The unfortunate passing of keyboardist Rick Wright on September, 15, 2008 rang the death knell for one of the most popular and best selling artists of all time - Pink Floyd.
With Wright's death and the subsequent decision to revisit 20 year old outtakes from "The Division Bell" studio archive session, Dave Gilmour officially brought down the final curtain on Pink Floyd, releasing "The Endless River" as the band's official swan song, declaring, "I think we have commandeered the best of what there is ... it's a shame, but this is the end."
Founded in 1965 at the height of the psychedelic mind-expanding era, this talented group of musical visionaries lead by Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright were the cutting edge pioneers of the London musical underground, and by the end of their career with the help of Barrett replacement David Gilmour, Pink Floyd became one of the most commercially successful and influential band of all time, having sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide in their career. And their classic 1973 "Dark Side Of The Moon" remained on the Billboard charts 14 years after the release of the album. An unheard of feat - yet to be duplicated.
It's safe to say that without Pink Floyd there would be no Porcupine Tree, RPWL, Airbag, Massive Attack, Radiohead, A Perfect Circle, Djam Karet, Pulsar, and Blue October, to name a few.
And now 47 years after the release of their 1967 debut album "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" Floyd leaves us with a fitting tribute to their fallen comrade Richard Wright as well as a satisfying final act to the legacy and discography of Pink Floyd.
"The Endless River" takes us full circle to where the band began and the many stops and detours along the way. This mostly instrumental album recalls Floyd during their "Meddle", "Atom Heart Mother", and "Obscured By Clouds" era as well as "Dark Side Of The Moon" and post-Waters albums like "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" and "The Division Bell". We even get a return visit from Stephen Hawkins, as parts of his unused "Keep Talking" speech on "The Division Bell" sessions are used on the new track "Talkin' Hawkin'".
As with the bulk of Pink Floyd's compositions, Richard Wright's spacey keyboard contributions are front and center. Many of the ambient tracks on "The Endless River" are reminiscent of the material on Wright's pair of solo albums "Wet Dreams" and "Broken China". On the track "Autumn '68" Wright performs on a majestic pipe organ recorded in Royal Albert's Hall.
For anyone expecting the band to exit in a climactic blaze of glory with a uniquely original Pink Floyd grandiose opus you will be sadly disappointed. After all, "The Endless River" was cobbled together from 20 hours of unused extended jams between Gilmour, Wright, and Mason during the recording session for "The Division Bell". So at the time of the original recording this cast-away material was omitted from the final album, relegated to the dusty shelves to be discarded or possibly revisited for a future project.
But one thing I've learned over the years, thanks to bands releasing bonus tracks on re-issued discs or newly released special edition packages featuring a second disc of bonus tracks like the one offered by IQ on their latest album "The Road Of Bones" (a bonus disc which is strong enough to have been released separately) - is that discarded music from high caliber musicians like Floyd is oftentimes better than half the music released by other artists.
So when an orphaned collection of improvisational Pink Floyd jam sessions are rescued from obscurity, revamped, enhanced, and finalized as an organic and cohesive composition, it's reason for any Floyd aficionado to rejoice. And be thankful that Producers David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth, and Andy Jackson have presented the fans with a high quality, beautifully recorded product; as well as rescuing archival recordings that might otherwise be lost forever.
This is nothing new. Jimi Hendrix passed away in 1970 yet unreleased archival material continues to be released these many years later - his most recent new CD. "People, Hell, And Angels" was released March 5, 2013.
"The Endless River" is a fine collection of 17 spacey instrumental tracks - all vintage Pink Floyd.
The closing vocal track "Louder Than Words", with lyrics by Polly Sampson (David Gilmour's girlfriend) aptly sums up the tumultuous history of Pink Floyd in an emotional send-off to one of the world's finest bands.
Pink Floyd - a collection of talented musicians - drawn together - pulled apart - in a perpetual state of flux - yet greater as 'one' than the sum of their parts - and their contribution to the world of music is truly ... "louder than words".
This is a must have book-end to complete your Pink Floyd collection.
A fond farewell from one of the pioneers of progressive rock.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 6th, 2014