#21: Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

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Pink Floyd internally fractured somewhere around 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. Roger Waters’ pinpoint accuracy with a lyric and his conceptual genius was executed magnificently on that album, becoming a colossal success, confirming the creative process the band would operate on future projects. In 1987 Waters released Radio KAOS an album about Billy a disabled man from Wales, somewhat short on tunes and greeted with a chorus of indifference, and a brief string of shows. David Gilmour, the other creative force in the band, released the underrated A Momentary Lapse of Reason, resurrecting the Pink Floyd name to wild enthusiasm and a sold out world tour lasting nearly three years.

radio kaosPrevious band leader Syd Barrett had departed post-Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), replaced by guitarist Gilmour, who appeared on Pink Floyd records as early as Saucerful of Secrets (1968). For a time they were a five-piece, but that was never going to work. They just didn’t pick Syd up one day, which left Gilmour, Waters (bass), Rick Wright (keys) and Nick Mason (drums) to forge ahead. Several other albums of varying degrees of substance were released including strong collaborative efforts where you can hear the band evolving, reinventing themselves, aiming for the stars. With Dark Side it all came together musically and lyrically. Amid internal power struggles and over-sized egos banging against each other throughout the 70s (mainly Roger’s), Pink Floyd would go on to launch some of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time with Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983), all well-defined concept albums of pristine clarity, increasingly composed by Waters with dwindling input musically and lyrically from his band mates. It is important to note however that the music generated on these albums (to a lesser extent The Wall and certainly The Final Cut) were collaborative efforts from all musicians with David Gilmour’s contributions being nothing short of indispensable.

87-dgThe band experienced an acrimonious split in the mid-80s which saw Waters leave to pursue a solo career, wrongfully assuming the termination of all things Pink Floyd. This was, in retrospect, a breathtakingly poor and arrogant assumption, as the remaining members, led by Gilmour, had no intention of discontinuing a musical career they had worked hard to establish over the preceding 15 years – why should they? David Gilmour was no shrinking violet. He had already stepped out of Pink Floyd’s (and Roger Waters’) shadow in 1978 by releasing a self-titled solo album of some merit, then another in 1984 (About Face). That same year Waters had recruited Eric Clapton to replace Gilmour for his solo outing, the Floyd-rejected but very good The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. After a relatively successful tour, Waters was planning to commence a follow up album (Radio KAOS) with The Wall mastermind Bob Ezrin back in the producer’s chair. This is where things derailed somewhat, particularly for Waters. After informing Waters they intended to continue as Pink Floyd (which was met with a rather brusque “You’ll never fucking do it”), a motivated Gilmour reconvened in 1986, on his Thames-moored house boat ‘Astoria’ (as you do), with the remaining members (and others) to flesh out, what had been, recordings for another solo project. Unfortunately sessions were interrupted continually by an incensed Waters legal team, issuing cease and desist statements, attempting to prevent the band continuing, and disrupting the creative process. To exacerbate relations further, Ezrin changed allegiances, pulling out of Radio KAOS and hosting the new Pink Floyd project in LA, making good their escape from the UK.

david_gilmour_roger_watersAs for the album, the making of A Momentary Lapse of Reason was not without its problems. Nick Mason was rusty and was relieved of his duties on several occasions by legendary drummer Jim Keltner, among others. Rick Wright was not even an official band member anymore due to his unceremonious sacking by a rampant Waters back in 1980, not legally eligible to appear as part of Pink Floyd in print or photo. His contributions were minimal. Furthermore, lyrics were now a major problem without Waters’ conceptual vision, and collaborations were extensive from session musician Jon Carin to ex-Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzenera, even Ezrin contributed songwriting in his inimitable way to several tracks and, with Mason, added a number of sound effects throughout the album consistent with the “Pink Floyd sound”. Generally all of this worked, and worked well. The album was well received upon its release and became a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard WrightFor better or for worse, Waters was singing everything by The Final Cut (except Not Now John). Here it’s nice to hear Gilmour’s sweets vocals dominate again, and his guitar as usual, exceptional. Tracks such as the superb atmospheric opener Signs of Life, and lead single Learning to Fly are as good as anything the band has recorded. Elsewhere One Slip, On the Turning Away and Yet Another Movie provide strong melodies, soaring guitar solos and distinctive arrangements, while weightier tracks such as Sorrow and sax-laden instrumental Terminal Frost are sumptuous in their production and execution. Waters’ vision is the key element missing here, resulting in some questionable lyrics (Dogs of War) and the A New Machine Part 1 and 2 misfire, however A Momentary Lapse of Reason is more comparable to pre-Dark Side collaborative efforts such as Meddle (1971) and Obscured by Clouds (1972), it has no definitive underlying theme, rather a collection of high quality, big rock songs.

The album was packaged very carefully to ensure it looked and sounded like a Pink Floyd album, and essentially it succeeded. The backing singers effective and the beds album cover is one of Storm Thorgerson’s finest. The worst thing that can be said for this album is it is a very good David Gilmour solo album, and a big improvement on Radio KAOS.

1.  Signs of Life  ∗∗∗∗∗
2.  Learning to Fly  ∗∗∗∗
3.  The Dogs of War  ∗∗∗
4.  One Slip  ∗∗∗∗ 
5.  One the Turning Away ∗∗∗∗
6.  Yet Another Movie/Round and Round  ∗∗∗
7.  A New Machine Pt.1  ∗
8.  Terminal Frost  ∗∗∗
9.  A New Machine Pt.2  ∗
10. Sorrow  ∗∗∗∗
 
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