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Home arrow Reviews arrow Albums arrow David Gilmour - On An Island
David Gilmour - On An Island Print E-mail

On An Island album cover
David Gilmour - On An Island
RELEASED MARCH 6th, 2006

An air of chilled contentment seeps out of the third solo effort from Pink Floyd guitarist, David Gilmour. Coming some twenty-two years after About Face, it is a distinctly different proposition. Gone are throwaway tunes like Blue Light, and in come deeply personal, family-centric meditations.

With the majority of the lyrics penned with his wife, Polly, On An Island fixes its sights onto what they believe are the real important aspects of life - love, family, contentment - things that have no relation to being rich in financial terms. Indeed, in This Heaven, he notes that "life is much more than money buys, when I see the faith in my children's eyes..."

The album starts with a celebration of an evening David spent with friends on a small Mediterranean island. Two of these friends have died since that evening, but despite this, the instrumental Castellorizon (named after the Greek island), and the title track of the album, which follows, look back fondly ("Remember that night, the warmth and the laughter...") in celebration, rather than sadness.

Castellorizon starts with what could be called "future echoes" - elements of later tracks wend their way into and out of the track, peppered with the sounds of the sea, birds calling, and gentle orchestration building the mood effectively. A signature DG solo breaks into the ambience, and sets up expectations for On An Island.

With soaring guitar work, the track is evocative and transporting. A slow builder, like most of the album, it takes a few listens before the various layers and qualities reveal themselves. As with The Blue, that follows, it features old Floyd colleague Richard Wright (Hammond Organ on OAI, and vocals on The Blue), and even older Floyd member, Rado Klose (who left the band a while before they turned professional) on guitar.

Complete with David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals, On An Island ebbs and flows like the tide. This mood continues on the incredibly mellow, almost soporific, The Blue. Polly's repetative piano refrain propells the track along nicely, accompanying the swooping and soaring guitar work, and the delicate vocal.

Take A Breath breaks the mood, with the only real out-and-out rocker on the album. This will no doubt prove a disappointment to a chunk of his fans, who thrive on this aspect of his work.

The song looks at what some call "hard love" - making a child stand on their own two feet, rather than rely on a parent's money or position. "If I'm the one to throw you overboard, at least I showed you how to swim for shore" and "when you're down is where you'll know yourself" - one wonders if real life events with his own children inspired the lyrics.

A good, chugging track, with some excellent slide guitar spicing things up.

During recording sessions
David Gilmour - recording session at Astoria
The short but sweet instrumental Red Sky At Night follows, and is notable not least for David's saxophone work. He plays the instrument much like he would a guitar. In places, there are brooding passages reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond... from the sound of the piece, you expect it to be one of the tracks that Richard Wright guests on. Amazingly it isn't!

The pace picks up a little with the jazzy tempo of This Heaven, aided and abetted by Georgie Fame on the Hammond organ. David has said that this is "a song about being content with one's lot in life", and lyrically there can be little mistaking this, with him counting his blessings for what he has.

Another instrumental, Then I Close My Eyes, includes David playing the cumbus, a Turkish or Middle-Eastern guitar (depending on which definition you read of its origins!). A lovely song, which at times brings to mind Fleetwood Mac's Albatross...but far better, with more depth to it. It is notable, too, for the glass harmonica work of Alasdair Malloy, and gentle cornet from Robert Wyatt.

Possibly the oldest song on the album is up next, and will be familiar to many of you. Smile was written some ten years ago, and the recording on the album is pretty much his original demo from 2001, with a little bit of tidying up. It had its live premiere back in 2001 at the Royal Festival Hall shows. It is a beautiful lullaby, with simple instrumentation over an achingly tender vocal. A gentle acoustic guitar waltz compliments the singing perfectly.

A Pocketful Of Stones is perhaps the most orchestral, cinematic track on the album, Zbigniew Preisner's influence on the sound to the fore. More of Malloy's glass harmonica work, working well with Lucy Wakeford's harp, and a delicate vocal from David.

The album is concluded with Where We Start - a song for Polly from David, which reiterates his feelings for her, and again shows his state of mind these days. A pastoral track, the economical lyric transports you to the idyllic scene: "we lie in the bluebells, a woodpecker laughs, time passes slowly our hearts entwined, all of the dark times left behind...". A lovely end to the album, with David looking to the future, growing old with the woman he so obviously adores...


With the exception of Take A Breath, it is a very mellow, sumptious, relaxed, personal effort, showing a man content with his life.

Some might want a longer album (at around 50 minutes, it is relatively short by today's standards). Some might want a harder, more rocking album, with less sentiment or emotion on show. Obviously this was not where David's head was "at" during the creation of the album. Certainly, his guitar explores new avenues and hits new heights on this body of music, so still plenty for the air guitarists to work with!

This is a beautifully tight, finely honed collection that will surely stand the test of time as amongst the finest examples of David's work. The personal aspect of the songs make a big difference, too. Let's just hope that this album marks a new creative era for David, with more in this vein to come.


The album can be ordered through these special links: US/International, UK/Europe, Canada, France or Germany.

And we know that a number of you will also want to buy the vinyl edition (or indeed, instead of the CD version!). Here are the links you need for this edition, which is in a specially designed gatefold sleeve: Amazon UK, France, or Germany. The vinyl edition was released shortly after the CD version.


 
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