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David Gilmour

A guitar great known to “proglodyte” PINK FLOYD fans, Englishman DAVID GILMOUR (born 6th March 1946 in Cambridge) has been a stalwart of the ever-evolving music industry since he joined said group in 1968, at first to fill in for acid-casualty SYD BARRETT. When friend Syd departed into the ether-world of his own mind, David provided a worthy adversary to ‘Floyd’s deputy-chief ROGER WATERS. From 1968’s `A Saucerful Of Secrets’ onwards, including the stratospheric `Dark Side Of The Moon’ (1973) and `Wish You Were Here’ (1975), David’s incisive and intricate guitar work garnered plaudits from everyone with an ear for good experimental music, while GILMOUR extended the ‘Floyd canon by releasing a string of worthy if not brilliant solo albums.
It was long way from his time spent in the mid-60s as a student alongside “Syd” (then known as Roger Barrett) at Cambridge College of Arts and Technology. And while his further education took a back-seat to busking in France and moonlighting with R&B combos Jokers Wild, and, in turn, Bullitt, GILMOUR was always interested in the progress of his old mucker’s PINK FLOYD; exclusive hit singles `Arnold Layne’ and `See Emily Play’ (neither from 1967’s psychedelic masterpiece `The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’) had Syd’s signature emblazoned in every mind-blowing note.
While one could wax lyrical about the pros and cons of GILMOUR’s main outfit until the cows – or cow as depicted on 1970’s `Atom Heart Mother’ – came home, the frustrated singer/songwriter/guitarist wanted to prove his worth while commander ROGER WATERS set the controls for the heart of PINK FLOYD. Increasingly aware that Roger was dominating proceedings and, in time, about to unleash the band’s post-`Animals’ magnum opus, `The Wall’ (1979), it was time for GILMOUR to shine on.
After working with protégé KATE BUSH on her outstanding debut LP, `The Kick Inside’ (1978), and released to coincide with PF keyboardsmith RICHARD WRIGHT’s `Wet Dream’ album, the eponymous DAVID GILMOUR (1978) {*6} gleaned mixed reviews. Augmented by bassist Rick Wills and drummer Willie Wilson (of SUTHERLAND BROTHERS & QUIVER), the Top 30 record had very few moments of grandeur, but on reflection, tracks such as `There’s No Way Out Of Here’ (penned by Ken Baker of UNICORN), `Cry From The Street’ and `So Far Away’ had a dreamy soft-rock appeal.
As PINK FLOYD worked on how best to add “Another Brick In The Wall”, while going through tumultuous times with the sacking of WRIGHT during the recording of 1983’s `The Final Cut’, GILMOUR took time away from the maddening crowd.
Sophomore solo set, ABOUT FACE (1984) {*7}, was just what the doctor ordered, a lighter, less stressful record that was miles away from his group work. Augmented by TOTO’s Jeff Porcaro, bassist Pino Palladino, ART OF NOISE synth-tessa Anne Dudley, and guest spots for two of Brit-rock alumni STEVE WINWOOD (who played organ on `Murder’) and PETE TOWNSHEND (who co-penned `Love On The Air’ and `All Lovers Are Deranged’), the fluidity of David’s guitar work was definitely the album’s forte; the funky minor US hit `Blue Light’ was the exception.
Duly lending a hand to Messrs McCARTNEY, TOWNSHEND, FERRY, et al, in session, while also producing greenhorns The DREAM ACADEMY, the fight for control of PINK FLOYD was one for the courts to sort out. While the group went under a judicial microscope as WATERS finally unveiled a shelved concept by way of his `Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking’ (1984) solo set, both remaining members GILMOUR and drummer NICK MASON were sued by Roger. In what seemed like a surprise decision by the High Court, the name of PINK FLOYD (disbanded and a “spent force” in the eyes of Roger) was allocated to David and Nick.
To prove ‘Floyd was still trading and to further reiterate their worth as a bona fide band (reinstating WRIGHT as a session player), the first WATERS-less set, `A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’, was unveiled towards the autumn of 1987. Confusingly enough, Roger’s work (whether co-penned or not) featured on PF’s live double-set, `Delicate Sound Of Thunder’ (1988); shared rights to all-but `The Wall’ was agreed upon. Ideas set in motion, PINK FLOYD finally unleashed a studio follow-up in `The Division Bell’ (1994).
If 2005’s `Live 8’ had any musical benefit outside its meaningful mission to “make poverty history”, then the one-off reformation of PINK FLOYD (i.e. Gilmour, Mason, Wright and Waters!) had to be one of them. A tad uneasy with few smiles being passed around the stage, the perceived message to the world of music was that peace had broken out. On a tragic footnote and fast-forward to the summer of 2006, the sadder-than-sad death of the once-great Syd left another bitter twist in the tale of who really was “Pink”.
Given the man’s open-ended approach to recording, a DAVID GILMOUR solo album was almost as much of an event as new ‘Floyd material, and ON AN ISLAND (2006) {*6} was effectively a follow-up to PF’s final studio set, with a guaranteed No.1 chart placing (US Top 10); and GILMOUR’s wife Polly Samson once again heavily involved in the songwriting. The sleeve might’ve looked like an airbrushed still from Castaway, but at least it advertised the record’s full-moon intimacy. Perambulating far from The Division Bell’s typically dystopian themes, GILMOUR delineated the languor of close, cloudless nights with those tactile, long-range solos (on guitar and sax as `Red Sky At Night’ exquisitely demonstrated) that made latter-period PINK FLOYD so haunting. Embellishing them were the understated string arrangements of Polish modernist Zbigniew Preisner, who headed a guest roll call of elder statesmen including fellow Floyd-ian WRIGHT, DAVID CROSBY, GRAHAM NASH, GEORGIE FAME, PHIL MANZANERA, ROBERT WYATT and B.J. Cole.
The obligatory double-CD/DVD, LIVE IN GDANSK (2008) {*7}, cherry-picked his favourite solo material alongside a plethora of worthy PINK FLOYD works, including music from “Dark Side…”, “Wish You Were Here” and a pre-Gilmour classic! `Astronomy Domine’; sadly, it was to be mucker WRIGHT’s swansong as he died that September. In front of an audience of around 50,000 to celebrate the anniversary of the Solidarity trade union movement, it preceded his credit to The ORB’s 2010 return `Metallic Spheres’.
Of late, David and Nick spliced together ambient “Big Spliff” pieces from 1993/94, paying homage to Richard by releasing a “fresh” PINK FLOYD recording, `The Endless River’ (2014). To all intents and purposes, a quick-fire follow-up to said set, GILMOUR’s chart-topping solo sojourn, RATTLE THAT LOCK (2015) {*8}, cashed-in on much of what Floyd had recently achieved. Co-produced with PHIL MANZANERA (another gliss-enthropic guitarist), there were moments one thought BRIAN ENO had interrupted sessions for “The Wall”; brother ROGER ENO makes his mark, incidentally. Based upon texts from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, literary apprehensions litter these 10 chapters, augmented by the lyrical prowess of novelist Polly Samson. David’s bluesy, signature Stratocaster melded well with piano flourishes and soaring harmonies from Mica Paris, Louise Marshall and The Liberty Choir, while Messrs CROSBY & NASH enlightened the flow of `A Boat Lies Waiting’. An album that unearths missing pieces with each listen, `In Any Tongue’ (almost Celtic), `Today’, `And Then…’ and the solid and soothing title track, identify a nostalgic GILMOUR, once again, as an artist in his own right.
Turning 70, and returning to the scene of Floyd’s old haunts (it’d been 45 years since their similarly-titled concert documentary was filmed in ‘71), GILMOUR’s Top 3 LIVE AT POMPEII (2017) {*8} not only updated the guitar giant’s ever-burgeoning solo catalogue, but several time-honoured PF classics, most of which he explored within “Live In Gdansk”; `The Great Gig In The Sky’, `Money’, `One Of These Days’, `Run Like Hell’ and `Sorrow’, being the exceptions to the rule.
© MC Strong 1994-PF-GRD / rev-up MCS Nov2014-Sep2018

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