David Gilmour- On An Island (Columbia)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Castellorizon
2. On An Island
3. The Blue
4. Take A Breath
5. Red Sky At Night
6. This Heaven
7. Then I Close My Eyes
8. Smile
9. A Pocketful Of Stones
10. Where We Start



On An Island is David Gilmour’s first solo album in 22 years, though the smart asses among you will no doubt count Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse Of Reason and Division Bell as solo Gilmour discs. Additionally, On An Island is the first release of all new material by any member of Pink Floyd since Rick Wright’s Broken China in 1996.

Gilmour played some low-key concerts in 2001 and 2002 – shows that were acoustic in nature and generally subdued musically. On An Island picks up from that as only one of its 10 tracks really rocks. The others are reflective, atmospheric tunes. And other than the disc’s opener, “Castellorizon,” the disc doesn’t really sound much like Pink Floyd.

The instrumental “Castellorizon” starts things off nicely. At first, it acts as a musical sound collage with snippets of the upcoming tracks (like Marillion’s “Costa Del Slough” on their Radiation disc, only executed much better) before Gilmour cuts loose with one of his trademark solos.

“Castellorizon” leads straight into the title track, a fine number that features lots of guest appearances – Wright on some lovely Hammond Organ, original Pink Floyd guitarist Bob “Rado” Klose, past Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt and David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals. An evocative lyric about a beautiful trip long past, the track contains two of Gilmour’s better solos on the disc.

Next up is the extremely mellow “The Blue.” More guests appear in the form of Wright (this time on backing vocals) and Klose along with Jools Holland on piano and one-time Roger Waters touring member Chris Stainton on Hammond. The guitar solo here is a bit reminiscent of Gilmour’s guitar playing on the Division Bell’s “Marooned.”

“Take A Breath,” the disc’s only rocker, follows. A track about tough love parenting, the song makes great use of rhythmatic orchestration and some pounding drums by Ged Lynch. Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, who writes the majority of lyrics on the disc, pens one of her finest lines here with “This kind of love is hard to find/I never got to you by being kind/If I’m the one to throw you overboard/At least I showed you how to swim for shore.” Gilmour adds some more great solos, and this track ranks among the disc’s finest. That said, it does jump out since all of the other tracks are so mellow.

Gilmour makes his recording debut on saxophone on the brief “Red Sky At Night” and he performs quite well. Strings add some solid backing.

“Red Sky At Night” segues directly into the bluesy “This Heaven,” the next closest thing to a rocker On An Island has. Gilmour’s vocal delivery here conjures up memories of his self-titled 1978 debut album. Georgie Fame adds some solid Hammond reinforcements to this jazzy tune.

A bluegrass intro leads off “Then I Close My Eyes.” This instrumental features lots of interesting instrumentation – Gilmour on harmonica and cumbus (a Turkish stringed instrument), B.J. Cole on Weissenborn guitar, Alasdair Malloy on glass harmonica and Robert Wyatt on cornet (he also adds some mumbled vocals to the piece). Another subdued affair.

Anyone who saw Gilmour’s 2001-2002 shows or bought the subsequent DVD from those gigs will recognize “Smile,” a track that debuted then. A very lovely song that features Samson adding vocals while Gilmour plays pretty much everything else, though Willie Wilson, drummer on Gilmour’s solo debut and member of Pink Floyd’s Surrogate Band during the Wall shows, is present here. A highlight.

“A Pocketful Of Stones” is a piano-driven piece, though it opens with some great orchestration. Gilmour offers a haunting vocal while the track has a sort of musical feel to it in spots.

“Where We Start” closes out the disc and it is the only tune where Gilmour composes all of the lyrics (he also plays all of the instruments except for drums). A very mellow way to end the disc, but then again, that just keeps in spirit with the rest of On An Island.

Producing On An Island is Gilmour, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera (who also plays keyboards on some tracks) and long time Floyd associate Chris Thomas. The disc sounds great, but one really wouldn’t expect anything less from Gilmour.

In all, a fine disc, but a tad too low key. Some more rockers to balance things out would have been welcome. So I probably prefer 1984’s About Face to this release. But it is great to hear Gilmour’s singing and breathtaking guitar playing again. Now only if we don’t have to wait another decade to hear them again.

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