Pink Floyd: The Endless River (Parlophone Records)
Never a band to rush things legendary prog veterans Pink Floyd finally release a new album, 20 years after their last album Division Bell. Now I say this is a new album when what I should say is that The Endless River is the most recent album as much of it is not entirely new, much of the music was recorded during the Division Bell sessions and latterly David Gilmour has built up the majority of this album from keyboard passages that the late Richard Wright created for their 1994 album. Wright has writer credits for most of the album with Gilmour and Mason taking up the other parts.
Things start off in the age old fashion of an atmospheric introductory piece to set the mood Things Left Unsaid is possibly one of the most emotive pieces on the record with Gilmour's guitar building and simmering before Wright's organs kick in on It's What We Do which shows this similar in style to Shine On... and the opening salvo from Division Bell; Cluster One. It's here we finally get the guitar flourishes Gilmour is known for as Wright's keys become the backing they have always been, he truly was the master of atmosphere, the concrete that the rest of the band can build on, Mason's drums too are jazzy and lucid keeping the beat as again we are transported into Ebb And Flow on which Gilmour matches Wright's piano with an E-Bow. This brings to an end the first part of this four part record, each 'side' is linked but distinctly different.
Side 2 starts with Sum which builds on a repetitive synth riff with Mason bringing a more tribal style of drumming, all toms, and once again the guitars touch the sky, Skins continues the theme with more toms and even a gong with Youth adding effects to the track, Unsung is a bridge between things transitioning into Anisia is a piano Gilmour-only track based track mainly which has some soulful sax added for good measure and indeed posterity (what is Floyd without the addition of Sax). The album is mostly instrumental with the occasional choral chant adding to the songs but for the most part their are no words, it is Floyd at it's purest taking you on a journey through the bands varying style and also indeed their emotions for their lost friend.
Side 3 is the shortest made up of a few just over a minute track and one longer one. It starts with the plaintive The Lost Art Of Conversation starting things off with a solitary piano, before the jazz of On Noodle Street does exactly that, noodle, before Night Light shines (sorry) on Cluster One with it's atmospheric E-Bow, the oldies will be pleased with Allons-Y (1) and Allons-Y (2) as they have the staccato guitar of Run Like Hell, they bookend the the dreamy Autumn '68 which features Wright on the Royal Albert Hall's organ, the final part to this side features the first 'vocal' with Professor Stephen Hawking once again contributing on Talkin' Hawkin' which is a sequel too and outtakes from Keep Talking on Division Bell.
Side 4 is the finale of all that has come before the haunting sadness of Calling does it's best to break your heart as it manoeuvres into the acoustically led Eyes To Pearls, which has throbbing bass behind it as well as effects to layer it, again we get the stunning guitar work of Gilmour on Surfacing as the emotion ramps up for this final part, the 'oohs' in the background are the fore runner for the final track Louder Than Words which repeats the outright emotion of the first track while adding a string section and finally vocals from Gilmour who hasn't changed vocally at all, the song is a romantic paean to days gone by and also to Wright who is indeed the soul of Floyd and is the final notes you hear as the track fades.
So is the record a masterpiece or is it just a hodge-podge of Floydisms that much of the media and indeed the recording notes suggest? Well in truth no it isn't either of these things Pink Floyd don't need another masterpiece and there are many will just see this as a over indulgent piece of work that draws to heavily from the bands history without really trying to improve anything, but these people miss the point, what this record actually is, is a glowing tribute to a fallen friend and the last compositions in an incredible career of of one of the most influential bands in music history. The story for Floyd is over (if you believe the members) and I for one think that there really isn't another way to end their career than with a record like The Endless River as the band have tied up all the loose ends and finally put the beast to sleep, not with a bang but by lulling it into a blissful retirement. 8/10