Shedding a loving light on a progressive rock’s imposing milestone, the genre’s elite forces bring afresh its precious shining to the fore.
Never has a remote method of recording, the cheap approach of recent years, been so relevant and on the money as on this album, laid down in isolation – a homage to the concept work whose very pivot was absence. Paradoxically, “Wish You Were Here” was also its creators’ most concerted studio effort, casting aside – or, rather, sacrificing – both their differences and thematic grandeur in favor of something deeply personal for each of the players, and, as it turned out, for every listener as well. Those attentive aficionados included their peers and followers that are present here to recreate the classic platter in its entirety and, as this disc’s subtitle suggests, show the utmost respect the ensemble behind it.
Not an easy task, given the amalgamated nature of the original, yet the cleverly combined participants rose to the challenge by gently projecting their easily recognizable, albeit reined in, individual styles onto the large canvas woven way back in 1975. Producer Jürgen Engler’s choice of musicians may seem incongruous but they gel wondrously – in most conspicuous fashion, perhaps, on the titular ballad, where representatives of rock’s heavier end drown any sign of ego in the late Edgar Froese‘s ivories: as Dave Ellefson and Carmine Appice enter to bolster Joe Satriani’s strum ‘n’ lace once Rik Emmett’s vocals start to emote, a down-to-earth kind of magic happens and the deceptively too-faithful cover lifts off, despite a needlessly sophisticated solo, to wake the spirit of yore. Before that, more suitably histrionic “Have A Cigar” is a result of sonic assault by James LaBrie’s devilish performance and Steve Stevens’ predatory riffs and savory licks, with Rat Scabies and Jah Wobble providing swing and Patrick Moraz‘s piano the celestial honky-tonk texture, while Rick Wakeman‘s otherworldly Minimoog, punctured with Tony Levin’s chthonic bass, and Todd Rundgren’s multitracked voice turn “Welcome To The Machine” into interstellar overdrive.
That’s whence comes the majestic radiance of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” which is properly anchored thanks to Ian Paice’s steady beat throughout and taken to the skies on the six-string wings of, on respectively first and second half, Steves Hackett and Hillage, the masters of heavenly waves. Still, if Billy Sheehan and Bootsy Collins’ mighty thunders doesn’t fail to impress, and neither do Mel Collins’ pastoral reeds, Geoff Tate and Rod Argent’s pipes can’t convey the sense of emptiness, although the latter’s synthesizers and Geoff Downes‘s keyboards are as spectacular as ever.
So no matter how impossible it might feel to channel the mystery of “Wish You Were Here” and update this masterpiece without ruining such a magnificence, the veterans’ tribute to PINK FLOYD’s pinnacle is simply breathtaking.