Thursday, May 15, 2014

43 Dark Side of the Moon (1973) Pink Floyd

  1. Speak to Me
  2. Breathe
  3. On the Run
  4. Time
  5. The Great Gig in the Sky
  6. Money
  7. Us and Them
  8. Any Colour You Like
  9. Brain Damage
  10. Eclipse  

What is this nonsense? Why is Dark Side of the Moon languishing down here in the low forties? Who is responsible for this foolishness? I've got not doubt there are some fantastic albums coming up in the next forty releases but seriously how many of them are better than the greatest concept album ever released?

Regular readers will know that I'm not a fan of concept albums. I regard most of them as just a way of concealing a sub-standard set of songs with a lot of added pretentiousness designed to disguise a paucity of ideas. "We've only really got four actual songs and two of them aren't that good" "No problem, just throw in lots of sound effects and we'll call it a concept album, sorted"

Dark side of the Moon is capable of surviving its own concept partly because the songs themselves are so damn strong. Breath, Time, Money and Great Gig in the sky are good enough songs to rise above any laborious and over-encumbered concept the band tries to lather onto an album. No matter what sound effects, over production and artifices are applied to Money it will still be a brilliant slice of well written rock and roll with a sensational bassline.

There's a real strength to the songs on Dark Side and when you strip away the layers at the core it's just a rock band playing them extremely well. When Pink Floyd toured on the strength of the album they didn't just play selected songs they played the whole thing in its entirety. These shows, which were heavily bootlegged and readily available, prove that the songs survive in their most basic form. The embellishments don't make the track and when four guys try to replicate them without studio trickery behind them it still holds up.

Dark Side's strength is definitely its songs but the concept itself actually improves the writing and playing. There's a bit of argument about who we have to thank with both guitarist Dave Gilmour and Bass player Roger Waters trying to claim the lions share of the credit for crafting Dark Side into a concept more than just an album. Waters is often seen as having the dark vision behind the release, and certainly his solo work is more in keeping with the Dark Side tradition than Gilmour's, but you could put forward a reasonable argument that says they were both visionaries, supported by the other two, and it couldn't have occurred without either of them. One thing's for sure, Dark Side manages to be more than just a few great songs supported by some nifty effects. There is a real atmosphere to the album and a sequencing that feels cinematic in its scope. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon and giving it your full attention feels like watching a movie and being fully immersed in the experience.

The dialogue segments, which are scattered throughout, are a unique part of the appeal and I can't imagine the album without them. Apparently colleagues of the band were sat in a studio and shown questions on flashcards which they then answered. Their responses provided the raw material from which the band was able to gather a series of commentaries on madness which they wanted to emphasise aspects of their work (Paul and Linda McCartney were apparently interviewed as well but tried too hard to be hilarious and their contributions were subsequently dropped).

Unlike a lot of concept albums, Dark Side of the Moon actually has something to say about its concept. I've read justifications of other similar projects which claim the album is about something when in fact the theory that holds it together sounds more like an excuse than an actual theme. Dark Side of the Moon is about madness and lunacy. It was written by a band who genuinely lost a member to madness and watched as their former friend and leader lost his grip on sanity. They knew about madness because they'd seen it first hand, so when they came to craft an audio experience in which the listener experienced something of what it was like to lose your mind they had some genuine insight.

The end result is just captivating. It's a compelling listen and you can see why it stayed in the billboard top 100 album list for ten years. People were literally wearing out their vinyl copies and replacing them as soon as they could. Its incredible sales figures are also testament to the fact that people want to appreciate it in the best quality possible. People who bought it on vinyl wanted a copy on CD as soon as they could and were happy to upgrade when it was remastered. It's not an album that you want to have in the second best format around.

I love Dark Side. I've loved it since I first heard it and will always love it. I further predict that fifty years from now when a few of the albums above it on this list are reduced to mere curiosities, Dark Side will still be winning over new fans. If you haven't heard it before, or haven't listened for a while, then turn out the lights, make yourself comfy and put it on at a decent volume. It's worth it.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Wow....I am a fan of Wizard of Oz and he CLEARLY copied this as "his" soundtrack to the film...You can believe what you want but I really dis-like this cd!"

-I've heard people claim Dark Side is an alternative soundtrack to The Wizard of OZ before but I've never heard that put forward as a reason not to like it.

So is this worth your money and time or not? Let me know below.

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