Since Pink Floyd’s uneasy reunion at Live 8, Roger Waters has spent far too much time rubbing people up the wrong way. He isn’t shy in spouting angry political opinions via a webcam for the whole internet’s benefit, or offering other pointed opinions, even if they weren’t asked for. Following the release of the rather dull ‘Is This The Life We Really Want?’ – an album where the best arrangements seemed indistinguishable from lazy rehashes from a Waters past – his live shows became increasingly like political rallies with some songs thrown in. He’s spoken publicly many times about the war in Ukraine, siding with the Russians. He’s attacked British politicians, even stooping as low as to use disability hate speech against one MP. He was always a curmudgeon but, in 2023, the 80 year old ex-Pink Floyd bassist finally reached the point of being intolerable.
Pink Floyd’s sixth album, ‘Meddle’, is regarded as a prog rock masterpiece. The band had released enjoyable works prior to its release in 1971, but ‘Meddle’ is arguably the first album where all of the “classic Floyd” ingredients came together to create something coherent. David Gilmour has referred to it as the first album since his appointment as guitarist that really made sense, and – as enjoyable as bits of its predecessors are in their own weird and wonderful ways – it’s hard not to argue with that logic. The thunderous bass groove driving ‘One of These Days’ very much looks forward to parts of ‘Animals’; in Gilmour’s ‘Fearless’, there’s a melodic prog songcraft that he would take forward and make the heart of ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ and even the post-Roger Waters ‘Division Bell’, and via the mighty ‘Echoes’ – a side long epic – bits of the Floyd’s soundtrack recording past collide with huge solos, and there’s even a melodic phrase that would be reworked a few years later to become one of ‘Dark Side’s timeless musical touchstones. Unfortunately, there’s the lazy blues of ‘Seamus’, too – something that undoubtedly grew from their Pompeii animal cruelty jam ‘Madamoiselle Nobs’ – but very few albums are perfect.
Mary Fahl first came to prominence as a member of October Project in the 1990s, but it was only after moving on and exploring solo ventures that the American vocalist began to reach her full potential. Despite not being the most prolific, her releases have been rich and sometimes quite varied. Clinging on to a folk core, and blending that with an easy listening vocal, Fahl’s best songs have ploughed a very adult MOR furrow, but those paying closer attention will spot a broad range of influences. For example, ‘Annie Roll Down Your Window’ shows an affinity for Indigo Girls, an almost Neil Finn-like pop element drives the folk rock sound of ‘Raging Child’, and much later on, ‘How Much Love’ conveys the dark heart of Tracy Chapman set against the sparseness of Daniel Lanois.
Yesterday, David Gilmour announced that Pink Floyd had reconvened with a new line up to record a new single for charity. Understandably, many of the band’s more open minded fans were overjoyed. Some of their more vocal supporters, bizarrely – though not entirely unpredictably – expressed an extreme displeasure.
In a bit of unexpected good fortune for the discerning prog fan, a selection of Pink Floyd bootlegs dating from 1971 have appeared on streaming services.
Spotify and Amazon Music began hosting a range of live recordings from the ‘Meddle’ era, in varying quality a few days ago. Some of the recordings have long been well known to bootleg collectors – such as the ‘Screaming Abdabs’ recording from Quebec, featuring the classic Gilmour/Wright/Waters/Mason line up showcasing a couple of new ‘Meddle’ tunes as well as providing the often overlooked ‘Embryo’ with a live outing, and the full set from Montreux ’71 – but the opportunity for the more casual listener to stumble upon these archive treasures will surely be welcomed.