Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here – Harvest (1975)/EMI Records (2011) 5099029880/6 SHVL 814 180-gm vinyl stereo LP, 320 kbps mp3 download, collector poster including postcard, 44:18 [11/8/2011] ****1/2:
(David Gilmour – guitars, lap steel guitar, EMS synthesizer AKS, keyboards, tape effects, vocals: Roger Waters – bass, guitar, EMS VCS 3, tape effects, vocals; Nick Mason – drums, percussion, tape effects; Richard Wright – keyboards, EMS VCS 3, clavinet, vocals; Dick Parry – saxophone, Roy Harper – vocals; Venetta Fields – vocals; Carlene Williams – vocals)
After the incredible success of Dark Side Of The Moon, expectations for the next Pink Floyd album were enormous. To their credit, the band changed directions on Wish You Were Here. With Roger Waters repeating his role as conceptual guru, the subject of founder Syd Barrett’s (who made a surprise visit to Abbey Road Studios during the recording) breakdown is front and center. Additionally, the disingenuous façade of the music business is exposed. Of course, the chemistry and dysfunction that graced DSOTM crept into the sessions.
Unlike the linear progression of the previous album, Wish You Were Here has a nine-part main suite (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond”), that is separated by three other tracks. As Side 1 opens, a classical introduction on synthesizer leads into one of many David Gilmour bluesy guitar solos. There is a transition to a trademark Pink Floyd “heavy” sound as Wright adds organ to the layered mix. Just short of the nine minute mark, Waters introduces the first vocals. Clearly a reference to Barrett, the reedy wails detail the impact (“…you reached for the secret too soon…”) of their former band mate. A saxophone solo by Dick Parry (including a nimble up- tempo shift) gives some much needed muscle to the jam. This piece is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd, but energized by the soulful backup vocals. The first of the three song “middle” (“Welcome To The Machine”) begins with tape effects and addresses some of the more nefarious shortcomings of fame. The cut showcases elements of the artistic bombast that would pervade later projects.
Side 2 introduces a classic hook-driven number, “Have A Cigar”. Performed by guest vocalist Roy Harper, it is a sardonic assault of the record industry. The comic reference, “…Oh by the way which one’s Pink…” is hilarious, and is apparently based on a true event. The title cut is appealing in its idiosyncratic arrangement. Beginning with Gilmour performing simultaneously (tracked through an actual radio) on guitar, momentum builds in intensity as the tortured psyche of Waters is enveloped by acoustic verve. In the finale (“Shine On You Crazy Diamond 6-9), an ominous refrain of the theme explodes into a bombastic rock jam, with screeching electric guitar, and emotive vocals. A surprisingly jazzy interlude utilizes some funky clavinet riffs, before the orchestral-like fade. None of the members of the group are virtuosos, but the intermingling of their talents elevates the musical product.
The re-mastering to vinyl is better than any standard CD. All of the stark, electronic instrumentation has depth and is not compromised by excessive production. The acoustic guitar and the vocals of Waters and Gilmour have organic warmth. The black shrink wrap covering and hard record sleeve are just some of the packaging features. Storm Thorgerson’s surreal imagery can be seen on the front cover as two businessmen shake hands, while one is on fire. The back has a faceless “Floyd” salesman who is missing ankles and wrists. The LP also comes with a digital download, poster and a postcard of Mono Lake in California (…true!). There is also a five-disc Immersion Box Set, which we just reviewed.
[As well as a new Analogue Productions re-mastered multichannel SACD, which should be worthwhile since Roger Waters was so taken with surround sound…Ed.] Pink Floyd enjoyed future success and devastating internal strife, but Wish You Were Here was a high point.
Side 1: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (1-5); Welcome To The Machine
Side 2: Have A Cigar; Wish You Were Here; Shine On You Crazy Diamond (6-9)
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