On March 28, 1994, "Pink Floyd" released their 14th studio album "The Division Bell".
Let's start with the fact that the name of the album perhaps best explains the controversy surrounding it.
Some welcomed the album and the first real collaboration between the three remaining members of "Pink Floyd" during the post-Waters era, while some argue, to this day, that it is a "blasphemy" and that the band without Waters does not deserve to be called "Pink Floyd" at all.
"The Division Bell" is rung in or around parliament to signal a division (a vote) to members of the relevant chamber so that they may participate, to choose a side, take a stand, vote for or against a particular law, hence its name - Division, split, dispute! Such a bell exists in the British Parliament located in the Palace of Westminster in London, and once every member of the House of Commons or House of Lords rings, there are eight minutes to choose a side and vote for or against a particular resolution.
Disclosure: We did not need eight minutes to choose a side. It was immediately clear to us. We chose music!
We have no problem with the fact that the band went on without Roger Waters, it happened before. "Pink Floyd" was initially led by Syd Barrett who dominated both the writing, the musical style that he took towards the psychedelic, and the singing and stage presence. The breakup from Syd Barrett brought a fundamental change in the band's DNA and musical style. Did it give legitimacy to any of the fans to claim that it was not the same band? Does this allow them to say that the band does not deserve to be called "Pink Floyd"?
A musical composition is like a living organism, it changes, it adapts itself to the existing situation, and this does not necessarily mean that any such change also requires a change of identity and/or name. Some bands stay with the same lineup throughout their career and still change their style from end to end. See the Canadian band "Rush", for example. On the other hand, some bands make substantial lineup changes, drastically change their style, and still deserve to maintain their identity and name. See "Deep Purple" and its first three first lineups or "Genesis" which have been reduced from five to just two members and changed their style drastically more than once, for example.
Do not misunderstand us, we appreciate Waters' great contribution to the band. We believe that a large part of the band's albums during its golden age would have not sounded the same without his great talent. Even David Gilmour himself said more than once that Waters is a better writer than him. But at the same time, we believe that the three remaining members and equally talented friends, have much to give even without him, and this amazing album is triumphant proof of that.
So true, this album is not "The Dark Side Of The Moon" and it is also not "Wish You Were Here", but it is definitely an excellent album that deserves to be released under the "Pink Floyd" brand and not by any grace!
Yes, we are aware that Gilmour has made a supreme effort to look and sound like the good old "Pink Floyd". He enlisted orchestral arranger Michael Kamen and producer Bob Ezrin that work on "The Wall", to help him reach the band's familiar and beloved sound. He hired recording technician Andrew Jackson who worked with the band during the Waters days and he even turned to renowned cover designer Storm Thorgerson who had been designing all of the band's covers since 1968.
We are also aware that in order to fill Waters' lyrics writing, Gilmour enlisted the help of his (then) girlfriend and later wife, journalist, and writer Polly Samson, who wrote most of the lyrics for the album (and that is why this album lacks Waters' protest lyrics).
All that is well known, and still, we have no problem with it. For us it's still "Pink Floyd" and it's still an excellent album, even compared to the band's previous material!
This album produces the first real collaboration since the 1970s, between the three remaining band members. An album that on the one hand corresponds with the classic "Pink Floyd" and on the other hand brings musical innovation and updated sound. Why do we say that this is the first collaboration? Because Rick Wright was not a full member of the band in the album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason", he did not play in all its tracks and he did not contribute anything to the writing process.
(Photo: Pink Floyd's Facebook Page)
"The Division Bell" opens up with the instrumental track "Cluster One" - the first written by Gilmour/Wright since "Mudmen", which appeared on the album "Obscured By Clouds", from 1972. The first minute and more is dedicated to sounds originating from the recording of "Solar Wind", until 1:43 minute: Rick Wright's finger lands on the keyboard, and the signal is given for the magical and peaceful dialogue between the guitar and the piano to start. It develops, until the Hammond organ carpet joins in at 3:43 and blends well with the Gilmourish fender guitar, and so it's hard not to think of the wondrous "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".
"What Do You Want From Me" is already screaming "Pink Floyd" from every note and instrument. Starting from Rick Wright Hammond's organ, which corresponds with excerpts from "The Dark Side Of The Moon", to David Gilmour's guitar reminiscent of "The Wall" as well as the instrumental track "Raise My Rent" from his debut album (Listen from 0:59 of the instrumental). Even Guy Pratt's (who's married to Rick Wright's daughter) bass is dressed up like Waters'. It's a slow and mesmerizing blues piece that just penetrates the bones. Some argue that the lyrics are a message to the band's fans in which Gilmour sings, among other things: "What do you want from me? Should I sing until I can't sing anymore? Play these strings until my fingers are raw?" But Gilmour noted in an interview that the song generally addresses interpersonal relationships.
The lyrics to the song "Poles Apart" refer to Syd Barrett - in the first verse and to Roger Waters in the second. It opens up with the words "Hey you" a Waters' song from "The Wall". It's an acoustic folk piece that corresponds in part with "Pink Floyd's" of the early seventies and includes a "carnival" transition section by Rick Wright that only adds to the nostalgia and charm of the song, connecting us back to the third and philosophical verse and from there to David Gilmour's amazing solo.
"Marooned" is another instrumental track by Gilmour/Wright and is the only one of the bands to ever win a Grammy. It's amazing to think it's a mostly improvised piece that started with a jam session of Gilmour and Wright, which meant to include sounds depicting an island in the great sea, with seagull sounds produced by Gilmour's guitar using the Whammy pedal, reminiscent of the guitar whistles of "Echoes" from the album "Meddle" and the sounds of waves crashing on the shore.
"A Great Day for Freedom" was originally called "In Shades of Gray". It refers to the great hope after the fall of the "Berlin Wall" and the disappointment that followed. The band's fans interpreted the song as reflecting on the relationship between the three band members and Waters, and the fact that they were released from his dictatorship and got their creative freedom back, but David Gilmour denied it. The song combines the melancholy piano with a more optimistic melody and lyrics and features a fine Gilmour solo at the end, somewhat reminiscent of that of "On the Turning Away" from the previous album.
"Wearing the Inside Out" was originally called "Evrika" and includes lead vocals from Rick Wright alongside David Gilmour, for the first time since "Time" from the album "The Dark Side Of The Moon". It's the only song on the album where Gilmour was not given credit for writing. Rick Wright composed the song and Anthony Moore wrote the lyrics. It's an exciting song about Wright's drug addiction, the crash and loneliness that followed, and the deep depression he experienced after his divorce from his wife and him being fired from the band by Waters.
We do not know why, but the guitar in the intro of "Take It Back" reminds us more of "U2" than "Pink Floyd". It's a song Gilmour co-wrote with his future wife, Bob Ezrin, and Nick Laird-Clowes from "Dream Academy". Gilmour uses the E-bow here to create the floating and special sound of the guitar, which is also probably the reason it reminds us of The Edge and "U2".
From there we move on to "Coming Back to Life", the only song on the album written solely by David Gilmour. Gilmore claimed he wrote it about his then-girlfriend and writer of most of the lyrics on this album - Polly Samson. The song opens with David Gilmour's bluesy and wonderful guitar sentences against the backdrop of Rick Wright's Hammond, which may have inspired the opening of Freddie on the Morning" - "Ha-Chaverim shel Natasha's" song, which came out six months later. The song develops until its more rhythmic ending and another "electrifying" solo by Gilmour.
"Keep Talking" is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It includes quotes from
Stephen Hawking's "robotic" voice, was taken from a TV commercial. This piece was sampled again as part of the song "Talkin' Hawkin" which was released on the band's last album - "The Endless River". The lyrics speak of the evolution of ancient man, up to the fundamental change, the moment he began to speak. To illustrate how essential speech was in human development this song includes "speech" in four languages. One, the Stephen Hawking's sampled voice, the second, David Gilmour's voice, the third, the women's backing vocals, and the fourth, Gilmour's guitar voice through the "talk box" effect that Gilmour has not used since the "Animals" album. Just listen to Rick Wright's solo throughout the song and how beautifully he recalls his tender days from the mid-1970s. The song reached number one on the Billboard magazine's chart and stayed there for six consecutive weeks.
We're nearing the end of the album with the folk-acoustic "Lost for Words"ת whose lyrics are a sarcastic look of Polly Samson at the relationship between Waters and Gilmour. The song opens with the low, deep organ sound interrupted by the sound of a slamming door and continues with Nick Mason's pulsating bass drum reminiscent of the "Dark Side Of The Moon". Gilmour's folk guitar playing starting at 0:45 reminds us of another giant guitarist - Mark Knopfler. It is interesting to note that Gilmour plays on the bass guitar as well.
The album is signed up with the icing on the cake - "High Hopes". A mighty song that has a place of honor on the band's greatest song of the all-time list. It was the first song the band started working on and the last one they finished. The sound of the church bell that is heard starting at the end of the previous song is played by Nick Mason and accompanies us almost throughout the song. The monotonous piano is synchronized with a slight syncope with the sound of the bell and simply mesmerizes the listener to the point that it is not noticeable that it is a track of more than 8 and a half minutes. How beautiful is the passage played with the nylon guitar strings on David Gilmour's classical guitar and what an amazing solo he plays on the "Steel Lap Guitar", with the beautiful orchestral arrangements.
The lyrics are a sort of nostalgic autobiography of David Gilmour from his childhood, leaving his hometown, and his first days with the band. They refer to Syd Barrett and talk about the things Gilmour has won and lost in life. During the song, the words "The Division Bell" are mentioned. The writer Douglas Adams and David Gilmour's friend suggested the name for the album. The song also ends with the words "The endless river / Forever and ever", which correspond with the song "See Emily Play" and the words "Float on a river / Forever and ever", with the words "The endless river" also serving as the title for the next and final album of the band. Thus there is a kind of double closer, since as mentioned this is the first song they worked on and the last one they finished.