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On an Island - On a Cloud
on September 1, 2008
So much has been said about this album already and that is unavoidable since it comes from the very core of Pink Floyd, one of Rock's most deservedly legendary acts ever. The core being, of course, David Gilmour.
For me, a Floyd fan since 1970, pretty much most of my life, David Gilmour LONG ago proved himself. With the issue of his first solo album in "78, simply called "David Gilmour" I realized that a MASSIVE amount of Pink Floyd's sound and musical aesthetic came from it's guitarist and lead vocalist. Up until that point one just listened to Pink Floyd and thought of their albums as pretty much a group effort. They mostlly were. It really wasn't until 1977's "Animals" that you saw the domination by Roger Waters starting to begin. And it was the start of the end. It is interesting in retrospect to see that once that process began, Gilmour started working OUTSIDE of Floyd.
It took him a long time to gain the recognition of his name as the collective Floyd were NOT about their personalities or their faces. FLOYD was the star; the band, the music, their live shows - which no one has ever been able to surpass - if you are lucky enough to have seen them "back in the day". A second solo album came in '84 and it resolutely went nowhere. "About Face" a play on switching up musical directions and about getting some profile for his indentity was a mixed bag that lacked the focus of his first effort. After "Face", if you will, Gilmour realized that at that point the Pink Floyd name was worth far more in cache than any of their individual monikers - which is probably why he fought so hard to retain the rights to the name after Waters jumped ship. It was most likely the highly publicized acrimony of that split and the triumph of the 3-man Floyd in terms of album sales and concert attendance that finally gave our man David, the name recognition he needed.
In a sense then, "On an Island" finally brings it all home for Gilmour. A lack-a-daisical solo career? Perhaps not. I think he has worked very very hard to achieve the respect and admiration being showered upon him now. Is it any wonder lately that it seems EVERYBODY wants to work with the man? His reputation for being a really cool, easy-going leader who earns respect by giving it draws the talented to him like a magnet. Look at the list of names of muscians on this album. There are some big guns and really significant but lesser known luminaries contributing here. Gilmour also has a reputation for checking out new talent and enjoying collaboration.
"On an Island" is a magnificent piece of work. Gilmour feels it is some of the best music he's ever done. I think he's right. The songs range from hard rockers like "Take a Breath" to ballads of gossamer-light feeling and glow like the albums closer, "Where We Start". The production is perfectly balanced and "intimate" if you will. "Take a Breath" could have used more bottom end though, but that would have made it stand out even more, perhaps incongruously, from the rest of the set. "The Blue" is one of the most beautifully soaring pieces of art Gilmour has ever penned. "Island" is the work of an old master, an old master with still quite a lot to give. In a sense, it's as much a beginning as it is a latter expression. It's low-key but artistically rich format really shows just how MUSICAL "the voice and guitar of Pink Floyd" is. There is great taste and true beauty here, a virtuosic adeptness of style and a palpable feeling of fulfilment and personal epiphany. David Gilmour is now ... David Gilmour, not just the "voice and guitar of"...
The sense of peace and deeply felt love of life as it is affectingly radiates out of "On An Island" and goes to a very nice place inside. "This earthly heaven is enough for me" he sings. By the end of the album there is a radiant feeling of coming home after a journey, filled with memory, with a profound depth in the heart that life is so plenum rich in experience one can scarce express that realization in form. Here though, David Gilmour does more than manage it. He gives achingly beautiful shapes to something so elusive and experience-based that you come to understand that here is an artist of quite enormous talent and depth of feeling. Nevermind the lasers, the giant circular projections, the awesome, unbelievable quad sound, the showerings of flying sheep and that nasty big pig, all HUGE fun at the time, because here, at last, is the real thing - the heart and soul of David Gilmour.