Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live
There has never been another rock show or rock album like The Wall. A deeply personal exorcism which ultimately spelled the end of the original Pink Floyd, the album included enough common "everyone can relate" experiences that audiences around the world flocked to buy and attend performances of it, despite its overriding moods of darkness, isolation, madness and sadness. And while it has taken 20 years for these live recordings of the 29 performances of The Wall live to reach the shelves, they are still as emotionally charged and dangerous as they were when Roger Waters first hatched his literal metaphor of disillusionment in the idea of building a physical wall between the performing band and the insanely large audiences that came to see them. His inspiration for The Wall came from the craziness of being in a rock band that was playing stadiums instead of clubs; while the band had more people around it than ever, all the while its members were more and more distanced from its fans. The Wall's metaphor was brilliantly simple, and applied perfectly to the walls we all build and hide behind in our lives to keep out the world.
I was 14 when The Wall first hit radio in 1980, driven by Pink Floyd's only No. 1 hit, the anthem "Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2" (better known by its catchline, "we don't need no education"). It was a song everyone could identify with, especially those of us fed up with eighth grade (well, maybe not everyone ... teachers didn't like it, as I recall). But when I first opened up that double LP covered with the pattern of white bricks and garishly twisted cartoons, I was unprepared for the onslaught of emotions within.
The Wall served as a fiery testament to isolationism, with a moving canvas of barbed themes ranging from fascism, prejudice, betrayal, violent aggression, fear, longing for mother, smothering by mother, longing for love, fear of love. Nearly every song has an undercurrent of paranoia, melancholy or insanely overdriven machismo. It's both a frighteningly claustrophobic and hideously expansive listen. And while the vision and imagery was certainly Waters' brainchild, it could only have been carried out by the members of Pink Floyd who gave it the musical depth and breadth to be an enduringly haunting classic. And it was guitarist / occasional singer David Gilmour who provided the framework for the album's best anthems, (and, in fact, three of the band's career best) — "Comfortably Numb," "Young Lust" and "Run Like Hell."
In some ways, it has taken me 20 years to understand the inner struggles that created The Wall. And maybe I still don't grasp it all. I certainly don't listen to the discs like I did in high school these days, but periodically I pull it out and marvel at the complexity of its vision. A few years ago Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs put out a Master Recordings version of the studio recording of The Wall on gold CDs. This latest live recording on Columbia is worth having just as much as that pristine copy of the original studio recordings. There are two incidental songs on The Wall Live that did not appear on the studio album. While the timing of the mammoth stage show — which revolved around the literal buildng and destruction of a massive stage wall — didn't allow for a lot of improvisation, songs like "Another Brick In The Wall — Pt 2" and "Young Lust" offer keyboardist Rick Wright and Gilmour the chance to jam more visibly than on the studio recordings.
For Floyd trivia fans, the CD booklets also give the members of Pink Floyd and the chief architects behind the scenes of the stage show a couple pages each to recall their memories of the production. But the most interesting thing here isn't the stories behind the music, but the music itself. If you never experienced The Wall, put this version on in a dark room and close your eyes. If you listened to it long ago ... do the same thing. There are some albums that never grow dated. The Wall remains enduring, cathartic.
Reissues and Collections
James Taylor is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first easy listening attack on the pop charts this year (he first charted in 1970 with "Fire and Rain") and was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To commemorate the laidback singer-songwriter's career achievements, Columbia Records has remastered and reissued his first five albums for the label.
Taylor's JT, Flag, Dad Loves His Work, That's Why I'm Here and Never Die Young were released on Columbia between 1977 and 1988 and are now repackaged and available on CD. The discs include his latter career hits "Her Town Too,""Your Smiling Face,""Handy Man," "Honey Don't Leave L.A.," "Everyday," and "Never Die Young."
George Clinton was the funk movement of the '70s with his dual bands Parliament/Funkadelic (they recorded on different labels but had the same personnel). Their biggest hits came in 1978 with the Top 20 singles "Tear the Roof Off The Sucker," "Flash Light" and "One Nation Under A Groove." By the early '80s, though, the P/F machine had ground to a halt and leader George Clinton launched a solo career. While he didn't score any bona fide Top 40s on his own, he did achieve club success with singles from his four Capitol albums like "Atomic Dog" and "R&B Skeletons (In The Closet)."
Now The Right Stuff label in cooperation with Capitol has released a Greatest Hits collection that includes 12 of Clinton's 1980s tracks for Capitol Records, including "Atomic Dog," "Loopzilla," "Quickie," "Do Fries Go With That Shake?" and a "Dog Talk" single that was released with rapper Pretty C under the band name K-9 Corp.
You can hear the techno synthesized funk and computer-altered vocals that shaped Prince's early career, so it's no surprise that Prince signed Clinton to his own Paisley Park Records in the '90s. If you missed him the first time around, there's some strong fun funk collected here.
Speaking of oldies collections, NBC has teamed with Island Records to release the soundtrack of last weekend's mini-series The '70s. Included are representative songs of the decade like Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World," Cat Stevens' "Peace Train," Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me," and Blondie's "Heart of Glass," among others.