It only took twenty-two years, but David Gilmour's third solo album has arrived. Stylistically, this album is worlds apart from the rock oriented About Face and the progressive pop found on The Division Bell. On an Island is a pastoral, laid back, breezy and autumnal Sunday morning of a record.
The album begins in very Floydian fashion as "Castellorizon" floats in on a cloud of orchestral sounds, background whispers, cannons and rockets before Gilmour's unmistakable languid bluesy guitar wails cry out through the special effects. The title song features David Crosby and Graham Nash on vocal harmonies as well as Floyd alumni Richard Wright on Hammond organ. Gilmour's trademark solos are of course the selling point and he nearly outdoes himself here and on "The Blue": economical, emotional and ethereal. Gilmour's vocals are likewise in great shape and he sounds much the same as he did thirty-five years ago.
"Take a Breath" is the only song that "rocks" and in some ways, doesn't quite gel with the rustic warmth of the rest of the album. "Red Sky at Night" is a short and sweet instrumental featuring David Gilmour on saxophone. This is a very rich atmospheric track that makes me think of Roxy Music's "Tara". "Then I Close My Eyes" is the third and final instrumental and features Robert Wyatt on cornet and barely audible vocals. What a moving song this is; utterly simple in its arrangement but the emotional depths are boundless.
"Where We Start" closes the album and the mellow mood is accentuated for what is quite possibly the most romantic song David Gilmour has ever written. The lyrics might be too schmaltzy for some listeners, but the fire glow intimacy of the song pulls me in every time. The guitar solo that fades out too quickly over the swelling orchestral strings isn't half bad either.
On an Island is one of the finest albums of the year. Anyone hoping for the marching hammers and rock star alienation of The Wall better look elsewhere for their angst. Plaintively beautiful and refreshingly mature, here's hoping we won't have to wait another twenty-two years for David Gilmour's next solo album.
- On an Island
- The Blue
- Take a Breath
- Red Sky at Night
- This Heaven
- Then I Close My Eyes
- A Pocketful of Stones
- Where We Start