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


Pink Floyd

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The new examination of a classic, by the band

As you might expect, "The Story of Wish You Were Here" covers the making of the band's seminal 1975 release, an understated masterpiece with the competing themes of lost friendship and bitterness towards the record business. There are so many lame unofficial Floyd documentaries out there that I should immediately make clear this one is official, and features the full participation of the band's surviving members and many of the integral non-band collaborators.

The one hour feature is a current and fairly focused look at the album in a style similar to the "Classic Album" series with the gents who recorded the album back at the board, dissecting tracks and telling stories. It goes back and forth between band member interviews (new and old) and segments of the band's Syd period with side detours about artwork and the business. One hour is never enough time and most hard core fans will already know much of the story, so in that sense there's not a ton of previously uncovered excitement. Still, all parties now have a genuine affection for their legacy and sound like they are actually happy to be a part of what is a new Floyd project, if not a creative one. Some of the commentary about Scarfe, along with Roy Harper and Storm's interviews about the creation of the visuals were unique and appreciated. All in all it is a satisfying documentary with excerpts of new performance and just enough new angles to please even grumpy old Floydsters a little bit. It will be surprising to some to hear just how disillusioned and unenthusiastic they were after the success of Dark Side. The fact that they were able to follow up with several more great releases is a testament to sheer talent and a bit of fate.

The downside is the cliched and negative treatment of Barrett yet again. While the band members speak eloquently and with affection, whomever chose the Barrett material presented did the man no favors. It came off like a hyped network celebrity piece with the usual tragic and sensationalized feel. Yes it is crucial to explain what happened, but to balance that they could have chosen Syd's good material to show. They could have presented some of his finer songs in a proper form, the better singles and solo tracks, to both document his talent and show why he was revered by many. Instead they present some brief footage, bits of his 1974 studio noodling, drag out the terrible "first acid trip" thing, and generally create an unflattering portrait with the tragic commentary and script. These moments have all the sensitivity and class of an auto accident rubbernecking slowdown. So much for celebrating the positive artistic contribution of his life and in that period there was some great stuff. Again, this aspect may not have been under the control of the band and I suspect it was put together by other people. But unfortunately Syd comes off as nothing but tragedy while his brief yet highly creative phase was almost completely brushed aside. In an unofficial doc that would be expected, but here in a high profile release with the participation of the group it really is unforgivable.

If you love the album and the band this is an inexpensive no-brainer that does a good job of examining the material with the time it has. It just short shrifts the inspiration for the album once again. Twenty five minutes of un-aired bonus material is included with additional band interviews and performance clips.

Report this review (#780577)
Posted Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I ought to be reviewing dozens of Finnish artists but for change I'll throw the second (!) review for this documentary DVD that I viewed two days ago. Originally I saw it on TV about a year ago where it was broadcast as a part of the series "Classic Album" - which it actually isn't, but is made in the same formula. As Finnforest said, unlike numerous DVD's about Floyd, this is an official Pink Floyd documentary featuring interviews of the (past and present) band members and other collaborators, such as animator Gerald Scarfe, album designer Storm Thorgeson and solo artist Roy Harper, the vocalist of 'Have a Cigar'.

Naturally David Gilmour and Roger Waters - in turns, not together, just as one might guess too - are the ones most present in the film. Especially Waters has deep thoughts about the band's internal and individual feelings at the time, which were very depressed. With the enormous success of The Dark Side of the Moon they were stars under big pressures. The shaping of the next album began with the famous four chords of Gilmour's guitar that start 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', Floyd's dedication to their original leadman Syd Barrett. The Barrett tragedy is indeed heavily dealt here, and I have to agree with Finnforest that the way it's represented is not glorious.

When seeing this for the first time I was very delighted and surprised by the animations of Scarfe. I hadn't known that the collaboration with him started much earlier than with the film Pink Floyd The Wall. Such powerful imagery; the man of sand, the sea of blood, the strange closing metallic formation, etc. Even more notable gratitude must be addressed to Storm's innovative cover design and other photography related to the album, on the theme of absence. Those memories are very interesting, for example the stuntman set on fire nearly lost his face to flames...

I can imagine how Roy Harper feels when in every gig he gives there's someone shouting 'Have a Cigar'! And that Waters was never very happy with his contribution, especially as everybody thought it was him anyway (so did I, as ateenager). Also the two soul artistes who had already been involved on Floyd concerts before singing background vocals on WYWH, are given the chance to say how it was working with the band.

Concert material is surprisingly almost absent on this DVD. Anyway the hour-long main film is a pleasure for any Pink Floyd digger, with its little faults. The 25-minute extra feature is not as good. Both Waters and Gilmour throw their one-man performances of 'Wish You Were Here' - a bit boring repetition - , and Waters deepens further his thoughts. It would have been a great extra to have some image gallery too (I mean mainly works of Thorgeson/Hipgnosis and Scarfe). But yes, this is easily worth four stars.

Report this review (#1175244)
Posted Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars A good documentary video (an official one, it seems) done with interviews with David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Roger Waters, recording engineer Brian Humphries, album cover designer Storm Thorgerson, cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, musician Roy Harper, and other people related with the history of the band and particularly with the making of the "Wish You Were Here" album. It relates the story that I also have read in two books written about the band (one by Miles, and the other by William Ruhlmann) about how hard was for the band to record a new album after the great success of their "The Dark Side of the Moon" album from 1973. They really had hard times trying to top that album or at least to produce an album with the same quality as "The Dark Side...". And while I still think that "The Dark Side..." is a better album, their "Wish You Were Here" album is still a good album . By the time the band was planning to record a new album in 1974 they had some problems to reach an agreement about how to do it. So, with the help of a few musical ideas and with Waters mostly acting like the "main director" the band developed ideas for a new album, which became the "Wish You Were Here" album from 1975. In this video, they said that there were two main themes for the album: one theme was former member of the band Syd Barrett, and the other theme was their growing dislike of the music business and record companies. So, they recorded a tribute song for Barrett, called "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", dividing this musical piece in several different sections which were divided in two main parts (one which started the album and another which closed the album), and putting some other songs between these two main sections of "Shine On...". The songs related to their growing dislike of the music business ("Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar") were put in the record between those two manin sections of "Shine On...", also including another song, the title song, which was in part also dedicated to Syd but as they said, "it also relates to many other things". They also relate the story about how Syd appeared in the studio (in the video there is a photo about this moment) while they were mixing "Shine On..." and how they could not at first recognize him but when finally they did it it was a shock to them to see Syd when they were working on a song about him. have to watch the video to learn about other related stories about this album and about some technical information about how it was recorded. I have to say that it is a good video documentary, but some of the information has been written before in some books about the band and also told in some interviews with some of the members of the band.

Report this review (#1219794)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink

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