Appropriately enough, I purchased The Endless River on a rainy day. As I drove around through the flooding rain storm, it put me in the right frame of mind to absorb this album. David Gilmour and Nick Mason decided to release it as a tribute to fallen band mate Richard Wright.
David Gilmour has proven repeatedly that he’s one of the greatest rock guitarists who ever took up the instrument. It delighted me to discover he felt the need to prove it once again. Every track except for one on The Endless River was an instrumental. Gilmour showcased his dexterity on the acoustic, electric and slide guitars. Let this be a lesson to all those great guitarists out there with aspirations of becoming ‘singer/songwriters’: stay focused on what you do well.
While Dark Side of the Moon came closest to a ‘definitive’ Pink Floyd album, everyone was original in its own way. Endless River continued this tradition. Only one of the eighteen songs featured a lead vocal. The band originally recorded these fragmentary tracks during jam sessions for the Division Bell sessions. Still, the Floyd and their team of producers did an outstanding job of melding them into a finished album. Endless River sounds like a new age album recorded by Pink Floyd. The arrangement allowed each tracks to segue into the next one a la Echoes. The overall whole reminded me of such progressive rock masterpieces as “A Passion Play” and “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull as well as “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis; all this without the prattle of inane vocals.
This album pleasantly surprised me. At first I anticipated a loose compilation of out-takes from Division Bell. Some of the tracks did exhibit the germination of songs explored more deeply on the album. Gilmour used the guitar synthesizer from “Take It Back” liberally on these tracks. “Talkin’ Hawkin’” featured voice overs by Dr. Steven Hawking. His observation that, “All we need to do is keep talking”, later appeared in the eponymous song. Most of the song titles related to the theme of communication. A concept later explored lyrically on the completed album.
The album also included some pieces that harkened back to ‘vintage Floyd’. I heard shades of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” in the piece “It’s What We Do.” While Roger Waters didn’t join the band for this outing, Gilmour’s bass work on this track sounded just like him. I also enjoyed his addition of an acoustic guitar to the mix.
“Anisina” served as the true highlight of the album for me. In the beginning I thought Wright borrowed his piano part from “Us and Them”. Upon reading the liner notes, I realized that Gilmour played it! He did an outstanding job paying tribute to Wright. Fans will also recognize the synthesizer riff from “Comfortably Numb” on this track. This song also called to mind the instrumental piece “Terminal Frost” from Momentary Lapse of Reason. The guitar orchestration on “Anisina” was much better, though. I really enjoyed Gilmour’s addition of a slide guitar to this song.
I can’t leave out Nick Mason’s contributions. His drumming on “Skins” showed that age hasn’t dulled his skills since his tour-de-force performance on Live at Pompeii.
As with any Floyd offering, the album featured phenomenal artwork. The front cover showed a young man on a boat in the clouds rowing towards the sunset. The back cover displayed the same picture only with an empty boat. I interpreted that to mean that while the band itself may be headed into the sunset, the music would remain.
The late Richard Wright’s keyboards sounded absolutely ethereal on The Endless River. While listening to the album, I recalled a line from Miles Davis’ drummer Jimmy Cobb. He remarked that Kind of Blue, “sounded like it was recorded in heaven.” The same could be said of The Endless River. It served as a fitting encomium to an outstanding musician.