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The Endless River
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The Endless River
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"The Endless River represents a return to the creative principles that informed the writing process that produced Pink Floyd classics like Echoes, Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Animals.
In early 1993, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright set up their equipment in their own Britannia Row Studios in Islington and created more than hundred pieces of music by jamming together, interacting with each other's performances and recording the results.
They then honed the pieces at David's Astoria floating studio, played them live for 2 days at Olympic Studios in Barnes with an extended lineup (Guy Pratt on bass, Jon Carin on keyboards and Gary Wallis on percussion). After that, the core trio returned to Astoria, and worked further on the compositions, alongside co-producer Bob Ezrin, refining the structure, tempos and arrangements. The result, after lyrics and vocals were added, was the 12 million selling 'Division Bell' album.
At the time, there had been talk of a separate ambient album being created from the non-vocal tracks not subsequently issued on 'The Division Bell', but the idea was eventually dropped.
In 2014 David Gilmour and Nick Mason re-entered the studio and, starting with unreleased keyboard performances by Richard Wright, who sadly died in 2008, added further instrumentation to the tracks, as well as creating new material. The result is The Endless River, including 60% of recordings other than the 1993 sessions, but based upon them. The title is a further link, '... the endless river…' being part of the closing phrases of High Hopes, the final song of the previous Pink Floyd album.
David Gilmour describes the record as follows: ""The Endless River has as its starting point the music that came from the 1993 Division Bell sessions. We listened to over 20 hours of the three of us playing together and selected the music we wanted to work on for the new album. Over the last year we've added new parts, re-recorded others and generally harnessed studio technology to make a 21st century Pink Floyd album. With Rick gone, and with him the chance of ever doing it again, it feels right that these revisited and reworked tracks should be made available as part of our repertoire.""
Stylistically, The Endless River includes all of the musical elements that characterize Pink Floyd: mellifluous keyboards, jazz-tinged drums, musique concrete, ethereal vocals, and distinctive, emotional lead guitar. As well as Pink Floyd's trademark backing vocals, there is one vocal track, with lyrics by author Polly Samson, who also contributed to The Division Bell."
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Not just that, but the fact that the album isn't really divided into 'songs' or 'tracks' really, (apart from closer, and the only song with lyrics 'Louder Than Words' being the only thing resembling 'single material' on the entire disc), doesn't really sound like a good idea for a band that's been out of the studio loop so long, or at least doesn't sound appealing to a newbie. ...But somehow...it works really well!
Stylistically, the album can be described as mostly ambient music, with very brief forays into rock territory. Indeed, it sounds as if Gilmour's been put on a leash, as he doesn't appear very often, but when he does, his unmistakable style, tone and bluesy licks are typically captivating. Perhaps the loss Wright influenced the band to make this album as much of a tribute to him and his influence on the band's sound more than anything else, as it certainly seems that way. Not recommended for fans seeking a guitar-heavy album, but, it does sometimes sound like a lost track from 'The Wall' album, make of that what you will, but for me it's great.
In a way, it's typical Pink Floyd to grab a golden egg, from a messy nest they built and added their own eccentricities to it! Overall, a great send off for perhaps THE most influential rock bands of all time and a fitting tribute to their brother in arms Rick Wright!
Fortunately, and after living with this album for exactly 12 months, I do believe it to be the latter.
This is a wonderful album of thoughtful, unique, melodic instrumental music that can only have been created by Pink Floyd. The band were quoted at the time of it's release saying that they wanted to make 'a Pink Floyd album for the 21st Century', but in fact they've done what they've always done - ignore current musical trends, steadfastly done their own thing and made an album of unapologetic, immersive, timeless, classic rock.
For me, this is an album that is unashamedly created for the anti-itunes generation. It wants your attention. It wants you to listen - not just hear - but listen to it as a whole. It wants you to explore, dive in, to think, have patience, relax and enjoy.
But, say the critics, isn't this album just made of tunes from the cutting room floor? Discarded songs left to gather dust suddenly considered worthy of a Pink Floyd album? That's cheating isn't it? Well, sorry to say but the Floyd have a lot of 'previous' here; 'Us & Them' from Dark Side? Discarded from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack in 1969, resurrected for Dark Side in 1973. 'Raving & Drooling & 'You've Got To Be Crazy' performed live on their 1974 tour, discarded from the 'Wish You Were Here' album in 1975 resurrected in 1977 on the 'Animals' album. All these 'offcuts' are rightly considered classic Floyd songs.
Is this album as good as Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, The Wall? No.
But judged on it's own merits, I'm delighted it's part of the Floyd canon. As ever, they've made music without compromise, doing exactly what they want. A final, touching and heartfelt musical goodbye to a much missed band member (Rick Wright) and to the fans from a group that have given me so much pleasure over the decades.
So grab a pair of expensive headphones (or speakers), dim the lights, pour yourself a glass of something special, and enjoy this legendary band's final cut.