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Published: 2011/10/18
by Brian Robbins

Pink Floyd
The Dark Side Of The Moon (Immersion Box Set)


Fasten your seatbelts, boys and girls – EMI’s explosion of Pink Floyd reissues has begun. And if their treatment of The Dark Side Of The Moon is any indication, this promises to be a hell of a ride.

First, a quick overall view of the reissue series (choose your degree of Floydness): the “Discovery” collection offers up the band’s 14 studio albums in newly-remastered form, either separately or as one honking box set. Upcoming “Experience” editions of Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall contain the remastered originals plus a bonus disc of previously-unreleased material and an expanded CD booklet. And then we have the big Pinks, the “Immersion” box sets, loaded with plenty of tunes (both remastered and unreleased), videos, lavish reading material, and gewgaws galore to delight both those who gave up their souls to complete Floydom decades ago as well as the curious who are testing the prism-colored waters for the first time.

The bottom line? With a slice of Pink Floyd to accommodate any budget – each with its particular frontal lobe-snagging hook of rarities and/or sonic sweetness – this campaign is unavoidable, boys and girls. No sense to try to avoid it. Relax; submit; choose your level of participation and enjoy.

Today we’re going to take a look at the first of the “Immersion” releases, The Dark Side Of The Moon. Be careful when you pry the top off this thing: safely tucked under a layer of foam egg crate you’ll find a grand pile of treasures, including a cool 36-page booklet designed by Storm Thorgerson (the man you can thank for the iconic Dark Side pyramid art); another large photo book featuring shots from 1972-74; a print featuring one of the variations on said pyramid; a trippy-looking scarf and a set of cover art-embossed marbles; replica backstage pass and ticket from the ’73 tour; collector’s cards and coasters; and – yes – a credits booklet that lets you know who did what on the all the discs included within.

And that’s really what you need to know, boys and girls – all of the above is all well and good (the black and white work included in the photo booklet is especially stunning), but what really makes this collection worth owning are the sounds it offers – after all, this is supposed to be an album review, isn’t it?

One more detour, though, as we must mention the sights the “Immersion” box contains. Both a DVD and a Blu-ray disc are included, proffering live performances from 1972 (SPOILER: don’t be scared by the flaming gong during “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” – nobody gets hurt); 2003’s Dark Side documentary; and actual concert screen films from gigs in ’74 and ’75. That’s right – never mind trying to sync up The Wizard Of Oz with a playing of Dark Side, kids: simply tune into one of these puppies and absorb the graphics the band themselves offered up on the big screens behind them back in the day.

Now we get to the sonic portion of things, starting with an audio-only DVD featuring five different historical mixes of the original Dark Side album divvied up amongst stereo, quad, and surround presentations (total audiophile porn). Another disc is split between the original album mix by Alan Parsons and selected bonus cuts. Richard Wight’s demo of “Us And Them” is the one-stop heartbreaker on this disc. What you’ll hear is solely Wight’s piano with no vocals, but none are needed … it’s just plain lovely. And intriguing in its own way is Roger Waters’ acoustic demo of “Money”, Waters picking out a combo bass run and chord sequence on guitar while making a run through his lyrics.

There are two more discs of tunes in the Dark Side “Immersion” box set: one is a 2011 album remaster that sparkles without losing any of the original’s soul, thanks to James Guthrie and Joel Plante at das boot recording. (Guthrie’s been behind the mixing board for Floyd since 1979’s The Wall.) And then there’s the other, which I can look you in the eye and tell you is the makings of this whole box set, boys and girls. What we have is a live performance of The Dark Side Of The Moon from start to finish, recorded at Wembley Stadium in 1974.

Combining pre-recorded passages of sound with draw-off-and-let-fly performances by all hands, this concert is an amazing example of musicians as improv actors. You can’t have a work of music that’s as concise as this at times without the players adopting roles – a merging of the free-range psychedelic spirit combined with specific launch pads, touch points, and cues. If there’s any loss of the studio fanciness (if), it’s offset by the passion of the performance.

When David Gilmore sings “Home, home again/I like to be here when I can/When I come home cold and tired/It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire” on “Time”, he does it in a manner that combines both weariness and dignity. Guest vocalists Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams lead “The Great Gig In The Sky” far, far away – taking a majestic vocal/organ/bass weaving jam to a place that becomes almost gospel-like. As the voices recede, Waters’ bass comes to the foreground; there’s a moment when he and drummer Nick Mason almost leave for some dark and smoky/jazzy place, but then the pulse slackens; Wright’s piano ripples off into the mystic and – _ker-chunk! ding! _ – it’s time for “Money”. The biggest cash register in the world appears on the scene, the bass locking onto its percussion with an unshakable clomp of the jaws. (Gilmore pulls off an extended guitar solo that shape-shifts from heady psychedelic spirals to gritted-teeth blues.)

Guest saxophonist Dick Parry deserves special mention, as well – he turns in a breathy, soulful performance on “Us And Them” while blasting his own way through “Money” with a fierce break that combines machine-gun ratta-tats of notes with Martin Fierro-style deep jungle bellows.

My advice? You need to at least – at least – lay hands to the “Experience” double-disc version of The Dark Side Of The Moon to get the live Wenbley ’74 show. But the “Immersion” box will give you tons of Floyd to dig into, between different audio and video treats. Music of this caliber has enough layers to justify this sort of exploration. (Next up: Wish You Were Here.)

In the meantime, wear the Dark Side scarf however you’d like, boys and girls. And don’t swallow the marbles.

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