After his longest musical silence yet, broken only by the surprise reunion of Pink Floyd with Roger Waters for the Live 8 charity concert, David Gilmour was content to be taken on the strength of his own name again. Such things happen when a guy turns sixty.
On An Island was co-produced with the legendary Chris Thomas, who’d mixed both The Dark Side Of The Moon and The Division Bell (among other things), and Phil Manzanera, a unique guitarist best known for his work with Roxy Music. Rick Wright appears on a few tracks (and indeed, the subsequent tour) but Nick Mason is absent.
Much of the album suggests the feeling of floating downstream, particular on the floating title track, wrapped comfortably within the harmonies of David Crosby and Graham Nash. “Smile” is a pretty little love song, recorded nearly by himself with his wife on some vocals. The most schizophrenic song is “A Pocketful Of Stones”, which begins slowly for about a minute before switching to a poignant piano accompaniment under lyrics that have been suggested to be about either Syd Barrett or George W. Bush. The album even ends in a cycle, with the aptly titled “Where We Start” reprising the mood and feel of the early tracks.
Several instrumentals change the moods as well. “Castellorizon” adds orchestration to another guitar solo, the dreamy “Then I Close My Eyes” is prefaced by the sound of Turkish instruments, and “Red Sky At Night” is not a cover of the hit by The Fixx, but is instead a showcase for Gilmour on saxophone, of all things.
On An Island is pretty, slow and generally quiet, and the attempts to rock don’t; those who purchased the CD at Best Buy would very much have enjoyed the six-minute “Island Jam” included on a bonus CD. But overall it’s a nice if underwhelming album, and at least he didn’t try to disguise it as the return of Pink Floyd, because it wasn’t.
The tour for the album spawned two DVDs, the second of which was also released on CD in a dizzying variety of editions. Like the tour, Live In Gdańsk begins with a suite from Dark Side (of course) before a performance of On An Island in its entirety. A smattering of oldies make up the rest of the program, with a few tributes to Syd, who died that summer, a full-length “Echoes” and even “Fat Old Sun”. The more elaborate packages included various DVDs with bonus content, some including a bonus performance of “Wots… Uh The Deal”, sure to drain the wallets of the most devout Floyd enthusiasts. As live albums go, it’s enjoyable, unique for the live orchestra on some songs and Rick Wright on everything, as he himself died the week before the album came out. (Slightly more appealing was the Arnold Layne EP, a live tribute to Syd that featured two versions of the title track, one sung by Rick Wright and the other by David Bowie, plus Gilmour’s acoustic tribute of “Dark Globe”.)
David Gilmour On An Island (2006)—3
David Gilmour Live In Gdańsk (2008)—3