Review Summary: An album that truly speaks to us all and shines a light where it is needed most.
What can be said that hasn't already been said about the Floyd's masterpiece? Spanning an entire 43 minutes (around the same time as its predecessor Dark Side of the Moon), Wish You Were Here is the pinnacle of not only progressive music but also modern day music, as we know it.
1975, the year of Progressive Rock. Pink Floyd were of course the leaders in the field and this was the zenith of the genre. It seemed only fitting that they would add to the plethora of beautifully constructed albums that had already been released that year. The album itself is the pinnacle of success in every way. From the packaging, to the brilliantly simple lyrics, to the atmosphere created by Wright's keyboards, all the way up to the smallest details that only a true Pink Floyd fan will know. These details come in the form of See Emily Play being played on keyboard by Rick in the last 30 seconds of the album, another homage to Barret. The album itself is filled with homages to the lost band member ranging from its title to the epic seven part, 25 minute piece for him.
What really puts this album over the top in 1975 is it encompassed everything that Pink Floyd stood for, and kicked it up a notch. Everything they learned from Dark Side was implemented here to an even greater extent. The album begins with the atmospheric effects of Rick Wright's synths, allowing the listener to examine a field with fog rising up. David Gilmour's four note, echoey riff is stuck in our heads forever, like a bird singing or a doorbell. Those four notes are etched in the mind of every Floyd fan. Shine On keeps pressing forward as Roger goes on to have one of, if not, his best vocal performance ever. The simplicity of the lyrics are overshadowed by the directness and softness of Roger Waters' voice, almost as if he is telling us a story of long ago. The harmonies between the three are terrific while Nick Mason keeps steady time on drums as he has always done.
Welcome to the Machine continues the run with the trademark Pink Floyd sound affects. Gilmour's voice comes out sounding like a computer compared to Roger's dreamy reverb in the track before. Yet it again creates a mood, something the Floyd are renowned for doing. Have a Cigar, the only Floyd song in the catalogue where the lead does not go to a member, but to friend Roy Harper. Though Roger always insisted he wanted to sing the song, Roy does a fantastic job of being the middleman between the two titans. His voice adds a comedic aspect to the Floyd, which has really never been seen before, another terrific riff. Wish You Were Here starts with the sound effects again. A radio dial being turned until it stops at David Gilmour's acoustic guitar. The chords are utterly simple. Em to G, Em to G. Anyone can learn them, and that is what makes the song so universal, so lasting, along with Roger's lyrics of loss and emptiness, believing that one day, Syd will return. He did.
The album comes full circle by continuing the Shine On You Crazy Diamond saga. The song is much jumpier, with much more life in it as most of it is coming from Gilmour’s guitar work and Roger’s bass. When Roger’s voice comes in again, we come back to the beginning, the same problem. After all these songs, it’s still not resolved. It seems as though the lyrics suggest that we have given up, we have joined Syd. With this, a bit of jamming happens with Gilmour and Wright, Mason really shows off his steady timing and beat in this instance. Finally, Rick ends it off with a requiem/funeral march. A send off into the darkness for proverbial son, and we end with an homage to Barrett himself. A chilling rendition of See Emily Play in the last few seconds that remind us, that he is always here, if not body, then spirit. If not mind, then body.
The album truly shines, especially when exposed in the light.