Being the quintessential album rock band, Pink Floyd hasn't had much luck with "best-of" and "greatest-hits" compilations, like A Collection of Great Dance Songs and the bizarro follow-up, Works. Since both of those were released in the early '80s (and time travel being unavailable even to Pink Floyd), they obviously left out any tracks from the post-Roger Waters era albums. While countless hours in dorm rooms have been spent laboring over whether or not the post-Waters recordings should even be considered the "real Floyd," the later albums nonetheless stand as a further progression in the band's evolution and warrant recognition. The 2001 release Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd does just that, sequencing the tracks non-chronologically in an effort to place more emphasis on the individual songs as opposed to the era they're from. Unfortunately, the effect is rather jarring when the songs transition from the clinical mid-'90s sound of "High Hopes" directly into the psychedelic groove of the much earlier "Bike." Interestingly, as is the case with most of their albums (but a rarity in "hits" compilations), most of the tracks fade into one another; the hum of "Keep Talking" segueing into the bleating of "Sheep," making for an intriguing listen from one song to the next.
There are many highlights on this collection: the inclusion of the Floyd holy grail "When the Tigers Broke Free," a sweeping Waters military dirge that has only appeared in the film The Wall, and the fascinating "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 1-7," which has never before been released without the break in the middle (but conspicuously missing parts eight and nine). The confusing inclusion of "The Fletcher Memorial Home" (possibly just to cover something fromThe Final Cut) and three songs from the decidedly mediocre Division Bell stand out as obvious head-scratchers, making the die-hard Pink Floyd fan wonder if compiler James Guthrie was really clear on what this album should represent. Guthrie's job was unfortunately doomed from the start; since Pink Floyd's strength has always been in the band's rich, sprawling albums, listening to selections cut and chopped from here and there makes it almost like watching three-minute segments from Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, and Apocalypse Now, knowing full well that they hold together much better as whole works. Still, Echoes is nearly the best possible assembly of the band's individual songs one could hope for, and collectors and completists should be overjoyed. That being said, anyone just getting into this group's fascinating sound would be much better off starting with Dark Side of the Moon, then working forward, then backward from there: the time honored system of hungrily consuming the Pink Floyd catalog that has stood for generations.