Sound — 9
With almost 30 years having passed since David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd, hearing the an album like On An Island is a proof positive that the rock icon's talent hasn't ebbed in any way. While some artists have obvious wear and tear in their vocals, Gilmour sounds better than ever. The re-released album (originally out in March) is full of soothing compositions that may not appeal to fans of Pink Floyd's edgier work, but the new edition also includes a bonus DVD containing flawless renditions of old and new material.
You'd be hard-pressed to think of a more soothing vocalist than David Gilmour, and the CD portion of Gilmour's 3rd solo effort sort of almost feels like a pleasing lullaby at times. The title track is the perfect example of Gilmour's dreamy blend of rock, which very much draws on the mood of hits like Comfortably Numb. On An Island is one of the best tracks on the CD, primarily because Gilmour has an uncanny way of working in the most heartfelt guitar lines at the right moments. The track also features harmonizing vocals from David Crosby and Graham Nash interestingly enough.
Take A Breath is more akin temp-wise of Floyd's Keep Talking, and it does have a more rock-oriented approach than the majority of the other tracks. It's still a low-key rock song, however, so don't expect Gilmour to get too crazy in the album. The mellowness of On An Island might be a bit too much for some listeners, but songwriting-wise Gilmour has created a nice collection of memorable and moving songs.
It's during the DVD that the music becomes most enthralling. Gilmour is a subdued man during most of his performances, but seeing him up-close -- with passion in his face even when his body might not indicate such feeling -- is a new experience in itself. The DVD covers Gilmour performing in a few different settings: at the Royal Albert Hall, during the Abbey Road Session, as well as at a New York Session. Gilmour does perform a few of his new songs from On An Island, but the most memorable performance comes when he tackles Astronomy Domine, which was originally sung by Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist Syd Barrett. It's an unexpected choice and it's amazing to see it performed along with such contrasting songs. Comfortably Numb is the finale number on the DVD, and as always, never ceases to give chills.
Lyrics — 9
Gilmour's lyrics are introspect and touching, and definitely reflect the music behind them. The guitarist in the past has had sentimental themes included in his songs, and the latest album is pretty much no exception.
Smile is a touching number that details various day-to-day scenes, which although seemingly ordinary, are made more significant as he spends his life with a loved one. Gilmour sings, I light a campfire away from the path; We lie in the bluebells, a woodpecker laughs; Time passes slowly our hearts entwined; All of the dark times left behind. When set to the slow-tempo and Gilmour's hushed vocals, the lyrics become all the more effective.
On An Island follows a similar reflective theme, recalling the memories of a past relationship. Gilmour sings, Remember that night; White sails in the moonlight
They walked it too; Through empty playground, this ghost's town. The sentimentality should not be anything too new for fans, and Gilmour does a fine job at combining intriguing imagery with emotional content.
Overall Impression — 9
Gilmour's work as both a guitarist and vocalist are incredibly unique, which is a big reason why Pink Floyd became such a phenomenon. While his solo work definitely leaves out the edgier moments that were ever-present in Hey You or Run, he still has a lot to offer. Watching the DVD will give the best indication of this, particularly when he is dead-on his playing of the acoustic, steel guitar, and his electrics. On top of that his vocals are amazingly clear and it's unlikely he ever needs more than a few takes in the studio.
On An Island is an extremely laid-back CD/DVD, and it may be a little too mellow for even some of his longtime fans. But behind the slow tempos and lulling harmonies are solid arrangements that are beautifully constructed. At 60 years old Gilmour has again proved that he can still churn out a CD full of unique and moving melodies.