There are lots of mixed opinions just about the actual principle of Roger Waters making this new Redux version of the classic album Dark Side Of The Moon, never mind what it sounds like. Should an absolute classic always be best left alone, untouched and unmodified?
Of course, there is a case to be made for applying new technology to remaster an album recorded many years back on much older and significantly less advanced equipment. Even if it was seen as state-of-the-art in a studio at the time. This new Waters album is not a remaster, it’s very much a reworking of the original. Waters feels very entitled to undertake the task. As The Telegraph (subscription) reports, via Yahoo News, Waters is very clear on his lead role as writer of the original album and that of the rest of the group who contributed.
"I wrote The Dark Side of the Moon. Let’s get rid of all this ‘we’ crap. Of course we were a band – there were four of us, we all contributed – but it’s my project and I wrote it, so, blah."- Roger Waters
I wondered if this new album would be a hit, a miss, or a curiosity and the truth is that it’s all of those in parts. When Waters' version of “Money” from the album was released early, back in July, I quite liked the cut down simple nature of it. That worked for me as a one-off listen to a single track. But I wouldn't have wanted a whole album like that.
Roger Waters and his own take on Dark Side Of The Moon
So what has Waters done with the redux album? Well, he’s swapped some of the great keyboard work by Richard Wright and the guitars of David Gilmour for words. At times those are mumbled and in his fairly gruff tones. That's not a feature of great promise for the work, but there are some redeeming points in places on the album.
Certain tracks are ok and carry more from the original style. With an open mind, “Us and Them”, “Eclipse”, “Brain Damage” and “Money” all seem fair interpretations or covers of the originals and could just about score as pass marks. But again it becomes a harder listen as the laid-back songs keep on coming. There’s an atmosphere still, but it's nowhere near the level of the original.
There are some definite low points for me in “Speak To Me/Breathe”, “On The Run”, “Time”, “Any Colour You Like” and “Great Gig In The Sky”. These are where added words, cut keyboards, and fewer guitars hit hardest. The latter track was such a beautiful piece in the original, those soaring vocals from Clare Torry are almost irreplaceable. Waters has tried, but reciting correspondence with a friend is definitely no substitute. The cut-back version of a great gig here has little in the way of redeeming features.
As for the other lows, the originally instrumental “On The Run” now has vocals added, telling a tale of good versus evil. I’m not sure that really delivers and the music, as such, just seemed an irritant. “Time” is quieter, and more thoughtful than before, but missing the rhythmic intensity.
Look, this was always going to be controversial. You don't get to mess around with absolute classics even if, like Waters, you reckon they are yours to do with as you please. Maybe we shouldn’t try to compare the two versions, but that's hard to avoid. The original has been released to the public for 50 years. We’ve listened to it as a backdrop to our lives, and to some extent, some form of ownership has partially transferred to the listeners over the years.
There are more positive reviews than my humble thoughts emerging, they may help people decide it’s worth a listen. For me though the new album becomes a curiosity more than anything else, it’ll sell, it’ll get downloaded, people will listen - though it’s unlikely in my view that they'll do so repeatedly, as they have with the original.