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Home arrow Reviews arrow Albums arrow Roger Waters - Flickering Flame - The Solo Years volume 1
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FLICKERING FLAME - The Solo Years vol 1 - REVIEW

Flicking Flame Limited Edition coverWell, it is finally with us - the Australian version of the first "best of" album that a past or present member of Pink Floyd has released showcasing their solo career. Gaining a gradual release around the world (with Australia being first), curiously not tying in with his current live shows in an anticommercial stand that one must admire but certainly be a little confused by, is this a good representation of Roger's career post-Floyd? Read on, dear reader...

"In the old days, pre Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd played to audiences which by virtue of their size were allowed an intimacy of connection that was magical. However, success overtook us and by 1977 we were playing in football stadiums. The magic crushed beneath the weight of numbers, we were becoming addicted to the trappings of popularity.

I found myself increasingly addicted to that atmosphere of avarice and ego until one night in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, the boil of my frustrations burst. Some crazed teenage fan was clawing his way up the storm netting that seperated us from the human cattle pen in front of the stage, screaming his devotion to the 'Demi-Gods' beyond his reach. Incensed by his misunderstanding and my own connivance I spat my frustration in his face.

Later that night, back at the hotel, shocked by my behaviour I was faced with a choice. To deny my addiction and embrace that comfortably numb but magic less existance or accept the burden of insight, take the road less travelled, and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit. The Wall was the picture I drew for myself to help me make that choice". -- Roger Waters, 1995 (from the CD booklet)

The passage above comes from each page of the CD booklet, and explains Roger's rationale for leaving Pink Floyd and spawning the solo work present on this latest release.

Whilst a leopard obviously will never change his spots, so a musician will tend to have a common thread running through their career. However, this compilation serves to remind that Roger has never shirked from taking risks and chances, going in different directions and trying new things that many of his existing fans might find challenging - as an example, the forthcoming Ca Ira opera.

Inevitably here is always debate and disappointment when a compilation is released; why was/why wasn't such-and-such a track selected? Where's the rare stuff? What's this rare song on here for? I just want a greatest hits... And so on.

Well, keeping a fairly neutral view, I would say that this serves as a good wrap-up of his career - so far - and has a reasonable mix of the expected ("The Tide Is Turning", "Radio Waves") and the unexpected (the demos included). As with most "specialised" compilations, it is not really aimed at the mass market but at people who are fans already.

The packaging is fine and does its job - even if it isn't wildly exciting. This site has both the standard cover and the limited red slip sleeve: this is a simple thin piece of card and adds little to the experience. The CD booklet is pretty well designed (although the proof reader missed at least one error - but I digress) with a nice selection of (small) photos from Roger's live career post-Floyd. The lyrics are printed in full, and the aforementioned rationale runs through the middle of each page.

The track listing is shown on the solo discography page, so on with what versions of the songs are presented if not the standard (if well mastered) album versions...

Starting off with "Knocking On Heaven's Door", this is the commonly downloaded version that is a good workmanlike rendition. "Perfect Sense I & II" are presumably from In The Flesh, as is "Each Small Candle". The excellent and largely unheard soundtrack to "When The Wind Blows" spawned the track "Towers of Faith" included, featuring some superb Jay Stapley guitar.

The "Flickering Flame" demo is nice to hear, having heard the live rendition. This is a really laid back performance, with almost Dylanesque vocals in places. It is mostly Roger on an acoustic guitar, bolstered as the song progresses with Jon Carin on keyboards, and Doyle Bramhall II on guitar. A nice rough touch is heard almost three minutes into the song when Roger's studio wonderings come across clearly in the background. The only downsides are the odd occasions when Roger's vocal range is stretched...still, it IS a demo and it IS nice to hear it.

The other demo to appear is "Lost Boys Calling". In my mind, the finished version (from the 1999 Sony Music soundtrack, "The Legend Of 1900") is far better, as this version has Roger stretching his vocal chords too far again - what is it with his demos that he sings them at a point quite far above his vocal pitch? That's not to say I'm not interested to hear it - it's just that I view this version as more of a curiosity, or diversion...

It is interesting how the majority of the perceived highlights of Roger's career, according to the compiler(s) whoever they may be (and I have the feeling that Mr Waters had a good hand in the selection), are more mellow and thoughtful than you would think...and with "Each Small Candle" and "Flickering Flame" giving hints of how the next (rock) album of Roger's will sound, that trend has no sign of changing.

Now, I wonder what volume two will give us....?

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