Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: 'Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here' (Classic Albums series)

The Classic Albums series has dealt with Pink Floyd before in its 2003 dissection of the groundbreaking Dark Side of the Moon. Nine years later it has taken the next step to cover the band’s follow up L.P., Wish You Were Here. Like most episodes of the documentary series, all surviving players get to say their piece, from Roger, Dave, and Nick (Rick makes appearances through older clips) to backing singer Venetta Fields (who admits to not being a fan of the band’s music and approaching her work with them from a purely professional stance) to “Have a Cigar” guest-vocalist Roy Harper to promo-film animator Gerald Scarfe to cover photographer Storm Thorgerson to stuntman Ronnie Rondell, who had the privilege of being set on fire for that iconic sleeve portrait. The one voice that is silent throughout the film, even as his presence resonates over it all, is that of Syd Barrett, the subject of the album’s two-part super-epic “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”. As is the case in so many Pink Floyd documentaries, Syd’s disintegration casts a poignant, somber pall over the story, and that famous photograph from when he wandered into the Wish You Were Here sessions, bald and overweight, is trotted out again to grim effect.

While Wish You Were Here is a good album, this documentary mostly made me wish that we were finally allowed a celebration of Syd’s shining brilliance rather than another elegy to his decline. It would be nice if the Classic Album series could break out of its focus on the ‘70s a bit to give us a view of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn sessions. It’s a much better album than Wish, too.

Piper dreams aside, the documentary we do have is produced with the care and professionalism that goes into all installments of this series. The holes in the tale are more down to the interviewees than the documentarians. Apart from addressing how they had diverging concepts for Wish You Were Here, Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters don’t delve too deeply into the rift that first developed between them during the album’s creation. An ingenious sequence intercutting Dave's solo performance of the title track with Roger’s says more about the distance between them than anything the guys actually say in the film.

Get Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here (Classic Albums series) at Amazon.com here:

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