Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wish you were here - experience anew

I first heard this album as a 14 year old when my school friend bought it, unheard, and lent it to me to play while his record player was repaired. It's hard to explain the impact this LP had on my young ears but I memorized every lyric and was enraptured by Gilmour's guitar lines on Shine on You Crazy Diamond. Soon I bought my own copy (I ended up with a funny copy with the same label on both sides), then a regular CD, in turn replaced by a later remastered version. Something of my youth and early adulthood is captured in this music and when the new Experience version was announced, I pounced, indulging in both the CD and LP versions (at last, another chance to get those stickers and album pics). Fearing the worst, I put the CD on yesterday and it's stayed on for repeated plays. In a word, it's the best version I've heard and small details and instrumental timbre are truer here than ever.

I know everyone thinks Dark Side was Floyd's greatest contribution to music and while there is no denying its import, it is Wish You Were Here that stands for me as the band's best work. I can live without Welcome to the Machine (though i used to start-up my first desktop at work to this tune every morning) but the remaining tracks are as close to perfect British 70s rock as I can imagine four skinny boys making. Lyrically challenging and musically immersive, this album captures a time, a place and a mood that for me is totally transcendent. As a teenager, this album showed me a slightly scary world of adults lost and adrift, struggling for reconciliation and some sense of purpose in life. If Gilmour ever played better, I don't know it, and this album for me shows why the Waters-less version of Floyd is a bit like the Jimi Hendrix Experience without Jimi - just another cabaret. If this is not enough, the accompanying live recording and extra tracks from 1974-75 are really good -- a version of the title track with Stephane Grapelli on violin breathes new life into this most anthemic of songs. If you lived through this time, here's a time capsule to the past for $20 that you can enjoy again and again. Despite my despair at re-releases and endless repackaging of the same old catalog, this one has me hooked. LP review to follow, right now I am waiting for the right moment to play it -- this ritual is special.

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