Pink Floyd - The Final Cut [1983]

Pink Floyd’s Final Cut was released at a time when no-one really knew what was happening with the band. We were still riding the wave from The Wall and stuck in the lingering rip current of Wish You Were, the meanderings of Animals, and the magic from Dark Side Of The Moon. We where euphoric, but members of the band were barely speaking to each other.

That whole fascination with The Wall here was a little weird. Everyone was going “We don’t need no thought control”, but not many listeners seemed to become noticeably more socially aware. Kind-of like a pocket revolution, if you will. It’s small, and no-one will ever see it.

But it was four years since Pink Floyd’s last album and records had to be made. Roger Waters was the only one with ideas. David Gilmour had lost interest and wasn’t writing, Nick Mason had become more involved in creating sound-effects than drumming, and Rick Wright had had enough, upped and left – thus leaving Pink Floyd as a somewhat troubled trio.

The problem was that Waters’ ideas where still mostly leftovers from The Wall. His preoccupation with World War 2-related hardships, the death of his father in that war, and the effect it had on him since childhood, had been made clear to the point of almost being exhaustive. Because it was such a personal issue, the effect would have been lost on a follow-up – especially to one of the most popular and controversial albums ever to have been made up to that point.

Then, out of the blue, the last person on earth you’d expect to be of any use stepped up and saved the day.

Margaret Thatcher started a war!

The political situation in England with a draconian Thatcher at the helm, and her sending the troops half-way around the world in order to regain control over the tiny Falklands Islands from Argentina in 1982 in particular, provided sufficient irritation and impetus for Roger Waters to re-write most of the songs he had offered for the follow-up to The Wall. Because no one was talking, Waters had been writing songs without any involvement from the other members of the group, so didn’t have to be cautious or compromise. David Gilmour could focus on what he did best – playing guitar. Nick Mason’s preoccupation with sound effects and new technology would come into excellent effect in providing an extending soundscape for the songs. Sadly, the absence of Rick Wright would allow for open, more spacious music.

Somehow, all that was wrong with the band at that point would contribute to a refreshing creative shift. One that would effect a(nother) partial re-invention of the band – both musically and as newly-relevant social commentators – acutely aware of what was happening on England’s political landscape. Pink Floyd could now provide fresh commentary on current issues instead of still dragging WW2 around with them.

What we really ended up with was Roger Waters featuring an array of brilliant session musicians, and two other guys from Pink Floyd. From a Pink Floyd point of view this was ridiculous, but looking at it objectively, this was not such a bad thing.

One Of A Few’ by Pink Floyd [The Final Cut]:

The Final Cut is an album of superbly crafted stories and brilliant musicianship. The lyrics are perfectly supported by the music and an almost tangible soundscape that flows through the whole album – linking the songs as a continuing story.

In dealing with contemporary issues in such a fresh way, Waters’ masterful story-telling and vulnerable, slightly awkward vocals remind me a bit of Syd Barrett’s stories, though very different in subject matter. The Final Cut would be the last Pink Floyd album to feature Roger Waters, making the link back to Barrett quite interesting. A full circle, almost…

You should probably listen to this album again.

Not Now John’ by Pink Floyd [The Final Cut]:

When Tigers Broke Free’ by Pink Floyd [as used in the film The Wall]:

The initial exclusion of ‘When Tigers Broke Free’ from The Final Cut had seemed strange to me, and I always felt that something was missing. The 2004 CD re-issue of the album eventually included this song as an integrated part of the track-listing. It had only been available as a single and in the film The Wall in 1982, as a re-issued promotional CD single in 1990, and in a slightly different mix on the Echoes collection from 1991 before. Eventually, after 20 years, The Final Cut was completed.

“…would Maggie be pleased?”

Pink Floyd - The Final Cut [1983]
Margaret Thatcher

(Images used for illustrative purposes and without express permission. If you’d like to object to their use, or give me permission for their use - please let me know.)

Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes [1994]

Since Ozzy left, Black Sabbath has undergone so many personnel and stylistic re-alignments that much of the music produced since has only caught me on the rebound.

We all know that Black Sabbath is Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill… and then Ronnie, and Vinnie, then Ian, then Glenn, Dave, Eric and Tony. Then Cozy and so on. However, Tony Iommi has been the only constant member of the group. In a way we should be grateful for Iommi’s willingness (and ability) to keep the Black Sabbath brand going, and through that – for some reason – we don’t readily remember all the versions of the band. It’s usually just the war between Ozzy and Ronnie.

Both Born Again from 1983 and Seventh Star from 1986 were almost released under Iommi’s own name, but – probably fortunately – it was decided that releasing them as Black Sabbath albums was better for business. By the time Seventh Star was released – Tony Iommi was the only original Black Sabbath member left in the band, so its release as a Black Sabbath album is even more significant in terms of ‘keeping the name alive’. In fact – it was released as ‘Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi’. It’s a little absurd, really, but anyway…

In 1994, Black Sabbath was a powerful melodic rock band. And a good one at that. Cross Purposes is one of those albums that may have eluded Black Sabbath fans and other rockers due to all the band’s re-alignments. You need to be able to look at much of the post-’83 Black Sabbath from a non-Black Sabbath viewpoint. There’s no Ozzy, and only a little Geezer, Bill and Ronnie. And no Ian. For Cross Purposes, we almost have a collective. And that’s alright. Remember – we’re not thinking Black Sabbath; we’re thinking a group of rock dudes with Tony Iommi on guitar. That’s pretty cool.

The album takes no time to get the tone set. ‘I Witness’ rocks pretty hard from the word go. With a solid beat, fluid rhythm, powerful soaring vocals and blistering guitar antics. Iommi’s playing is menacing. ‘Cross of Thorns’ and ‘Virtual Death’ remind us a bit of Ronnie with its medium tempo plod with wailing vocals. ‘Psychophobia’ could have come from the Born Again era. The vocals on ‘Evil Eye’ get a little bluesy – but the slamming plod and creeping bass-work keep it tidy. Geezer Butler had made it back to the line-up at this point, and if you have any idea – you’ll know how Geezer can fill a space.

Co-producer Leif Mases’ previous engineering credits list an interesting array of artists including Ian Gillan, Jeff Beck, some random glam rockers, a Swedish artists with a complicated name, and Frida (from ABBA)! Don’t laugh! That’s not important right now. What is important is that he was also involved in engineering Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door and Coda. Yeah! Actually the other stuff is important because it should give you an idea of the thoroughness of his work, and in turn, this production. The sound is full, well constructed and nicely detailed. So Leif was a good choice.

As a handful of bands did in the Nineties – there’s the seemingly obligatory nod to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ that appears as a little part of the body of ‘Cardinal Sin’, but all is good. No funny business like with Kingdom Come…

There are no apparent weak points here. This is a solid heavy rocking album, but it is quite understandable if you missed it. I did. If you know Eternal Idol, or are coincidentally lucky enough to be familiar with Jake E. Lee’s band Badlands’ first album – this fits more or less into the same bracket.

Worth three packets of cigarettes and a reasonable bottle of vodka. Lekker.

Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes [1994]
Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes [1994]

Black Sabbath in 1994
Black Sabbath in 1994

(Images used for illustrative purposes and without express permission. If you’d like to object to their use, or give permission for their use - please let me know.)

Thin Lizzy – Thunder And Lightning [1983]

It was early in the Eighties, and Thin Lizzy had edged slightly beyond the dark-ish romanticism which characterised much of Phil Lynott’s lyrics. They’d opted for a harder sound – veering decisively toward Heavy Metal. It would have been interesting to see how this would have unfolded, but due to the various outside interests of various band members, Thin Lizzy was falling apart and finally dissolved by the end of 1983. As a significant creative force in the band, Lynott’s unfortunate death in January 1986 properly laid that option to rest.

The Thunder and Lightning album contains some really excellent songs. Unfortunately not much attention seems to have been paid to the running order of the tracks, so the album lacks cohesiveness and direction. I’ve tried to improve this a little, but it wasn’t as successful as my rearranging of the running order of Metallica’s Black Album. Fortunately, once the music starts, it knocks you right to the back of the room – giving you sufficient space to deal with this oversight. Just be sure to turn up the volume – and hold on!

The title track leaves no doubt regarding the direction the band was heading. Musically powerful and heavy everything, with a storyline in the same streetwise ilk as ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ from 1975’s Jailbreak album. Saturday nights, fighting and really just being tough testosterone-ridden dudes. Nothing too poetic. A musically simpler attack follows with ‘This Is The One’ - a brilliant relentless clockwork grind that sadly has to end. Keyboardist Darren Wharton, who had featured on the two preceding albums, co-wrote ‘The Sun Goes Down’ which slows the pace down considerably, but without slowing down the intent. I remember this song getting some airplay around the time of the album’s release.

Thin Lizzy’s characteristic romantic story-telling undercurrent remains present, and although a shift had started with ‘Angel of Death’ and ‘Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)’ from 1981’s Renegade, the overriding heavy tone of this album had only been as in-your-face on occasion in previous studio albums – most noticeably with the title track of Bad Reputation from 1977, ‘Chinatown’ from 1980 - and on the live album Live And Dangerous from 1978. The drumming of Brian Downey features more prominently in all these recordings. On this album Downey also co-wrote the title track and ‘Some Day She’s Going To Hit Back’. The heaviness may have been an attempt to both deal with the then-fading Punk scene with whom the band’s rebellious nature had found some favour, and to stay current in a growing pool of rising Heavy Metal artists, some of whom would have been influenced by Thin Lizzy’s tough, streetwise vibe.

‘The Holy War’ has some commentary on religion. It starts off with a slappy bass line that could misguide you into thinking we’ve entered the Funk Age. Lynott’s ominous vocal and those lead-guitar breaks from new guitarist John Sykes will soon make it clear that we haven’t. It remains hard to place this in a box, especially because this album is already a partial re-invention of Thin Lizzy’s unconventional hard rock style. Sykes also co-wrote ‘Cold Sweat’ - a menacing Motörhead-like rocker.

If you’re more familiar with songs like ‘Still in Love With You’ [Nightlife 1974] or even their version of ‘Whisky In The Jar’, this heavy onslaught may seem out of character, but it actually suits Thin Lizzy well. Considering ‘Out in the Fields’ - a song recorded two years later by Lynott and previously intermittent Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore, and the single’s B-Side ‘Military Man’, it is a credible progression for the band. Again, I wonder how things would have been if Lynott hadn’t died…

The rest of the album continues in a more typical Thin Lizzy mode which, in comparison to the heavier stuff, almost seems whimsical. This is still Thin Lizzy, though, and the songs are great. For some reason, it always makes me want to listen to their 1971 self-titled debut album, which, almost absurdly, I haven’t managed to get into my collection. Yet….

Musha ring dumma do dumma da.

Thin Lizzy - Thunder And Lightning [1983]
Thin Lizzy - Thunder And Lightning [1983]

Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy

(Images used for illustrative purposes and without express permission. If you’d like to object to their use, or give permission for their use - please let me know.)