Having pioneered space rock and songs that took up a whole album side, it was almost odd for Pink Floyd to deliver a record with tracks of digestible size. But The Dark Side Of The Moon is no ordinary album. Here the band found inspiration in a variety of moods and ideas, loosely connected around the concept of madness, but without making the concept so overt they couldn’t be enjoyed on their own.
As with the rest of their work going forward, the album is something of a loop, where the “beginning” can be considered a continuation on the “end”, as the cycle continues eternally. Here, “Speak To Me” provides something of an overture, mixing a heartbeat with snippets of clocks, cash registers and laughter, before giving way to the dreamy jam in “Breathe”. “On The Run” follows a claustrophobic chase through airports and down highways, over a maddening synthesizer sequence into a terrific explosion. The pealing of bells beginning “Time” are jarring no matter how many times you’ve heard them. This track features David Gilmour at his best vocally and on lead guitar, right to the reprise of “Breathe”. “The Great Gig In The Sky” manages to balance a minor-key piano-led jam with the otherworldly wordless screams of some poor woman.
Side two also brings five songs together in a unified whole. “Money” manages to be funky in 7/4, complete with one of the better sax solos in rock history. “Us And Them” is a tour de force for Rick Wright, with its layers of organ, piano and harmonies about the futility of war. It goes abruptly into “Any Colour You Like”, another minor-seventh to seventh jam as heard in “Breathe” and “Great Gig In The Sky”. A brief interlude resolves itself into “Brain Damage”, which will always be heard in conjunction with “Eclipse”, the first of many examples of Roger Waters turning a random list into a song.
The Dark Side Of The Moon has become such a ubiquitous entity that it almost doesn’t need a review. It was famously a fixture on the Billboard album charts for fifteen years—pretty impressive in the pre-computerized charting era. Even audiophiles whose tastes ran strictly to classical and show tunes had this album simply for the aural experience, which is pretty incredible. One of its songs is likely playing on your local Classic Rock radio station as you read this. If for whatever reason you don’t own it yet, and don’t feel like waiting another hour to hear it on the radio, it tends to get reissued every five years or so, depending on the anniversary or latest trend in sound quality, so you’ll have plenty of chances to pick it up.
Such an occasion happened with yet another rollout of their catalog in 2011, projected to treat each album three ways: Discovery, which is a straight remaster; Experience, which adds an extra disc; and Immersion, which adds even more material, plus books, video and ephemera. Dark Side got the first upgrade, adding a 1974 live performance of the album to the Experience Edition. The Immersion Edition included a third CD with the earlier 1972 Alan Parsons mix, before all the sound effects had been added, and a variety of demos and early live versions. It also included DVDs with the surround-sound and quad mixes, documentaries, concert background films, souvenirs and even a Blu-Ray disc with everything on it.
Pink Floyd The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)—4
2011 Experience Edition: same as 1973, plus 10 extra tracks
2011 Immersion Edition: same as Experience, plus 16 extra tracks, 2 DVDs and 1 Blu-Ray