David Gilmour - On an Island
As albums go, this one has a lot to live up to. It put last year’s performance by Pink Floyd at the G8 gigs in jeopardy. It has put paid to any rumours of a reformation. It has seen the "Pulse" DVD delayed to the end of the year to avoid a clash. Yet, David (don't call him Dave) Gilmour really has nothing to prove. He already has a huge catalogue of astonishing material behind him. He is so rich he can even give away a house to charity. But still, this album shows that he cares deeply for his craft and how it is received.
This is Gilmour's third solo album, and his first since 1984. However, the last Pink Floyd album "The Division Bell" was practically a solo record in all but name. This was a patchy affair, with some wonderful music ("Cluster One" and "High Hopes" in particular) but a lot that just went nowhere. The sound though of "On an Island" is very much that of Pink Floyd, it does not sound that radically different. We get the same blissful instrumental interludes, and an album that seems to hang together, which seems almost themed in its construction.
Adding to this feeling of Floydiness is the inclusion of Richard Wright, who plays Hammond and sings backing vocals on two of the songs. Other guest stars include David Crosby and Graham Nash, and Robert Wyatt, who contributes a wonderful cornet on "Then I Close My Eyes".
First track "Castellorizon" is all over the place, starting of pretty meaningless until Gilmour's amazing guitar kicks in. Then onto the title track "On an Island", which is an absolute belter. Richard Wright's Hammond and Gilmour's guitar bend together to make this one of the finest moments on the album - it sounds like every Pink Floyd song you ever loved and more. After this, "The Blue" is a bit of a letdown, a rolling piano refrain gently dipping the song up and down to its conclusion.
Also letting things down is "Red Sky at Night", which just sounds like incidental music to a bad soft porn film. Jazzy saxophone and strings burble around a sea of noises but all it does is remind you how much better the intro to "Crazy Diamond" is. "This Heaven" though is much better, full of blues licks and twanging guitars, a real foot stomper of a tune with some excellent vocals. "Then I Close My Eyes" is equally good, opening with a guitar part straight out of Robert Johnson's repertoire; it then takes a more transendental route, drifting out of the speakers with some fine performances. From here, the album takes a more muted approach, until final track "Where We Start", which sees more classic Gilmour guitar and a fine way to end the album.
This is a very grown-up album, that will appeal very much to fans of Pink Floyd. If you like a bit of punk rock and your guitars fast, you'll have to find it somewhere else. Also, this album is just too patchy to be viewed in the same light as Pink Floyd at the height of their powers. It is more of a Sunday afternoon album for those old enough to remember those days.