Review Summary: Shine on.
When I first heard Wish You Were Here, I didn’t know who it was by. However, from the very first breath of Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I-IV-the soft hum of the organ with the gentle cry of the guitar- you know this is a Pink Floyd album.
Indeed, SOYCD PARTS I-IV (take every second letter and it spells SYD-clever, hey?) is music as an out of body experience. As it slowly builds with that beautiful, mystical sound that reminds you of light bleeding through mist, you hardly notice the mammoth running time. The sound alters every two or three minutes, representing Syd Barrett’s different emotions.
When the nostalgic, warm lyrics come in (“Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun”) at the eight minute mark, we love every word of it. There is such unforgettable poetry packed into the lines that the final two parts are largely irrelevant. They contain a gracefully creaky saxophone and a happier sounding closer as the music fades into the cold, concrete sound of WELCOME TO THE MACHINE.
Pink Floyd were always apprehensive about following up Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973’s monster of a masterpiece. And Wish You Were Here is quite different, yet unmistakably a Pink Floyd album. WELCOME TO THE MACHINE shows the contrast: whereas the echo to Roger Water’s soft velvet, echoed vocals on DSOTM gave the words a powerful resonance, WELCOME TO THE MACHINE is the exact opposite: Waters sounds strained and trapped, yet he doesn’t sound powerful. The album is half dedicated to Barrett, and half an attack on the music industry. WELCOME TO THE MACHINE is sung from the perspective of the faceless people who manipulate young musicians with dreams of grandeur. At 7:23 and containing long solos of mechanical sounds and synthesizers, it pushes the limits of patience. WELCOME TO THE MACHINE is again a creepy experience, but the most modest song off the album.
HAVE A CIGAR is brilliantly satirical. A dig at the lying, greedy managers in the music industry (a similar theme to MONEY) with every cliché the band has ever heard (You’re gonna go far/ You’re gonna fly high/I’ve always had the deepest respect/The band is just fantastic/Did we tell you the name of the game, boy? We call it riding the gravy train/You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people). Memorable for the hilarious line “Oh by the way...which one’s Pink?”, which was actually once said to them by an interviewer. HAVE A CIGAR is sung by Roy Harper, who had previously worked with Led Zeppelin, as Water’s voice was shot by this point.
WISH YOU WERE HERE. The title track and the best off the album, maybe Pink Floyd’s best of all time. The duet acoustic steel string opening is truly great, and every single line is irresistible. Demonstrating life as a war zone, WISH YOU WERE HERE is absolutely stunning in its music, and the wonderful final verse “How I wish, how I wish you were here/We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year/Running over the same old ground, but have we found the same old fears? Wish you were here....”
SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND PARTS V-IX, while not as wonderful as I-IV, deals with the darker emotions of Barrett’s hallucinogenic insanity. The saucy funk of Part V is about his possessive lust, the wailing guitar of Part VI is about his demonic, scary frenzies, and the lyrics on Part VII are not as positive. There is a definite feel that Barrett has slipped into the abyss of his fractured mind by this point. Parts VIII and IX are a return to Parts I-III, and the album closes with the spacey, timeless sound that Pink Floyd made their own.
Considering that it was after Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here is a commendable effort. Not as good as The Wall, but definitely an excellent album with more hope than any of their other renowned classics. A definitely should have for any fan of rock.