Now even more applicable to this time than when it was created 23 years ago.
Roger Waters’ Amused To Death [TrackList follows] – Two limited edition stereo vinyls – Columbia/Legacy/Analogue Productions (Acoustic Sounds) APP 468761 (8/28/15) *****:
(Roger Waters (Composer), London Welsh Chorale Kenneth Bowen (Conductor), String Arrangements John Dupree (Conductor), Bass, Synthesizer & Vocals Roger Waters (Performer), Keyboards & Choir Arrangement Patrick Leonard (Performer), Guitar Jeff Beck (Performer), Arpeggio Guitar Geoff Whitehorn (Performer), Electric & Acoustic Guitar Andy Fairweather Low (Performer), Chorus Guitar Tim Pierce (Performer), Bass Randy Jackson (Performer), Drums Graham Broad (Performer), Vocals P. P. Arnold (Performer), Sound Effects Marv Albert (Performer), London Welsh Chorale (Artist), Background Vocals Doreen Chanter (Artist), Background Vocals N’Dea Davenport (Artist), Background Vocals Natalie Jackson (Artist), Background Vocals Katie Kissoon (Artist), Peddal Steel Guitar B. J. Cole (Artist), Guitar Steve Lukather (Artist), Guitar Rick DiFonso (Artist), Acoustic Guitar Bruce Gaitsch (Artist), Bass James Johnson (Artist))
This amazing two-disc 200-gram vinyl remastering presents the 1992 creation of Roger Waters – famed for his association with Pink Floyd, The Wall, and various types of surround sound (these vinyls were remixed in the new technology called Qsound). The issues Waters addresses have only grown in complexity and seriousness over the two decades plus. It is about a society increasingly in thrall to its TV screens. Back then TV was mainly on home sets, on small CRT screens – now it is just one option in an endless array of distractions which are available to us anytime and anywhere, courtesy of our laptops, tablets, and smartphones, with virtual reality and augmented reality coming. Waters plays up the viewers’ eyes glued to the screens which display war and violence everywhere, as entertainment.
In some ways, this is even better than The Wall. Waters got a lot of top performers to play on the album, usually behind his singing and speaking of the lyrics. They are all inscribed on the inside of the two-disc album, but entirely in caps rather than upper and lower case (which is maddening!). Guitarist Jeff Beck is heard frequently in the album, with his special virtuosity on eight of the tracks. Amused To Death is loosely based on a book by Neil Postman titled Amusing Ourselves to Death. It is definitely not a typical rock album. The lyrics require close listening, and perhaps reading them while listening. It’s not for the casual listener, although there is a single available of one tune from it which was on the charts: “What God Wants.” At the time the nation was transitioning from the 1980’s flashy time thru the Gulf War and depression of the early 1990s. And it makes for a very depressing album, as strong and effective as Water’s satire is. He’s certainly at his cynical best here – and without him Pink Floyd – never mind the general doom and gloom – wouldn’t have been the top rock group it is and was.
Waters likes to have little sound effects going on behind the music and lyrics. The first side opens with a dog barking as though from a neighbor’s house (entirely too realistic for me, by the way). The second side has crickets and various night sounds, and there are various conversations going on in the background that probably are part of the message, though they were unintelligible to me, even on good headphones. I didn’t hear any special audio enhancements from the Qsound, though I would like to hear Waters’ actual discrete surround version on an audio-only Blu-ray. (Strangely, this new enhanced remastering is much cheaper at Amazon than the original LPs.)
1. The Ballad Of Bill Hubbard
2. What God Wants, Part I
3. Perfect Sense, Part I
4. Perfect Sense, Part II
5. The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
6. Late Home Tonight, Part I
7. Late Home Tonight, Part II
8. Too Much Rope
9. What God Wants, Part II
1. What God Wants, Part III
2. Watching TV
3. Three Wishes
4. It’s A Miracle
5. Amused To Death