Before I begin the review, I will comment on the cd packaging. This album, and the album previous (On An Island from 2006), are encased in a beautiful enclosure that resemble a small, hard cover book with a cloth spine. As you open the book, and flip the pages, you can only marvel at either brilliant photography or stunning, hand drawn images. The song lyrics fill up most of the pages, so you can read along. On the rear, inside cover of each of the booklets is a unique foam pad that fits the middle of the cd perfectly. There are no plastic tabs like most other cd cases that tend to break. These 2 albums have what I might consider the best cd packaging I have ever owned. There is also a deluxe package which I regretfully did not purchase, and a vinyl edition. Now onto the review.
This album took a few listens for me to truly get it. So did his last effort, On An Island though. That last album was played once, then put on a shelf. Years later I played it again, and again. “A ha. Now I know what you were trying to accomplish David.” I thought after hearing it for the umpteenth time. This album only took 2 or three listens, but it stuck. This album may go on a shelf, but it will be a shelf close to the stereo.
5 A.M. – Sit down. Make sure you are not going to be disturbed. If you have anything that may distract you, or your thoughts make sure they clear the room and your mind. Pop on your favourite set of headphones, or use the best speakers possible. You will need to be focused to completely soak in this song. It is 3:05 of sheer, brilliance. Starting off with birds chirping, a dog barking, and some orchestral niceties. It morphs into an instrumental number that eventually focuses on Gilmour’s amazing guitar work. I was having a crap day, and I popped this in the car stereo on the way home and was instantly feeling better. I love when a song has that effect.
Rattle That Lock – The album single starts off with some wind instruments, and then the bass and drums kick in. David starts to sing and one thing is completely clear. This man has not lost a thing in the vocal department, at least in the studio. His throaty vocal style is so unique. It almost sounds as if he is expelling a gulp of air on every note. Once you hear it, you will know what I mean. At the 1:30 part of the song the Gilmour fans will get what they came for though. His guitar work is so awesome. I can pick out his playing on any song. Of note, the background vocals also add a nice touch to this song.
Faces Of Stone – Piano keys sound off in a lonely corner of the room. There is almost a feeling of loneliness. An acoustic guitar and David’s voice chime in, and one would think this was going to be a folk song. Accordion and calliope keyboard adds kind of a fair, or carnival theme to the song. However, it is not a light hearted, carnival ride. The song lyrics suggest the subject is an older person remembering lost loves and youth. Of course David’s guitar work is brilliant. That goes without saying. His guitar transforms this from a folk song back to rock. However, the addition of Hammond organ, and French Horn, along with the aforementioned instruments really add up to make a great song, in a sad, forlorn kind of way.
A Boat Lies Waiting – More lonely piano mix, seagull squawks and a mumbled spoken word segment that brings back memories of the song The Great Gig In The Sky. Also quiet, but brilliant guitar. Quiet and subtle with a big punch. Walk softly and carry a big guitar David. The piano keys get pounded with more intense finger notes, and David exhales the notes in that way he does. David Crosby and Graham Nash contribute to this song with background vocals that really bring this song to another level artistically in a CSNY way. In the lyrics David Gilmour calls this song a ‘Sad Barcarolle’. If I ever make it to Venice, I want David Gilmour to sing Barcarolle’s to my wife and I while paddling down the Grand Canal. If he gets tired paddling, David Crosby and Graham Nash can fill in. I’m buying my lottery tickets today. (This song was inspired by Rick Wright R.I.P., who lived on a boat, and co-written by David’s wife, author Polly Samson, who also contributed to 4 others on the album)
Dancing Right In Front Of Me – Subtle, quiet guitar start this song off. However 20 seconds in and the guitar amp gets turned up. This is a sign this song may be louder. It actually is a mix between quiet orchestral and heavier guitar. It is almost like an angel on one side, competing with the devil on the other.
In Any Tongue – Whistling begins this song, then some keyboard effects give an illusion of a thunderstorm out in space. The song morphs into an enigma. It can be interpreted in a few ways. I think it is either about a father that is trying to deal with a son coming back from war, while dealing with his own feelings against killing. It may also be all about a video game depicting war, and how one may have conflicted feelings after playing. It definitely is a song that gets you thinking either way.
Beauty – Again, clear the room and your mind. Get the headphones out, sit back and let the instrumental awesomeness envelope you like a thick, warm blanket. Of note the guitar work here has elements of 60’s James Bond, mixed with effects and modern styles. All of which are awesome in my book.
The Girl In The Yellow Dress – Slinky double bass, and finely tuned piano begin this song off. It has kind of a smoky jazz club feel to it. Even David tones it down to a lounge lizard level. The cornet and sax really complement this song. Any famous jazz artist would be ecstatic to have this number in their repertoire.
Today – Two female background singers begin this song off. The beginning has a kind of Auld Lang Syne feel to it. The bass and keyboards kick in and pound the woofers enough to shake the floorboards. Then the pace picks up, along with David’s vocals and guitar. This song makes your toes tap, and the funky 70’s wah pedal effects get your air guitar arms in motion. David’s vocals reach a higher range during parts of this album, and to no surprise the guitar work is brilliant.
And Then… – Ok. Comfy chair, no distractions, headphones. You know the routine. Instrumental guitar brilliance is the order of the day, and David Gilmour will be your server. Of course the electric guitar shines, but I really enjoyed the flamenco styled acoustic guitar at the end. What a wonderful way to end the album. Just like it began. The three dots at the end of this song title lead me to think David wants us to know he may be done with this album, but not done. I am completely fine with that.
For Pink Floyd fans, it has enough of classic 70’s Floyd right up to Endless River to keep you happy. For those of you that dislike Floyd there are enough elements of jazz, 70’s funk, orchestral bits and amazing guitar work to turn you into a David Gilmour fan. There truly is enough to go around here.
For those interested, here is an interview of Polly Samson ( David Gilmour’s wife) in which she speaks about this album, previous albums, and interesting Pink Floyd tidbits.