It’s obvious that Pink Floyd makes a lot of effort to preserve its musical legacy by means of a meticulously thought-out pattern of strictly dosed marketing of superbly packaged collection boxes, deluxe editions and other overview boxes. When the band releases a gigantic collector’s box in November 2016, named “The Early Years 1965-1972”, it can and should come as no surprise that this box will be followed up in the near future. This will be released in December 2019 with the little surprising title “The Later Years 1987-2019”. The considerably less gigantic reference work, this time, ‘only’ consists of five CDs, six blu-rays, five DVDs and two singles, supplemented by two booklets and some loose promotional and other memorabilia.
Despite the fact that this new collector spans over thirty years, only two studio albums and as many live albums by the band will be released during this period. I’m consciously writing two here, because I don’t see “The Endless River” from 2014, mostly consisting of residual material, as a full-fledged album. Despite the fact that the opinions of fans and critics about this incarnation of the band still vary widely, Pink Floyd has had a lot of commercial success during this period, with sold out and record-breaking tours and album sales of over forty million albums worldwide.
In comparison with “The Early Years” the composers have chosen a different approach this time. That becomes immediately clear when we put the first disc of this box in the CD-player. This disc contains an “updated and remixed” version of “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” from 1987.
Partly due to the use of brand new synthesizers and production techniques at the time, this record suffers from a typical way of producing in the eighties. Because of this, the first album since the departure of Roger Waters in 1985 sounds considerably less timeless than other records from the discography. To give the album a somewhat less eighties character, it has now been rigorously crafted under the supervision of David Gilmour and recording engineer Andrew Jackson.
Besides covering up the damned, overproduced eighties sound, many of the original drum parts by Carmine Appice, Steve Forman and Jim Keltner have been replayed by Nick Mason. Finally, Richard Wright’s contribution has also increased. Because he was involved in the role of session musician late in the recording sessions at the time, almost all keyboards were played by David Gilmour with the help of session musicians Jon Carin, Bob Ezrin and Patrick Leonard. These parts have now largely been replaced by Wright’s keyboard playing during the album’s tour.
Purists may call such practices forgery of history and yes: they may be right. However, the result justifies the means in this case. Because “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” has certainly improved. By enlarging the input of Nick Mason and Richard Wright in this refined way, this album sounds more like a Pink Floyd album after all. Having written that, I realize that this is certainly not a world-shattering intervention. If you don’t like the original album, the chances are slim that you will like it now.
The live album “Delicate Sound Of Thunder“, released in 1988, is distributed over the next two CDs. This double-album has been remixed as well, because the original version is once again plagued by an abominable eighties production. The new mix contains some essential changes. The disturbing playing of percussionist Gary Wallis has disappeared into the background. Furthermore, the noise of the audience can be heard more clearly, so that the clinical studio-like sound of the original album has been replaced by a considerably less sterile sounding album. The most important change from the original live album, however, is that for the first time the listener is treated to the complete set list of the five concerts recorded at the Nassau Coliseum, New York.
The Division Bell
On the fourth disc of “The Later Years” the composers take a different approach. Instead of another version of “The Division Bell” from 1994 or an edited version of the live album “Pulse” from 1995, the first part of this CD is for a brief anthology of the live material from 1987 and 1994. These five songs have been released earlier on the (cd)singles of the band. This collection of live tracks from various concerts is supplemented by seven studio recordings, not previously released at the time of the sessions of “The Division Bell” from 1993/94.
The last of the five discs consists of a registration of the band’s performance at the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award Winners Concert on 30 June 1990 in Knebworth Park near the village of the same name in Hertfordshire. Once again mastered and mixed, this is the first time that Pink Floyd’s concert with Candy Dulfer, Michael Kamen and Clare Torry (the original singer on The Great Gig In The Sky) can be heard in its entirety.
In addition to these five audio discs, the box contains six blu-rays and five DVDs. The first of these six blu-rays houses the new mix of “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” and the “20th Anniversary Edition” known 2014 mix of “The Division Bell” in surround (DTS Master Audio 5.1 96/24 and PCM 5.1 96/24) and stereo (PCM Stereo 96/24). The blu-ray also contains the seven previously unreleased studio recordings of the fourth audio disc in DTS Master Audio 5.1 96/24, PCM 5.1 96/24 and PCM Stereo 96/24.
The second blu-ray disc is reserved for a ‘restored and remixed’ version of the music video of “Delicate Sound Of Thunder” from 1989. Originally recorded on 35 millimetre film, this registration was taken care of by Aubrey Powell, one of the founders of Hipgnosis and in that capacity co-responsible for the design of a large part of the album covers of Pink Floyd. The images are beautifully presented in a widescreen ratio of 16:9. Because Powell has re-edited the original music film, watching the concert becomes an almost new experience.
Unfortunately, the latter does not apply to the music video “Pulse”, released in 1995, which is on the third blu-ray. Because the concert was recorded on video and not on film at the time, the footage is unfortunately presented in the traditional television aspect ratio of 4:3, with all its shortcomings. Despite the fact that the footage has improved somewhat compared to the DVD from 2006, the quality of this ‘restored and re-edited’ version still remains a minor disappointment.
Now it gets really interesting, because the fourth disc has been reserved for two concert registrations that were never officially released before. The concert in Venice on 15 July 1989 takes up the first part of this disc. Pink Floyd performs here from a giant pontoon in the middle of the Venetian lagoon, while the more than two hundred thousand attendees take possession of the area between the floating stage and St. Mark’s Square. Due to a strict time restriction, the band will perform a concise setlist during this concert directed by Egbert van Hees.
The second part of this disc is dedicated to the performance of the band at the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award Winners Concert on June 30, 1990 in Knebworth Park. Pink Floyd is the headliner that day during this great music festival, which also features performances by other Silver Clef Award Winners, such as Dire Straits, Genesis, Elton John and Paul McCartney. In spite of the strong wind and ditto rainfall, Pink Floyd plays, together with some invited guests, a strongly shortened set.
The fifth blu-ray opens with official music videos from Learning To Fly, Marooned, Take It Back, High Hopes, Louder Than Words and an alternative version of Learning To Fly. These six music videos are followed by some live tracks at the time of “Delicate Sound Of Thunder”, which strangely enough are not on this collector’s second blu-ray. After three songs from the rehearsal for the 1994 tour, we end up with the 1987 and 1994 concert films, as shown on the round screen behind the band. The disc ends with an intimate rendition of Wish You Were Here by David Gilmour and Richard Wright with Smashing Pumpkins chief Billy Corgan during the inauguration of the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 17 January 1996.
The last disc starts with Pink Floyd’s last performance. This will take place during the Madcap’s Last Laugh festival on May 10, 2007. Arnold Layne is from this tribute to Syd Barrett at the Barbican Centre in London. This disc is mainly filled with some short documentaries and other (previously unreleased) promotional material. However, by far the largest part of this blu-ray is for the film “The Endless River”. This music film contains new images made by director Ian Emes, which are accompanied by the music from the eponymous album.
By the way, the content of these last five blu-rays is identical to that of the five DVDs. Because both the image and sound quality of the blu-rays is better than that of the DVDs, I don’t understand why the composers of this box didn’t exclusively choose for the superior medium. As with “The Early Years”, the decision to duplicate all the content on DVDs results, in my opinion, in the unnecessary increase of the already not nauseating sales price. Now I know that not everyone will own a blu-ray player, but these days such a device isn’t much more expensive than two packs of detergents, is it?
The music spectacle ends with two 7″ singles. The first contains Arnold Layne’s performance during the tribute to Syd Barrett in 2007, while the second features a live version of Lost For Words from 1994. Both singles are wrapped in beautiful covers and contain one song on the a-side and an etching on the other side. Even though these vinyl discs don’t fit in my CD-player, this is a very nice extra.