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November 30, 2014- By Steven E. Greer, MD
Endless River is the first studio album released by the sans-Roger-Waters-Pink-Floyd in 20 years, since 1994’s Division Bell. Keyboardist Rick Wright died in 2008 from cancer leaving Nick Mason, the drummer, and band leader/guitarist, David Gilmour, to carry on (Roger Waters lost a court battle over the rights to the Pink Floyd name, but walked away with full rights to The Wall, which he has turned into the largest rock concert tour in history over the last three years).
When the band was making The Division Bell, it was originally planned to be a two-disc album, with the second half being all instrumental. That never materialized, so a lot of music was left unpublished. Andy Jackson, the engineer on The Division Bell, began to reassemble the lost works and convinced Mason and Gilmour to release it.
Endless River is a tribute to the work of Rick Wright in many ways. The most spiritual, otherworldly, sounds that one associates with Pink Floyd were created by Wright and his synthesizers. Dark Side of the Moon’s “Us and Them” and “The Great Gig in the Sky” were Wright’s sound, for examples.
With Endless River, Pink Floyd has used the talents, once again, of the art design company Hipgnosis, comprised of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson. All of the album covers and poster inserts by Pink Floyd, with the exception of The Wall, have been designed by Hipgnosis. Aubrey Powell is the surviving member as Storm died in 2013.
As an interesting side bar, Hipgnosis got it’s name from the Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett in 1967 when they all shared a flat. Syd had written the word on a door frame, combining the terms “hip” (pertaining to a cool subculture) with “gnostic” (esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters ) and the noun ‘hypnosis’ (an artificially induced trance state resembling sleep characterized by heightened susceptibility to suggestion), according to Aubrey Powell’s website.
The packaging for Endless River ranges from impressive (the CD version that opens like a small bound book with photos inside) to elaborate (the CD and Blu-ray discs with a 24-page book). The cover image was designed by a young Egyptian man and conjures thoughts of Rick Wright in heaven looking down upon us all on earth and he paddles the endless river.
For audiophiles with nice living room speakers and comfortable couches, Endless River is ideal. It is a very listenable and enjoyable 53-minutes. It is not a bunch of long tedious E-chords ala Ummagumma. By the time Pink Floyd had made The Division Bell (and what became the Endless River) in 1993, they had completely mastered their instruments and song writing.
Divided into four sides and 18-tracks, some pearls are found amidst the meditation music. The track titled “Anisina” breaks the mood with the right amount of saxophone and clarinet. The track “Autumn ’68” harkens back to Floyd sounds of that age, with Rick Wright using the pipe organ from the Royal Albert Hall. The track “Surfacing” has Gilmour playing his metallic sounding acoustical guitar.
The only human words on Endless River are on the track “Talkin’ Hawkin'” which uses an electronic voice sample from Stephen Hawking. Also, the last track, “Louder than Words” has lyrics written by novelist and wife to Gilmour, Polly Samson.
There is nothing in Endless River that will make diehard Floyd fans feel betrayed. It is a simple album with the simple goal of making public some high-quality recordings that were chopped out 20-years ago.
Endless River has been a surprise hit in the marketplace, debuting in the top five on the Billboard 200 and breaking records on Amazon for pre-order sales. This success seems to be encouraging at least Nick Mason to want to join the entire band, including Roger Waters, back together, at least for a one-time benefit. With Roger’s Wall tour having been such a success, perhaps they can take a re-mastered Animals on the road in 2015, with the opening part of the concert being some other archived sounds not yet released?
Are you listening, Roger Waters and David Gilmour? Is there anybody out there?