After breaking into superstardom with their 1973 masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, the members of Pink Floyd faced a daunting task. How does anyone follow up a release like that? Many a great artist has faded in fear at the prospect.
The result, though, as we all know, was the 1975 album Wish You Were Here. Though initially receiving some mixed reviews, fans and critics eventually agreed it was another masterpiece.
It’s also the next Pink Floyd album getting the royal reissue treatment from parent label EMI. Both a two-disc ‘Experience’ version and massive, five-disc ‘Immersion’ box were released this week, each featuring the remastered original album plus significant bonus material.
[pullquote quote="We were clueless for a long time." credit="David Gilmour"]Few today question the stature of Wish You Were Here as one of the finest albums in rock and roll. So it’s hard to imagine a band with the stature of Pink Floyd having trouble finding its way forward. But according to a recent interview with guitarist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]David Gilmour[/lastfm], that was exactly the case. ”We were clueless for a long time, faffing about blindly trying to find a way forward,” he explained in a recent interview.
Photos: Pink Floyd Circa “Wish You…OK, so Gilmour and his bandmates –[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Roger Waters[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rick Wright[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Nick Mason[/lastfm] –were human after all. They had their doubts, they questioned each others’ choices, they messed around, tried, failed, and then got up and tried again. And eventually, it all came together.
The resulting album went on to sell once again in the millions (advance orders had been high, yet the label still allegedly couldn’t print copies fast enough). And it also further cemented Pink Floyd’s reputation for musical innovation, brilliant studio work, and, bottom line, great songs.
The two-disc Experience version of Wish You Were Here includes the remastered album and a second disc of bonus tracks. The massive, five-disc Immersion box adds Surround Sound mixes, video, and Blu-Ray extras, along with a photo book edited by longtime Floyd photographer Jill Furmanovsky, and a 36-page booklet designed by Storm Thorgerson.
The album’s theme was absence–specifically, and famously, the absence of the band’s former leader and founder, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Syd Barrett[/lastfm], who was forced out of the group years earlier due to drug problems brought on by mental illness.
Wish You Were Here is dominated by the nine-part, mostly instrumental song “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” which opens and closes the album. (On the bonus disc, we also get to hear a live version from Wembley in 1974, which adds a new perspective–stream a portion of that show on Classics Du Jour).
Starting off with a slow, dreamy riff, ”Crazy Diamond” eventually grows in tension. And when the vocals do kick in, it’s almost as if time stands still.
[metrolyrics artist="pink floyd" song="shine on you crazy diamond"]
Along with paying tribute to Syd, the album also takes not-too-subtle swipes at the record business (“Have a Cigar,” “Welcome to the Machine”).
The most memorable song on the album, though, is the title track–a song that’s among the most iconic in all of rock n’ roll. “Wish You Were Here” is quiet, reflective, beautiful: the calm eye in the instrumental swirl that surrounds it. And it never gets old, no matter how many times you hear it.
[metrolyrics artist="pink floyd" song="wish you were here"]
One of the key bonus tracks on this release is an alternate version of “Wish You Were Here” featuring legendary jazz violinist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Stephane Grappelli[/lastfm] (who happened to also be in a session at Abbey Road the same day as Pink Floyd). The arrangement is initially slightly different, but once Grappelli’s solo kicks in, the song opens up into a brand-new space. We only wish every reissued classic album touting bonus material had a gem inside as brilliant as this.
“It still astonishes me that we didn’t use it originally, didn’t realize what a wonderful thing it was,” said Nick Mason of the legendary Grappelli session, in a BBC interview.
Four additional bonus tracks are from a live set at Wembley in 1974–along with both parts of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” this includes early versions of songs that would eventually wind up on Animals: “Raving and Drooling” (which later became “Sheep”) and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy.” Floyd fans will recognize the melodies, and hearing them still in development like this–young, yet polished enough for a stadium performance–is a treat.
In particular, a different tempo and arrangement makes “You’ve Got to Be Crazy” almost an entirely different song from what it eventually became (“Dogs”) on Animals.
Also on the second disc is an alternate version of “Have a Cigar”–also interesting, though clearly less mature–and a short, dreamy instrumental piece called “Wine Glasses” (think the opening segment of “Crazy Diamond”) from the Household Objects Project.
All told, the reissue of Wish You Were Here is a powerful, worthwhile “experience.” I can’t wait to hear what comes next.
Purchase the Wish You Were Here Experience version at Amazon.
Purchase the Immersion box set at Amazon.
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