Nowadays, the word “classic” is used far too often. There’s a reason for this. Much of the music being released today isn’t as good the music being released during the sixties and seventies. That was without doubt, the golden age of music. Forty years later, and we’ve entered an age of musical mediocrity. In a way, that’s not surprising. 

In the past fifteen years, the music industry has been forced to reinvent itself. During this period, record companies have amalgamated, others have folded and others are teetering on the brink. It’s been a tumultuous time. Even the way we consume music has changed. 

Nowadays, many people to music on the move. It’s reduced to mere background music, an incidental soundtrack to the drudgery of daily life. This soundtrack is delivered via iPods, phones and tablets. Oh how times have changed. Gone sadly, is the ritualistic side to music.

It used to be that listening to music involved sitting down in front of a hi-fi system, and immersing yourself in the music. Having spent time looking for your weekly fix of music in your local record shop, you returned home. That’s when the rituals began. 

Having removed the vinyl from the sleeve, you placed the pristine vinyl on the turntable. Then carefully, you lowered the tonearm and placed the stylus on the vinyl. Only then did the music come out of the carefully placed speakers. As you sat down and let the music wash over you, you examined the artwork, and began to study the sleeve-notes, poring over the credits and lyrics. Then as side one drew to a close, it was a case of turning the vinyl over. This was another ritual the record buyer enjoyed. However, then came the compact disc.

The advent of the compact disc promised greater sound quality. They were sold as indestructible. You could literally disabuse them and allegedly they would work perfectly. Another advantage of the compact disc, was the first compact discs lasted seventy-four minutes. That meant longer albums. Now albums can last as much as eighty minutes. However, that’s not always a good thing. 

Back in the days of vinyl, an artist was restricted by the length of the album. So, mostly, they included their best work. With the introduction of the compact disc, artists are tempted to release longer albums. Often they’re sprawling, unfocused affairs. So, it’s no surprise that the amount of “classic” albums released during the age of the compact disc fell. Sprawling, unfocused albums didn’t find favour with critics. However, it wasn’t just the music that suffered during the vinyl age.

Previously, an album cover was akin to a work of art. Think Velvet Underground’s debut album, The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Heart’s Club Band, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, Steely Dan’s Aja and The Doors’ L.A. Woman. Along with the sleeve-notes, this had been a thing of beauty. However, come the age of the compact age, this was reproduced in miniature. For many music lovers, this was a step too far. Then came the MP3.

For many music lovers who had lived through the age of vinyl, eight-track, cassette, compact disc and mini disc, the thought of buying music as a computer file was mind boggling. After all, it wasn’t tangible. You couldn’t sit down, study the sleeve-notes and artwork they argued. Then there was the sound quality. It was lossy and didn’t compare favourably to vinyl and the compact disc. MP3s, the purists argued would never replace vinyl and compact disc. Sadly, the purists were wrong.

Nowadays, many albums are released on MP3 only. This fits in with the new 21st Century record company model. Record companies, nowadays, are risk averse. They’re unwilling to commit to a compact disc or vinyl release, as this ties up much needed scarce resources. So, instead, many albums are released as a digital download. This allows the record company to test the waters. If the album sells well, their next album can be released on compact disc. This is a far cry from the golden age of music.

Back in the sixties and seventies, some of the greatest music ever recorded was released. That’s when according to critics and cultural commentators, most of the real “classic” albums were released. Little did anyone realise that it was the best of times. No wonder, with groups like Pink Floyd releasing classic albums like The Wall.

Pink Floyd released The Wall back on 30th November 1979, thirty-six years ago. The Wall, a landmark concept album, Pink Floyd’s eleventh album. It also marked the end of an era. This was the last studio album released with the classic lineup of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright and Nick Mason. After the release of The Wall, Rick Wright left Pink Floyd. Sadly, never again would the classic lineup of Pink Floyd record another album. However, their swan-song The Wall was a classic album, which recently was celebrated by Cleopatra Records.

Recently, Cleopatra Records decided to replicate The Wall. To do this, they brought together what can only be described as prog rock royalty. This includes Adrian Belew and Tony Levin of King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Keith Emerson, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. Yes’ Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Alan White and Tony Kaye. That’s not all. How about some of the great and good of rock. Among them, are The Doors’ Robby Krieger and Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes and Steve Morse. They’re joined by Styx’s Tommy Shaw and Toto’s Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro. Joining this all-star cast, is award-winning actor Malcolm McDowell. Together, they recreate Pink Floyd’s classic album, The Wall, whose story began in 1979.

Just like Pink Floyd’s three previous albums, The Wall was another concept album. That’s not surprising. The seventies was the age of the concept album, which explored the themes of abandonment and personal isolation. However, The Wall was Pink Floyd’s most ambitious and personal project.

The Wall, a rock opera, would be a double album, featuring twenty-six tracks. Roger Waters penned twenty-two tracks. He also cowrote Young Lust, Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell with Dave Gilmour. The other track was The Trial, which Roger and Bob Erzin, one of the co-producers wrote. These twenty-six tracks told the story of Pink, who Roger Waters modelled on Pink Floyd’s former leader, Syd Barrett.

Pink’s story begins when his father is killed during World War Two. When he goes to school, Pink he’s abused by sadistic schoolteachers. At home, Pink is smothered by his overprotective and overbearing mother. Then when Pink grows up, he marries and before long, his marriage breaks up. This leads to Pink becoming isolated from society, which is represented by a metaphorical wall. Roger came up with The Wall two years earlier.

In 1977, Pink Floyd had embarked upon their In The Flesh Tour. During the tour, Roger Waters became frustrated with the audience. So much so, when he imagined a wall between the audience and the stage. This proved to be the genesis of The Wall, which was recorded between July 1978 and November 1979.

Recording of The Wall took place at various studios in London, Correns in France, New York and Los Angeles. At six studios, Pink Floyd, accompanied by a cast of nearly thirty additional musicians and backing singers, plus three choirs recorded The Wall. It was quite an undertaking. Twenty-six songs, were recorded and produced by Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour, Bob Erzin and James Guthrie. All this took time.

Especially, with sound effects and dialogue to be added. Eventually, after sixteen months, The Wall was completed. It had taken its toll.

Things hadn’t exactly gone smoothly. The Wall was very much Roger Waters’ baby. He drove the project along. Not everyone was receptive to his ideas. Arguments and dissent were common currency. So its no surprise that following the release of The Wall, Rick Wright left Pink Floyd. However, he left on a high.

With The Wall completed, Pink Floyd took it to Columbia’s headquarters. That’s where a selected group of executives would hear The Wall for the first time. Not everyone was impressed. They weren’t convinced that The Wall would prove a commercial success. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a problem with the publishing rights.

To make matters worse, with The Wall being a double album, Roger Waters was offered a smaller percentage for the publishing rights. Straight away, Roger Water refused. One Columbia executive offered to settle the dispute by flipping a coin. Roger Waters refused, asking why should he gamble with something he already owned? Eventually, Roger Waters was given the deal he wanted, and The Wall was released on 30th November 1979.

Prior to the release of The Wall, copies were sent out to critics. Mostly, it was to critical acclaim The Wall was released. There were, some dissenting voices. That’s not surprising. It was the post punk era, and a new breed of cynical gunslingers were masquerading as critics. They were among The Wall’s fiercest critics. So were Robert Christgau and Rolling Stone magazine. Forever the contrarian, they weren’t won over by The Wall. However, record buyers had the final say.

When The Wall was released on 30th November 1979, it was a huge commercial success. The Wall reached number three in Britain and number one in America, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Holland and New Zealand. Across the world, The Wall was certified gold, platnum, multi-platinum and diamond. Eventually, The Wall was certified double-platinum in Britain and twenty-three times platinum in America. This equated to 11.5 million sales of The Wall in America alone and nearly seventeen million copies worldwide. Pink Floyd had been vindicated with The Wall.

Somewhere in Columbia’s headquarters, several executives were rather embarrassed. They weren’t convinced by The Wall. How wrong they were. Now, thirty-six years later, and The Wall has sold nearly seventeen million copies worldwide. The Wall, which was Pink Floyd’s biggest selling album, is now regarded as a classic album. Even its old nemesis, Rolling Stone magazine realises that The Wall is a stonewall classic. That’s why Cleopatra Records have assembled the great and good of rock music, to remake The Wall. 

The result is a double album Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd. It features not just the twenty-six tracks on The Wall, but five bonus tracks. Quite simply, Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd is a fitting tribute to the classic lineup of Pink Floyd. Their eleventh album, The Wall was their swan-song.

The idea behind Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd is simplicity itself, getting some of the best, most successful and talented musicians to remake The Wall. So much so, that it’s a wonder that nobody has thought of the concept before? However, nobody it seems, thought this idea  feasible logistically or financially. That’s until Cleopatra Records decided to get involved. With the great and good of music on their side, The Wall is reinvented on Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd.

Disc One.

That’s the case from the opening bars of In The Flesh?, which opened The Wall and now, Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd. Toto’s Steve Porcaro unleashes a blistering, dramatic remake of In The Flesh? This whets your appetite. It’s a case of sit back and enjoy the show.

The inimitable Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull delivers a thoughtful, understated version of The Thin Ice. Then Steve Morse of Deep Purple delivers a moody, dramatic remake of Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1. From there, Vinnie Coliauta, singer, songwriter and session player to everyone from Leonard Cohen to Sting, brings to life  The Happiest Days of Our Lives. So much so, that you can’t help empathise with Pink, as he suffers at the hands of his sadistic teachers. With emotions running high, Fee Waybill the lead singer and songwriter of The Tubes, delivers an emotive, frustrated version of Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2. After this the tempo drops.

What follows is However, one of the most heartfelt performances is Adrian’s Belew of King Crimson’s rendition of Mother. By then, Pink, it seems, is teetering on the brink, a broken man, his sanity in tatters. Goodbye Blue Sky, a song about the Blitz, has a wistful understated sound.It’s the perfect followup to Mother. Especially with Yes’ Steve Howe delivering the lyrics. From there, Bobby Krieger of The Doors features on Empty Spaces. 

This is the first of two tracks Bobby Krieger features on on disc one. Then Glenn Hughes’ delivers his a blistering vocal on Young Lust. With searing guitars for company it’s rocky and dramatic. However, one of disc one’s finest moments is Tommy Shaw’s take  on One Of My Turns. He gets across Pink’s  mental pain and suffering. Then Bobby Krieger returns on Don’t Leave Me Now. The former Doors guitarist delivers a despairing vocal. So, does Tony Levin on Goodbye Cruel World. Before that, he delivers a gravelly vocal on Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2. Tony however, shows his sensitive side on Goodbye Cruel World, which closes disc one. His delivery gets across Pink despair and his belief that isolation was the only answer. 

Disc Two

John Wetton, formerly of King Crimson, Family and Wishbone Ash delivers an impassioned version of Hey You, which opens disc two of Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd. Adrian Belew, another former member of King Crimson takes charge of Is Anyone Out There? He sounds almost haunted, as he gets across the Pink’s paranoia. Then on Nobody Home, Rick Wakeman describes Pink’s lonely life of isolation, behind the mental wall he’s created. It’s without doubt, one of the most moving tracks. By now, Pink has retreated behind The Wall, and is a shadow of his former self. Suffering from neurosis and paranoia, on Vera, sung by Steve Howe of Yes, Pink fixates on Vera Lynn. He can relate to her, as she also lost her father during the war. “Vera, Vera, what has become of you,” Pink sings, against an understated backdrop. This sets the scene for one of The Wall’s highlights, Bring The Boys Home.

Jay Schellen, the drummer of Hurricane, takes charge of the vocal on the anthemic Bring The Boys Home. It features an orchestral arrangement, which is interspersed with harmonies and dialogue.  Bring The Boys Home, an anti-war song, is one of The Wall’s highlights. So is Comfortably Numb, sung by Chris Squire. It takes on a laid-back, lysergic sound. Staying true to the original, Chris delivers what’s best described as a homage to Pink Floyd.

For The Show Must Go On and the refrain of In The Flesh and Waiting for the Worms, Vinnie Coliauta takes over the lead vocal. There’s a sense of despondency in Vinnie’s vocal on The Show Must Go On. You get the sense Pink, trapped in his own world, is somewhere he doesn’t want to be. Then on the refrain of In The Flesh, Vinnie replaces Steve Porcaro. His final performance is on Waiting for the Worms, which follows Tony Kaye’s urgent performance of Run Like Hell, another of The Wall’s highlights. However, on Waiting For The Worms, Pink is dejected, depressed and has what’s best described as a morbid curiosity. He’s a shadow of his former self.

On Stop, the hallucination that Pink has been suffering from ends. No longer does he think he’s a fascist dictator. A despairing Billy Sherwood, who dawns the role of Pink sings: “I want to go home, have I been guilty all this time?” So Pink decides to put himself on trial. During The Trial, actor Malcolm McDowell the leading role. 

Pink, who throughout his life, suffered emotional trauma  and substance abuse has reached a critical psychological breakthrough. He’s shown feelings. In doing this, and trying to interact with others, Pink has committed a crime against himself. This leads to Pink being sent to trial, where he is confronted by the main influences of his life, his overprotective mother, the abusive teacher and his wife. They’re introduced during The Trial and explain their actions. Eventually, however, the judge’s sentence for Pink “to be exposed before your peers” and orders Pink to “Tear down the wall.”Having done so, Pink has to adjust to life Outside The Wall which is sung by Billy Sherwood. He plays an important track in the song’s cinematic, hopeful sound, as  Pink is “free, free at last.”

That’s almost the story of Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd. Apart from five bonus tracks. This includes electro, house, dub and radio remixes of Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2, plus a version of Comfortably Numb by Blackburner. Along with the twenty-six tracks on The Wall, Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd is the perfect homage to Pink Floyd’s rock opera, and biggest selling album, The Wall.

While this isn’t the first tribute album Cleopatra Records have released, it’s the most ambitious. Never before have they tried to recreate an album. Until now. Setting the bar remarkably high, Cleopatra brought together some of the biggest names in rock music. Among them, were prog rock royalty, including Adrian Belew and Tony Levin of King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Keith Emerson, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson). Yes’ Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Alan White and Tony Kaye. That’s not all. How about some of the great and good of rock. Among them, are The Doors’ Robby Krieger and Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes and Steve Morse. They’re joined by Styx’s Tommy Shaw and Toto’s Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro. Joining this all-star cast, is award-winning actor Malcolm McDowell. Together, this cast of musical greats lovingly recreate The Wall, on Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd. It’s sure to appeal to both veterans and newcomers to The Wall and of course, Pink Floyd.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of Pink Floyd’s music, or a relative newcomer, The Wall and Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd are must haves. The Wall was one of Pink Floyd’s most ambitious and personal albums. 

The Wall’s central character Pink, was essentially based upon Syd Barrett, former leader and founder of Pink Floyd. The Wall tells his story, and his descent into isolation. Syd Barrett, who suffered emotional trauma and substance abuse, couldn’t cope with with fame and adulation that came with being a rock star in the late sixties. He turned to drugs to help him cope. Sadly, Syd Barrett, whose described as “emotionally fragile” flew too close to the sun. Before long, Syd Barrett suffered from mental illness. The emotional trauma and substance abuse took its toll. So, he retreated into isolation, becoming a reclusive figure. The Wall is his story, which thirty-six years later, is lovingly recreated and retold on Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd. However, Back Against The Wall-A Tribute To Pink Floyd isn’t just a fitting tribu to Syd Barrett, but a fitting tribute to the classic lineup of Pink Floyd, who took their final bow on The Wall.



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