Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon – “Experience Special Edition” – EMI Music (2 CDs)
Published on November 7, 2011
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon – “Experience Special Edition” – EMI Music (2 CDs), 98:14 [9/26/11] *****:
(David Gilmour – guitar, VCS3, vocals; Nick Mason – percussion, tape effects; Richard Wright – keyboards, VCS3, vocals; Roger Waters – bass, tape effects, VCS3, vocals; Dick Parry – saxophone; Clare Terry – vocals; Doris Troy – vocals; Lesley Duncan – vocals; Liza Strike – vocals; Barry St John – vocals; Venetta Fields – vocals (Disc Two); Carlena Williams – vocals (Disc Two)
There are numerous lists of the most influential albums in the annals of rock and roll. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of the Moon is at or near the top of all of them. Released in 1973, the album raised the bar for conceptual rock and engineering. For an astonishing 741 weeks, it charted on Billboard’s Top 100, and has sold over 45 million copies. Exploring the narratives of greed, corruption, time passage and insanity, state-of-the-art technology and atmospheric instrumentals transformed the popular music culture. This recording, under the technical expertise of Alan Parsons, was groundbreaking in the annals of rock history. The simple black cover of a crystal pyramid refracting light into a rainbow, rivals Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the most celebrated cover of all time.
More than commercial success, Dark Side Of The Moon revitalized the British psychedelic blues band, Pink Floyd. Still reeling over the “departure” of inspirational guru, Syd Barrett, the band (Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason), skyrocketed to fame after this release. Having established a prior career as a psychedelic, “space rock” band (with albums like Piper at The Gates Of Dawn, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother and Meddle), circumstances would alter the dynamics. Waters took over the conceptual mantle of lyricist. Gilmore and Wright assumed musical songwriting duties with Waters. Despite persistent dysfunction and tenuous collaboration, the group persevered for another decade. Their live performances incorporated visual art and innovative audio equipment.
EMI has released a 2-CD re-mastered version of Dark Side Of The Moon. With a concerted effort for detail, the ultimate concept album can be enjoyed in updated digital technology. Unlike most conceptual rock projects, there is a distinct flow, without the customary breaks between songs. As drummer Nick Mason’s idiosyncratic percussion (which includes taped interviews and other effects) follows the “heartbeat”, the album proceeds with quintessential Pink Floyd on “Breathe”. Gilmore’s spacey guitar and emotional vocals animate Waters’ rumination on life. This pattern defines the album. Using the popular VCS3 sequencer, “On The Run” leads into “Time” (featuring Parson’s pre-recorded clock chiming), pondering the renowned British stoicism (“…hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way…”). The soulful backup vocals that became a staple for the group are harmonic and exultant. The following piece, “The Great Gig In The Sky” merges an ethereal classical theme with a wailing and mesmerizing vocal by Clare Terry that still blows the roof off.
Sound effects, which appear throughout the numbers, reappear in the form of ringing cash registers on “Money”. This is the most concise, structured opus for the group, and was released as a single. Memorable for its jagged guitar riffs and Dick Parry’s muscular sax line, it might be the most accessible track. “Us And Them” seems more classic Floyd with the organ-based melody and vocal echo. But the addition of saxophone and gusty backup singing is dramatic. A Wright instrumental (“Any Colour You Like”) precedes “Brain Damage”, the first of two songs with Waters singing the lead. The subject of insanity (the specter of Barrett again) receives the invocation of British gospel. The resonant chant of “Eclipse” ends this dazzling album. Of course, there is a final “heartbeat” and a barely audible, “there’s no dark side of the moon…as a matter of fact, it’s all dark”.
EMI has done justice to this iconic recording. The sonic impact of the instruments, especially the guitar, percussion and organ is vibrant and rich with textured precision. The mix of the vocals is superior in clarity and depth. A second CD is a live performance, recorded at The Empire Pool in Wembley, London in 1974. This CD showcases what anyone who has caught a live Pink Floyd concert knows…their sound system has no equal. Many of the intricate details of the album are preserved. Details (like the bottom drum sound) approximate studio acoustics, but with expected live rawness. Unlike other rock bands with “concept” projects, the live performance is nearly as good as the album. Also released is a six disc Immersion Box Set, and a collector’s vinyl LP. A separate box set containing fourteen albums is also available, as well as a lavish 5-disc set of their later Wish You Were Here sessions.
Disc One (Studio): Speak To Me; Breathe; On The Run; Time; The Great Gig In The Sky; Money; Us And Them; Any Colour You Like; Brain Damage; Eclipse
Disc Two (Live): Speak To Me; Breathe; On The Run; Time; The Great Gig In The Sky; Money; Us And Them; Any Colour You Like; Brain Damage; Eclipse