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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Pink Floyd

The Wall

Review by Gary Hill

I know for many people this is the end-all-be-all of Pink Floyd. I have to say for me it’s over – that’s over-rated and over-played. Sure, it’s a cool album and a piece of art. It’s one of the most ambitious concept albums by any band. It’s also got some great music, but there are better Pink Floyd discs – by quite a ways. Too much of the music is monolithic, making for a listening experience that can get boring.

When it comes to story telling through music, you probably can’t get a lot better than this. When it comes to Pink Floyd albums, it’s good, but there are plenty of better ones. I think had they shown a little restraint and cut it down to single disc it would have been stronger. I also think that less reliance on the little sound bits and such to tell the story (although they are brilliant) and more incorporating the story into the lyrics (and keeping that story more focused) would have made for a stronger product, too. OK, there I’ve said it. Let the flames begin.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
In The Flesh?

There’s a little snippet of sound barely heard here that, paired with a similar one, shows the disc to be a circle. The one at the end starts the sentence and this one finishes it: “So this is where we came in.” This song pounds out in a metallic jam. It’s bombastic and symphonic and very heavy – at least on the extended introductory segment. They drop it way down for a theatric mellow first verse. This really feels like it was written with the intent of a movie or stage show. They power it back out later in the track as they carry on. This powered up section carries us to the powerhouse crescendo that ends the piece – complete with a plane crash.

The Thin Ice
A baby’s cry comes out of the last track. They build a mellow and dramatic balladic motif from there. Moving through a couple different variants, this might lack the bombastic nature of the last track, but it’s not lacking for the theatrical drama. The song is only two and a half minutes in length and it’s nearly two minutes in before we get any hard rock. It comes in the form of a slow crunch jam that takes us to the close. 
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1)
This rises up from the echoey sounds that ended the last cut. Dramatic music is merged with the nearly whispered vocal line on this number that is one of the bigger hits to be found on this set. It seems most people reading this will have heard this number. This has a rather unusual arrangement and works quite well despite sitting a bit left of center. 
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
A helicopter and an angry voice lead this off and they jump out into a pounding, dramatic and yet understated arrangement. This basically serves as a break between the two sections of “Another Brick in The Wall.”
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)
This (coupled with the earlier portion) is part of the track that got all the airplay. This section rocks out more. 
Mother
This is more balladic and the first half of the track is very much in a mellow ballad approach. They power it up as they carry on. This is an emotionally packed piece and it works very well. 
Goodbye Blue Sky
More sound bites lead us off here. They work through in a dramatic and lush balladic motif as they carry on. It’s a very powerful piece of music and, while rather understated, is one of my favorites on the set. 
Empty Spaces
Here we get a moody piece. This is slow moving and desperate. It’s only a little more than two minutes in length – and segues straight into the next one. 
Young Lust
A harder rocker, this is another that’s gotten a lot of airplay over the years. It’s a solid song, but doesn’t stand out all that well from the rest of the material here. Another sound bite ends this and sets the tone for the next piece. 
One Of My Turns
Sound bites start this moody piece of music. The first half of this track is in this understated sort of motif – balladic and sad, to the point of feeling depressing. Then it screams out into hard edged fury – making this sort of a manic depressive cut – moving from real depression into sheer kinetic energy. It’s also one of the most interesting numbers on show here. Slowing down with a “why are you running away?,” this leads directly into the next number. 
Don't Leave Me Now
Coming in with ambient tones and a slow and sedate melody, this is another bleak piece. Later in the track, they move this out into something that feels like it could have come from Animals. This is one of the coolest musical passages on the set. 
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 3)
Here they revisit the “…Brick in the Wall…” concept. 
Goodbye Cruel World
This is a short moody bit showing the depth of the main character’s depression. 
Disc 2
Hey You
Now, here’s one of the coolest tracks on show here. A dramatic and very typical Pink Floyd acoustic driven ballad-like motif starts it off. This reminds me quite a bit of something from Wish You Were Here. They bring it up after a time, but still not to the bombast that permeates so much of this set. No, instead they keep it mellower and more dramatic for the next verse. Then when they do scream out it’s in one of the coolest riffs of the entire shindig. This track is classy and classic. When they shift back out to the balladic it’s with a new energy and vitality. This gives way to a more cinematic mellow movement and then more of the Wish You Were Here sounds. 
Is There Anybody Out There?
A good chunk of the beginning of this is atmosphere. Even when they bring in music it’s mostly in the form of a voice asking the title. Sure, there is some music accompanying it, but it’s minor and there are layers of voices. Taking all that into consideration, though, this is a tasty piece of atmosphere. And that section makes up about the first half of the track. Then they move into an acoustic guitar ballad motif that’s both pretty and dark. This intricate stuff at first, but turns more chord driven as it carries on. That section never gets vocals, though, carrying on poignantly and voiceless. 
Nobody Home
Sounds and piano start this off. Another that’s essentially a ballad, I love this track. It’s evocative and powerful. This is one that harkens back to earlier periods of the band’s history. It’s also one of my favorites here. The lines “I’ve got a strong urge to fly / but I’ve got nowhere to fly to,” might be my favorites here. 
Vera
While this ballad might be a bit understated, it’s also one of the most purely progressive rock showings on the set. It’s also only a minute and a half in length. 
Bring The Boys Back Home
Theatrical and symphonic, this short little bit is over the top and unnecessary. I don’t get its inclusion. It just seems like filler.  There is a little reprise of “Is There Anybody Out There.” 
Comfortably Numb
Here’s another of the band’s hits. It’s a dramatic and lush slower piece. There is a hypnotic quality to this music, which is fitting when you consider the lyrics. 
The Show Must Go On
There’s an almost doo wop feeling to this piece. It’s quite “theater.” It’s OK, but I’d say this is one that could have been cut to pare this thing down. The section of the realization of the narrator’s soul being taken away is interesting, but overall this is a forgettable track. 
In The Flesh
Here’s one of the harder rocking bombastic pieces – at least at first. It’s almost metal at points. They drop it back, though, to a mellower section and this is even more “doo wop” in nature. It gets much more theatric. Of course, this is part of the story line and points a criticizing finger at prejudice, but taken out of context (or even in) the lyrics are bound to offend some people. 
Run Like Hell
Hard rocking and dramatic this is another that got a lot of airplay. It’s also one of the stronger tracks on show here. I like the instrumental section on this quite a bit. 
Waiting For The Worms
More theatrical and dramatic, this is rather cool. Although, for me the first half of this is too “over the top.” When they power it out later, though, you can’t get much better. It’s pounding and ominous. Of course, the lyrics will certainly offend some people. The melodic jam later is nice, too. In many ways this is one of the more purely progressive rock numbers here. It’s also one of my favorites. The whole “crowd buildup part” is awesome. 
Stop
This is an extremely brief (about half a minute) keyboard and voice segment.
The Trial

On the one hand this is the most bombastic and theatric piece in the whole set. On the other hand it’s more purely progressive rock oriented than anything else. And, if you have a third hand, it’s also the best number here. This is all about the story and it works between several sections. For me the “crazy, toys in the attic” segment is the most emotional on the whole disc. Various characters come forward and speak. The voices are different and the arrangement is quite symphonic throughout most of this. The killer riff from the previous composition returns later in this piece. It becomes the “tear down the wall” section – arguably the most effective single musical passage here. This ends with the sound of the wall being destroyed.

Outside The Wall
This mellow piece of theatric atmosphere closes out the disc.
 
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