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Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.60 | 4194 ratings

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5 stars There are a few events in every generation that assume an importance far above their merit. The death of Princess Diana was one such: many people can still remember what they were doing when they heard she had died. The only such 'event' in ProgArchives is PINK FLOYD's 'Dark Side of the Moon'.

It was the album of a generation, the record everyone had to have, the vinyl that justified the purchase of that shiny new stereo. Recent listeners may well wonder what all the fuss is about: after all, it's merely a sequence of competent, unadventurous songs spliced together into a quasi-concept album. Its production values have been surpassed now as a matter of course. So what is the big deal?

'Dark Side of the Moon' is the perfect example of a holistic album, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Every note, every noise has been engineered to add to the concept. There's no padding. What you've got here is four musicians and a sound engineer making the very best of what they have, and in the process making the biggest-selling record in these archives.

So of course you should get it. You already have it, I'm sure. But the purpose of reviews of well-known albums is to relive the experience, to share the excitement, and that's what I'll try to do.

The album fades in on a heartbeat. Not merely a real one; this is larger than life, deep thudding bass. Copied endlessly, never bettered. Then the mysterious voices start up, ruminating on the mysteries of life. We know that WATERS went around recording answers to pre-set questions - a prosaic method to achieve such an impressive result. The ramblings of FLOYD's roadies tie the album together, acting as the ultimate segue, warming the record with the human voice, while edging it with uncertainty and fear. Brilliant idea.

'Breathe' is a gentle start. PINK FLOYD set out their stall: they are still writing music similar to that from AHM, Meddle and Obscured by Clouds; that is, simple blues/rock. But on this album they begin to elongate the sounds, finally having discovered that they can marry their newer rock sensibilities with their former psychedelic tendencies to create something wholly different. On to 'On The Run', where the psychedelica is more obvious, but with shiny new synthesisers and wonderful stereo effects Bang! Crash! Who hasn't imagined a plane crash scenario to go with these tape loops? And whose are the running feet?

Chiming clocks lead us into 'Time', and the album lifts a notch. GILMOUR and WRIGHT sing with vigour and a growing confidence: PINK FLOYD vocals have always been restrained, taking second place to the music, but here they flow. And now we get GILMOUR's first truly defining guitar solo: the solo centerpiece of 'Time' is a stunner, sucking us up into a tornado. The best solos are set up by what precedes them, and this is no exception. GILMOUR gets his guitar to scream and wail, then drops us back to earth, wrung out, half-deaf and unsure of how much time has passed, the last notes leading back into the relentless lyrics. Ten years?

Another moment of genius: 'Breathe' is reprised. The music slows, we are being encouraged to reflect on what we've been told. Thought you'd something more to say? You've said plenty already. Clearly we are being prepared for something ...

Then it's off to the 'Great Gig in the Sky' - death, in other words. This track is beyond a masterstroke and into the realms of serendipity. CLARE TORREY's voice winds its way into my soul, yanks it out of my chest and hurls it into the heavens. This is music that hurts to listen to, so powerful is it. And PINK FLOYD know it: WRIGHT's beautiful denouement to this track lets me down gently. How fortunate they were to get far more than their money's worth (they paid TORREY 30).

See, this is the genius of the album. So few chords, such simple time signatures, yet the clarity and intensity of the musicians constantly grabs me, lifts me up and then sets me down. They do it in 'On the Run'. They do it in 'Time's guitar solo. They do it in 'Breathe Reprise'. They do it in 'Gig'. The music doesn't have to be complex to soar: it can be as simple as the cry of the gull. Yes, musically the album is rather lightweight compared to much in these archives, but that only enables it to soar more easily, unencumbered by pretension.

'Money' and those fabulous cash register effects, that trademark bass run and GILMOUR letting rip with not one, but two scorching solos. And there's a fabulous sax solo. Equally impressive is GILMOUR's vocals - is this the same man who whispered his way through 'Fat Old Sun' barely two years previously? And, most impressive of all, WATERS let him sing it. You can bet your war memories the WATERS of 1983 wouldn't have surrendered those vocals to GILMOUR. And that is what marks this period as PINK FLOYD's best: they let nothing get in the way of making the best music they could.

'Us and Them' is the nearest the record gets to the songwriting of 'Meddle' and 'Obscured by Clouds'. It's a longer, reflective piece, embellished by PARRY's saxophone work. 'Any Colour You Like' is not generally considered a highlight of the album, but I beg to differ. It's a third cast of 'Funky Dung' (following the original and the funk on 'Echoes'), and might be the best of the three, with a splendid duel between GILMOUR and WRIGHT.

WATERS brings the album home to its subtle climax. Not musically: apart from the driving climax that is 'Eclipse', we've had the best music. But lyrically the album is drawn to a close. So it is only right that he sing these last two songs.

This is why the album succeeded. It sounded so crisp, like crunching into a freshly-picked apple. It made the young listener think about important and timeless things. It was weird and startling enough to be a prerequisite for drugtaking. It gave the listener an emotional high. And, most importantly, it was compositionally flawless: all the parts in the right place, a believable concept, a song cycle one can listen to again and again.

Fade out to the heartbeat, and the inevitable closing quote ...

russellk | 5/5 |


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