Classic Rock Review

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Roger Waters The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking (1984)


I expect that everyone who’s listened to this album, or is a fan of Roger Waters, is at least somewhat familiar with the music of Pink Floyd. Therefore, most of them compare “Pros and Cons” to Waters masterworks like “Final Cut” and “The Wall.”

I won’t. I’m just going to write this for the music lover who’s been directed to this page by a “best of” list of friend’s recommendation.

Most importantly, “Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking” is a concept album in the ultimate sense. This means that it is not actually twelve different tracks that go together — it means that the entire album is really one long track, telling one story. It includes a multitude of sound effects and imbedded dialogue to enhance the narrative. Many musical chords are used repeatedly in various parts of the album to reinforce the cohesiveness. It is virtually impossible to appreciate “Pros and Cons” without sitting down and listening to it all the way through at least a dozen times. Like all of Roger Waters’ work, he requires his listener to put as much thought into the album as he did.

Minor problems do crop up. For instance, it’s a godsend that the lyrics are included with the album, as well as the dialogue, because some of it is quite difficult to understand with no outside reference. Then there’s the usual problem with Waters work: if you don’t pay full attention, you will not “get it.” I can’t put it any more clearly. Waters demands your full participation. Also, some portions of the music don’t run quite as deep as the lyrics. This makes the album as a whole seem shallower than it really is…. And sometimes, if you’re not in a patient mood, some parts seems to drag on. This may be due to Roger not having the safety net of collaborators during the composition process. (This was his first solo album, after all. So he’s allowed to be a little shaky.)

The execution of the music is flawless, though! Mr. Waters is an accomplished bassist. The Legendary Eric Clapton is lead guitarist (and if you don’t know Floyd, I have to assume that you must know at least Something by Clapton…) Michael Kamen plays the piano and conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra. So despite showing signs of lacking in musical composition, the performance of the material gives it an operatic quality. Roger Waters himself gives a go-for-broke vocal performance that quickens the strain of the protagonist’s conflict.

I think the main reason that this album is a bit obscure (except among true Floyd and Waters fans) is that there really are no tracks that could be marketed as radio singles. As I’ve mentioned before, the entire album is the only track on the disc. But for posterity’s sake, I’ll say that there are a few cuts that might have made excellent singles. “Sexual Revolution,” “Every Stranger’s Eyes,” and the title track may have made it… But stripped of the album’s context, they do in fact lose some of their power.

What really kills me is that I can’t think of a single other artist to whom I can compare this album. It has a quite different sound from classic Pink Floyd, and Roger Waters’ later work is even a little more audience-accessible than “Pros and Cons.” I’d say that it could possibly be just summed up as a “country rock opera.” I do think that you would not enjoy this album quite as much unless you first go back and investigate some of Pink Floyd’s earlier work.

“The Wall” and “Final Cut” are absolute essentials in Roger Waters ouevre, and listening to them would help considerably in appreciating this. If you like those, then you’ll probably appreciate this album a bit more. Definitely don’t make this your first Roger Waters purchase. “Amused to Death” is a much more polished work. If you want a good overview of his work, try his “In the Flesh” live album. Then move on to “Pros and Cons.”

Now, if you do happen to be a Pink Floyd fan, and you’re reading this review, you already know what a brilliant lyricist Mr. Waters is. Since this was his first solo album, it’s easy to see his attempts to make his own musical mark, and that’s probably what detracts a bit from this. But I can say that it is a very satisfying work, and anyone with a deeper sense of sophistication would certainly give “Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking” a thumbs up.

May 26, 2013 Posted by | Roger Waters The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking | , | Leave a comment