In an artistically expansive and lengthy program, Pink Floyd guitarist-singer David Gilmour proffered all the material on his lush and languid solo disc while dipping deep into the Floyd catalog to find proper material to partner with the new disc’s introspective tone. Gilmour’s multi-faceted guitar playing is the deserved focal point of the 2½ hours of musicmaking: Much as he replicates the bulk of the recordings, Gilmour has leveled the playing field between intensity and peacefulness, lending the overriding organic tone of “On an Island” to the spacier Pink Floyd tunes.
“On an Island” (Columbia), Gilmour’s first solo record in 22 years, is a perfect morning album — a contemplation of romance, time and age that’s easy to enjoy, even by folks put off by Floyd’s excesses and redundancies. Reprising their vocals for the album onstage, Graham Nash and David Crosby sang a pair of tunes with Gilmour and the band Wednesday, and it seems their presence is not strictly for harmonies — Gilmour, for the first time, is taking themes that populate CSN tunes and weaving them through his own.
It makes for some decidedly un-Floyd-like material with banjos and glass harmonica (“Then I Close My Eyes”), not to mention the folky ballad “Smile.” This is quaint music at its core, save for the jolting “Take My Breath,” and the presentation at the Kodak was as masterful as the recording.
A number of new songs are constructed with an electronic rumble as the foundation. Gilmour springs from that sonic wash with both stinging and soothing guitar lines; he’s extended this technique, heard in new age music, to reach a broad range of human emotion, not settling just for tranquility. There’s an overriding sensation, too, that the sentimental nature of these orchestrations and lyrics spring from an unlikely source — the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” and George Harrison’s ballads on “All Things Must Pass.” To some degree, Gilmour is tapping his inner George, moving away from Floyd’s man vs. machine tunes and settling into an examination of man’s non-adversarial relationship with nature and time.
When the band dug their heels into the 40-year-old “Arnold Layne,” however, we were reminded how much this group, in their youth, was a psychedelic twist on the early Who. Like “Layne,” Gilmour unearthed a few other forgotten gems that worked well in this context, specifically the gentle “Fat Old Sun” from 1970’s “Atom Heart Mother.”
“Echoes” was used to let each member of the band shine, and this outfit, featuring Gilmour’s Floyd mate Richard Wright on keyboards and vocals, gave the oldies the perfect patina of the recordings. Second guitarist Phil Manzanera — the rhythm guitar guru from Roxy Music who dazzled during the prog-rock era without ever being excessive — stuck to rhythm work and did a superb job keeping the music grounded.