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Richard Wright - Broken China CD (album) cover

BROKEN CHINA

Richard Wright

 

Crossover Prog

3.99 | 144 ratings

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FloydWright
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is among the best albums that I have ever experienced in my life, and it still holds that same special place in my heart. Please don't let this slip your grasp.

The artist himself acknowledged in interviews that he knew it wouldn't be a bestseller, and seemed to have accepted it. But it seems a terrible shame that a man could pour out his heart--and in such beautiful fashion--and go unheard. Broken China is on a level with WATERS' solo work Amused to Death...and beyond. I don't say that lightly. But to compare it any further to ATD would be to do both works a disservice. Both are certainly concept albums. However, while ATD has a lyrical focus and the music takes a supporting role, Broken China has a more musical focus, with the lyrics of Anthony Moore in a supporting role.

Broken China is the harrowing, but ultimately inspiring story of two individuals alone: the narrator, WRIGHT himself, and his wife (then his girlfriend--her first name is Millie). Openly emotional in nature, this story will bring you to tears. The story is very personal to RICK WRIGHT--the experience of watching his girlfriend endure clinical depression. WRIGHT wrote this album, in part, as a means to help deal with the aftermath of this painful episode.

The album is divided into four sets, each containing four songs. Each part deals with a particular "phase" of his girlfriend's life. Most of it is "narrated" by WRIGHT, but two songs are sung by Sinead O'Connor, who represents his girlfriend. Here's a quick summary as I understand it, but I feel that in this case I have to be careful in stating my interpretations, since this album deals directly with the lives of two real individuals. In Set 1, WRIGHT describes the childhood abuse his girlfriend endured--some of it probably sexual (from "Hidden Fear": "Why do we feel this adult pain/And hold these secrets that don't belong?"). If the title of this set's last song relates the true course of events, she runs away from home. Set 2 deals with womanhood and her attempts to repress all the pain of her childhood--but the pressure keeps building. Set 3 deals with the breakdown, the depression, and the terrible pain it caused both his girlfriend and WRIGHT himself. In Set 4 she makes a gradual, but eventually successful recovery with WRIGHT giving her his love and support. (After the events of the album itself, Richard and Millie Wright married--a true happy ending after a harrowing ordeal.)

The sound of the album itself is difficult to describe--quite otherworldly in many places, almost verging on techno for a few tracks (most notably "Satellite"), but nearly classical on a few others (most notably "Hidden Fear" and "Blue Room in Venice"). Yet another instrumental track is reminiscent of The Division Bell's "Cluster One" ("Sweet July"). Always otherworldly, the album shows off the wide range of musical moods and textures WRIGHT is capable of producing. Though he often goes unrecognized, WRIGHT's work truly is an influential, if sometimes subtle part of the PINK FLOYD sound.

WRIGHT's vocals are noticeably different on Broken China than any of his earlier work. Probably the closest comparison would be to TDB's "Wearing the Inside Out." However, to many of the songs, there's a much more melodic quality to his singing--he makes much more use of vibrato than any other FLOYD member ever has (ex. "Hidden Fear"), but he takes care not to overdo it. WRIGHT's singing is not harsh or overbearing. Though his voice is rather deeper-sounding than fans of early FLOYD would be accustomed to, his voice hasn't suffered over time-it's as clear as ever. WRIGHT said in an interview that in the making of Broken China he felt freer to experiment with his voice to find a way he felt most comfortable. To my ear, it came out wonderfully.

Though the music is probably the primary focus for most, the lyrics are emotionally very powerful. One of the most powerful examples is in "Far from the Harbour Wall":

"Now, because I could not cope with pain How things are not the same, she's got no remedies. A heartbreaking fall and I fear a change of course I feel like we were born insane, I hear the love, I fear the love For the heart is so low, see how it grows apart."

My heart really went out to WRIGHT here--it sounds as if he's blaming himself for everything that's happening to her, and how painfully strong the love is that he has for her. Oh, how that hit home--I could feel it so strongly. I cried when I heard this, because I felt his pain as if it were my own...just as it seems WRIGHT felt HER pain as HIS own, not to mention his own private pain from what he was seeing.

"To all those brave enough to face their past," says the album's dedication. Indeed--it took a great bravery for WRIGHT to do this. He may be quiet, but there's no denying that he is truly brave. The same applies to Mrs. Wright for agreeing to let him create Broken China and to eventually decide that she was all right with letting him tell the full story about her. This is an album about an issue that affects one out of ten people. ONE out of TEN--think about that.

"We were cut off from our lives, by a wall of pain, It can't be seen, it's so routine, it has no face or name." --"Along the Shoreline"

It HAS a name, and it CAN be treated. I think that is part of the reason that WRIGHT released this album--so perhaps someone out there somewhere might be spared the suffering the two of them endured. This is the deep bravery that arises out of love--this is what offers hope in the darkest of circumstances. This is the secret of Broken China.

"To all those brave enough to face their past."

FloydWright | 5/5 |

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