|2. There's No Way Out Of Here|
|3. Cry From The Street|
|4. So Far Away|
|5. Short And Sweet|
|6. Raise My Rent|
|7. No Way|
|8. It's Deafinitely|
|9. I Can't Breathe Anymore|
All tracks by David Gilmour except "There's No Way Out Of Here" (K. Baker), "Cry From The Street" (Gilmour/E. Stuart), and "Short And Sweet" (Gilmour/R. Harper)
Is this the great, forgotten progressive album of the late 1970s?
Followers of Pink Floyd tend to regard the period from 1973-1983 as a time of Roger Waters's growing domination over the group. Both Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979/80) are generally regarded as expressions of Roger's pessimistic soul, tortured by the loss of his father and his personal, ongoing separation from his audience, his band, and society in general.
These comments are essentially correct. But it's quite easy to forget that David Gilmour played a strong role in creating these albums as well. Even if Waters was the primary composer for the Floyd at this point in time, both Animals and The Wall would have been lesser works without Gilmour's soaring guitar lines and melodic vocals. Perhaps some of the criticism of Gilmour regarding his virtual domination of the Floyd since 1983 may, as such, be regarded as inappropriate; irrespective of the merits or demerits of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason or The Division Bell on an artistic level, one almost wonders if his domination of the group is a just reward for his time spent in Waters's shadow.
There is, actually, some evidence to suggest that Gilmour, in contrast to most other progressive musicians, actually achieved something of an artistic renewal in the period following the release of Animals. He was, after all, responsible for discovering Kate Bush, one of the single most important figures to emerge in the field of late-'70s/early-'80s art-rock/prog-rock (the line is a bit blurred in terms of Bush's classification). Moreover, he released his first solo album in the period, which proved that he was still capable of releasing excellent music, in spite of Waters's domination of the group.
Perhaps the fact that this album remains generally ignored today isn't too surprising. Many of the rank-and-file Floyd fans have a tendency to prefer their heroes faceless and nameless; for many, the name "Pink Floyd" symbolizes an ethos/culture/whatever larger than any individual (a factor no doubt prominent in Gilmour's decision to keep the Floyd name active). Roger Waters managed to avoid this to a certain extent; the others, generally, did not (ask the average Floyd listener if he knows who Richard Wright is and you'll see what I mean). And, as such, a great album is overlooked.
Given the time in which it was released, David Gilmour is nothing short of a remarkable work -- perhaps revitalized by his time away from his Floydian companions, Gilmour managed to come up with an album's worth of heartfelt, melodic, mood-inducing songs not terribly far removed from the music that Pink Floyd were creating at the time (in fact, some elements of this album seem to have carried over directly to The Wall). His singing is top-rate, and his guitar playing is amazing; best of all, however, is the songwriting skill which he reveals on this work.
To consider the songs individually, then ... "Mihalis" is an instrumental number, initially premised on a guitar line that seems content to wait out its time before coming to its full fruition. The song takes a bit of a bluesy detour at one point, and generally takes the role of a relaxed mood piece for its earliest moments. By the time the lead solo arrives at the three-minute mark, then, the perfect structure for its development has already been created; the ending section of this work which results is an extremely progressive moment, and an extremely worthwhile one. Also of note is the fact that the bass playing sounds remarkably similar to that of Roger Waters (or, perhaps, to those which Gilmour played and which Waters initially passed off as his own work).
"There's No Way Out Of Here" is a rather bluesy number, dominated by a harmonica intro and a perfectly appropriate slow vocal line from DG. As further evidence of Gilmour not wishing to stray too far from his roots, an eerie Wright-esque keyboard section emerges before too long; the lyrics and vocal line, moreover, bear something of a similarity to those for "Childhood's End" (which Gilmour sang on Obscured By Clouds). The vocal harmonies on the chorus are nothing short of incredible; and the prog-psych "love without listening" section is an easy highlight. The guitar solo towards the end is pretty good as well.
"Cry From The Street" is probably the least successful song on the album, though still quite good. The introduction to the song is based more on blues-rock cliches than anything else on the album, and it suffers a bit accordingly. The proggy section towards the end of the work is the best thing about the song; it probably should have gone longer. The guitar solo is fairly good, but it suffers in comparison to the other material here. There isn't anything wrong with this track, and it's actually quite good on its own merits, but it seems a bit ordinary in comparison to its neighbours.
"So Far Away" is more of a ballad than the other tracks here, but is still rather successful as such. The track begins in a somewhat suspect manner, with a few lyrical cliches, but eventually emerges into something quite a bit better (with a few more similarities to Obscured By Clouds appearing here and there ... one almost wonders if Gilmour wanted to remind his fans of a time when he had more of a say in the Floyd's general direction). The guitar solo part-way through the song is done in the classic Gilmour style and, in contrast to some more recent Floydian ventures, the background singers are actually used in a subtle manner. The piano line is fairly good too.
"Short And Sweet" is the best of the vocal tracks, making use of vocal harmonies that are nothing short of incredible. The guitar intro suggests that a progressive melody is to emerge almost immediately (as, indeed, it does). The lyrics are quite good, as is another good guitar melody which emerges halfway through the song. This work, in fact, possesses all of the proper ingredients for a classic PF song -- one has to wonder why it wasn't used for that purpose (perhaps it simply didn't fit with Waters's epic conceptual themes ... which is understandable, but still a bit of a shame).
"Raise My Rent" is a classic Gilmourian blues-prog line, which merits attention for being one of the few tracks to be both "flighty" in a progressive rock sense and "rooted" in a blues sense simultaneously (though some of the guitar passages towards the end are rather more "gritty", and rather similar to The Wall at that). Credit must also be given to the role which the bass line plays on this track.
"No Way" is, also, very similar to parts of The Wall (most particularly "Young Lust", oddly enough ... though better). This song contains one of the more overtly progressive sections on the album, in both the guitar solo and the band section (with some overdubbed guitars towards the end). The lyrics, moreover, are perhaps a bit prophetic of the role which Gilmour was to play in the Floyd within a few years.
"It's Deafinitely" continues the overtly progressive tendencies of his predecessor; it may be the most "proggy" thing here. Demented keyboard lines and odd (slightly altered) guitar parts make up the majority of the introduction to the song; the guitar solo in the middle section of the track is less demented, though no less of a classic Gilmourian wail. The original theme (with more distortions) appears towards the end. A triumph, and definitely worth repeated listenings.
The relatively brief (at three minutes, it's the shortest song on the album) "I Can't Breathe Anymore" is a much gentler piece, with good singing and rather odd lyrics. Perhaps it would be best defined as a "restrained progressive ballad" of a sort. Midway through the song, it suddenly switches to a strongly progressive direction, ending the album with a roaring guitar solo. Quite good, and quite appropriate.
The fact that this album has been so frequently overlooked is nothing short of bewildering (especially given the attention frequently given by diehard fans to the overrated Animals). Strongly recommended for all Pink Floyd fans, recommended for general progressive fans as well.
(review originally posted to alt.music.yes on 9 September 1997)