This ethereal space rock classic is essential for any progressive rock collection. Dark Side of the Moon forged a new beginning for Pink Floyd, but Wish You Were Here solidified it. An ode to former member Syd Barrett, the entire album feels like you are taking a trip perhaps quite similar to one that Syd himself may have taken a few too many times.
The first notes on the album start to creep up on you as the incredible classic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” begins. It’s slow and thoughtful as it builds and climbs in intensity until David Gilmour completely breaks the ice at about 7:30 with his emotional bluesy lead playing. It surprises you as you might expect something else entirely from the direction the song has been going up until that point. As the vocals go back into a laid back style, they sing of Syd, his talent, and his descent into madness
Much of “Welcome to the Machine” feels like watching Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, like a cog in a machine, mechanical and methodical. The song is likening the music business to a machine, churning out product. It even ends with the sound of workers ending their day at the factory and clocking out to go home.
“Have a Cigar” is up next with guest vocalist Roy Harper. I’m not sure what the original decision was to use another vocalist for this song. It is surely in the wheelhouse of either of the main vocalists in the band, Gilmour or Roger Waters. The lyrics are humorous as a big time greedy record exec is attempting to woo the boys, without a whole lot of knowledge of who the band truly is.
A clever studio trick has us changing the channels on the radio until we get to the title song, “Wish You Were Here.” It is a folk-flavored acoustic song wishing that Syd was still around to take part in the success the band were enjoying.
The production values on this recording are absolutely amazing. Sonically it is incredible and can take you away to another place if you let it. Richard Wright on keyboards is perhaps at his peak on the album. David Gilmour is always mind-blowing, but this is perhaps a revelation for him as one of the premiere guitarists of the medium. However, all the performances are truly outstanding.
If you can only own one Pink Floyd, this has got to be it.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on Janaury 20th, 2011