Tired of reading about Pink Floyd? Sorry. During a pandemic, you do a lot of at home listening to music and it gets the mind thinking about existential subjects like the ones Pink Floyd covered in the 1970s. Let’s do something fun, take the best Pink Floyd albums, and solo albums, and pick the best dozen.
In recent blogs I’ve covered a lot of Pink Floyd ground, you might think I really like their music. Obviously, I do, but I’m also critical of their work. For many fans, criticizing any of their work is like disowning one of your own children. If you don’t love everything, you are not a true fan, some say. I love pie, but there are certain kinds I won’t eat. Cake, on the other hand…
Maybe it is unfair to mix group and solo albums. I have every Floyd album except for the early Syd Barrett stuff, but I am familiar with the material. I have nearly every solo album, and several of them I believe are so incredibly good, that I reach for them over some Floyd albums. Sacrilegious? Hardly.
12 albums ranked. Ready, set, go.
1. – Dark Side of the Moon (1973) Is there any doubt about the top album? If you haven’t listened to it recently, indulge yourself. Whatever device you now use for playing music, get up close and person with headphones or earbuds to hear the technical and creative wizardry. A landmark album, no wonder it stayed on Billboard for many years, it kept selling and selling. Is it rock? Is it progressive-rock? Is it psychedelic rock? Is that R&B I hear with a sprinkling of gospel? The songs defy categorization because no one had heard anything quite like it.
2. – Wish You Were Here (1975) This album sails passed a lot of people. The presence of Syd Barrett looms over this project. The album has a tougher, more industrial sound, and expectations were very high following Dark Side. This album came two years later, a really long time in those days. If you watch the documentary on the album and listen to the interviews, this was a hard album to make, and the strains within the band were evident. There is a lot of appreciate in this set of songs and as the years have gone by, this album is not in the shadow of its predecessor.
3. – On An Island (2006) – Gilmour I have recently written about this album, you can easily find it here on my site. Number three on my list, yes, it is that good.
4. – The Wall (1979) A transition album for the band. Waters in full command, he wrote and produced most of the songs, the other members had lesser roles. While this feels like Pink Floyd album, it is more of a Waters album. There is no denying the power of the theme and the production is outstanding. It rocks harder than you have seen in a while or would see in awhile. Pink Floyd at its most commercial.
5. – Wet Dream (1978) – Wright Who would have expected Rick Wright to deliver such a subtle, but powerful album? This album is overlooked and that is a shame. It has jazzy swirls and nice, gentle musical tones. It does rock, but it represents what Wright does best, competent musicianship and great style.
6. – Meddle (1971) This was really the precursor to Dark Side of the Moon. It has several songs that could have it on that album, but also has a looseness and variety of style that makes this a thoroughly engaging experience. Sometimes Pink Floyd sounds over-produced, but not here. The musicianship is excellent.
7. – The Division Bell (1994) The best of the post-Waters Pink Floyd albums. Not perfect, but has very good instrumentals and songs. Rick Wright returned to the band as a full-time member. I have a review of this album on another blog. I believe there are three or four classics on this album.
8. – David Gilmour (1978) – Gilmour The first solo release from Mr. Gilmour. I have also written about this album, so you can look for my review. This is a bluesy, hard rock, no frills effort. Full of riffs and guitar phasing, it is contains several songs that did not make Pink Floyd albums. There were no big hits or tracks that Gilmour would be playing in concert 30 years in the future, but as a whole, the album is very gratifying.
9. – Pulse (live) Live Pink Floyd, without Roger Waters. Recorded on The Division Bell tour, it featured the entire Dark Side of the Moon album, and a healthy selection from their latest album plus a few of their most popular songs. The closest thing to a Pink Floyd concert, with Gilmour, Mason and Wright.
10. – David Gilmour Live In Gdansk (2008) / Live at Pompeii (2017) – Gilmour Two live albums from Mr. Gilmour. I couldn’t pick just one because both offer some unique and wonderful solo and Pink Floyd songs. Gdansk features On An Island, which does not lose anything performed live. You get an assortment of Pink Floyd songs as well. Pompeii features songs from Rattle That Lock, and some Floyd songs not on his previous live release.
11. – Ummagumma (1969) A double album, one disc live, the other individual member studio tracks. The solo material is at times interesting, but excessive and meandering. The live tracks are wonderful, powerful and stellar. Pink Floyd unchained. During this phase of their career, the band was playing continuously and their musicianship and tightness shows.
12. – Amused to Death (1992) – I felt like I should included a Waters album, even though his output is less fulfilling that his band mates. Waters’ third solo album, another work that relates thematically about war, media and sensory overload. Waters’ solo work has never rivaled his Pink Floyd output, musically it lacks the bite and melodic strength, but thematically, when he hits the mark, it is very interesting. Good, but not great.