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

WISH YOU WERE HERE

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.62 | 2851 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars Wish I'd Been There

How does one follow the success of DSOTM without making a carbon copy of the successful album? Well, you reinvent yourself completely, something that Floyd constantly did throughout their first two decades: you'd be hard pressed to find two albums that are similar until their early-80's breakdown. This is not to say that the genesis of this album was an easy one, contrarily to Dark Side's. Indeed by early 74, three tracks had been written, including Raving And Drooling (future Sheep) and You Gotta Be Crazy (future Dogs) and what would become the Crazy diamond suite. As often the case with Floyd, all three tracks had been tested live during their tours, but in January 75, the group went in the studio to record the future album. But in the middle of the recording sessions, Waters will toss out the Raving and Gotta Be pieces, keeping the Crazy Diamond pieces that will become the new backbone. From this new blueprint, the general line of the album will be absence and an attack on the music industry.

The absence part is a bit of an autobiographical theme, with Syd Barrett's ghost appearing a second time (see my review of Dark Side's Brain Damage), further accredited by the interested party's impromptu visit, by the Floyd members not really recognizing him (so the legend has it), but it also about Floyd own emptiness in recent tours and laborious (as if they were elsewhere) studio sessions. The attack on the musical industry theme is grafted on that Syd theme (since the former is the culprit in Syd's fall) and would be the centre of the album, the Crazy Diamonds book-ending it. Musically this album is a bit of a return to pre-Dark Side with long instrumental passages, at least in the suite.

The first instalment of Shine On You is built mostly on four guitar notes, but the first longest-ever note (lasting over two minutes) is the superb starting point, courtesy of Wright. Indeed this first long sustained chord slowly emerging from the naught, where there is no harmony, no rhythm and no obvious melody, even if joined later on by feeble chimes and faraway strings, playing a sort of unnoticeable counter-melody, thus creating warmth where only cold should reign, but it fails to play the note that is now being urged by the piece of music. The second movement sees more action, with Rick recalling some previous chords or slowly introducing new motifs and although there is still no rhythm (Nick was probably calling a cab for Syd to go home ;o)))), harmonically the piece is now orgasmic; even if the feel of absence is growing as tensions increase with no relief in sight, although you sense it must come.

And it does come with the third movement, but not the one you expect and from where you expected it: Gilmour's four notes weigh in heavily at the start of the third movement, but the emptiness remains, masterfully maintained by Rick Wright's left hand remaining stuck on that lengthy chord. By the fourth guitar ostinato, Waters and Mason are now in the studio (they've just finished waving goodbye to Syd) and the tracks is now in full swing (enhanced by the previous interminable silence), but still no relief in sight. The superb two verses (no chorus) of the fourth movement come in just in time to enhance the track's grandioseness, and it's now so obvious that the song is aimed at Syd that the melodrama brings shivers in your spine. With the climax now past us, the track closes on a superb downward spiral, highlighted by Parry's sax and segueing with no interruption into the Welcoming Machine. Mechanical noises (like a sas opening) are leading a slow repetitive guitar strum on a slow heavy drum-less rhythm (Nick was checking up on his new Jaguar) alternating 3/4 and 4/4 behind Wright's Moog. Water's sad and melancholic lyrics in Crazy Diamond are now changing to a caustic and acid observation of the RnR dream, and the track ends in industrial noises.

The flipside is no less acidic with friend Roy Harper taking the role of the music industry tycoon over an RnB-type of song where Waters' bass leads the way. The tone changes abruptly (almost un-Floyd-like) through a radio know twisting session and out comes the title track where Gilmour illustrate Water's awesome letter to Syd, while Wright's piano underlines it subtly, while Nick was phoning Syd to see if he got home fine. Waters again ponders if what happened to Syd would not happen to the rest of the band. As the track melts into not-so-gentle wind sounds, we are blown back to the Crazy Diamond second part of the epic, not as transcendental as the first bloc, but often quoting some of its better moments, including another poignant verse well placed in the centre of the piece and a short visit to Emily (Bye bye, Syd).

This is the first major Floyd studio release that did not come in a gatefold, but the Hypgnosis artwork is no less superb with plenty to ponder including the four elements of life (fire > the white frame burning, air > the bent frame of the red scarf in forest, water > the leak on the lyrics side of the inner sleeve and Earth > the crack in the frame through which sand seeps out in the back of the album), but the outside sleeve is clearly meant to highlight the music industry highlight. The album came in a black plastic bag with a sticker representing a stylised handshake as a spacecraft over those four elements and a fascinating diving postcard.

Although not as initially successful as its predecessor, WYWH certainly ended up equalling it in the heart of fans, progheads generally preferring it to Dark Side. Among the three Floyd creators, this is where they worked best together and shared the workload evenly, (Nick serving tea to the visitors ;o))) and where Floydis at the top of their game.

As for that Immersion boxset of 2011 The WYWH immersion series boxset is a rather disappointing one, especially for the steep price asked? Indeed, outside a way too huge/wide box taking double the shelf space it needs, the two big books are relatively average in interest. From the five discs, only three maximum are of interest, sionce the other two are using up the same material in different format (CD; DVD-A and Blue-Ray), which augments the price uselessly. First of all, I don't hear much difference between the original mix and this remaster or the previous one, and whatever difference there is doesn't justify the steep investment in this boxset, unless you're really in the 4.0 or 5.1 remasters. Actually the more interesting disc is the bonus material, including the live stuff: the full Crazy Diamond (minus the Dick Parry saxophone section, plus the early versions of Dogs and Sheeps. From the alternate takes, the Roy Harper-less Cigar also features a much longer Gilmour solo at the end, and the Stephane Grapelli version of the title track are very enjoyable. Pity the band had to botch up the ultimate version of this second disc by discovering a few months after the boxset's release an alternate take of the second movement of Crazy Diamond, where Wright plays the grand piano. This Immersion "thingie" is a rare case where we might j-have wished for real work-in-progress version of the album tracks. As for the video content, one can only wonder why they didn't include all of the track's screen concert animations, provided they exist or that they are in exploitable shape. As for the Thorgeson animation bit, he's thankfully much better at making still pictures than computer animations. Soooo, while I wouldn't really call this expensive box a rip-off, only the second disc (with the usually expandable bonus tracks) is of any interest, thus making the "thing" very dispensible and totally unessential.

Sean Trane | 5/5 |

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