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Reaves column: Deeper into The Floyd

Richard Wright, one of the founding members of legendary rock group Pink Floyd, passed away Monday at the age of 65.
He was the group’s keyboardist and occasional singer and songwriter. His contributions to the group were huge, and he will be sorely missed by the music world. Everyone knows Floyd hits like “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Money,” “Comfortably Numb” and “Wish You Were Here”; however, as a tribute to a great man, this article is a look at some overlooked Floyd deep cuts that I suggest checking out.
“Astronomy Dominee” ó Any big fan of the Floyd knows this song, but the casual listener probably does not. This song is from their first album “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” released when the group was led by Syd Barrett.
At the time, Floyd was England’s premier psychedelic act, and this song is one of the band’s many trips into unknown territories. The first guitar riff in the song has always been one of my favorites.
“Jugband Blues” ó This is the last song that Syd recorded with the group before he left the group and eventually went crazy. (That’s not an overstatement; he literally went crazy.)
“Jugband” is a very sad song when put into the context of what was going on at the time. Syd sings the song as if he knows he’s already slipping away, with lines like “It’s awfully considerate of you to think of me here, and I’m much obliged to you for making it clear that I’m not here.”
“Careful With that Axe Eugene” ó This is one of the Floyd’s scarier songs and one of the first with Roger Waters taking the leader role in the band. Rick Wright’s organ and Gilmour’s spacey guitar create an ominous mood throughout the song that is broken with a bloodcurdling scream from Waters.
“Fearless” ó A nice acoustic number from their album “Meddle,” “Fearless” has always been one of my favorite Floyd gems. It is a laid-back song played in open-G on the guitar, which gives it a bluesy feel.
“Echoes” ó This is the song that really set the groundwork for their next great work, “Dark Side of the Moon.” “Echoes” is a nearly 25-minute “sound poem,” as the band called it, that took up the entire B side of “Meddle.”
It features some beautiful vocal harmonies by the late Richard Wright and David Gilmour throughout the song. The guitar solos by Gilmour in this one are some of his best.
“The Great Gig in the Sky” ó One of the best Richard Wright-written songs in Floyd’s catalog, this is the “death” song of “Dark Side of the Moon.” The piano is very nice with Gilmour’s pedal steel guitar adding some nice melodies. The centerpiece of the song is the legendary female vocal part, one of the best ever put on tape.
“Welcome to the Machine” ó The darkest track from “Wish You Were Here,” WTTM is an ominous song about becoming part of the music business “machine.” The vocal harmonies during the verse are creepy, with one voice actually singing and the other following along very monotone. The synth parts mimic the sound of a machine, adding to the dark mood.
“Dogs” ó If you want to hear some of David Gilmour’s best guitar playing, listen to this song. At 17 minutes long, “Dogs” is a guitar tour de force with layers of sound on top of each other, creating an army of noise. The acoustic guitar part is very jazzy and in drop tuning, giving the piece a unique sound among their other work.
“Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now” ó This version of the song is only available on the movie and live versions of “The Wall.” On the album, “Empty Spaces” goes straight into ” Young Lust,” but in the other versions, “What Shall We Do Now” is added. In the film, the animation that was put to this piece is some of the best in the movie (it is the scene in which the flowers attack each other and the wall is stretched across an empty field).
“Goodbye Blue Sky” ó An acoustic piece from “The Wall” with a very foreboding synth part. The lyrics of the song deal with the character Pink’s depression over losing his father and not having a very good childhood due to that loss.
“Not Now John” ó One of the last songs Floyd did with Roger Waters as a member. From the album “The Final Cut,” “Not Now John” is the only song on that record with lead vocals by David Gilmour. It is the hardest driving song on the record compared to the other softer, more symphonic pieces.
“High Hopes” ó A song out of the post Roger Waters era, “High Hopes” is from the Floyd’s final studio album, “The Division Bell.” It is very grand in scale, with soaring orchestra parts, classical guitar, and one of the best pedal steel solos that Gilmour has done. The lyrics are thought to be a summary of the Floyd’s career to that point as it was in fact the last Floyd song ever written.
Musician Jesse Reaves lives in Salisbury. Contact him at ringostrat1@yahoo.com.

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