Even though New Zealand is one of the first places in the world to see the sun, it took some time before I actually had a copy in my hand and by that stage I had a pretty dismal expectation of what it was going to sound like. Reviews were coming out thick and fast and most of them pretty scathing. Reports such as “It’s not a proper Pink Floyd album with soul-less music building up for a climax that never occurs. And the world’s most lavish collection of outtakes only fit for an elevator”, prepared me for a huge disappointment.
Perhaps what gave a benefit of doubt was that I knew it was going to be an ambient album. So I wasn’t expecting punchy bass lines from the moon and I wasn’t expecting angry lyrics coming from behind the wall.
Ambient music is for helping you go into a meditative type trance. It’s the type of music that is good to play in The Acupuncture Clinic to help patients relax and drift off into the ethers after all those endorphins have started circulating around from the needles.
I remember when Brian Eno’s Music for Airports was first released, I was also somewhat shocked. It wasn’t anything like Hear Come the Warm Jets. Many of the comments at the time were also similar to those coming out now about Endless river. And all I can say is that about 35 years later, Airports is still selling well and I am certain Endless River will follow suite.
Gilmore and Mason state that this album is a dedication to Richard Wright and in fact a lot of the compositions on Endless River are co-written by him. Richard Wright seemed a bit like a George Harrison to me, there in the background just quietly contributing and making the music of the others shine on, for example as heard on his haunting keyboard in Sheep from Animals.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is a quote apparently from Aristotle and has been referred to many times such as in Napoleon Hill’s mastermind theory. Even with the ego of Roger Waters pushing the band along and David Gilmore’s extraordinary guitar ambience, Pink Floyd as an entity still needed Richard Wright to put it all successfully together. Don’t believe me? Then have a listen to The Final Cut, the only Pink Floyd album without Wright. And also ask yourself the question, why after Roger’s dismissed Wright from The Wall did he then invite him back to be part of the live tour to promote the album. Mason and Gilmore even had a momentary lapse of reason to start an album without Wright but somehow he was just drawn back in.
So now we have the show case ambient meditation album with Wright all through it just guiding us with his keyboards and setting the sonic path to nowhere. To that space of emptiness that the Eastern philosophical schools always aim for, to empty the mind. This is not an album for those wanting to revisit the 1970’s to tap their feet and get emotionally wound up with jeering lyrics. To truly appreciate this album, you need to sit cross legged on the floor in darkness and have it there quietly in the background.
Dark Side of the Moon needed mind altering substances to make it sound better. Endless River is a mind altering substance.
If Pink Floyd would have released this album 20 years ago, people would not have been ready for it. Their old fans have now matured and their newer younger fans are more aware of meditation and ambient music.
But why the last song with singing. I think it is symbolic that someone else outside of Pink Floyd wrote the closing words. It was just to remind us that Pink Floyd was after all, always just about the music.
And as you come out of your endless river meditation is the reminder of some of life’s issues such as anger and bitching and that they will still always be there. One of these days I suggest you try meditate to Endless River.
My copy of Pink Floyd –The Endless River, was supplied to me by Colin Morris Music in Wellington.