CK Retro Review: Run Devil Run by Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney’s second solo foray into rock and roll and rhythm and blues history outdid the first, which was no small feat. Unlike CHOBA B CCCP, which had a tossed-off quality that sometimes helped and sometimes hindered the material, 1999’s Run Devil Run, consisting primarily of cover songs of mid-20th century classics and obscurities, benefits from what seems like a little bit more forethought. McCartney also found a wonderful ad hoc band for the project, featuring crackerjack guitarists David Gilmour and Mick Green. His three original songs aren’t anything too memorable, but his first album following the death of wife Linda found him on firm, familiar musical footing that must have been reassuring to him at such a difficult time.

TWO STARS

15. “Try Not To Cry”- The staccato, herky-jerky feel of this McCartney original feels beamed in from a different era than the classic covers, breaking up the spell a bit. Plus it’s a rare McCartney song that is lacking in the melody department.

14. “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”- Even though Chris Hall adds an excellent accordion part, zydeco is the one sub-genre represented on this collection where McCartney doesn’t quite feel at home.

13. “What It Is”- The band makes a pretty good ruckus on this one, but it feels a bit rushed in terms of the execution and a bit blah songwriting-wise.

THREE STARS

12. “Shake A Hand”- McCartney gets a chance to tear up his larynx here. Maybe he gets a little silly with it here and there, but it slides by.

11. “Party”- One more wild rocker for the road sends the album out on a note of raucous fun. The prolonged ending is a nice touch.

10. “Run Devil Run” – The best of the three McCartney originals holds its own with the classics surrounding it. Frenetic but held together by the chemistry of the band and Paul’s powerhouse vocal.

9. “Blue Jean Bop”- Great way to start the album, with this modest little Gene Vincent number that gives Paul a workout on bass and lets Gilmour and Green cut loose on electric guitar.

8. “She Said Yeah”- The Beatles did pretty well with Larry Williams covers, so it makes sense that McCartney would look to one of his classics once again. The band revs this one up and provides some serious thunder, while Paul’s vocals are suitably wild and woolly.

7. “I Got Stung”- A great, relatively obscure barnburner on which the band to pack a serious wallop. That they do this while still sounding loose, not shambolic, is a testament to the unit assembled by McCartney for this project.

FOUR STARS

6. “Movie Magg”- McCartney slides into this Carl Perkins rambler like it was written for him. It would have been easy to do “Blue Suede Shoes” or something like that. He does more honor to the original artists by digging deeper into their catalogs, showing just how intriguing some of their lesser-known songs were. A wonderfully restrained and charming performance from Macca on this one.

5. “All Shook Up”- Here the band takes a well-known chestnut and imbues it with enough personality that it becomes their own. Each instrumentalist is fired up individually, but they also all come together cohesively for some unstoppable forward thrust. Explosive in a way that even Elvis’ original couldn’t claim to be.

4.”Coquette”- Of all the artists that McCartney has either covered or honored with homages over the years, Fats Domino is probably the one that, for whatever reason, has been the tightest fit. As Pete Wingfield knocks out the triplets, Paul struts through a standout vocal on this typically charismatic Fats’ composition. The lyrics don’t work unless the singer emanates confidence that the titular girl is going to realize her folly and come crawling back, and McCartney is on top of that all the way.

3. “Honey Hush”- What really stands out time and again on the uptempo numbers is how the originals are beefed up with modern rock heft while the original, classic feel is maintained. You can hear that balancing act pulled off most memorably on this rip-snorter. McCartney and producer Chris Thomas deserve credit for the arrangements they concocted on this and the other fast ones. Why would anyone want to hush up this glorious yakety-yak?

FIVE STARS

2. “No Other Baby”- This brooding slow-builder is one of the more obscure songs that Paul took on for this project, which works in its favor. Without the preconceived notions from the listener about what it should sound like, McCartney can turn it into a smoky, brooding slow-builder, the one cover here that you could say sounds “modernized,” and effectively so. He builds the tension expertly until finally uncorking with more emotive vocals as the song progresses.

1. “Lonesome Town”- Paul’s best decision on this classic ballad made famous by Rick Nelson was to sing it in a high register throughout. Whereas Nelson’s version is brilliant for all that it holds back, Macca’s take succeeds in a different way, spilling everything on the table. (Plus the original didn’t have a top-notch David Gilmour guitar solo in its favor.) I’m not one to jump to conclusions and say that he was thinking about Linda while he sang so emotionally here, but it’s certainly tempting to connect those dots. In any case, it’s a wonderful combination of songwriting perfection and interpretive feeling. And all of us who’ve ever been denizens of that figurative location can relate and wallow right along with him.

(E-mail me at jimbeviglia@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. Check out my new book, Counting Down The Beatles: Their 100 Finest Songs, available now. Order at the link below or at your favorite online bookseller.)

 


CK Retro Review: Flowers In The Dirt by Paul McCartney

The notion that Paul McCartney needs a strong, bold-faced collaborator to do his best work doesn’t hold water; see Ram, Band On The Run, even Memory Almost Full for examples that refute it. But there is no doubt that pairing up with Elvis Costello was a good match, for both men. A third of the songs on 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt were co-written by the duo, and a couple of those songs stand out as the best stuff that Paul had managed since Tug Of War. Some production fussiness still interrupts the uniformly sharp songwriting at times, but this was a great album at a time when McCartney needed one. Here is a song-by-song review.

TWO STARS

12. “Rough Ride”- The mix of synths and horns dates this one pretty severely. Fussy and not as danceable as it thinks it is.

THREE STARS

11. “Don’t Be Careless Love”- A weird one co-written with Costello, it takes some nasty turns, including a moment when the person the narrator is addressing gets chopped into little pieces. The doo-wop verses, complete with finger snaps, are the best parts.

10. “Distractions”- Sweet and soft as a lullaby with a hint of a Latin lilt, this one boasts a lovely, winding melody and some off-kilter orchestration. Probably a bit too sleepy to be a true standout, but it’s nice nonetheless.

9. “How Many People?”- It treads the same ground as “Ebony And Ivory,” simplifying issues that are endlessly complicated. But the reggae puts enough of a playful twist on it to keep any kind of heavyhandedness from entering the sonic picture.

8. “We Got Married”- This has more promise than what it actually delivered. The lyrics certainly boast some strong lines and a clear-eyed view of matrimony. It gets bogged down on a sludgy side road after the light-footed opening, David Gilmour’s estimable presence on lead guitar notwithstanding. By the end of it, it’s almost a different song than the one that began, and not a better one, but the strong opening weighs heavily enough for a positive grade overall.

7. “Motor Of Love”- Yes, it’s overproduced as well. But the chorus pulls things together in such stirring fashion that all is forgiven. And McCartney’s heartfelt effort on vocals keeps all of the saccharine elements from invading on the song’s better nature

6. “This One”- Bright and friendly if a bit too polite, this paean to taking action now instead of later when it comes to expressing your love glides by on its goodwill. Nothing too fancy, but displaying pop chops to spare.

FOUR STARS

5. “Figure Of Eight”- Paul’s energy level never falters on this one, and the song follows suit. He sings everything but the bridge in a high-pitched yelp, the desperation in his hapless narrator palpable as he tries to escape the soul-deadening rut which his relationship has carved. A rock-solid way to start Side Two, back when such things started to dwindle in importance with the advent of the CD.

4. “Put It There”- Here Paul is in foot-tapping, acoustic mode, a pose that suits him very well. When he keeps it light like this, the melodies that seem to ooze out of him are given full room to blossom. How sweet the sentiment also, a sepia-toned father-son story in song with no rancor or recrimination. A little ditty that lingers in the best possible way.

3. “You Want Her Too”- McCartney mildly complained after the fact that Costello playing the Lennon role meant that Elvis got all the best lines. He was probably referring to this quirkily effective duet. The production here very much sounds like Spike-era Costello, with a flying trapeze-like instrumental hook and a searing refrain. And Paul is right; playing the straight man tends to throw the spotlight on the wiseass, who, if you had to put money on it, would probably be the one to get the girl in this love triangle. But the two voices in potent harmony in the chorus is what you remember most.

FIVE STARS

2. “My Brave Face”- It should have been a bigger hit, but 1989 was already the beginning of the era where great songs were no longer hits, so that explains it. Costello seemed to give McCartney the permission to get as Beatle-y as he’d been in years (and to use far more syllables per line.) The chorus comes first, the acoustic guitar lick sounds like “And I Love Her,” Paul’s bass is forefronted, and there’s even an psychedelic little quaver on the electric guitar: all Fab 4 signposts. Throw in a just right lyric about the perils of bachelorhood and you have pop perfection.

1. “That Day Is Done”- Might just be the best of the Costello/McCartney collabs, and that includes “Veronica,” which is a brilliant song. And I’m not even sure this is the best version of it; check out Elvis’ take with the vocal group The Fairfield Four, which brings down the house. Nonetheless it’s a song that’s somehow beautiful and chilling at once, no matter who performs it. The production here leans heavily to The Band, what with the drowsy horns and all, and the gloomy lyrics owe a nod to “Long Black Veil” for sure. It’s a credit to the potency of McCartney’s personality on the microphone that he sounds completely at home with a song that you wouldn’t think was in his wheelhouse at all. And Nicky Hopkins is on piano, so there’s that too, if you weren’t yet convinced.

 

(E-mail me at jimbeviglia@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For more on Paul McCartney and The Beatles, check out my new book arriving in March, Counting Down The Beatles: Their 100 Finest Songs. You can preorder it at the link below.)


CK Retro Review: Transverse City by Warren Zevon

The idea of a concept album from Warren Zevon probably set his fans afire with anticipation when they heard about it, even more so when they realized that the guest list on the album was spectacular even by Warren’s standards. But 1989’s Transverse City turned out to be a bit of a letdown, one hamstrung by the obviousness of the concept (technology turning modern society into a wasteland before our eyes) and the bluntness of the musical approach (heavy synths and guitars with precious little melody.) Of course the lyrics are sharp and some of the more restrained numbers work well, but this is probably his least listenable album.

TWO STARS

10. “Gridlock”- It’s not that Zevon doesn’t make some salient point about the frustrations of getting around in a city where it’s always rush hour. It’s just that the music he chose to accompany those points is about as fun as a three-hour traffic delay.

9. “Transverse City”- Everything, including Zevon’s breathless visions of a futuristic society gone horribly wrong and Jerry Garcia’s wild soloing, gets a little lost in the overbearing sci-fi arrangement, maybe proving Warren’s point about too much the downside of technology all too well.

8. “Down In The Mall”- There’s a light melody in there waiting to get out, but, again, things get way too heavy musically. And the observations about the pull of materialism, while solidly made, aren’t anything new.

THREE STARS

7. “Long Arm Of The Law”- If you’re going to concoct a dystopian future that’s a metaphor for our present, you better have an overbearing police presence. If this song’s arc is predictable, it’s saved by somewhat by Zevon’s strong singing and the frenzied, dissonant piano in the instrumental break, which nicely evokes the panic of a man on the run.

6. “Run Straight Down”- Getting David Gilmour to play on this track was a coup, especially since Zevon’s downcast observations are straight out of the Roger Waters playbook; you could certainly imagine this track somewhere on Side Three of The Wall. Effecfively-rendered paranoia.

5. “They Moved The Moon”- Like an early 80’s Peter Gabriel ballad, this one moves in slow motion through interweaving synths. Meanwhile Zevon brings it back to a personal level, blaming a former lover for abandoning whim while heavenly bodies are rearranged. An interesting mood piece.

4. “Turbulence”- Zevon sounds a bit more at home in the thudding rock arrangement here than he does in some of the ray-gun settings elsewhere on the album. Even with the U.S.S.R.-Afghanistan conflict as a backdrop and lyrics sung in Russian in one part of the song, it still comes back to Warren inhabiting a world-weary, harried dude on the lam, which is a part he always played to the hilt by showing far more defiance than deference.

FOUR STARS

3. “Networking”- As with all songs written about technology circa 1989, the lyrics sound both eerily prescient and hopelessly dated. But Zevon’s one-liners also ponder the soullessness of hand-shaking and hobnobbing, one of his pet peeves which always provides fertile lyrical ground. And the music is surprisingly soulful, which will happen when you employ Benmont Tench to fill in the musical gaps with his organ.

2. “Nobody’s In Love This Year”- Mark Isham’s lovely flugelhorn that flutters about the synth-country backing is a moment of musical grace after the often-bludgeoning backdrops that can be heard all through the album. Note how Zevon uses cold, clinical terms like attrition, yield, and accrue to describe the overall dearth of genuine emotion and sentiment amidst the populace. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the song is when the narrator refuses to rail against the trend, instead choosing to join the loveless so as not to stand out.

1. “Splendid Isolation”- Zevon’s pop-culture riffing and pitch-black humor rev up this ode to solitude, as does his jaunty harmonica. The line “Goofy, take my hand” never fails to crack me up, but this one also takes a pretty dark turn at the end when the narrator’s insistence on hermit-life also renders him completely indifferent to those suffering and in need: “I don’t want to see their faces/I don’t want to hear them scream.”

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)

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The Pink Floyd Top 50

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”

41. “Cymbaline”

40. “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives”

39. “Bike”

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?”

29. “Mother”

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”

15. “Time”

14. “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)”

13. “When The Tigers Broke Free”

12. “Have A Cigar”

11. “Run Like Hell”

10. “Fearless”

9. “Money”

8. “Nobody Home”

7. “The Gunner’s Dream”

6. “Wish You Were Here”

5. “Echoes”

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 countdownkid@hotmail.com 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.

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bob-Dylan-Finest/dp/0810888238

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http://www.amazon.com/Pump-Up-Elvis-Costellos-Songs-ebook/dp/B00BXLUFN2/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390927572&sr=1-3&keywords=jim+beviglia

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CK Retro Review: The Division Bell by Pink Floyd

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.

TWO STARS

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.

THREE STARS

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.

FOUR STARS

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 countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material which originated on this site, check out the links below.)

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http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bruce-Springsteen-Finest/dp/1442230657

 

 


CK Retro Review: A Momentary Lapse Of Reason by Pink Floyd

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.

TWO STARS

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.

THREE STARS

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.

FOUR STARS

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.

FIVE STARS

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 countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material that originated on this site, check out the links below.)

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bob-Dylan-Finest/dp/0810888238

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CK Retro Review: The Final Cut by Pink Floyd

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.

TWO STARS

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.

THREE STARS

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.

FOUR STARS

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.

FIVE STARS

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.

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For books based on material that originated on this site, check out the links below.)

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bob-Dylan-Finest/dp/0810888238

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-Bruce-Springsteen-Finest/dp/1442230657