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Pink on blue

Blue Floyd dredge Southern roots from classic rocker's


When Syd Barrett christened Pink Floyd in 1966, he had the South on his mind -- two blues men named Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, to be precise. Known for their intimate song writing, Anderson and Council have become little more than footnotes on the pages of music history while their British admirers have taken their influence to rock superstardom.

Nearly 35 years after Pink Floyd's legacy began, a group of musicians with notable Southern rock ties calling themselves Blue Floyd are attempting to rekindle the intimacy of Pink Floyd's beginnings. By deconstructing the music of Pink Floyd into its elemental form, the group has created a sound that pays as much homage to Muddy Waters as it does to Roger Waters. "Pink Floyd is on such a grand scale that if you're going to see them play you'd better bring a pair of binoculars," Blue Floyd frontman Berry Oakley Jr. says. "The music is very intimate and there's no intimacy at a show that size. Blue Floyd plays at smaller venues, like the Variety Playhouse, making the show a much more personal experience."

Tracing Blue Floyd's history is like playing "six degrees of separation" for Southern rock. The lineup includes Berry Oakley Jr. and guitarist Duanne Betts, the offspring of late Allman Brothers members Berry Oakley Sr. and Dickey Betts. Former Allman Brothers keyboardist Johnny Neel also brings his talents to the band, along with guitarist Marc Ford (formerly of the Black Crowes) and drummer Alex Orbison, the son of musical legend Roy Orbison. Gov't Mule drummer Matt Abts and bassist Allen Woody (who will not appear at this weekend's Atlanta shows) will join the band for the second half of this summer's tour.

While Blue Floyd could build a name for itself based on connections to groups in which its members -- and members' relatives -- have played, dropping names is not part of the band's approach. "I love and respect my father's work but I don't want to build a career based on what he did," Oakley says. "A lot of promoters like to exploit the marquee value of names like the Allman Brothers, but we want people to know that we stand on our own as musicians."

Having formed in January of this year, Blue Floyd has already released five triple-CD sets of live material (recorded in New York City, Boston, Richmond, Atlanta and Detroit) through the Internet-based label CD Internet Archive. With a 'back to the basics' approach to such epic works as "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," "Us and Them" and "Wish You Were Here," Blue Floyd preserves the original framework of the music while guiding it into forgotten territories. The result is a collection of lengthy jams that recall Pink Floyd's blues influence as well as the psychedelic murkiness of its original architects.

"We're not a cover band," Oakley says. "Pink Floyd's music is written largely around blues arrangements and we're really working with this. Unlike Jimi Hendrix or Black Sabbath, who have had countless musicians emulate their work, improvisation with Pink Floyd's music is something we haven't seen. It's very exciting and the live show is an essential part of what we do."

Blue Floyd plays the Variety Playhouse on July 7 and 8. The group performs along to a video of The Wizard of Oz on Fri., July 7, and to 2001: A Space Odyssey on Sat., July 8. Both shows start at 9 p.m.; tickets are $16 in advance, $18 day of show. For more information call 404-521-1786.

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