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Pink Floyd - The Wall 2012 Experience edition Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Sunday, 12 February 2012

Pink Floyd The Wall - Experience editionBringing the third phase of the Why Pink Floyd remaster and reissue campaign to a conclusion is the release of Pink Floyd The Wall as a limited edition 180g vinyl, an Experience edition, and an Immersion box set. Released in most territories around February 27th 2012, The Wall is the last of the "big three" that have been given the Experience and Immersion treatment, and as a follow up to our reviews of the individual albums, the collection box set, and the Dark Side Of The Moon/Wish You Were Here Experience and Immersion sets, we now turn our attention to these new editions of the band's 1979 classic.

To reiterate previous coverage on this site, this Experience edition of the album features the 2011 remaster of the album, and comes with a third CD containing a selection of original album demo recordings and works in progress from different stages of the album, and a new 28 page lyric booklet, housed in a newly designed Digipak. The demos are a selection of those found on the Immersion set, but for some, the CD's worth on offer here will be enough for them. Others will want to get the Immersion to explore the development of the album in more detail.

In due course, our extensive look at the Immersion set will also be here on Brain Damage, but before then, below, we take a good look at The Wall's Experience edition...

We won't spend much time on the first two discs, which consist of the remaster that some of you will have checked out already, either as the standalone release or as part of the Discovery box set. In my review of that, I wondered, with existing versions already excellent, how different this remaster would sound. To my ears, the answer is not much. It IS a little cleaner and crisper, but it is hard to picture how it could be dramatically improved. Having said that, I'm sure no-one would want excessive, obvious tinkering on a classic like this. But then, we're sure you're considering the expanded editions more for the extra material, than an album you're sure to have already.

The packaging is obviously different for the Experience edition, with the addition of the third disc. Contained within a sleeve, you get a fold-out affair housing the discs (as expected). The lyric booklet is nicely laid out, with Gerald Scarfe's handwritten lyrics presented well. There's also the original inner cover spread with Scarfe's images, and album credits. For those trying to decifer some of the alternate lyrics in the demos, unfortunately we don't get these in print.

Listening to the demos was a quite strange experience. Whilst some tracks are starkly different, others feel familiar but with key differences that are obvious throughout. If you're like me, you might find yourself singing along at times, only to be met with a completely different lyric or delivery of the lines. Also, as you expect a guitar chord or sound effect to chime out, something completely different comes out of the speakers.

As a glimpse into the development of the album, these demos are truly fascinating. Admittedly some bits are rather rough, with Roger's plaintive vocal sometimes rather discordant, but then it was never intended for public consumption. Some parts even show that the recording sessions weren't all angst-ridden battles between strong personalities, all working toward their own objectives!

The demos CD, which runs for some 75 minutes, is split into three separate programmes, and we'll discuss each in turn. Sonically, they sound as if they each demonstrate a successive jump in the evolution of the album, although - and this is a pity - there are no dates against any of the demos to give that sense of context. It would have been fascinating to see how early (and late) in the process some of these tracks date from. Whilst some underwent minimal change before they ended up on the finalised tracklist, some are dramatic departures.

  • Programme 1 - Band Demos and Roger Waters Original Demo
    Prelude (Vera Lynn) – Roger Original Demo
    Another Brick in The Wall, Part 1 – Band Demo
    Thin Ice - Band Demo
    Goodbye Blue Sky – Band Demo
    Teacher, Teacher – Band Demo
    Another Brick in The Wall, Part 2 – Band Demo
    Empty Spaces – Band Demo
    Young Lust – Band Demo
    Mother - Band Demo
    Don’t Leave Me Now – Band Demo
    Sexual Revolution – Band Demo
    Another Brick in The Wall, Part 3 – Band Demo
    Goodbye Cruel World - Band Demo

A radio flicks on. Static, some Spanish guitar, and various female vocal until Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" appears amid the distortion. Some very unexpected guitar work with a fuzzbox type of effect, accompanies Vera's singing, until a helicopter appears, disolving into a VCS3 (?) rhythm, before an acoustic guitar starts ABITW1. Quickly going into a meaty guitar and drum segment, the first verse is not far behind. Lyrically it seems to refer to the earlier days of a band, before arriving at a familiar chorus. A beautiful piano part from Richard concludes the track, which then blends into Thin Ice with a nice guitar sequence, and David's vocal, sounding double-tracked in places. Roger then takes over, and the track takes on an eerie feel.

Goodbye Blue Sky sounds little different, apart from the vocal, which has David more to the fore. The end comes with some keyboard from Richard with allusions to Outside The Wall. Teacher, Teacher is an early version of The Heroes Return, which appeared on 1983's The Final Cut and is fascinating to hear it in this context, with a different lyrical thrust. ABITW2 is a more restrained version, much more subtle (despite the "flexophone" bit in the first verse which finds Roger breaking into laughter) and has a nice simple percussive and strummed guitar accompaniment.

Empty Spaces has a much more raw and unrefined edge to it, and is quickly into a great alternative version of Young Lust. A very nice vocal performance from David and Roger in turn, with completely different lyrics in the verses, but with an identical chorus. Mother follows, and seems to have a tricky or unusual time signature for the instrumentation, but the vocal in the main body of the song seems pretty much as on the finished article. It's only near the end when it starts changing quite considerably.

Don't Leave Me Now's laboured breathing is keyboard driven on this version, and the main difference with the track is the guitar work, and towards the end, the vocal of "Oo babe..."

Next we get another track which resurfaced elsewhere - Sexual Revolution, which ended up on Roger's Pros and Cons. It really doesn't work in the context of The Wall, and in itself is dramatically different to the polished version released in 1984. Almost played like a pub singalong, it doesn't show the Floyd at their best, and if it wasn't for Roger's (rather strained) vocal, you would not recognise it as them.

ABITW3 brings things back on track, not least thematically. A marked similarity to the demo of ABITW2, it does feature a stronger guitar note. A rather short version, it quickly moves into Goodbye Cruel World, which is even shorter, and has Roger quietly tailing off with his vocal, rather than the definite "full stop" of the finalised recording.

  • Programme 2 - Band Demos
    In The Flesh? - Band Demo
    Thin Ice - Band Demo
    Another Brick in The Wall, Part 1 – Band Demo
    The Happiest Days of Our Lives – Band Demo
    Another Brick in The Wall, Part 2 – Band Demo
    Mother – Band Demo

Clearly sounding a later set of demos, a crunchy In The Flesh? starts things off. Some variations on the lyric, before fading into a plane crash and then Thin Ice's baby, sounding a fair bit more distraught. A slight tape glitch doesn't distract too much, although some of Roger's vocal is a little unusual - particularly the background vocal parts. For a band demo, it sounds a little rougher than others presented here, but is sufficiently different to warrant inclusion from a historical point of view.

The ABITW1/Happiest Days/ABITW2 segment is much more akin to the final album and sequencing. ABITW1 does feature a lot more guitar, through an effects pedal, and gives quite a different feel. This carries on in Happiest Days, where the vocals differ, and it really misses Nick's fine drumming that normally links it to ABITW2. This, as in the version found in Programme 1, is a darker, more restrained version, without the disco beat or kids chorus.

A gentle fade into Mother, and a version which is pretty similar to the release version. The main differences lie in the guitar work.

  • Programme 3 - Band Demos
    One Of My Turns – Band Demo
    Don’t Leave Me Now – Band Demo
    Empty Spaces – Band Demo
    Backs To The Wall – Band Demo
    Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3 – Band Demo
    Goodbye Cruel World – Band Demo
    The Doctor (Comfortably Numb) – Band Demo
    Run Like Hell – Band Demo

"Oh my god, what a fabulous room...wow, look at that view...can I just sit here for a while and take it all in?" Roger gives us his best groupie voice on this demo of One Of My Turns, although the comments running through the background are just a bit too intrusive and distracting from his plaintive vocal we all know and love. As it goes into the "Run to the bathroom" segment, we find a fundamental change as Roger refers to his "felling axe" rather than "favourite axe" - why would a musician carry one of those around, rather than what we normally associate axes with in this context?

Don't Leave Me Now is much closer now to the release version, whereas Empty Spaces still sounds quite rough vocally. The stream of items (more commonly associated in the longer form What Shall We Do Now) are strangely delivered, with much repetition. It quickly runs into Backs To The Wall, which is quickly despatched and Goodbye Cruel World concludes this sequence. More polished than the version found in Programme 1, it still has Roger quietly concluding his vocal.

The Doctor provides a nice rendition of Comfortably Numb, close to the release version, albeit with a different beginning and second verse from Roger. Finally, a slightly misplaced (it feels) bit of audience applause, and Run Like Hell starts. It proceeds as expected; it does lack the "Run, run, run..." vocal parts, but other than that, fairly standard.

CONCLUSION

So, a fascinating look at how this much loved album grew from Roger's home demo, into the multitracked, polished collaboration released at the end of 1979. The sound quality is remarkably high - certainly higher than I was expecting. For some, this precis of the recording sessions will be an ample look behind the Wall, but we suspect many will have had their appetites well and truly whetted. For them, the Immersion set, which we'll talk about shortly in detail, will be under careful consideration for the greater array of material on offer.

ORDERING INFORMATION

The Experience edition of The Wall is now available to pre-order from many retailers, for delivery on or around the date of release. For your convenience, we have direct links to the album for many major retailers here. As a reminder, purchases made at these retailers after entering their sites using our links helps toward our site running costs without affecting the price you pay, and we really appreciate it.

THE WALL Experience edition:    Amazon UK Amazon.com (US)   Amazon Canada
  Play.com HMV.com Amazon Germany
  Amazon Spain (ES)  Amazon France Amazon Italy
 
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