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"Us and them - and after all we're only ordinary men"

Class B

Main Category: Art Rock
Also applicable: Psychedelia, Mope Rock
Starting Period: The Psychedelic Years
Also active in: The Artsy/Rootsy Years, The Interim Years,

The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day






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I HATE PINK FLOYD. No, ladies and gentlemen, my name is not Johnny Rotten. And my motives for disliking this greatest symbol of the Seventies (second only to Led Zeppelin, it seems) differ greatly from those of the Sex Pistols. The Pistols and their kinsmen hated Pink Floyd because of their pretentiousness and overbearing complexity, and in this, it seems, their hate was purely conventional - in fact, they just experienced the same kind of things that they felt towards any other mature or non-mature prog rock band. Me, I have nothing against prog rock in general. But I do have something against Pink in particular.

What I honestly feel is that the Floyders are probably the most overrated rock band in man's history. Certainly, they are worthy. A very worthy band - even me, who's not a fan, could go on speaking of their advantages for hours. (I just don't want to because thousands of people have done so already). But the kind of praise given to them, the endless sell outs, monster radio hits, unrestrained critical and fan worship - none but the Beatles received as much, and even the Beatles don't seem to receive that much nowadays. The Beatles traditionally hold number one, see, so lots of people who get tired of the Beatles being number one start dismissing them as 'pop crap' or 'shallow' or 'dated', and praise Floyd instead. Ladies and gentlemen, let's all be cool-headed! If you want to really know who is first and who is second, be cool-headed! Okay, of course, it's impossible to tell who's first and who's next just because any judgement of the kind would be highly subjective. However, I'll still go ahead and try to explain why I don't like Floyd and at the same time give them a rating of 4 when I even gave Led Zeppelin a 3.

There is one major defect about Floyd - whether it be Barrett-led Floyd or Waters-led Floyd (and I don't even mention the Gilmour-led Floyd). These guys are (and were) very average musicians and so-so songwriters. Let's face it, the group never had a true musical virtuoso. Waters' bass playing is just okay, Wright and Mason don't qualify above your average session musicians, and Barrett's talents, you must admit, weren't in the sphere of picking the guitar. As for Gilmour, well, I just don't like the guy's guitar - I consider it generic and soulless. All of his 'classic' solos are so mathematically precise, counted out and adjusted that it almost makes me sick. He's no Steve Howe, and he's not even Steve Hackett. He's Dave, like we all know him: slow, meticulous and calculated. He's got some truly great guitar passages in his backpack (my favourite work of his is mostly located on Dark Side and Animals), but he also has a lot of pointless noodling, and he often selects the kind of generic highly distorted, yet not really 'heavy' guitar tone that I can't call anything but 'musical dentistry'. Sorry, Dave.

Neither could they make really creative melodies (a flaw which they share with Yes). In their Barrett days, when they relied on Syd, their songs were crazy and atmospheric, but not quite structured or memorable, except for a pair of hooks now and then. In their Waters days, when they relied on Roger, their songs were careful and... atmospheric. But still, the melodies were always kinda iffy. On the early albums they used to rip off everybody, starting from Simon & Garfunkel and ending with the Kinks, and they didn't exactly clear up even with their classic mid-Seventies hit albums.

No, even if you're willing to argue with me that the Pinkers actually wrote tons of classic melodies, you'll still have to admit that it isn't their songwriting that's the main attraction in Pink. The main attraction is the way, the manner in which they present their songs. While I certainly cannot call Floyd the most talented band in rock history, they were certainly the greatest experimentators on this planet of ours. From the early feedback and electronic drums experimentation to the mad laughters and ticking clocks on Dark Side to the shiver-sending spooky atmosphere of The Wall, they were always the impeccable masters of special effects - and it was certainly that side of them that attracted most of the audience. They were simply unpredictable. That said, I shouldn't have given them more than a 3 in the general rating. However, since I'm a great fan of unpredictability (and I do believe that only unpredictability and total irrationalism can save modern music from ruin), I'm willing to raise the rating to a 4. Simply because there are so many Pink Floyd tunes around that normally don't deserve a lot of attention, but still get it since they are so groovy, if the word 'groovy' is applicable to Floyd music.

Lineup: early Pink Floyd was formed in 1965 and included Roger 'Syd' Barrett (guitar, vocals); Roger Waters - bass, vocals; Rick Wright - keyboards; Nick Mason - drums. Barrett was forced out of the band by 1968 due to total ineffectivity, replaced by David Gilmour; band leadership switched to Waters. Waters quit in 1983; since then the band carried on as a trio, and their later days albums are often dismissed even by fans as tripe. I have all of these later albums (two studio ones and two live ones), and, although they probably don't deserve all the hate, they're pretty inane, mostly cashing in on the past glories. And why the hell did they need two live Waters-less albums? You got it, pal - the dough!



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

The Bible of Astral Psychedelia. Very fucked up, very turned on. Get it at your own risk.


Track listing: 1) Astronomy Domine; 2) Lucifer Sam; 3) Matilda Mother; 4) Flaming; 5) Pow r. Toc h.; 6) Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk; 7) Interstellar Overdrive; 8) The Gnome; 9) Chapter 24; 10) Scarecrow; 11) Bike.

Their first album obviously took Are You Experienced? as a model rather than Sgt Pepper. It can also be viewed as an antithesis to Disraeli Gears: the two albums symbolized the two ends of one stick: psychedelia. While Sgt Pepper and Gears took the 'flower' aspect of psychedelia and developed it into coloured, rainbowish forms of music, Piper took the 'mind-blowing' aspect. It's not exactly an acid album, although there certainly was a lot of acid dropped on it. Rather it takes up Hendrix's 'cosmic' line, featured in 'Third Stone From The Sun', and carried it further, especially in two of their most famous early compositions - 'Astronomy Domine', my personal favourite on this record, and the instrumental 'Interstellar Overdrive'.

'Astronomy Domine' is a truly fantastic song. The introductory microphonic voices, the mantras on astronomy, the totally un-Earthly riff, the incredible echoey sound (how the hell did they manage such a sound in 1967?), all of these things are not just revolutionary, I guess they continue to be intriguing and scary even now, in the age of total computer techniques when normally it would take about a couple minutes to reproduce all of these effects in the studio. But there's a spirit and a flame, you know, the only things which can't be modulated at any cost. Forget that. Of course, the honour of being the magnum opus on record falls to the astral trip 'Interstellar Overdrive'. The only problem with the song is that it's about five or six minutes too long for me: I'm generally not a fan of sound collages, and neither this one nor 'Revolution # 9' nor, say, CCR's 'Rude Awakening # 2' impress me much. Still, the rumbling, growling riff on which the song is built is extra-mundane, and my favourite part comes right there at the end, when they imitate a motor cooling down. Ride's over. Welcome to Alpha Centauri, I guess?

Unfortunately, the main problem with the year 1967 was that any music was called art at the time - as long as it was 'experimental'. Hell, if Lennon's Two Virgins were deemed as modern art at the time, what can be said about bands who tried to incorporate at least some musical elements on their records? And Pink also fell victim to the general 'technological' vibe. Which means that for every successful element on this album that continues to sound fresh and attractive even now, you get a 'failed experiment'. The worst of the lot is Roger Waters' first composition, 'Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk', with a melody that pretty much defines the word 'atrocious'. I'm no musician, but I can write a melody that tops this one in about twenty seconds. Of course, they thought they could get away with it? 'Achin' head... Gold is lead... Choke on bread... Underfed...' berk! And don't even try to flame me for it: even Roger himself admitted later the song was a piece of shit. Oh, well, his songwriting still had a lot to go at the time. Another misguided experiment is the lengthy instrumental 'Pow R Toc H', the first part of it, featuring some cool jazz piano, is enjoyable, and the second degenerating into a load of crappy screams soon afterwards. It ain't music, and I hate it.

The good news is that the 'astral' groove was only one side of Syd's personality. Behind the totally frigged up, drug-soaked 'space traveller' he actually hid the identity of a little child! Otherwise, how would you explain the existence of lots of little children ditties on this album? 'Gnome', 'Scarecrow', 'Bike', 'Matilda Mother' - these are all the kind of songs you'd likely to meet on a Greatest Lullabies Collection. Not that they are all good. In fact, I far prefer 'Lucifer Sam' to them - a strong contender for the best song on the album, this ode to Syd's Siamese cat is built around a threatening riff not unlike the ones of 'Astronomy Domine' or 'Overdrive', and the actual melody is no slouch, either. It's one of the few really rockin' tracks on the album, in fact. But the mellower, gentler childish songs aren't that good, primarily because they were all products of Syd's erratic ego and you never can tell which way they're gonna go. I mean, I said in the introduction that I do like unpredictability in rock music, but this is schizophrenia, not unpredictability. Both 'Bike' and 'Matilda Mother' have their charms, of course: 'Bike' is very funny, and the ringing clock symphony, followed by duck cackling, is just hilarious, while 'Matilda Mother' is tender, with the refrain 'Oh mother, tell me more' reflecting the psychology of a little child. But I can't stand the others: 'The Gnome' and 'Scarecrow' are silly throwaways with nothing to recommend them, although they're not horrendous like the second half of 'Toc H' or 'Stethoscope'.

The album also has one of Syd's 'intellectual' compositions, 'Chapter 24' which is actually the lyrics of the 24th chapter of Yi-Jing (the Chinese sacred book of divination) set to a rudimentary melody. I'm just saying this so you wouldn't attribute the text to Mr Barrett in person. Just a warning. The song is okay, I guess. But forget all my critiques, dammit. I'm perfectly willing to admit that the album was one of the most important ones in 1967, probably making the imaginary Top Ten along with Sgt Pepper, Satanic and others. It's just that it shares all the disadvantages of 1967, more so than any other album in this Top Ten.



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

More cosmic rockers: move on to this if you want to hear something like 'Interstellar Overdrive', but worse.


Track listing: 1) Let There Be More Light; 2) Remember A Day; 3) Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun; 4) Corporal Clegg; 5) A Saucerful Of Secrets; 6) See-Saw; 7) Jugband Blues.

Syd went totally loony before they even started recording this one, so they just finally had to dump him and get Dave Gilmour instead. Sure enough, their sound was never the same after that; but they still had a long way to go before Dark Side. This, their second and one of their most bizarre albums, marks a transitional phase: there's only one Barrett composition here (although his guitar is featured on a couple more), but neither can we call Waters a 'despot' - he gets only three of his solo numbers. The album's really a group affair: they truly went over their heads trying to demonstrate they could easily outbarrett Syd or, at least, manage to carry on without him quite easily. Of course, they couldn't. Out of the seven titles, maybe only a couple resemble 'songs' at all, most of the others either featuring long, spacey, nutty jams that would from now on become their trademark for at least five years or just being progressive sound collages (title track).

There's still a lot of youthful hippie romanticism here, of course, mostly courtesy of Mr Rick Wright ('Remember A Day'; 'See-Saw'). It's not bad, but it isn't particularly impressive, either: both of these songs are just slow, echoey and full of sweet vocal harmonies that lull you off to sleep. Good, but nowhere near as innovative as Syd's children songs (I know I said I'm not a fan of 'Matilda Mother', but it does have some historical importance, after all). On the other hand, if Wright voted to inherit Syd's 'lightweight' approach, Roger obviously chose his 'cosmic' facet, because two of his most important songs on here both sound like space mantras. If they weren't so damn long and hypnotic, they could have been entrancing. 'Let There Be More Light' begins with a famous bassline (hey, there was a time when Roger could play that instrument), suddenly turns into a mystical chant ('far... far... far... far away...') and finally, degenerates into a noodling, ponderous 'jam'. 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun' certainly is a mantra: its one and only line (well, I know the lyrics are rather long, but they all sound the same and that same is 'hardly audible') gets repeated for maybe a couple thousand times, and your choice would be meditation or falling asleep. Since I refuse to be forced to meditate by a band like Pink Floyd, I take the second choice. It's just the intrusive bass line that prevents me from doing so (Waters again). But if you manage to stay awake, good for you, 'cause it's a good song, actually.

Oh! Yeah! You thought that Roger Waters had already become a great songwriter? That he overcame his banal 'Stethoscope' ambitions and ventured off into the new and unknown, dragged on by his talent? Well, no, not that fast. I just wanted to bitch a little over his third solo composition, the dreary anti-war song 'Corporal Clegg'. Its first seconds, with that screeching guitar, forebode a good ol' rock song, but you never can tell with Floyd: it suddenly turns out to be a hodge-podge of unfinished musical ideas which never were that good in the first place. The only thing that makes this bunch of pseudo-scary and pseudo-sweet noises worthwhile is the silly brass solo, otherwise it's almost as horrible as 'Stethoscope', only a bit more complex.

Finally, to tell you the truth, I don't like Syd's 'Jugband Blues' at all. The song was obviously written in his 'Apples And Oranges' state, when he couldn't play the same melody twice, and it's one of the best documents to illustrate his schizophrenia. The 'jugband' don't help at all. However, it probably was a nice gesture to finish off the album with such a commemorative number. To sum up: two mediocre hippie Wright songs, two good cosmic Waters songs, one horrible anti-war Waters song, one bad psychic Barrett song. How could this band be as good as it had been one year ago, with most of the talent clearly sucked out?

Answer is: only by putting all their efforts together and adding Dave's talents to match their own. Thus, they manage to come up with the totally groundbreaking and shattering title track, and it's no wonder that 'A Saucerful Of Secrets', the best composition on the album, is credited to all four members: with no Barrett around, they just didn't have enough strength on the individual level - not yet. 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' is a lengthy instrumental suite (not a jam by all means) which, according to Gilmour, represents a battle and its consequences. It starts off slowly and moodily, with an unstandard use of the cymbals (preparation for battle), then kicks off into a Mason drum tape-loop while Gilmour annihilates his guitar against a microphone stand (the battle), and finally turns into something more of a requiem, a good requiem, with Wright's organ-playing scaring the soul out of you. It's overlong, repetitive, and pretentious, of course, but, first of all, it's one of the first, if not the first, avantgarde experiments of the kind, and, second, it's listenable - quite unlike thousands of avantgarde collages inspired by it, it's good. It's music; at least, parts of it are. I think that in some way it's the title track and none other that catch up Barrett's legacy, not in the musical sense (Syd would never come up with anything as meticulously planned and produced as this), but rather in the experimental one. It was like a statement - we're gonna continue to push musical barriers forward and make music any kinky way we can. The kind of statement that unites at least twenty years of Pink Floyd's existence and also links The Piper to Dark Side Of The Moon.



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

An album that demonstrates: when the band doesn't show off, it is still able to produce great music.

Best song: CYMBALINE

Track listing: 1) Cirrus Minor; 2) The Nile Song; 3) Crying Song; 4) Up The Khyber; 5) Green Is The Colour; 6) Cymbaline; 7) Party Sequence; 8) Main Theme; 9) Ibiza Bar; 10) More Blues; 11) Quicksilver; 12) A Spanish Piece; 13) Dramatic Theme.

This strikes me as being, well, not exactly a masterpiece, but a hell of a lot more interesting than it's usually considered. Oh, I mean, it isn't usually scolded or anything like that. Problem is, the album's a soundtrack to a French late-Sixties avantgarde movie about heroin, and soundtrack albums aren't usually considered as potential masterpieces just because they're soundtracks. A ridiculous superstition, this - after all, do not forget that A Hard Day's Night and Help! were both soundtracks just the same. And many a minor chef-d'auevre was buried in this way - take Dylan's Pat Garrett, for instance, which turns out to be one of his best creations of the Seventies... but let us return to more important matters at hand.

The very fact that Pink Floyd, a band with a less than two year musical legacy and a somewhat uncertain status, were approached with the idea of a soundtrack, showcases their significant cultural position at the moment. However, the music that you're gonna hear on the album has little to do with the kind of stuff they were now expected to do. If cosmic rock is what you're looking for, look someplace else. Out of the thirteen compositions on here, only one has something to do with their trippy, 'space rockers' image, and it turns out to be one of the worst on the album: the lengthy, pseudo-hypnotic, space-effect-laden instrumental 'Quicksilver'. Maybe it sounded good in the film, but on record it just doesn't go anywhere - it's just a bunch of energy-less keyboard/percussion noises going on for seven minutes. Then again, in a certain perverse way it does predict ambient music, except that I still find its appearance on this record rather inadequate. If you want to make something ambient, do something ambient. Period.

Other drawbacks include Floyd's sudden attempt at a 'heavy' sound - the proto-metallic rockers 'The Nile Song' and 'Ibiza Bar' which both have the same melody (no kidding - I still have problems distinguishing the intros to both songs) and feature Gilmour's cock-rock shouting over a grumbling, pedestrian layer of riffage. I hate the songs, most of all because they sound exactly like the kind of generic hair metal you'd be a-hearin' on every street in the Eighties, maybe a little slower, but that's it. Does that mean that Pink Floyd invented hair metal? you're sure to ask me. Not necessarily, I should respond, because they didn't have their hair that long, at least, not at the time. Let's get calm on that and proceed to the good ones. The ones that deserve an 8.

The good ones are not just good ones, in fact: they're groundbreaking ones. The album finds Roger painfully trying to create a style, a thing he hadn't been able to do on the previous two albums. Here, though, he finally succeeds. From now on, Roger would be a... folk rocker. Yup, you heard right. I don't really know where did the others take their inspiration from, but Roger clearly took his from nobody other than Simon & Garfunkel. 'Cirrus Minor', 'Crying Song', 'Green Is The Colour', 'Cymbaline' - these songs are simply beautiful, and the only category which they can be fitted in is 'progressive folk rock'. 'Progressive', because all of them receive a slight trim of Pink Floyd Treatment, which means they're stuffed with moody sound effects, bits and pieces of Gilmour's electric guitar playing (although most of them are built on an acoustic rhythm track), and reflect Roger's musical ideas and slowly growing lyrical wit. My favourite is 'Cymbaline', with its radical contrast between the quiet verses and the climactic, shrill screaming in the chorus (notice the eerie resemblance between this and the 'and it's hello babe...' part in Genesis' 'Supper's Ready', by the way), but I guess we all can have different opinions. 'Green Is The Colour' distinguishes itself by sounding even McCartneyish in places. Dark Side Of The Moon, eh? Forget that! Of course, these numbers aren't all full of joy and suchlike, but they're lightweight (in the good sense of the word) pop songs! Trust me, you really need to hear this album if you believe everything Pink Floyd ever managed to do was write mournful dirges about a world that sucks like nothing else.

Besides, there's a ton of other goodies waiting for you here, due to the pieces' relative shortness and diversity: Dave's ridiculous pseudo-Spanish phrases on the mercifully brief 'Spanish Piece' (mercifully, because I simply can't stand Spanish guitar, the most overabused musical element in history), Dave's cleverly crafted mounting of guitar tension on 'Dramatic Theme', Mason's re-recording of the drum battle from 'A Saucerful On Secrets' on 'Up The Khyber' and a good avantgarde collage in 'Main Theme', strangely similar to whatever was happening on the Krautrock scene at the time - guess the band was paying some attention to their German colleagues. All of these moments, even though not climactic by any means, manage to draw your attention and turn the supposedly dumb 'soundtrack' into a fascinating listening experience. And dig 'More Blues', the witty re-interpretation of simplistic blues patterns by the geniuses of modern technologies! Believe it or not, this period might have been one of the best for the band, now that Roger finally quit writing garbage like 'Take Up Thy Stethoscope'...



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

The triumph of Experimentation, this is probably the most successful of all avantgardist albums I'm aware of.


Track listing: 1) Astronomy Domine; 2) Careful With That Axe Eugene; 3) Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun; 4) A Saucerful Of Secrets; 5) Sysyphus Part One; 6) Sysyphus Part Two; 7) Sysyphus Part Three; 8) Sysyphus Part Four; 9) Grantchester Meadows; 10) Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict; 11) The Narrow Way Part One; 12) The Narrow Way Part Two; 13) The Narrow Way Part Three; 14) The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Entrance); 15) The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Entertainment); 16) The Grand Vizier's Garden Party (Exit).

Hey, Jefferson Airplane, eat your heart out! Pink Floyd set the controls to 'frig out unlimited', and this album cooks with a vengeance! At no other time in their career did they ever release a record so bizarre. Painfully searching for their style (which they, unfortunately, weren't to find until 1973), they decided to let things go as they were supposed to go by themselves. The normal order of things was (a) excessive touring in their already overabused image of cosmic rockers, (b) unrestrained experimenting in the studio, trying to synthesize every possible sound on the planet and reproduce every possible situation on a record. And this is exactly what you get on Ummagumma, which means 'sex' in some kind of slang (if it ain't really a put-on by Nick Mason).

The first record of this double-set is live, containing just four tracks: one of Syd legacy, two from Saucerful Of Secrets and a new composition. 'Astronomy Domine' is terrific, and even if it loses a bit of its charm on stage (it's bound to, anyway - God only knows how many overdubs and technical gimmicks they inserted into this one), all the main elements are there: that echoey, boomy sound, the apocalyptic riff, the un-earthly vocals, and it also has a couple spare solos courtesy of Mr Rick Wright. 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun' is even improved upon: the climactic passages in the middle result in its sounding less like a lullaby and more like a Robot Rocker. And 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' sounds less artificial and much more energetic in the live context, the only letdown being Gilmour's uneven vocal harmonies in the 'requiem' part - I wonder who sang the original harmonies on the studio version. At least he doesn't sing off key.

However, all of these three live versions, good as they might be, pale in comparison to what I'd call the ultimate in avantgarde jamming. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene' is nothing short of a perfect composition, and I do mean perfect: in the sense that not a note is wasted, the song and its structure are almost mathematically calculated. It begins as a slow, bass-based shuffle with little or no melody, punctuated by little 'pricks' on the cymbals, after which begins the slow and intoxicating build-up: Wright's synth noises, then the drums slowly replace the cymbals, Gilmour starts picking the guitar, Rick starts playing short passages on the organ, then in come the moody, angelic vocal harmonies and you're almost lulled to sleep - that is, if you don't feel the potential danger in the song, and then suddenly the bass comes throbbing faster and faster, the guitars and keyboards also become louder, Waters whispers the murky line 'careful with that axe Euzheeeeene', and after that... well, if you haven't heard the song, I'll just leave this as a secret in order to intrigue you. Suffice it to say that the tension is just as carefully lowered as it mounted: Dave's screeching guitars fade away slowly, the organ almost dissolves itself, and the song ends just as it started - having come full circle. Magnificent, utterly magnificent and one of Floyd's best compositions ever - this is just the perfect example of music's influence on one's mind.

Certainly, the studio album can't even hope to coming close to how 'Careful With That Axe' sounds. But it's intriguing nevertheless. It all consists of the band members 'solo spots', since for some reason they weren't able (or just didn't want to) work together. The result is a patchy, but in places very worthwhile progressive collage. The best songs on here are Waters'. 'Grantchester Meadows' is done in his by now solid Simon-and-Garfunkelesque style, a panoramic ballad depicting the beauties of British rural life together with birds chirping, peacocks cooing (or doing whatever 'em peacocks doo) and flies buzzing. The ending is also typical Floyd showing off - somebody rushes into the studio and thumps the poor insect with a newspaper. And 'Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict' (which rivals the Beatles for the longest song title) is just funny. Of course it's not a song and it ain't music and I don't normally appreciate this kind of sound, but this is oh so oh so oh so funny and technically brilliant that I can't help liking it. Not that I'd want to listen to this stuff that much, but it's just curious. Good sound. Lots of chatter and pratter which is totally impossible to decipher. Can you? Don't even try, it's probably all mixed backwards or in some other direction, unknown to the unprogressive part of humanity.

Now the other members' stuff is less interesting, dragging this record's rating down at least two points. Wright's four-part 'Sysyphus', based on some obscure classical pieces and spiced with modern playing techniques, has its moments, most notably the opening bombastic part, but it also becomes incredibly dull in the middle. Gilmour's 'The Narrow Way' is an unimpressive exercise in guitar technology; all I can say about it is that the first part is lazy and soothing, the second part sounds like a rocked-up version of 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun' and the third part presages the band's sound on Dark Side Of The Moon. All of these things don't impress me that much. Finally, Mason's 'The Grand Vizier Garden Party' is a grand name serving to mask the lack of ideas; virtually the only thing that it does is introduce us to the principle of a drum solo enhanced by electronic effects. Listening to this for seven minutes might have some sense first time around, but from a historical point of view this seems all too close to the 'music for immediate consumption' idea (yeah, like George Harrison's Electronic Sound). Nevertheless, it ain't nasty, and I like the little flute bits which open and close the main section.

Overall, I must say that even if the album does have its poor sides (which is inevitable - what could you expect from a late Sixties experimental album in the hands of such a band as Pink), one has only to consider the guts and the nuts in order to appreciate it. Really, I can't imagine any other record in this world that took the 'do everything you want to do, and do it in the most unpredictable manner' vibe and carried it further. And please don't mention Zappa here - this is not a comical record, this is some serious stuff. Some deadly (whoah) serious stuff made by notably intelligent people. Yup, I'm talkin' intelligent people here. This is an intelligent album, even if Dave Gilmour can hardly be called an intelligent person. Oh, okay, not as intelligent as Waters. You satisfied now? Buy Ummagumma today. Forget about it tomorrow, but enjoy it today.



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

Pink Floyd as a 'classical' band in the original sense of the word, this is their 'peak' as a 'progressive' band.


Track listing: 1) Atom Heart Mother; 2) If; 3) Summer '68; 4) Fat Old Sun; 5) Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast.

Well now, this certainly isn't even a rock record by any means. There's a big classical suite, a folk song, two evident pop songs and a psychedelic sound collage. But that's actually not a reproach. The reproach is that this record is seriously flawed, and below I'll try to give you a fairly objective view on the album (hell, wasn't that the kind of thing I already tried to do for 350 albums? Okay, so they're not totally objective, I confess, but let's just pretend they are).

'Atom Heart Mother' isn't exactly the first sidelong piece, but maybe it's one of the first really entertaining fusions of rock and classical. Its primary inspiration was certainly Deep Purple's Concerto For Group & Orchestra, but the idea was to outdo them. In that respect they probably succeeded 'cause it's hard to imagine anything more appalling than Concerto. Also, this resulted in probably the only Pink Floyd record that could to a significant degree be dubbed 'progressive' - their earlier albums were certainly more schizophrenic than progressive, and since Dark Side Of The Moon they abandoned these progressive tendencies totally. 'Atom Heart Mother', however, doesn't really work on any level other than 'progressive'.

Written in collaboration with partner Ron Geesin (who was responsible for most of the arrangements and orchestral trimmings), the suite is fairly impressive but, unfortunately, it shares all the defects of any song that goes over twenty minutes (actually, the only flawless twenty-plus minute track I've ever heard was 'Thick As A Brick Part 1'). It is diverse enough to not lose your attention, consisting of six different parts. These vary in style and in quality. The main theme ('Father's Shout', later reappearing in 'Reemergence') is terrific, with the classical horns line probably borrowed from some unknown Russian chef-d'aeuvre (okay, it might be Wagner just as well). Moreover, Gilmour contributes a whole guitar paradise both here and on a couple following parts; it sounds a little artificial, of course, but what Gilmour guitar part doesn't? It's really very nice. 'Breast Milky' with its requiem-like chorus sounds a bit too banal, but it's listenable. The only thing I have against it, in fact, that they're repeating themselves on a weaker level: the way they did the requiem part on 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' was much better. BUT... the middle parts (especially 'Funky Dung') are a huge letdown: this is where the 'classical' vibe suddenly disappears and is replaced by experimental synth noises that are prime bullshit compared to even the worst moments on Ummagumma. These parts just do not merge at all, and I can only excuse them by considering the background (remember, it was a time when butchering classical music with crazy avantgarde experiments was considered fashionable and artsy). Now, though, the suite would sound much better if these middle parts were extracted and deleted. You can't even skip them because they aren't indexed separately on the CD - what interest would I have in pushing and holding the 'fast forward' button every time? Blah. Overlong, that's what that one is.

Plus, the second side is almost totally trite. Roger's 'If' is a good song, another of his Simon & Garfunkel impersonations, this time with a strong pessimistic flavour. I wonder, what would happen if Roger quit the band and went on the road with an acoustic guitar in hand (and maybe Art Garfunkel on backing vocals)? Would he be as revered today as he is? I dunno, I just think he has a genuine talent for writing bittersweet acoustic ballads (see 'Pigs On The Wing' for one of the greatest examples of this, oh, and 'Mother', too). 'If' is no exception. But Rick contributes a clumsy, senseless love song ('Summer '68', with the title really saying it all), and Dave suddenly extracts a Ray Davies rip-off: 'Fat Old Sun', besides having a title closely reminiscent of the latter's 'Lazy Old Sun', is sung in an entirely Ray Davies style, with Gilmour even imitating Ray's intonations. Only he didn't have just as much talent for writing songs as Ray Davies had, so it's really a failure. Wise persons have also pointed out that the ringing of the bells that introduces the song is ripped off of the Kinks' 'Big Black Smoke'. Me, I wouldn't know about that, but Gilmour ripping off the Kinks? Sounds like one of the craziest ideas in the world.

I'm also not a fan of the closing 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast' featuring one of their roadies' (or sound engineers, who cares) daily activities' sounds over a couple primitive musical themes. The sounds of running water, frying bacon, chewing and swallowing may sound hilarious first time around, but it kinda begins to grate on my ears when I listen to it for the second one. It was probably very much fun as a stage number when they had real tea and bacon on the stage; but on record it's just dull and dated. Although you should take at least one listen to it, I think.

The album is also innovative in that it's the first one where the band members don't appear on the front cover. The meaning of that was to make the music as 'impersonal' as possible, although to my mind this was just a big put-on: since 1973 the music became hugely personal and it remained personal to the very last studio album. This one, I agree, is not personal, though, so the cow on the cover fits it just fine. Funny thing that the cow inspired the subtitles in 'Atom Heart Mother' ('Breast Milky', 'Funky Dung', etc.): that's how circumstances influence art, eh?



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

Rarities and re-releases, all sounding quite well.


Track listing: 1) Arnold Layne; 2) Interstellar Overdrive; 3) See Emily Play; 4) Remember A Day; 5) Paintbox; 6) Julia Dream; 7) Careful With That Axe, Eugene; 8) Cirrus Minor; 9) The Nile Song; 10) Biding My Time; 11) Bike.

This isn't actually a new album, but I can't strictly place it in the compilations section, because it contains quite a large bunch of early singles previously unreleased on LP, plus a new Waters composition unavailable otherwise ('Biding My Time'). With a bit more intelligence, they could have included all the other Barrett-era rarities like 'Candy And A Currant Bun' or 'Apples And Oranges' and thus have a totally magnificent new studio album. But for some reason, the company preferred to dump them in favour of the already well-known and previously LP-issued tracks like 'Interstellar Overdrive' (this one they could have edited radically for as much as I care), 'Remember A Day' (who needs stupid Wright hippie dreams?), 'Bike' (great song, but why not 'Astronomy Domine' then?), 'Cirrus Minor' (ooh, why this and not 'Cymbaline') and 'The Nile Song' (crazy jerks). The rest, however, is for the most part essential to any self-respecting Pink fan, especially since it's otherwise either totally unavailable or can only be acquired on the Early Singles CD off the Shine On boxset (and you wouldn't want to pay for it, now would you?)

Okay, let's talk about these ones. First of all, there are two gorgeous A-sides, their first recorded production ever. 'Arnold Layne' is the best of the two, a funny song about a transvestite (quite a dangerous subject for 1967, and in fact the song was banned on the radio at the time) where Syd is already starting to display flashes of ingenious madness: on the surface, it looks like a simple pop song, but in reality it goes through several complex sections, so that any serious prog musician would be proud of such a number. In its function of 'single', one should add here, it was completely groundbreaking: quite possibly one of the first UK-released singles to which you couldn't really dance even if you tried real hard (although I suppose the Beatles beat the poor guys even here, with 'Strawberry Fields Forever'). With its weird, 'broken' rhythm, psychedelic sound effects and dangerous lyrics, all crammed together within the standard three-minute limits, it set a new pattern, not to mention introducing the whole rich British underground scene to the world.

'See Emily Play', on the other hand, looks like a gentle love ballad, and was mistakingly counted as such by the general record buying public in 1967, which led to the band being often booed on stage for playing the unexpected and unknown 'Interstellar Overdrive' instead. Me, I still wonder that the record-buying public overlooked the obvious trippy nature of this very song. 'Float on a river for ever and ever', hmm. And what about the crazy psychedelic, feedbacky solo in the middle? Could the pop-loving public be so primitive that it managed to overlook the differences between the singles of Pink Floyd and the singles of, say, the Hollies? Dumb. Then again, it's marvelous that 'Emily' actually dented the public tastes so much. Those were the days...

The rest is mostly Waters-era songs, and they don't seem to mesh easily with Syd's numbers. 'Julia Dream' is a gloomy, dreary Roger ballad where he did try to emulate Syd's style, but couldn't. Why? Because Syd was mad and Roger was sane. It's as clear as anything, and the result is 'boring'. Much of Syd's output might have been ugly and musically unsatisfying, but even the ugliest numbers were always interesting - you never knew what to expect in the next few moments. This, this is just... bah. Completely predictable. It also goes without saying that Wright's 'Paintbox' is weak (much like most of his stuff from the late Sixties), and the studio version of 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene' is a real disappointment in comparison with the live recording: it's short, it sounds rushed, Roger's scream is mixed badly, and the mathematical precision with which they managed to build up and relieve the tension so incredibly in concert is almost absent here. Bah! Who needs this? Get your Ummagumma copy today, I say! Still, a great song.

Finally, 'Biding My Time' is a strange jazzy number with next to no lyrics, a weird brass solo played by Rick Wright and lots of hard rock guitar wanking by Dave. The tempo is fine, and the lyrics are okay, but, all in all, the song is forgettable because the band didn't really have much more skill at playing blues jams than it did at playing hard rock.

Nevertheless, despite all of my critiques, I still give the record a rather high rating cuz, with the exception of 'The Nile Song', there ain't one truly bad number on here, and quite a large percent of the selections is totally, totally great. And, if you're a relatively recent fan and haven't ventured far beyond Dark Side Of The Moon, I highly recommend this album. Piper can be somewhat frightening, and Ummagumma will take some time to appreciate, but this one's a rather easy listen. And who on Earth would want to stay without adding 'Arnold Layne' and 'See Emily Play' in his or her collection?



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

One more progressive album over there, but there's just too much soundtrackish music for me.


Track listing: 1) One Of These Days; 2) A Pillow Of Winds; 3) Fearless; 4) San Tropez; 5) Seamus; 6) Echoes.

This is often called Pink Floyd's first 'genuine' Barrett-less album, since Saucerful was Syd-inspired, Mother was Geesin-inspired, More was a soundtrack, and Ummagumma was a bunch of half-baked solo projects. Of course, this is a rather vague speculation, but it does have a grain of truth. What strikes you about Meddle first of all is the music. While the lyrics still 'aren't there', if you know what I mean, the music is already one hundred percent 'classical Seventies Floyd', so much that at times the record seems like a blueprint for most of the later albums. Can't you see traces of 'On The Run' in 'One Of Those Days'? Or don't you see that the first parts of 'Shine On You C.D.' were actually just a re-write of the first part of 'Echoes'? Dave finally breaks through with his Patented Heaven Guitar, Roger takes on a 'universalist' face and Rick slowly emerges as the old, wrinkled church organ playing dude he really was (that's a metaphor, you gotta understand that). Even the album cover gets really 'psychologically frightening', although in reality it ain't nothing but a good ol' swine's ear.

The album is still frigged out, so I guess I'll call it 'progressive' as well - at least 'Echoes' is genuine prog rock, and that's already half of the album. Yes, you heard right: yet another twenty-plus minute long rambling suite, and I get more or less the same feelings towards it as towards 'Atom Heart Mother'. It's also multipart, said to be based on more than twenty melodies, but I don't hear these twenty melodies. Maybe just a couple. Okay, three or four, not including the avantgarde middle part. Because it really begins and ends on a high note. Like I said, the singing essentially presages the superior 'Shine On', but it's still pretty, and the guitar/keyboard context in which it is set is more than impressive: Dave's pompous tone might get on your nerves sometimes, but objectively it's just a very well written guitar melody, and I don't mind pomposity or anything. He also gets to perform a couple breathtaking solos... before the song turns into a pedestrian blues improvisation that leaves you half asleep only to awaken you with the 'seagulls/crows' section: a melodyless piece which is probably meant to be the culmination because it embodies the main 'sea' theme, but I don't get any genuine feelings from listening to it. Why? Because it's the kind of sound you'd readily hear in any average movie soundtrack that deals with sea themes (come to think of it, any themes). That's the trouble with Floyd music: quite a good bit of it was supposed to represent 'art' but ended up sounding in a totally 'applied' manner. The mid-section of 'Echoes' is a perfect example. Thankfully, it all reverts to the beginning in the end. Anyway, since I'm such a big fan of comparisons, I'd say that this still beats 'Atom Heart Mother' - the main theme is more interesting, and the mid-section is at least listenable, even if musically unsatisfying.

As for the first side, it's also a slight improvement over Atom Heart Mother's solo-style numbers. The opening composition is a deserved classic. You probably all know that one, where Dave and Roger both play bass and Nick Mason utters the song title with the tapes slowed down and Rick gets these 'whooooooOOOOSH!' keyboard noises and then Gilmour steps in with some dentistry, but it's okay, it's eventually tolerable, and the whole thing rocks and shakes and burns the house down and then it dies down itself and these winds fade away leaving you to scratch your head in bewilderment and think about what the hell was actually going on. It's called 'One Of These Days I'm Gonna Cut You Into Little Pieces'. Authorship goes maybe to Eugene and his axe?

The other four songs aren't that interesting, actually. Roger contributes yet two more of his Simon & Garfunkel pastiches, but the well of acoustic inspiration was already running dry: 'Fearless' might be good, with a wonderful descending guitar line (although I find the football fans' cries at the end painfully distracting and totally unnecessary), but 'A Pillow Of Winds' is ultimately forgettable. Maybe it's because the lyrics suck. Maybe it's just because the melody ain't distinctive. Maybe it's because I'm a jerk and can't tell a good song from 'Corporal Clegg'. (But I'd prefer to forget that last phrase). And the two little ditties at the end of the first side that everybody finds so nasty, the jazzy 'San Tropez' and the doggy 'Seamus', well, you know, I'm rather fond of such ditties inserted among overbloated prog compositions because they help relieve the atmosphere and show that even the deadly serious guys have a sense of humour. Consider 'em tiny fillerish jokes. 'Seamus' is actually a lot of fun - what other band has made a dog sing the blues so convincingly? Of course, you shouldn't think I'm seriously considering these two songs to be masterpieces - they're just cool. But not enough cool for their names to be engraved in gold on the front door of the Rock Songs Pantheon if they'll ever get enough bucks and guts to open one. Let us draw the final line, now: that makes one half-baked epic, two good songs, one mediocre song and two silly, but funny throwaways. Beats Atom Heart Mother all to hell. Well, okay. Not to hell. To purgatory. An interesting album. But not one of their best.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

A beautiful soundtrack that is unjustly forgotten, but any fan of DSOTM should really hear this at least once in their lives.

Best song: WOT'S... UH THE DEAL

Track listing: 1) Obscured By Clouds; 2) When You're In; 3) Burning Bridges; 4) The Gold It's In The; 5) Wot's... Uh The Deal; 6) Mudmen; 7) Childhood's End; 8) Free Four; 9) Stay; 10) Absolutely Curtains.

Didn't I mention earlier that quite a lot of Pink Floyd music sounds 'soundtrackish'? Well then, no wonder this is their second genuine soundtrack album in four years (third, actually, if you count the few compositions in Zabriskie Point). And being a soundtrack, it's no wonder nobody ever pays much attention to it. Neither did I at first - this was the last Floyd album I ever bought, yes, even later than the post-Waters celebrations of mediocrity. And oh what fools, total fools are we, and what a particular fool I have been.

Actually, most of these things were recorded during the Dark Side sessions - they'd already played the first preliminary Dark Side concerts before this one came out. So quite a lot of these songs sound much alike the better known ones, and it's much closer to Dark Side, in fact, than Meddle. Meddle solidified their 'experimental' side, with sound effects, tricky production values and groovy synth lines that all came up later in 1973; Obscured By Clouds is much more important, however (to me at least) in that it neglects the experimentation in favour of search for good melodies, thus presaging the melodical side of DSOTM. And forgive me for my heresy, but I say it loud and I don't say it just for fun: most of the melodies on DSOTM don't hold a candle to this forgotten soundtrack. Yup, I'm serious. There are ten songs on here, and about two thirds of them contain some of the most attractive music I ever heard from Pink.

The instrumentals are mostly superior, like the immediately-pleasant title track that sets the necessary gloomy, "pre-apocalyptic" atmosphere with its gritty synth patterns and Gilmour's patented dentistry, and 'When You're In' that it segues into: the latter, in particular, subdues me with its minimalism, showing that sometimes a pair of three-chord riffs can provide a larger emotional flurry than a solo of six billion lightning-speed notes. And 'Mudmen' features one of the few examples of Gilmour the Dentist soloing that is, you know, great to listen to. Again, essentially just a lot of atmosphere, moody, relaxed atmosphere - but a really really sympathetic atmosphere. Like on More, you know, only less frigged out - more accent on playing than on making sound. Maybe it's the fact that this album was recorded in two weeks time that helps the music so much? Surely they just didn't have time to spoil all of these numbers, to feed them up with dated sound effects? Yeah, that's probably it. They just hastily put together some half-baked (but more than half-brilliant) melodies and pushed them forward without much afterthought. In the process they created a minor and underrated masterpiece.

Yup, you can really see quite a lot of DSOTM traces on here. Take Gilmour's 'Childhood End', for instance. Do you really want to tell me that this song is not based on the same musical (and lyrical, by the way) ideas as 'Time'? Come on now, it even features the same "clock-work" drum pattern in the beginning! And the fascinating 'Wot's... Uh The Deal', with its lyrics about getting old and melody that would fit on DSOTM as easy as anything? I tell you, whoever adores DSOTM and neglects this one is making a fatal mistake. Forget the hype and agree with me that this is, well, maybe not a better, but easily just as good a record. Only without the clocks and the beating heart and the clanging cash registers and the flying beds... get my drift?

Now, of course, there are some misfires on the album, or I would have given it a higher rating. The closing instrumental 'Absolutely Curtains' is way too flaccid for my tastes, and the New Guinea aborigines' singing at the end is a silly extract from the film (something about disillusioned hippies coming to dwell among primitive people, I think; I've never seen it, of course, and I don't have the least desire to look for it) that lasts way too long for it to form a simple forgettable gimmicky coda - instead, it just goes on and on for ages, as if they thought that any fan of Pink Floyd should naturally be a tribal music lover as well. Same goes for Wright's 'Stay', another so-so pop ballad in the vein of 'Summer '68' and even based on the same lyrical subject ('strange' relations between man and woman).

But the other songs, good, uh oh, some even great - they all compensate for that, like 'Burning Bridges' that gives us the pleasure of hearing 'Echoes' reprised once again (and serves as a natural precursor to 'Breathe', too); the hilarious upbeat hard rocker 'The Gold It's In The...'; and a Waters' throwaway called 'Free Four' that might have passed for silly country if not for the ominous synth notes at the end of each phrase and Roger's bitter lament for his dead father, full of hideous death imagery, that stands so glaringly at odds with the lightweight, happy melody. They are not spectacular, of course. There are no DSOTM-like 'climaxes', and the arrangements are often elementary - but I guess that's exactly the reason that makes me like this one so much. The lack of pretension. The lack of universalism. Good, clear guitars. Minimum electronics. And, of course, absolutely no hype or all that 'greatest rock album in the world' stuff. Funny. It's like, you know, a little brother to Dark Side - less proud, less braggart, and less handsome, but just as diligent and laborious.



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

Hey, I'm not that stupid to try and make any generalization about this album, at least not in one line of text. Even if it's bold.

Best song: TIME

Track listing: 1) Speak To Me/Breathe; 2) On The Run; 3) Time; 4) The Great Gig In The Sky; 5) Money; 6) Us And Them; 7) Any Colour You Like; 8) Brain Damage; 9) Eclipse.

Tsk, tsk. Here comes the moment you've been waiting all your life - to hear me prattling on the subject of Dark Side Of The Moon. Well, first of all I guess that whoever you are, gentle reader, you already heard this album in its near or full entirety - whether it be CD, tape or (most probably) radiowaves. So I don't think it's necessary to introduce you to the songs. I guess it would also be of no use saying all kind of things everybody said a hundred times - that this is one of the greatest bestsellers, that it introduced a new kind of music, revolutionized all there was to revolutionize, converted millions of fans to Floyd music, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, an album that's rated as high as this one can't help being overrated. You might shrug your shoulders or anything like that, but this is an undeniable fact. The only album that ever comes close in the level of worshipping is Sergeant Pepper, of course, and that's overrated too (I might also name Live At Leeds, but it shares a specific kind of popularity, a much more solid kind - while the former two are the 'official greatest', the Brahma and the Vishnu of the musical press, Leeds' popularity is mainly based on ordinary listeners - I've never heard a single bad opinion about the album. But I digress). So in this here review I'll try to analyse the album's popularity and make some conclusions about why and how much it is really overrated. So as not to lose direction, I'll try to speak separately about (a) lyrics, (b) music and (c) special catches of the album. Okay? Ready?

(a) So, the lyrics. This is maybe the main innovation to the music of Pink Floyd. All of them are written by Waters, and thus the album initiates a period of Waters domination over the band: musically the other members are still there and active, but the lyrical genius is one and only one. Even more important is the fact that these lyrics have nothing to do with typical 'prog lyrics'. They all have their special kind of meaning. Roger is presenting his philosophy of life, trying to express his opinions on all of its uncomfortable sides: schizophrenia and paranoia, time and aging, money and corruption and suchlike. In fact, the album could just as well be called Dark Side Of The Earth, but I guess one more metaphor couldn't hurt. The lyrics are good, and I can't deny the fact. But there's also a very serious flaw about them, a flaw that prohibits me from regarding them as real poetry. Truth is, they resemble a philosophical treatise much more than the outlook of an emotion-full poet. This is not Sir Roger Waters spilling beautiful imagery on us. Rather this is Doctor R. Waters, Ph.D., who has just finished adding rhymes to his latest thesis. Unfortunately, he's no Bob Dylan and often ends up sounding rather banal ('Time'; 'Eclipse') or preachy ('Breathe'). Maybe this was the kind of poetry the world was expecting in 1973: to demonstrate that art rock could be really clever and not just irreasonably pompous. In retrospect, though, I don't see why we should rate this poetry higher than the much more fascinating contemporary lyrics of Pete Townshend or Keith Reid. These dudes managed to be philosophical and poetic at once, although I can see where some people would be slow to appreciate their lyrics as opposed to those of Roger.

(b) The music. The music is great. There are moments on the album that are totally unique, not only for Pink Floyd, but for mankind. The bombastic introduction to 'Time' (the one that goes 'BOOM - BOOM - BOOM - bo-boom-BOOM') is enough to make me take off my hat. The bass line on 'Money' is something special, although I'm sick of hearing praises for that stupid 7/4 time (everybody was using weird time signatures at the time). But on the other hand, behind the hype too many people seem to forget that most of these musical ideas are borrowed from older albums - Meddle and Obscured By Clouds, in particular. Both 'Breathe' and the chorus of 'Time' once again reprise the main theme of 'Echoes'; 'Us And Them' is a 'traditional' Rick Wright keyboard shuffle, even if a little improved; and 'Brain Damage' isn't seriously better than some of the most effective Waters acoustic ballads ('Fearless', for example). Try to understand me: I'm not saying the actual songs on DSOTM aren't good. The only weak tunes for me are the pointless jam 'Any Colour You Like' and the closing 'Eclipse' which is still good (of course, I do not include neither 'Speak To Me' nor 'On The Run' here because they're not songs). What I'm trying to point out is that in no way does the music stand out among the general row of Floyd albums: while some of the tunes are better, some are definitely worse (I far prefer 'Childhood's End' to 'Time' 'cause it's less pretentious and doesn't feature any dentistry). The only serious innovations on here are 'The Great Gig In The Sky' (which is hardly Floyd at all, it's a song that owes its charm to Clare Tory) and yes, the weird tempo of 'Money'. All the other musical innovations were thought of several years earlier. I agree that this album might be the quintessence of these innovations: a tight and compact compendium of all the good things Pink Floyd have thought of for the past three or four years. But that only means that the album is a little more consistent than the previous ones and nothing more. It's no wonder that anybody who starts his Pink Floyd education with this album will treat all or most of the others somewhat more coldly: but if you start from the beginning and listen first to Meddle or even Ummagumma, you won't get such a shock, I tell you.

(c) Now about the special catches. If the lyrics aren't really groundbreaking in the end, and the music was really mostly a rehashment of elder successes, then the catches are what makes this album. I'll admit that the level of jack-in-a-boxery is at an all time high: no previous album boasted such an immaculate production or such a huge load of special effects. Beating hearts, wild laughter, strange maniacal phrases, airplanes exploding, money ringing, clocks ticking, and a symphonic 'Ticket To Ride' at the end (I can't guarantee this one: there really is something vaguely sounding like an orchestra in the background at the end of 'Eclipse', but there's no way I could guess the melody) - all this is enough to convert any unexperienced new-buyer. But this is also my main complaint, you see? The music gets lost behind all these things! And, okay, maybe it's fun to endure 'On The Run' a couple of times, but do you really want to hear that 'do-do-do-do-DO-do-do-do' every time you'd like to relax to the sound of 'Great Gig In The Sky' or 'Us And Them'? Maybe you do. I don't. I know it's supposed to symbolize paranoia, so what? This piece of noise-making doesn't deserve to be placed on this record. Yes, it's a great pleasure to write phrases like 'the wonderful heartbeat on the album lets us know that the music is devoted to human relationship' and suchlike (this is actually a misquotation from Gilmour), but once you've written all that you find out that the only thing these effects do is preventing you from enjoying the music. Of course, this might have been just the plan: 'shut off' the music so that the clocks and cash registers would hide from your eyes the obvious weaknesses of the tunes. The special effects are a mask - a thing that is mistakenly taken for 'art' when in reality it's just a screen masking the lack of truly innovative 'art'.

You might ask, of course, why I'm still giving the album a 9 if all I did was scold it. Okay, apart from the fact that it's not true, I'll apologize by saying that all the critique above serves only to deprive DSOTM of the title '(one of the) greatest rock album ever', just because there's no such thing and there never can be, and even if there was, DSOTM wouldn't be worth it. Apart from that, it's certainly a great album: at one time I was ready to give it a 6, but I guess I was anti-hyped at the moment. To be frank, apart from being bored with most of the special effects and particularly the whole 'On The Run', I don't like 'Any Colour You Like' and some other moments on record ('Money' could be a very good song, but it seems to me that the band preferred to take it as an opportunity to jam, and Gilmour's solos are quite detestable). But 'Time', 'Us And Them', 'Breathe', 'Brain Damage' and especially 'Great Gig In The Sky', with ultra-amazing vocals from guest vocalist Clare Tory, these are terrific songs that quite redeem the bad moments. Still, all the kitsch elements result in my putting on Obscured By Clouds much more often. Too bad. And one final word to the casual listener: don't run ahead so as to raise your voice in the general chorus. Better buy a couple of albums preceding it and a couple of albums following it, have a dozen listens to each one and use your head. Don't idolize it. Be cool. Have a life.



Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

A bizarre collection of aimless jams interspersed with revelational moments of beauty on occasion.

Best song: SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND (parts I - V)

Track listing: 1) Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts I - V); 2) Welcome To The Machine; 3) Have A Cigar; 4) Wish You Were Here; 5) Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts VI - IX).

This is gonna be a tough one, but I'm not gonna leave the battlefield defeated. After all, didn't I just admit that Dark Side really deserves a 9? Well then, I have to confess that I can't give Wish You Were Here more than a 7, much as I'd wish to raise this rating. Yes, I know that the album was almost as huge as its predecessor and still is a 'fan' favourite (especially for those 'fans' who don't know of the existence of any other Floyd albums). But IMHO, there's very little about the album that permits us to regard it on the same level.

Where do I begin with this second mega-monster in the band's history? Well, for starters, there are several moments on here ('moments', I say, not 'songs'), that I utterly admire and that certainly no other band would be able to pull off, not in 1975 at least, when making 'serious' music was already starting to be regarded as an offense against 'good taste'. Unfortunately, these are 'moments', at the best 'periods', just because the songs are so damn long and they never deserve to be that long. It all starts with the incredibly beautiful 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' - a respectful and worthy tribute to the 'late' Syd Barrett (who actually gave the boys a visit in the studio while they were recording the song, as if by irony: were they really paying tribute to that fattened old guy? Go figure!) The first parts of the song might be one of the most evident epitomes of 'gorgeous beauty' in rock: Gilmour's calculated, but nevertheless inspired guitar notes playing over the moody synth backing perfectly convey the feeling of majesty, sadness and inescapable tragedy that the song's all about. And the lyrics depicting Syd's (or, let us be less concise, 'the Artist's') decline and demise are truly heartfelt - why didn't they record a song like this earlier?

However, the song ends in a rather feeble saxophone solo, and then off we go into loads of moody and atmospheric garbage. Honestly, I don't know how anybody can love 'Welcome To The Machine' and 'Have A Cigar', two of Waters' worst anti-establishment anthems. The elevator noises that are supposed to carry you 'into the machine' usually carry me to the sink, and the whole song is built on dirty electronic gadgets that totally eliminate any cathartic feelings you could have generated during 'Shine On'. Yeah yeah, I know they are supposed to give the impression of the record business industry being similar to a robotic monster, but that gives the song about the same value as a museum exhibit: look at it, listen to it, but God forbid you touch it or use it. How can you be entertained by this crap? Nah. The best thing about the song is probably Waters' lachrymose intonation, and that's no big deal. As for 'Have A Cigar' that's sung by Roy Harper because Dave didn't want to sing it since he didn't like the lyrics (he had a point, too), it's probably okay by any average band standards, but consider it a Pink Floyd highlight? It's just a mid-tempo bluesy tune with nothing that stands out - just your standard rhythm, drums and singing. Kinda like the Gilmour-sung part of 'Time', only weaker because Harper just isn't that expressive, and the lyrics kinda suck.

That leaves us with 'Wish You Were Here' (whose was the atrocious idea to link it to 'Have A Cigar' with that squeaky radio sound?) which is also gruesomely overrated as a song. It's good, but how come it deserves its reputation of one of Floyd's best songs? I could name at least four or five early Waters acoustic tunes that aren't any worse! Maybe it's because of the pretentious lyrics? Could well be, but for me, the best part in the whole song is the charming 'doo-doo-doo' singing near the end. Finally, we reprise 'Shine On You C. D.', and the final parts are also much weaker than the intro. What the hell?

I mean, c'mon, it ain't an unworthy album. But there's an interesting thing that you may discover if you listen to all Floyd albums in chronological order: Wish You Were Here is the first album that shows genuine signs of 'regression', in the sense of 'going backwards', not necessarily 'worsening'. They reached their zenith on Dark Side and just couldn't go any further: neither Gilmour nor Wright were able to contribute new musical or conceptual ideas. So this album, wrought and produced with so much pain and tension over the course of two years, is a stalemate. Curiously enough, it's much more close in sound to Meddle than to anything after it. Come to think of it, quite a few songs and bits of songs are just re-writes of tunes from that album: thus, the main theme of 'Shine On' creates the same mood and has almost the same melody as the main theme on 'Echoes'; 'Have A Cigar' sounds just like the part I called 'boring blues jam' on same 'Echoes'; Part VI of 'Shine On' recreates the bass thumping and dentistry soloing of 'One Of These Days'; and isn't it possible to trace 'Wish You Were Here' to some of the folkish songs on that one, like 'Fearless'? I think it is... Conclusion? Wish You Were Here is but a slightly more sophisticated re-write of Meddle with (consequently) a lot less innovation (if any) and a lot more pretentiousness and preachiness. That would make a 6 (one point less than for Meddle), but I kindly raise it one point just because the album begins on such an incredibly gorgeous note.

Have you ever wondered why this was the last album with any significant contributions by Gilmour and Wright, with Roger stepping in and taking full control over everything after that? No? Because they were exhausted. If Roger had been able to gain total control over the band five years earlier, he'd have done that. He wasn't, because there were lots of ideas in these two pots. This album amply demonstrates that Roger was the only guy with something left to say... (not that everything he said was good, of course)... (let us proceed to Animals and see what happens)...



Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 14

The greatest collection of allegories ever, and the introduction of a new Pink Floyd Sound!

Best song: any of them might do

Track listing: 1) Pigs On The Wing 1; 2) Dogs; 3) Pigs (Three Different Ones); 4) Sheep; 5) Pigs On The Wing 2.

Well there you go! There you go! Roger Waters finally assumes absolute domination of the band (the only other credit is for Gilmour's coauthorship on 'Dogs'), and this leads to drastic, almost incredible changes! This record sounds all like the previous ones, and yet it sounds nothing like them! The best Pink project ever, equalled only by the first half of The Wall (the second half drags quite a bit, though, so everything is fair).

One might be surprised that I give this highest rating to an album that has only four songs on it ('Pigs On The Wing' is reprised twice, so the number of tracks is five). But wouldn't it be stupid if I began giving out ratings based on the length of these songs instead of their quality? Besides, what's a long song? Long songs, and these current long songs in particular, are usually multi-part, sharing at least several melodies each, which means that a multi-part song is just several songs without a break, nothing else. True, 'Pigs (Three Different Ones)' is all based on the same melody, and 'Sheep' doesn't produce that 'multi-part' feeling as well, at least not on first listen. But the album still manages to give an impression of true diversity, wonderous as it may be.

Animals have often been called the 'Punk Floyd' album, but that's only true because of the angry lyrics that Roger penned for the occasion: the music has nothing to do with punk. This misguided epithet, however, helped stabilize Floyd's reputation in the epoch of overthrowing of authorities: where other art rock bands, such as ELP, Yes, and Procol Harum were crumbling into dust, while others, such as Genesis, were hastily changing their image so as not to end up in the wastebin, Floyd stood up holding their heads high. And nobody's responsible for that but Roger, who virtually pulled the band through. The concept of the album is presumably Orwellian (based on the ideas of 'Animal Farm'), but in reality Roger contributes the ideology himself. One might regard Animals as a triangled diagram, with Dogs, Pigs and Sheep as the vertices of the triangle: the Pigs rule, the Dogs fight, and the Sheep are the victims. I won't go into details; suffice it to say that I consider the lyrics among Waters' best ever: the 'sheep prayer' that's mixed so low no one can really hear it is the real lyrical gem. A parody, but a gem.

As for the music, the songs are a definite step above WYWH. 'Pigs On The Wing' starts it off with Roger's acoustic strumming - he returns to the 'folkish' things once again, and it's charming. 'If I didn't care... ... ... what happened to you... ... ... and you didn't care... ... for me...' What a clever introduction. 'Dogs', which occupies most of the first side, is a brilliant excourse into the world of pain and violence: the melody is strong and rocking, and slightly paranoid at the same time, Dave's solos are worked out with such care as hadn't been seen since, well, ever, and the sound effects, for once, do not distract us from the main theme but emphasize it: the dogs are howling, a voice keeps on saying 'stone' for a thousand times while you're slowly drowning in the background (doesn't the whole passage after the lines 'have a good drown... dragged down by the stone' sound like somebody drowning and passing from life to death?), and Dave imitates a cruel laugh on his guitar. One of the few seventeen-minute long songs that I'll probably never get tired of.

Next, after the denounce of Pain and Violence, comes the denounce of Hypocrisy and Fake Manners in 'Pigs (Three Different Ones)'. Again, the pig noises throughout are a wonderful idea, the melody rocks and drags you along, and Roger's vocals encoded with Vocoder are an absolute scream: the thing is done with an obvious aim, to stress the words and give the voice more passion and cold, blood-freezing hatred, and that's what it exactly does! And the synth solo is fabulous, fitting in with the pig noises perfectly. Eleven minutes long? I just don't feel it! This song is much too short for me!

Finally we have the denounce of Weakness and Submissiveness in 'Sheep'. Need I to say that the song rocks just as hard? The keyboards intro is slightly distracting, but, on the other hand, it's an ideal contrast to the sudden, romping 'breakthrough' when Roger sings the angry, teasing lines stretched until they're meshing in with the synth line and go BOOM! This one has the angriest moments on the whole record, and it really makes you want to take a gun and go butcher them filthy canines threatening the existence of the mindless sheep. The 'sheep prayer' is wonderful, like I said, and the solos are no bullshit too.

And to top it off - a brief return onto the quiet territory of the acoustic 'Pigs On The Wing 2' that brings the album to an absolute close, making it like a cycle. It's like a problem being set in the beginning and resolved in the end after a lot of painful thinking and consideration. A masterful concept. Truly masterful.

But what makes me particularly love the album is that it's a radical departure from a lot of things they did before. The early albums were much too experimental and kitsch; the 1973-75 albums were too preachy and jammy. Animals manages to take a little from the things they did before that, just in the right proportion (some motivated sound effects, some solos planned with uttermost care, the lyrics that manage to make sense while not sounding way too banal and understandable); but it also makes the songs rock out - this is a true rock album, and if we take the word 'rock' in its limited sense, the only true rock album by this particular band. And the level on which it manages to rock out is impressive - it isn't a parody or a self-parody, and it isn't a rip-off (Pink Floyd would never dare to rip-off a rock record). And that means that the songs never get boring. Could I fall asleep in the middle of 'Dogs' or 'Sheep', like I sometimes do while listening to 'Any Colour You Like' or 'Have A Cigar'? Never in my life. When I do it will be the first sign that I'm really growing old. I think.



Year Of Release: 1979
Record rating = 7 ((10+4)/2)
Overall rating = 11

Another could-be great album ruined by the excessive quantity of the songs. So many great moments and so much fluff. Pity.

Best song: DON'T LEAVE ME NOW (yup, you heard right)

Track listing: 1) In The Flesh?; 2) The Thin Ice; 3) Another Brick In The Wall (part 1); 4) The Happiest Days Of Our Lives; 5) Another Brick In The Wall (part 2); 6) Mother; 7) Goodbye Blue Sky; 8) Empty Spaces; 9) Young Lust; 10) One Of My Turns; 11) Don't Leave Me Now; 12) Another Brick In The Wall (part 3); 13) Goodbye Cruel World; 14) Hey You; 15) Is There Anybody Out There; 16) Nobody Home; 17) Vera; 18) Bring The Boys Back Home; 19) Comfortably Numb; 20) The Show Must Go On; 21) In The Flesh; 22) Run Like Hell; 23) Waiting For The Worms; 24) Stop; 25) The Trial; 26) Outside The Wall.

Hey there, wait a minute! Before I go off into philological analysis, lemme just mention this here thingie. Remember how this album starts? With about fifteen or twenty seconds of this quiet, accordeon-driven tune that's even barely audible, and then BOOM! that metallic rhythm steps in. Now what I wanted to say was that I've already listened to this record for about twenty or thirty times, but I still get a jump in my chair each time I hear that boom! Now that's what I call absolute psychologic mastership - this Waters was maybe the damn cleverest dude on earth to create the perfect mood on a record and get the people to experience exactly the kind of reaction that they planned beforehand. Of course, that same Waters dude couldn't tell a good melody from an insipid concentrate, but that's just not his forte - you have to take it or leave it.

Actually, the above paragraph pretty much sums up my ideas about The Wall - Floyd's second best-known album and probably the last mega-hit 'art rock' record in the whole business. Needless to say, it is a pure Waters solo album - apart from a couple (not the best) Gilmour collaborations, the music, lyrics, effects processing and conception are all by Roger. Moreover, Rick Wright didn't even take part in the recordings, being fired by Waters somewhere around the time of the album's release due to 'laziness'. Of course, Rick just explained it as another example of Roger's despotism, but I prefer to keep my mouth shut about it - both gentlemen probably had a point. Anyways, Roger is the man here, and I'd initially set my hopes high, because Animals really demonstrated that he could easily showcase his talents without any help from others. Unfortunately, there are just too many songs; even worse, the further it gets the nastier it becomes. The first record of the set is totally brilliant, and at one period I found myself recycling the first CD over and over again even though I had to put on the second one. In my opinion, this first record contains the tightest, cleanest, most energetic and deeply hitting collection of numbers they ever managed to record - maybe even better than Animals. But the second record is a terrifying, desperate letdown - ranging from noodling melodyless 'soft rock' to horrible Gilbert-Sullivan crap. One of the most thrashing disappointments in my life, in fact. So there. Now I think I'll get to continuing this review by dividing the rest of it into three sections, just like I did with DSOTM - concerning the lyrics, the music and the catches. I hope I'll be convincing enough for you, my gentle reader!

(a) I won't really go into discussing this rock opera's subject, you know it already. Let's just say it's interesting, but not terribly profound (the motive of one person's isolation from the world is quite a well-used one) or original (Tommy, in fact, was based on the same plot). Even so, the story of Pink's gradual alienation from the shitty world is built up quite superbly: the dead father, the school bullies and the non-understanding wife themes are tolerable. But the twistings of the story after the wall has been built are lame to the extreme. Exploitation of the omnipresent Nazi themes that takes up most of the second record is so banal (especially when it comes around to 'Waiting For The Worms') that it really makes me doubt Roger's abilities as a 'thinker'. Come to think of it, the man wasn't terribly sharp: throughout all of the Seventies he hadn't been able to come up with a really original philosophic idea or anything like that. And moreover, all of the 'ideas' explored in The Wall were either 'borrowed' from The Who (alienation) or the Kinks (more concrete details like school problems, described in Schoolboys In Disgrace, or the anti-war motives in Arthur).

(b) Ooh, the music. Some of the tunes on the first record are wonderful, and I don't know whether Roger invented them by accident or some good fairy whispered 'em in his ear while he was busy dissolving Wright's contract, but there they are! There's the hit 'Another Brick In The Wall Part II', of course, which everybody knows as 'We Don't Need No Education', and it's a really shattering disco tune with some funky bass and a contemplative solo by Dave. I'm obliged to add, though, that 'Another Brick In The Wall Part I' is hardly worse, with all these echoey guitars coming in and out again and the bass rhythm pounding away in the distance so that the song really really really conveys the impression of 'daddy's flown across the ocean'. I get the vision of a helicopter flying low above the endless ocean waters while playing this song. You? There we go with the 'soundtrackish' Floyd again! There are the stunning ballads 'Goodbye Blue Sky' and the beginning of 'The Thin Ice'. 'Mother' is another great ballad, however, it suffers from being a little too long. The stupid cock rocker 'Young Lust' where Gilmour again assumes the intonation of 'The Nile Song' is so ridiculously bloated that it's absolute fun, and Roger's singing in 'One Of My Turns' as he imitates Pink having a fit might be one of his strongest vocal workouts. My favourite, though, is the painfully desperate ballad 'Don't Leave Me Now' where Pink laments over the departure of his wife. The moment when Roger sings '...why are you running away?' and the song gets heavier with the wailing guitars and synths and Roger groaning his 'ooooooh... babe... oooooh... babe..' is the only moment on any Pink Floyd record that really moves me to tears, just because I think he managed to perfectly capture on record a man's emotions in case of utmost desperation and breakdown. It's simply gorgeous, but...

...yuck! The second record is atrocious! Where are these beautiful ballads or powerful disco rockers? Okay, so it does contain two of Floyd's most famous songs - 'Comfortably Numb' and 'Run Like Hell', but I'm not a fan of either. The first one sounds like mid-Eighties substance-less Elton John: a lot of aura and atmosphere, a cool, but generic and boring guitar solo, and not much of a melody. The second is just a clumsy and erratic 'rocker' that's totally unmemorable; the reason everybody loves it is probably connected to the fact that, for some reason, it's one of Gilmour's favourite songs (asshole), so he plays it at every concert. Apart from that, the only number that approaches 'decent' is the side opener 'Hey You', another desperate ballad, but also overlong and inconsistent. The other tracks are either short filler-type numbers like 'Vera' or the ridiculous 'Bring The Boys Back Home' with Beach Boy Bruce Johnston singing backup vocals, or murky Broadway musical numbers ('The Trial'), or rehashings of the songs already found on the first album ('In The Flesh', an extended variant of the album opener 'In The Flesh?' In the flesh, in the flesh, just calm down). Aaarrrghh. Stupid.

(c) Even the famous Pink Floyd catches - the special effects - are mostly prominent on the first record. Once again, the band shows its absolute mastery of this kind of tricks: the crashing airplanes, the wailings of a baby, the teacher's scolding, the naive 'look mummy there's an airplane in the sky' line, Pink's destruction of TV sets, telephones ringing and hidden messages to Syd Barrett in 'Empty Spaces' - all these things really make the first record come alive, and I don't need no damn movie to make the plot work. But the second record is almost devoid of these things! If you do not count the crowd noises on 'Waiting For The Worms' or the collapse of the wall at the end, there's almost nothing interesting going on. The songs don't mesh well with each other, and the record structure is totally erratic.

Funny, how one record can be so spirit-raising and the other so yawn-inspiring. I really hate giving the album a 7 because I love the first disc so much, but unfortunately it doesn't get sold as two separate albums. I bet you anything, though, that if it did, the sales from the first album would far exceed those of the second one. Why don't they try and experiment and see what happens?

Oh, and one more thing. The movie is a piece of horrible crap. I won't say that it vilifies the concept (especially since Roger supervised every bit of it), but somehow it manages to emphasize all the nasty and gory things and leave out the gentle moments. 'Give the people what they want', of course, and I fully understand that if people want to see blood and nasty stuff, they should get it, but, unfortunately, that mostly reduces the film to a banal piece of popular entertainment with little true artistic value. I'll just say that my bad luck was to get my first taste of Pink Floyd by watching The Wall, and even if I managed not to vomit on the spot, I swore I'd never lay my hands on a Pink record for the following fifteen or twenty years. I broke that oath, of course, and so much the better; but memories of that film still send shivers down my back. What a gross, banal piece of idiotic, cash-oriented production.



Year Of Release: 2000
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

I'd be hard pressed to come up with at least two reasons of why you need this if you already have the studio version.

Best song: aw, since they butcher "Don't Leave Me Now", it really doesn't matter...

Track listing: 1) MC: Atmos; 2) In The Flesh?; 3) The Thin Ice; 4) Another Brick In The Wall (part 1); 5) The Happiest Days Of Our Lives; 6) Another Brick In The Wall (part 2); 7) Mother; 8) Goodbye Blue Sky; 9) Empty Spaces; 10) What Shall We Do Now?; 11) Young Lust; 12) One Of My Turns; 13) Don't Leave Me Now; 14) Another Brick In The Wall (part 3); 15) The Last Few Bricks; 16) Goodbye Cruel World; 17) Hey You; 18) Is There Anybody Out There?; 19) Nobody Home; 20) Vera; 21) Bring The Boys Back Home; 22) Comfortably Numb; 23) The Show Must Go On; 24) MC: Atmos; 25) In The Flesh; 26) Run Like Hell; 27) Waiting For The Worms; 28) Stop; 29) The Trial; 30) Outside The Wall.

I suppose everybody has at least vaguely heard about these fabulous Wall shows in 1980-81. It was probably the most grandiose project in Pink's entire history, and not even Gilmour's later technophilian excesses could match the effect produced on people by those concerts. Been there? I haven't, but I'd sure like to see the actual Wall slowly being built out of several thousand cardboard bricks and blown up at the end of the performance. And, of course, loads and loads and loads of traditional Floyd gimmicks, with inflatable dolls, pigs on the wing, conveyers and airplanes, images from the movie projected on the Wall, Dave rising high into the sky while playing the solo in 'Comfortably Numb', and, as if that wasn't enough, a cast of supporting musicians substituting Floyd members in Floyd member masks (which you can see on the actual cover of the CD). These eventually opened the show, later on ceding their places to the real Floydsters but still providing a lot of backing help. Ironically, Andy Bown did more work on the bass than Roger, while Willie Wilson often had to step in for the unfortunate Nick Mason who couldn't keep the tempo on the more complicated numbers. (Brr, talk about the guys' technical proficiency...)

Nevertheless, what with all the glitter and all the pomp and all the excitement, I frankly did not expect much from the CD edition of the concert - finally released twenty years after the event to commemorate The Wall's 20th anniversary. And the actual results didn't really blow away my scepticism. I won't go into details here of how Pink Floyd concerts were always concentrated on the visual effects rather than the music itself, and completely lacked any spark of improvisation that actually makes a song come to life on stage - that'll be discussed below in the post-Waters live albums section. Here I'll just say that the problem is even more active when we have to deal with The Wall. With all the innumerable pieces of action going on, Waters and company had to spend so much forces to coordinate all of them, headphones on, hands on the control bars, that the music somewhat stepped in the background. And, of course, the music is the only thing that you get on an audio CD - not even the luxurious booklet that's supposed to come packaged with it and contain many precious photos can compensate for lack of thrill.

What do we actually get? More exactly - what do you have to shell out forty bucks for? (That should render the answers a bit more poignant).

Two CDs, containing more or less the exact track sequence as used on the studio edition of The Wall, with recordings drawn from the two performances at Earls Court, London (1980 and 1981).

Lots of audience noise that actually spoils the picture - how can all the cute little noises, all the babies, helicopters, scowling teachers, sudden bombastic guitar attacks and everything else actually matter when they are all set to the beer-drinkin' background?

Mediocre sound quality (which is expected).

Two new tracks that weren't included on the original CD; however, don't hold your breath - 'The Last Few Bricks' is just a passable collage of some of the previous instrumental themes, some kind of 'underture' designed to draw a resume of all of Pink's misfortunes, and 'What Shall We Do Now?', tackled onto the end of 'Empty Spaces', is just a short meditation on the topic stated in the title, with the melody more or less the same as in 'Spaces'. (The song was originally planned for inclusion onto the regular album, but didn't make it for space reasons. Big deal.)

And all the rest - done note-for-note-for-note-for-note as it was in the studio. Okay - I gotcha - I gotcha - I admit - with some exceptions. Notably, some numbers take more time to go away because good ol' Dave just has to flash around with his six-string, now doesn't he? The solos on 'Run Like Hell', 'Another Brick In The Wall Part 2', and 'Comfortably Numb' are all heavily stretched out (although, on 'Numb', they are not as horrendously stretched out as on later live versions), and he also finds other places to display his talents. Like on 'Don't Leave Me Now'... bastards. That was my favourite spot on the studio album and they butchered it, crushed it and gored it. The heavenly 'ooohhh babe' effect is no more, just a pale shadow; instead of the prolongated notes of deep despair, Dave just plays some generic dentist solos, and the 'ooohhh babe' itself is sung without any passion or care. Goodbye, one point of the rating.

As a result, one might be happy with just a few moments - for instance, the funny introduction to 'Run Like Hell', where Dave (or is it Roger?) addresses the audience with the words 'are there any paranoids in the audience tonight? Is there anyone who worries about things? Pathetic... This is for all the weak people in the audience! Is there anyone here who's weak? This is for you, it's called 'Run Like Hell'"... It's also interesting that in 'Another Brick In The Wall Part 3' they sing 'I don't need no walls around me...' Did I hear that right? Wasn't it 'hands' in the original? What's that - impersonating a battle with one's self? Hmm.

And that's about it, I just wouldn't know what else to say. Diehard fans will certainly want to add this to their collection, but Floyd regulars really need not bother - unless you want to make a good collector's item and resell it in 20 years (it's gonna be a 'limited edition'). Me, I just wish they'd go and release some older concerts instead - from the 1969-70 era, for instance, when the guys still tried not only looking, but also sounding interesting on stage. So far, the only live Floyd you really need still remains the live part of Ummagumma, nothing else.



Year Of Release: 1983
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

A philosophical essay that could just as well be left without music at all. Maybe it would even be better.

Best song: no 'songs' here that I know of.

Track listing: 1) The Post War Dream; 2) Your Possible Pasts; 3) One Of The Few; 4) The Hero's Return; 5) The Gunners Dream; 6) Paranoid Eyes; 7) Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert; 8) The Fletcher Memorial Home; 9) Southampton Dock; 10) The Final Cut; 11) Not Now John; 12) Two Suns In The Sunset.

For many, this is the 'great lost' Pink Floyd album, the one people rarely think about but the one that proves to be quite a rewarding listen when you actually discover it. Nope. No such great wonder for me. What happened here is that Roger was totally and absolutely tired of the band, so that the title even sports the subscription 'by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd'. 'Pink Floyd' at this time is actually Roger, Gilmour (whose generic and generally uninteresting solos are the only thing that demarks his presence) and Mason (who doesn't drum a lot on here, frankly speaking). Musically and lyrically, however, this is a pure solo Waters album, and it's all the more curious how the next Pink Floyd album would leave him out of the picture, thus becoming a Gilmour solo album.

The music itself is dedicated to the 'requiem for the post war dream': Roger steps out on his anti-war positions again, making the Folklands war between Britain and Argentina a pretext for showcasing his views on the general problem of war and peace. The main idea is simple: the post-World War Two peace ideals have been betrayed, the war itself was fought for nothing, and the world is still ruled by Maggie (Thatcher), Brezhnev and Begin who don't value human life at all. This is being cut into ten or twelve portions of lyrics and spread more or less equally over the songs, which results in the album's having much more lyrical than musical value. Apparently, by that time Roger had lost all interest in creating original music, going all for'words'. And, since neither Gilmour nor Wright were there to contribute musical ideas, the music here ranges from dreadful to forgettable to recycled. A couple of the songs are simply awful, like the pseudo-metallic 'Not Now John' where Gilmour again sings in his cock-rock style dating back to 'The Nile Song'. However, most of the rest is just totally unmemorable: there is not even a single truly creative melody on the whole album. Roger mostly sticks to rudimentary piano chords or simplistic guitar lines that are so much in the background (the voice, on the other side, is mixed extremely high) that for the most part you don't notice them at all - and since there are no breaks between songs, I sometimes can't even grab the moment when one song becomes another. Rumour has it that some of the material are rejected Wall outtakes, and it sounds like it: quite a lot of the tunes owe something to The Wall. I admit that sometimes this impression is due to the fact that Roger sings in the same style that he used on his rock opera, and he does sing almost everything on this album. But much too often, he borrows the melodies themselves: 'The Hero's Return', for instance, is built on the bass line taken directly from 'Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1)', and 'The Fletcher Memorial Home' sounds like a medley of songs from The Wall's second side ('Empty Spaces', 'One Of My Turns', etc.). In brief, we heard all that before, and usually more than once. Even the sound effects are starting to get on my nerves, and little do I care that they're recorded with Holophonic technologies to make them sound particularly impressive in headphones (rockets flying over your head and blowing up in the distance and suchlike).

This mostly leaves us with the lyrics to deal with, and this is where lovers of The Final Cut usually make their point, saying that this is Roger's peak as a poet. Well, I need not disagree with this (although a couple of texts are almost weirdly banal, like 'Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert'): the lyrics are really good, and Roger manages to get the point. I wonder how he feels in these troubled Yugoslavian days when the album is becoming so actual once again. I'll refrain myself from quoting here, but you might trust me that Roger had certainly grown as a lyricist. Unfortunately, while being a good lyricist, he's just not much of a singer. He might have tried to become the new John Lennon or Bob Dylan, but he lacks the former's sincere aggression and energy and the latter's subtlety and sly obliqueness. Most of the time he sounds like a declamator, not a singer, so you might just view the album as a collection of anti-war poetry set to bits and snatches of music. I know it's all a matter of taste, but I simply can't get moved by these dry, pretentious declamations. Whatever. I'll just re-state the point that I made in my review of Dark Side Of The Moon here: Roger is too much of a pedantic philosopher to be a true 'human' poet. Maybe he's just too 'intelligent' and 'scientific' to be a true man of art. I mean, the lyrics here are an ideal choice for writing a thesis or anything, but they resemble a thesis themselves! Yeah, I know he was experiencing all these feelings, and he was always pursued by memories of his father's death in the battle of Anzio, but all these feelings were becoming so warped in his architectural mind that... aw, heck. You got it already, why should I continue?

Anyway, only a Waters lyrics fan (or somebody who's given a solemn oath to collect every Dave Gilmour solo on earth) should have something to do with this record. I can't give it more than a 5, much as I'd want to, just because for me this is a work of science rather than a work of art. Sorry Rog, but there's not even enough atmosphere here. And, if I may add a little extra comment on here, there's no need to wonder that Roger's first real solo album, Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking, got so panned and hated by everybody: since its lyrics were a slight step down from the quality of The Final Cut, there was just nothing left to redeem it. Substitute the poetry in Final Cut with just about any random crap and you'll find yourself hating the album.



Year Of Release: 1987
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

A decent, but unpleasant forgery that really sounds like a Pink Floyd cover band.


Track listing: 1) Signs Of Life; 2) Learning To Fly; 3) The Dogs Of War; 4) One Slip; 5) On The Turning Away; 6) Yet Another Movie; 7) A New Machine (part 1); 8) Terminal Frost; 9) A New Machine (part 2); 10) Sorrow.

Perhaps not as proverbially bad as it is often described - this record does have its redeeming moments, after all. But it's so dull that it's almost unlistenable - the amount of real energy is at a zero level, and the main forte of Pink Floyd is gone: the few special effects don't have any thrill at all and mostly sound like weak parodies. The melodies are simple to the extreme, the lyrics are crap, and moreover, the band members don't even play on the album: except for Gilmour's obligatory guitar solos, the instruments are played by a swarm of session musicians.

So why a 5? See, there's just no reason for this album to be necessarily weaker than all the kind of modernized progressive stuff of the era. Yes, Emerson, Lake & Powell, Asia, everybody was putting out this stuff called 'modern prog' that pretty much all sounded the same, and yet, even though I am sometimes tempted to write all this mess off as a profanation of the original art, I still try to sit through these heaps of potential garbage to fish out the few pearls or, at least, the stuff that could have sounded good with different arrangements an epoch ago. In this context, A Momentary Lapse doesn't sound particularly appalling. Take it as a product of its epoch - not as a permutation of the original Pink Floyd sound (which it was) caused by the departure of Roger Waters (actually, by the 'departure' of everybody but Gilmour). Oh, well. At least it's better than Big Generator.

Funny, though, how badly Dave wanted this to sound like a genuine Pink Floyd album. To do this, he even incorporated an oddly titled instrumental ('Signs Of Life'; they wanted to name the album likewise at first, but changed their mind after Dave remarked it would give the critics a sneering chance - what's the matter with the actual title then, I wonder?), like I said, an oddly titled instrumental that begins with strange noises, sounding like a watermill to me, that apparently are supposed to remind you of the ominous intro to Dark Side. And the music itself is certainly a rip-off of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', right to the closing Dave solo. Needless to say, one can only shrug one's shoulders at the attempt, because it seems like a pigmy parody. Where the moody synth lines and heavenly solo in 'Shine On' meant total and immediate catharsis, these weak recreations only make me yawn. What's the matter Dave? Where's your talent at putting together heavenly solos? Gimme something better!

Even worse, Dave did try to replace Roger in his primary function - finding new thrilling gimmicks to plaster the record with 'em. Fortunately, he only found a few, because they don't just suck, they're horrendous. 'A New Machine', with its spoken lines over organ playing that keep fading in and fading out, is a perfect example of how to make an unsuccessful Floyd parody, and the fact that Gilmour takes it all too seriously is even more terrifying to realize. And the roaring of dogs at the beginning of 'The Dogs Of War' (again, a concept unprofessionally stolen from Animals) just confirms the idea that the guy was at a terrible lack of 'em.

That said, there's maybe only about a couple really bad songs on the whole album - 'A New Machine' is certainly one of them, but it's short, even if it contains two parts (the second is a very brief reprise), and 'Yet Another Movie' is a piece of pseudo-metallic muck that was supposed to recreate the sinister notes on The Wall but failed once again. As for 'Dogs Of War', it is very banal, but I don't hate it as much as everybody else does - I mean, sometimes I do find some dorky pleasure in listening to it. Everybody needs some guilty simple pleasures in life, and anyway, it's at least memorable and a teeny-weeny bit energetic.

The other material has only one fault - it drags. Apart from the great sky anthem 'Learning To Fly', the only deserving classic on the record, the other four songs just go on and on and on and on and on and on and on... somebody stop me, but it's so. Slow, melodyless, mostly built on some presumably moody but feeble keyboard playing, then presumably picking up steam when Dave hits the chords but in reality just being totally predictable... like, you know, 'it's already four minutes into the song and old Gilmour hasn't soared yet. He's bound to take off in a couple of seconds. Oh, there he goes. Okay, guys, lunchtime!' This might be good background music for you to enjoy in the car if you have a long way to go, but don't expect to get any emotional thrill out of here. At least the solos are good - I mean, there's very little dentistry on these four songs. Perhaps a couple minutes on 'Sorrow', that's all: Dave mostly sticks to normal guitar tone. But that's no consolation, really. There was no future for the band after Roger left. Not that there would necessarily be any future for 'em had he stayed, as witnessed by The Final Cut. In an age when special effects and thriller-type gimmicks didn't really matter much more, a band like Pink Floyd were bound to begin rolling downhill. The only thing that could have saved them (as it briefly saved Paul McCartney, for instance) would be to begin paying more attention to melody. But when did a band as smart as Pink Floyd pay a lot of attention to a thing as trite as melody? I'll refrain from saying 'never', but you know the directions of my thought...



Year Of Release: 1988
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

A lame and, most unfortunately, overlate live album. At least you get to hear 'One Of These Days' again.

Best song: TIME

Track listing: 1) Shine On You Crazy Diamond; 2) Learning To Fly; 3) Yet Another Movie; 4) Round And Around; 5) Sorrow; 6) The Dogs Of War; 7) On The Turning Away; 8) One Of These Days; 9) Time; 10) Wish You Were Here; 11) Us And Them; 12) Money; 13) Another Brick In The Wall (part 2); 14) Comfortably Numb; 15) Run Like Hell.

Pink Floyd were never a good live band. I mean, they were a fantastic live band - visually, with the pigs and the planes and the lights and the bricks, and watching a live concert captured on video can be a fascinating process, not to mention participating in one (unfortunately, I was much too young and unexperienced when the band came to rock Moscow in 1989). But this fascination never extended to the music: the sound was so meticulously calculated and planned in order for it to be ideally synchronized with the show elements that this left no place for improvisation, and the point was to reproduce the studio originals as faithfully as possible: without the most weird and complicated effects at first, then, with the onslaught of technology, to the extent of being undistinguishable from the studio record. I guess this was the point why Floyd never released a live record in the Seventies - there was just no point in doing it. The only point for a live record would be to unveil numerous compositions that evaded being captured in the studio, starting from the 'Gadgets of Auximines' suite in 1969 and ending with 'Raving And Drooling' in 1975 (the latter would later be resurrected on Animals as 'Sheep'). But these were all faithfully captured on bootlegs, so the band probably just didn't give a damn.

It's all the more incomprehensible why on earth did Dave go ahead and release this 2-CD set with a faithful rendition of their 1987-88 concert program. Aside from the cool album cover, there are practically no reasons for this album's existence, and there are lots of reasons why it should have stayed in the vaults. None of the tracks are surprises; the first CD is mainly devoted to songs from Momentary Lapse, while the second is all devoted to radio hits from Dark Side and The Wall that everybody knows by heart already. The mix often leaves a lot to be desired, with the music sometimes degenerating into loads of cacophonic rubbish. The playing is at the best, well, similar to the original versions, but usually it is either plain inferior or just horrendous. Okay, so the lack of Roger on stage isn't particularly regretful - after all, he only played base. But there are about a hundred guest musicians, and nobody really needs to hear Tim Renwick's guitar or Scott Page's saxophone, especially since neither can play really well. Eh?

Occasionally, they do deliver the goods, of course. Thus, there's a crunchy version of 'One Of These Days' which I really welcome, and the hits from Dark Side are acceptable - at least, two of them (an energetic 'Time' and an 'Us And Them' that's pretty much undistinguishable from the studio version). The closing 'Run Like Hell', while not a very good song by itself, at least demonstrates its potential as a full-throttle all-out-rockin' show closer, and out of the new album, 'Learning To Fly' is simply fabulous. But that's about it - separate bits and pieces.

On the down side, there's plenty to be hated. Gilmour's vocals are often raspy, off-key and totally unpolished - maybe he did try to change some intonations so that nobody would suspect his lip-synching to the original versions, but that only results in a non-climactic, erratic 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and an insecure 'Wish You Were Here' with spoilt vocal harmonies. The new songs are mostly dung - luckily they don't do 'A New Machine', but there are both 'Yet Another Movie' and 'The Dogs Of War' - what were they thinking? (And that's even considering that I don't violently hate 'Dogs Of War' like so many of the critics out there). The number of dentist office guitar solos reaches up to the skies: 'Sorrow' and 'Yet Another Movie' are especially rotten in this respect, but Dave manages to insert approximately the same chord sequences in every number without a break. Due to song selection, the second disk doesn't give any other impression than the band's submission to braindead fans who know only the hits from DSOTM and The Wall: poor little 'Another Brick In The Wall Part II', 'Time', 'Us And Them' and others produce little effect in this contextless environment.

The worst sacrilege, though, is done to 'Comfortably Numb'. I never was a fan of this number in the first place, but I almost pity it: the former quiet, introspective number is turned into a generic stadium rock staple with 'heavenly' solos, barrages of cacophonic riffs, loads of dentistry and a total loss of any traces of melody on the way. Okay, maybe that's a bit too harsh, but what I'm telling are my impressions at the performance: generic arena-rock with subtley forgotten for ever and more than that. 'Butchering' is too soft a word for this. Come on now, don't you miss the soft thrilling horror of 'hello, is there anybody in there?' as it is replaced by an expressionless back-vocal-propped chant?

Nevertheless, if you can't get enough of Pink Floyd and particularly lament the lack of live material, you might as well get this. But don't even think of paying a full price for it - it ain't worth more than a quarter, in my humble opinion. You'd better be off purchasing some Seventies bootleg. (Especially considering how much Floyd usually ask for their 'production'. No wonder, those guys at Hipgnosis probably have the highest salaries in the world.) It's too bad Gilmour-Floyd were putting out near-trash like this for the unsuspecting fans when tons of superior, loads more imaginative recordings from the band's earlier days are drifting around in bootleg forms, just waiting to be polished and remastered and made open to the public.



Year Of Release: 1994
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

A little more Pink Floyd-sounding, but still not up to the old standards.

Best song: TAKE IT BACK

Track listing: 1) Cluster One; 2) What Do You Want From Me; 3) Poles Apart; 4) Marooned; 5) A Great Day For Freedom; 6) Wearing The Inside Out; 7) Take It Back; 8) Coming Back To Life; 9) Keep Talking; 10) Lost For Words; 11) High Hopes.

Another long break (this time it took, like, seven years, dude! Even the Stones did not part for so much), and the party reconvened once again to make another album that, quite unsurprisingly, hit number one on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, it was primarily due to the gigantic tour and general nostalgia rather than to the music quality, but I guess that goes without saying. Here, though, even the music itself sounds nostalgic. Where Momentary Lapse was an unsuccessful, yet daring attempt to marry the Pink Floyd concept to modern technology values and Gilmour ambitions, The Division Bell is a clear indication that the band has totally given up any idea of presenting the world with something new and original. Take a handful of classic Seventies' Pink Floyd records, put them in a grinder and polish the resulting mess until it starts resembling a melody, and you have the prescription for almost everything on here.

No, no, this album is not offensive at all - there's nothing like 'A New Machine' or 'Yet Another Movie' on here. I do have some ear-grating accusations, like the obnoxious hiss and crackle noises that introduce 'Cluster One', but they're mostly marginal. What I do feel about the album, though, is that it's absolutely insipid - the songs are mostly moody and atmospheric, but without either the energy or the psychological thrill you had on most of the Waters-era output. Songs like 'Coming Back To Life' or 'Marooned' can be likable, but you have to force yourself very hard to like them, and there's just no reason to do that.

Okay, there are a couple prime numbers here, since every bad poet, as we know, has written at least one great poem: 'Take It Back' is an attractive bouncy single, and the closing 'High Hopes' is such a primitively idealistic, nostalgic song that the very fact renders it catchy and memorable. Plus, it does have some emotional resonance, and the very sight of Gilmour wailing over his past glory days can bring a tear on your eye. But what a far cry from 'Eclipse', eh?

Repeated listenings also bring out the potential of 'What Do You Want From Me', apparently, a Waters-addressed piece of reproach, where Gilmour, at least for once, climbs out of the atmospheric sludge of the album and delivers a strong, compact rocker with an angry, determined attitude.

Also, the very sound is more pleasant than on AMLOR; finally, we have Rick Wright really playing these keyboards and Nick Mason really playing these drums. The latter is especially significant, since it's really hard to encounter a Nineties album where all that electronic stuff would be replaced by the live sound.

That's about it, though. Everything else that I have to say about the album is on the down side. The melodies, as usual, are at the best recycled and at the worst there's just none. Imitations of past successes abound: Gilmour manages to insert his trademark 'Run Like Hell/Another Brick In The Wall' riffage style almost everywhere, not bothering whether it really fits the song's mood or not. On 'Keep Talking', for instance, it certainly doesn't. 'Cluster One' is yet another half-baked try to recreate the mood of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', but how can you recreate that mood if the last time you were inspired in the studio was about fifteen years ago? Rick Wright contributes the clumsy 'Wearing The Inside Out' which was almost never played live, and that's a good thing cuz it sucks. In utter desperation Dave turns to imitating Roger ('A Great Day For Freedom') and even... Bob Dylan. Yeah, I mean it! Listen to 'Lost For Words' and you'll notice with horror that not only does Dave steal the melody of 'Desolation Row' (sic!!!!!!!), but he even grizzles and lowers his voice in order to sound like Dylan. Am I the only person to notice the resemblance? Even if it's a coincidence (which it just can't be, unless Dave happens to be the long lost brother of Bob), it's the most unlucky coincidence in the world. And as for the clocks (remember 'Time') and the buzzing bee (remember 'Grantchester Meadows') that lead us into 'High Hopes', well, this is just a little nostalgic piece that manages to do nothing except tell me: 'Remember how good we were then? Well we suck now!' A good thing, probably, because it really urges you to go and put on Ummagumma or something like that. If you needed some stimulation to listen to early Pink Floyd, just go and buy The Division Bell. Ha ha.

You see, the main problem with the album, even if it is possible to individually assess all the songs and condemn them one by one, saving the few salvageable along the way, is that it's a very hard listen as an album. It's dark, gloomy and depressing, throughout, with all the songs setting exactly one and the same mood - not a trickle of light, not a little bit of silly throwaway piece to brighten up your day. You could say: 'Isn't that the ticket?' Yes, but in their prime, Floyd reveled in this darkness, putting out heartbreaking thrillers that made you gasp for breath and jump out of your chair. Division Bell just drags on like an old man's whining death bell... well, it more or less is like that, of course, but it's so dang self-indulgent, taking so much pleasure in this masochistic self-darkening, that I simply can't stand it, nor would I advise anybody to stand it. I don't have anything against the commercial approach as long as it yields listenable results, but if it yields something like this, a record that's only Pink Floyd in form but is, in fact, false Pink Floyd in spirit, I'm all against it. If I wanna put myself in a gloomy mood, I've got a trillion albums that all make the point far more effectively, with better songs, sharper feelings and not as much pointless, monotonous guitar noodling that all sounds the friggin' same for a bleedin' sixty-six minutes.

Yeah, not even the terrifying album cover can truly redeem the album. Whatever 'high hopes' anybody might hold, this is just a pale reminiscence of the days long gone by and proof immaculate that Pink Floyd the band will never again do anything more or less important in this life. Unless, of course, they manage to make it up with Roger and put some brains and stuff into the process. Which will probably never happen, so 'take it back'.



Year Of Release: 1995
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

Correcting some old live mistakes, are they? And making new ones, that's for sure.


Track listing: CD I: 1) Shine On You Crazy Diamond; 2) Astronomy Domine; 3) What Do You Want From Me; 4) Learning To Fly; 5) Keep Talking; 6) Coming Back To Life; 7) Hey You; 8) A Great Day For Freedom; 9) Sorrow; 10) High Hopes; 11) Another Brick In The Wall (part 2);

CD II: 1) Speak To Me; 2) Breathe; 3) On The Run; 4) Time; 5) The Great Gig In The Sky; 6) Money; 7) Us And Them; 8) Any Colour You Like; 9) Brain Damage; 10) Eclipse; 11) Wish You Were Here; 12) Comfortably Numb; 13) Run Like Hell.

Old Dave Gilmour sure is no big original. One might ask what in the hell led him to releasing two double live albums in the post-Waters epoch when they'd settled for none (bar the live half of Ummagumma) in the epoch when such a move could be explained by numerous factors. One might also not get a response, for who is gonna reply? But if you ask me, well, I'd say 'we're only in it for the you-know-what'. Nevertheless, why not buy this album when it doesn't cost you twenty or thirty bucks? I got a pirated edition of it for about four dollars worth - without the blinking light, of course, which is usually considered to be the main attraction, but still sounding good. And damn it and blame me as much as you can, but I enjoy the living hell of the concert. Of course it's a stupid idea: the originals can't help being better, some of the songs still stink, and there's plenty to be despised about it in general. Perhaps the most obvious complaint is that the material is all predictable - well, probably not as predictable as on Delicate Sound, but still, these guys sure ain't no Rolling Stones: those, at least, used to make each of the following live albums diverse and totally unsimilar to the previous one. Here, though, at least half of the tracks are identic. Just like on Sound, the backing band is enormous, with a separate guitarist, drummer and keyboardist serving as backups for the band members (in case they pass out, mayhaps?) and loads of backing vocalists and others; just like on Sound, the first CD starts with 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'; just like on Sound, it is primarily based on contemporary material ('Learning To Fly' and 'Sorrow' from Lapse Of Reason, lots of selections from Division Bell); just like on Sound, the second CD includes such crowd favourites as 'Wish You Were Here', 'Run Like Hell' and 'Comfortably Numb', performed in exactly the same way as earlier (only the apocalyptic noise section on 'Run Like Hell' is extended).

And yet? And yet it's better. There are some interesting surprises. Surprise number one is that the first CD has a valiant take on 'Astronomy Domine', which supposedly illustrates Dave's wish to show that they do not discard the past and to get younger audiences acquainted with the band's past. Laudable, isn't it? And they do it as close to the original as possible, too! Surprise number two is that they do Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety, and you thus get to witness live versions of such forgotten classics as 'Breathe', 'Brain Damage' and 'Great Gig In The Sky'. Of course, the thing has its drawbacks: the three girls cannot get the same emotional impact in 'Great Gig' as Clare Tory, even if there's three of them and Tory was single; the guitar solo in 'Time' is badly mixed and poorly performed; 'Money' is still used as an excuse for an uninspired, pathetic jam (the girls' 'soul' singing in the middle is the worst part); and, well, what's that about 'On The Run' performed live? I mean, is it really live or do they set a phonogram? Stupid. But still, the move is certainly daring, and anyway, the crowd pleasers 'Money', 'Time' and 'Us And Them' do sound better in the context of the whole suite than taken isolated. Unfortunately, the same goes for 'Another Brick In The Wall' and 'Hey You' which are also included. Maybe one day the band will resuscitate The Wall on stage as well?

Still, I must say that, whatever the minuses of these live albums, I still prefer listening to them than to the post-Waters studio releases. Even the new material sounds better in the 'old' context. Of course, nothing can save the murky 'Keep Talking' whose pig noises, borrowed directly from 'Pigs (Three Different Ones)', make me vomit on the spot even if my stomach is totally empty; yeah, I know this is supposed to represent slander and doubletalk, but for me it's small consolation. And nothing can save 'Coming Back To Life' and 'A Great Day For Freedom' from being totally dull. But 'Learning To Fly' almost sounds like a classic - you know, nobody knows exactly when and how does a song become a classic, but I really feel this is exactly what happened on here. And so did 'High Hopes'. And I think I almost felt some kind of 'feeling' when listening to 'Sorrow' on this record - you know, maybe it's not such a bad song after all.

You know what? Apart from 'Keep Talking', there's only one song that sounds truly, disgustingly bad on the album... 'Another Brick In The Wall'! I mean, this is a song that is totally unattachable from Waters' opera - like, I dunno, like 'Fiddle About' from Tommy. Taken together with its seemingly anti-education lyrics, it sounds so stupid, so cocky, so discoish and crowd-pleasing, that... eeek, I almost see the cheerful, beer-drinkin' public howl, 'WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION!' Dang it, damn it, Dave, why don't you do 'Young Lust' instead? Not that I don't like the song - I adore it, but it only works in the general context of The Wall, now doesn't it? Guess it does.

Of course, don't even think of buying this album - not for the full price, at least. Better buy two copies of Animals and donate 'em to your very best friends. Or go and buy Procol Harum's Broken Barricades. Why Broken Barricades, you ask me? Well, why not???



Year Of Release: 1972

A good one. While other major art rock bands often conceived the idea of a video as just a polygon for their experiments with imagery, Pink Floyd managed to combine this experimentation with simply a wish to present themselves as a four-piece concert band (a thing that would soon vanish into oblivion with their stadium tours and shows concentrating on pigs and airplanes more than on the actual members). The video gets the band in a good state, performing for the spirits of ancient Romans in the Pompeii amphitheater (where I'm proud to tell you I actually stood myself a few months ago), and, while some of the music is not as good as in other places ('Careful With That Axe Eugene' is a weak shadow of the version on Ummagumma, with Roger spoiling the effect by inserting 'preliminary' whispers and muffled screaming before the climax), the performances are generally good. There's 'Echoes', divided in two halves (they open and close the film); a great version of 'One Of These Days'; and decent performances of 'Saucerful Of Secrets' and 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun'. The camerawork is good, with my favourite moment being the slow 'moving in' onto the performers at the beginning of 'Echoes'. Of course, some of the effects, like 'Echoes' sounding to the picture of dirty bubbles bursting on the surface of Vesuvius, are rotten, but what can you expect from a conceptual video of the time. It's tons better than ELP's Pictures At An Exhibition, anyway.

Apart from that, there's also quite a lot of footage from the studio featuring the band working on DSOTM: you get to see the processes of birth of 'On The Run' (yuck) and 'Us And Them' (good), as well as interviews and other stuff. It's strange, but the video sometimes leaves me without 'total satisfaction': I still feel that it ain't perfect, although I can't really explain in words what is missing. Maybe I'd just like to see more performances? Who knows. Anyway, it's about the only freely available documentary on 'classic', Waters-led Pink, so don't miss it if you have nothing against good ole Pink.



Year Of Release: 1995

This might be a more reasonable buy than the CD - Pink Floyd have always been famous for their fabulous light shows and visual effects, and instead of listening to the band and its horde of backing musicians recreate the original studio sound on stage, you might enjoy looking at their fantastic rays of light, airplanes bursting on the stage and pigs grinning their teeth. Seriously, the video is quite solidly filmed and mixed, with enough emphasis placed on both the players and the huge screen so that you get to see, for instance, both Dave singing 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and the movie on the screen at once without being interspersed. And even if you do have the CD, you might be interested in getting the video as well, because it has 'Take It Back' and, especially, 'One Of These Days' that aren't present on the album. Unfortunately, it doesn't have 'Astronomy Domine'.

Also, the band itself look pretty miserable. They're so drowned out by the backing musicians (who, in their turn, seem to feel much more confident and relaxed on the stage) that I almost pity them. Dave just stands around with a sour expression on his face, and it seems as every bit of guitar soloing that he manages to squeeze out is giving him a terrible pain; Rick looks serious like a goon, standing behind his tiny little synth; and Nick plays his drums almost in a trance, as if he were taking a hot bath at the same time (in contrast, his drumming colleague almost jumps out of his skin as he successfully imitates a mad monkey). So my advice is to concentrate on the airplanes and pigs instead. Boy, is it really time they called it quits.



The Floydsters' solo careers aren't particularly rich, nor are they thoroughly impressive. I have reviewed Syd Barrett's two solo albums and a 'posthumous' collection (I mean, he's artistically dead long since, isn't he?) on his own page, but currently I'm not planning to show a similar honour to the more 'mainstream' band members. Presumably, Rick Wright and Nick Mason have both had a couple of records out, but gimme a break... only an absolute fanatic could want to own, let alone review a Nick Mason solo album.

So I'm going to concentrate on Roger Waters, especially since his solo records after 1983 are kinda important - they show the direction that Pink Floyd could have taken. And, after all, I don't see any reason why Pros And Cons or Radio K.A.O.S. should be considered 'less Floydish' than all the stuff that Gilmour released since 1987. What's in a name?

I think I'll also go ahead and try to track down Gilmour's two solo albums (he'd only released these before Waters left: after that, there was simply no reason why Dave should release a 'Gilmour album' and not stamp the PF moniker on it). I'm not exactly holding out high hopes for these, but I recently saw them cheap and, well, I'm gonna try...

Year Of Release: 1984
Overall rating = 9

Gee, this sounds like a stripped-down set of demos from The Wall with a sillier, yet somewhat intriguing concept.

Best song: go to hell, willya? They all sound the same!

Track listing: 1) 4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad); 2) 4:33 AM (Running Shoes); 3) 4:37 AM (Arabs With Knives And West German Skies); 4) 4:39 AM (For The First Time Today, Part 2); 5) 4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution); 6) 4:47 AM (The Remains Of Our Love); 7) 4:50 AM (Go Fishing); 8) 4:56 AM (For The First Time Today, Part 1); 9) 4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin); 10) 5:01 AM (The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking Part 10); 11) 5:06 AM (Every Strangers Eyes); 12) 5:11 AM (The Moment Of Clarity).

Oy oy oy. Well, what's to be said? Basically, this is one of the most infamous rock records in history, and it polarizes Floyd fans (and non-fans) like nothing else: if you observe the album's reviews at, you'll see that the album rarely receives anything else apart from either five stars or one star.

The story in brief: the concept, main plotline and some actual tunes for this album were penned by Roger already back in 1979, when he presented Pros And Cons together with The Wall to his colleagues. The band wisely chose The Wall, as the other project seemed way too personal, obscure and definitely non-commercial. But Roger rarely screws any of the ideas that come into his head, and Pros And Cons were no exception: and, seeing as how quickly he recorded the album after leaving Floyd, I suspect that he really wanted to materialize the project so badly he even sacrificed his group for that.

The concept of the album itself is rather vague - well, it's not as tricky and full of mythologemas like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, but pretty obscure in any case. It seems to be built around a series of dreams that the protagonist experiences around four or five clock in the morning (every song sports a title like '4.30 AM (action so-and-so)', '4.56 AM' (action so-and-so)', etc.), some of which are linked to each other and some not. In places where the story comes a little bit on the surface and becomes more straightforward, it's incredibly dumb - the hero picks up a female hitch-hiker, the hero screws the hitch-hiker, both get ambushed by Arab terrorists, the hero moves to the country, the hero has an encounter with Yoko Ono, the hero is being left by his wife, and finally the hero wakes up. Maybe it's personal, maybe it's autobiographic, whatever. Maybe I don't get something - fans of this album always rave about how Roger's emotions pour over the edge on this album, and he sure sounds emotional, but I don't quite get the point of his emotions, and I suppose that's the main reason why other people tend to worship Final Cut but despise this album.

Because, cut for cut, track for track, I don't really see why Final Cut is necessarily a chef-d'ouevre and Pros And Cons a disaster. Both records are extremely similar; and in my humble opinion, both clearly demonstrate Waters' greatest weakness - his near-non-existent talent for writing melodies. And I don't even mean good melodies: the problem is, there's next to no melodies on the album at all, and the few that are present get reprised all over the album until I've got a headache. However, the same problem was also evident on Final Cut. Yes, the lyrics and the pessimistic, dark mood of Final Cut are certainly more preferrable to the surrealistic nonsense of this album. On the other hand, this weakness is compensated by Eric Clapton's presence: his guitarwork is tons more inspired and 'living' than Gilmour's obligatory dentistry on Final Cut. To sum it all, I simply give both records the same rating - which isn't that great in both occasions, but which at least indicates an okayish, tolerable record.

The greatest embarrassment, of course, is that Pros And Cons has simply nothing original in it. And Waters copies and recycles his own style and ideas so blatantly that it's absolutely clear he didn't give a damn about the actual music at this point. At least half, if not two-thirds of the compositions, repeat themes from 'Mother', 'In The Flesh' and 'Don't Leave Me Now' - and not only themes, same goes for the moods and the special effects, like the effective alternations between quiet/soft and bombastic/loud passages. Sometimes Waters goes overboard and nearly screams his head off - 'Go Fishing' is plain nasty. Sometimes he gets so quiet he's not even heard at all. Most of the time, though, he just keeps 'narrating' in that pleasant, silky little voice of his, and lures me to sleep - until something happens. Like a great Clapton solo, for instance: the man sure had his share on the album, the solo on 'Sexual Revolution' probably being the best of the lot.

The album does pick up a little steam towards the end: the title track is about the only song here whose tempo goes beyond 'painfully slow', and the female chorus is a nice touch. And 'Every Stranger's Eyes' is a very nice ballad... then again, it does steal a lot from 'Mother'. Or wait, was it '5.11 AM (The Moment Of Clarity)?' Yeah, that's it, it's just that the two songs segue into each other without a break, like everything else on here.

Lame. I'm kinda pleased, though, that Roger didn't return to the anti-war theme - you know, spewing forth some more PhD material and making me want to write down a conspectus or something like that. But oh ye mighty flamers, if ye adore Final Cut and despise Pros And Cons, truthfully your mild characters are of a nature opportunistic and ambivalent. Keep that in mind and be consistent.



Year Of Release: 1987
Overall rating = 8

Another weird concept, but the sound's too modernistic and too generic to be truly enjoyable.


Track listing: 1) Radio Waves; 2) Who Needs Information?; 3) Me Or Him?; 4) The Powers That Be; 5) Sunset Strip; 6) Home; 7) Four Minutes; 8) The Tide Is Turning (After Live AID).

Three years of sulking and sueing his old bandmates hadn't really cured Roger of his passionate love for concept albums. This time he returns to his beloved theme - the anti-war business. The plotline of Radio K.A.O.S is quite convoluted, but at least it's easier decipherable than the one used in Pros & Cons. In brief, the album tells of a certain dude named Billy who suffers from paraplegia and can neither move nor speak (he does so through an electronic voice box). However, he's got certain telepathic abilities which he apparently developed through lengthy hours and days of conversing with a cordless phone (sic!). He's also a starch pacifist and a cynic, but his presence at Live Aid convinces him that humanity is not hopeless. So, taking advantage of his friendship with Jim, a DJ working on the 'Radio KAOS' station, Billy announces that he's got control over the atomic bomb and that it will explode in four minutes. Nothing really explodes, of course (it's unclear to me whether Billy really has the atomics under his control or he's just faking it), and the album ends on an optimistic note. Humanity probably becomes a lot better - I suppose, instead of tracking down poor little Billy and ripping him to shreds.

Anyway, this is just a short summary - the whole story is much more complicated, and if you wanna know more, please consult the liner notes which include a rather lengthy story by Roger himself. It's not exactly as dumb as I just described it, that is. As for the album, it is all structured as a radio session, with Jim engaging in a dialogue with Billy and throwing on various songs in the intervals - songs that often, but not necessarily, refer to the album's plot. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? Uh-huh. The main disaster is that the music mostly sucks. By this time, Waters had apparently run out of Wall-related ideas, and this is not a blessing, because his newer musical ideas just aren't that, er, elevating, if you get my meaning. The production of the album is all very Eighties-style, with hi-tech synths and electronic drums and generic female backup vocals and no Eric Clapton for miles around. Even the fact that Clare Tory herself (the one that sang the great vocals on 'Great Gig In The Sky') doesn't particularly enlighten the picture. Also, Roger has ceded some of the vocals to guest vocalists, Paul Carrack being the most well-known out of these. But they are no great shakes.

Worse is the fact that the tunes are hardly melodic at all. Everything is completely pro forma - the rhythms are there, that's right, but there never seem to be any consistent musical themes on the album. 'Radio Waves', for instance, starts the album on an upbeat, danceable note, but it's just a meandering, meatless composition based on elementary disco synth patterns. Out of all the songs on the album, it was indeed very hard for me to pick out anything close enough to a 'favourite' - I usually prefer songs with at least some significant instrumental backbone to hang on to, but there are none here. Eventually I pinned down the slightly more rockin' 'Powers That Be', an angry blast of social critique that seems to reflect Billy's (and Roger's) feelings towards the authorities, but it's not that the song is really good. It's so-so in the truest sense of the expression. I like the beat, and I like the lyrics, and the gruff bassline is tolerable, but overall this is much too similar to a mediocre Peter Gabriel tune with the atmosphere edited out, or to an excellent Phil Collins tune with the atmosphere meshed in. Somewhere in between these two things, I guess, lie 'The Powers That Be'.

Otherwise, it's just one dragging, bleeding ballad ('Me Or Him?'), soulful number ('Who Needs Information?') or disco rocker ('Sunset Strip') after another - in the finest Final Cut tradition, only worse, because the production sucks. Billy waxes nostalgic, Billy complains about his fate... And again, just as it was the last time around, the album only becomes interesting near the end - for instance, 'Four Minutes' is a really interesting track, the one in which humanity, led by DJ Jim, eagerly awaits the end of the world heralded by Billy. It slowly rises to a great climax, even if it has little to do with music... but then again, this is Roger Waters of Pink Floyd we're dealing with. And the last track, 'The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)', is probably one of the most heart-warming tunes that Roger ever penned. It seems that Live Aid as it was really made a tremendous impact on Roger and made him a little less of a cynic than he ever was before. A strange thing, as Live Aid was by far not the first of the huge charity concerts - just remember Harrison's Bangla Desh concert or the Concert for the People of Kampuchea in 1979. Maybe it's the dimensions that so impressed the people. Me, I don't really care that much for charity concerts. I'd prefer to have the charity and the concert separately, but maybe that's just me. Apparently, Waters thought of Live Aid as a turning point in mankind's history... don't know how he feels about it these days.

Nevertheless, even if 'Tide Is Turning' does reek of mild-hearted, charmingly naive optimism, it still doesn't have enough of a solid melody to back it up, and if the choral section at the end of the song doesn't move you to tears (and it shouldn't!), nothing else surely will. Once again, Roger the Philosopher demonstrates to me that music is not his forte - he should have contented himself with philosophy lectures in Cambridge. I do admit, though, that Radio K.A.O.S is well worth owning if only for the intriguing and cleverly-crafted concept alone. Screw the music, take it as just one more interesting peek into the mind of the Jolly Roger. The rating of eight here is certainly deserved, but it's not a spiteful eight, rather a consolative one.



Year Of Release: 1992
Overall rating = 10

Certainly Roger's most elaborate work: no melodies, as usual, but at least it's grandiose enough to remind us of the man's past glories.

Best song: WATCHING TV

Track listing: 1) The Ballad Of Bill Hubbard; 2) What God Wants (part 1); 3) Perfect Sense (part 1); 4) Perfect Sense (part 2); 5) The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range; 6) Late Home Tonight (part 1); 7) Late Home Tonight (part 2); 8) Too Much Rope; 9) What God Wants (part 2); 10) What God Wants (part 3); 11) Watching TV; 12) Three Wishes; 13) It's A Miracle; 14) Amused To Death.

If it's substance we're discussing, Roger's third solo album ain't all that different from his two previous ones (or from The Final Cut, for that matter). All the trademark Waters elements are present in it. And these are? A complicated, elaborate concept with philosophical lyrics and a universalist anti-universe position; an overall reliance on lyrics, mood and atmosphere as opposed to real melodies; huge loads of special effects and billions of gimmicks, some evident, some not; and a solid backing from a horde of professional musicians, notably Jeff Beck, who is responsible for most of the guitar playing on here.

In other words, Amused To Death is a more or less predictable release; you'd hardly expect Roger to release a set of innocent hip-hop tunes, now would you? Just imagine Mr Waters singing a duet with Puff Daddy! tee hee hee... But let's get back to business, shall we. The critics usually consider this the best of Roger's solo projects, and I think I'll just have to agree with them. This is by no means a great album, but I must say that finally, after eight years of toil, Waters has succeeded in putting out something really solid.

It'll be easier to understand if I give a general overview of this album as compared to his previous ones. It is certainly better than Radio K.A.O.S even if for just one reason, but a very significant one: the music on here is not annoying. It doesn't abuse synthesizers and drum machines and all that generic electronica and toying with disco. I mean, there's next to no melodies on here, but at least Waters isn't pretending that there are some, like he did on Radio. Apart from the steady rhythm of 'What God Wants' and maybe just a couple other tunes, the rhythm section is always feeble and 'unfelt' on the album; usually, you just hear the watery piano or the stinging guitar from Jeff or soft, Pink Floyd-ish acoustic guitar and that's all.

In that way, the instrumentation is certainly closer to Pros And Cons, with the main difference being Eric Clapton being replaced by Jeff Beck (which made critics jeer and sneer and ask when's the time that Jimmy Page comes around for his go). However, the album is certainly way better than Pros And Cons as well. It's not as nagging - there are more moods and, well, simply more different instrumental passages than there were on Pros, and, since most of these passages are original, they don't make you feel like you're made to listen to some crappy outtakes from the Wall sessions. Even more important, the album's concept is certainly far more interesting and thought-provoking than the stupid dream sequence on P's and C's. It's also quite complex - seriously, this might be the most complex and obscure concept ever put out by Roger; rumours say that the original edition of the album included a huge booklet, almost a whole book, dedicated to the description of the story, but I don't have any such thing with my edition. Maybe so much the better - I wouldn't have had the time to read it anyway, and if everything were made clear and straightforward, I could have easily been disappointed.

As it is, I just like the lyrical matter of the songs. Without external comments, they don't even seem to make any coherent sense: there are certain elements repeated over and over, like somebody reading the excerpts from the biography of a certain Bill Hubbard (presumably a soldier who perished in the war), or a strange monkey living in a human world, and, of course, there's plenty of biting social critique everywhere, culminating in the several versions of 'What God Wants'. It all gives you enough material to think over, and it's in general far more interesting than the naive comments on the nature of war and peace in Final Cut. In other words, the lyrics here are some of Roger's best ever... of course, nothing can equal 'Seamus', but I guess that goes without saying.

The major complaint is that the album's far too long - seventy-two minutes of Roger Waters, with several songs reprised, just isn't my particular pleasure. But after several listens, the uncomfortable feeling kinda sizzles down, and the overall effect is pleasant. It's also funny, but I find several obvious Bob Dylan references in the songs: thus, a part of 'The Bravery Of Being' is built on ripping off the vocal melody of 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue', and on 'Watching TV' some of the verses are sung in a totally Bob-style intonation: just listen to him singing 'won't you - shed aaaaa - tear?' (Although the song begins as a mellow Lou Reed ballad). Intentional? Subconscious? Who can tell? Regardless of everything, 'Watching TV' is probably my favourite cut on the album, with its gentle bouncy acoustic melody and strange nostalgic lyrics that seem to deal with an author's long-lost Chinese love.

There are other interesting songs on here, as well: 'What God Wants' is an effective foot-stomper where, to put it short, Roger puts the blame for everything on God, and the title track that closes the album is very majestic and truly epic in scale without having to resort to... to... well you know. You've already heard Radio K.A.O.S, haven't you? And note the tunes with the most prominent Jeff Beck guitar parts, notably the 'instrumental' 'Ballad Of Bill Hubbard' that opens the record. I put the word 'instrumental' in quotes because there's really nothing purely instrumental on here - in 'Ballad', for instance, some guy narrates the story of Bill Hubbard while the instruments just pound away. Nevertheless, the intro is very effective, and in a certain way, it even reminds me of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'. At least, it's better than Dave Floyd's 'Sign Of Life'.

Still, I wouldn't want to give this anything more than a simple ten: there are way too many boring and repetitive moments on the album, and, of course, Roger's permanent lack of melodical skills is evident as usual. Favourite moment on the album: at the end of 'What God Wants Part Three', when the telephone begins to ring and Roger sings 'but the monkey's not watching/He's slipped out to the kitchen/To pile the dishes/And answer the phone'. Then the monkey (presumably) picks up the receiver and an old man's voice begins to sing 'wa-a-a-it till the sun shines Nelly/And the clouds have drifted by/We sha-a-a-a-ll be happy Nelly...' and the monkey abruptly hangs up. Makes the album worth a fortune.


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