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Pink Floyd - A Delicate Sound of Thunder

  by Richard Lewis

published: 24 / 12 / 2020

Pink Floyd - A Delicate Sound of Thunder


Recorded during their longest ever tour, a reissue of 1988 concert film The Delicate Sound of Thunder sees Pink Floyd attempting to adapt their pioneering psych/ prog rock for a new generation. Richard Lewis reviews

While they were arguably the greatest, certainly the most innovative group of the 1970s, Pink Floyd endured a tumultuous 1980s. After concluding the dates for their ground-breaking tour of 'The Wall' in 1981, the quartet struggled through the making of undistinguished follow up 'The Final Cut', an album whose title signalled the end of the outfit. Having recorded the album amidst a backdrop of endless rows, sans keys player Rick Wright, bassist and principal songwriter Roger Waters announced he was leaving the group. He expected that his departure would bring an end to the band. However, the remaining members decided to carry on, leading to a protracted legal fight that found in favour of the band. With singer/guitarist Dave Gilmour now the de facto leader of Pink Floyd, naysayers (not least Waters) expected the three-piece to founder. Rebooting their career with 1987 release 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason', an album that sold in vastly greater quantities than 'The Final Cut' had, the trio set out on their first live dates in six years. A banner statement that Pink Floyd still very much a going concern, the resulting pan-global slog became the longest tour the band ever staged. With Rick Wright back on board, the 200-date, two-year jaunt included a colossal pay-TV concert in Venice and a triumphant return to Knebworth. The first live album and concert film released by the group, 'The Delicate Sound of Thunder' underlines that the Floyd weren't going anywhere, regardless what a bunch of naysayers or principally Roger Waters might have had to say. An outfit whose in-concert visuals set a benchmark many artists still strive to emulate, the trio understandably wanted to work with a contemporary filmmaker to lend them a fashionable visual patina. Directed by Wayne Isham, responsible for dozens of videos on MTV throughout the 1980s, the original film has the hallmarks of 1980s promo clips, slo-mo sequences, switches between colour and black and white, moody low-level lighting. Billed as 'Restored, Re-Edited, Remixed', the keyword here is 're-edited'. Overseen by long term Floyd associate Aubrey Powell, who was responsible along with Storm Thorgerson for creating the band's iconic cover art, the film dispenses with the several of the now-dated visual sequences from the original release. Despite these improvements, the film remains uneven, as a set of pioneers try to adapt to the present decade. However, by attempting to cut their cloth to the fabric of the time, several of the tracks here sound dated compared to their timeless original recordings and accompanying 1970s live versions. For a group who invented the concept of "immersive concert experiences" where the performers melt away into the shadows, and between the lights, the in-yer-face camera work sees the Floyd's impressively mulleted sidemen soaking up an inordinate amount of screen time. A huge bonus on the current edition is logged early on as 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', cut down due to the time constraints of VHS is featured here in its glorious full-length version. Making certain everyone remembers what album is being toured, five consecutive tracks from 'A Momentary Lapse of Reason' follows, and the film's pacing suffers as a result. Dipping into the catalogue, the troika that closes the first side of 'The Dark Side of the Moon' 'Time', 'On The Run' and 'The Great Gig In The Sky' are as beautiful as their studio-bound versions. 'Wish You Were Here' is similarly gorgeous, showcasing Gilmour's flawless vocals and acoustic guitar work. While the visuals have benefitted from being retroactively improved other 1980s fashions prevail. The decade's fondness for stupidly loud drums surfaces on space rock classic 'One of These Days', where Nick Mason's kit is augmented by clodhoppered syn-drum beats that stomp through the mix. Elsewhere the decade's trends make their presence felt during 'Money' which features an ill-advised sheen on the keyboards and backing vocals along with a superfluous new section for guitar and sax. The unison vocals during the verses of 'Comfortably Numb' have far less impact than later versions, which featured long-standing sideman Guy Pratt. He took on the Roger Water's vocal part single-handedly. A gothic-tinged rendition of 'Yet Another Movie' works well. The incongruously cheery 'One Slip' is pleasant, if slightly inessential. Shifting sizeable quantities on VHS and CD and boosting sales of its parent album "Delicate…" despite its faults ensured the Floyd flag remained aloft well into the Nineties. Returning with "The Division Bell" in 1994 an album that harked back to their classic 1970s sound, and another colossal tour, the vagaries of fashion have never dimmed successive generations discovering Pink Floyd.

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