David Gilmour – On An Island CD Review

By Lorraine Kay

April 2006 – “On an Island,” is the most recent solo CD by Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour.  Released March 7, the day that Gilmour also celebrated a milestone birthday, 60, the CD is helped significantly by Gilmour’s lyrical partner, his wife, Polly Samson. The CD features 10 new songs by the artist.. The songwriting on this album is superb with new songs that are focused and concise, possessing the same elegance and power as the old Pink Floyd favorites but with a distinction all their own.

In a world where very few things live up to their hype, the 60-year-old rocker definitely surpassed all expectations this time around. The new album, minus the baggage of the inflatable pig, is an album so laid-back some think it should come with a hammock.

A reflective and breezy blues-infused dream jam, dwelling on the mellower material from his days with ‘Floyd., this CD features a mature, Gilmour, not self-indulgent and flashy.  His first solo outing since 1984’s “About Face,” Gilmour is joined throughout the CD by Richard Wright, keyboardist for Pink Floyd and guitarist Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music fame and several other impressive musicians, including Guy Pratt (who has played bass with Pink Floyd on two world tours, as well as contributing much in the studio) and Jools Holland lends a hand (or two) on piano. Topping off the sound on the title track, “On An Island”, is Graham Nash and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame on back-up vocals.

This time around, he has done quite well to successfully marry mournful guitar and wistful lyrics with orchestral flourishes, vocal chorus effects, digeridoo, and even some intriguing found sounds, such as children playing and fireworks exploding off in the distance. Gilmour serves up a collection of reflective, layered musical compositions that are slow, deliberate and full of Gilmour’s trademark touches that include searing guitar solos, haunting vocals, and spacious rock-blues arrangements.

 1. Castellorizon – An instrumental is highlighted by Gilmour’s brilliant guitar delivering absolutely gorgeous leads   This is an immediate grabber, leaving listeners stranded with amnesia on an isle beset by azure waters.

2. On An Island – Any panic from the amnesia is quickly alleviated by Gilmour’s soothing voice on “On An Island,” breaking the trance with ghost story narrative and an airy groove, not to mention background vocals that take your breath away by Graham Nash and David Crosby

3. The Blue – The soft harmony powered tune nails the early Beach Boys – “In My Room”

4. Take a Breath – Changing the pace and picking up the tempo, adding an edge to the mix, “TAB” is a nice change of attitude, but not so much that the tunes don’t still flow from one to the other.

5. Red Sky At Night – A very sad and haunting blues instrumental with sax and guitar by Gilmour that slows the tempo back down before breaking into the next track

6. This Heaven –A blues tune reminiscent of a mid-70s Fleetwood Mac’s Hypnotize with Bob Welch.

7. Then I Close My Eyes – Bluegrass banjo, and digeridoo, start this one off, coloring an entirely different picture from the earlier songs, before settling into a nice instrumental.

8. Smile – The particularly sweet lullaby “Smile” culls the best of the Beatles, though the song is led through the fog humanely, in a way only Gilmour can.

9. A Pocketful of Stones – With Gilmour’s vocals out in front of this soft ballad, the orchestration weaves in and around moments when there is little more than Gilmour’s vocal and a simple piano accompaniment. But then it blossoms into full orchestration featuring Gilmour on guitars, Hammond organ, piano, bass and percussion and another half dozen other subtle instrumental additions.

10. Where We Start – Classic David Gilmour, this one would please even the staunchest Pink Floyd fan.

A bonus CD was added to some CD packages. The bonus track is “Island Jan” which some fans might remember was available to view online earlier this year features Gilmour on guitar, Paul “Wix” Wickins on keyboards, Guy Pratt on bass and Ged Lynch on drums. The bonus CD is not available with all releases of this CD.