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Thursday 13 August 2015

Reviews: Roger Waters

Roger Waters: Amused To Death 2015 (Colombia)

After leaving Pink Floyd Roger Waters set about on a solo career, he focused on the concept album format that he was the architect of in Pink Floyd. Waters was the main contributing factor to Dark Side Of The MoonThe Wall and continued on The Final Cut, which many still believe is a Waters solo album. Now Waters' solo career came to a head with Amused To Death in 1987 (which expains the outdated use of currency on the later tracks). This album was considered to be Waters best solo album (mainly by Waters himself) but was criminally overlooked, much of this was due to the albums depressing theme of technology's increasing contribution to a disconnected society and it's very specialist production, giving a 3D sound (essentially 2.1) meaning that many didn't get the full effect desired from this intensely musical album that features many sound effects driving the concept of disillusionment and apathy. Remember this album was released in a time of unrest in the Middle East, the country emerging from a recession and new technology meaning that meaning that people were more informed about world events and as a consequence of that they were more disconnected from it. If this sounds familar then this will go some way to explain why Waters has now re-released the album in 2015. This version has a full stereo remaster and remix along with a 5.1 Blu-Ray mix of the album all mastered by James Guthrie the original producer of the album.

Musically the album is as good as it's always been with Waters' vocal still uniquely impressive moving between a hushed calming whisper to a vitriolic screech within a bar, he has Jeff Beck supplying the Gilmour style guitars on the instrumental intro The Ballad Of Bill Hubbard and the Floydian What God Wants Part 1 which deals with a all of the evil in the world done in the name of one maker. The rest of the six strings are added by Geoff Whitehorn, Tim Pierce B.J Cole, Toto's Steve Lukather and long term guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, drums are from Grahma Broad and the keys are all supplied by long time Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard who is the driving force on Perfect Sense Part 1 which has a plaitative piano, cinematic synths, lyrics inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and P.P Arnold soulful vocals, this leads into Perfect Sense Part 2 which has Waters wailing on a track that wouldn't sound out of place on The Wall with it's diatribe of the money obsessed world (backed by a submarine battle commentated on by the voice of MLB Marv Albert). In fact the entire album continues with the themes Waters first touched on with The Wall and The Final Cut, The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range has huge hammonds and is the rockiest track on the album with the aforementioned organs and some searing guitar from Tim Pierce. The album takes a break with Late Home Tonight Part 1 and 2 which is a more acoustic in nature with some orchestral flourishes at the back as it swings away like a 50's doo-wop track albeit with an upsetting lyrical tone.

The sound of this album is improved, nearly everything now is audible at lower volume than the previous release, if I was to give one piece of advice though it would be to listen to the album on headphones to get the full effect especially on Too Much Rope which features lots of numerous light and shade and has an fantastic dynamic range and the albums primary lesson which is "Give any one species too much rope and they'll fuck it up" reinforcing that this album is not all smiles and sunshine, we are brought back to the beginning with What God Wants Parts 2 and 3 which is the intro to the final part of the album that starts with Watching T.V which is a more country flavoured duet with The Eagles Don Henley about those that lost their lives at Tienanmen Square and the history behind it, moves through the jazz infected Three Wishes which yet again features Beck's sublime guitar playing, before the cathartic, chanting It's A Miracle brings the political and indeed biblical rallying to a head for the finale of the title track which exclaims that this species has indeed amused itself to death. Then as now Amused To Death is a damming indictment of the modern society fuelled by Roger Water's carefully observed paranoia about how the human race are becoming slaves to the machine and thus losing our humanity in the process. This album is a slog, depressing, thought provoking and very near the knuckle in places, not one to listen to when you're feeling down or need a bit of light relief but it is an intensely musical and ultimately rewarding listening experience with a new crystal clear audio. 9/10   

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