Very much in the spirit of the 2009 Beatles remasters campaign, EMI has extended the same loving care to their second most important British act - Pink Floyd - with a full-on remastering and repackaging campaign called Why Pink Floyd?, featuring their entire studio output, 14 albums in all. Unlike the Beatles, various titles in the Floyd canon have been revisited before. There's even been a couple box sets - 1992's Shine On set with seven Floyd albums, plus a CD of singles; and 2007's Oh, By The Way, with the same 14 studio releases, but virtually no promotion or fanfare. The band's debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, also got a major revamp in 2007 to ring in its 40th anniversary. The Dark Side Of The Moon, Floyd's most popular album, has been reissued more times than anyone past 40 should be required to remember since its 1973 release.
In speaking with talk-show host Jimmy Fallon, drummer Nick Mason explained that with these remasters, it would probably be the last time you'd see this kind of attention put into the packaging, artwork and other physical extras because of digital downloading. One could argue that the fabulous Hipgnosis art that adorned Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, the floating pig at Battersea Power Station on the cover of Animals, and Gerald Scarfe's visceral images of The Wall, lost much of their luster when CDs scaled down their expanse. So now, whatever props and extras the campaign is offering are not necessarily on the 14 albums (which include booklets with a few pictures, lyrics and credits - available individually or collectively in the Discovery box), but on the Experience and Immersion editions.
These editions really answer the question - Why Pink Floyd? The Experience edition of The Dark Side Of The Moon includes a stunning 1974 live performance of the album from the Empire Pool at Wembley in London (it has now replaced a much-played bootleg). The Immersion edition is a six-disc box with a DVD and a Blu-ray featuring the same 5.1 surround mix James Guthrie did for the 2003 SACD, plus Alan Parson's much vaunted 1973 quad mix - indeed a treasure trove for Floyd audiophiles. The added video are merely films shown during the live performances, not the actual live performances, which is really what everyone would like to see.
At press time, Experience and Immersions editions of Wish You Were Here, which arrives in November (2011), and The Wall, coming February (2012), details are sketchy, but if published track sheets and Amazon are any indication, Floyd fanatics should rejoice. Wish You Were Here features live 1974 Wembley performances, plus a DVD and Blu-ray with surround and quad mixes, along with concert screen footage and an animated clip of "Welcome To the Machine" - all previously unreleased. The Wall may not be so "immersive" without the surround and quad mixes, but the remaster, demos, the previously released live (and remastered) Is There Anybody Out There?, and a DVD with promotional films and bits (how much, we do not know) of actual "live" footage from Earl's Court, may be enough to please even the stingiest Floyd fan. I can only dream that a Blu-ray of an entire Earls Court performance of The Wall will come to market in my lifetime.
Aside from the unreleased live tracks, the surround and quad mixes, and any live footage they care to dig up, the most impressive thing about this set of remasters is the exposure the more obscure Floyd titles like Atom Heart Mother and the curiously weird Ummagumma will garner. It doesn't hurt that they sound exceptionally dynamic and bright either. It's only too bad something as aurally kooky as "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict" couldn't get the surround sound treatment. Then again, "Echoes" could use a little 5.1 lovin' too, but you can't always get what you want.
Obscured By Cloud and More, which double as soundtracks, are both filled with melodically moving tunes worthy of the same praise the more popular songs receive. David Gilmour recently played "Wot's…Uh The Deal" live, which, along with "Childhood's End" and Roger Water's "Free Four," reflects the group's early melding of the simple with the sublime. Atom Heart Mother, with all the splendor of the title track, still boasts other goodies like "Fat Old Sun" and "If" - both of which found new life live during Gilmour and Waters' solo tours.
Animals continues to stand tall among the other post-Dark Side releases. The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and The Division Bell are also welcomed reminders of Floyd without all its four principal members - Waters, Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason. Syd Barrett disciples may feel cheated out of new remasters of early singles like "See Emily Play," but the Why Pink Floyd? campaign has that covered with a single disc compilation called The Best Of Pink Floyd: A Foot In The Door. Still, longtime Pink Floyd completists, archivists and bootleggers will gripe about the lack of other early singles (no "Arnold Layne" this time around), unreleased outtakes, live tracks and footage. Yeah, it will be years before a lot of that stuff will see the light of day, if it ever does. In the meantime, light a candle and a little incense, pop a disc into your sound system (not your computer), get comfortably numb, have a cigar, and breathe in the very best of the first band in space: Pink Floyd.
~ Shawn Perry