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Home arrow Reviews arrow DVDs, Blurays, and Videos arrow Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here DVD/Blu-ray review
Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here DVD/Blu-ray review Print E-mail
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Monday, 27 August 2012

Wish You Were Here - documentary on DVD and Blu-rayRecently released by Eagle is "Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here", a documentary about the band's 1975 album. Having received its premiere on TV in the US and certain European countries, some of the content may be familiar to some of you. With the addition of extra material on the DVD and Blu-ray, along with the superior presentation on these formats, the commercial release may well be high on the wish lists of many fans, so we take a closer look at the release here. The Blu-ray contains identical content to the DVD, albeit in the higher quality one would expect from the format.

"Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here" sketches three explicit themes and an implicit one. From the very beginning it's clear that the three dominant themes are disillusionment, absence, and Syd Barrett. The unspoken theme – or at least one that is inferred between the lines and underlies the entire account – is fragility.

"Wish You Were Here" is one of Pink Floyd's most powerful albums. It's ironic considering that this album was the beginning of the end: it's when the Waters phase of the band began to unravel, eventually ushering in the Gilmour period – which was far too brief and judged as quickly.

Although the broader consensus will divide the band's history into the Barrett, Waters, and Gilmour periods, watching the interviews here makes you realize that the band will always have a unique perspective that can't be replicated but only imagined by fans… and in that perspective "Wish You Were Here" is one page turn in a story that is clearly much more complex than the three generally accepted passages.

"Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here" illustrates how a band at its most vulnerable state can create such a powerful album. In fact, we learn how much the depth of the album's evocative nature could've only existed under these undesirable circumstances: during one of the band's most fragile moments – one that was precipitated by the haunting and legendary encounter with Syd Barrett during the album's recording at Abbey Road Studios, a moment that forced so much introspection.

Although fans and critics have ample resources from which to draw their conclusions on what made "Wish You Were Here" what it is, there's something about watching it on DVD or Blu-ray – and particularly at this stage in Pink Floyd's history (post Live-8, reflective of the wisdom that comes with the band members' age, and with so much technology to pull the narratives together for clarity) – that makes what is recorded here more compelling.

If you grew up reading about the band in books, magazines, and you remember television interviews that were never to be seen again excepting recent though rare resurrections on YouTube, you've probably listened to albums like "Wish You Were Here" and tried piecing some of those stories together in your mind.

"Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here" brings all these threads together into one coherent and seamless picture. In terms we can understand today, the only potential complaint is it leaves you with a desire for greater pixelation.

The video feels short – in reality there are 85 minutes of content but somehow the interviews, the stories… they leave you wanting more.

Not because it's a poor production. On the contrary, the production is actually great: the way the history is presented, track by track and including many characters from the Pink Floyd saga (Storm Thorgerson, producer Joe Boyd, back-up singer Vennetta Fields, rock critic Nick Kent, etc.), does a great job giving even viewers who are the least familiar with this album an idea of how it came together and how it was perceived.

It's not that any portion of the history of this album is missing – but perhaps the inevitable craving the most devoted fan might be left with is not quite satiated.

This in a sense is ironic too because one of the bits, out of all the interviews in this video, that is likely to be repeated and circulated for years to come is Waters' view on autographs: disappointed with the growing ‘autograph industry' – those that collect the stuff to sell it on eBay – Waters explains why he is not sharing these as freely anymore.

This should sound familiar to most Pink Floyd die-hards: it's the reason Gilmour autographs are so rare to begin with. And while these are legitimate reasons to sour on this, what the band members are not necessarily missing but probably are most likely consciously sacrificing is the one fan or another whose deep sense of connection to an album like "Wish You Were Here" might impel them to seek the artist out and to ask questions that perhaps most journalists might consider far too particular for a wider, target audience.

Perhaps in this respect, despite all the extraordinary things about this DVD, there is a shortcoming of sorts: it feels very much like that close encounter with a band member that might take place once or twice in your life if you're lucky – and you're so close, but somehow the autograph or the chance to ask the burning question eludes you.

Wish You Were Here - documentary on DVD and Blu-ray Wish You Were Here - documentary on DVD and Blu-ray

You can't complain you had the chance to see the band member in person – and most likely, this is in a context where their artistic work could be appreciated… so it's not a total loss. But it's easy to leave with a sense of absence. Then again – that's one of the album's themes: and so it brings us full circle.

Perhaps what we're to take from "Wish You Were Here" is that sense of absence, more than anything else. Maybe that's what makes the album so evocative.

The DVD extras are one of the video's significant strengths – in fact, you almost need to watch them to feel like some of that space you are left with is filled though the video is still an outstanding piece even if you skipped the extras. Confused? "Wish You Were Here" is one complicated album – so a documentary about it was bound to be.

Take the time to listen to this entire thing with your headphones on: fiddle with the sound options. One way or another, listening to Gilmour play the four notes on his Stratocaster at the Astoria is quite the audio-visual experience. Listening to alternate vocals for "Have a Cigar" is quite revealing too: it gives you a real sense of why the band made the unusual exception of having someone else take on lead vocals. Even though Gilmour and Waters are both gifted musicians with unique range, tone, and style in their vocals it's evident they knew there was something special when Roy Harper offered to lead the way. But does Harper feel as fortunate as the band did when they added him on lead vocals? Harper's reminiscing is interesting and one of the DVD's gems.

One of the most outstanding stories in the video is Brian Humphries', the production engineer who had not visited or dusted off old "Wish You Were Here" master recordings at Abbey Road Studios in 30 years. Much of what he has to say about "Wish You Were Here" is conveyed through his gaze as he unearths master tapes and other recording resources and looks into the empty studio space at Abbey Road. Absence, indeed.

Wish You Were Here - documentary on DVD and Blu-ray Wish You Were Here - documentary on DVD and Blu-ray

There are also those bits that answer nagging questions, such as ‘whatever happened to the ‘burning man?'' You will find the answer here.

As time marches on, it becomes very hard to believe albums like "Wish You Were Here" are this old. For some people, memories of an album like this will always be rooted in that day it was released and how they got their hands on a copy: those moments are permanently frozen in time. For others who discovered this music later in life it's a different journey – a more organic one that can somehow make the album feel more mysterious: why the mood, the lyrics, and the artwork? No matter how one discovered "Wish You Were Here" this documentary really fleshes out the answers to many of these questions.

It's quite possible the absence – that thing missing in this video – is simply the viewer's sense that so much of what is experienced through Pink Floyd music is slipping through the hands of time. Given the irreversible nature of time, storing a recorded history like this one in one's personal audio-visual library is something that – hopefully – a grandkid or another will be grateful for. It might be enough for them given the wear it puts on artwork. But for those of us who had the opportunity to experience Pink Floyd most fully there will always be something missing… and for whatever reason, this video exceeds expectations but still leaves one with that vacuity.

ORDERING INFORMATION
You can place your orders for this essential addition to your Floyd video library through the following links: you can save up to 30% off normal price for the Blu-ray, from Amazon UK, Amazon.com (US), Amazon Canada, and Amazon.de (Germany).

The DVD can be ordered from Amazon UK, Amazon.com (US), Amazon Canada, and Amazon.de (Germany), again saving up to 30% on normal price. As other stores list the release, we will update this page. Play.com and Zavvi also offer the Blu-ray and DVD, but both are more expensive than Amazon currently. 

 
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