(Originally posted on Blogcritics.org)
CD Review: Pink Floyd Tribute, Back Against the Wall.
(The Purple Pyramid, a division of Cleopatra Records, 2005)
What do Ian Anderson, Ronnie Montrose, Tommy Shaw, Billy Sherwood and Malcolm McDowell have in common? They and others well known artists performed on the September, 2005 release of Back Against The Wall, the tribute CD that celebrates the mystery and wonderful weirdness of Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album, The Wall.
The main producer behind this effort is Billy Sherwood of “Yes” fame. In an interview with Jeb Wright of Classic Rock Revisited, he said, “I knew The Wall like the back of my hand because it was basically the soundtrack to my childhood…The idea was to stick to the script because it is such a great piece of work in terms of it’s writing and content. The challenge was to figure out how we could stick close enough to the script that we don’t change what we all know and love about The Wall but at the same time let the personalities of those we bring in shine.” He’s also been at the helm of other tributes. The Songs of Pink Floyd was released in 2002, and he was also involved on Dragon Attack, a Queen tribute, A Salute to AC/DC, and Crossfire to honor Stevie Ray Vaughn.
The first time that I heard Back Against the Wall, I was a little taken aback...I noticed it first when I did not hear the trademark ‘sigh’ that marks the end of “Another Brick in the Wall” pt. 2 and the beginning of “Mother”. As I played tracks over, between TW, and BATW, I finally did hear the ‘sigh’, but it was different! I really sensed this disparity with the vocals on “Young Lust”. Something was wrong. It wasn’t exactly like Pink Floyd. I know, I know, “No Shite Sherlock”, is what you’re thinking. I might reply, “Of course it’s not bloody Pink Floyd, it’s someone covering Floyd.” And you’d then say, “Oh for crying out LOUD”. This isn’t just a:snivel:::cover. This is a tribute. And you would then proceed to lightly box me about the ears and knock my head and mutter, “Hellooo, McFly? McFly?” And I would nod my head, nothing left to do but check my expectations at the door and let go.
And this is what I find:
Overall, I think the there is more concentration on the instrumentals on BATW. They also sound cleaner, which is probably due to over 20 years improvement in recording technology. Here are a few observations and comparisons between the original and Back Against the Wall, in no particular order:
I like the original vocals slightly better on “Nobody Home”, but the piano on BATW is - well, it’s nectar. By that I mean beautiful.
“Empty Spaces” has still has that great menacing sound in the opening chords.
“In the Flesh”, still communicates the same bigotry, but the vocal delivery is more gleeful on BATW, which makes it that much more malicious sounding.
Good instrumentals on “Waiting for the Worms” Vinnie Caliauta on drums, and a wonderful organ solo by Keith Emerson.
“Run Like Hell” What can I say. My disappointment is purely a personal gut reaction. It’s technically fine, but this is one of those songs that for me needs to be the original. Actually, the original “Run Like Hell” is one of my favorite songs, period – not just within the realm of Pink Floyd. And it was altered. But this is my own personal burden to bear.
“One of My Turns”, is different, but yet so familiar. The inane prattling of the female groupie in the background, though done by a different actress, is the perfect foil to Pink’s melancholy channeled by Tommy Shaw’s voice.
“Is There Anybody Out There?” – Nice beginning, more of that menacing stuff – but what sets this one apart is Ian Anderson’s flute -- it evokes such sadness.
For those that especially loved the tracks that got the big radio play from The Wall, such as “Comfortably Numb”, and “Another Brick in the Wall”, pts 1, 2 and 3 – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Close enough to the original, but with a few extra goodies, like Steve Howe’s guitar solo on “Another Brick in the Wall”, pt. 1.
I was in college when The Wall was released. Back in 1979, the music was astounding. 25 years later, it is still astounding. The thing about Pink Floyd, and others of the progressive/space rock genre, is that the music was always held up to be some sort of prophetic message. The significance of The Wall took hours of wonderful analysis; between the music, lyrics and of course, Gerald Scarfe’s album cover art. This reworking of the original on Back Against the Wall will send the listener into yet more contemplative study of what Roger Waters really was trying to say.