CD+DVD Reviews

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975) – Immersion Box Set – EMI (5 discs + stuff)

Yes, it's not a box but it IS a box—filled with loads of Pink Floyd material of various sorts.

Published on November 19, 2011

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975) – Immersion Box Set (5 discs) – (Ceci n’est pas une boîte) – 2 CDs, 2 DVDs (one audio-only) + 1 Blu-ray; 36p. printed booklet, 20p. photo book, 12p. credit booklet, Storm Thorgerson art print, collectors’ cards, facsimiles of tickets and other memorabilia in two envelopes, an art scarf, three large clear marbles in small black sack, 9 coasters with Storm Thorgerson sketches, poster – EMI Blu-ray/ Dolby Surround ($120 on Amazon) *****:

(David Gilmour, vocals & guitars; Nick Mason, drums; Richard Wright, keyboards/piano/vocals; Roger Waters, bass guitar & vocals & all lyrics)

Another lavish pop artistic experience, all in a big strong and square box, adorned with a cover illustration obviously an homage to surrealist Rene Magritte. The subtitle of “Ceci n’est pas une boîte” (It’s not a box) is a takeoff on Magritte’s famous painting This is not a pipe, in which he emphasized that it was an image of a pipe — not a pipe for smoking. Pink Floyd’s artwork by Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis was frequently influenced by Magritte—along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jeff Beck, Oregon, The Firesign Theatre, Paul Simon, Jean-Luc Godard, Terry Gilliam and many others.

Most of the music materials have not been previously released, except for the first CD, which is a newly remastered version of their original 1975 album with its five tracks: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1, Welcome to the Machine, Have a Cigar, Wish You Were Here,” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 2.”  CD No. 2 has six previously-unreleased audio tracks, including three from the 1974 live concert at Wembley, a tune from a never-released project, “Household Objects,” an alternative version of “Have a Cigar,” and a special version of “Wish You Were Here” featuring Stephane Grappelli on violin.

The first of the two DVD discs has five tracks in Dolby Surround audio only, at various sampling rates ranging from 448 kbps to 640 kbps. There are mixes for stereo, 4.0-channel quad and 5.1 surround. I tried the 640 kbps versions, but both they and the 448 versions are filtered thru Dolby Digital’s 48K codec, so I couldn’t tell a great deal of difference.  Three of these are repeated on the Blu-ray disc (No. 5) in much better uncompressed resolution (96K/24-bit). The second DVD disc has five short videos and is basically duplicated in higher resolution on Disc No. 5, the one Blu-ray disc.  I guess it’s for those lacking an SACD player. The audio for the film portions on Disc 5 are either 48K/24-bit or PCM stereo.

The Blu-ray disc is extremely confusing since it has absolutely no on-screen display for the first three audio-only tracks. A screen allowing selection between the audio and video portions appears only when you get to the fourth track. I had thought my Blu-ray player had died on me.  Also, the producers evidently didn’t pay for the special license to make the Blu-ray navigable without requiring a video display (as Naxos does with their audio-only Blu-rays). The disc contents are: “Wish You Were Here” in three different formats — 5.1 surround, the original stereo mix of 1975, and a quad mix of 1975. Tracks Nos. 4 & 6 are some concert screen films from 1975, the first with one of the Floyds running across some sand dunes, and second with animation of a rotating floating body in space. The fifth track is a short very surrealistic but well-done six-minute film by artist Storm Thorgerson—the best of the bunch visually.  The concert films repeat some of the same Pink Floyd images—both live action, color slides, and animation—and the first two are different visual versions of the beginning only of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” with the same music track. They were often projected on screens behind the band as they performed onstage.

Since there are no SACDs, if you have a Blu-ray deck, the set gives you a chance to enjoy the creative use of surround for which Roger Waters and Pink Floyd have long been known. (He even offered compatible surround sound on one of his LPs. I recall one involved a dog barking behind you, even with two speakers.) While we have found the SACD version of the same surround material usually sounds slightly superior or at least identical to the lossless Blu-ray version, Disc 5 gives those without multichannel SACD a fine opportunity.  Some users have even said they actually prefer the 1975 quadraphonic mixes to the new 5.1 surround mixes.  There are no credits for DTS-HD Master Audio processing–just for Dolby Surround for the two DVDs, so it appears the first three tracks of the Blu-ray disc are uncompressed 96K/24-bit 5.1 surround—providing the very highest sonic quality (unless you’re youthful enough—and your hearing is totally undiminished by loud rock concerts and poor earbuds—to appreciate 192K sampling…Ed.).

Pink Floyd is one of the most influential rock groups of all time, and one of the most commercial successful. Their progressive and psychedelic music is marked by philosophical—though often rather cynical—lyrics (all printed in one of the included booklets), striking album art, spectacular live shows crowded with electronic gear, and sonic experimentation—especially with surround sound. Rogers and Mason met while studying architecture; Wright died in 2008.

The physical extras/trinkets in the big box are rated by Floyd fanatics as either terrific or worthless. The various booklets and memorabilia could have been all included in a single large booklet, the scarf is artistic but won’t keep you warm, and one reviewer observes “anyone who pays $120 for this set and uses the coasters must have lost their marbles—and not the ones in the box, if you know what I mean.”  (Anyway, one of the Thorgerson coasters has a rather disturbing image you probably wouldn’t want to pass out to your party guests. And I understand they were already offered as part of a previous Pink Floyd album.) I’m afraid I’m not enough of a Floyd fan to know the reason for including the little black bag of three marbles. One interesting physical fact about the box are the four raised spider-center holders in its bottom, designed to hold the first four discs.  But the discs come in little plain white cardboard sleeves instead of stuck to the box—which is probably more protective from scratches to the discs. Also, there’s no place to stick the Blu-ray disc.

The superb hi-res surround in this set enables both avid fans and those just interested to fully appreciate a complete immersion in Pink Floyd. I understand the next Immersion box set will be devoted to their The Wall album.

—John Henry




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