Move over, Taylor Swift — Roger Waters has re-recorded the most famous of the albums he made with Pink Floyd in the 1970s for its 50th anniversary. The project, titled “The Dark Side of the Moon Redux,” comes out Oct. 6. The album’s first single, “Money,” a fresh take on the 1973 song that was the band’s biggest hit, was released today as an audio track and lyric video.
Any similarities to Swift’s re-recordings end with the most basic concept, as Water says he does not mean the new version to supplant the old one, but to complement it as a more mature take on the material.
As for the big question of who will replaced his estranged former partner David Gilmour’s lead vocal and guitar parts, the seven-and-a-half minute “Money” seems to at least partially answer that. Taking over Gilmour’s role on the mic in the song, Waters “sings” the song in a spoken whisper, and the guitar solo has been replaced by what seems to be a new, lengthy poem set in a metaphorical boxing-ring. The tune has been significantly transformed in other ways; it’s bluesier and less rocking, with no cash registers or random voices or other sound effects. Some of the first listeners to hear it after it came out in the wee hours compared it to a Leonard Cohen recitation.
Another hint of what the new versions might found like was found in an 11-second instrumental clip of “Breathe” that Waters posted as a hint of things to come on Wednesday, which in its brevity bore a little more resemblance to the known version than the new “Money” does. Then, concurrent with the official album announcement, Waters released an interview on YouTube in which he talks about the concept and has some of the revamped music playing in the background.
In the video interview, Waters cites the 50th anniversary of “Dark Side” as an opportunity to do “a re-imagining” and “a way to celebrate the 50 years that the original recorded version of this work has survived, by making a different version of it. Not to supersede it or to replace it, but to remember it and as an adjunct to it, and to progress the work of the original concept of the original record, all those original songs.
“I love the original recording, by the way, and I love what Nicky (Mason) did and what Rick (Wright) did and what Dave did on the original recording,” he continues. “The new recording is more reflective, I think, and it’s more indicative of what the concept of the record was. It is a reinterpretation and I hope that we can gain more from it than we did back in 1973 when it first came out, because it’s been part of all of our lives for 50 years, and yet we are still not yet breathing in the air. Breathe. Breathe in the air.”
The CD will follow the original 10-song sequence of the album. So will the double-LP, but that edition will have an additional track on side 4, “a bonus 13-minute original composition inspired by the re-recording as a final track.” It is labeled, at least for now, simply as “Original Composition.”
The album is produced by Gus Seyffert with Waters, and the lineup of musicians will be familiar from his touring band, including Seyffert on bass and other instruments, Joey Waronker on drums, Jonathan Wilson on guitar, Johnny Shepherd on keyboards, Via Mardot on theremin, Azniv Korkejian on vocals, Jon Carin on keyboards and lap steel, and Gabe Noel doing string arrangements.
Until recently, Waters remained with Sony Music, but that relationship seems to have finally come to an end after decades. The announcement said the album will be on an independent label, SGB Music, with distribution by Cooking Vinyl.
Waters’ previous project, the EP “The Lockdown Sessions,” also consisted of re-recorded material — mostly from “The Wall” and “The Final Cut” and came out on Sony Legacy in December. Both these projects are rare additions to a Waters solo canon that has been as inactive on the recording front as he has been prolific as a tourer. Since 1992’s “Amused to Death,” he has released only one conventional album of new studio material, 2017’s “Is This the Life We Really Want?” In 2018 he also released his version of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.”
The new “Dark Side” arrives at a time that is opportune in some ways, given the 50th anniversary, and inopportune in others, considering how much more polarizing a figure Waters has become in the last few years, due to his fervent support for Palestinians and raging against Israel. He has also drawn fire for supporting Russia’s rationale for starting the war in Ukraine and for favoring China’s position in Hong Kong, as well as his traditional complaints about America’s leadership.
Some fans have also felt caught in the middle in the broadsides Waters and Gilmour have occasionally tossed at one another during their lengthy estrangement, which most recently resulted in Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson calling Waters an antisemite and a lip-syncer, and Gilmour signaling his agreement. Waters replied by saying he was looking at taking legal action, but that prospect has not come up publicly again. Those exchanges happened before Waters’ latest hot water, in which multiple cities in German attempted to halt his tour stops there on the basis of what they believed were anti-semitic statements and/or the mock-Nazi imagery in Waters’ recreation of “The Wall.”
On tour, Waters offers very faithful recreations of the wealth of Floyd material performed each night, with band members doing recreations of the Gilmour parts, so these rearranged new studio versions mark a break in what has been the Floyd co-founder’s usual approach toward the oldies.
Although Swift’s re-recordings have some earlier parallels, as far as bands revisiting their catalogs to try to establish the value of new masters, Floyd fans were stumped in attempts to think of other instances in which a rocker of Waters’ stature has been brave or foolish enough to do a full-album remake that actually looks to toss out the familiar arrangements.
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