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Published: 2011/10/18
by Brian Robbins

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

EMI

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.

Comments

There are 3 comments associated with this post

GR October 19, 2011, 16:28:18

Dark Side of the Moon – Immersion set I have the Immersion set… OK… I LOVE it.. the one thing that was MISSING was something that went into detail about the ‘remastering’ that was done for this release… I have not been able to find ANY information about what specifically was done when this was ‘remastered’ this time around… I was really… Really, REALLY expecting to find that amongst all the extra ‘stuff’ in the box… OK… I do think the marbles… oh.. and even the scarf are kinda cool… but instead of all the other stuff like coasters and fake tickets and postcards of stuff and mysterious black envelopes… of various sizes… I would have LOVED to have had a booklet about the ‘remastering’ of the Pink Floyd catalog this time…. and specifically the Dark Side of the Moon details… especially in an ‘Immersion’ set ‘remastering’... I mean… you know… over $100 and all that… I kinda want to know exactly what I’m getting… There was a big deal made when the 30th anniversary SACD 5.1 surround mix was done. There is even a mention of it on the Pink Floyd documentary included in the 2nd DVD of the Immersion set. The original 16 track master tape of Dark Side of the Moon included two tracks that made up the basic background tracks… drums, bass, guitars.. and more… I believe this 16 track master tape is what Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs used to make their Vinyl (half-speed mastered) Albums and their ‘Gold” CD releases of Dark Side of The Moon. (Of course, I have both the Mobile Fidelity vinyl and CD versions) If not, then they at least used a 1st generation master of the original stereo mix… that would be my guess… For the 2003 30th Anniversary SACD 5.1 surround edition, they went back to the original 1st generation tracks that all ultimately were mixed down onto those 2 stereo background tracks,synced them up with the other tracks and viola!! Drums and Bass and more all have a new brilliance and life and punch and Dark Side Of the Moon had never sounded so good… So… I make the assumption that it was all done by using some giant 48-track quadraphonic mixing board to make the best digital transfer possible in 2003… Then the quad and stereo 2003 versions were both created from these 1st generation sources. Is that an accurate assumption?!? I remember at the time, there was a bit of … oh… an ‘issue’ that Alan Parsons had with the new quadrophonic mix of 2003. He critizised details and things about it at the time… for example, the echo in Us And Then said “bout… bout… bout…” instead of the original “about…. about…. about…”. I’ve read accounts recently, where he seems to have ‘accepted or learned to appreciate’ that 2003 mix a bit more than he used to. He specifically points out The Great Gig In The Sky as a track he particulary likes. Ok.. I’m getting off track… sorry… that’s easy to do… Anyway….. this is where I have questions about the ‘remastering’ that was done this time around. First… let me digress again for a minute… The original quadrophonic version from 1973 is somethingthat I always wanted to hear… but never did… I even had a 4 channel reel-to-real but never was able to get a copy of the quad 4 channel tape that was available… and I didn’t have a quadrophonic stereo… or quadrophonic turntable for playing quadrophonic records… So hearing that for the first time has been a real treat for me… Ok… That does help ease the $100+ that I no longer have and now find myself eating hot dogs for dinner this week… And… the SACD surround version… never bought it… but neither my CD and DVD player could play SACD... and I couldn’t bring myself to buy a new piece of equipment, just to hear one album…. even if it was Dark Side of the Moon… But… secretly… it actually pained me knowing that version was out there… and never hearing it… So… again.. Finally getting to hear the SACD mix has been a wonderful JOY!!! I have a fabulous surround sound system now… but… the room has never been so filled with rich, glorious, absorbing, sounds and details I had never noticed before… but now newly blended in perfectly with the familiar sounds I’ve permanently fused into my brain after a constant and consistant 40 years of exposing the frequencies of this album to my neurons in high doses. Ok… the $100 just keeps getting easier and easier to swallow… which reminds me…where’s the ketchup…?? OK… so now we are finally down to the question that I want to know the answer to. Where did the ‘Masters’ used for the 2011 ‘remastering’ come from??!? What was done differently this time around, compared to the 2003 stereo and surround mixes??!? Did the engineers and producers go back again to all of the original 1st generation tapes and transfer them into the latest state-of-the art bitrates and through state-of-the-art noise reduction… or different reverb or echo technologies… ?!?!??! Or… did they just go back to the digital files they saved in 2003 and do some kind of software conversion on those original quad and stereo mixes to create the quad and stereo mixes we hear in this Immersion set?? Same question for both the new Surround sound version and the new LCPM stereo mix… newly done from original tapes, or converted from the 2003 stereo mix..???!?!? Please… somebody… tell us what original were used and how’s and why’s and systems used on this new remastering. Even if it was all done automatically on a computer… I want to know!!!... I’ve got to know!!!??!? Oh… wait… there’s more in the Immersion set.!!!.. To hear a preliminary mix of Dark Side of the Moon was such a sweet treat… like licking the spoon while the cake bakes…. you know what’s coming… you can hardly wait.. And then… there’s the Pink Floyd Live in 1974 CD… Oh yeah… there have been other versions of Dark side of the played live… The David Gilmour led Pink Floyd on the Pulse album being the best known… and I have to admit… I LOVED it!!!... it was the concert I always wanted to see, but never got to see played live in my life. The first time I ever saw Pink Floyd was in 1977… on my 25th birthday… soooo oohhhh what a wonderful birthday it was!!! But it was the Animals Tour… Even though I got to hear Animals and Wish You Were Here played live on my birthday, I still lamented how hearing Dark Side Of The Moon would have made it the perfect birthday… As much as I loved the Pulse version of Dark Side of the Moon… it was missing something… and that something missing could be summed up in two words… Roger Waters… Then… in 2008… I finally got to see Dark Side of the Moon Live… The Roger Waters Tour… and there is no question… that show was extremely faithful to the original album… Every note was there, exactly as you remember hearing in that aforememtioned part of the brain that has it permanently archived… there was just one little thing that could have made it better… and that can be summed up in eight words… the voices of David Gilmour and Richard Wright. I have no doubt that Roger recorded and probably even filmed some shows during his Dark Side of the Moon tours… sure would like to hear/see them… maybe he’s waiting until his retirement years… ;>) (I’m not going to mention how I got a bootleg version off of ebay from Argentina) As my date and I were leaving that night, we were talking about how the only way we could have enjoyed the concert more, would be if we could have met Roger Waters… At exactly that moment, a white HumVee Limo drove past us… from a rear passenger window, Roger Waters sticks his head out and says, “Hey Kids…” I… we… were stunned!!!... Here was the person responsible for thousands of hours of enjoyment in my life… and as they were driving away, I said the only thing I could think of to say in that moment… and so I shouted… “Thank you!... Thank You!!!... THANK YOU!!!!!” and as silly as it may be to say that someone saying two words to me out of the window of a car as they drove past has become one of the treasured memories of my life… it is those moments that one looks back on in life and remembers with a smile for the rest of one’s life. Ok… I did it again… I’ll try to stay focused on the subject… The 1974 live version of Dark Side Of The Moon included in the Immersion set is without doubt, the best of the live versions I’ve seen… This was, the entire, original group right at the height of the glorious Dark Side of the Moon wave the band was riding… as it was happening!!! There is a fabulous quality, a rich energy, a feeling of exurburance and joy and comfortableness and casualness not found in the David Gilmour and the Roger Waters versions… There is no sense of being limited to making a note-for-note live recreation of the original album. The 43 minute album we have all come to love, clocks in at a full 55 minutes… the extended versions and extended jams in various songs have the feeling of being played by musicians having fun doing what they love to do more than anything else in the world. Then… when the performance is over… I thought it was nice to be reminded that live performances of Dark Side of the Moon did not always conclude with an encore ending with Comfortably Numb… ;>) So… really thinking about it… this is one of the best $100 or so that I have ever spent… wish there had been a video of that 1974 live performance instead of just screen shots of the little films they showed during various tours. Wish they would have included the remix information… wish they had not included a lot of the extra junk in the box… one book with pictures of all that stuff would have sufficient… except for the marbles… I like the marbles… I do have one very real complaint… when I opened the Immersion set… I carefully went down through all of the layers of stuff… and when I got to the bottom, disc 2 and disc 3 were not secure on their respective hubs… they were just loose in the bottom of the box, and sure enough, they are visibly scratched all to hell… For $100+... I expected better… and now I have to make a trip back to the store and explain to them how, for $100+, I expect perfection and not settle for ‘brand new’ discs that are in worse condition than any disc in my entire CD collection… and then hope they replace the set… and then hope the new set doesn’t have the same problem… and then hope, that if it does, they will replace that set too… and the next one and the next one until there’s one that doesn’t have any scratched discs… Oh…there is one more disk in the Immersion set that I have failed to mention… A Blu-Ray disc of all the stuff on the 2 DVDs… at a higher quality/resolution/bitrate then the DVD versions. But I don’t have a Blu-Ray player… I have over 400 DVDs and really can’t justify the additional cost of converting them over to Blu-Ray for a picture that is just a little bit better… or even justifying the extra expense of buying new disks on Blu-Ray… hey… my eyes are old… I can’t see all that well any more anyway. Blu-Ray should have come out 20 years ago, when I could have fully appreciated it… and I do have the same questions about the ‘remastering’ that was done and the original sources used in the creation of the Blu-Ray versions… and… I have to admit… just like the dilemma I had back in the SACD days… I really wish I could hear these latest ‘ultimate’ versions… I really, Really, REALLY want to hear them… but I have a hard time bringing myself to buy a Blu-Ray player, just to hear one album… even if it is Dark Side of the Moon… sincerly,
GR
Austin Texas p.s. OK…i confess… I already know that I am going to get a Blu-Ray player just for the purpose of hearing those stereo and surround versions… I’m not going to wait 8 years like I did before hearing the 2003 mixes… I can’t help it… I’m weak… I’m a Dark Side of the Moon junkie…. and have been for almost 40 years…

Pscyhedelic Alan October 20, 2011, 12:29:31

This review didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know; in fact, it read like a press release from Capitol/EMI. How many times can you say “boys and girls” before it stops being cute? (How about 2?)

pink pig October 20, 2011, 23:41:01

GR…Paragraphs are your friends.

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