“Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?” was the question posed on “Have a Cigar”, Pink Floyd’s record industry-knocking anthem from their 1975 album Wish You Were Here.
Though it may be construed as a joke on the surface, in the context of which of the group’s five original members could’ve been identified as the singular embodiment of the legendary British group’s colossal sound—Mr. Pink Floyd, if you would—one would look no further than keyboardist Richard “Rick” Wright. Arguably, even more so than the group’s original frontman, the late Syd Barrett, despite the fact that he was the basis for the central character “Pink” in Alan Parker’s film adaptation of the group’s 1979 magnum opus The Wall, as well as the perplexing muse of many of their most memorable songs.
And though guitarist David Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters may have, in fact, written the majority of the songs, Wright and his endless arsenal of electric and acoustic ivories provided the all-important oxygen by which their tunes were breathed into life. From the group’s auspicious beginnings as the mysterious house band for London’s famed UFO Club to their ascension into the lexicon of AOR immortality, Wright’s array of Moog, Korg, Fender Rhodes, Hammond, and grand piano flourishes and accentuations were the foundation of it all. He truly was the architect of the Pink Floyd sound. So which one’s Pink? It was the guy surrounded by that wall of knobs and levels on stage right, if you want my opinion.
The news of Wright’s death following a short battle with an undisclosed form of cancer on September 14th, 2008 came as a shocking bolt of sorrow to the legions of fans that grew up at the foot of his piano bench. However, one can be considered grateful that Pink Floyd, who many believed would never play together as a whole again, joined together one last time at Live 8 for a short but memorable hit-heavy set in 2005. And though they eventually split off into two factions shortly thereafter, with Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason going one way and Wright and David Gilmour going the other, both tours were successful in exposing a whole new generation to the magic of psychedelic revelry that is Floyd’s music (as well as the unheralded brilliance of both Waters’s and Gilmour’s solo material, respectively). And while it is left up to the beholder as to which tour delivered the classic stuff the best, the multitude of concert-goers who were lucky enough to have caught the Gilmour tour must be eternally grateful to have been able to shower themselves in the thunderstorm of Wright’s frenetic frenzy of acid-washed textures one last time before this most unexpected tragedy.
Playing before nearly 100,000 people on August 26, 2006, the 25th anniversary of the founding of Poland’s Solidarity Trade Union at the invitation of Union founder and former Polish president Lech Walesa, this live album of the Gilmour concert held in Gdańsk’s historic shipyard district is indeed as much a testament to Wright as it is Gilmour. And while a good portion of the two-CD set is top-heavy with Gilmour’s perfectly fine solo material, particularly culled from his third album, 2006’s On an Island, it’s the Pink Floyd stuff that you really want to hear. Especially considering that listening to Live in Gdańsk will now be quite possibly one of the very last times you will get a chance to hear Wright perform on record, making these stellar performances of a vast array of both obvious and deep Floyd favorites all the more spectacular both in sound and vision.
Though not on the accompanying DVD documentation of the Gdańsk concert, the audio portion of this set contains a brilliant run through the first third of Dark Side of the Moon, where Wright’s science fiction Moog jamming propels “Speak to Me”, “Breathe”, and “Time” as exquisitely as he and Gilmour had done back in 1972, when the record-breaking album was originally issued. You can relish in Wright singing the lead vocals on “Comfortably Numb” and harmonizing with Gilmour on Floyd’s first single, “Astronomy Domine”, as fluidly as he had 41 years ago with Syd Barrett, whose passing from pancreatic cancer one month before this Gdańsk concert can be felt in Gilmour’s mournful, emotionally personalized renditions of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and “Wish You Were Here”, two of Floyd’s most obvious tributes to their self-exiled ex-frontman.
Other highlights include the several tunes performed with the Baltic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by notable Polish film composer Zbiginew Preisner. Most notable are the Island instrumental “Red Sky at Night”, which features Gilmour playing saxophone, and a poignant performance of the Division Bell highlight “A Great Day for Freedom”, featuring a string arrangement by the late film composer Michael Kamen, which resonated strongly throughout the capacity crowd of Polish nationals celebrating the anniversary of their own emancipation from Soviet rule. The version of the Atom Heart Mother nugget “Fat Old Sun” on here is just out of this world and really signifies the strength of Gilmour’s touring band, which, in addition to Wright, also featured former Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, session drummer Steve Di Stanislao, and longtime Pink Floyd collaborators bassist Guy Pratt, programmer John Carin, and the great saxophonist Dick Parry, who played with Gilmour in his pre-Floyd band the Joker’s Wild and whose beautiful playing punctuated the brilliance of such albums as Dark Side and Wish You Were Here.
Nothing, however, will remind longtime fans of the genius of Wright’s legacy as the quintessential architect of his band’s sound quite like the performance of “Echoes”, the most heralded slice of psychedelia in the Pink Floyd canon and centerpiece for their 1971 album Meddle. The epic song’s extended instrumental jam is Wright’s “A Love Supreme”, and on Live in Gdańsk he attacks that Hammond organ of his against an eerie fog of electronic sound effects and synthesized whale calls with the same perception-blasting intensity he had in that empty amphitheater in Pompeii, Italy, back in October of ’71. And while hearing the mind-bending interplay between Gilmour and Wright is great, actually watching them duke it out on the DVD before coming back together to sing out the song’s indelible lyrics in perfect unison, just as seamlessly as they had at the top, is just really something special. Over 37 years after its recording, “Echoes” remains the quintessential acid symphony of rock ‘n’ roll, thanks to Wright, whose vision of amplifying a grand piano through a special effects loudspeaker was crucial in giving it its unique sound.
The news of Wright’s passing means that, whether or not the surviving members of Pink Floyd ever decide to convene together one more time—which at this point is more than doubtful—they will never sound the same again. Syd’s passing was a tragedy in that we never had the chance to watch him evolve as an artist beyond his early years with Pink Floyd and his brief solo career. Rick’s, however, was even more of a loss, because we have, in fact, been fortunate enough to grow up listening to him through the years, both as a member of Pink Floyd and through the din of his terribly underrated solo output, which includes such stellar works as his 1978 solo debut Wet Dream and 1996’s Broken China, both of which rank up there with Gilmour’s eponymous debut, Waters’s Amused to Death, and Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports as the cream of the band’s sparse solo work.
Nevertheless, anyone who ever dropped their first tab of acid in college to the sounds of A Saucer Full of Secrets, or went to see The Wall during Midnight Madness at their local multiplex, or went to see Pink Floyd at Yankee Stadium on their final world tour in 1994 has some wonderful memories of Wright and the excellent music he helped create. He will truly be missed.
Review Pink Floyd fans have been on a roller coaster of emotions in the first part of the 21st Century, and this excellent document takes us back to An Island of Pink Floyd and Gilmour/Wright magic one last time.
It is the final encore for Richard Wright, one of the greatest (and humblest) musical geniuses of all time (despite being a founding member of Pink Floyd and deserving a co-billing with David Gilmour, he chose to let David Gilmour have sole billing)and the last spark of the Pink Floyd magic flame, which has sadly gone out at this time with the passing of Wright.
David Gilmour still has many great albums in him, and Roger Waters is still making new music, but without Wright, there will be no more great Floyd music.
In 2005, Floyd fans got a surprise that brought our moods up and raised our hopes when the classic line up got together one last time at Live 8. Even though it was a farewell performance, there was a chance another world changing event would bring the band back together for another brief performance.
Then the first sucker punch of Syd Barrett’s passing smashed away the mysterious character that we all hoped would at least come out one last time to play something before going into hiding again. That would never happen now. Then, David Gilmour’s On An Island hit the shelves. I bought it just because I am a fan of PF and wanted to see what Gilmour was up to. I expected it to be a decent album. It was not. It was an outstanding album that, despite not being called Pink Floyd, was more like pink Floyd’s classic sound that anything since Wish You Were Here.
It hearkened back to Pre DSOTM Floyd in a big way. It was another great peak on the roller coaster ride. There was still more to go, though, as Remember That Night came out with an excellent show and appearances, for one last time, with all four members of classic Floyd, including a heart-warming meeting of two old friends. (You have to watch the documentaries to find them all.) This was another high point.
Then another low point; At the Syd Barrett Tribute show, Roger Waters did a solo performance and the Waters-Less Floyd did a separate performance, putting doubt into the chance of any future reunion gigs, which has now turned from doubt into an ever-resounding NO with the passing of Wright. Finally, after another rise of the return of Waters to the stage and the possibility of a new Waters album, as well as the announcement of this very product, things were good again.
Then we were given a hard and violent kick in the gut by fate as the ever private Wright, who had kept his illness out of the public eye passed away from cancer, which he kindly kept hidden from the fans. The release of this set is possibly the last trip up on the roller coaster, as we get a chance to see Mr. Gilmour and Mr. Wright perform their magic along with Mr. Manzanera, Mr. DiStanislao, Mr. Carin, Mr. Pratt, Mr. Parry and an orchestra one last time, as well as have a souvenir to take with us and listen to in the car or wherever we enjoy listening to CDs. This set is a bittersweet farewell to a man, a band, and “softly spoken magic spell” that cannot be spoken ever again. Thanks to all of the band, and everyone responsible for this.
The quality of the CDs and the DVDs is excellent, and you can tell a lot of work went into this, as well as a lot of love. Yes, this is a quality product, and it is a way for us to enjoy the legacy of this great act, along with Remember That Night. We’ll remember both nights for a long time to come, and the Echoes will never fade. Now I just hope I can watch and listen to the mournful masterpiece once without breaking into a fit of tears….
Review David Gilmour, well known as the singer and guitarist of Pink Floyd, just released his new live 3-CD/2-DVD collection entitled Live in Gdansk and is a MUST for all DG and PF fans.
There’s 2-CDs which feature 23 songs from his Gdansk, Poland performance recorded at the Gdansk Shipyard on August 26, 2006. 15 of the 23 songs (marked with *) are on the third disc and the first of two DVDs in this set which also has a documentary and webpass to download 13 tracks (including “Wots…Uh the Deal (performed at the Gdansk show but left off the CDs for time constraints) on this set).
Gilmour for this last show on his On an Island tour is backed onstage by PF 1987 alum which were keyboard player Jon Carin and bass player Guy Pratt, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, drummer Steve DiStanislao and the recently deceased Pink Floyd keyboard player Rick Wright. Plus, there’s appearances by Zbigniew Preisner (who did the orchestrations and conducts the Baltic Symphony Orchestra) and Leszek Mozdzer on piano.
CD one begins with four from Dark Side of the Moon which are “Speak to Me”, “Breathe”, “Time” and “Breathe (Reprise)” (all are excellent versions). The next ten tracks are the On an Island* portion of the show this time with an orchestra. “Castellorizon” is amazing. “On An Island” is superb (even without Crosby and Nash’s harmonies). “The Blue” trumps the studio version. “Red Sky at Night” is more haunting live with orchestra and Jon Carin’s Lap Steel playing counterpointing Gilmour’s rare sax playing appearance. Next is a jazzy but rocking “This Heaven”.
We follow with “Then I Close My Eyes” (with lap steel replacing Robert Wyatt’s cornet) and an excellent version. “Smile” is superior to studio counterpart. “Take A Breath” is excellent here. “A Pocketful of Stones” is also superb. We end the first set with a great “Where We Start”.
CD 2 starts with a excellent “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (with wine glass intro). We follow with superb readings of “Astronomy Domine”* and “Fat Old Sun”. The atmospheric “High Hopes”* is next and best solo Gilmour version. Next is a 25-minute spellbinding version of “Echoes”. “Wish You Were Here” follows and is excellent. We then get a surprise out of “A Great Day For Freedom”*. We end with a jawdropping version of “Comfortably Numb”*.
The second DVD (disc four) contains more pieces from the Mermaid Theater concert from March 7, 2006. Also we have more from AOL’s Music Sessions, Live from Abbey Road Studios. Plus we have three Barn Jams included recorded at Gilmour’s home in Sussex, England. We also get On an Island in 5.1 Surround Sound. Lastly, there’s some Easter Eggs that I cannot give away and you will have to see to find out.
The five disc version (which is only available in the US at Best Buy) includes a third live CD including rare performed tracks like “Dominoes”, “Find the Cost of Freedom”, “Coming Back to Life” and “On the Turning Away”.
Sadly, this set features the last work of founding Floyd keyboard player Rick Wright who sadly passed away a week before this set’s release and is a fitting swan song to the musical soul of Pink Floyd and Gilmour’s old friend. This box set is highly recommended.