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Pink Floyd - The Wall 2012 Immersion box set Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Monday, 20 February 2012

Pink Floyd - The Wall Immersion box setWe're now at the final stage of (hopefully the initial tranch) of the Why Pink Floyd release campaign. Arriving worldwide on or around February 27th, 2012, are the Experience and Immersion editions of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

As the last of the so-called "big three" it was a clear choice for the specialist treatment. With Roger Waters potentially calling the shots on this one a little more than on the others, did that influence the contents to a degree? As it stands, there's some great stuff on the Immersion set, from the detailed, work-in-progress look at the development of the album, through a spruced up version of the live album released over a decade ago, to some interesting material on the DVD that comes in the box.

Without further ado, let's dive into The Wall's Immersion box set, having already look at the Experience edition. We're going to talk in detail about each element, giving information on what to expect, and as ever, we welcome your thoughts too on this box set, either via email, or on our Facebook page. Will the set be just another brick in your wall, or an essential to fill those empty spaces? Read on for our view...

Disc 1 and 2 - The Wall studio album

We won't spend much time on the first two discs, which consist of the 2011 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.

Disc 3 and 4 - Is There Anybody Out There

This is the live album released in 2000, consisting of the 1980-81 Wall concert recording, that was remastered in 2011 by James Guthrie and Joel Plante. Whilst the material (a live rendition of the album, along with the "missing bits" - What Shall We Do Now, and The Last Few Bricks - that form an intrinsic part of the show) will be familiar, a live version may not be quite so familiar to some of you, especially if you never picked up this official live album on its original release.

We've been so enveloped in Roger's Wall tour since 2010, that we'd - to a degree - forgotten just how good the original shows were. Not wishing, of course, to take anything away from Roger's current spectacular shows, with his tremendous band, utilising the best of what technology can achieve to deliver the story of The Wall, but hearing this recording you are reminded how much the interplay of Roger, David, Nick and Richard on the material is an utter joy to hear.

This new version, which according to my CD player runs a few seconds extra on each disc, is a big improvement sonically. I was always disappointed with the original, which to my ears sounded rather flat and lifeless. There were better audience recordings that despite being bootlegs, gave a much richer, more involving, "live" experience.

This new version offers much greater clarity and better dynamics. Some of the music (and the audience) still sounds a little distant, and the slightly unusual soundstage at times is a bit disconcerting. As an example, the drums in particular on In The Flesh? are still not what I would expect from a live recording. You don't necessarily want everything punchy and "in your face" but these just feel a little too distant in the mix for my liking. However, overall, this now feels for me a much better and more rounded recording, and the combined talents of Guthrie and Plante have done wonders (yet again).

Disc 5 - The Wall Work In Progress Part 1, 1979

The first of the discs that many of you will be heading for, on unwrapping your box set! This runs for around 71 minutes, and comes in a card cover. On the rear of this (and disc 6) is a passage written by James Guthrie explaining the background to the demos, and to what was, and wasn't, included in the set we have here. As a taster of some of the demos, there's a sampler that was posted on the official Floyd Youtube channel - you can see it at the very foot of this review.

Programme 1, Excerpts from Roger Waters Original Demo

Prelude (Vera Lynn)
Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2
Mother
Young Lust
Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2
Empty Spaces
Mother
Backs To The Wall
Don’t Leave Me Now
Goodbye Blue Sky
Don’t Leave Me Now
Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Hey You
Is There Anybody Out There?
Vera
Bring The Boys Back Home
The Show Must Go On
Waiting For The Worms
Run Like Hell
The Trial
Outside The Wall

Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" appears amid 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 a guitar starts ABITW2, where you hear a little snatch before heading into snippets of the rest of the tracks we know and love, albeit all the earliest versions with many stark differences. This whole programme, at just 14 minutes, just gives a flavour of his original demo, a fascinating whistlestop run through Roger's initial vision of the album pretty much as it ended up sequentially. I guess this is all that Roger wanted to reveal of the full thing - apart from the four tracks which appear elsewhere on discs 5 and 6. A real shame as I am certain many fans would love to hear the whole thing, exploring the project in full from the earliest stages. The biggest contrast is Run Like Hell which is a million miles away from what was finally recorded, and again, it would be fascinating to hear this in more detail.

Oh well, we'll have to content ourselves with the few bits we do have, along with the more substantial offerings from the various band demos, and David's demos as well. And so, on to Programme 2, which gives us more than just a precis of each track...

Programme 2, Roger Waters Original Demo And Band Demos

Prelude (Vera Lynn) - Roger Waters 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. As in programme 1, some fuzzbox guitar accompanies Vera's singing, until the helicopter appears, 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, 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 unexpectedly 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.

The Programme 2 sequence is found in full on the Experience edition, as Programme 1.

Programme 3, Band Demos

In The Flesh? - Band Demo
The 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, and a prominent meandering keyboard note.

The Programme 3 sequence here is found in full on the Experience edition, as Programme 2.

Disc 6 - The Wall Work In Progress Part 2, 1979

This disc, again in a card sleeve with the same Guthrie passage on the rear as disc 5, continues the development of the album, and contains more polished versions, closer to the release yet still with many fascinating differences.

Programme 1, Roger Waters Original Demos And Band Demos

Is There Anybody Out There? - Roger Waters Original Demo
Vera - Roger Waters Original Demo
Bring The Boys Back Home - Roger Waters Original Demo
Hey You - Band Demo
The Doctor (Comfortably Numb) - Band Demo
In The Flesh - Band Demo
Run Like Hell - Band Demo
Waiting For The Worms - Band Demo
The Trial - Band Demo
The Show Must Go On - Band Demo
Outside The Wall - Band Demo
The Thin Ice Reprise - Band Demo

Despite being one of Roger's original demos, Is There Anybody Out There? has a marked similarity to the released version, as does Vera. The acoustic guitar work is interesting, reminding one of Roger's abilities in this field. It's a much quieter, introspective version though, and revisits ITAOT towards the end, as the very rough (and pretty short) Bring The Boys arrives. Back into band demo territory now, and the difference is palpable. Hey You's lyrics are close to the finalised version, and musically similar with a few rough edges that get smoothed out later.

The Doctor is a fun alternative to what came later as Comfortably Numb. The introduction and first verse are markedly different, with Roger's "doctor" providing a rather spritely start. The chorus and first solo from David are as expected, but the second verse finds dramatic differences to what we normally expect...and the song ends there.

In The Flesh sounds no different, until you get to where "So ya, thought ya..." would normally appear, and the song virtually disappears. Roger's vocal appears quietly from the rear of the studio, with Nick's drum much more prominent. The final segment comes back to the forceful tone we expect, leads to applause, then to Run Like Hell. Very close to the final version, although one little lyrical tweak was obviously where Roger sings about "the hammers, hammer down your door..." which seems a little clumsy, and "batter down" seems to work better.

Waiting For The Worms has a more percussive feel, and you can picture the jackboots marching down the road. Is that Richard Wright we can hear providing at least part of the harmonised vocal in the background? Some nice meandering guitar finishes the track, before the synthesised orchestration of The Trial starts.

"I'm ever so sorry now..." - David's plaintive refrain throughout The Show Must Go On gives a lovely, regretful tone to the track. Outside The Wall makes little impression, particularly as The Thin Ice (Reprise) features some superb Gilmour guitar work in its short instrumental reading.

Programme 2, Band Demos

Outside The Wall - Band Demo
It's Never Too Late - Band Demo
The Doctor (Comfortably Numb) - Band Demo

With an unexpected harmonica beginning, and an even more unexpected "children's chorus" for Outside The Wall, around half-way through, it turns into a traditional band piece (It's Never Too Late), with Nick's drumming, David's guitar, Roger's bass, and Richard's keyboards driving the song toward its conclusion. Second thoughts were obviously had for this - which materially affected how the concerts would conclude.

The Doctor is a much more mature version of the song heard in programme 1. It does sound like after the first verse, sung by David this time, it cuts to the earlier version's chorus, but if it ain't broken, don't fix it!

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

"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. Rather odd. It quickly runs into Backs To The Wall, which is swiftly despatched, and Goodbye Cruel World concludes this sequence. More polished than the version found in Programme 2, it still has Roger quietly concluding his vocal.

This Programme sequence, and the one following, is found in full on the Experience edition, as Programme 3.

Programme 4, David Gilmour Original Demos

Comfortably Numb - David Gilmour Original Demo
Run Like Hell - David Gilmour Original Demo

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, but totally different to Roger's original demo heard (briefly) on disc 5.

Disc 7 - DVD

The DVD that concludes the set is a mixture of items that will satisfy in places, and frustrate (or raise hopes) in others. There have been many comments we've received via email, along with a huge amount on the web, concerning the DVD contents.

The principal frustration for many is that the original (1980/81) concert footage is still largely unreleased - most people were hoping for this to be included, although I do wonder if it is seen as "too big" an item to be within the set. A standalone release could be a far more suitable vehicle, and could include the excellent "Lost Documentary" along with anything else the Floyd's have in their archives concerning these shows. With the high quality of the included footage on the Immersion set which we discuss below, one can only hope that work is progressing nicely on a full release of the footage in due course.

Some have questioned the lack of the movie in the box - particularly on Blu-ray. Again, should it appear on that format, it would be too big an item to be bundled with an array of other things, deserving to be a standalone release.

Others have bemoaned the lack of surround or high definition audio as well. In our look at Wish You Were Here a few months ago, we asked James Guthrie about The Wall in these regards. He told us at that time: "My understanding is that EMI plan to stick to their release schedule for the 'Why Pink Floyd?' campaign, which means there wouldn't be time to include a 5.1 mix in 'The Wall' Immersion Box. I will be doing a 5.1 mix of The Wall for release on SACD, but we don't have a planned release date for that yet. The original multitrack tapes are in pretty bad shape, so the project will take some time. I'm currently working on a Blu-ray release of 'The Wall' Movie." So there you have it - these elements should be along, but just aren't ready yet!

So, let's look at what we do have on the DVD. This is presented throughout in 48 kHz stereo, and has been nicely assembled. Firing up the disc, you are greeted by a white wall menu, with Is There Anybody Out There as a soundtrack to your choices. Bricks fly in and out to reveal different Scarfe drawings of scenes and characters, while you deliberate.

As expected, you get the Another Brick part two promo video, in a newly restored condition. This looks OK, although not totally clean, and for those who notice this sort of thing, there is some edge enhancement along with the occasional compression artefact. For once, interestingly enough, it runs right through to the very end - after the song fades, you get around 10 seconds of marching hammers. This I've not seen before, and although not earth-shattering, good to see it here.

The Behind The Wall documentary is included in full - some 51 minutes. As with the promo, it is in 4:3 format, and dates from 2000. It's a fascinating look at the history of the band, with a focus on The Wall. The first 11 minutes has the band recounting their history, right up to the Montreal 1977 gig which proved the catalyst for The Wall itself. There's a clip of Happiest Days live which provides a sharp contrast to the restored footage elsewhere on the DVD...more on that shortly.

Of course, as part of Behind The Wall, other live clips from those original shows are offered. This includes Young Lust, with the amusing sight of Roger and David sharing a microphone for the chorus, along with tracks such as Brick 3, Goodbye Cruel World, Hey You, Comfortably Numb and even The Trial.

The band talk frankly about the issues faced at the time, including Richard's departure from the band (returning for the tour, on a salary, thus being the only one not making a loss on the endeavour!). Gerald Scarfe also talks about his work for the project, including animation test footage. Finally, the movie is given some focus, with Alan Parker and Bob Geldof sharing their memories.

New to me, on the DVD, is an 18 minute interview with Gerald Scarfe from 1982, for Getty Images. This is an interesting precis of his work with Pink Floyd over the years, leading up to and including The Wall. Whilst the picture and sound quality aren't perfect, the interview is well worth watching and includes an explanation of the various images Scarfe developed, such as the hammers, the school system (the mincer, conveyor belt, the maze) and more.

The final item we need to discuss on the DVD is the shortest (at just one minute and 24 seconds) but arguably the most interesting! This is a restored version of the 1980 footage of The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, and if the intention is to clean up the rest of the concert footage to this standard for an eventual release, then we're truly delighted - as will many hundreds of thousands of Floyd fans worldwide.

Pink Floyd - The Happiest Days Of Our Lives from Immersion set DVD Pink Floyd - The Happiest Days Of Our Lives from Immersion set DVD Pink Floyd - The Happiest Days Of Our Lives from Immersion set DVD

The footage is really nice, sharp, with great colours. You can understand why Parker felt the footage too dark to use in the movie; in itself though, it's very atmospheric and as a concert performance, superb. There's some great close-ups on David and Roger, and if the footage can be made to look this clean and sharp, it would be a crime if the rest isn't released!


PACKAGING

At the foot of this section, there's a video giving a full walk-through of the contents, but let's talk about it here too. As with the other Immersion sets, the box is nicely designed, principally black with a new arrangement of The Wall artwork. A nice touch is the gloss finish to the images themselves, on a matt wall. The rear is plain with a separate back sheet detailing the extensive contents. At around 11.5 inches square, it's just a bit smaller than a vinyl LP cover, but is almost 2 inches deep.

Ease off the heavy card lid, and under a foam insert, you'll start to find all the contents - specially designed Wall marbles with their own pouch, a polybagged silk-style (viscose) scarf, nine coasters, a nicely-reproduced Dortmund 1981 ticket (the best of the 1980/81 Wall ticket designs, die cut and fully Wall-themed), and a backstage pass.

There's a black, 44 page lyric book, freshly designed by Storm Thorgerson complete with Gerald Scarfe's handwritten lyrics throughout. Well illustrated, many of the pictures will be familiar, but rarely reproduced in this sort of clarity and size. There's also a photo book using Jill Furmanovsky's shots from the shows, and there's some great, previously unseen pictures alongside her well-known, iconic images of the concerts. There are pictures by others too, and bringing the story up to date, the final shot inside the book is from Roger's current tour.

You also get an art print, perfect for framing (although it IS of "The Wife" so not necessarily the most suitable for a family room!). There's a poster with Scarfe's hand-written lyrics for the whole album. There are also some more of Storm's "collector's cards" to add to the ones you might already have from the previous Immersions. There's also discs five, six and seven, in card sleeves with track listings on the front of each.

Finally, at the very back, where you would expect to find the other four discs (one to four) mounted to the back of the box, you find them each in their own (plain) sleeve. This is no doubt to put the issue of discs falling off in transit, which affected some of the earlier sets, firmly in the past.

As with Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, quite a collection of objects, even if some might seem a bit esoteric. There have been some grumblings from people about the marbles and scarf in past sets, but had these not been included here, others would have questioned their omission. As we've noted before, nobody can say, though, that thought hasn't been put into the overall package - it's not just a collection of discs in a bland case or box. The sturdy box feels just right for the cost, and the range of contents.

CONCLUSION

We sincerely hope that this release doesn't mark the final episode in the Why Pink Floyd? release campaign. Yes, the "big three" have all had fascinating and absorbing Experience and Immersion sets produced, but as many fans have pointed out, other albums are equally as deserving, and wish lists can be seen across the web. Those alone should give the band and EMI food for thought; for most of the albums, there is material that many of us could suggest for inclusion.

A great job has been done with these reissues and we know that they have been the result of a huge amount of work, by a fair number of key personnel, over a reasonable period of time. It's possibly greedy of us fans to want more, but with so many gems unearthed as part of the project, it makes us hungry for more!

Nick in particular has made suggestions in interviews of potential future focus, and we only hope that the goodies he alludes to, make an appearance in some form in days to come. As noted above, too, there's the potential release of high definition/surround mixes of The Wall, along with a Blu-ray of the film. And, dare we think that the 1980 footage comes out in its entirety at some point?

This set has given us many happy hours of listening, and will be something we'll keep returning to. As with DSOTM and WYWH, the overall package is something that you really should consider strongly. Yes, it isn't cheap, and there are things that many of us would have liked included, but the range of material you get in the box again is impressive, and surely worth adding to your collection for the enjoyment it should give you.

To help you with ordering the set, we've gathered together various major online retailer links. Purchasing through the links on our site will give much appreciated assistance towards things like our hosting fees, without costing you any extra on your order:

THE WALL IMMERSION BOX SET:  
Amazon UK Amazon.com (US)  Amazon Canada
  Play.com HMV.com Amazon Germany
  Amazon Spain (ES)  Amazon France Amazon Italy

Finally, if you want a taster of the demos you can get on the set, check this out:

 
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