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Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here 2011 Immersion edition Print E-mail
Written by Paul Powell Jr.   
Sunday, 20 November 2011

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here Immersion boxsetContinuing the Why Pink Floyd? campaign, Wish You Were Here now receives the lavish Immersion box treatment. As you can see below there are three sections comprising this review: 'The Winter of our Discontent' is a concise overview of Pink Floyd's 1974-75 time period with some interesting quotes and recollections. It also makes references to the content on the Experience and Immersion editions of Wish You Were Here. Pink Floyd historians can safely skip over this.

The second section, 'Games for May' covers the current music business in relationship to the Floyd, Surround Sound from past to present, plus aspects of digital technology particularly as they relate to the Wish You Were Here Immersion box. This is brand new sonic territory for Pink Floyd, so I thought it deserved a much closer look.

The third section is the actual 'WYWH Immersion Review' with all the information you'll need to know before making a potential purchase. So we won't feel disappointed if you skip ahead to read this! It you haven't made a decision yet, hopefully this review will help you decide which edition, any or all, of the 2011 WYWH editions to purchase. To complicate matters we also have the Super Audio CD (SACD) edition of WYWH, to be reviewed here shortly. As we close 2011, Pink Floyd fans certainly have a myriad of quality releases to consider for their music collections.

The Winter of our Discontent

Think of the most iconic album of the last 40 years. Think of one of your essential desert island discs. Think of the album you've replaced or re-purchased most. Think of the vast number of formats, re-issues, live recordings, and downloads of it. Think of the music world in its absence. Think of a more superior album by anyone. Think of the number of artists it has influenced. Think of how many recording engineers aspire to match it. Think of how many posters you've seen of it. Think of the number of words penned, typed, posted, texted, googled or verbalized about it. Think of your life without Dark Side of the Moon… Think of how insurmountable it was for the Floyd to follow it up. Consider the emphatic words of David Gilmour - "You try it one day, yeah you just try it, you try following Dark Side of the Moon one day."

The year 1974 was an intense period of revaluation and reckoning for Pink Floyd. As the commercial success of Dark Side of the Moon fulfilled all of their artistic and financial goals, the band were increasingly at odds with themselves and the often negative British music press. Priority number one was to come up with new material for upcoming tours of France and the United Kingdom. The premiere song, a beguiling suite of conjoined musical themes and poignant lyrics named 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and its companion, the propulsive 'Raving and Drooling', proposed a much longer compositional structure than the concise song cycle of Dark Side. The catalyst of 'Shine On' had originally evolved from "a little guitar arpeggio that fell out of my guitar in a rehearsal studio," recalled David. "That really set Roger off and he loved it. That's what got the ball rolling."

Touring had long established Pink Floyd's reputation as innovation pioneers. With each time out on the road, the complexity of staging and technology scaled up. For the 1974 tour, a new state of the art mixing board was commissioned along with new films for their hallmark back projection film screen. Animator Gerald Scarfe also began working with the Floyd, producing a surreal comic book to be sold at shows as a brilliant substitute for the standard concert programme. In June 1974, the band set off on a short tour of France premiering the new songs. During the subsequent months of touring, key personnel changes within their sound and light crew often meant learning the equipment on the road. Because of this turnover, some gigs were clearly better than others, and the Floyd knew it.

By the winter of 1974, the band embarked on a 20 date tour of the United Kingdom. Called 'The British Winter Tour', concert recordings of the new material reveal the band sorting out the dynamics of playing the new songs. 'Shine On' was performed as one continuous arrangement with more of the emphasis on a darker aggressive blues. The song's poignant lyrics were clearly a tribute to Syd; a calling card soon played out in real life. 'Raving and Drooling' in contrast, rocked out with the raw intensity of 'One of these Days' brimming with relentlessly cynical lyrics. It would be three years before the transformed song would resurface on Animals as 'Sheep'. Another new song, 'You Gotta Be Crazy' was a natural showcase for Dave's emotive guitar and vocals. Like 'Raving and Drooling', the epic song would turn up in a re-worked construct on Animals as 'Dogs'.

During November the band performed four celebrated shows at the Empire Pool, Wembley, London. The discontinuity of earlier technical and musical problems were now gone and the shows crystallized. Pink Floyd Sound Engineer Brian Humphries was brought in to oversee the live mixing on the second night, the 15th of November. His technical expertise arrived just in time, as the next night BBC Radio recorded the entire 16th of November show, tagging Dark Side of the Moon for radio broadcast. This celebratory performance can be found as part of the Experience and Immersion editions of Dark Side of the Moon. The encore, a wonderful jazzy version of 'Echoes' was also recorded, remarkable for Dick Parry's inimitable sax playing and the Blackberries' soulful vocals. It is hopefully speculative that this recording of 'Echoes' would be ideal for inclusion on a future Meddle Experience or Immersion release, should this happen.

Entering January of 1975 the group set their sights on beginning studio work on the Wish You Were Here album. In a critical band meeting Roger proposed making Wish You Were Here a concept album - "I was the main protagonist of making the album hang together conceptually as I saw it anyway - and make it an album of absence of one kind and another... as that is something that we were all experiencing…" A democratic decision was made to drop 'Raving and Drooling' and 'You Gotta Be Crazy' and record three new songs, in the process breaking up 'Shine On' into two halves. Saxophonist Dick Parry was back in the fold again, splashing his unique sonic paint to the canvas in 'Shine On'. Also on hand were tour vocalists Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams to give 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-9)' an exquisite touch of soul. The perennially popular title cut 'Wish You Were Here' was decidedly rustic on the outside but peering inside the shed exposed an uglier truth. On the BBC radio series, 'The Pink Floyd Story', Roger admitted that during the recording sessions; "We were all rather badly mentally ill" and "we should've called it Wish We Weren't Here". The perfect storm of misfortunes permeated the Wish You Were Here recording sessions; personal matters specifically marital problems, manifested themselves into acute musical disfunction, physical and mental exhaustion left a creative void, and technical mishaps arising from using a new 24 track mixing board magnified the claustrophobic stresses of studio time.

The specter of Syd continued to haunt the group but no one expected the unexpected. During the final mix-downs of 'Shine On', Syd turned up at Abbey Road studios in the flesh. Completely unrecognized by the group at first; gone were the golden boy good looks with the gleam in his eye. Syd arrived at the sessions in disheveled condition wearing a long raincoat, much heavier now with a shaved head and eyebrows. His haunting presence further intensified the group's melancholic mental state. Syd, increasingly agitated and bored by the repeated run-throughs of 'Shine On', proceeded to wander around the studio, commenting "Why bother? You've heard it once already". By some accounts Syd was ready to contribute guitar to the album, a scenario resolved as the band explained the album was already completed. Then as suddenly as he appeared, Syd disappeared once again, slipping back into his living enigma.

Roger in the meantime was having his own problems with the new composition 'Have A Cigar'. Never at a loss for penning words, Roger simply could not sing his own composition, unable to hit the highest notes, which was well above David's vocal range. In the Abbey Road studios, it turns out old friend, fellow musician and label mate Roy Harper was asked and jumped at the opportunity, turning in an admirable performance. Roger has on many occasions regretted this decision, but despite opinions otherwise, Roy was the perfect choice singing from the perspective of a clueless record company executive. To return the favor David played some fine guitar on Roy's album HQ, one of his best releases. In another studio session surprise, Jazz violinist Stephane Grapelli would guest on the alternate take of 'Wish You Were Here', a sparkling gem recently discovered in the Abbey Road tape vault.

During the interim between Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here the band embarked on a period of experimentation in the studio. One must ask, was this creative energy run amok, or the band's refusal to come to terms with a follow-up to Dark Side? In any case, the idea was to coax sounds out of mundane household objects, and then sample them for further tape manipulation, effects processing and sequencing. Named 'Household Objects', the sessions produced two finished tracks - 'The Hard Way' and 'Wine Glasses' which are included on the Dark Side and Wish You Were Here Immersion boxes respectively. Not a total failure but an opportunity, the 'Wine Glasses' track was carefully mixed into the opening moments of 'Shine On'. It is the Floyd's fearless experimentation and talent to utilize any tools available that elevate them well above their competition. Not merely a Progressive band, the Floyd have an unmistakable signature sound yet they seamlessly mix contemporary influences into their own music. Still their innovative use of the VCS3 Synthesizer for the fantastic rhythm backbone made 'Welcome to the Machine' uniquely Floydian; the results convey the coldness of synthetic machine sonics contrasting nicely with the warmth of strummed acoustic guitar, layered vocal harmonies and tympani flourishes. The highlight would have to be Rick's otherworldly Minimoog synth solo in the song's finale; a resonant flurry silenced the instant a virtual door is opened to reveal a rapturous dinner party. One can only imagine how well this dazzling juxtaposition of disparate sounds unfold in 5.1 Surround Sound.

Disjointed work would continue on Wish You Were Here for a further two months of 1975 before the Floyd set off for their 28 date North American tour. The set list had changed a bit with 'Have A Cigar' splitting 'Shine On' in half. It was the band's usual mode of operation to play new songs a bit heavier initially until they became more comfortable with them and 'Have A Cigar' displayed just how gritty yet cohesive the Floyd could perform. The entire set list was tight and polished buoyed by a new audience brought in by Dark Side's meteoritic rise in popularity. The West Coast leg of the tour began in April in Vancouver culminating with five nights at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Many problems occurred at the Los Angeles gigs, namely violence - riots, bad treatment from the cops, drug busts, etc. The significance of the Los Angeles gigs was not lost on Roger who recalled the violent turmoil in The Wall film.

The East Coast tour began in June in Atlanta and hit all the major cities including Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Detroit. A brilliant recording of the last show in Ontario, Canada on the 28th of June reveals the band in exceptional form, proving they were the best rock show in town just on a musical basis alone. The concerts were indeed becoming more spectacular; a family of floating inflatables, back projected images of the surreal, looming lighting towers and pristine Surround Sound. Back across the pond, the only show in the United Kingdom for 1975 was the July 5th Knebworth Festival. Appearing at large festivals can bring all sorts of surprises - Roy Harper trashed his van when his stage costume went missing, a pair of WWII Spitfires flew over before the band even took the stage and several technical problems affected the sound system and equipment onstage, primarily a faulty power feed knocked Rick's keyboards hopelessly out of tune during the first set. The Floyd however put on a brave performance; Roy Harper made 'Have A Cigar' his own, and by Dark Side of the Moon with the technical problems sorted out, the sound and music coalesced into a great performance.

The Wish You Were Here vinyl album was released September 5th (UK) and 12th (US), 1975. Naturally the album design was another Hypgnosis project with Storm Thorgerson heading up the design team. Enclosed in a shiny black shrink-wrap, the only indication this was a Pink Floyd album was the attached sticker depicting two robot hands shaking against a quadrant symbolizing earth, wind, fire and water. Inside the photography suggested the concept of absence and how it disconnects human beings from each other. Always the album band, Pink Floyd's contribution to modern music in the 20th century has defined the art form. Examined from any perspective, Wish You Were Here is a multifaceted masterpiece. With each successive album the individual talents of Pink Floyd grew in proportion, ability and confidence. This album continued the creative arc of progression; the music was uncannily melodic and meticulously layered, crafted with a fine balance of well considered words and music wrought with a searing emotion. It is this raw crystalline emotion that gives the album its warmth and humanity. The late Rick Wright, always the most private member of the group, regarded Wish You Were Here as his favorite Pink Floyd album; "It just happens to be the album for me from the moment it starts to it finishes it flows, the songs flow into each other, and it has just a wonderful feeling in it."

What is it about the Floyd's music that makes it so compelling? Could the answer be found in Nick's comments 36 years later at the 2011 Los Angeles press conference to announce the EMI Why Pink Floyd? campaign; that the enduring appeal of Pink Floyd's music could be explained by its "Romanticism and abstraction - people can use their imagination when they listen, it becomes music you can sort of paint memories on." Wish You Were Here by those merits alone succeeds, captivating the imagination of generations of listeners. In 1975, Pink Floyd fans agreed, sending the Wish You Were Here album into the number one chart positions in the United States and United Kingdom.

Games for May

Fast forward to 2011, the digital revolution has occurred and the music landscape is forever changed. The casualties were many as music corporations crumbled and restructured leaving just four major conglomerates: Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Corp. and EMI Group. Earlier in 2010, Pink Floyd engaged in a well publicized legal dispute with EMI over unpaid royalties and the online marketing of their music catalog. To complicate matters, EMI was undergoing re-organization itself, changing ownership hands like a high stakes game of poker. Now as we close 2011, EMI has finally sold its recorded-music arm to Universal Music Group, and its music publishing-arm to Sony Corp., ending months of speculation. Citigroup had owned EMI since February succeeding four disappointing years with Terra Firma Capital Partners. The sale of EMI ends 80 years of independence, home of internationally popular acts, such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, Peter Gabriel, Coldplay, Gorillaz, and Katy Perry. Now there are just three music conglomerates: Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Corporation. Ultimately In 2011, the Floyd prevailed over EMI in court, collected unpaid royalties, signed a new global agreement and announced they would be releasing re-mastered editions of their 14 albums, including lavish Immersion editions of Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Each Pink Floyd Immersion box promises to be a true fan's treasure trove; super-deluxe packaging and contents with a deep tape vault of unreleased music and video. Ideally these super deluxe editions are a way to give hardcore fans the ultimate immersion into their favorite desert island disc. Lavish treatments of classic albums are not new ideas of course, having been scaled this year alone by other major artists like the David Bowie Station to Station set, the U2 Achtung Baby mega-box and The Who's Quadrophenia Directors Cut, among many others. As standard in the Pink Floyd universe, the contents of each Immersion are ultra-high quality, well thought out, and most importantly tasteful to the expectations of fans. After decades of dismissing the existence of any unreleased material, the Floyd are embracing the art of giving back. Heading up the digital cleaning and remastering project are Pink Floyd recording engineers James Guthrie in the UK and Andy Jackson in the USA. Recent conversations with the band point to more material to come after the big three Floyd albums. Hopefully every remaining Pink Floyd album will have its own special edition, fully conceived and executed, brimming with unreleased music and video.

Inside each Pink Floyd Immersion box you will find both high resolution video and audio media in the form of standard audio CDs, DVD Video/Audio and Blu-ray Video/Audio. Introduced in the previous decade, Super Audio CDs (SACD) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A) were marketed as a superior alternatives to the normal compact audio disc. After a decade of competing against one another, no clear winner emerged and neither digital format has been embraced by the masses. Yet the SACD and DVD-A formats are still around for audiophile and collector. If you are reading this article, chances are very good you have in your collection the 30th anniversary edition of Dark Side of the Moon on SACD. Most SACDs are actually two formats in one, or a 'hybrid' disc containing two layers. One is the normal compact disc layer for compatibility with all CD players, and the other, the Super Audio layer for SACD players. Note that most Blu-ray players also have the universal capability to play SACDs, with no need for a stand-alone SACD player. Both SACD and DVD-A are capable of much higher audio resolution than standard audio CDs. The numbers behind the respective technologies bear this out, but specifications and analysis are a means to an end - truth is always in the listening. As mentioned above, the SACD may ultimately win the format war because of the sheer number of current and upcoming releases, but DVD-A is still a viable digital format with plenty of potential. Presented as a versatile optical media, DVD-A can utilize both multi-channel and stereo mixes with a wide range of sampling rates. The DVD Audio discs found in the Pink Floyd Immersion boxes are encoded with Dolby Digital Surround. This industry standard Surround Sound audio format delivers the 5.1 Surround mixes of Dark Side and Wish You Were Here. Streaming data rate resolutions of 448kbps and 640kbps are offered; the highest 640kbps resolution offers the best sound quality by virtue of optimum number crunching. As an audio format, DVD-A discs encoded with Dolby Digital audio have been the audio Surround Sound standard for many years, but as with any technology, this format has been superseded. As a DVD replacement, the Blu-ray disc was introduced to the public in June 2006. Currently the Blu-ray disc is fast becoming the dominant format for retailing motion pictures. But the Blu-ray disc is not only just for high resolution video; when used exclusively for audio, the Blu-ray disc offers the ultimate in sound quality. The key is uncompressed high resolution digital audio, or in essence - theoretically perfect sound. A dual-layer Blu-ray disc has 50 gigs of capacity available for music content to be digitized. The two lossless digital codecs with the highest audio resolution are Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Now consider the Blu-ray Audio disc can stream data at a maximum rate of 24Mbps, that's some 53 times the data rate of a DVD-A. This astonishing data rate is a quantum leap ahead in high resolution multichannel digital audio. If you want the opportunity to hear what the recording engineer heard in the studio, Blu-ray Audio is your ticket. The 5.1 Surround mix of Wish You Were Here mastered in 96kHz/24-bit resolution can now be experienced on a Blu-ray Audio disc.

My first experience with true Surround Sound was a Pink Floyd concert, so my expectations were unrealistically high. Without a doubt the Floyd's music was meant to be enjoyed in the Surround Sound format. Yet I'm sure no one could envision the advancements in sound technology back in the psychedelic daze of 1967… When the lights went down for Pink Floyd's historic 'Games for May' concert on May 12, 1967, some of the many LSD enthusiasts present in the audience must have thought they were hearing things: Sounds bouncing around the room traveling all the way through the parameters of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It wasn't the acid kicking in though - the band was attempting England's first-ever public event to offer Surround Sound. An engineer ran sound-effects loops through various speakers, while keyboardist Rick Wright used a custom-built joystick device to send his organ sound swirling around the venue. "He would whisk it around at whatever speed he felt was right," recalls Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. "So it was a quadraphonic effect, done on the fly." The famous and futuristic 360 degree panning device used was, of course, 'The Azimuth Coordinator' constructed by EMI's Abbey Road engineer Bernard Speight. The second model (the first one was stolen), had two joysticks capable of moving sound around to four loudspeakers in a concert hall. Along with other precious instruments and musical memorabilia, the Azimuth Coordinator is now on display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum as part of their Theatre's Collection Gallery.

Surround Sound experienced in the home is not new, in fact the term 'quad' used to be applied to 'vinyl' and especially to Pink Floyd. If you are old enough to remember, clear the thicket of cobwebs away and think back to the 1970's, when select Pink Floyd vinyl albums were released in quadrophonic sound - Atom Heart Mother, Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. The format caught the interest of budding audiophiles and some fans but did not take off commercially. Now the reissues of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here Immersion boxes will offer a unique full-circle moment. The Dark Side Immersion box will intrigue many for its inclusion of Alan Parson's infamous Quad mix. The timing is perfect: "Quadraphonic sound was done too early, with analog, when probably it should have waited for 15 or 20 years until everyone was on digital," figures Pink Floyd's Mason. "Then you could assign tracks to everything and move things around on automated desks. When we originally did it everything had to be done manually, which was incredibly time-consuming, difficult and frankly far more trouble than it was worth for the small number of people who were going to sit in the middle of a room listening to the quad mix."

We live in interesting times… there has been an undeniable paradigm shift in the music business towards portable file formats. Many people however, including music industry and music fans, are hopeful that Blu-ray Audio's massive potential will be fully utilized. I think if Blu-ray Audio sounds undeniably great to music lovers and is economical in scale to build a Blu-ray Audio collection, the new format could take off. At the present time, the quantity of titles offered is limited to releases by Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Rush, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and only a few others, but this situation could change in the future. With the growing penetration of Blu-ray players and home theater surround equipment in many homes, the new format has much greater commercial promise. If Blu-ray Audio indeed becomes more successful and other artists begin to embrace it, we'll have the Floyd to thank for bringing much needed exposure to the format. If any band's music was ideally created for high resolution Surround Sound, it's the Floyd whom pioneered the experience live. However Surround Sound has its inevitable detractors - audio purists whom make a valid point that music should only be presented in stereo, while the more adventurous early adopters have quickly moved on to the 7.1 Surround Sound format. Like the polarizing vinyl vs digital debate - each format has something valid to offer. Without a doubt, Blu-ray Audio has opened up a whole new dimension of experiencing sound: captivating clarity, three dimensional imaging, absolute definition with the rich warmth of live music. If nothing else, Blu-ray Audio will make you want to listen to and discover more and more music and that is the highest praise of this exciting new technology.

Ceci n'est pas un critique

Wish You Were Here - 5 Disc Immersion Box Set Review

Presentation: The second Immersion edition in the series, Wish You Were Here Immersion has the identical form factor as the Dark Side; same high quality construction, rich glossy graphics and considerable heft.

On the cover we are greeted by the well-dressed business man in the desert, absence of flesh, holding a clear copy of WYWH. Above the proper name and title is a curious French phrase - 'Ceci n'est pas une boite' which translates as 'This is not a box'. Students of Belgian visual artist Rene Magritte may appreciate this bit of surreal humor. Along the side of the box, the word 'Immersion' prominently appears, a close look at the letter 'I' in the latter part of the word reveals a very tiny diver from the WYWH lake photo shot. Storm has created a very imaginative package here, nice touches are everywhere you look, and as expected, peering inside the Immersion box is a well constructed delight. To add a degree of tactile stimulation to the experience, you will find a stash of collectables; a signature WYWH scarf, nine piece coaster set and three clear marbles. It can be surmised that the 'clear' marbles carry on WYWH's theme of 'absence'. Upon opening my box, I found the marbles had freed themselves from their velvet pouch, but no damage was noted. Contained within the layers are memorabilia envelopes with unused ticket and satin backstage pass reproductions, and another envelope with four more Pink Floyd Collectors Cards, numbered to 57 in the series. Floating amongst the Immersion contents, and of particular interest to audiophiles, is the singular Blu-ray disc in its own graphic sleeve, designated as Disc Five. This Blu-ray disc will be the shining star of our presentation here, so bear with us. Also featured are three books; Jill Furmanovsky's 20-page Pink Floyd photo portfolio and Storm's 36-page graphic edition lyric book; which features the phrase 'Ceci n'est pas un livre' in raised letters, which translates as 'This is not a book'. Clever yet puzzling, Storm's obsession with Magritte could be contagious. The third enclosed book is a smaller 20-page credits book printed with small black fonts against a gray background - a bit hard to read for us older folks. Like the Dark Side Immersion, a red pull sash attached to the box will safely lift the books and other contents. Those of us with mild obsessive-compulsive disorders will be maddened by the need to reassemble the contents exactly. Thanks Storm! You will also find an exclusive Storm Thorgerson 'diver' art print nestled between the layers. Underneath the assembly of items are four discs; two Audio discs, one DVD audio disc and one DVD video/audio disc. In addition to the aforementioned discs, the inclusion of the 'floating' Blu-ray disc produces a total of five discs; that's one less disc than Dark Side, a significant factor to consider as the two boxes are priced similarly. We're not quite ready to close the box just yet… does the content on the five discs make the grade? For the point of completeness, here's a complete run-down of the entire five discs' audio and video content. But first, let's get some preliminary gear and setup information out of the way:

Equipment Used: Yamaha BDA1000 Blu-ray player. Yamaha RXA1000 Home Theater Receiver. Samsung 46' LCD TV. All audio and video connections were with Audioquest Carbon HDMI cable. Polk Audio Blackstone TL350 5.1 Speaker System with Audioquest X2 Speaker cable. Polk Audio DSW Pro 440wi Powered Subwoofer with Audioquest SUB 1.3 RCA Interconnect Cable. Pananmax MB-AV Power Conditioner.

Listening Test: I confirmed the DVD Audio 5.1 Surround setup was selected as 640kbps, the Blu-ray Audio 5.1 Surround setup was selected as 96kHz/24-bit and the system above was performing at its optimum state - no digital sound processing was selected, or in other words, straight sound with no sonic embellishments such as EQ or DSP. I also selected Pure Mode which turns off all unnecessary circuitry to eliminate any possible degradation of the sound. The 5.1 speaker system was carefully calibrated to balance the sound levels relative to my listening position. Subwoofer levels were variable without being excessive. I used the DVD-Audio playback of WYWH in 5.1 Surround at 640kbps as a sonic reference to compare the WYWH Blu-ray 5.1 Surround disc for review, keeping in mind that musical memory can play sonic tricks on even the best of us.

Disc 1: The 2011 stereo edition of Pink Floyd's 1975 masterpiece, mixed and mastered by James Guthrie and Joel Plante at Das Boot Recording. This may well be the last physical upgrade of this superb recording. Available in the Discovery, Experience and Immersion editions. Absolutely essential in any edition for every serious music collection.

Disc 2: Audio disc contains previously unreleased tracks, including live versions of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', 'Raving and Drooling', and 'You Got To Be Crazy' recorded over two nights at Wembley, November 15th and 16th, 1974. For complete details on the two audio discs, you should reference Matt's most excellent Wish You Were Here Experience review, still I wish to make some additional observations… As far back as 1975, I had a vinyl version of the 'British Winter Tour' recording and followed up with several sonic upgrades over the decades. Hands down, all previous recordings of this concert material pale in comparison to what Engineer Andy Jackson has mixed here from the original multitrack tape. For the first time we can clearly hear the dynamics and subtleties of Pink Floyd live circa 1974; vocals are startlingly articulate in the mix, underpinned by the sonic thud of the drums and bass. For the first time, I could hear the many micro-textures of guitar and keyboards, illustrating the prowess of Pink Floyd working together as a band. Regarding the studio rarities: 'Wine Glasses' is timeless ambient, and along with 'The Hard Way' reveal that the Household Objects project wasn't such a puzzling exercise after all. Additionally, I agree the Floyd made the right choice with 'Have A Cigar', as this alternate one is great but goes on a bit too long anticipating resolution. However, as Nick would say "the jewel in the crown," no doubt, is the Stephane Grappelli version of 'Wish You Were Here'. The song captures a stunning version of the Floyd caught genre shapeshifting en-route between London, Paris, Nashville and Southern California.

Disc 3: This DVD (Audio only) disc contains the James Guthrie 5.1 Surround Sound 2007 mix in standard resolution audio at 448kbps and 640kbps. Also, the James Guthrie 2011 high resolution LPCM stereo mix, and the Quad mix from 1975 in standard resolution audio at 448kbps and 640kbps. The Quad mix, by Brian Humphries, was previously only available on vinyl and 8-track tape. I chose the 640kbps 5.1 mix to evaluate as 448kbps is of lower resolution. From the start I was very impressed by the wide soundstage the music presented. At higher volumes the individual channels blended so well the sound stretched dimensionally across the room, as I moved across the room out of the sweet spot, it did not diminish my enjoyment of the music. Picking out just one song, 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' revealed how precise yet subtle the WYWH mix really is; guitars situated in the front channels, synths in the back with bass and drums creating a solid foundation underneath. These were the macro sounds and sonically obvious, but it was the micro details that really surprised me - I did not have to listen hard to single out the circling wines glasses, the micro-tonalities of guitar notes, the inner-voicing of choruses, or the layers of double-tracking and reverb added to vocals and localization of instrumentation. The most chilling moment came with David's first signature four-note guitar arpeggio in 'Shine On'. From the first microsecond it rang clear and true, each successive note building tension with a sweeping wash of emotion. As the song progressed the dynamics from the band proved considerable, but it was the vocals that seemed to benefit most from the Surround mix - so articulate yet warm, just like Dick Parry's sax solo as it floated in mid-air in front of me. This was just my impressions of the first half of 'Shine On', and I had yet to even preview the Blu-ray disc!

The 640kbps Quad mix reveals some interesting differences compared to the 5.1 Surround presentation - different placements of instruments and vocals in the mix. The sound quality is in aggregate superb but there's more compression of the soundstage, less extension of the highs and not nearly as much resolution. I noticed the subwoofer was working fine but it was quite reserved if not downright polite. The sound overall was warm and pleasant to listen to, but not nearly as engaging as the 5.1 Surround above. Keep in mind this was a Quad mix created in 1975 for the production of Quad vinyl, so limitations were already in place to tame the dynamics. As the album continued the idea that recording and mixing engineers play the mixing board like a musical instrument became more and more apparent. The Quad mix here was state of the art in 1975, and reflects another mixing engineer's sonic perspective. The Quad had surprises - an abundance of unexpected sounds erupting from the four speaker positions in the room. Without giving them away, I really enjoyed listening to the Quad mix for the first time, it's absolutely a fascinating musical document in Pink Floyd's legacy.

Disc 4: This DVD (Audio and Visual), contains approximately 20 minutes of concert screen films from 1975; these are Gerald Scarfe's legendary films used on the Floyd's film screen on tours from 1975 onwards. 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' is presented twice with different conceptual ideas; the first is rather slow motion beach scenery featuring a shadowed figure intended to be Syd, concluding with a shimmering diamond around the sun. The second film is more complex and fully animated: fleeting images of the sun caught up in a sandstorm, a figure wasting away to nothing in the desert heat, an animated leaf turning into a man, floating and then falling through the clouds, then breaking into blackness to encounter a maze of backgrounds, ultimately separating into two persons - a shattering of self. Then a blank face appears, soon transforming into a tortured face, then a grotesque figure caught in a clear box with a spider implying fear. Suddenly a spider gives birth to another spider only to transform into raw meat caught on a hook, left for another creature to devoir it, only to be devoured himself by another creature, this time much bigger and more grotesque. Soon the creature vomits scores of humans into a maze as it forms into a global maze of delusion. You can clearly see the genome of The Wall's animation sequences encoded in these images, and I'm sure Gerald's imagery made an indelible impression on Roger. It should also be noted that sharp-eyed videophiles have already discovered the live audio version of 'Shine On Part 6' can be properly synched-up with the animated concert film footage of 'Shine On'. Now if someone could just find an easter egg on the DVD or Blu-ray? 'Welcome to the Machine' is the most fully realized animated film featuring a gleaming metal creature and towering silver architecture, slow-motion scenes of decapitation and decay, concluding with a rising angry sea of bloody hands reaching hopelessly for a gleaming edifice, only to watch it launch back to the mothership presented as a gleaming orb of perfection. This is gritty and surreal stuff, perfectly matched by the relentless sonic onslaught of the song. Because of the time period of the original films' production (1975), the picture will be the smaller 4x3 aspect ratio when viewed on your 16x9 aspect ratio widescreen TV. You have the choice of 5.1 Surround Dolby Digital at 448kbps or LPCM Stereo 48kHz/24-bit audio sound quality for the three Gerald Scarfe films.

Moving on, the Storm Thorgerson Short Film is just that, only six minutes long bringing with it some technical issues. Audio is limited to LPCM Stereo 48kHz/16-bit, but that is permissible. The film's content is acceptable enough, featuring a fleeting series of images and themes related to the album, seemingly made in anticipation of an official release. The video was originally created in 2000 using Flash animation and is set to a mashed-up stream of music from the WYWH album. I think this curious film may have been produced and intended for viewing on the internet. The main problem is the playback size doesn't even meet the minimum aspect ratio standard and as a result my 46" widescreen TV nearly swallows up the tiny window of images with its black screen. Taking the DVD Disc 4 as a whole, I think the vintage Gerald Scarfe films are fascinating, especially if you have never seen them before. The Storm Thorgerson film however is an unfortunate misstep. At a duration of only 26 minutes, the content on this disc leaves me wanting so much more. But was there really anymore?

Disc 5: This Blu-ray disc (High Resolution Audio and Audio-Visual Material) disc combines the audio and video content from Disc 3 and 4. This should be the go-to disc if you have a Blu-ray player and a home theater setup. The super-nova of the Wish You Were Here Immersion box, this disc contains James Guthrie's 5.1 Surround Mix of WYWH sourced from the original analog tapes, mastered in uncompressed high resolution audio at 96kHz/24-bit. For more technical information refer to the 'Games for May' section above. But in summary, the Blu-Ray disc is the preferred listening choice. At this point in the review, all objective thinking goes out the window - the only thing that matters now is the music. Quickly locate the Blu-ray Audio disc, warm up the gear and turn down the lights… the Floyd are coming to your home to perform. Press Play…

Once the first flowing moments of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5)' began and the 'wine glasses' proceed to encircle me, I knew something special was about to occur… every sound I had experienced with the DVD-Audio was amplified in scale and emotion. Funnily enough I kept writing words like "Wow" and "Awesome" in my notebook. Realizing that one word descriptions were not going to cut it in a review, I put my emotion in check and kept listening, and tried to write… several minutes passed until I realized it is quite difficult to write legibly when your foot is tapping so forcibly! I played WYWH again and again, enjoying each time anew, continually swept away by its warm unfolding soundscapes. Having familiarized myself well with the 5.1 Surround mix, I settled in and just listened, this time with my brain on cue. The most obvious improvement was the immense holographic space the music projected. Inside the periphery there was this liquid warmth and finely textured detail in the music that did not fully resolved itself on the DVD-Audio disc. Make no mistake - this is not a stereo mix and to compare it as such would be missing the point entirely. Note there are subtle and not so subtle differences in the Surround mix, notably emphasis and de-emphasis of sonic minutiae. Experiencing and listening to this recording for 35 years helps in picking out these differences right away! I have read that the Wish You Were Here album was recorded using the EMI TG 12345 series 24 channel/8 track recording/mixing console; important because of its beautiful musicality and superb naturalness. These sonic attributes accurately describe what I heard from the Blu-ray disc. More to the point, I wrote "Chills" in my notebook when David played his first four note motif in 'Shine On'.

I think everyone will agree that vocals are amongst the most difficult sounds to master in the recording process. In October of this year, I was absolutely fascinated listening to the BBC 6 Radio special 'The Record Producers', demonstrating how Wish You Were Here's multi-layered vocals were constructed in the studio. During 'Shine On (Parts 1-5)', Roger's lead vocal is precise and utterly clear accompanied by David's coarser double tracked harmony chorus, with the two girls slightly lower in the mix, yet sweeter and soulful - when all the voices come together it works remarkably well and makes me smile every time I hear it. I acknowledge that there were countless hours were spent making Wish You Were Here sound as sonically perfect as possible, but it all sounds so very effortless and natural on Blu-ray, as expected. David's guitar sound here is truly colossal and transparent, played with real feeling, and you can really sense that emotion… just as you can really hear the warm air flowing from Dick Parry's saxophone as his mellifluous notes attack and decay in an enormous soundstage, and the tips of Nick's wooden drumsticks tapping the alloy cymbals of his drum kit. I wrote "Sweet" and "Revealing" in my notebook, but this seemed inadequate. This whole Blu-ray Surround Sound experience is quite overwhelming for a confessed gear-head like me, always seeking the audiophile ideal of perfect sound.

'Welcome to the Machine' sounds absolutely immense on Blu-ray. No doubt about it - this song was obviously made for Surround Sound with its full utilization of the four channels and the subterranean bass. On a lesser quality stereo system the song's brutal heaviness can be unrelenting, but here in 5.1 Surround and on Blu-ray disc it opens up and breathes, revealing the stunning depth and musicality intended. Blu-ray completely supports the dynamics that well recorded music contains, and at no time does the demanding sound quality of Wish You Were Here trip up the high resolution potential of the Blu-ray disc. Distortion and compression are completely nonexistent, a testament of Brian Humphries engineering skill. "So far so good" I wrote as Rick's Minimoog synthesizer circled around me. I then realized how much his signature style of playing and unique vocals contribute to the sound of Pink Floyd, and I kept thinking about his comments on how much he really liked Wish You Were Here - his favorite Pink Floyd album. I kept writing "Dynamic" and "Thundering" in my notebook as I chose to tame the volume somewhat. The one thing you need to know about Blu-ray Audio is how tempting it is to crank the volume up and up! Not surprisingly, 'Have A Cigar' takes on a new sonic vista, chugging funk rhythms and crisp icy guitar support Roy Harper's lyric bending vocals, setting up David's razor-sharp guitar solo. As much as Rick's multi-faced keyboards shape the album's mood, it is David's passionate and often brazen guitar solos that punctuate it, reaching dizzying heights of prowess and dimension.

The highlight for many, the wonderful title track 'Wish You Were Here', is the ideal collaboration between Roger and David - a yearning poem about a relationship gone bad set to an original 12-string acoustic melody. This fan favorite has never sounded more wonderful as it does here. Every fundamental guitar note resonates with a musical purity complete with ringing overtones. The subtleties of the song come to life on Blu-ray, specifically the steel guitar and piano interplay, everything has just the right touch - you can now hear it all so clearly. Everything on this Blu-ray disc sounds so natural and warm, especially the vocals… those perfect words everyone knows by heart, and the wonderful resonance they make as the voices blend together in harmony. High Resolution audio makes vocals and other sounds so compelling that descriptions often become rather futile. I wrote "There's Grapelli's Violin!" as soon as I made my next discovery, and sure enough, there he was in startling detail towards the end of 'Wish You Were Here'. Anyone can hear this on Blu-ray; Stephane Grapelli's violin surfacing quite clearly for a quick flurry of notes, just before the gale force winds swallow him up again. The instrumental density of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 6-9)' with its deep thumping bass and soaring steel guitar sound even more powerful and foreboding on Blu-ray, giving way to the last set of lyrics, with more noticeable reverb than in stereo. After the funky 'Shine On Part 8' coalesces into a tight kinetic groove, Rick's nocturnal 'Shine On Part 9' composition draws the opus and album to a close - melodic yet melancholy. Just as Rick began the album softly, he closes it softly. I scrawled "Play It Again - Immersion - Desert Island Disc!" in my notebook…

Conclusion: So does Blu-ray Audio live up to all the hype? Absolutely! Concerned about Surround Sound distorting the music you know and love? Wish You Were Here sounds better than ever in Surround Sound. Thinking about purchasing the Wish You Were Here Immersion box? Consider the facts in this review; it really depends on your particular equipment setup more than any other factor, apart from the premium cost. Having lived with the WYWH Immersion edition for the last few weeks, I have to say that Surround Sound, and Blu-ray Audio in particular, makes me want to listen to the music more. Pink Floyd presented in Surround Sound is a new perspective on an old favorite, a compelling and enjoyable listening experience. In regards to the remainder of the box, the range of collectables are exemplary and are made of the highest quality. Much thought and work has gone into this box to give fans the ultimate Pink Floyd experience. EMI and Storm have succeeded in making the Wish You Were Here Immersion edition one of the most imaginative Pink Floyd collectables ever produced. Granted the 'unreleased' disc of audio material can be found in the Experience edition, and I do have some minor issues with some of the content, specifically the five disc quantity. However, at this point in the Immersion release schedule, I expect every future Immersion edition to be different in content and composition, especially after The Wall Immersion edition release coming up in February 2012. Here is where the priorities of the casual fan and the collector blur. As a true fan and collector for over 35 years, I am extremely happy owning my favorite Pink Floyd album as an Immersion edition. Without reservation, the Wish You Were Here Immersion edition is an absolute essential Pink Floyd item to add to your growing collection.

ORDERING DETAILS:
The set is available from many retailers, but to assist, we've gathered together many of the major online retailers here with direct links to the Wish You Were Here Immersion set. Using our links to purchase your Floyd (and other) goodies results in a small but vital amount towards BD site costs, which we really appreciate and won't cost you any extra. Our thanks to all of you who support the work we do with this small and simple gesture!

Wish You Were Here Immersion:   Amazon UK Amazon.com (US)  
Amazon Canada
  Play.com HMV.com Amazon Germany
  Amazon Spain (ES)  
Amazon France Amazon Italy

[As a sidenote, there have been a few EU-pressed blu-rays that have had a slight fault - three small clicks can be heard toward the end of the album. This does not seem to affect the majority of the EU sets though, and is not found on any of the non-EU pressings that are on sale in other countries. If you have one of these faulty discs, please contact us at the normal address.]

Proofread by Debra Powell

  • Selected Sources - The Winter Of Our Discontent:
    • The Pink Floyd Story Pt 5: Wish You Were Here - Capitol Radio - 14 January 1977
    • In The Studio with Redbeard: Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here - 18 September 1995
    • Wish You Were Here 25th Anniversary Special hosted by Alan Parsons - 30 October 2000
    • In The Studio with Redbeard Wish You Were Here Immersion Box Set - 31 October 2011
    • Inside Out - A Personal History of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason. Chronicle Books 2005
    • Echoes - The Complete History Of Pink Floyd by Glenn Povey. Mind Head Publishing 2007
  • Selected Sources - Games for May:
    • Pink Floyd and EMI agree deal allowing sale of single digital downloads - LINK
    • May 12, 1967: Pink Floyd Astounds With 'Sound In The Round' by Michael Calore - LINK
    • 360 Degrees of Music by Michael Gallant - Music & Musicians June 2011- LINK
    • Pink Floyd's Azimuth Co-ordinator goes back on display - LINK
    • The Complete Guide to High-End Audio (Fourth Edition) Acapella Publishing - Robert Harley
    • Superdeluxedition - LINK
 
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