I have just been listening to Richard Wright's final solo album, Broken China. I wanted to see what other people thought about it so I read some reviews. What I found was not a wide spread of options but a clear split between those who really liked it or those who hated it.
As long as I have made music, its been solo and at least partially computer based (at least for recording). This is where Wright was headed and certainly is reflected in "Broken China" which was not true of "Wet Dream". I don't have "Wet Dream" which for some reason has become a collectors item. I guess because it's not being made any more although I have not researched that. From what I can see, "Wet Dream" is an easier transition to Richard Wright as independent artist and perhaps, free of collaboration, Wright went more in his own more experimental direction in "Broken China"
I like "Broken China". Do I like it as much as some of the more classic Floyd albums like "Dark Side of the Moon"? I would not really compare it. "Dark Side of the Moon" is at the height of what might be called Floyd's more pop era that appealed to the more adventurous rock fans who did not want to dive headlong into the more experimental side of electronics. Those, for example, who may not have heard of "Tarngerine Dream" or artists like Brian Eno. I found one review very revealing in that he preferred Eno to Wright but felt that Floyd could have collectively gone in a more experimental direction.
I like time lines because they help me to see when and what happened and get the big picture. The following is a list of Floyd's recent albums and Wright's two solo albums excluding Floyd's live albums. What is clear is that the band, like many bands, began to feel the stress of trying to keep three very artistic people together. Egos clashed but more between Gilmour and Waters. I suspect Wright may have been more in the middle of all this chaos and trying to figure out where he wanted to go. Wright clearly started his exodus during "The Wall" with his solo album "Wet Dream" coming out before this. Wright, in fact, did not collaborate on any of the songs in the album, sat it out comply for "The Final Cut" and then returned with Kurweil in hand for the remainder, eventually collaborating with Gilmour.
Reading the credits for the individual songs in "The Wall" makes it clear that Waters wanted to take creative control and went a bit off the deep end. After leaving, Wright returns but has now made into Kurweil samples his classic sounds from before. I see Wright at this point siting more on the creative sidelines although collaborating with Gilmour on some songs. The change in synthesizers is a clear indication to me of a new direction for Wright in a more supportive role and as such, Floyd's music moves more towards a showcase for Gimour who granted is a great guitar player but Wright is also a great keyboard player.
Wright, being much more experimental, finds a new vision in "Broken China" and I am sure has he lived, would have made other interesting and creative albums. I would have loved to have heard the opportunity to hear them.
Part of my acceptance perhaps for "Broken China" is that I am more on the experimental side myself. I don't like pop music all that much and I love those, like Wright, who can find those interesting places that synthesizers in the right hands can take a listener who is willing to go along for the ride.
This is an addendum to this blog but when I posted last night I had not listened to the final four or so songs of the album. No doubt, these pieces express Wright's wife depressed state of mind but perhaps his own as well. I suspect that Wright much like the "stone" in Pink Floyd's "Dogs" on animals, felt "dragged down by the stone", the bad blood of blind ambition which turns to stone and in Wright's case cancer. This is not a criticism of Wright. It's more a realization that the world of commercial music can take a heavy toll.
Perhaps it was Waters, perhaps Wright felt that he was at the end of a creative roller coaster ride with Floyd, for a time, or perhaps it was something else but there is a great deal of desperation in the last part of this album. Wright would live for years after this album came out fur I hope that in the end he had a friend, someone he could spend his final days.
Wright also seemed to not have those wonderful synth solos of his that are so well known for his work with Pink Floyd. Some disagree with me that gear does not mean much but to me, the fact that Wright traded in his Minimoog and VCS3 for a sampler is reflective of his retreat from a more creative and aggressive style. Perhaps, this album is more of a reflection of his wife and the difficult twists and turns of life with Gilmour and Waters, especially Waters.
A few other comments. I don't' know where he got the idea to get Sinead O'Connor to sing on the album but not a good mix. Celtic might have actually worked but not her. No one who tears up a picture of the pope can be truly Irish anyway. A bit of processed Celtic vocals might have worked nicely however.
Kudos to Miller and Bolton for the guitar work here. Floyd like but distinct. However, I also wished that the guitar solos might have been a bit more up front. A bit to laid back but great sound.
Here is the timeline for the more temporally inclined and interested:
15 September 2008 - Richard Wright - Rest in Peace (from cancer)
On An Island (Wright contributes keyboard and background vocals to Gilmour's solo album) - March 6, 2006
Broken China - November 26, 1996 (Wright's second and last solo album)
The Division Bell - (Wright collaborates with Gilmour on some songs) - March 30, 1994
A Momentary Lapse of Reason (Wright using only a Kurzweil K2000, Water's exiled, Gilmour writing songs with others but not Wright) - September 7, 1987
The Final Cut - 21 March 1983 (no Wriight, all songs by Waters)
The Wall - November 30, 1979 (Wright only musican, not credited for any songs)
Wet Dream - May 1978 (Wright's 1st solo album)