As massive and hefty as a cinder block, Pink Floyd's The Early Years 1965-1972 is no conventional box set. It is an archive in miniature, offering 28 discs -- 11 CDs with the remaining discs being DVDs and Blu-Rays that offer duplicates of the same audio/visual material -- alongside replicas of original poster art, fliers, press releases, 7" singles and ticket stubs, all here to offer a deep, multi-tiered portrait of the years when Pink Floyd were fumbling around trying to find their voice. This isn't precisely uncovered territory -- during the eight years covered on this box set, Floyd released eight studio albums, and their early singles have been compiled on several collections, including 1971's Relics -- but what's available on this box is almost entirely rare, with much of it being unheard and unbootleged. This isn't limited to the audio tracks, either. The DVDs and Blu-Rays offer a cornucopia of stunning films, ranging from promo clips and BBC performances to interviews between Syd Barrett and Dick Clark, full live sets, documentaries, a version of "Interstellar Overdrive" with Frank Zappa from 1969, a ballet from 1972, rejected animations, and the entirety of More and Obscured by Clouds, two feature films Floyd scored.
The CDs are similarly loaded with remarkable discoveries, and many of them see light of day here: the Barrett compositions "Vegetable Man" and "In the Beechwoods"; a 1967 collaboration with artist John Latham, here split into nine continuous tracks; a full disc of outtakes from their soundtrack to Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point; selections from their score to The Committee; music they made to accompany the BBC's broadcast of the 1969 moon landing. All this makes The Early Years 1965-1972 seem like something of a clearinghouse for rarities, which it is, to an extent -- the producers rounded up every scrap of releasable audio and video, then put it in a box -- but what turns this set into an extraordinary experience is how all of is that this audio material is designed to work in conjunction with the video. Together, this mixed media provides rich portraits of individual years in Floyd's progression -- the entire set is broken into seven volumes with only the last, a collection of BBC Sessions and feature films, scheduled to be exclusive to this box -- and, taken together, they provide an immersive experience that conveys how Floyd's ascension to classic rock royalty was by no means assured. Unlike Dark Side of the Moon and everything after, there is no sense of polish to the music on The Early Years 1965-1972, but there is a great sense of adventure. Because so much of this music is raw -- it's alternately live, unfinished, and improvisatory -- the box underscores how Pink Floyd were an underground band right up until Dark Side. Decades later, these recordings still feel boundless: this was music made without a destination in mind and the journey remains thrilling.