Wish You Were Here
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Original Release Date: September 15, 1975 Track Listing: 1. Wish You Were Here 2. Coming Back To Life 3. Keep Talking
Wish You Were Here is a song cycle dedicated to Pink Floyd's original frontman, Syd Barrett, who'd flamed out years before: two grimly funny songs about the evils of the music business ("By the way, which one's Pink?"), and two long, touching ones about the band's vanished friend. The real star of the show, though, is the production: sparkling, convoluted, designed to sound deeply oh-wow under the influence--and pretty great sober too--with David Gilmour getting lots of space for his most lyrical guitar playing ever. And, though the album is big and ambitious, even bombastic, it somehow dodges being pretentious--the Barrett tributes are honest and heartfelt, beneath all the grand gestures and stereophonic trickery. --Douglas Wolk
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I first received this album on cassette tape (Columbia/CBS JCT 33453) for my ninth birthday on January 24, 1985 from my parents accidentally instead of the compilation A Collection of Great Dance Songs but I thank both of them (especially my mom, may she rest in peace) that they did as today (over 26 years after I first acquired the album on cassette and many copies later, including the remastered CD), it is my all time favorite Pink Floyd album (I apologize to those who like Dark Side, Animals and The Wall more than this), it's also the favorite of Pink Floyd's singer and guitarist David Gilmour and the late co-founder/keyboard player/occasional singer Rick Wright (who passed away in September of 2008).
The Wish You Were Here album was the band's first for their new deal with Columbia/CBS for most of the world save Europe where they remained with Harvest/EMI.
The sessions for Wish You Were Here took place between January and July of 1975 at Abbey Road Studios in London with the band once again producing and engineer Brian Humphries engineering.
The lyrics were once again penned by bass player/singer Roger Waters whom came up with the theme of absence in response to the overwhelming success of their predecessor, 1973's 40 million copies worldwide plus selling The Dark Side of the Moon. It also dealt with the greed of the entertainment business.
Wish You Were Here only technically contained four tracks as one of the tracks was split in half, but it is nothing but 44 and a half minutes of sonic bliss.
Wish You Were Here kicks off with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts 1-5)". The music is just amazing and was written by Rick, David and Roger. Rick's synthesizer work on part 1 was very atmospheric before David plays a beautiful sad bluesy guitar solo. Then the four note motif from David's guitar signals Part 2 and Rick's stellar Hammond organ work, Roger's great bass playing and drummer Nick Mason's drumming to come in and play. David is at his bluesiest as far as guitar solos go on part 2. Part 3 has a beautiful Wright synthesizer solo and classic Gilmour solo before segueing into Part 4 at the 8:45 mark. Part 4 is where Roger's lead vocal comes in and he sings the band's epic tribute to fallen Floyd comrade Syd Barrett. Dick Parry's baritone and tenor sax solos on Part 5 end this half of the track which segues into superb machine noises created by the VCS3 to go into the next song. The song "Welcome to the Machine" was the first of two attacks on the record industry with Wright and Waters' synthesizers, David's multi-tracked vocals and acoustic guitars and drummer Nick Mason's tympani flourishes playing flawlessly before ending with superb sound effects thanks to the VCS3 and people laughing.
The second half of the Wish You Were Here album starts with the rocker "Have a Cigar", another biting commentary on the record business. The track featured the band's Harvest/EMI labelmate Roy Harper on lead vocals (and he did a stellar job). The song was released as a single in the US but didn't chart but a classic nevertheless. Gilmour's ending distorted guitar solo disappears into radio sounds which were recorded in David's car and segues into the album's title track. The title cut was spawned from a riff David had played at Abbey Road and Roger liked it so much that the two sat down and wrote the second best loved Floyd track in the band's repertoire. The lyrics reflect on Syd and wishing he was still together mentally. The coughing fit in the beginning was David's then-smoking habits. He thankfully quit smoking immediately for good after the initial playback during mixing at Abbey Road in 1975 because he was embarrased about the cough but was left in there as a sort of reminder. The wind swirls at the end leads into "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts 6-9)". Part 6 of the epic nine-part track is dominated by David's superb guitar work on both the Stratocaster and lap steel and Rick's Solina String and Mini-Moog synthesizer flourishes. We then segue into Part 7 from the guitar solo of Part 4. Roger sings part 7 very passionately. Parts 8 and 9 to Shine On You Crazy Diamond is one of the most powerful pieces of music I ever heard with the former a funky exercise and the latter is one of Wright's best pieces of music.
When mixing Shine On You Crazy Diamond (which was also the day David married his first wife Ginger), Syd mysteriously showed up at Abbey Road with a shaved bald head and very plump. The band hadn't seen him since 1970 and wouldn't see him again (Syd sadly passed away in 2006).
When Wish You Were here was released, the album rightfully hit #1 in the band's native UK in its first week and topped the charts here in the US with a bullet in its second week and has sold over 7 million copies to date here in the US (13 million worldwide).
Sales notwithstanding, this is Pink Floyd at its best musically, lyrically and cohesive as a unit despite the fact the feud in the band was starting to brew and the album still sounds great over 35 years later.
Now in 2016, this classic album is re-released with the 2011 remaster this time on Pink Floyd's own record label Pink Floyd Records (distributed by Sony Music). The remastering on this is incredible. What James Guthrie and Joel Plante did with this album is excellent. I've owned the 1992 remaster (which was used for the 1994 UK remaster and the 1990s Sony Gold disc), the 1997 and 2000 remaster (which are identical) and the sound is like night and day. This easily is the best sounding Wish You Were Here since the first vinyl issue (which I'm proud to own). The booklet is rather nice as well. The packaging on this trumps the Discovery Edition from 2011 with the CD looking like the original vinyl LP and also the booklet having updated credits and the sticker recreates the original sticker on the LP!
This product is ASIN: B019VQSADM, Original Release Date: January 8, 2016. It is described as “2016 Sony Legacy edition.” It currently costs $10.00 at Amazon.
It has inferior sound quality when compared to this other product: ASIN: B004ZN9T00, Release Date September 27, 2011, which is described as “Discovery version - the original studio album, digitally remastered by James Guthrie.” This latter product currently costs $13.20 at Amazon, which is worth the extra money, in my opinion.
I listened to the Blu-ray "Original 1975 Quad Mix" and it makes a rather different impression than the new 5.1 mix. With the quad mix, you and the music really are out in deep space together whereas with the 5.1 mix, you are much more grounded. The music is sourced much closer. Localization is different, but, more importantly, closer and more focused, a factor partly due, I think, to the greater prominence of high frequencies in the mix. The hotter high end of the frequency spectrum is, perhaps, more in tune with modern tastes, but it removes some of the spaciousness and atmosphere from the experience of Wish You Were Here in surround sound.
The new 5.1 mix has more in common with the old stereo mix than with the old quad mix, once available on SQ matrix quad LPs. In the quad mix the sound is spread out across the front and not really center focused. Although there are some vocals and instrumentals that are centered, mostly vocals and instrumentals are spread across the front and around you, and they don't really seem to come from the speakers--you are out in space with your space music. With the 5.1 mix, vocals and instrumentals are much more centered in the front and much more attached to the speakers, the side or rear speakers if not to the center front. And if you have a phantom center instead of a center channel speaker, that doesn't really change the focus of the sound at the phantom (instead of real) center speaker and other speakers. (I can play it either way.)
I have grown 35 years older listening primarily to the quad mix on fine old British vinyl. The blu-ray discrete 4-channel version of that same mix vividly brings back the experience I loved these many years on vinyl, and having heard it once, I expect that it will be in the future the version I most frequently listen to. Others might not agree. The new 5.1 mix is excellent, and surround for Pink Floyd is always the better way to listen. The new 5.1 mix really does a superb job of expanding on the well-known and beloved stereo mix of Wish You Were Here. If you have loved this album for a long time in stereo, the new 5.1 mix will be quite familiar, but expand and extend your experience. For me the Blu-ray is the best and only convincing argument for buying the Immersion set largely because of the high resolution quad mix. It will give you a different perspective. It might not be your preferred version, but it is definitely worth a listen. The new 5.1 mix isn't my preferred version, but it is definitely a worthy alternative, and I expect to listen to it in the future as an occasional alternative to my preferred version. It does give new insights into the music and reveal previously hidden details. And that alone makes it worth listening to whether or not it is your preferred version.
I started seriously listening to and collecting Pink Floyd in 1976. Because my LPs sounded (and still sound) so good (mostly British and Japanese pressings from the 1970s, or later first pressings), I never bothered to get CD versions of most of Pink Floyd, though I did pick up the Mobile Fidelity Gold CD (and LP) of Dark Side, and later the Doug Sax remastered CD Box set, Shine On, which contained the only version on CD I have of Wish You Were Here until I bought the Immersion set. I also have a Japanese stereo pressing and one opened and two still sealed copies of Quad British pressings from the 1970s plus a distinctly inferior British stereo LP pressing from the 1980s (that I haven't listened to in 20+ years) of WYWH. I have always preferred the British Quad pressing to all versions and have probably listened to it 3 times as often as all other versions combined. I really like the mix whether I have listened to it in plain stereo (occasionally), or DynaQuad (mostly), or through an SQ decoder (3 or 4 times, a long time ago). When I reviewed the Dark Side of the Moon SACD, I found the stereo mix to be a near perfect replica of my old British stereo pressing and the 5.1 mix to be roughly equivalent to listening to the stereo version with DynaQuad "ambience recovery" but with different and much more discrete localization. Similarly, the stereo mix on my 1977 Japanese pressing is more similar in that way to the WYWH SACD 5.1 mix and very close to the stereo mix on the SACD, though I haven't done as extensive comparisons with the Wish You Were Here Immersion set and SACD as I had before I wrote my review of DSOTM on SACD. I think the stereo mix on the WYWH SACD actually sounds better than the Japanese LP and is probably very close to a 1976 Stereo British pressing, which I don't have for comparison. And my 1980s British pressing isn't really worth listening to compared to any of my other pressings. I haven't yet listened to the original 1975 stereo mix on the Blu ray, but based on listening to the quad mix, I would guess that I will finally have an opportunity to hear what a good 1975 or 1976 British stereo vinyl LP sounded like. So treasures still await me in the Immersion set.
Wish You Were Here
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