When it has been so long since an artist has released any new material (either solo or with his former band) you don’t hold your breath over any new music from him. This is why On An Island came as such an unexpected surprise. David Gilmour’s most recent release was Division Bell (1994), where he worked alongside two of his longtime fellow Pink Floyd members on the last album ever released under the band’s name – until this one.
You may be scratching your head; after all, this is not a Floyd album, but rather a solo recording by David Gilmour. However, while listening to it, the same feelings that Floyd’s works evoke come and sit by your side. Perhaps the fact that former PF members and frequent collaborators of the band appear here helps mold that sound. Or perhaps it is David Gilmour’s unmistakable voice and guitar signature sound, both of which come across as powerful and precise as you may remember them.
On this album, you can hear longtime Pink Floyd keyboard player, Richard Wright, playing Hammond organ and doing backing vocals; pre-recorded PF member Bob Klose, playing guitars; Guy Pratt, main bassist for the band during the post-Roger Waters period; and Dick Parry, who is responsible for most of the legendary Pink Floyd saxophone solos you have ever heard. The list of collaborators goes on and seems more like a who’s who of the music scene of the last 25 years, featuring Phil Manzanera on keyboards and co-producing; Crosby and Nash, of CSN fame, doing backing vocals (listen to track #2 for sample); and Soft Machine legend, Robert Wyatt, playing cornet, to just name a few.
Starting with the gorgeous cover and the album title, this is a release that works on a very intimate level, one that seems to be in tune with the current take on life by 60-year old Gilmour, as songs like “The Blue,” “Red Sky At Night,” “Then I Close My Eyes,” and “Smile” seem to insinuate. The opening instrumental track sets the stage much like “Cluster One” did for The Division Bell and “Signs of Life” did for A Momentary Lapse of Reason.
Each song takes its time to tell its story. Gilmour doesn’t seem to have a rush to get anywhere, which is consistent with the stories told by those who collaborated with him in On An Island – he took the time to record the songs exactly the way he wanted them to sound.
Except for the track “This Heaven” (which I have not been able to get to enjoy, even after numerous listens), the entire album is a precious work of art that I can only be thankful for and a jewel that we weren’t expecting to find. Without a doubt, this is one of the best releases so far in 2006.