Pink Floyd’s ‘Later Years’ Box: We Don’t Need No Roger Waters

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If you’re looking for an anthology with enough heft to do double duty as a doorstop, look no further: like Pink Floyd’s The Early Years, its just-released follow-up, The Later Years, fits in a ton of material, including five CDs, six Blu-rays, five DVDs and two vinyl singles. Also featured are two hardcover books (one containing photos, another holding the CDs and a guide to the content); a lyrics book; posters; and reproductions of concert programs, passes and tickets. The box isn’t quite as weighty as it might seem, because, like The Early Years, this package inexplicably delivers the same content on its Blu-rays and DVDs rather than offering separate (and presumably a bit less pricey) versions of the box for each format. Still, there’s enough here to keep fans busy for months.

Watch “Wish You Were Here” Live at Knebworth 1990

The outfit featured on The Later Years is not exactly the one that produced megahits like 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon and 1979’s The Wall. On the latter album, the group sings, “We don’t need no education.” Here, they seem to be chanting, “We don’t need no Roger Waters,” as all of the featured material was performed after he left the band at the end of 1985. (That’s not to say he’s totally unrepresented: the box includes some songs that he wrote solely, as well as more than a dozen numbers that he cowrote with other members of the band.)

Related: When Dark Side of the Moon hit #1

Some critics were not kind to this post-Waters period, which resulted in music that often sounds redolent of work the group did prior to Dark Side of the Moon. Rolling Stone’s Album Guide, for example, awarded just one star to 1988’s Delicate Sound of Thunder—a rating the book defines as “Disastrous…Albums in the range of one star or less are wastes of vital resources. Only masochists and completists need apply.”

To this listener, such criticism seems much too harsh, however. True, you could argue that Pink Floyd is a lesser band without Waters, and particularly without his lyrical skills. You could also argue that most of the live material in this box sticks disappointingly close to the studio versions, with too little improvisation. That said, guitarist David Gilmour had a whole lot to do with Pink Floyd’s sound from early on, as did Nick Mason and the late Richard Wright. And there’s lots to like here, Waters’ absence notwithstanding.

Listen to the 2019 remix of “One Slip” from A Momentary Lapse of Reason

The package includes a remixed CD of 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason—the album best known for the hit single “Learning to Fly”—that restores some of Wright’s keyboard parts and incorporates new drum work by Mason. This first post-Waters album, which was produced by Bob Ezrin (who also produced The Wall), is essentially a Gilmour project; Wright—who at this point was on salary and not an official band member—and Mason are on board, but Gilmour wrote or cowrote all the songs, and his signature guitar sound is all over this project. Is it a big step forward? No, but it has more than a few high points, including the aforementioned “Learning to Fly.”

Also presented on the CDs is a remixed version of the aforementioned Delicate Sound of Thunder, a nearly two-and-a-half-hour, 23-song concert album that features an exhilarating “One of These Days” (from Meddle), as well as material from The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. Included, too, is a remixed, previously unreleased 1990 Knebworth, U.K., concert. It’s considerably shorter than Thunder—just seven songs and 56 minutes—because the band was headlining a charity program that featured several other major artists. But it incorporates such Pink Floyd faves as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Sorrow,” “Money” and “Comfortably Numb.”

Watch two performances from the upgraded Delicate Sound of Thunder

A final CD—which contains assorted live recordings from 1987 and 1994 and unreleased studio tracks from the latter year—showcases some obscurities as well as another excellent reading of “One of These Days” and a version of group cofounder Syd Barrett’s “Astronomy Domine” that’s faithful to, and at least as propulsive as, the one that opened the group’s 1967 debut album.

Related: Our Album Rewind review of Wish You Were Here

The Blu-rays—which have a total playing time of 14 hours—are this box’s biggest attraction. They deliver hi-res surround-sound mixes of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1994’s The Division Bell, some previously unreleased studio recordings, Delicate Sound of Thunder, and 1995’s Pulse live album; remastered, previously unavailable concert films, such as of the Knebworth show and a 1989 Venice concert; and music videos and documentaries, including the movie that resulted from 2014’s The Endless River. (Unfortunately, the anthology omits CD versions of The Division Bell, Pulse and The Endless River.) You’ll find all sorts of treasures throughout the Blu-rays—everything from a rather wild video about the cover-photo shoot for A Momentary Lapse of Reason to the last live performance by Gilmour, Mason and Wright (at a 2007 Barrett tribute show where they performed 1967’s “Arnold Layne,” complete with light show).

Watch the official unboxing video for the set

Needless to say, The Later Years isn’t for casual fans (though a one-CD edition containing highlights of the box might be). But if you’re a serious Floyd follower and can afford this not-exactly-inexpensive anthology, it’s probably time to hand over your credit card.

Listen to the 2019 remix of “Comfortably Numb” from Delicate Sound of Thunder

[To celebrate the release, British immersive technology studio Draw & Code have developed a new immersive augmented reality experience for fans. The technology allows fans to explore the new album covers featured in the box set, enabling users to personalize and recreate their own version within the real world. Using 8th Wall’s webAR platform the augmented reality experience launches straight from PFLaterYears.com without the need for an app.]

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