stephen hawking

RIP Stephen Hawking

The most brilliant mind in a generation has gone.  Stephen Hawking’s impact will be felt for generations more.

You may be familiar with A Brief History of Time, but are you familiar with Hawking’s musical debut, “Keep Talking”?

Pink Floyd used Hawking’s voice in their 1994 track from The Division Bell.  Please enjoy as we remember the great Stephen Hawking.  Rest in peace.

REVIEW: Pink Floyd – The Endless River (2014 CD/Blu-ray)


PINK FLOYD – The Endless River (2014 Columbia CD/Blu-ray deluxe edition)

Sometimes you just have to take a chance.

Perhaps that’s the theme of The Endless River, but I’ll warn you in advance that it’s the theme of this review.  Sometimes, you have to take a chance, and buy an album on pure faith.  Sometimes you want something to be good, just because you liked the idea of it.  I took a chance on it, not really expecting too much, but liking the concept enough to try.

IMG_20141123_171023The Endless River is an intriguing idea with successful execution.  Even though these recordings were made 20 years ago during The Division Bell sessions, David Gilmour gambled that there might be something worth salvaging here in memory of late keyboardist Rick Wright.  When they recorded Division Bell, they actually thought they might have two albums’ worth of material.  The second album, which they never finished, would have been more instrumental and ambient in nature.  Less song-oriented, more meandering and scenic.  Not too far off from what The Endless River is, perhaps.

Unafraid of a little work, Gilmour and Nick Mason got back together and finished what they had started with Rick.  According to David, “We listened to over 20 hours of the three of us playing together and selected the music we wanted to work on for the new album. Over the last year we’ve added new parts, re-recorded others and generally harnessed studio technology to make a 21st century Pink Floyd album. With Rick gone, and with him the chance of ever doing it again, it feels right that these revisited and reworked tracks should be made available as part of our repertoire.”

I will state for the record that there is no comparison between the CD and 5.1 surround Blu-ray listening experiences.  The Blu-ray enveloped me in electronic warmth from the start, occasionally startling me with an unexpected bit of guitar here, or sax there.  By comparison to the 3D experience of 5.1 surround sound, CD is flat and tinny.  Having said that, the CD is one of the best sounding CDs out there right now.  Sonically, this is absolutely flawless.  The keys, organ, and drums are warm and genuine, sometimes wrapped up in dreamy synth.

The Endless River is divided up into four sides, but is best experienced in one sitting.  The four sides have distinct “song” sections within them, but everything flows with a purpose.  Some of the more composed sections really stand out as potential fully-fledged songs:  The chugging “Allons-y (1) & (2)” for example, or the guitar showcase of “It’s What We Do”.   A track like “Sum” takes a while to build, but when it does, it’s into another impressive Gilmour show piece.  (Then on the same side, Nick Mason gets his own moment on the percussive “Skins”.)

Other memorable moments include “Talkin’ Hawkin'” which reprises the Stephen Hawking voice from The Division Bell‘s “Keep Talking”.  I love the haunting church organ on “Autumn ’68”.  There is also one vocal song, “Louder Than Words”, which was chosen as a single.  It’s not a particularly special Pink Floyd song; I think the instrumental pieces are far more interesting than “Louder Than Words”.

A number of bonus tracks are included on the DVD and Blu-ray deluxe editions.  These include unreleased studio jams and unfinished tracks, as well as a couple rough album tracks.  “Anisina” and “Evrika (a) & (b)” are cool, relaxed jams.  “Evrika” is similar in nature to parts that made it to the finished album.  The most interesting unreleased song is easily “Nervana”, a basic guitar riff jam that doesn’t sound anything like Pink Floyd at all.  It does sound cool though, a detour into what might have been…if only Gilmore had taken a chance.  Some of these bonus tracks are accompanied by 1994 black and white behind the scenes footage and stills.  Very cool stuff, if you’re into watching the best musicians in the world getting the job done.

The deluxe comes in a box with some post cards (one with lenticular art), a hardcover booklet with more photos, credits and lyrics, and individual sleeves for the discs.  Nothing overly fancy, it’s the Blu-ray disc itself that is the selling feature of this set.  Some of the bonus tracks are cool and worth having, but it’s that awesome dreamlike 5.1 surround mix that is the clincher.  If you’ve ever wondered, “What’s the big fuss about surround sound anyway?” then see if you have a buddy who can demonstrate this album to you in surround, on a good system with a decent subwoofer.  Strap yourself in.

I think Rick Wright would have been very happy and proud of the finished product, all these years later.  Take a chance on The Endless River and see if you too will be swept away.

4/5 stars

Part 11: Klassic Kwotes I!

1. Once, we opened a CD case to find a small piece of paper inside.  The customer said, “Ahh, can’t forget my spliff paper!”

2. We were once approached by a man in a cheap suit at the counter, who asked, “Do you like the drugs?  Do you like the crack?”

3. “You got any Luta?” I was once asked by a large man with a heavy Carribean accent.  Luta, that’s what we all heard, like “loo-tah” with emphasis on the “loo”.  We asked him to spell it?  He couldn’t.  I said, “Is it L-u-t-a?” to which he responded, “Yeah, man.”  Well a search for Luta revealed nothing.  We went back and forth for 10 minutes before he finally mentioned “Dance With My Father”.  Luta.  Luther.  Luther Vandross.

4. “Don’t worry, I ain’t got AIDS or nothin’!”  This was once said to us by a man who handed us a Beach Boys box set, covered in his own blood.

5. “Do you have any of that lesbian music?” This was asked of me by a middle-aged lady.  All I could respond with was, “Uhhh…I don’t think that’s an actual genre of music?”

6. We once saw a guy looking at the booklet for the new Fleetwood Mac album, The Dance.  We asked if he would like to listen to it, and he said, “Nah.  Just checking out the babes.”

7. “Dave Matthews Band, and Matthew Good Band.  What’s the difference?”   Uhhh…they both spell, and pronounce, their names differently.

8. We had a big sign, and all our ads said “WE BUY USED CD’S”  One day a guy pulled up on a bike with a milk crate full of records on the back.  It was close to 40 degrees (celcius) that day but he pulled up on a bike.  A bicycle, leather jacket, 40 degrees, milk crate full of records.  He was really pissed off when we told him we didn’t take records.  “Well you should fucking advertize that!  Do you know who I am?”  Obviously a mover and a shaker, you and your whack bike.

9. Remember that Japanese lady that was asking me about Chris Cornell when I first started at the record store?  If not, read back.  She kept coming back, and back, and back.  We’ll call her N.  One day, N came in, and she was in a bad mood already.  “Where’s my treat?  Where’s my treat?”  What?  “My treat?  Are you retarded?  Where’s my treat?”  We had a sign outside that that, “bring your used CDs in for some brand new beats, come in you owe yourself a treat!”

10. “This right here…this is the best CD in the whole store,” said a kid holding a Creed album.

11. This next one, I mean absolutely no disrespect or meanness.  It was just cute, ’tis all.   A young fellow with a Scottish accent came in one day, and said, “Excuse me sir, but do you have any of Mr. Arrow Smith?”  I got him their latest, which was Big Ones at the time.

12. “Whoops.  I just tooted!” said N another time.

13. Again, this one was frequent.  “Do you have anything by that country guy who always wears the hat?”

14. “Is it true that Marilyn Manson once killed a kid?  And he tried to get rid of the body by burning it in the oven?  But the cops came, and Manson escaped out the back door.  The cops said, ‘Smells like children’ when they opened the oven, but Manson was outside listening and that’s how he named the album Smells Like Children, right?”

 15. Yes, the above is a real question.

16. There was another Manson one, this one about time travel.  If you check one of his albums, whichever one was released in 1996, the liner notes reveal one song was written and recorded 1997.  Typo or mindfuck, or…time travel?  My customer said to me, “Manson travelled forward in time to 1997, to the day the world will end.  Then he travelled back in time to now, to warn us about the end of the world.”  Marilyn Manson invented time travel?  Well then what the fuck has Stephen Hawking been doing all these years?