PINK FLOYD-THE ENDLESS RIVER.
PINK FLOYD-THE ENDLESS RIVER.
Twenty years ago, there was no such thing as Twitter or Facebook. The term social media hadn’t even been coined. In fact, the internet and the technological age were in their infancy.
Compact discs were only a decade old. Debate raged about their merits and sound quality. Vinyl we were told, had had its day. We were told vinyl was a relic of the past. That proved not to be the case, with 2014 seeing record sales of vinyl. However, since 1994, the way music has been made has changed.
Recording studios, once the only way to record an album. Not any more. Now, bands bands don’t necessary need rerecording studios. Instead, all that’s needed is laptop containing a Digital Audio Workstation and some VSTs. Add to this, an audio interface and any aspiring band can record an album. They can then release their album without involving a record company.
Nowadays bands will have built up a loyal fan-base through the internet. This will probably have involved giving away music, which in 1994, would’ve given record company executive sleepless nights. However, in 2014, giving away music is one way bands build a loyal fan-base. Then when they release their album, they’ve a ready made audience ready to download their album or parts of it.
Music lovers no longer have to buy a whole album. They can cherry pick which tracks they want. So if they want just a few tracks that’s fine. Again, back in 1994, this would’ve given record company executives sleepless night. Not now. Now bands and record companies are happy for music lovers to download the tracks they like. These tracks can be downloaded as MP3, MP4 or wav files, which again, weren’t around back in 1994. Neither were the devices they’re played upon.
Over the last twenty years, the way we listen to music has changed. Back in 1994, music was listened to on hi-fi systems. If you wanted music on the move, the only option was the Sony Walkman. It however, was only capable of playing tapes that held a maximum of ninety minutes music. Nowadays, iPods, iPads, laptops and tablets and mobile phones can store hundreds and often thousands of hours of music. This was unthinkable back in 1994. Back then, life, and music was very different.
The Division Bell.
That was the world, that Pink Floyd released their fourteenth album, The Division Bell on 28th March 1994. This was the second album by the David Gilmour led Pink Floyd. The first was A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which was released in September 1987. That was two years after Roger Waters left Pink Floyd amidst bitterness and acrimony. Nine years after Roger Waters’ exit, Pink Floyd were a very different band.
Time proved to be a great healer. Pink Floyd were a much happier band. They were reduced to a trio, consisting of David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason. This was the lineup that recorded The Division Bell.
The Division Bell consisted of eleven tracks penned by David Gilmour and Rick Wright. They were recorded at various studios, including Britannia Row Studios, and Astoria, a houseboat owned by David Gilmour that had been transformed into a recording studio. That’s where The Division Bell took shape. It was then released in March 1994.
When critics heard The Division Bell, they gave Pink Floyd’s first album for seven years, mixed reviews from critics. Despite the mixed reviews, The Division Bell reached number one in Britain and America. Soon, The Division Bell reached number one in Australia, Austria, Chile, Holland, New Zealand, Norway Sweden and Switzerland. It seemed Pink Floyd still had the Midas touch.
Across the world, The Division Bell sold well. Gold and platinum discs came Pink Floyd’s way. The Division Bell was certified gold in Finland, Italy, Japan, Poland and Sweden. In Germany, The Division Bell was certified gold three times over. Then in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil and Spain, The Division Bell was certified platinum. The Division Bell was certified double platinum in Britain, France and Germany. Meanwhile, three million copies of The Division Bell were sold in America, resulting in the album being certified triple platinum. However, in Canada and New Zealand, The Division Bell was certified quadruple platinum. Overall, The Division Bell sold over 6.5 million copies. However, Pink Floyd weren’t in any hurry to release the followup to The Division Bell.
The Endless River.
Just over twenty years have passed since Pink Floyd released The Division Bell. Then totally out of the blue, an announcement was made on social media that Pink Floyd would release their fifteenth and final studio album The Endless River on Parlophone Records, on 10th November 2014. Joy was mixed with sorrow when Pink Floyd fans heard the news. Many, however, weren’t surprised.
Rick Wright, keyboardist and founding member had passed away on 15th September 2008. He was a crucial part of Pink Floyd’s sound and cowrote The Division Bell. A Pink Floyd album without Rick Wright wouldn’t work. However, Rick appears posthumously. This ensures that Pink Floyd’s swan-song is a fitting finale to one rock music’s greatest ever bands. The story begins back in 2012/
That’s when work began on The Endless River. Members of Pink Floyd began listening to music they’d recorded during the recording sessions for The Division Bell. These recording sessions took place back in 1993 and 1994. The sessions were recorded at various studios, including Britannia Row Studios, and Astoria, David Gilmour’s houseboat, that he transformed into a recording studio.
At these sessions, between five and six hours of music. Some of the music found its way onto The Division Bell. However, since the release of The Division Bell in 1994, Pink Floyd had never revisited the remainder of the music. It was a case of they always meant to get round to it. Eventually, in 2012, David Gilmour and Nick Mason decided to revisit the remainder of the music from The Division Bell sessions.
When David and Nick began, they had between five and six hours of music to sift through, and possibly, transform into an album. This was an uphill struggle. The two remaining members of Pink Floyd realised that they needed some help. So they brought Pink Floyd engineer Andy Jackson.
With Andy onboard, David, Nick and Andy spent twenty hours listening to the tapes. They featured the three members of Pink Floyd jamming, during The Division Bell sessions in 1993 and 1994. Once they heard what music they had, it was a case of sorting through it.
They wanted to sort through the music, so that at the end, they had music that they could either edit, rerecord or work on. Some of the music would be used as a starting point. New parts could then be added, resulting in the first 21st Century Pink Floyd album. Some music could be edited together, using different parts that they never envisaged putting together. The way to do this, would be by using music software, that wasn’t around back in 1994. Music technology, Pink Floyd realised, had come a long way in twenty years. They were going to use this to their advantage.
Choosing which music to include and exclude proved the hardest part of the project. After all, there were six hours of music on the DAT tapes. Eventually, David, Nick and Andy Jackson whittled down the six hours music. It was then edited by Andy Jackson. This album of ambient music was given the tentative title, The Big Spliff. However, Pink Floyd decided not to release The Big Spliff. That, however, wasn’t the end of the project. Some of the project was used for The Endless River.
Still, David and Nick wanted to release a new Pink Floyd album. Unbeknown to most people, David, Nick and Rick had spoken about a recording a new album prior to his death in 2008. They’d entered the recording studio, and had twenty hours of jamming recorded. David and Nick wondered if this could form the basis for a new Pink Floyd album?
So, they called Phil Manzanera, former Roxy Music lead guitarist, and now an established and successful producer. Intrigued at the prospect of being part of a new Pink Floyd album, Phil made his way to the studio.
Phil Manzanera and Pink Floyd have known each other since the seventies. Recently, Phil co-produced and played on David’s solo album On An Island. So, he knew how David worked. However, he had to hear the tapes before committing himself to the project.
Phil along with Andy Jackson and engineer Damon Iddins, listened to every minute of the twenty hours of recordings. Only then, could Phil make an informed decision about the music’s potential. However, having heard the tapes, felt that there was the potential for Pink Floyd’s first album of the new millennia. Now the hard work began.
Over the next six weeks, Phil spent his time writing four fourteen minute pieces. He passed these to David Gilmour. He then sent them to producer Youth, who added bass and guitar. After that, The Endless River began to take shape.
Back in November 2013, and unbeknown to Pink Floyd fans, David Gilmour organised the next recording session. He brought onboard drummer Nick Mason, bassist Guy Pratt, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson. They were joined by saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and backing vocalist Durga McBroom. She recorded the lead vocal on Louder Than Words, a song penned by Polly Gilmour, David’s wife. Gradually, The Endless River seemed to be nearing completion.
All that was left was some overdubbing. This was mostly drum and guitars. However, one addition to The Endless River was a relic of Pink Floyd’s past. This was an outtake from a 1969 rehearsal, featuring Rick Wright. A little piece of Pink Floyd’s history appeared on The Endless River, a four part album, co-produced by David, Phil, Andy Jackson and Youth.
The Endless River is made up of four “pieces”. On the vinyl edition, this works really well, as each side of the double album consists of a “piece.” The compact disc version, however, features the four “pieces” on one disc. For some people, this will be much more convenient. There’s no need to leave the sofa. Instead, you can sit back, relax and allow the eighteen track on Pink Floyd new album The Endless River, to wash over you. You bathe in their beauty of Pink Floyd’s swan-song, which was released on 10th November 2014.
When The Endless River was released, reviews were mixed. The Endless River was Marmite music, critics either liked or loathed it. One critic, who doesn’t deserve the oxygen of publicity, gave the album a one star review. For Pink Floyd, a one star review was a first. However, this typified the way certain bands are treated by music critics.
Ever since the onslaught of punk, many critics have perceived groups like Pink Floyd as relics of the past. They’ve never received a fair hearing. A review in some publications, is the equivalent of facing a kangaroo court. This was what The Endless River had been tried by. Music fans would have the final say.
Despite the mixed reviews, Pink Floyd’s loyal legions of fans bought The Endless River in huge quantities. Seventeen days after the release of The Endless River, and the album has reached number one in nineteen countries. The Endless River has also reached number three in the US Billboard 200 charts. That’s not all. In another six countries, The Endless River has reached the top ten. This has resulted in seven gold discs and three platinum discs for The Endless River. That’s after just seventeen days on sale. Who knows how many copies of The Endless River will eventually be sold. Not bad for album that many Napoleonic critics panned. Little did these Napoleonic music critics realise, that Pink Floyd were coming full circle on The Endless River.
Pink Floyd’s fifteenth and final album, The Endless River, sees Pink Floyd and friend pay homage to the group’s illustrious musical past. They revisit ambient, psychedelia and rock on the The Endless River’s four pieces. There’s even a detour via post-rock, a genre which Pink Floyd helped pioneer. The result is a captivating, ethereal and hauntingly beautiful album. Literally, you’re swept along in the wake of The Endless River’s beauty.
That’s the case from the opening bars of Things Left Unsaid which opens Part 1 of The Endless River. Right through to the closing notes of Louder Than Words, that closes The Endless River, Pink Floyd revisit their musical past. They draw inspiration from fourteen previous albums. Obvious influences include The Division Bell, Dark Side Of The Moon, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, Wish Your Were Here and one of Pink Floyd’s most underrated albums, More. These influences shine through on The Endless River.
Despite being away for twenty years, Pink Floyd’s first album of the 21st Century, sees them bow out on a high. The Endless River is a musical journey full of twists and turns. Gradually, The Endless River reveals its secrets. It’s not just secrets The Endless River reveals, but subtleties and nuances. They shine through on The Endless River’s eighteen eclectic tracks.
The Endless River’s eclecticism reveals itself from the get-go. Things Left Unsaid, which opens Part 1 is an understated, ethereal soundscape. Slow, moody and bluesy describes It’s What We Do, which briefly references The Dark Side Of The Moon. It has Pink Floyd’s name written large all over it. Ebb And Flow is another understated and elegiac post rock track. It meanders along, gradually revealing its secrets, and closing Part 1.
Sum opens Part 2, which consists of four tracks. It’s dramatic and cinematic, while Unsung veers between understated to rocky and restrained. As musical journeys go, The Endless River is a captivating album. Especially tracks like Anisina, which closes Part 2. It’s a slow burner, which starts off understated, before reaching a glorious rocky crescendo. It’s another track that could only have been made by Pink Floyd.
That’s the perfect description of the wistful, dreamy and ethereal The Lost Art Of Conversation, which opens Part 3 of The Endless River. Although less than two minutes long, this fusion of ambient and modern classical music is hauntingly beautiful. Seamlessly, it gives way On Noodle Street, a short fusion of ambient, jazz and rock. Washes of synths provide the backdrop for Rick’s keyboards and David’s guitars. After Noodle Street, the dreamy, fuzzy, shimmering Night Light envelops you. It veers between ambient and post rock, and is a mini-masterpiece. From there Part 3 of The Endless River changes course.
Allons-y (1) sees Pink Floyd up the tempo, and unleash swathes of rocky guitars. Although they threaten to kick loose, they never do. Instead, they showcase their musicianship, as they roll back the years. Autumn ’68 has a somewhat gothic sound. It features a long forgotten Rick Wright organ rehearsal. Atop it, sits brief bursts of David’s guitar. It’s a reminder of Pink Floyd before drug casualties, fall-outs, and death changed the group forevermore. Following Autumn ’68, Allons-y (2) picks up whereAllons-y (1) left off. Again, it’s a reminder of Pink Floyd’s illustrious musical heritage. So too, is Talkin’ Hawkin, which features a sample of Stephen Hawking. It plays a part in another rock-tinged musical soundscape, that closes Part 3 of The Endless River.
The fourth and final part of The Endless River, Pink Floyd’s swan-song, features four parts. Calling has an experimental, sometime avant-garde, post-rock sound. Dark, gothic sci-fi sounds are reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s past. They also play their part in an intriguing, cinematic soundscape. Eyes To Pearls also has a cinematic sound. Here, it’s as if Pink Floyd are penning the soundtrack to a 21st Century Spaghetti Western. Surfacing shimmers, quivers and glimmers, before briefly, heading in the direction of Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here. It then becomes another post rock soundscape, where Pink Floyd showcase their considerable talents. Louder Than Words closes The Endless River. This is the only track with a vocal. The lyrics were written by David Gilmour’s wife Polly. Durga McBroom and David share lead vocal duties on what’s best described as a mini anthem. Given its thoughtful, wistful sound and obvious beauty, this proves the perfect way to close not just The Endless River, but Pink Floyd’s forty-seven year recording career.
During Pink Floyd’s forty-seven year recording career, often, commercial success and critical acclaim have been ever-present. In the case of The Endless River, and its predecessor, The Division Bell, critics gave both albums mixed reviews. That was very much the case with The Endless River.
Very few critics were won over by The Endless River. There’s a reason for that. Critics were looking for Pink Floyd to create an album of innovative music fit for the 21st Century. The critics felt short changed, when they heard The Endless River. They felt that The Endless River was Pink Floyd revisiting their past. That’s correct. The Endless River was an album of relics from Pink Floyd’s glorious past. What better way to end a forty-seven year recording career?
Listening back to The Endless River, Pink Floyd’s musical past is written large all over the album. Five decades music shines though on The Endless River. There’s hints of 1967s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1969s More, 1973s Dark Side Of The Moon, 1975s Wish You Were Here, 1987s A Momentary Lapse of Reason and 1994s The Division Bell. All these albums have influenced the sound and direction of The Endless River.
On The Endless River, everything from ambient, avant garde, blues rock, experimental, post rock, psychedelia and rock can be heard. These musical genres and influences shine through during the The Endless River’s four parts and eighteen tracks. They play their part in a genre-melting album, where Pink Floyd draw inspiration from their musical past, for their swan-song. For many of the “hip young gunslingers” who call themselves music critics, this wasn’t the music of 2014.
To the “hip young gunslingers”, Pink Floyd were relics of music’s past. The Endless River, they said, was proof that Pink Floyd had failed to keep up with the changing face of music. However, what they failed to see, was that The Endless River was both an innovative album and an celebration of a recording career that stretched forty-seven years.
While The Endless River saw Pink Floyd revisit their musical past, they incorporated ambient and post-rock on their swan-song. Pink Floyd also utilised the latest musical technology on what’s akin to a musical tapestry. Music from Pink Floyd’s past was edited into music recorded in 2013. This allowed Rick Wright, the ghost of Pink Floyd to play an active role on The Endless River, an album full of twists and turns aplenty.
As The Endless River slowly revealed its secrets and subtleties, musical genres sat side-by-side. The result was music that’s captivating, cinematic, dramatic, ethereal, haunting, intriguing, melancholy and wistful. One thing The Endless River never is, is predictable. You never know where Pink Floyd are heading, as they take you on a musical journey down The Endless River. They’re your tour guide on what’s much more than a homage to Pink Floyd’s past.
Innovative, ambient soundscapes and post-rock tracks feature on The Endless River. So do a number of tracks where Pink Floyd revisit elements of their illustrious back-catalogue. This makes you want to revisit More or Dark Side Of The Moon. As you do so, you’re reminded that Pink Floyd, in their heyday, were one of the most innovative, progressive groups. That will always be the case. That’s the case right up to Pink Floyd’s unexpected swan-song The Endless River.
After twenty years away, Pink Floyd made a welcome return on 10th November 2014. Reduced to a duo, after the loss of their keyboardist Rick Wright in 2008, Pink Floyd take their fans down on a trip down The Endless River. Memories of a forty-seven year and fifteen album career come flooding back. By the end of The Endless River, only then do you realise that this is the last we’ll hear from one of the most successful, innovative and progressive bands in musical history. This leaves me wondering when will we see their likes again?
PINK FLOYD-THE ENDLESS RIVER.