Sound — 10
Wish you were here, as Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright has said himself, "...it's our best album." Pink Floyd have been everything from pop-psychedelia underground pioneers to a grandiose concept album specialist, Wish You Were Here was slotted nicely in between the epic Dark Side of the Moon and the brooding Animals, and made for a smooth transition. Yet no matter which Floyd depiction you enjoy, Wish You Were Here (from here on out let's call it WYWH) delivers on every medium. If you loved Dark Side of the Moon songs like "Us and Them" and "Any Colour You Like," both of which feature long instrumental (the latter being completely) pieces, Shine On You Crazy Diamond can 'eclipse' them all no pun intended. Richard Wright starts it off with an almost spontaneous keyboard solo, and just when you're about to lose interest, along comes David Gilmour's trademark Stratocaster, or, if you're listening to Shine On Parts 6-9, you'll hear his lap-slide guitar being plucked or slid with his usual expertise, at around 20 minutes, Shine On clocks in as one of the longest songs, even by Floyd standards, the band has released. The two main themes of WYWH are the fallen Syd Barrett's (for those just tuning in, Pink Floyd's founder and, some say, lyrical genius who's psyche went awry after what is theorized as too much acid and a hint of previous mental illness) painful absence, and the corporate Big Brother. "Welcome To The Machine" isn't very melodic, and when placed with the rest of WYWH, does not really fit in. It features a Waters sung verse, with Gilmour joining for the brief chorus, but little else, aside from a building acoustic solo. Getting the lead vocal on the cynical "Have a Cigar" is Englishman Roy Harper. The guitar is a bit broken up, there is a lot of synthesizer, and is definitely a change from the melodic, longer Shine On. "Have A Cigar" features a blistering, Gilmour-esque guitar solo in the middle, backed by Wright's keyboards. All of a sudden the volume drops, it sounds as if the radio station has changed, then a TV is turned on for a moment, then comes the most heartfelt Pink Floyd song ever written, the title-track Wish You Were Here. Instead of the usual "Waters-penned, Gilmour beautified" Floyd song style, legend has is it David Gilmour was playing the main WYWH riff at Abbey Road studios and Roger immediately saw potential as another song for the album, and the both of them (imagine that?) wrote the song. A gruff Gilmour vocal and two acoustic guitars are joined mid-track by Wright's piano and Nick Mason's low-key percussion. An interesting solo precedes the chorus, with Gilmour mimicking his guitar on the higher frets and going falsetto before giving way to the last chorus. Waters and Gilmour sing together and finish out the song strong, and no one is left unsatisfied.
Lyrics — 10
WYWH's lyrics weren't similar to anything before, or since for that matter. "Welcome To The Machine" and "Have A Cigar" set the pace for the "Animals" album to follow two years later, showing Roger Waters as an increasingly domineering, angry young man with a vicious leftist political view and the distinctive voice medium to send his message. A definite highlight is the actual quote from a record executive regarding Pink Floyd in "Have a Cigar." (The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think.) "Oh by the way, which one's Pink? Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Wish You Were Here are much different. Both pay homage to the band's fallen friend, and while the music of Shine On may recall Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, Roger Waters sounds his best when, after 7 minutes, the first words come in: "Rembember when you were young? You shone like the sun. Shine on you crazy diamond!" The delivery and choice of words is so heartfelt that you feel as if you knew Syd personally. Wish You Were Here has a very similar effect. It sounds as if Dave Gilmour is singing to you when he begins, "So... So you think you can tell? Heaven from Hell? Blue skies from pain...?" The definite highlight of the album is the flow. One song bleeds into the next so well, and although the two themes are very different, the album flows quite well. The way Roger Waters can set words to music is a talent surely missed by the remaining three Floyd members.
Overall Impression — 10
Although anything can be improved upon, it is quite difficult to find a weak spot in WYWH, the guitar drifts in "Shine On," but it never wanders. The guitar is very simple in Wish You Were Here, but it is the perfect medium for the words. "Have a Cigar" and "Welcome to the Machine" portray the anger and disdain for authority Roger Waters had in his mind at the time. The lyrics are among the best from Pink Floyd, because, for the most part, it was the last collective effort by the band. By Animals, Roger was in control, and by "The Wall" and the difficult-to-enjoy "The Final Cut," the classic-era Floyd had ended. For the beginning Pink Floyd fan, "Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd" is a good starter because it chronicles everything from Barrett to Gilmour leading the band, but for the experienced fan, you already know the tracks! If you don't own WYWH, your parents probably do, so do what you have to do. Burn it, hear it on vinyl, hear it on CD, just listen to the flow of the music, because they just don't make 'em like they used to!