Album review: Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon ‘Immersion’ Reissue

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Album review: rock
Tags: , , ,

A recent article about the gradual demise of cheap books at the hands of Kindle etc – and the book publishing houses’ fightback in terms of releasing gorgeous ‘artifact’ editions of books which have a physicality that Kindles could never reproduce – made me think about the reissue thing with regard to music. In an age of legal and illegal downloads, where music files seem as inconsequential as drops of water from a tap, record companies can only compete by lifting their game and giving us something physical, special and beautiful.

I don’t know how many times I have bought Miles Davis’s ‘Bitches Brew’ but I could not resist the recent Columbia 4 CD plus vinyl extravaganza – the artwork alone made it worth the stiff price tag. A young friend, a metal fan, sent off for an LP by Texas metal band The Sword and received a piece of brilliant packaging that made him happy to have actually spent money on music! Vinyl heads know the buzz of  the LP artifact – the weight, the substance, the trip of great LP art; a buzz those sneaky downloaders will never know.

EMI has very recently begun a major reissue campaign covering the great works of Pink Floyd under the name ‘Immersion/Discovery/Experience’ (each a different format – start saving kidz). Pink Floyd are one of the major bands of rock music – probably only challenged by The Beatles in the scope of their influence and importance. In the course of their life, Floyd invented psychedelic pop and led the pack under the ill-starred Syd Barrett, then moved onto quietly (they are English after all) inventing acid rock, multimedia rock, theatre rock, ambient rock, stoner/space rock, stadium rock, jam band rock and progressive rock (I will be happy to take on arguments on any of these) – all the while pushing the form of rock music forward both vertically and horizontally and raising the bar in music packaging with the help of their house designer, Storm Thorgersen of the Hipgnosis design group.

All their early albums led inexorably to ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ – this was the perfect expression of Pink Floyd, it contained all the elements that made them special and also pointed the way to the future for them, and rock music in general. The album just prior to ‘Dark Side…’, ‘Meddle’ had contained the (vinyl) side-long suite ‘Echoes’. This extended piece, bound musically and tethered conceptually to itself, opened the way for the conceptual suite that is ‘Dark Side of the Moon’Roger Waters’ grave meditations on time, money, death, insanity leavened by guitarist Dave Gilmour’s bluesy yet spacey musicality and keys player Rick Wright’s beautiful orchestral mind.

The ‘Dark Side…’ LP is a thing of perfection which ever way you look at it – up down north south east west – not machinelike, glassy perfection but an almost spiritual perfection, a perfection of simplicity and ‘right-ness’. All is in its place, and it unfolds in its own time. For a non-pop record, it was enormously popular, selling 45 million copies and staying in the charts for 741 weeks – that’s 15 years, folks. So how can you improve on perfection? EMI hasn’t tried to improve on it, they have just added to it. Perfectly.

In addition to the remastered ‘Discovery’ CD’s and the mega ‘Immersion’ (CD plus DVD plus Blu-ray plus memorabilia plus kitchen sink) box sets will be a series of ‘Experience’ Editions – coupling one album with a further disc of related content from that album. In getting this review together I was lucky enough to listen to a stream of a 1974 performance of the entire ‘Dark Side…’ album live at Wembley Stadium, which accompanies the album’s ‘Experience’ Edition. The sound recording is incredible (Roger Waters’ bass at the intro of ‘Money’ is enormous and force-of-nature strong) and the band replicates the album with a commanding mix of pristine cool (all the notes are in the right place, as well as all the musique concrete sound effects from the studio album) and spacey adventure (some beautiful jams which extend the already extended time-scale of some of these tracks… aaaahh, the 70s).

The ‘Immersion/Discovery/Experience’ series features new and old art and design by Storm Thorgersen as well as photo collections edited by noted rock photographer Jill Furmanovsky. Among other Floyd delights, November will bring the whole concept applied to ‘Wish You Were Here’ and February 2012 will bring ‘The Wall’.

EMI’s new ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ – and, in fact, this whole series – would be the perfect intro to Pink Floyd (in its 2 CD format) or the perfect addition to the Floyd Freak’s Floydarium (in its mega ‘Immersion’ box set form). The band is well known for its stand against iTunes selling their albums as individual songs, citing the ‘album experience’ (and squabbling over separate track royalties) – but they are right.

The ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ trip is a widescreen one, one that takes time to enjoy and savor, in whatever frame of mind you desire. It comes intact from an age when the LP ruled and the album price was the price of a ticket to a strange garden of delights and magic mazes, new tastes and alien perfumes. Try downloading that, Jim.

Published September 2011 on theorangepress.net

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