This issue, I’m focusing on a single release, Pink Floyd’s The Later Years, which is a sprawling 18-disc box set that covers the band in the years following the departure of Roger Waters. This very noteworthy box deserved and required much greater attention; I’ll get back to my usual wanderings and ramblings in the next issue!
Pink Floyd - The Later Years
1982 found Pink Floyd in a state of complete disarray. Roger Waters’ increasingly politicized world view, along with his total negativity and complete disparagement of the contributions of bandmates David Gilmour and Nick Mason led to a considerable amount of tension in the band, both musically and creatively. Waters had already fired founding member Richard Wright during the recording sessions for The Wall, and the current album, The Final Cut, ended up being the final straw for Waters. Even though the album charted well and was a commercial success, the Pink Floyd that most fans had known was essentially dead when Waters announced his departure from the band in 1985. Most fans and critics alike generally consider The Final Cut to really be Roger Waters’ first solo album, anyway; it barely even contextually resembled the Pink Floyd of The Wall era.
David Gilmour, however, didn’t really seem to mind Waters’ departure; he had a different concept of the situation, and didn’t necessarily ascribe to Waters’ idea that everyone else in the band was just a hired gun, and totally expendable. And that Pink Floyd was Roger Waters, and a Pink Floyd without Roger Waters, well it didn’t really exist, did it? David Gilmour decided that Pink Floyd was, indeed, still alive; his first move was to rehire Rick Wright, and sessions soon commenced for their next album, 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The entire process was somewhat marred by an ongoing lawsuit over the band’s name, which was ultimately decided in favor of Gilmour and company. That didn’t slow Roger Waters’ continual derision of what he viewed as a diluted version of the Pink Floyd brand, and he frequently complained loudly in the international press. Despite the fact that I have a great amount of respect for Roger Waters’ creative genius, I just can’t reconcile his lack of enthusiasm for the other members of Pink Floyd with consideration to their significant contributions to the band's music.
Much of the hoopla pretty much died down after that, with Roger Waters focusing on his solo career, and Pink Floyd continuing to tour and record a number of albums during the period. Including 1994’s The Division Bell, which is widely regarded to be the last true, fully-formed Pink Floyd album. Their final studio album, 2014’s The Endless River, was heavily culled from unused material from The Division Bell sessions. The three post-Roger Waters studio albums were augmented by two live albums, 1988’s Delicate Sound of Thunder, which found the band proving that they could still perform Waters-era Floyd material to great effect. And 1995’s Pulse, which found them again performing songs from every Pink Floyd era, including new songs from The Division Bell. And, of course, Roger Waters continued to complain loudly at every opportunity; partially for what he considered a bastardization of Pink Floyd’s legacy—but very likely that he was miffed at the continued commercial success of the David Gilmour flavored version of the band. Say what you will about a Waters-less Pink Floyd; they continued to sell millions of albums and tons of concert tickets.
This gargantuan new box set offers virtually everything on record from Pink Floyd’s recorded output in the post-Roger Waters years. A sprawling, massive 18-disc set, it covers all the territory that encompassed the studio albums A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell, as well as the live albums Delicate Sound of Thunder and Pulse. The studio tracks from 2014’s The Endless River, a predominantly instrumental affair, are nowhere to be seen in any of the proceedings—a rather curious omission, considering the otherwise comprehensive nature of the box set. The decision not to include any of that record’s studio tracks is probably significantly grounded in the relatively recent release of the album, and David Gilmour’s impression that there wasn’t really anything new to say in terms of remixing or remastering, which is most of the focus of the reissued albums in this box. That said, there are numerous videos on the companion DVDs and Blu-rays that reference material from The Endless River.
The breakdown of the box set is basically as follows: there are five compact discs, which include remixed and remastered versions of A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Delicate Sound of Thunder, along with live recordings and outtakes of material from the same era, including the full 1990 Knebworth concert. There are no CDs included for The Division Bell, which was remixed in 2014, or for Pulse. The five DVDs and six Blu-ray discs essentially duplicate each other’s video content (for legacy listeners who don’t happen to have access to a Blu-ray player, I suppose). The extra BluRay disc features 24/96 remix/remasters of both studio albums included in the set, as well as including 5.1 surround sound mixes in both DTS Master Audio and PCM Audio versions. The set includes concert videos from Venice (1989) and Knebworth (1990), and the completely restored Delicate Sound of Thunder and Pulse tour films. And tons of other videos from across the spectrum of the era, like their performance (sans Roger Waters, of course) from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1996. The package also includes a couple of 7-inch vinyl discs, and there’s a 2-LP set that culls songs from the collection that’s also separately available.
This is definitely the David Gilmour Pink Floyd show, although an excess of tour personnel (as evidenced here in the concert films) was already standard operating procedure for the band by the time they’d reached The Wall era. David Gilmour supervised the remixes of the albums done for this release such that the contributions of Wright and drummer Nick Mason were more prominently featured in the new mixes. I can’t say that I’m a true monster fan of this period of the band, but there’s nonetheless a significant level of really interesting work here. Especially in A Momentary Lapse of Reason (which Roger Waters famously called “one of the great forgeries of all time” upon its release) and Delicate Sound of Thunder discs. I still listened to a fair amount of mainstream rock radio at the time they were both released, and so I had a fair amount of exposure to both albums, though I couldn’t name a single song from The Division Bell.
This sprawling project had a very convoluted release schedule; the digital files from the CD content were released to both Tidal (in CD quality only) and Qobuz (in 24/96 high res) in mid-November. The box set wasn’t scheduled for release until early December, so my pre-release review copy only included the preliminary CDs, with some access to high res content and video content available online. I thought the CDs sounded great, and the 24/96 files on Qobuz sounded pretty darn magnificent; A Momentary Lapse of Reason via Qobuz sounded incredible, completely blowing away my original CD copy of the album. I watched some of the short-form videos, but was initially unable to watch any of the concert films, which are probably a major reason for many Floyd junkies to want this box in the first place.
But then the final production release of the box arrived; it came in a massive cardboard box with a very secure foam insert configuration that protected the box inside from any kind of shipping damage. It weighed about 12 pounds. God only knows how much it cost to ship the set—I was truly shocked by its bulk. But the true joy came in opening the finished production box. I work at my day job in the commercial print and publishing industry, so I have a great level of appreciation for high quality printing and packaging, to say the least. Pink Floyd The Later Years is, beyond doubt, the finest and most comprehensive box set of its type I’ve ever had the pleasure to behold. And everything in the box is finished with the highest level of satin varnishes and UV coatings, so you can handle everything with no risk of getting nasty fingerprints all over the contents!
In addition to the massive collection of audio and visual data contained within, there are two casebound, hardback books—one of them is a large-format coffee table type book with tons of photos from every facet of this era of the band. The second book houses the five compact discs, and also includes all the technical information for all the contents of the collection. Also included are four soft-bound books; two of them deal with the two studio albums in the set, one covers the Pink Floyd live experience within the era, and the last one compiles all the album lyrics from all five albums within this time span, including The Endless River. The box also includes multiple large-format posters, concert ticket replicas, and die-cut stickers; there’s a serious plethora of extras. All of the DVDs and Blu-rays are encased in heavy, glossy fold-out sleeves, and the discs themselves are encased in Japanese rice-paper inner sleeves to protect them from scratches. Removing and reassembling the contents was almost like a puzzle; it took a couple of tries at repacking before I was able to successfully get the box closed after removing the contents!
The 24/96 high resolution mixes of A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell found on Blu-ray disc six were revelatory, to say the least, providing a magnificently immersive listening experience. Whether listening to the 5.1 surround mixes or just the high res stereo PCM versions, the sound quality was a tremendous leap in clarity and dynamic impact over the catalog CD releases. I found the Blu-ray sound via my new Yamaha BDA-1060 universal player just a touch more refined than the Qobuz versions—but it was quite nearly too close to call. Listening to them now in high res makes me feel that perhaps I didn’t give these albums quite the attention they deserved back in the day!
The visual experience of the Blu-rays and DVDs was a significant step forward; I’d seen an early DVD of Delicate Sound of Thunder, and while good, just can’t compare to the new remastering. There’s a striking visual difference between Delicate Sound and Pulse; the former was recorded on film and has the appearance of a really good big-screen movie. Pulse was recorded live to video tape, and looks incredibly clear and, well, very live—which is a very good thing for a concert film! However, Delicate Sound is widescreen, and Pulse is, unfortunately, only full frame—decisions that were made at the time the films were created, so nothing can be done to improve upon the situation. The DTS Master Audio sound employed in both is superbly immersive, and gives each film a really good you-are-there feel. They’ve never looked or sounded as good as they do here. While the Blu-rays have my definite preference, the DVDs also look really great, and my Samsung 4K display upconverts all DVDs to 4K anyway, so they both looked really impressive on screen.
There are tons of additional audio and video content included with plenty of outtakes and unused, previously unreleased tracks from albums spanning the length of the box. And there are literally hours upon hours of promo, concert, and assorted extraneous videos that run the gamut of every aspect of the band’s existence from this era. Not all the extras are in high res sound or highest resolution video, but for Pink Floyd completists it’s definitely a treasure trove.
The Pink Floyd of David Gilmour, while heavily disparaged by Roger Waters—and somewhat less enthusiastically embraced by the critics—still sold massive amounts of product and concert tickets. It may lack the acerbic wit and penchant for theatrics that Roger Waters brought to the mix, but there's plenty here to legitimize this body of work's place in the Pink Floyd pantheon. I seriously enjoyed every aspect of this incredible box—the audio content sounded really dynamic and magnificent over my Magnepan LRS loudspeakers, and the video was a massive improvement over any previous iterations I’d experienced. Not really considering myself a Floyd completist, I could probably get on without the need to own this monstrous box, especially considering its nearly $400 price point. That said, it’s beyond doubt the most beautifully presented box set I’ve ever seen; as a print professional, I’m simply awestruck by its magnificence. If you love this version of Pink Floyd—and there’s a lot to love here—it might just be your cup of tea. Recommended.
Sony/Legacy Recordings, 5 CDs/6 Blu-rays/5 DVDs/2 7-inch Vinyls(download/streaming from, Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer)