On An Island Re-Release (USA) Review

David Gilmour and Richard Wright performing at David's 60th Birthday party.
David Gilmour and Richard Wright performing at David’s 60th Birthday party.

David Gilmour’s third solo album On An Island (OAI) was first released on his 60th birthday back on 6th March 2006. Indeed, he celebrated his 60th at Porchester Hall in London at which he performed some songs with his 2006 touring band before they went off to travel the world touring the new album. It is therefore slightly surprising that, less than 9 months later, the album is re-released! This time though with a separate bonus DVD.

Naturally, Gilmour used the media to his advantage to publicise the first offering of OAI, the first solo effort for many years, which included magazine interviews, radio interviews and, of course, TV and the internet! One such event for the internet was the AOL Session he did in April 2006. These sessions, along with a performance from the Royal Albert Hall and another for a documentary in Abbey Road Studios, are included on the bonus DVD now packaged with the original OAI CD.

To Buy Or Not To Buy?

David Gilmour - Live And In Session Limited Edition DVD.
David Gilmour – Live And In Session Limited Edition DVD.

The AOL sessions, although presented in high definition video quality and excellent sound, are not that interesting visually. In fact, the physical set they perform on is as interesting as a brown paper bag. Looks the same too! Although a good listen, it is not as good as the forthcoming live DVD will be! The Abbey Road Studios performance – recorded for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary broadcast in the UK in early 2007 – again sounds and looks OK, but is also not that visually interesting; but is more visually interesting than the AOL sessions! The only “interesting” aspect of the DVD is the live performance from the Royal Albert Hall of Take A Breath in May 2006.

Considering that the only interesting aspect of the bonus DVD is the performance of Take A Breath from the Royal Albert Hall, you must ask yourself if it is worth buying the re-release of On An Island just to get the new bonus DVD. The CD of On An Island is no different to the original (although the UK/Europe one has a slightly different packaging). The only difference is the inclusion of the DVD. As the only real interesting part of the DVD is the performance of Take A Breath, most people would probably be best waiting for the full concert DVD to be released next year. It is only people who don’t own the first release of the album and completists who should really be buying this!

Discuss re-release on the froumFor those who have not heard the album, I have included some track-by-track ‘notes’ that I made whilst listening to the album the other day. Do feel free to comment about what you think of this re-release on the forum on this discussion thread.
On An Island CD – My Track-By-Track Notes

The actual mix/recording of On An Island has not changed at all in this re-release. It has just been bundled with a new DVD. However, it is still a great relaxed album and should be in every Floydian’s posession! Below are my notes on each of the tracks on the audio CD.
1. Castellorizon (Gilmour) – 3:54

Castellorizon opens the album in a soundscape of unusual sounds, sweeping strings that mimic the ocean waves riding up the beach and later develops into a great squealing guitar solo! During the live performances of OAI, most of this track was not played live. The track was inspired by a night he spent on the Greek island Kastellórizo.

2. On An Island (Gilmour/Samson) – 6:47

The album then segues into track two which was the first single from the album. It is the first on the album to feature vocals and, indeed, features some beautiful work from David Crosby and Graham Nash. Crosby and Nash appeared as special guests on several of the OAI live performances; including the one I went to in Manchester! Early days Pink Floyd member Rado Klose features on this track playing guitar. David Gilmour naturally shows his mastery of guitar playing on this track with a nice extended solo greatly adding to the narrative and texture of the track.

3. The Blue (Gilmour/Samson) – 5:26

After a fade out from the previous track, The Blue begins in one easy movement. This is one of the most beautiful of the songs on the album in my opinion in terms of its general feel, harmonies and the dynamics between the sections of the song. It swells beautifully into the chorus through. It also features a nice guitar solo which makes good use of an octave pedal which makes the sound of the guitar glide from one note to an octave up or down. A beautiful touch! You can see Gilmour recording the guitar part to this song on his Astoria Studio boat on the publicity videos circulated from David site as the album was released. His wife Polly also plays basic piano on this track, with further accompaniment from Jools Holland.
4. Take a Breath (Gilmour/Samson) – 5:46

Take a Breath is the most up tempo and “violent” of all the songs on the album and features a driving drum beat. It is rocking but retains the delicate touch of Gilmour and the other musicians. Although musically very good, lyrically it is very basic and reminiscent of Gilmour’s other solo albums. The lyrics could be accurately described as throwaway and the guitar solo at the end is nothing to write home about!

5. Red Sky at Night (Gilmour) – 2:51

Red Sky at Night is the second instrumental track on the album and features Gilmour playing on his new toy; a saxophone! The track has a relaxed and almost melancholic atmosphere throughout and acts as a good piece in the narrative of the album to link Take a Breath and This Heaven together.

6. This Heaven (Gilmour/Samson) – 4:24

This track is quite a contrast to the rest of the album and possibly all of Gilmour’s other musical output as a solo artist and with Pink Floyd! It is a busy but slow swinging, finger clicking kind of track! It is scattered with fitting pieces of solo guitar throughout; but surly only to pad the melody out. The guitar work does improve towards the end, mind.

7. Then I Close My Eyes (Gilmour) – 5:26

Then I Close my eyes is another soundscape which is reflective of Castellorizon. It features an intriguing piece of banjo work by Gilmour in the first section of the piece. This gives way to an array of classical instruments and easy flowing melody, texture and colour!

8. Smile (Gilmour/Samson) – 4:03

Smile was the second single from the album and is, in contrast to the first single On An Island, more atmospheric and simple. Polly Samson wrote most of the lyrics and even does backing vocals on this track. A beautiful touch some would say. I know many others who would call her the Yoko Ono of the Pink Floyd camp! To the latter, I ask them to consider how much worse this album would be without her!!

9. A Pocketful of Stones (Gilmour/Samson) – 6:17

A Pocketful of Stones is another relaxed and atmospheric track which features modern synths in addition to classical orchestration. It probably has the best vocal performance on the album in my opinion. It reminds me of the Sonnet 18 recording on the David Gilmour in Concert DVD. It has Gilmour’s signature guitar playing at the end and a fine example too. Uncomplicated, atmospheric and full of the beautiful and controlled tones on would expect from a guitar genius.

10. Where We Start (Gilmour) – 6:45

The final song on the album continues on the atmospheric arrangement theme and probably has the best combination of music and lyrics on the album in my opinion.

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