Thursday, June 9, 2011

The #62 Album of All-Time in the Rock Era: "The Wall" by Pink Floyd

In case you just joined us in the countdown, greatest hits packages are out in the search for the greatest albums.  Similarly, live albums in which the songs performed were familiar ones and soundtracks that contained work by more than one artist are ineligible.  I looked for creations in the studio, and preferably concept albums.  Those are the true great ones and we have one here.

The Wall was the 11th studio album from Pink Floyd.  It spent 15 weeks at #1, 3 at #2 and 4 at #3.  It was #1 in the United States, France, Austria, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and Norway.  Again that doesn't affect the methodology of this list but it certainly will influence the Top 100 Albums of All-Time in the World.  The album spent 27 weeks in the Top 10, which is a little low for the albums remaining, but 123 total weeks on the chart, which makes up for it.  Again, you will see 23 million in sales as certified by the RIAA, but keep in mind that double albums are counted twice.  I don't agree with this policy, an album is an album and should be judged as such.  The choice to release a double album is that of the performer and should not be counted twice as much as a single album.  The album is judged on its entirety.

Speaking of, it bears repeating that it is much harder to come up with a double album's worth of material.  The Track Rating* of 8.29 doesn't mean the album doesn't have great tracks (It absolutely does!); it just means the average track isn't as strong as most of the other Top 100 Albums of All-Time*.I

Concept albums require some thought rather than just assembling a hodgepodge of songs to include.  The Wall dealt with abandonment and isolation.  The album is based on a fictional character named Pink, loosely based on the experiences of Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist Roger Waters.  Pink loses his father during World War II, is abused by his teachers and sees his marriage fall apart.  To deal with all of this, Pink builds a metaphorical wall between himself and the world.  The Wall was later made into the movie "Pink Floyd the Wall".

The band was not in good financial shape as they had invested what money they had in an ill-advised investment company.  They needed to make an album just to pay the bills, even though they had been around for years.  Waters brought in producer Bob Ezrin to help him with the project.  They kept the good stuff that Waters had already worked on and through away the rest.  The character Pink goes through several crises, before performing a hallucinatory concert in which he has men take care of fans he considers unworthy.  Nevertheless, Pink feels guilty and puts himself on trial.  The album then hints at the cycle repeating itself, as Waters himself became alienated by the behavior of fans at Pink Floyd concerts.

The Wall:
(All songs written by Roger Waters, except where noted.)

Side one
1.  "In the Flesh?" --3:19
2.  "The Thin Ice" --2:27
3.  "Another Brick in the Wall Part 1" --3:21
4.  "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" --1:46
5.  "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" --4:00
6.  "Mother" --5:36

Side two
1.  "Goodbye Blue Sky" --2:45
2.  "Empty Spaces" --2:10
3.  "Young Lust" (Waters, Gilmour) --3:25
4.  "One of My Turns) --3:35
5.  "Don't Leave Me Now" --4:16
6.  "Another Brick in the Wall Part 3" --1:14
7.  "Goodbye Cruel World" --1:13

Side three
1.  "Hey You" --4:40
2.  "Is There Anybody Out There?" --2:44
3.  "Nobody Home" --3:26
4.  "Vera" --1:35
5.  "Bring the Boys Back Home" --1:21
6.  "Comfortably Numb" (Gilmour, Waters) --6:24

Side four
1.  "The Show Must Go On" --1:36
2.  "In the Flesh" --4:13
3.  "Run Like Hell" (Gilmour, Waters) --4:19
4.  "Waiting for the Worms" --4:04
5.  "Stop" --0.30
6.  "The Trial" (Waters, Ezrin) --5:13
7.  "Outside the Wall" --1:41

The lineup on The Wall included David Gilmour (guitars, vocals, synthesisers, clavinet and sound effects), Nick Mason on percussion, Roger Waters on vocals, guitars, synthesiser and sound effects and Richard Wright (organ, piano, Rhodes electric piano, synthesisers and bass pedals).
Bob Ezrin played organ, piano, synthesiser and contributed backing vocals.  James Guthrie played percussion, synthesiser and helps with sound effects, Jeff Porcaro from Toto played drums, Joe Porcaro, Blue Ocean and 5 others played snare drums, Lee Ritenour played guitar and Ron di Blasi played classical guitar.  Fred Mandel helped out with the Hammond organ and Bobbye Hall played congas and bongos.  Frank Marrocco played the concertina, Larry Williams the clarinet and Trevor Veitch the mandolin.  The 
New York Orchestra contributed to The Wall as well.

Backing vocals were provided Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, Toni Tennille, Joe Chemay, Jon Joyce, the Islington Green School, the New York Opera, "Vicki & Clare" and an unnamed children's choir from New York.  Chris Fitzmorris provides the male telephone voice, Harry Waters is the child's voice on the album, Trudy Young does the voice of the groupie and Phil Taylor contributed sound effects.

The epic double album was recorded during most of 1979 at several locations--Super Bear Studios and Studio MiravalEzrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie and Roger Waters and engineered by Guthrie, Nick Griffiths, Patrice Quef, Brian Christian and Rick Hart.  Gerald Scarfeand released November 30, 1979 on Columbia Records.

Pink Floyd's monumental The Wall checks in at #62 All-Time.

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