Since I changed focus and started highlighting albums instead of songs, I haven’t been doing the song countdowns which originally peppered this blog. I thought I could satisfy my list-making cravings by adding a Top 50 songs list at the conclusion of each album Retro Review series. So here is my list of Pink Floyd’s Top 50 songs. If you want to check out my comments on each song, just go back through the posts about the albums.
50. “Corporal Clegg”
49. “Welcome To The Machine”
48. “Jugband Blues”
47. “What Do You Want From Me?”
46. “Pigs On The Wing”
45. “The Show Must Go On”
44. “The Post War Dream”
43. “Crying Song”
42. “A Saucerful Of Secrets”
40. “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives”
38. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1)”
37. “On The Run”
36. “Outside The Wall”
35. “Obscured By Clouds”
34. “Interstellar Overdrive”
33. “Take It Back”
32. “Green Is The Colour”
31. “See Emily Play”
30. “Wots…Uh The Deal?”
28. “Speak To Me/Breathe In The Air”
27. “One Of My Turns”
26. “The Great Gig In The Sky”
25. “The Final Cut”
24. “Learning To Fly”
23. “Astronomy Domine”
22. “Goodbye Blue Sky”
21. “One Of These Days”
20. “Lucifer Sam”
19. “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”
18. “On The Turning Away”
17. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”
16. “Free Four”
14. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)”
13. “When The Tigers Broke Free”
12. “Have A Cigar”
11. “Run Like Hell”
8. “Nobody Home”
7. “The Gunner’s Dream”
6. “Wish You Were Here”
4. “Brain Damage/Eclipse”
3. “Comfortably Numb”
2. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”
1. “Us And Them”
Thanks to everyone for tuning into this series. It’s been a blast, as Pink Floyd have been one of my favorite artists for years upon years. I hope to kick off another series in a few weeks. In the meantime, you can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. I also plan to start linking to my articles on American Songwriter when they arrive online, so those of you can enjoy my writing can see it applied to reviews on current music or features on older songs and albums. And, of course, the links below are to my books and e-books. Talk to you all soon.
Pink Floyd’s last album was a reunion of sorts, as David Gilmour welcomed Nick Mason, who hardly played on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, and Rick Wright, who really hadn’t been a full-time group member since The Wall sessions, back into the fold for 1994’s The Division Bell. (Roger Waters still wasn’t on speaking terms with the band.) Even though the album was not quite a return to classic form, it did contain moments of the old hypnotic grandeur and perhaps provided a little bit of closure for fans of this one-of-a-kind band. Here is a song-by-song review.
11. “Wearing The Inside Out”- A bit of a throwback as far as the credits are concerned, as Wright gets sole credit for writing the music and takes lead vocals on a Floyd song for the first time in decades, while old Floyd buddy Dick Parry plays the sax. Unfortunately, the sleepy jazz exotica meanders and never ignites.
10. “Cluster One”- One more atmospheric album-opening tone-setter for old time’s sake, with Wright getting a co-writing credit along with Gilmour. Alas, its New Age vibe is a precursor to the lack of edginess that would dog the entire album. A bit of the old mystery creeps in during a stark duet between Gilmour and Wright, but it’s not quite enough to make this memorable.
9. “Poles Apart”- Co-writer Polly Samson (then Gimour’s girlfriend, now his wife) has been quoted as saying that the first verse of the song was directed at Syd Barrett and the second at Roger Waters. That’s all fine and well, but neither of those verses are particularly revealing, which is a problem because the music, marked by directionless acoustic guitars, doesn’t exactly carry the load either. Not even the more aggressive full-band section at the end can bring this one to life.
8. “A Great Day For Freedom”- Gilmour’s lyric-writing, shared again here with Samson, can be frustratingly vague, something that was never a problem with Waters, who could be specific to a fault. On this stately, musically fetching ballad, he was apparently talking about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the lack of meaningful change that followed it, but the words, while subtly suggestive, still don’t cut anywhere near as deep as the solo that wraps up the track.
7. “Marooned”- Hey, this one won a Grammy, so that’s something, right? I actually like the way this instrumental feels like it’s always perched on the edge of some sort of breakthrough that never quite comes. And it’s always a kick to hear Gilmour playing those patented piercing high notes that never go out of style.
6. “Coming Back To Life”- This song is half-great and half-frustrating. The first part, with Gilmour pining for a missing love over Wright’s luscious synthesizers, promises a melancholy lullaby. But the groove that kicks in is so clunky and forgettable that it drags down everything around it. Had the band kept it sleek and seductive, it could have been a classic.
5. “Lost For Words”- Gilmour, again with an assist from Samson, gets a bit more aggressive on this track; it’s a stunner when he drops the F-bomb with that seemingly unaffected voice toward the end of the song. I know people go looking for evidence of digs at Waters in Floyd’s last two albums; if there are any, they are probably in this song. The melody is nice, but a bit more musical punch would have suited the lyrical feistiness a bit better.
4. “Keep Talking”- The spirit of experimentation that is such a big part of the group’s history is evident here, what with a cameo from Stephen Hawking and some cool effects throughout from Gilmour’s bag of tricks. It probably doesn’t justify the song’s length; come to think of it, most of the songs on the album could have been edited more judiciously to keep things sharp. Still, it’s striking in a moody way.
3. “High Hopes”- Again, this closing track like a missed opportunity of sorts. The music is ambitious and features some nifty reminders of the past, like Wright’s “Echoes”-like, icy piano notes to Michael Kamen’s stirring orchestration which sounds a lot like some of the grandiose moments on The Wall. Still, the lyrics are cumbersome and strain for the kind of impact that the music makes with little effort.
2. “What Do You Want From Me”- It’s got a wonderful groove, albeit one rehashed pretty brazenly from “Have A Cigar.” I also like the fact that Gilmour’s deviates from his fall-back vocal setting of placid dreaminess to let some emotion show through, and, as always, the backing vocalists are well-utilized. Plus, it’s nice to hear the old Gilmour/Wright harmonies in the bridge.
1. “Take It Back”- So what if it sounds more like late-period Moody Blues than classic Floyd. This track still has the focus and melodic punch that is sorely lacking elsewhere. Gilmour sings it beautifully, and those walled female backing vocals are strong. I’m not sure if Gimour is singing to a lover or to the Earth; I just know it’s the one song on the album that neither wanders off the path nor wears out its welcome, which, for a six-minute track, is no faint praise.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material which originated on this site, check out the links below.)
If there were any doubt about the contrast between the two leaders of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour drives it home on 1987’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, the first Pink Floyd project following the departure of Roger Waters from the band. As much of a Gilmour solo album if not more than The Final Cut was Waters’ baby, the album eschews, for the most part wordiness and concepts in favor of the instrumental flights of fancy that were once the band’s calling card. The change in strategy works for half the album before it bogs down in the latter stages.
9. “Yet Another Movie/Round And Round”- Imagine Phil Collins-era Genesis at their fussiest but without the moments of hammy humor or poppy catchiness and you’ve pretty much got the idea of what this slog delivers, even with studio aces Tony Levin and Jim Keltner helping out.
8. “Terminal Frost”- If you’re looking for tasteful if passsionless soundtrack material, then you’ve come to the right place. But you actually bought a Pink Floyd record, so you’re probably quite disappointed with this.
7. “The Dogs Of War”- The one song on the album where the lyrics sort of take center stage is as unsmiling and strident as anything Waters ever spat. It’s not quite eloquent enough to carry that kind of weight.
6. “A New Machine”- The vocoder effect on Gilmour’s voice with the lack of any real instrumentation behind it is a striking effect, but that’s all that’s really here. The two parts of this track are positioned as the bread of a sandwich for which “Terminal Frost” is the meat, making this one of the most askew and forgettable song suites the band has ever attempted.
5. “Sorrow”- It’s got some great playing for Gilmour as well as some lyrics from him that, while a bit busy, are good enough to get by. Still, the whole thing never rises above the moody, airless atmosphere it maintains, making it a closing track that fails to ignite.
4. “Signs Of Life”- Gilmour conjures a “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” throwback vibe on this opening instrumental, which is well-sequenced before the crashing opening of “Learning To Fly.” Rick Wright makes his return to the band with some synthesizer work on the track.
3. “One Slip”- There is a kind of sterile professionalism that was very much of the time that dogs this track a bit, and the lyrics, which seem to be a meditation on the perils of impetuous romance, get clunky here and there. Still, the sweeping chorus cures a lot of ills, and the pinball sound effects at the start are a fun touch.
2. “Learning To Fly”- If there’s a slight quibble with this hit, it’s that the questing, aerial tone of the lyrics doesn’t quite jibe with the lurching rhythm. Only in the final verse, with Gilmour’s voice made to sound disembodied, does that kind of dreamy feel infiltrate the track. Still, this is a focused, well-produced rock song (great backing vocals in the chorus, by the way) that nods to the band’s spirit of experimentation but still stays accessible throughout. And, say what you will about the lyrical content elsewhere on the album, but the words here, inspired by Gilmour’s flying lessons, are excellent.
1. “On The Turning Away”- Writing a message ballad is always tricky business, since things can get sappy real quick. But Gilmour, who wrote the music and got an assist on the lyrics from Anthony Moore, avoids that trap by keeping things balanced between dour realism and tentative hope. The melody is one of the loveliest in the band’s catalog, while the words are humbly poetic and subtly stirring. Gilmour gets the chance for an extended solo rip at the end, all fiery anguish and unchecked emotion. Probably the best song released under the Pink Floyd banner after Waters’ exit.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material that originated on this site, check out the links below.)
I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m deviating from my recent schedule of posting a Pink Floyd Retro Review today because of the MLK holiday. I’ll be back with A Momentary Lapse Of Reason tomorrow before wrapping things up with The Division Bell on Thursday or Friday.
In the meantime, in honor of the holiday, enjoy the link below to my American Songwriter article on U2’s tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., “Pride (In The Name Of Love.)”
Rick Wright was gone, David Gilmour and Nick Mason were relegated to session-playing duties, and Roger Waters had a vice-grip on the helm. Perhaps 1983’s The Final Cut is a Pink Floyd album in name only, but, as completely written and conceived by Waters, it makes some strong, if blunt points, about the slippery slope to which even minor wars can lead, and is sporadically brilliant in its efforts to do so. Here is a song-by-song review.
12. “Not Now John”- The cynical view would be that Waters gave Gilmour the opportunity to sing the album’s most grating song as a kind of punishment. That’s probably a bit harsh, but there is no denying that this song is such a sore thumb from the rest of the music on the album and so pitch-black in its worldview that it’s hard to endure.
11. “One Of The Few”- One of the common criticisms of The Final Cut is that it’s an unrelenting downer. It’s certainly has a bleak outlook, but it shouldn’t be criticized for it; there’s no rule that all music should be happy and chirpy. That said, this ominous interstitial doesn’t express its cynicism that originally, making it a rather depressing minute or so of your life.
10. “The Hero’s Return”-This track has some interesting musical ideas and lyrics, but they are sort of rammed in together without much coherence or flow. As a result, this feels like a missed opportunity.
9. “Southampton Dock”- There’s nothing egregiously wrong with this lament commemorating the British dock from which soldiers headed off to war, but neither the lyrics nor the music express much that can’t be found elsewhere in this batch of songs.
8. “The Fletcher Memorial Home”- The music is slog, at least until Gilmour joins the fray with a solid solo and Mason makes his presence felt for one of the few times on the album with aggressive banging. You can’t ever accuse Waters of pulling punches or tiptoeing around a matter, as he articulates here his vision of a permanent getaway for “wasters of life and limb”, many of whom were among the most powerful men on the planet at the time, so they can’t do any more damage,
7. “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert”- A throwback to the musical theme introduced by “The Post War Dream”, this track name-drops some world leaders and features a title that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Floyd’s entrancing instrumentals from back in the day.
6. “Your Possible Pasts”- It’s clear listening to this track that it came from the batch of songs that Waters had written for The Wall; the themes and the musical shifts from lullaby-like quietude to jarring loudness were very characteristic of that project. The ideas are a bit jumbled here and it feels a bit by-the-numbers when Gilmour comes in for his guitar solo, but the song still demands your attention.
5. “Two Suns In The Sunset”- Anyone hoping for some kind of cathartic ending a la The Wall coming down is in for a rude awakening. Waters blows up the Earth to drive home what he sees as the ultimate result of all of the insanity and violence. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, not even leavened by the jazzy sax solo in the run-out.
4. “Paranoid Eyes”- This forgotten track is a cutting look at the inner fears and secret obsessions that dog even the seemingly serene among us. The music revisits a lot of the same tropes used on this album and The Wall, but the lyrics are finely observed and the generality of the character sketch ties in well with the specific concerns voiced elsewhere on the album.
3. “The Post-War Dream”- Musically, this is very much in the vein of “When The Tigers Broke Free”, another superlative song seen in The Wall movie which fell between the cracks of Floyd albums. The difference between the two is that “The Post War Dream” eventually explodes out of the elegiac harmonium part played by co-producer Michael Kamen to a brief but potent blast of electric energy that captures the build-up of rage and frustration in Waters’ lyrics. It’s nicely situated as the album’s table-setter and it’s quite strong on it’s own.
2. “The Final Cut”- I suppose you could downgrade this song for too closely rehashing some of the musical motifs from The Wall (it seriously resembles “Comfortable Numb.”) I choose to forgive the similarities because it’s such a beautiful and resonant song, featuring one of Gilmour’s best guitar moments on the album and some heartfelt lyrics. Waters muses on the destructive effect all the bitter memories and ongoing carnage is having on his ability to connect with another human being.
1. “The Gunner’s Dream”- Although he doesn’t conistently demonstrate it in the most artful manner, there is no denying the passion Waters has for the subject matter of The Final Cut. On this masterful track, that passion is matched by exquisite songwriting and a fully-realized recording. The music shifts from quiet to loud with grace and purpose, the highlight coming when Waters’ piercing scream seamlessly blends into Raphael Ravenscroft’s sax solo. The lyrics are a stirring combination of poignant details of a funeral and personal pleas to avoid repeating such senseless deaths. Through it all runs an undercurrent of desperate hope that “The Gunner’s Dream” someday will come to fruition.
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Roger Waters’ thematic aspirations reached their apex with 1979’s The Wall, the first Pink Floyd concept album to feature a (sort 0f) linear storyline that allowed the double-album to blossom into an elaborate stage show and a motion picture. It’s unwieldy in points, suffers at times from an overload of exposition at the expense of the extended, evocative musical passages that the band had perfected in the past, and bogs down a bit with negativity in the final act. In spite of all that, this big, lumbering project includes some stunning peaks and turns out to be downright moving. Here is a song-by-song review.
26. “Waiting For The Worms”- A jumbled rehash of some of the album’s musical themes married to Waters’ visions of a fascist takeover. This macabre turn in the final act is by far the album’s weakest idea.
25. “Don’t Leave Me Now”- The old “can’t live with you, can’t live without you” cliche is articulated in rather tortured fashion by Waters. It’s hard to take him seriously when he’s screeching all over the place. It’s also a shame that one of Rick Wright’s few showcases on the album is such a limp affair.
24. “Stop”- Pink, the main character, wakes from his stupor to ask for judgment. Just a fragment of a song.
23. “Goodbye Cruel World”- It’s hard to get too worked up, good or bad, for this little ditty whose main purpose is to show Pink’s complete despair as the first album comes to a close.
22. “Empty Spaces”- A brief, atmospheric plot-pusher that’s most notable for Waters’ effectively quivering lead vocal and the backward messages that add to the album’s overall tone of mystery and menace.
21. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part III)”- The continuation of the first disc’s main musical theme downplays the disco from the earlier passages and concentrates on a harder-rocking approach.
20. “In The Flesh”- The execution of Pink’s descent into fascism is pulled off well enough, as the band reprises the opening number with a new set of lyrics that takes a dastardly turn. This is the beginning of the section of the album that has always bothered me though; Pink’s transformation into a monster has always struck me as too extreme and a shaky leap in logic. I get it that Waters is telling a cautionary tale, but the bile here is still tough to swallow.
19. “The Thin Ice”- It’s interesting that Waters gets often unfavorably compared to David Gilmour as a vocalist, but part of that is due to the fact that he usually took on the wordier, less melodic sections whereas Gilmour got the more lyrical stuff. This brief song which welcomes our hero into the world with a dire warning is a good example of this phenomenon.
18. “Young Lust”- To me, the band were never quite as convincing as bluesy rockers as they were when they summoned more elusive atmosphere. This song has earned a lot of classic rock airplay over the years even though it feels like the band is purposely and ironically trying to imitate the arena rock posturing that was popular at the time. Gilmour definitely sinks his teeth into it though, and the phone bit at the end is great.
17. “Bring The Boys Back Home”- Waters has stated that the song refers not just to soldiers but to anyone who has figuratively gone off to dangerous places, like the main character of The Wall. It’s an interesting concept that the album doesn’t always articulate as well as this elemental, orchestra-backed plea manages to do.
16. “Vera”- I always want “Vera” to go on a little bit longer, since the promise of a moving song is contained in this sketch. As it is, it’s a sweet, sad postage stamp.
15. “The Trial”- How do you wrap up something so brimming with ideas as The Wall? By constructing a musical theater-based number that sounds like Gilbert & Sullivan meets Freud. Your feelings about it are likely tied to your tolerance to this kind of project as a whole, but you can’t deny that it’s comprehensive in tidying up the loose ends. Plus, it gives some overdue catharsis with the final chant.
14. “Is There Anybody Out There?”- Bob Ezrin, the album’s co-producer, apparently had a lot to do with the composition of this mostly instrumental track, even though Waters’ gets full credit. Oddly enough, one of the most Floydian passages on the album comes courtesy of session man Joe DiBlasi on classical guitar and Michael Kamen’s understated string arrangement.
13. “Hey You”- It’s a bit too wispy to rank any higher, despite its status as one of the group’s most oft-played songs. There are nice moments, such as Gilmour’s self-harmonies and the clever reprise of the “Another Brick In The Wall” motif in the instrumental break. Waters’ plea for empathy in the lyrics is only intermittently effective, although his vocals in the final section are powerful. So it’s somewhat hit-and-miss for me.
12. “In The Flesh?”- Gilmour’s strutting guitar and Mason’s machine-gun drums are the aural equivalent of Waters’ sneer in this table-setting opening track. “Is this not what you expected to see,” might as well have been Roger’s preemptive strike on any critics who would bemoan the band’s stylistic change on the album to a more lyric-driven mode. Still, as a thundering colossus of sound, this works just fine.
11. “The Show Must Go On”- The Beach Boys homage is performed beautifully, even if only Bruce Johnston showed up to help out on the harmonies. The lyrics capture Pink at a turning point, desperately trying to salvage his humanity even as the pressures of his life push him further into oblivion.
10. “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives”- An example of an interstitial number that soars to impressive heights during its brief existence. Waters spits out some cutting lines about the nastiness and hypocrisy of teachers as the band rumbles behind him. Some skyyscraping chord changes and a rare showcase for Nick Mason on drums follow it up for one of the musical high points on the album.
9. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part I)”- This passage expertly builds the tension that is eventually exploded by Part II. It’s got some nice little interplay between Gilmour’s flickering guitar, Waters’ insinuating bass lines, and Wright’s blanketing synthesizers, a fleeting example of the band’s ability to evoke a desired mood with seemingly little effort.
8. “Outside The Wall”- Waters closes the book on this massive undertaking with a relative whisper. The simple humanity of it is impossible to deny, as is Waters’ weathered but resilient vocal.
7. “Mother”- Waters is one of those songwriters who will put the listener in a position of discomfort at times to get his point across. For as lovely as this song is in terms of the lilting music, it’s subject matter is quite dark when you think about the smother, I mean, mother character and her well-meaning but ultimately severely damaging effect on Pink’s maturation. That’s Jeff Porcaro of Toto on drums, filling in for Nick Mason, who apparently couldn’t wrap his head around the off-kilter time signatures.
6. “One Of My Turns”- A nice balance here is struck here between the necessity to advance Pink’s story and the ultimate goal to engage the audience with compelling music. Waters’ acts out the lyrics well, from the dejected first part to the explosive second half. And it finds room for a great instrumental break with the band clicking as a unit.
5. “Goodbye Blue Sky”- Waters gets criticized at times for melodic simplicity, but there are several songs on the album that feature tunes that are quite haunting. This acoustic lament is undoubtedly one of them, buoyed by the pretty harmonies and Gilmour’s affecting led vocal. Once upon a time, these acoustic reveries were crucial components of Floyd albums; this memorable track proved that they could still quiet things down in mesmerizing fashion.
4. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)”- When The Wall is at its best is when Waters’ obsessions break out of their very personal origins and resonate beyond to a wide swath of people who can relate. All of the five-star songs really fit that bill, and this unlikely hit single is the perfect example. It’s popularity is often credited to the faux disco that the band pulls off with aplomb, although fans of their past work should know that their was a little funkiness lurking in their extended jams. What’s really striking is how Waters’ gives voice, figuratively and literally, to school kids, a group whose views are too often trivialized or viewed as unworthy. Throw in a fiery Gilmour solo at the end, and this song deserves every bit of its popularity and cultural ubiquity.
3. “Run Like Hell”- There is a great dichotomy at play here between the threatening paranoia of Waters’ lyrics and the music, co-composed by Waters and Gilmour, which rings somewhat triumphant in spite of the words. The same kind of tension is achieved by Gilmour’s guitars, which flicker ominously as an underpinning only to come crashing in gleefully with airy chords. Wright gets a rare spotlight with a whining synthesizer solo that’s far more aggressive than his typically dreamy work. It’s a thrilling rock song which a trenchant warning to the audience about the importance of constant vigilance.
2. “Nobody Home”- One of the all-time great rock ballads came only after Ezrin challenged Waters to write another song for an already-teeming album. The music features Ezrin picking out the piano melody, Wright adding some subtle synthesizer effects, and the New York Symphony Orchestra providing gorgeous support. Although the lyrics contain references to both Syd Barrett at his most damaged and to Wright’s deteriorating state, Waters reveals more about himself here in some ways than he does with all of the autobiographical stuff on the first part of the record. In so doing, he makes it relatable to anyone who’s ever come to the hard realization that money and possessions don’t hold a candle to genuine human connection.
1. “Comfortably Numb”- More than any other song here, it can be removed from the context of the album and not suffer a bit. Gilmour’s melodic ease drives the track into the stratosphere; the guitar solo in between the two lyrical sections is rightfully one of the most iconic in rock history, while his vocals are fantastic. Waters meanwhile fits perhaps his most moving set of lyrics into this impeccable musical frame. There is a sense that the narrator has reached the end of himself, even as he desperately tries to make others see his true essence (“This is not how I am.”) Delivers chills every single time.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material that originated on this website, check out the links below.)
It was a case of another year, another concept album for Pink Floyd. But while Dark Side Of The Moon and Shine On You Crazy Diamond were unmitigated triumphs, 1977’s Animals betrayed the fact that some of the songs, which weren’t quite up to the level of the previous albums anyway, were shoehorned into the concept after having been written a few years previous. As a result, instead of feeling like it was meticulously assembled by tweezers, the album feels more like it was smashed into place by a blunt hammer. That force is appealing at times, but there is a reason why Animals doesn’t quite share the lofty reputation of its predecessors.
4. “Sheep”- If there’s an overriding problem with Animals, it’s that the main concept is a relatively well-trodden one. No matter how well Roger Waters articulates it, and he does it very well in spots in this song, it all feels like a little bit of a retread. That means that the music has to do the heavy lifting, and on “Sheep”, that music doesn’t really get in gear until the soaring final section, when the oppressed bovine take their revenge. Up ’til then, it’s plodding and melody-free, and the vocoder part is frustrating in that you can’t really discern the words anyway.
3. “Dogs”- I prefer the bluesier middle section to the airy acoustic parts, which don’t really seem to have much of a connection to Waters’ pitch-black dissertation on business ethics and the silent toll taken on those who eschew them. David Gilmour’s melodies aren’t as strong as they could be, perhaps due to the burden of having to squeeze in the verbiage. Still, there are some moments of grandeur on the electric guitar, and the final bit of lyrics has the same kind of repetitive sweep managed on “Eclipse,” especially with Waters conveying the mixed emotions a bit better here with his vocals than his bandmate.
2. “Pigs On The Wing”- Waters used this little love-conquers-all, acoustic ditty to bookend the album as a way of humanizing all the heavy-handed metaphors that dot the album. It’s sweet and reminiscent of some of the band’s folkier, pre-Dark Side days. It’s a technique he would revisit again on The Wall.
1. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”- Tough and funky all at once, this powerhouse track was written solely by Waters but really couldn’t have been realized without Gimour’s instrumental virtuosity. He takes over the bass duties here and gives the song an elastic bottom end, then comes out of nowhere with a Talk Box solo in the middle part that’s just the right amount of over-the-top. In the meantime, Waters is at his antagonistic best in the lyrics, taking on the powers that be and letting them know they’re not fooling anyone (“ha, ha, charade you are.”) But all of his jibes can’t prevent the damage that his targets can d0: “You’re nearly a laugh/But you’re really a cry.” And nobody tears up the finish of a song quite like Gilmour, as he proves here with a searing solo.
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How do you follow up an album as monumental as Dark Side Of The Moon? Pink Floyd struggled with that very notion for a while before rising to the occasion with an album that may be, in its own way, even more accomplished, both in terms of the focus of its message and the beauty of its music. 1975’s Wish You Were Here was very much a meditation on the fate of their old friend Syd Barrett, but it also demonstrated the ease with which a perfectly healthy brain and robust heart can slide down to such dark extremes. Here is a song-by-song review.
4. “Welcome To The Machine”- It’s become a classic-rock staple over the years, perhaps because it embraces some of the prog-rock cliches that the band usually transcended. The synthesizers are maybe a tad too overbearing, and the whole thing is somewhat sterile, which is, I suppose, apropos to the theme but doesn’t make for a fun listen. With all of that working against it, the song still shines whenever David Gilmour is barking out Roger Waters’ biting ode to the belief that individuality has to be sacrificed for success.
3. Waters’ voice was in tatters, and Gilmour balked at the lyrics. Rick Wright, who sang on so many previous Floyd songs, wasn’t even considered. That left Roy Harper, a singer-songwriter and friend of the band, to embody the clueless, slimy record executives whose entreaties surely sounded like found dialogue for a band coming off a massive success. Harper does a great job. Meanwhile, their chance to be a backing group brought something gritty out of Floyd as instrumentalists; “Have A Cigar” is one of the toughest tracks the band ever recorded. The underrated rhythm section of Waters and Nick Mason are particularly fine here, setting the table for Gilmour to tear down the house in the closing moments with a fierce solo.
2. “Wish You Were Here”- One of rock’s all-time ballads started out as a poem by Waters that Gilmour set to music. That chilling acoustic intro, which sounds as if it’s being beamed in from some stubborn AM station at 3 AM, is just the right amount of lonely for the lyrics. While Barrett seems to have been part of the inspiration, the song easily outstrips any specific references thanks to the empathetic urgency of Waters’ lyrics. Gilmour’s scatting along with his acoustic guitar at song’s end is the perfect closing touch, a tinge of free-spirited abandon amidst the gloom.
1. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”- Barrett famously walked in out of the blue during the mixing session of this 25-minute, multi-part suite that was largely in his honor and walked out again seemingly unfazed. Waters’ lyrical tribute is supremely touching without being sentimental, as he details the fine line between genius and madness and deftly works his own personal malaise (“Pile on many more layers/And I’ll be joining you there”) into the narrative. It’s probably his finest set of lyrics. Gilmour’s guitar takes on many different characters throughout the song; he goes from graceful elegy to bluesy complaint in a heartbeat, and that four-note guitar riff that underpins the entire thing suggests something gone horribly wrong. Wright’s keyboard work at the beginning is subtly unsettling, but he gives his old friend a benevolent send-off in the dreamy closing seconds. It would turn out to be the band’s last great epic, the final time there was perfect balance between Waters’ lyrical ambitions and Gilmour’s musical instincts. The glass half-empty types might wish the band gave us more of that, but this staggering achievement should be enough for anyone.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material that originated on this site, check out the links below.)
Apparently, all they needed was a concept. The moments of brilliance that Pink Floyd had managed for five years previous indicated their potential, but 1973’s Dark Side Of The Moon exceeded even that with a musical and lyrical statement, on the impossibility of sanity in the modern world, that’s so coherent and complete that it sounds as pristine and impeccable some forty years on as it did the day it was released. Here is a song-by-song review.
8. “Any Colour You Like”- This languid instrumental illustrates the difficulty of picking this album apart. On its own, it’s unassuming and passive, mood music that features mesmerizing synthesizers and a few stinging guitar licks. In the context of the album, it’s essential as an air-clearing bridge between the intense peaks of “Us And Them” and the closing suite.
7. “On The Run”- The aural equivalent of a nightmarish chase scene where all possible escape routes are covered by ever-escalating threats. The pursuit only ends when a plane crash razes the entire scene. Scary and invigorating all at once.
6. “Speak To Me/Breathe In The Air”- The fact that Floyd had two architecture students (Nick Mason and Roger Waters) in the band is really driven home on Dark Side. Note how “Speak To Me” includes snippets of several musical ideas that would be visited later in the album, or how “Breathe In The Air” is reprised at the end of “Time” for a symmetrical feel. “Breathe In The Air” is the kind of sleepy rambler that the band had been composing for years, but Waters lyrics, which urge people to take hold of their individuality even while embracing others, are much more cutting and effective than previous efforts.
5. “The Great Gig In The Sky”- Clare Torry’s vocal performance veers seamlessly from the ecstasy of orgasm to the agony of death as the band segues from quiet introspection to crashing crescendos in concert with her wailing. Torry eventually got a songwriting credit for her efforts, sharing it with Wright, whose resigned elegance on the ivories is simply unforgettable here.
4. “Time”- Most people associate Dark Side Of The Moon with spacey ambiance, but the earthier moments are just as essential to the album’s success. That dichotomy is represented here by the way David Gilmour’s impassioned vocals and the muscular music in the verses is tempered by Wright’s placid singing above the gospel backing vocals in the connecting parts. It gives an interesting interpretation to Waters’ lyrics, as if one part is raging against the injustice of the ticking clock, and the other part is accepting its inevitability.
3. “Money”- It’s interesting that Floyd could have easily called this song a suite as well, considering that the main section and the long instrumental break in between really have little in common, with different time signatures and all. That it all flows so smoothly is testament to the band’s ingenuity, which is also evident in the clever cash register rhythm at the beginning. Waters’ lyrics are appropriately sarcastic, and the ebb-and-flow of the long breakdown reminds everyone that Floyd were an outstanding four-piece with great chemistry and a virtuoso soloist in Gilmour. Classic rock radio has played it to death; good thing that “Money” possesses enough in its nooks and crannies to keep it interesting through infinite spins.
2. “Brain Damage/Eclipse”- It wouldn’t be right to separate these two. So much to like here, so here’s just a partial list: The way “Brain Damage” sort of explodes out of “Any Colour You Like” is strange enough to suggest madness even before Waters starts singing about it; the interview audio, such an brilliant addition to the entire album, is especially potent here, seeming like voices careening around the narrator’s addled brain; the exhilarating closure provided by the music of “Eclipse,” as Nick Mason finally gets to let loose after playing it cool for most of the album; and, of course, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.” Most of all, this mini-suite is the best example of how important Waters lyrics are to the album. After “Brain Damage” emphasizes just how hard it is to keep it together, “Eclipse” touchingly makes the case for unity amongst all the madmen as the only method of survival.
1. “Us And Them”- Anyone who doubts Rick Wright’s importance to Pink Floyd should listen to “Us And Them” and rethink that opinion. The evocative brilliance of the organ bed at the start of the song is equaled only by the beauty of his piano work afterward. Dick Parry’s contributions on saxophone are integral here as well, quiet and tentative in the intro, thunderous and forceful as the song progresses to staggering heights. Waters’ lyrics are a marvel of suggestive simplicity; by reducing all conflicts, war and interpersonal, to their most basic level, he throws on a spotlight on their futility. The refrains achieve a majesty that’s one of the high points of the band’s entire career; heck, it’s one of the high points in rock history.
(E-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @jimbeviglia. For books based on material that originated on this website, check out the links below.)