Andria (my editor) asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year (2013 for future readers), she needed a couple ideas. I said that I really wanted the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here Emersion Box Set. The album I'm reviewing is going to be just the original album, but you can expect the full set to be coming in the future.
Let me start by saying that this is hands down my favourite Pink Floyd album. I love everything about this album and consider it pure genius. I love the symbolism. I love ignoring the symbolism and just listening to what's being said, and being played. I love the mild simplicity and complex arrangments. I love the time being taken, and the way it all breathes. God, do I love how the songs all breathe.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part I-V) kicks off the album with music that just moves you. It's the perfect musical translation to the lyrics that eventually follow, but before that happens you get to hear some beautiful explorations by Dave Gilmour's guitar and Richard Wright's keyboards. This is one of those tracks that by the time you get to the opening verse, you already feel like you've flown through the cloud and drifted along the astral plain. The the story begins. "Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun. / Shine on you crazy diamond. / Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky. / Shine on you crazy diamond. / You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom, / blown on the steel breeze. / Come on you target for faraway laughter, / come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine! / You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon. / Shine on you crazy diamond. / Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light. / Shine on you crazy diamond. / Well you wore out your welcome with random precision, / rode on the steel breeze. / Come on you raver, you seer of visions, / come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!" Then it's on to this great saxaphone solo played by Dick Parry. There's such a Jazz freeform vibe to me with the way he spirals and zig zags. I also love how they didn't even try to hide those odd high squeak notes. This section of the song then slowly fades out while the next track fades in.
Welcome To The Machine gears up with a synthetic machinery like pulse that pretty much drives the song, and is flows in and out. The sound and pulsing vibe is clearly the early inspiration for a tone that would move around through out The Wall, I'm think Empty Spaces in particular. But what really makes this song for me is the truly mechanical sound to the background music, the electric current like sound of the keyboards, and then a lovely accoustic guitar, which sound so human. It adds a sense of hope in a world going electronically mad. Lyrically this song is a warning even to the future generations, that the world refuse to heed to, and now the words have come to pass. "Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. / Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been. / You've been in the pipeline, filling in time, / provided with toys and Scouting for Boys. / You bought a guitar to punish your ma, / And you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool, / So welcome to the machine. / Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. / What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream. / You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar, / He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar. / So welcome to the machine. " Even thought the meaning I take from those words is different than what was meant, the timelessness of this song is what allows to keep seeing the lyrics in a new light.
My favourite song on this album that doesn't come in a multitude of parts, is Have A Cigar. I love the slow slightly off kilter funky swagger of the bass. Roger Waters lays down such a killer rhythm on this song that the keyboard and guitar can so easily dance and move around within it with a dreamlike mysticism. The drums are the only part of this song I find a little basic and boring, but that's perfectly fine because they do what drums often need to do, just keep the rhythm. Not to mention with everything else going on I really don't think there was much room for Nick Mason to add much in the way of flourishes. I will admit that much like many people I was always under the assumption that either Roger or Dave did the vocals on this song. I never owned a copy of the original album, so for the longest time I didn't know better. Later I came to discover that the vocals are being performed by English folk/rock singer Roy Harper. And what great and snide lyrics he sings. "Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar. / You're gonna go far, you're gonna fly high, / You're never gonna die, you're gonna make it if you try; they're gonna love you. / Well, I've always had a deep respect, and I mean that most sincerely. / The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think. / Oh by the way, which one's Pink? / And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? / We call it Riding the Gravy Train. / We're just knocked out. / We heard about the sell out. / You gotta get an album out, / You owe it to the people. We're so happy we can hardly count. / Everybody else is just green, have you seen the chart? / It's a helluva start, it could be made into a monster / If we all pull together as a team. / And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? / We call it Riding the Gravy Train. " I love when bands shoot the industry the big finger.
If you ask me what the worst song on the album is, I would say it's Wish You Were Here. The title track has alway been a little too mellow and sad for me. It's almost like listening to a light being exstinguished. It's the end credits/funeral music to every movie where the anti hero dies. It's just a beautifully crafted song about longing for something that is just never going to come back. Then there's the lyrics. "So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain. / Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? / A smile from a veil? / Do you think you can tell? / Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? / Hot ashes for trees? / Hot air for a cool breeze? / Cold comfort for change? / Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?" This then moves into a sweet little solo before heading into the next set of lyrics. "How I wish, how I wish you were here. / We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year, / Running over the same old ground. / What have we found? / The same old fears. / Wish you were here." Then the song continues on with a great mix of music and some Scat. As in the vocal style of performance, for those that may be confused. Which continues as the song fades into a breeze.
Out of the breeze of the last song come the second half of the album's introduction song. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX). The track more or less picks up where the first half ended, but now it's the keyboards soloing instead of the sax. However, it soon moves into a great uptempo swing, that really dances around and gets the song flowing. Then there's Dave Gilmour's guitar playing. He just opens it up, and let's it scream and sing. One of my favourite things about Gilmour's guitar solo is that he doesn't feel the need to play a million notes a minute, instead he makes each note he hits count, and he keeps that up until the vocals kick in. "Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far. / Shine on you crazy diamond. / Pile on many more layers and I'll be joining you there. / Shine on you crazy diamond. / And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph, / sail on the steel breeze. / Come on you boy child, you winner and loser, / come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine". This then leads to the music that helps end the song. Which is this wicked, totally Jazz influenced jam. I mean this part of the song helps take the end of the album into a totally different direction than you would think based on every other part of the album. Then the song downshifts a bit and moves into a more dramatic, end of the movie like vibe that lets you know the story is done. The tale has been told and now it's time to fade to black.
By the time this album ends a play through, I'm always left feeling complete, and satisfied, and drained, and moved, and wanting to go make some wicked ass music and sounds of my own. I think that this album is the most over looked Pink Floyd album because of where it sits in the great pantheon of Floyd albums. It came right after Dark Side Of The Moon (which was beyond amazing), and then gets lost once The Wall (highly overrated) comes out. However, this album has the best of everything in it. The exploration, the jamming, the experimenting, the timings, the instrumentation, the story telling, and the sense of madness that comes with a musical masterpiece. If you don't own a Pink Floyd album yet, go get this one.
10/10 - content
10/10 - production
10/10 - personal bias