Friday, August 2, 2013

87. The Wall (1979) Pink Floyd

1-1 In The Flesh? 3:16
1-2 The Thin Ice 2:27
1-3 Another Brick In The Wall Part 1 3:21
1-4 The Happiest Days Of Our Lives 1:46
1-5 Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 3:59
1-6 Mother 5:32
1-7 Goodbye Blue Sky 2:45
1-8 Empty Spaces 2:10
1-9 Young Lust 3:25
1-10 One Of My Turns 3:41
1-11 Don't Leave Me Now 4:08
1-12 Another Brick In The Wall Part 3 1:40
1-13 Goodbye Cruel World 0:48
2-1 Hey You 4:40
2-2 Is There Anybody Out There? 2:44
2-3 Nobody Home 3:26
2-4 Vera 1:35
2-5 Bring The Boys Back Home 1:21
2-6 Comfortably Numb 6:23
2-7 The Show Must Go On 1:36
2-8 In The Flesh 4:15
2-9 Run Like Hell 4:20
2-10 Waiting For The Worms 4:04
2-11 Stop 0:39
2-12 The Trial 5:13
2-13 Outside The Wall 1:41

As regular readers may know, I don't like rock operas or concept albums. As far as I'm concerned the only concept any album needs is: "Here's some songs we wrote" and opera should remain the preserve of women in viking hats and Italians in tuxedos. Rock opera concept albums are the work of the devil.

Of course there is an exception to every rule and The Wall is it. If you're only going to own one double concept album telling a wanky narrative in your life then this should definitely be the one. The Wall is just brilliant and overcomes the hurdles the band seemed determine to throw at it throughout the recording process to emerge as an album that rightly deserves its place on this countdown.

What sets The Wall apart from most concept albums is the weight of great songs to filler ratio is firmly tipped towards great songs. Most other double albums have a few tracks that make for good listening padded together with dialogue, sound effects, pretentious nonsense and half-formed musical concepts. The Wall has hit after hit and clearly shows that while Pink Floyd might have been a band with grand ideas they were a great rock and roll band first and foremost.

No other concept album that I'm aware of can boast a run of songs like Another Brick in the Wall Part Two, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces and Young Lust all of which are great numbers in their own right. Hey You! Young Lust, In the Flesh and Run Like Hell are all magnificent tracks but dwarfed by Comfortably Numb which is flat out brilliant. It's hard to put your finger on exactly why Comfortably Numb is so good. It's possibly the production and performance but a lot of its charm lies in the fact that it's deceptively simple. While they're noted for their huge performances and massive scale, Pink Floyd could also write a beautiful ballad which sounds great when rendered by a solo singer and an acoustic guitar. There are millions of people kicking around the planet who could give you a good rendition of Numb with a moment's notice and almost all of them would earn a well deserved round of applause at the end.

Almost every double album on this countdown (and outside it for that matter) would be better if it was culled into a tight single disc. Trim the fat off a lot of bloated doubles and there's a great single underneath waiting to come out. The Wall is one of the few exceptions with so many high points it would be impossible to reduce its length without losing something priceless. That's not to say it doesn't have its flat spots. Young Lust gives away to a sequence of forgettable numbers (One of my turns, Don't leave me now, Another Brick part 3 and Goodbye Cruel World) but even that's only 10 minute in length and still doesn't have me reaching for the skip button.

Unlike many other double concepts, The Wall has actually been enhanced by attempts to grow it's reputation rather than diminished. The movie version of Tommy by The Who only served to point out just how daft the entire concept was. But The Wall's cinematic incarnation is actually a fantastic piece of film making and does a lot to enhance the album and its underlying story arc. Part of the reason the freak out moments in One of My Turns is enjoyable despite being a second rate song is the arresting mental image of Bob Geldof losing it on the big screen. The stage show that preceded the movie (and the revivals staged by Waters since) have also enhanced its reputation and the numerous recorded live versions available make you appreciate the songs all the more. (Although the full immersion box contains more wall than China and is only for die hards with a lot of spare cash)

Pink Floyd were a great rock and roll band. They could write great songs, Gilmour's guitar is just magical and Waters voice is wonderful at times even though it's grating at others. The Wall is dripping with great songs and fantastic moments. Listening to it for this review reminded me that even though I love live shows and self made compilations, there are some albums which just have to be enjoyed in their entirety the way their makers intended.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Recently at my university we had a poll to see what students thought were the five most overrated bands in the history of rock and roll. These are the results.(1) Led Zeppelin (2)Pink Floyd (3)U2 (4) the Doors (5)Nirvana"

-I always love it when people post surveys as definitive reviews. "Me and four of my friends think this"

So does the wall hold you in its thrall or is it something you can easily get over? Let me know below.

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