Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wish You Were Here

OK and now we come to 1975's "Wish You Were Here". Over the years this has clearly become my favorite Pink Floyd album. The music has a continuous other worldly sound to it. It also is the last Pink Floyd album with Roger Waters that you can truly put on for the simple purposes of relaxing to some truly great music. The next 3 albums (Animals, The Wall & The Final Cut) all carry some very bleak messages that you must want to listen to as opposed to simply chilling. Anyway we will get to those 3 entries next, but for now let's discuss this magnificent work.
The cover depicts one business man being burnt by another.
"Wish You Were Here" is really the last time that all 4 band members were actually working together, as a connected team. The album and Pink Floyd fans still benefit from this teamwork today and this release is a shining example of what Roger Water, David Gilmour, Richard Wright & Nick Mason could pull off before Roger Waters went on a ego trip that would forever change the band and their music.

Much of the music and lyric on this album revolve around the sad fate of their old friend and group leader, Syd Barret. In fact the first song, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Parts I - V) is clearly reflecting on the fate of Syd. This first song runs at 13:40 minutes and was originally attended to be the only track on side 1 but the original version ran at over 27 minutes so it had to be split into 2 tracks. Back in the day of vinyl there was about a 25 minute limit of music per side. Because of this limitation the song was split into 2 and the second half of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" runs another 12:31 minutes and is the final track on the album.  This is simply an amazing piece of music that never grows old and is always a joy to listen to. The opening notes by David Gilmour are smooth and jazzy and could be from another world and float softly like the sea, slowing heading toward the shore. At about the 4 minute mark their is a change that moves the music at a quicker pace finally leading to Roger Waters on vocal at the 8:48 mark with the words, "Remember when you were young.....". Theres some great use of the sax in this song that has a magical jazz bounce. From the opening note of this first track the listener is captivated. This is a truly an album that must be heard through.

Next up is "Welcome to the Machine" which begins with the sounds of a huge machine, which if I remember correctly is Pink Floyd's opinion of the music industry at the time, which they often, and still do fight with. Gilmour is on vocal here and it is classic 1970's rock with a little message thrown in for flavor. I always imagine that this is the song which inspired the amazing album cover.

What follows next is "Have a Cigar" which with it's funk beat and guest vocalist, Roy Harper we are taken on a trip when Pink Floyd was signed to their first record deal. At least that's how I see it. Harper was used apparently because the band wanted an outside party to sing the lyrics as if he was an outsider. This was probably unnecessary as Harper really sounds a lot like Gilmour! The best line in this song is the record man asking, "Which one is Pink?" as he signs them to a "huge deal".

The final non "Shine On" number starts off with a FM radio playing in the background, followed by acoustic guitar and David Gilmour on vocal with "Wish You Were Here". This is truly a great song and although this is once again about Syd we can all think of our lost loved ones as the song moves on with it smooth lyrics and soothing guitar. The FM radio we heard at the start over takes the song and it fades out.

The second part of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" completes the album with another 12+ minutes of mystical music. Once again this track, like part 1 is simply enjoyable to listen to and is relaxing and refreshing to it's audience, No big themes here other then wonderful music.

To demonstrate how strong this material is David Gilmour's Pink Floyd would continue to open all their live performances with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and of course treat each audience with "Wish You Were Here" (above).

This for me is the last great work done by the original 4 members of Pink Floyd. There is some good work to come from the 4 however trouble was brewing for the Floyd.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dark Side of the Moon

After 1972 the music scene and perhaps the world would never be the same. It was in 1972 that Pink Floyd released their masterpiece, although there would be more to follow.  One thing that's important that I don't think I mentioned before is that Pink Floyd was always experimenting and playing their music live before recording a note. This really helped the band to record some amazing music.

The band had been performing elements of "The Dark Side of the Moon" for about a year before finally hitting the recording studio at Abbey Road Studios in London.  Especially in this case it helped to sharpen their skills and fine tune their collection of songs which would end up being the story of this album. 

One of the greatest album covers of all time.

Before I begin this look at DSOTM this is a great time to suggest that in my observations good music is timeless.  When I sat down to listen to this particular album all the years between 1972 and today were washed away. Now my graying hair did not return to the vibrant black it used to be but that did not change the fact that the  music, lyric and scope are just as meaningful and compelling today as the day it was written.  

One last note before I move on. This particular album by itself sold millions of stereo hi-if systems in the 1970's. The engineering which was handled by the band and Alan Parsons is perfect and took stereo sound to levels never achieved before. The sound of this album is pure magic.

Ok onto the music. What remains so compelling here besides the amazing music is the story it tells. The album is basically about living in very stress filled times, full of pressures, dangers, fleeting time, sanity and death.

Each side of the album is a continuous piece of music. The five tracks on each side reflect various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat, exploring the nature of the human experience, and (according to Waters) "empathy".

Side One

The album opens with Nick Mason's short intro "Speak To Me" which includes many of the sound effects yet to come plus the beating heart of a baby. The sound then transitions into the simply peaceful and soothing "Breathe". Gilmour's vocals are innocent capturing life just beginning. An instrumental is next titled, "On the Run" and the sounds of an airport and our main character running in order not to be late for the plane. The pressures of travel are captured in this song.  The following song, "Time" is the only one on the album written by all four band members and it is excellent. The producer, Alan Parsons decided to start the song with the recording of clocks from an antique clock store. The message here is a very relevant message to us as we all grow older, with time seeming to slip away out of our control. What is also amazing is that Roger Waters felt this way at the grand old age of 29!

Side one finishes up with Richard Wright's "The Great Gig In The Sky". This one in particular is one that the band had been working on for at least a year, under several different titles. The song originally was tried with radio traffic from the crew of Apollo 17 but that was scrapped at the last minute and replaced by the amazing vocal talent of Clare Torry.

Side Two

Side two gets things started with a Roger Waters song, "Money" sung by David Gilmour. Once again sound effects are used with cashiers opening and closing to start the song. This song talks about how money controls everyone. The following song is probably my favorite on the album, "Us And Them". Here you have a song where the music was written by Richard Wright and Waters penning the lyrics. David Gilmour handles the vocals. This is also the longest song on the album at 7+ minutes and has two great sax solos. The narrative here is the stress of war and ends with our character surviving (war) only to end up struggling with the monotony of entering the workforce.

"Any Colour You Like" is a short instrumental and perhaps the only filler here although it leads perfectly into Roger Waters' "Brain Damage". This song touches on mental illness and the insanity that can effect us because of the pressures and stress of living. I am sure Syd Barrett was on his mind when writing this one. The album is complete with "Eclipse" and ends with a very quiet outro and the same heartbeat the album started out with.

The pacing of this album along with the high tech sound creation with the help of Alan Parsons cannot be disputed. The success of this album can be proven by the fact that it remained on the billboard charts from 1973 until 1988. That is a record 741 weeks. The Dark Side of the Moon is one of Pink Floyd's most popular albums among fans and critics, and is frequently ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time.

In 1994 Pink Floyd performed the entire DSOTM album live all over the world. Here you can see it from 2 angles.

Obscured By Clouds

The 1972 album, "Obscured By Clouds" has no business being as good as it is.  This release was written and recorded in only 2 weeks while the band was already working on their next album, "The Dark Side of the Moon". A film producer had asked the band to write music for his new film and so they did. The Floyd always wanted to work on soundtracks but it never seemed to work out for them.

Stanley Kubrick had previously approached the band to complete the soundtrack for his film, "2001: A Space Odyssey" a few years earlier but that idea crashed over "creative differences".  So when French filmmaker,  Barbet Schroeder requested their services for his film "La Vallee" the band "took a break" and recorded "Obscured By Clouds".

The cover of Obscured by Clouds is an out-of-focus film still of a man in a tree.
What you have here is a very relaxing and mood setting piece of music mixed in with a little jazz.
This is actually a very nice little album but is often forgotten because it sits between "Meddle" and "DSOTM".

Mixed in with some very soothing instrumentals like the title song there are some excellent songs.  

The best here can be found in two songs from David Gilmour.  "The Gold It's the...", and "Childhoods's End" which he wrote after reading the Arthur C. Clarke of the same name.  Both of these are great rock 'n roll songs that would sound great on any rock album.

Of course Roger Waters is up to his usual self misery with "Free Four" which may be the most fun you will ever have with a song describing misery. This song actually bounces at it covers the death of Water's father in WWII and the evils of the record industry.

The Richard Wright song "Stay" is also a nice harmonizing song that we thought Pink Floyd had forgotten how to do.

There is some filler here, which is very unusual for Pink Floyd but they had very big things in the works and after all this was just for fun, and a forgotten film.


From the opening notes of "One of These Days" on 1971's "Meddle" the listener is aware that something special is about to happen. It's hard to believe that the band had reported that they were a little "lost" for what to do after their previous effort when you listen to this LP. "One of These Days" has always been one of my favorite Floyd tracks. In fact it was brought back to their live shows for their last tour in 95-96 which was really cool. It actually went on to open their second act during their "Pulse" tour (video below).

The image represents an ear, underwater, collecting waves of sound.

The bass line on "One of These Days" is both weird and frightful. It was performed by Roger Waters and David Gilmour using two bass guitars, one on old strings. Nick Mason's abstruse "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces" line was recorded at double speed using a falsetto voice, and replayed at normal speed. I still don't think this sound has ever been duplicated by anyone in Rock since. Ok well I need to move on from the opening track which as you can tell I really - really like.

As classic an LP as this there are really 3 forgettable songs on it. These are "Pillow of Winds", "San Tropez" and "Seamus".  It is with "Seamus" that I agree. The Floyd were indeed somewhat "lost" for what to do next at this point. You see, "Seamus" is a dog and actually barks through the entire song. In fact "Seamus" is usually noted as Pink Floyd's worst song. I agree.

Now that we got those 3 songs out of the way lets love onto the final two. First up is the Waters/Gilmour tune, "Fearless". The song's slow tempo and mellow acoustic sound bear along with an excellent vocal by Waters flows like a dreamlike state. Near the beginning and at the end of the song, a field recording of fans in Liverpool's Kop singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" is superimposed over the music. If you listen to the 1996 live "Pulse" album you actually hear the crowd break out into this (on their own" after the band performs "One of These Days"!

Pink Floyd performing "One of These Days" in 1996.

The final song of course is the 24 minute "Echoes" which takes up the entire side 2. All four members of the band getting writing credit on this one, which is really the big brother of the earlier "Atom Heart Mother". Here their experimentation works to perfection. Right from the opening notes which are Rick Wright on keyboard creating a "ping" sound by amplifying a grand piano and sending the signal through a rotating speaker. Roger Waters has explained that the song's lyrics were an attempt to describe "the potential that human beings have for recognizing each other's humanity and responding to it, with empathy rather than antipathy."  So very cool, and so very Pink Floyd.

This album was a huge success, however no one expected what to was to come next, after a very short diversion in the clouds of obscurity....

Atom Heart Mother

In 1970, with the release of Atom Heart Mother the Pink Floyd we would come to truly love was born. In fact it is one of my favorite albums of theirs. There are still a few musical elements from their earliest days such as "Summer of '68" and "Fat Old Sun" and I still have no idea what Nick Mason was thinking with "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" but the charm here is the opening 24 minute track, "Atom Heart Mother".

From the opening moments of the title track the listener is taken for a smooth, weird and engrossing ride through several musical elements that range funk rock to motion picture soundtrack material.  All of this is glued together by Ron Geeson. To give you an idea of just how complex this work was the band had tried several times to perform it live in 1970 and it always ended in disaster and they finally gave up. There are so many complexities in this 24 minute piece that it is difficult to hear it all. A headset and quiet room is a must for this one. Your imagination will run away with you as you try to take in all  that is offered.

"Atom Heart Mother" is broken into 6 suites and for the dedicated listener you can find it broken down in this order.

  1. Father's Shout (5:25)
  2. Breast Milky (4:48)
  3. Mother Fore (5:17)
  4. Funky Dung (2:19)
  5. Mind Your Throats, Please (2:02)
  6. Remergence (3:54)

The "Atom Heart Mother" suite takes up side one while Side 2 finds more conventional music. Although it is all Pink Floyd, here on Side 2 the band is still somewhat stuck between what they were, and what they were to become.

The best of Side 2 is Rick Wright's "Summer of '68" and David Gilmour's "Fat Old Sun". Also Roger Water's "If" is a sign of things to come in respect to his obvious self loathing issues. There is a line in this song, "If I go insane please don't put your wires in my brain" that still has a "WTF" moment for me.

This LP with a simple picture of a cow looking back at the owner of the record went to #1 in the UK and #55 in the US. This is very surprising due to it's content and it's unique musical style. This was a sign of things to come for Pink Floyd with the release of their next masterpiece.

Here is a gem. On November 28, 2011 David Gilmour performed the entire 24 minute "Atom Heart Mother" suite conducted by Ron Geesin . Enjoy and be mesmerized.


If there is a mis-step during Pink Floyd's career it is probably 1969's "Ummagumma". This is a 2 disc set. The first disc is a "new" studio recording while the 2nd disc is a live set. The band was obviously trying to find themselves as Syd continued to fade into a non-factor.  Each band member was obviously working hard at this point. The first disc is basically separated into 4 parts, with one "musical event" for each per band member.

At the time this album actually performed well and sold many copies.  However, since then it is probably the least liked release by Pink Floyd.  The album does have a great cover and the live disc somewhat saves it but it is by far the band's weakest entry.  David Gilmour has been heard actually saying that "he just bullshitted through his part" on the album.  The weakness of the first disc is probably the result of each band member simply working on their own to come up with their material.  

The first disc is an example of the old saying that "the sum is greater then the parts".  It was never more true then Disc 1 of "Ummugamma".  

Things get a lot more interesting and enjoyable on the second disc which is a live set of their older material. Here you get live versions of "Astronomy Domine", "Careful With That Axe Eugine", "Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets".  Each one of these make the album a must have for the Pink Floyd fan.   I won't waste anyone's time talking about my favorite songs on this one as these 4 are it.  The first disc is a challenge to get through.

My Rating
As a whole the rating is a 2.5 however rated individually Disc 1 is a 2 while the live disc is a 4.5. 


With 1969 upon Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett was relegated to visiting recording sessions and showing up at live shows truly not even aware that he had been replaced by David Gilmour. I believe it was during this time period that Gilmour has said that Syd would just sit in the front row during concerts watching his every move. This must have been a difficult time for the band and especially Gilmour, but they carried on.

Originally titled, "Soundtrack from the Film More" this is a strange album indeed. This can be forgiven because after all it is a soundtrack to an actual movie. What makes this such a strange trip is that there are some actual Pink Floyd acoustic folk ballads here something that Floyd rarely visited again. In addition, if you ever wanted to know what Pink Floyd would have sounded like as a heavy rock band in the style of Led Zeppelin you can find it here in, "The Nile Song" and "Ibiza Bar".

Also unusual about this album is the David Gilmour who had really just joined the band is the only lead singer here. This would not occur again until 1987's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason". I have always wondered if this was because many of the songs would appear on the "More" film and his vocal style is much more stylized and soothing then Waters. I have not really ever heard why this was the case on this album but it does work in it's favor.

This album also has a jazz sound that I kind of like and it's instrumentals have a flow that is peaceful and smooth.

I must also say that although Gimour gets front stage with all of the lead vocals Roger Waters wrote all but one song which is very impressive at this very early stage of their career.

My Favorite Songs

"Green is the Color" - This is one of the folk songs  mentioned earlier and it may not sound like the Pink Floyd we have all come to now and love but it works for me.

"Cymbaline" - Yet another jazzy folk song brought to you.... by yes "Pink Floyd". Very calm and soothing. Don't get to used to this because it won't happen very much in the future, except for perhaps, "Fat Old Sun" in 1970.

"The Nile Song" - This song simply rocks. You would almost think a great hard rock band like Led Zeppelin wrote this. But nope.. it was Roger Waters.

"Ibiza Bar" - Another true and rare blatant hard rock song from Pink Floyd.

My Rating

It's a soundtrack and obviously was not the band's main focus at the time so it gets 3 out 5 stars. If you are a Floyd fan check it out, if not.. skip it for now, but someday you will be back to take a listen.