|Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 26 August 2003|
Giving a truly unbiased review of Pink Floyd’s classic album Dark Side of the Moon at this point in history is nearly impossible. To me, this is one of the top five albums of all time and quite possibly the best album ever to be made in the ‘70s. The Classic Album Series is a series of documentaries on DVD that delves deep into the details of records that we’ve all probably owned at one time or another. Spending 741 consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Top 200 list, this record by far has spent more time on the charts by far than any other record released and is considered by many audio enthusiasts to be one of the most important albums in history, but do you really know how the album was created?
The DVD starts off with Roger Waters explaining his view of what the record means to him politically and socially, and how the Floyd got to where they were in 1972. After Syd Barrett left the band in the 1968, the Floyd was left without its leader, its main songwriter, and the creative force behind such psychedelic classics as “See Emily Play,” “Bike” and “Arnold Layne.” For the next three years, Pink Floyd spun tales and created soundscapes the likes of which rock and roll had not seen nor heard previously. This was due to the fact that they, admittedly, were not good at writing hit singles. Waters talks about this shortcoming in the band during some concert footage of the Floyd in 1968 playing “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Their strengths were more musical in nature.
Watching this DVD makes one thing abundantly clear; I’m struck with how simple they make it all seem. Interviews with Alan Parsons and Chris Thomas show how the technical end was handled, along with interviews from Roger Waters and David Gilmour in studio that bring to life how the sound effects were created. This was all done well before the digital revolution so all the sounds that were recorded had to be “handmade,” a very hands-on approach to recording and mixing so to speak. As they describe how “On the Run” was created in the studio, the infamous synthesizer, Synth VA, makes an appearance, with Gilmour showing us how the riff was created. The DVD also has a recording from the previous tour’s live show in which the band played “The Travel Section,” the precursor to “On the Run.”
“Time” is next up, and in my opinion this song has the single best guitar solo of all time, with Gilmour reprising his role as the melodic master that he is known to be. Alan Parsons explains how he did the recording for the clock segment, while keyboardist Rick Wright talks about all the hand signals that needed to be used for the making of this album.
Throughout the DVD, we are treated to Gilmour, Wright and Waters all playing segments of the album by themselves acoustically which are very nicely recorded, and give a little different take from what we’ve all heard previously. We also get to hear some home demo recordings from Gilmour doing “Money” and “Time,” with Waters sounding a whole lot like solo Syd in his demos.
Two gems on the album are Wright‘s compositions “Great Gig in the Sky“ and “Us and Them.” “Us and Them” gets a really nice treatment with Wright, Gilmour and Waters describing how this song was originally titled “The Violence Sequence” for the movie “Zabriskie Point” with Wright explaining how he came up with the original chord sequence. The echoed voices are removed in the DVD to emphasize the truly beautiful nature of the melody. “Great Gig in the Sky” is also very well done, with the band talking about Clare Torry’s incredible vocal performance and how it was coaxed out of her, along with Wright and Gilmour reprising their musical performances.
For any album to be taken to that next superstar level, it needs a hit single, and for Dark Side that song was “Money.” Waters goes over the genesis of the song and riff, as well as the idea for the coins at the beginning of the song, with Gilmour explaining how all the guitar parts work together. “Money” is one of those songs that I’m starting to believe is one you either love or hate. I personally love the song for its complex time signature and gut level rock and roll appeal, or as Gilmour put it, “It’s a great riff.”
Some of the DVD extras include Waters playing an acoustic “Brain Damage” all the way through, a nice long segment of Wright playing “Us and Them,” and three different tracks from Gilmour: “Breathe,” “Great Gig in the Sky” and “Us and Them,” this last one being particularly cool. The only thing that I think is missing from the DVD is that drummer Nick Mason plays nothing at all; his part in this DVD is purely conversational. But that’s a small criticism.
For fans of Pink Floyd, I highly recommend this DVD as a necessary part of one’s collection. With some behind-the-scene footage of the recording sessions, live concert footage of “Set the Controls…” and “The Travel Section,” the animated concert clock footage of “Time,” early rehearsals and insight from the band members and recording crew themselves, this is a documentary of a truly special and legendary time in rock history.
The DVD is presented with a standard two-channel stereo mix in a 16x9 screen format. Some of the mixes are taken from James Guthrie’s SACD remix, as well as the aforementioned performances included. The DVD runs approximately 45 minutes, with the bonus footage running approximately another 40 minutes.
My only nagging thought left after watching the DVD is that I sure wish that Waters and Gilmour would get past what’s gotten between them. The music that the Floyd created together is truly special and timeless.