The Dark Side of the Moon Redux is Roger Waters’ palimpsest, a word which describes a surface on which hieroglyphs had previously been written being scraped and prepared once again to be written over afresh with new words.
Waters helped write one of the best albums ever recorded in popular music, The Dark Side of the Moon, with the band he co-founded, Pink Floyd. Earlier this year, the album celebrated its 50th anniversary, and to commemorate the landmark, Waters vowed to revisit and revise his magnum opus.
The result is much more than a remastering. There’s the inevitable injection of cynicism, brewed over half a century, but the key themes are delivered with wisdom equal to Waters’ years, in contrast to the original release, which demonstrated an understanding of life, time, and the setting sun much greater than band’s age back then.
The record is filled with lyrical snippets from the original album, some simple re-recordings in their entirety, like ‘Time’, as well as personal thoughts on the significance of revisiting the project.
In a message released alongside the new album, Waters explores the motivation behind re-recording Dark Side of the Moon, acknowledging the original contributions of Nick Mason, Rick Wright, and David Gilmour:
“Fifty years after the release of the original recording of DSOTM, I realised that the fucking warmongers hadn’t got the message the first time around and I thought, maybe I should re-record it? Partly as an homage to the great recording Nick and Rick and David and I made back in 1973 and partly as a reminder that we’re still killing the children and it’s still wrong.”
Waters is explicit about handing over credit equally for the original project, though, and it’s clear that, musically, he never intended to build on top of his old bandmates and their brilliance. Richard Wright’s psychedelic interpretation of classical expression is gone, whilst David Gilmour’s bluesy riffs ascents into something touching the celestial are also brought down to earth. But it all works because Waters acknowledges his limitations. Following his mission statement cited earlier, he elaborates on how he navigated around re-recording, alone, a record that four men made fifty years ago:
“Anyway, although it’s my piece “wot I rote” (apologies to Ernie Wise), I didn’t write every single note. Great Gig in The Sky and the chords for Us and Them are both Rick’s, and both brilliant. David, Rick, and Nick and I share music writing credits throughout the rest of the album. And, of course, David played the great guitar solos on Money and Time on the original recording. Nicky was, well Nicky, a truly great and underrated drummer, and, more importantly, my friend.”
The Dark Side of the Moon Redux combines nostalgia, social commentary, and artistic intent. Roger Waters’ sentiments echo the concerns of a generation that came of age during periods of social and political unrest, issues that still resonate today. It’s fascinating that Waters considers this re-recording not just an act of musical reiteration but also a social and political statement, especially given the persistent challenges he mentions (like warmongering).
But the intended effect shines brightest when Waters is whimsical, typically on ‘The Great Gig in The Sky’. On this track, he recites a correspondence between himself and the assistant, Kendel, of his late friend, the poet and essayist Donald Hall, whose Essays After Eighty anthology Waters found profoundly resonant. Waters had asked Kendel if he could keep some bale hooks and baling twine from Don’s barn, and Kendel graciously obliged him. The ensuing tribute is wonderful:
Tears burn my eyes, my new old friend
My bale hooks and twine arrived a few months later, with a colour photograph of Don with Kendel.
They live— hooks, twine, and pic— slap-bang in the middle of some beautiful shelves we have on the landing.
In pride of place alongside some mummified dragonflies, and old robin’s eggs.
Forever catching the rays of the dying sun.
At that gin rumminy time of the afternoon that I love.
Well. RIP Donald Hall.
The Dark Side of the Moon Redux should be inspected as something not quite fresh but not quite reheated, a version 0.75, if you will. Stark comparisons to the original are misguided, as revising a masterpiece by one-quarter of a quartet will always be lonely and melancholic. It works very well.
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