Peter Thelen    9-April-2001 The Division Bell

Pink Floyd - "The Division Bell" (Columbia CK 64200, 1994, CD)

After eight long years, Floyd have come forward with another fine collection of songs, with no real surprises - their timeless style intact - this could just as easily been the follow-up to Wish You Were Here. The band has a renewed energy on this outing, having long since proven to themselves they can do without former bassist/vocalist/iron-hand bandleader Roger Waters (good riddance). The sound seems to have returned to a more playful pre-Wall feel, more musical, without all the gloom and doom depressionistic lyrics that marred that album and The Final Cut - you won't want to go commit suicide after listening The Division Bell, it's a far more positive experience, and a big step forward from the overly self-conscious 1987 album as well, I think the band has done well by not trying to emulate Waters' presence, and instead allowed themselves the space to show their true colors; even Rick Wright is active again co-writing most of the music with Gilmour, and penned one tune himself. The band wisely brought in guests to help out with much of the lyrics, which adds to the album's overall variety. My only complaint here is the seemingly excessive use of backup singers, which gives all of the more radio-ready tracks a more soulful and overtly commercial feel - a crutch that Floyd doesn't really need to lean on, and one that certainly doesn't enhance their sound. That said, this is a fine album that I'm sure most would enjoy.

(Originally published in Exposť #3, p.10, Edited for Gnosis 3/26/01)

Peter Thelen    4-April-2001 Total Eclipse

Pink Floyd - "Total Eclipse" (Great Dane CD 9320, 1993, CD)

Sometime in '92 Pink Floyd released some sort of 25th anniversary collectors box set, the title eludes me at the moment, but the content does not: it was simply a bunch of their regular albums repackaged in some new clothing, with one extra disc - the contents of which had already been released on CD in one form or other, either on Relics or the widely available Westwood-One A CD Full of Secrets...Basically nothing new, except claims of improved sound and 'remastering', the new ploy by the big record companies to extort more of our hard earned money. For any longtime fans who were profoundly disappointed with that set, then Total Eclipse is for you! This recent Italian-import 4 CD set is exactly what the 25th anniversary set should have been. The four discs are housed in a foldapart binder with a 36 page full-color booklet in the middle, with a brief history of the band and details of all the included tracks, nearly all of which are unavailable on any other discs: Early singles, unreleased singles, B-Sides, alternate takes, demo versions, and live material.

Disc one concentrates entirely on Barrett era material. Included here are early singles "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play", as well as the B-side of the former "Candy and a Currant Bun". Also here is the US single of "Flaming", early singles "Apples and Oranges" and "It Would Be So Nice", as well as the A and B sides of the single that was never to be: "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man". The balance of the first disc is made up of recordings from the Top Gear show made between 67 and 69, and "Nick's Boogie", a studio outtake from the film score "Tonight Let's all Make Love in London". Sound quality for the studio material is excellent, and for the Top Gear material, is surprisingly good considering the state of live recording in 1967.

The second disc moves onward as the band lost Barrett and gained Gilmour, and began searching for new directions. Here we have more recordings from Top Gear: "Green Is The Color", "The Narrow Way", "Embryo" and the epic "Careful With That Axe, Eugene". There are three studio outtakes from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack: "Oneone", "Fingal's Cave" and "Rain in the Country", heretofore available on the Omayyad bootleg LP. "Cave" is probably the low-point - sound quality-wise, of the entire set, marred by a massive dropout right after the song starts. A live take of another Zabriskie outtake, "The Violence Sequence", would later evolve into "Us and Them" two years later. Disc two is topped off by an eleven minute live version of "Cymbaline" followed by a live take of "Atom Heart Mother" sans orchestra.

Your third disc is mostly live material from the DSotM through WYWH period, featuring early 1970 recordings of "Breathe" and "On The Run", a quadraphonic mix of "Brain Damage/Eclipse", a 24 minute live take of "Shine on Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5", an acoustic demo take of "Money", and '75 live takes of "Raving & Drooling" (aka "Sheep") and "You Gotta Be Crazy" (aka "Dogs"). Also featured is "Blues", a generic number from a Paris date in 1970, and an exceptional live take of "Great Gig in The Sky" (Hollywood Bowl, 9/72).

Disc four picks up around the Animals period, and follows through to 1990 Knebworth festival. The disc begins with a full length live version of "Echoes" from '75, followed by the 8-track version of "Pigs on the Wing", which included a nice guitar solo and second verse after the album version faded. A demo version of "Comfortably Numb" is here, as well as the non-LP single "When The Tiger's Broke Free". Then the disc moves into extensive outtakes from the movie of The Wall, tracks that were not included on the album or significantly altered: "Mother", "What Shall We Do Now", "Bring The Boys Back Home" and "Outside The Wall". If you've been looking for "The Hero's Return" (B-side to 12" of "Not Now John"), it's here as well. There are two live takes from the 87 tour: "Run Like Hell" and "On The Turning Away". Disc four closes with, in this writer's opinion, the only disappointing track of the set - a live take of "Money" from Knebworth, sounding overly commercial with "ooh-ooh-ooh" backup singers that would sound more appropriate with (insert name of any commercial pop-singer here). Overall, though, this one worthwhile set. The odd track with substandard sound quality is more than balanced by the selection of outstanding rare live and studio material. This is everything that the 25th anniversary set should have been.

(Originally published in Exposť #3, p.10, Edited for Gnosis 3/23/01)

Links for further information