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Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here CD (album) cover

WISH YOU WERE HERE

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.62 | 2803 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
5 stars For those who don't (or can't) fully appreciate the sadly diminishing art of making a complete album of well-thought-out and immaculately-executed music and lyrics I present as evidence this masterpiece by Pink Floyd. Taken and experienced as individual songs these tunes may be no more memorable than any number of FM radio staples echoing endlessly from the 70s but when listened to as a wholly intertwined concept the result is nothing short of overwhelming. No wonder it is so revered in the kingdom of progressive rock.

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 1)" slowly dawns like the gradual rising of a full moon on a cold winter night as David Gilmour and Richard Wright paint an intimate palette before a tolling, bell-like quintet of haunting guitar notes defines the mood and ushers in the rest of the band to perform the greatest prog rock blues song of all time. David's deftly phrased and tasteful licks are a delight to behold as they leisurely go about setting the sober tone of the piece. However, when Roger Waters' inimitable vocals come in all subtlety is abandoned and a full chorus enters en masse to back his wistful singing and words that cut like a knife. Obviously aimed at AWOL group founder Syd Barrett, his rueful lyrics cry out like a brother's anguish. "Remember when you were young/you shone like the sun," he recalls, but then adds "you reached for the secret too soon/you cried for the moon." Helplessly we can only sympathize from afar as Roger pleads for his dear friend to return. "Come on you raver/you seer of visions/come on you painter/you piper/you prisoner/and shine!" he calls out in vain. As if in response and out of nowhere appears the refreshing saxophone of guest Dick Parry to provide a shred of hope in the end.

How appropriate to go from the soulful, natural sound of a sax to the industrial, synthesized noises of a faceless mechanism at the start of "Welcome to the Machine." In the first of a one-two punch describing the fallout resulting from the instant elevation of the group from cult status to worldwide superstars due to the indescribable success of "Dark Side of the Moon," Waters doesn't hold back his bitterness. Wright performs his best keyboard work ever as he weaves a tight tapestry of synthesizers while Gilmour's full 12-string acoustic guitar strums provide depth and a glimpse of humanity to the proceedings. Roger warns us to be careful of what we strive for because we may not like what we get. "You dreamed of a big star/he played a mean guitar/he always ate in the steak bar/he loved to drive in his Jaguar/so welcome to the machine," he mourns as he contemplates his empty rewards. The tune finishes abruptly and without emotion as if the machine has said "Okay, enough of that," followed by surreal, canned crowd sounds.

But the biggest dose of stark reality comes in the form of "Have a Cigar," Waters' scathing indictment of the mogul-run, greed-propelled and bloated record biz of the seventies. Here David's piercing, staccato guitar jabs are at once unnerving and intriguing as they drive home the anger and frustration spewing out of their predicament. After years and years of being treated like strange, bohemian vagabonds they are suddenly being honored like royalty simply because they made the bigwigs millions of bucks and the transparent hypocrisy of those bosses is disgusting. In the words of the fat cats, "We're just knocked out/we heard about the sell out/you gotta get an album out/you owe it to the people/we're so happy we can hardly count!" Waters relates while spitting out bile. "Everybody else is just green/have you seen the chart?/it's a hell of a start/it could be made into a monster/if we all pull together as a team." It's crystal clear that the band wants no ticket to ride on their gravy train but signed contracts have a way of binding regardless of personal preference and therein lies the rub. Symbolically, the ever-present "machine" cruelly sucks all the life and color out of the song at the end. It's a devastating effect.

Nostalgia for a simpler time is portrayed by the sound of someone twisting the dial of an old AM radio, setting the table for some of the most heartbreaking lyrics in all progdom with "Wish You Were Here." Roger's brilliant poetry about the human condition melded with his remorse over losing touch with his lost compatriot Syd is stunning and poignant. "Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?/hot ashes for trees?/hot air for cool breeze?/cold comfort for change?" he asks plaintively. For those who think that there's no good words to be found in progressive music I offer this tune as proof positive that there are. You just have to know where to look. The music here is basic and unadorned, as it should be, and drifts away into an artificial wind. Magnificence.

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 2)" begins with an angry, menacing aura befitting the atmosphere of things expressed so far. Then Gilmour breaks the tension with screaming attacks from his lap steel guitar that are as aggressive and irate as punching a hole in the studio wall. The next thing you know, though, you've got dem ol' cosmic blues again as Roger warbles optimistically "We'll bask in the shadow/of yesterday's triumph/and sail on the steel breeze" as if Barrett's unlikely return would solve everything. "Come on you boy-child/you winner and loser/come on you miner for truth and delusion/and shine!" What a tragedy. But Waters' heartache is juxtaposed by incredible music as Wright's floating Rhodes piano brings in a jazzy feel to the jam-out section that follows. Then, just as you think the moon has set over the horizon, a gorgeous synthesized flute resurrects and leads you into a reassuring coda of sound that is moving and wonderful. Bravo.

While other prog groups have made albums that are arguably just as good, there's no denying that this inspired creation deserves to hover at or near the top of the "best" list for all time to come. It comes as close to perfection as feasible on many levels but, in the end, it is simply a joy to spin and absorb as a whole.

Chicapah | 5/5 |

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