The Dark Side Of The Moon Redux (Cooking Vinyl)
HEY MR WATERS, sir, I think people might have some questions about what could be called a reimagining of The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973’s career re-aligning, mega-selling, era-defining album by the band – and that word is worth noting here, band – in which you played a prominent role.
For those who fell asleep at the back somewhere around 1971, or whose name is John Winston Howard, the band was Pink Floyd, consisting then of drummer Nick Mason, bassist/vocalist Roger Waters, guitarist/principal vocalist David Gilmour, and keyboardist/vocalist Richard Wright. Perhaps not coincidentally, none of them talk to Waters anymore: Wright having died, though the chill preceded his death; Mason, who recently toured Australia playing early (that is, pre-Dark Side) Floyd material, and Gilmour, well out of favour for having continued recording and performing – how very dare they – as Pink Floyd after Waters’ departure.
For those curious anew, The Dark Side Of The Moon Redux finds those songs presented sometimes as virtually spoken word pieces, sometimes sung in lugubrious-to-wizened tones, with new arrangements and some new text and introductions, with Waters and some friends. None of whom were in Pink Floyd; most of whom are left in the shadow of Waters in these arrangements.
So, yeah, Mr Waters, in your absence, it may fall on me to provide the answers to questions such as: Why? How? Why now? Why you? Why would we?
Why him? Well, as the principal lyricist and co-composer of most of these songs, and as the man who saw himself as the band’s leader – if not in the immediate aftermath of the 1968 departure of original songwriter/singer, Syd Barrett, then certainly by the end of the 1970s when Water’s childhood crie-de-coeur, The Wall, and then his final album with the band, 1983’s even more bleak The Final Cut, reflected his obsessions, his drive and his domination – we can presume Waters would respond with, who else but him? L’Etat c’est moi/I am Pink Floyd.
Why now? The album begins with some answer to this, a suggestion that whereas the original Dark Side was a youngish man contemplating the world and its manifold failings – in greed, wastefulness of time, absence of philosophy, and madness – now, in his 80s, Waters brings a full lifetime’s perspective to those original observations and to those original songs. The world is darker, uglier, but more closely examined; the thrusting arrogance of anxious youth hasn’t disappeared but is “tempered” by the comfortable arrogance of resigned experience.
“The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime,” he intones in the lead-in to the opening track, Speak To Me. “You shuffle in the gloom of the sick room and talk to yourself as you die/For life is a short warm moment and death is a long, cold rest.”
How? A brief and only partially unfair summary might be: removing in particular the elements which had reflected the significant contributions of Gilmour and Wright, vocally and instrumentally, and wherever he could, adding more words. A lot more words. And strings. Remaking the record in his image.
A more charitable description might be to say, just as the observations and vocalising tend towards the inward, the sound constricts and contains: more in reminiscence and regret than revelation. Remaking the record in a new image.
The synthesiser runs in On The Run feel tighter and spiralling down rather than projecting out, leaving the new words to look around, while the disconcerting blend of care and confusion in the original Brain Damage is replaced by low soul hum and elegant ‘70s-style strings; Great Gig In The Sky begins with the reading of an exchange of emails about the poet Donald Hall, and eschews the climactic wordless soaring of Clare Torry for an almost wry descent; Us And Them remains languid, sometimes even pretty, but no longer feels warm and fluid; the penetrating guitar of Money has disappeared, in its place low cello and even lower delivery of more words, while Time is a reflective, almost country ballad, not quite mournful but certainly existing somewhere much nearer acceptance than it did 50 years ago.
So, would we want this?
If you’re new to Dark Side – and there must be people for whom that is the case (hi John, I know you once said you liked Dylan except for the words, so maybe you’re ready for this one now. No, you don’t need to smoke dope to get it, though it wouldn’t hurt.) – playing it as the musings of the village sage, tastefully presented in subdued musical tones and lightly exploratory moves, could prove satisfying and new without particularly thrilling.
If you have grown up with the original record, there is undeniably a number of interesting aspects to a record that, like Bob Dylan’s Rough And Rowdy Ways, casts on personal and social history an eye that is broadly experienced, capable of amusement as part of perspective, and more at ease modifying bitterness than it once may have been. We are not the same people we were when we first heard it, after all.
But even so it is not unreasonable to ask was it necessary to do it this way? Rather than Redux, could Waters not have written some postscript record of new songs that took up the original ideas and examined them from a different angle, a Part II that didn’t claim the mantle of the original while casting aside quite a bit of what made it the album it was?