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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wish You Were Here (Columbia, 1975)
PINK FLOYD

Dear Wish:

With so much Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall being written on “greatest Rock and Roll records ever made” lists and being considered the best material Pink Floyd ever recorded, it is kind of rare to find an honest review about you: A cosmic, adorable, passionate collection of tunes about the fall of a poet, the late Syd Barrett, founder of the group. After all you are just a postcard of bittersweet memories and hopes for the future, and they called you Wish You Were Here.

Piano player Rick Wright, who also left us, called you his "favorite Pink Floyd album". He was on top form playing your haunting calls and he mentioned he felt unusually comfortable with you. As you have it in your grooves, tension was high between him and the rest of the band; Guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and Bass player and lyricist Roger Waters. You could cut the stress with a knife but nevertheless, they managed to produce you in 7 months: A rock masterpiece about alienation of an individual and how sometimes the music industry treats musicians like disposable plastic.

You were born as a beautiful and coherent set of five tunes so well intertwined it's impossible to separate them now with “tracks” on a Compact Disc, or even when FM radio plays your title track by itself. you want to listen to some more, to continue the path these guys are taking

For once, Pink Floyd understood the earthiness of the listener and connected with them on an emotional level. Sadly, they wouldn't be able to do it again since a Wall started to being built between Roger Waters and the rest of the band and between the band and the audience who was also changing and growing apart. You sang about the wall Syd Barrett was behind and how his friends missed him. With "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" you put us in the studio while the four members were looking at a completely bald –including eyebrows shaved-, spaced out Syd holding a burning cigarette and looking at the soundproof glass, or at the infinite. With your plea for recovery, return to the arts, and even male bonding, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" held you together from beginning to end.

You brought us two surprises in a minor key about how show business de-personalizes the individual: "Welcome To The Machine" is dedicated to Syd by the band: "where have you been, it's all right, we know where you've been, we told you what to dream..." "Have A Cigar" is sung by a record company executive (Pink Floyd even invited Roy Harper to sing the lead vocals so the differentiation would be complete) who doesn't have a clue about the band member's personal lives: "The Band Is Just Fantastic, that's really what I think... oh, by the way, Which One's Pink?" Lyricist Waters was angry at the music industry of the seventies -he didn't know what was coming up, obviously-, but at least he had three friends to support and back him up. You know he later turned his frustration and anger to them during the making of Animals and The Wall.

When your title song arrives it goes softly on us, like a country song. Your line "We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year" is not just about Syd and the others but about us listeners and the rest of the World. It’s about how circumstances and our own alienation turn friends into acquaintances and later into plaintiffs and defendants. The nostalgia you cast then becomes tense calm when "Shine On" is reprised with a pounding bass and synthesizers being more haunting than the beginning. Gilmour then plays the solo of his life, a defining moment on his career. Then you make the last call to Barrett's senses, and with the help of Rick you finish the postcard with an instrumental paraphrase of Syd’s poem "See Emily Play;" the complete, round tribute to a long, lost friend.

I miss Rick and Syd and I feel you’re there to give me some consolation and hope for the future. Thank you, Wish. If someone asks me what rock album everyone should have in their collection, you are the one. Darky and The Wall can wait.