on Syd's working methods. "For example, on 'It Is Obvious', he starts off with a version which is very different to the one that ended up on 'Barrett'. The next one finds him growling like Captain Beefheart, and a third recording finds him singing a totally different tune and picking out the guitar lines." Another exciting find is a version of "Clowns and Jugglers", the working version of "Octopus", where Syd overdubs four guitars.
The bonus recordings are spread over the three discs relevant to each album, and each CD runs for over 60 minutes. "The colourful packaging and Brian Hogg-penned booklet virtually re-state just what Barrett was about," maintains Phil, "and by that I mean there's no out-of-focus doomy photos. The spirit of '67 pervades the box throughout." Collectors should also look out for a forthcoming UFO book, 'Pink Floyd: The Syd Barrett Years - A Photographic Diary', which contains a virtual day-by-day account of Syd's Floyd, from 1966 to 1968, plus literally 100s of unpublished photos.
And what of the enigma himself? According to a close family source, he's feeling a lot better, and approves of both "Opel" and EMI's dedication to his recorded legacy.