The Endless River

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The Endless River
A man in a white shirt and tan pants stands in a Thames skiff at the center of the image. He stand-up paddles the Thames skiff across a sea of clouds, heading towards the Sun.
Studio album by Pink Floyd
Released 7 November 2014 (2014-11-07)
Recorded 1968, 1993, 2013–2014
Studio
Genre
Length 53:02
Label
Producer
Pink Floyd chronology
The Best of Pink Floyd: A Foot in the Door
(2011)The Best of Pink Floyd: A Foot in the Door2011
The Endless River
(2014)
1965: Their First Recordings
(2015)1965: Their First Recordings2015
Singles from The Endless River
  1. "Louder than Words"
    Released: 14 October 2014

The Endless River is the fifteenth and final studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd. It was released on 7 November 2014 in Friday-release countries and on 10 November elsewhere by Parlophone Records in the United Kingdom and by Columbia Records in the United States. It was the third Pink Floyd album led by guitarist and singer David Gilmour following Roger Waters' departure in 1985 and the first following the death of keyboardist Rick Wright in 2008, who appears posthumously.

The Endless River consists almost entirely of instrumental and ambient music based on material Pink Floyd wrote, recorded and produced with Wright during sessions for their previous album The Division Bell (1994). New material was recorded in 2013 and 2014 aboard Gilmour's Astoria boat studio and in Medina Studios in Hove, England. It was produced by Gilmour, Youth, Andy Jackson and Phil Manzanera. The cover art concept is by Ahmed Emad Eldin, with final artwork by Stylorouge and creative direction by Aubrey Powell.

The album was promoted with the single "Louder than Words" and artwork installations in cities including London, New York, Paris, Berlin, and Milan. It became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK, and debuted at number one in several countries. The vinyl edition was the fastest-selling UK vinyl release since 1997. The album received mixed reviews.

Background[edit]

The Endless River was created as a tribute to Rick Wright, one of the band's founding members, who died in 2008.

After the departure of founding member Roger Waters in 1985 and his failed attempt to dissolve the band,[4] guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour became the leader of Pink Floyd. He and drummer Nick Mason invited keyboardist Richard Wright back to the band after Waters had fired him during the recording of The Wall (1979).[5] Under Gilmour's leadership, Pink Floyd recorded two studio albums: A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994). The latter saw a greater participation from Wright, who shared his first writing credits on a Pink Floyd album since Wish You Were Here (1975), and recorded his first lead vocal since The Dark Side of the Moon (1973).[6] The sessions were held in 1993 and 1994 in Britannia Row Studios in London and aboard the Astoria boat studio.

According to Wright, during the sessions Pink Floyd recorded "four 90-minute DATs of five or six hours of music. The hardest thing was to throw things out and decide what we're gonna work on ... but they are not lost. They are in my head, they are in Dave's head."[7] Pink Floyd engineer Andy Jackson edited the material, described by Mason as ambient music, to an hour-long composition tentatively titled The Big Spliff;[8] the band decided not to release it.[9]

Wright died of an undisclosed form of cancer on 15 September 2008 at the age of 65.[5][10] Tributes to Wright included statements from Gilmour, Mason and Waters,[11][12] performances by artists such as Elton John[13] and television and radio specials.[14]

Recording[edit]

Drummer Nick Mason (left) and guitarist David Gilmour (right) took up the project in 2013, intending to create "a 21st-century Pink Floyd album".

In 2012, Gilmour and Mason decided to revisit recordings made with Wright prior to his death in 2008 to create a new Pink Floyd album. Gilmour said: "Over the last year we've added new parts, re-recorded others and generally harnessed studio technology to make a 21st-century Pink Floyd album. With Rick gone, and with him the chance of ever doing it again, it feels right that these revisited and reworked tracks should be made available as part of our repertoire."[15] Only a small part from The Big Spliff was used.[16]

Gilmour asked guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera, who played on and co-produced On an Island, to work on the material. Manzanera, Jackson and engineer Damon Iddins spent six weeks assembling four 14-minute pieces. Gilmour gave the first two of these pieces to producer Youth, who added guitar and bass parts. In November 2013, Gilmour led sessions with Manzanera, Youth and Jackson to record material with Mason, saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and bassist Guy Pratt.[8] Backing vocalists including Durga McBroom recorded parts and Gilmour recorded lead vocals on "Louder than Words",[17] with lyrics written by Gilmour's wife Polly Samson.[18] "Autumn '68" features a recording of Wright playing the Royal Albert Hall's pipe organ in 1968.[19][20] The track also has additional keyboards, added more recently by Damon Iddins. Mason stated that unreleased sessions Wright recorded for Gilmour's solo projects could appear on Gilmour's future solo albums.[21] The Endless River is the first Pink Floyd studio album since The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) for which Mason receives writing credits (for "Sum" and "Skins").

Bassist and songwriter Roger Waters, who left Pink Floyd in 1985, was not involved in the recording.[22][23] Gilmour stated that he was "pretty certain" that The Endless River would be the final Pink Floyd album.[21]

Composition[edit]

The Endless River, according to Gilmour, is "a continuous flow of music that builds gradually over four separate pieces." The album is made up of mostly ambient and instrumental music.[24][25] Gilmour told Mojo: "Unapologetically, this is for the generation that wants to put its headphones on, lie in a beanbag, or whatever, and get off on a piece of music for an extended period of time. You could say it’s not for the iTunes, downloading-individual-tracks generation."[25] Mason described the album as a tribute to Wright: "I think this record is a good way of recognising a lot of what he does and how his playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound. Listening back to the sessions, it really brought home to me what a special player he was."[15]

The Division Bell sampled a Stephen Hawking speech recorded for a British Telecom commercial in "Keep Talking"; the Endless River track "Talkin' Hawkin'" contains a Hawking sample taken from the same advertisement.[26] "Louder Than Words" is the only track with a lead vocal track, with lyrics by David Gilmour's wife Polly Samson,[27] who also shares writing credits on Pink Floyd's The Division Bell and Gilmour's On an Island.[6][28]

The album title is taken from a lyric on the last track and single released from The Division Bell, "High Hopes": "The water flowing / The endless river / For ever and ever." Gilmour said the lyric suggested "some sort of continuum" connecting the two records, since they came from the same sessions.[21]

Packaging[edit]

The Endless River cover artwork depicts a young man in an open shirt punting a Thames skiff across a sea of clouds towards the sun.[29][30] The album is the fourth by Pink Floyd not to feature artwork by long-time collaborator Storm Thorgerson, who died in 2013;[31] with his design company Hipgnosis, Thorgerson designed all but three Pink Floyd album covers, including live and compilation albums.[32] Gilmour stated that finding the right artwork for "The Endless River" was a problem because of Storm's passing and thought the right decision was to collaborate with Hipgnosis co-founder Aubrey Powell.[33] Powell discovered 18-year-old Egyptian artist Ahmed Emad Eldin and asked to use the concept from his piece Beyond the Sky for The Endless River.[34] The final cover is a recreation of Eldin's work by London design firm Stylorouge.[35] Eldin was a Pink Floyd fan and accepted enthusiastically.[36] Powell felt Ahmed’s concept had "an instant Floydian resonance", and described it as "enigmatic and open to interpretation".[37] In a BBC interview with Powell, he said he felt that the cover summed up the album's title and music, and was appropriate for the album's recording on the Thames.[29]

"Deluxe" editions[edit]

The Endless River was also released in boxed DVD and Blu-ray "deluxe" editions, containing a 24-page hardback book, postcards, and a bonus disc of three additional music tracks and six music videos.[18] Engineer Andy Jackson has stated that "TBS", found in the titles of two of these tracks, "TBS9" and "TBS14", refers to the original The Big Spliff project from which they are outtakes.[38] These nine tracks play for a total of 39 minutes.[18] The DVD edition includes the album in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound, plus a 48 kHz /24 bit stereo version. The Blu-ray has DTS Master Audio and PCM, 96/24 5.1 surround and a PCM stereo 96/24 version.[18]

Promotion[edit]

Several art installations, such as this one in South Bank, London, were placed around the world in promotion of The Endless River.

The Endless River is the second Pink Floyd album distributed by Parlophone,[39][not in citation given] following the release of the 20th anniversary editions of The Division Bell earlier in 2014. The Division Bell, along with subsequent live and compilation albums, were previously published by EMI in Europe and Sony counterpart Columbia Records for the rest of the world.

Pink Floyd were affected by the sale of EMI to the Universal Music Group, which lasted from 2011 to 2013. The European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission approved the sale with conditions, including the sale of certain EMI assets.[40] Pink Floyd, along with many other bands under the EMI roster, were transferred to different labels during the process. The Parlophone Label Group was formed under Parlophone as one of many assets to be sold off by Universal following the acquisition of EMI, with Pink Floyd transferred to the Parlophone Label Group during the sale.[41] The Warner Music Group, in 2013, struck a deal with Universal to buy the Parlophone label Group from EMI, acquiring publishing rights to Pink Floyd's back catalog and future releases in the process.[42][43]

In a tweet on 5 July 2014, Pink Floyd lyricist and wife of David Gilmour, Polly Samson, leaked information about a new Pink Floyd album, including its title and a projected release window of October 2014[44] to pre-empt a tabloid newspaper report.[8] The announcement was followed by backing vocalist Durga McBroom posting a photo of her alongside Gilmour in the recording studio.[45] Details about The Endless River were announced on Pink Floyd's website on 7 July, describing it as "mainly ambient" and instrumental music.[46] Pink Floyd and Parlophone formally unveiled The Endless River on 22 September 2014, including the release date, artwork and track listing, accompanied by a promotional website, a hyperstitial for the official Pink Floyd website.[47] The site featured an artist's statement, photographs from The Division Bell sessions, pre-order details and two teasers, one featuring a 30-second snippet of the album's second track, "It's What We Do", and a television advertisement, featuring the album's geometric-based artwork.[48][49] pre-orders for the album on physical and digital formats started the same day.[50][51] Prominent installations of the album's artwork were placed around the world, including a four-sided 8m tall billboard placed in South Bank, London,[30][52] and large-scale poster advertisements in cities such as Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles, Milan, New York and Sydney.[53][54]

The album's only single, "Louder than Words", premiered on Chris Evans' breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 as a shortened radio edit. Gilmour and Mason appeared in an interview for BBC Radio 6 Music to promote the album and to discuss Wright's contributions. The track "Allons-y (1)" was made available to download from the iTunes Store on 4 November 2014. In the week leading up to its release, The Endless River broke the record for the most pre-ordered album in Amazon UK's history.[55] On 27 November the record was broken by Take That's III.[56] Gilmour stated that there would be no tour to support the album, saying it was "impossible" without Wright.[57][58]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 58/100[59]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[68]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[60]
The Independent N/A[61]
Record Collector 5/5 stars[62]
NME 5/10[63]
The Observer 4/5 stars[64]
Pitchfork 5.7/10[65]
PopMatters 6/10 medals[66]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[67]
Uncut 3.5/5 stars[59]

The Endless River received mixed reviews, with review aggregator Metacritic assigning an average, normalized score score of 58, which indicates "mixed or average reviews", based on 24 reviews.[59]

Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Times praised the album's nostalgic "Floydian" sound, reminiscent of the band's work prior to The Wall, and wrote: "How fitting that a band so accustomed to loss should close their account with an engrossing elegy to their own past."[69] Cameron Cooper of The Music gave the album three and a half out of five, writing that the album felt "less like a swansong and more like a final homage ... the lack of vocals (save for the album’s closing track) gives the music more freedom, allowing it to speak for itself."[70] In The Guardian, Alexis Petridis described it as "not a new album from an extant band, but an echo from the past – or a last, warm but slightly awkward group hug ... on those terms, it works just fine," and praised the lead single and final track "Louder than Words" as "stately, poignant and open-hearted".[60] In Rolling Stone, David Fricke wrote: "Wright was the steady, binding majesty in the Floyd's explorations. This album is an unexpected, welcome epitaph."[67] The Observer wrote that the album is "an understated affair but unmistakably the Floyd ... a pretty good way to call it a day."[64]

J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters wrote: "Without the vocals, something is very clearly missing and the listener is left wanting more. While this makes for a good album, The Endless River is not quite fitting to serve as the final album of the greatest rock band of their kind, to say nothing of one of the greatest rock bands of any kind ever to perform."[66] Andy Gill of The Independent called it "just aimless jamming, one long thread of Dave Gilmour's guitar against Rick Wright's pastel keyboards and Nick Mason's tentative percussion, with nary a melody of any distinction alighted upon for the duration .... without the sparking creativity of a Syd or Roger, all that's left is ghastly faux-psychedelic dinner-party muzak."[61] The NME wrote that The Endless River "sounds like what it is: a collection of spruced-up outtakes from 1994's Division Bell. On those limited terms it works well enough, and it's interesting from a certain geeky perspective, but it's never quite as satisfying or substantial as you want it to be."[63] Pitchfork wrote that The Endless River "is quintessentially and self-consciously Pink Floyd, for better or for worse ... it proves to be one of the few Pink Floyd releases that sounds like a step backwards, with nothing new to say and no new frontiers to explore."[65] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times called it "so excruciatingly dull (even by Pink Floyd's often-dull standards) that the band's name on the cover feels like a straight-up bait-and-switch."[71]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the week before its release, The Endless River displaced Four by One Direction as the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK.[72] It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, with sales totaling 139,351 the third highest opening sales week of 2014,[1] making it Pink Floyd's sixth UK number one.[73][74] As of 27 November 2014, the vinyl edition had sold 6,000 copies, making it the fastest-selling UK vinyl release of 2014 and the fastest-selling since 1997.[75] The album also debuted at number one in several other countries, including France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand,[76] and Canada.[77] In the US, it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 with 170,000 copies sold in its first week;[78] by January 2015, it had sold 355,000 copies there.[79] Worldwide, The Endless River sold over 2.5 million copies in 2014.[80]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks produced by David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Things Left Unsaid" 4:26
2. "It's What We Do"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
6:17
3. "Ebb and Flow"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
1:55
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
4. "Sum"
4:48
5. "Skins"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
  • Mason
2:37
6. "Unsung" Wright 1:07
7. "Anisina" Gilmour 3:16
Side three
No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. "The Lost Art of Conversation" Wright 1:42
9. "On Noodle Street"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
1:42
10. "Night Light"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
1:42
11. "Allons-y (1)" Gilmour 1:57
12. "Autumn '68" Wright 1:35
13. "Allons-y (2)" Gilmour 1:32
14. "Talkin' Hawkin'"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
3:29
Side four
No. Title Writer(s) Length
15. "Calling"
3:37
16. "Eyes to Pearls" Gilmour 1:51
17. "Surfacing" Gilmour 2:46
18. "Louder than Words"
6:36
The Endless River deluxe edition
No. Title Writer(s) Length
19. "TBS9"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
2:27
20. "TBS14"
  • Gilmour
  • Wright
4:11
21. "Nervana" Gilmour 5:32
22. "Anisina" (video) Gilmour 2:49
23. "Untitled" (video) Wright 1:22
24. "Evrika (A)" (video) Wright 5:58
25. "Nervana" (video) Gilmour 5:32
26. "Allons-y" (video) Gilmour 6:00
27. "Evrika (B)" (video) Wright 5:33

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from the 2014 release[81]