Thursday, March 29, 2007

Richard Wright - 'Wet Dream'
1978

Rating - 6/C

Listening to the Pink Floyd members' solo albums is like contemplating pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When put together, the box assures you, you will have a completed picture which matches the one on the box - the Mona Lisa, let's say. As you look at the pieces you think you discern hints at those cowed eyes or the muddy scenery and the serpentine path. Just as often, the pieces puzzle you - that shimmering yellow, almost like a sunburst, that indistinct haze where rust red seems to fade through a truncated spectrum to drab khaki - where could they possibly fit? Surely this satiric smirk is not that famous broken-jawed grimace? Somehow you have to take it on faith that the parts do add up to the promised whole, and perhaps you even gain a better understanding of its composition and elements.

So let's see, with the Barrett albums you have the free flow of lyrical invention, both whimsical and nightmarish, and a certain penchant towards poppy vocal melody to balance out the weirdness. Roger Water's albums grumble and whine and accuse and mourn. David Gilmour has the soaring guitar playing and the tendancy to sound calm rather than dramatic. So what does that leave Rick Wright with (utterly ignoring Mason for the moment)?

Well, on this album, he seems at times to be trying to channel a bit of everyone else's schtick. Some of that Watery moodiness, Snowy White on board to provide a sort of pocket David Gilmour impression and so forth. But there's also a more layered, atmospheric sound to the album - a sense of musical breadth, which on consideration is, after all what Wright brought to the mix. 'Animals', 'The Final Cut' and 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason', all albums which featured relatively few, or no inputs from Wright just don't sound as huge and spacey as the ones before or after them (in the case of 'Animals' the resulting album is amazingly strong anyway, but that's another issue).

Whether he's sticking to introspective piano-tickling, as on the opening verses of 'Holiday' or the instrumental opening track, 'Mediterranean C', or providing a full-blown sonic spacescape as on 'Waves', Wright puts together songs minor, modest, earnest and tuneful but also very atmospheric. It isn't really that different from Gilmour's feel, really, especially on 'On An Isand', and suggests that Gilmour and Wright are probably the only two real kindred spirits in what otherwise seems like an assemblage of strikingly different, even contradictory musical visions. Only, looking at Gilmour's first two albums I'd suspect that he picked up on some of that lush feel by realising what Wright was on about and studying it carefully.

Still, atmosphere doesn't necessarily add up to a compelling musical experience. While everything is nicely put together, and there are excellent performances by Snowy White and King Crimson saxophonist (and flautist) Mel Collins, most of the songs float by in a comfortable haze. 'Cat's Cruise' and 'Waves' are both very neat instrumentals though, very Floydian and with some impressive playing by all converned. But the waltzy tendances of 'Mad Yanni's Dance' fail to elicit any lasting edge of excitement. What does stand out a bit is the track immediately after it, 'Drop In From The Top' which has a more pulsing beat, energetic drums and some nearly-ominous keyboard lines, over which Snowy White really tears it up. The tension is immediately brought down with 'Pink's Song', a gentle elegy which people will assume is for Barrett but probably is for Wright's children's tutor as he claims, because I can't imagine anyone calling Space Cadet Syd a 'quiet, smiling friend of mine'. The album also ends on a more upbeat groove - literally - with 'Funky Deux', which is a funky intrumental, as the label might suggest. However, even funk can't altogether obscure the flattening effect of the propensity for mellowness that the non-whacko Floydians seem to share.

The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline: A pleasant, more than competent album, like Gilmour's solo stuff, but with weaker songwriting and without Gilmour's not-so-secret interest-regaining weapon - the Big Solo (although Snowy White and Mel Collins help). Establishes Wright as the main atmosphere man in Floyd, though.

6 comments:

Hum do Harami do said...

a) where did you get this?! Stores or dld?

b) Wright wanted Beck to play on all his solo albums but the moody bastid apparently keeps turning him down

JP said...

Dld. Gilmour's solo stuff wafts through the stores at irregular intervals, Waters' more frequently and Barrett seems to be a permanent fixture,but I've never seen a Wright album around.

I also dl'ed his more recent album, Broken China which is supposedly very like Cluster One and Wearing The Inside Out from The Division Bell. More on that later.

Heh. Seems like Waters was more persuasive.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

A lot of credit to you, my friend, for searching all of these Floyd offshoots out. Very educational.

JP said...

Thanks. Floyd is such an abolute institution here, I was hard-pressed to find a way to approach their work that would give the chance to bring something fresh to the table. Zoning in on them through the members' solo works seemed like a good way to go about it - I'm saving the Barrett albums for last, after which I may actually consider taking on some Floyd albums. At least Animals, for sure.

rock_of_ages said...

I look forward to reading your thoughts on Animals. I have the David Gilmour album you reviewed recently on vinyl and its so-so. Barrett I just can't get into - too way out for me! Never heard any Rick Wright non-Floyd stuff.

Some great reviews here my friend!

Bill
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http://rockofages.wordpress.com
Rock & metal reviews from the 70s, 80s & beyond

JP said...

Gilmour's new one might actually be his most gripping album, but it's still definitely meditaitve stuff that can fly by if you snooze a bit.

I'm glad you like the reviews!