On Roger Waters' Redux of Dark Side of the Moon

2024-04-01 @Arts

Whatever the compositional brilliancy and degree of innovation, I’m not the only one to have grown just a tad exhausted with the legendary 1973 Dark Side of the Moon after my teens and twenties. In the last ten years alone I’d scarcely returned to the album but on a small batch of occasions. It’s too much.

Last month it caught my attention that Roger Waters, the original Pink Floyd bassist, lyricist and the heavy creative drive behind the concept album, recorded Dark Side of the Moon - Redux in 2022.

A total rerecording with Waters and studio musicians I’d never heard of, upon brief research, I took the objective to be: emphasize the concept, minimize the orchestration: which in the original makes for no less than a sublime group effort, yet one that, I repeat, left me exhausted.

I eagerly listened to the Redux. Three times. Quality varies across the tracks overall. Waters seems to have taken the objective to the extreme. Most of the instrumental signature traces of the original, plain gone. Lead guitar, gone. No saxophone. Nothing of memorable melodic arrangement. And no clichés I’d grown wary of.

Instead we find occasional, mildly discernible acoustic guitar, subdued synthesizers and a string section from time to time (interestingly, where I wasn’t expecting anything). All that beyond the bass and percussion. Heavily rhythm oriented. Subtle orchestration.

On top of the existing vocal track which Waters (in lieu of the PF guitarist Gilmore) chants in his compact-range, hoarse, barely in tune and occasionally out-of-tune baritone that I already found a hazard throughout his occasional vocal parts of the earlier Pink Floyd; on top of that, Waters heavily contributes additional lyrics which he mostly speaks rather than sings. Whatever the merit, whatever the tragedy, the poetry indeed steals the show.

To great admiration, Waters sparsely appeals to backup singers, these otherwise frequent and quiet dominant in live performances of aging singers, to my great annoyance. Supporting vocals indeed appear within Redux, though sounding almost synthesized and subdued like all instrumentation. It’s definitely not the Great Gig in the Sky you might expect of the original. And all considered, that’s not necessarily bad.

I largely enjoyed Redux, having always admired Waters' poetry: both the original and the complimentary (some of which might stem from unreleased archives). Though varying in quality as before mentioned, the arrangement often acquires the elegance of a poetry recital accompanied by a non-pretentious, non-invasive instrumental track.

That’s one way to look at it. But also bear in mind the original concept element. There is a backstory to it. There is a moral. In the Redux, I’ve found certain traits in common with David Bowie’s 1995 1. Outside, also a concept and among my favourite Bowie recordings post-1970s. There Bowie likewise spends much time just talking, although the sheer album length still delivers much instrumentation of acquired taste.

But back to the Redux. Some tracks feel almost of a different genre. I’ve often encountered drastically alternate arrangements, the so called re-imaginings in live shows, Bowie in particular. This isn’t Jazz, but even Rock enables radical liberty. Though I rarely see the Redux approach in a studio recording.

It mostly works, save for some rough edges. The vocals sometimes tread on fracture. The track sometimes feels to want to proceed, yet uncertain as to how or where. Ehh. These instances are rarer. Redux rejuvenates my otherwise depleted interest. If I were to rank: 3.5/5.

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