Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)

Pink Floyd had not died out, even during the onslaught of Disco and Punk in the late 1970’s. In fact, they managed to excel by adapting somewhat to the tastes of the time. This double album may not sound exciting at first, being a double disc concept album about said wall, but it sold many copies and is now considered a stone cold classic.

We begin with the words “…we came in?”. In The Flesh? poses a big question to the Pink Floyd audience about what is considered to them as acceptable to them from Roger Waters point of view. It is hugely theatrical and great to listen to. Excellent stuff. It builds up to the sound of a plane crash. Epic.

The follow up The Thin Ice begins with a baby crying and some poetic lyrics and spacey sound effects to boot. It sounds as a warning to any young child about life, but sounds mega all the same. Some great guitar work by David Gilmour is here as well.

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1 arrives and tells the disturbing fact of Roger Water’s upbringing about his Dad losing his life in the second World War. It’s selfish a tale and not very nice, but the rhythmic delayed guitar parts are killer here. It segues into the next song with the sound of school children playing and a helicopter arriving on the scene, with some shouting.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives is a cynical observation about time at school. It’s a short, yet direct point about the mistreatment of school children at hand, before launching into the next piece.

“We don’t need no education” begins the next piece. Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2 begins and is a great pop song. There is a choir here singing the chorus, some great instrumentation and a killer guitar solo towards the end of this piece. These four musicians of Pink Floyd were absolute legends in the day. The song segues out with more shouting of children and some old English man shouting as well.

The acoustic driven piece Mother poses a rather nasty Roger Waters message to his own mother about various things in life that could hurt him emotionally or physically. Obviously Roger Waters had a huge ego by this point, but the song sounds as though it fits this album well. There are some answers, but not those that you’d expect from a said mother.

Goodbye Blue Sky is a short and direct tale about the World War II bombings of England that occurred, which scarred many people’s lives in the UK. It’s a short and scary tale about human fragility. It’s a good addition here to the album.

Empty Spaces is a linking sort of piece which is largely atmospheric. It joins together the songs before and afterward, questioning about what is necessary to create said wall. We shortly find out the answer.

The next piece, Young Lust fulfills all the needs of young man’s desire for a woman, at least in this album. It’s a good anthemic piece which sounds great, even today. Sounds a lot like AC/DC in a strange way. A must listen. It segues into the next piece.

The follow up One of My Turns doesn’t sound nice lyrically at all. It’s a connecting piece, but so horrible and brutal that one feels rather disturbed by the music here. Roger Waters could have been a bit nicer here, but the concept goes on. The Wall is being built well up here.

Don’t Leave Me Now is a plea to said woman of the last few songs not to leave, despite being an absolute monster in terms of abnormally sexist and brutal behaviour. It doesn’t sound sympathetic in any sense, but the music and concept are revealing here.

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 reveals the main character as a psychopath. He goes on a rant and insists he doesn’t need anything but his own wall to hide behind. How strange and sad. We segue into the next piece.

The next song Goodbye Cruel World is a short and dreary statement that almost sounds like a suicide note. It finalises the wall mentioned about, and the first side of the album comes to a close.

The first song on disc two is Hey You. It’s a cry for help from the madman behind the wall, but is a very well done song here. It conveys artistry and feeling from Roger Waters here. A nice piece. “Together we stand, divided we fall,” is a great quote at the end of this song.

Is There Anybody Out There? continues the theme of the previous song. It’s a bleak statement asking for help with an atmospheric musical accompaniment. The acoustic guitar piece in the second half of the song is fantastic. Very well played here.

Nobody Home actually sounds like an ode to Syd Barrett in terms of self-description. It’s very well done. The piano is a very good driver of this song, and the lyrics are deep. It feels as though the main character is severely depressed here, and has little chance of success behind his wall.

The next piece Vera is an ode to an artist long gone by. It seems melancholic and retrospective in terms of its outlook. It’s a quick ode to retrospective thought.

Following up is Bring The Boys Back Home. It’s a joining track which takes samples from the previous songs before it, before launching into the next important piece.

Comfortably Numb lifts the mood largely with clear description of drug use, be it heroin or otherwise. The song is strangely uplifting for such a subject. David Gilmour’s guitar solos are blistering here. The whole piece here is fantastic, a must listen.

The Show Must Go On indicates that, regardless of our central character’s problems, said rock and roll show has to go on. It is a good piece joining two major songs together.

The freaky return to the start of our concept album, with a twist, is In The Flesh. No questions asked this time. The Wall has been built, and our central character likens himself as a Fascist dictator. This is scary stuff on a psychological level. Listening to it is a different experience to what you’d expect. Same music as the first version of this song, but just plain nasty in comparison.

The next song is where The Wall does not hide our main character, so he has to Run Like Hell. Our main character is in a mess, so he has to escape from everywhere and everything. It sounds like he is a big state of paranoia here, afraid of all that comes his way. A good tune all the same.

Waiting For The Worms uncovers our main character hidden behind his wall and in a desperate state. He uses his energies to fight with his demons in his head, and the backing vocals sound like The Beach Boys here. Chanting and screaming finish this piece off.

Stop forces a reality check upon our rockstar. He surrenders himself to all those negative people chasing him. It’s super short a piece.

The next song, The Trial, is the rockstar being revealed in a court for his true feelings and state of mind. It’s not a happy situation whatsoever. He is pulled apart by all external forces. The judge then imposes his final decision upon our rockstar. With heavy metal style guitars, he orders The Wall to be torn down, which is done immediately.

Lastly, we are Outside The Wall. It’s a bleak observation about the realities of life. And our concept album comes to a close here. “Isn’t this where…”

This album sold tens of millions of copies around the world. It is a great testament to isolation and distress. It’s also a great listen.

8/10

The Who – Tommy (1969)

The Who needed something special to make as a record. Their first few offerings were great, particularly the My Generation and The Who Sell Out albums. Although both were interesting listens, their commercial success was waning during the late 1960s. Frustrated at this, guitarist and music maker extraordinaire Pete Townshend wanted something that would achieve success on multiple levels as a group, and not just financially either.

This record achieved these goals and is now recognised as a rock classic. It’s the next step on from The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in terms of listening experience. In fact, it’s great to hear 50 years on as a masterpiece of concept album listening. It’s a mixture of great music and so-called “rock opera” concept themes that it’s never boring. It’s a take on of Pete Townshend’s early life and making it through the rock scene. Hence the concept itself. Tommy is a deaf, dumb and blind boy who changes the world by extraordinary means.

We begin with the mainly instrumental Overture which sets the scene musically. It’s got a variety of instrumentation including horns, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. It’s such an interesting way to start the album. It goes on for over five minutes, but there is never a dull moment here. Roger Daltrey sings so well here and was a great vocalist of his time. It segues into the next piece.

The next piece, It’s A Boy continues the story about Tommy being born into the world. It’s really short after the long instrumental but sets in motion the album and concept. Brilliant.

1921 has the refrain “Gonna feel that 21 is going to be a good year.” It sounds so mint even though it’s not a major piece. Good effort.

Amazing Journey has some sweet backward tapes with guitar and some reflective lyrics from Roger Daltrey. It’s an amazing sonic journey this one.

The next track Sparks develops on the theme on Rael from The Who Sell Out. It’s an interesting instrumental which is captivating. Indeed, the instrumentals on this album are just as good quality as the songs themselves, so track skipping is not recommended whatsoever for this album.

The follow up is an additionally nteresting piece. Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) is a brilliant continuation of the overall concept of Tommy and has some mega catchy guitar parts within it. There is a good part where Roger Daltrey does a call-and-response with the rest of the band, him versus the music. It’s great.

Christmas talks directly about Tommy being unable to understand the experience of Christmas itself, due to his ailments. It has a repeated refrain throughout, “Tommy, can you hear me?” which of course Tommy himself cannot respond to. It is moments like these that are reprised throughout the album.

Cousin Kevin is about the school bully who gets a kick out of literally torturing Tommy. Some people may laugh at this one, others will be disturbed by the imagery involved. It has some interesting twists in this one, so pay attention to the lyrics, not just the music.

After the disturbing previous track, we enter the realm of unrequested lust with The Acid Queen. A gypsy comes and gives Tommy a you-know-what session. It’s an interesting listen anyway and adds to the overall story.

Underture is a ten minute instrumental that is awesome listening, and never dull for a moment. It uses reoccurring sounds from the previous tracks and is almost prog-rock like in its operation. Excellent.

To follow, we have Do You Think It’s Alright? which is a very short excerpt, which leads into the next song. It’s part of the overall concept here.

Fiddle About is a rather necessary but disgusting piece about the drunk of Tommy Uncle Ernie who does some unmentionable things. It’s part of the concept once again, but disturbingly so.

Pinball Wizard was the main hit song from this album. It starts off with a furious acoustic guitar part, which leads into the skill that Tommy excels at: playing pinball. It’s a great pop piece by The Who and one of their most loved songs.

The next piece is the brief There’s A Doctor I’ve Found which points to a possible cure for Tommy’s unusual condition. It leads into the next song.

The concept of the album continues with Go To The Mirror! in which the Doctor tells Tommy to do as what he says in order to heal himself. It’s a very unusual piece about power over another individual, but it’s good listening.

Tommy Can You Hear Me is another linking piece which has some good harmony based singing on it. It leads on into the next song after a very short time with a long fade out.

Smash The Mirror points out the hopelessness of the situation between Tommy and his own mother. He is still unreceptive to all the movements of the world, so smash goes the mirror. It’s an interesting piece with a very funky guitar part at the start of the song.

We then learn about Tommy becoming a Sensation. It is where Tommy surprises everybody in a unique feat of purpose. It’s a good song too.

The very brief Miracle Cure goes on to explain Tommy’s newfound status, and how it hit the news. It’s a relative comparison to Pete Townshend’s life.

Sally Simpson tells the story of the said lady who falls in love with the now well know rockstar Tommy. It’s a humourous and very British tale of such things. A fun listen.

I’m Free is a reflection on Tommy’s newfound status and the joy that it brings to him. Indeed, it’s a cathartic release for our character who is now a living legend, according to the album.

The follow up Welcome is an open invitation to Tommy’s house to see the man himself. It’s a nice and reassuring piece by the sound of it, although the lyrical meaning is quite different from that itself.

The Keith Moon inspired Tommy’s Holiday Camp is a humourous and mocking piece about the idea of a holiday camp with the weird Uncle Ernie hosting it. It’s hilarious and has a banjo to boot.

The final track We’re Not Gonna Take It sums up the superstar Tommy, and is fantastic sectioned and well done. Roger Daltrey gives this his all, and we have a repeated refrain to finish. It’s an epic listen.

This is how a concept album should be, with variety, some repeated sounds and singing and just an awesome trip through the listen. It was critically acclaimed and saw The Who bring themselves one step closer to being accepted by a more mainstream audience. Tommy is such a fantastic and special listen that it no doubt influenced music for years to come, including albums such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s a great classic album of the 1960s and all people interested in what The Who were about must listen to this album.

Fans should check out the re-release of Tommy with extra tracks and also give a listen to the London Symphony Orchestra collaboration of Tommy, which is brilliant too.

A conceptual piece of masterwork.

9/10

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

Pink Floyd went big with this album. Prior to the release of The Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd had not achieved much commercial success as musicians. Of course, they had critical success with releases of very good artistic and psychedelic works as a group. They had their fair share of ups and downs as well, with great albums but also losing Syd Barrett early on due to his unstable mental health. The group was ready to unleash one of their best, most popular and critically acclaimed pieces of work.

The Dark Side Of The Moon is a fantastic listen. From the go, it’s brilliant. From the cover to the concept and the songs, it’s just totally awesome. It’s an era-evoking message of art that transcends the era. It’s a definitive album for not just the 1970s, but of all time.

We get a rather psychedelic intro with a heartbeat, to begin with, before launching into the piece Speak To Me. It works as a dark and mysterious introduction to the music before us. From the outset, we have a very special and valuable album.

It segues into Breathe which is a cosmic interstellar pop song which is about human longevity. It’s a nice pop song which does very well. Roger Waters wrote all the lyrics on The Dark Side Of The Moon for the first time on a Pink Floyd album, and we sense the melancholy and despair of the times in his lyrics.

On The Run is a proto-techno and acid house style piece. It has one of the world’s first sequencers ever used on it and has various recorded sound effects and dark foreboding themes on it. It’s a great instrumental which ends in a plane crash. Emotionally and wonderfully brilliant.

Time begins with a load of clocks banging away, before having a dark and mysterious intro before lurching into a pop song about aging too quickly and other matters as well. It’s so effective, and later on, returns to the reprise of the Breathe song we heard earlier. “Home, home again. I’d like to be here when I can. When I get home cold and tired, it’s good to warm my bones beside the fire.” Mint.

The next song will blow your mind. The Great Gig In The Sky is an instrumental piece featuring soulful vocals and great piano work from Richard Wright. It’s an evocation of death and all involved with it. It’s amazingly emotional and never gives up on that. It’s one to shed tears to.

The hit single Money is unashamedly open about the love of money but is so well done and catchy that it’s a great song. Featuring cash register style sounds at the beginning, along with wah-wah guitar, a fancy saxophone solo, and a danceable groove, this song really got Pink Floyd noticed. It’s fun to listen to.

Us And Them is an extended piece about the fragility of the human condition. It’s likely inspired by Syd Barrett’s presence earlier in their lives and has a great saxophone solo once again by Dick Parry. It’s just mindblowing and awesome to hear, even today.

Any Colour You Like follows and is intended to be psychedelic. It features great organ work and trippy guitar parts to boot. It’s a very good instrumental, segueing into the next song.

The following song Brain Damage talks directly about mental health but is emotionally rousing too. As Roger Waters says, “We’ll see you on The Dark Side Of The Moon.” If that makes sense to you, then you are already no doubt a Pink Floyd fan.

We end the album with Eclipse, a great way to finish the album which references the human condition, prior to closing the album down. It finishes with the reoccurring heartbeat and samples a voice of a friend of the group’s, stating: “There is no Dark Side Of The Moon, really. As a matter of fact, it’s all dark.”

This album is truly wonderful and majestic to listen to. Normally most albums can be ignored. However, this one in no way can be ignored. It’s not only the definitive album of the time, but of all time. It has so many interesting and wonderful elements to it that words cannot express here how good the album is. Do yourself a favour and listen to this album at least once in your lifetime. With 50 million sales and counting, this is the one album to own in your collection.

Essential.

9/10