Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd

EMI Records, 1975


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The Dark Side Of The Moon was an amazing, landmark album with a spectacular chart run. The Wall spawned a string of hit singles and awe-inspiring live shows. But Wish You Were Here remains, to this day, my favorite Pink Floyd album.

I've concluded it must be the emotional context. Dark Side and The Wall are filled with angry, cynical tunes, amplified by expansive, often wildly creative music and electronic effects. But virtually every song on those two albums is a semi-autobiographical expression of bassist/lyricist Roger Waters' feelings of pain and alienation, making them ultimately a rather grandiose exercise in sustained self-pity. Not that we don't all have our moments of feeling sorry for the fellow in the mirror, but it does get old after a bit.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Wish You Were Here has its angry, cynical moments, of course -- "Have A Cigar" and "Welcome To The Machine" are two of the harshest, most devastating critiques ever of the swallow-them-whole-and-spit-out-the-bones nature of the music industry. But the essence of the album, as heard in the multi-part opus "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," as well as the title track, is a kind of eulogy for a living friend -- lost soul Syd Barrett, the man who launched Pink Floyd before launching his mind off on an interstellar journey from which it has never returned. The longing and regret the group associates with their absent friend is palpable on these tracks, and quite moving. There's even a hint of guilt for succeeding so well without the person who got them started.

Every song on this disc also features superb performances from the band of Waters, David Gilmour (guitar & vocals), Richard Wright (keys) and Nick Mason (drums). Favorite moments include Gilmour's slicing, stabbing solo in "Have A Cigar," complemented beautifully by Wright's swirling, menacing synths and the rhythm section's chunky, lurching pattern. "Wish You Were Here," for its part, is one of the most moving songs the band has ever created, Gilmour's sublime acoustic guitar and Wright's plaintive piano casting a spell of deepest melancholy. And closing out the album, the second half of the "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" suite is simply spectacular, with Wright deploying some of his eeriest keyboard effects and tones as the song picks up a melodic idea, then mutates, then mutates again, moving near the finish into a superb funk segment where Wright gives his clavinet a workout over Gilmour's distorted r & b guitar lines as the synths continue to paint otherworldly textures in the background.

Wish You Were Here is a remarkable piece of work, a concept album that reaches the pinnacle of the genre: a thematically whole, emotionally engaging, musically diverse and sonically spectacular epic.

Rating: A

User Rating: A-



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