Brand new solo album by the Pink Floyd keyboardist, with Sinead O'Connor appearing as guest lead vocalist on the tracks 'Reaching For The Rail' and 'Breakthrough'. The album has a Floyd sound and look throughout, thanks to... more » their designer Storm Thorgerson.« less
Brand new solo album by the Pink Floyd keyboardist, with Sinead O'Connor appearing as guest lead vocalist on the tracks 'Reaching For The Rail' and 'Breakthrough'. The album has a Floyd sound and look throughout, thanks to their designer Storm Thorgerson.
"As it often happens in life, it's the quiet ones who'll really surprise you. Of all the members of Pink Floyd, Richard Wright is most certainly the least well known. He has always seemed a shadowy, somewhat spectral figure within the band, almost never giving interviews and publicized statements. He's low key and low profile, often to the frustration of hardcore Floyd fans. Believe me, I know.
Anyone well familiar with the band's body of work will know that Rick was much more integral to it's sound than he's commonly given credit for. Much of the more esoteric side of Pink Floyd's music comes from Rick's contributions. His skills on piano are tasteful and stately, and his keyboard sound is signature to any of the pre-Wall albums, and reemerging on The Division Bell.
Then there's his voice. In this reviewer's opinion, Wright's vocals were sorely underused by the group as a whole, usually limited to harmonizing with Dave Gilmour(which were always vocal standouts) and doing the rare lead. His voice is deep and rich, and while he doesn't have Dave's overall range, he could command the lower keys better than anyone else in the band.
Broken China was Rick's first solo project since 1984's Zee Identity collaboration with Dave Harris. It's an amazingly well developed piece, featuring pristeen production values rivaling any Pink Floyd album and even Roger Waters' "Amused To Death" release, which is largly considered one of the best sounding albums of all time. Rick's main collaborator this time around is Anthony Moore, who had worked with Rick during The Division Bell sessions with lyrical content on "Wearing The Inside Out". Like Gilmour, Rick's forte doesn't lie in lyric writing, but rather in the music directly, so Moore seems an obvious choice on this record.
The subject matter presented on this concept album is based on actual events Rick had experienced with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Millie. She had suffered through the effects of clinical depression, and this album represents Rick's response to his experiences with her illness. As she eventually fully recovered, the piece has a happy ending, and she was in agreement to Rick setting the subject matter to music. It was done so to stunning effect.
With the possible exception of Amused To Death, Broken China stands as the most "Floydian" of all the Floyd solo efforts. It's overall sound is lush and full, with lots of tempo shifts and even some well used sound effects that I think even Roger Waters would approve of. Wright employed a team of top shelf musicians to assist him on this project, including guitarists Tim Renwick(Floyd back up), and Dominic Miller(Sting), drummer Manu Katche(Peter Gabriel), and bassist extraordinare, Pino Pallidino. We also hear cello from Sian Bell, oboe by Kate St John, and guest vocals by Sinead O'Connor on the tracks "Reaching For The Rail", and the beautiful album closer, "Breakthrough".
About half of the sixteen songs on this record are keyboard based instrumentals, which one should expect from Wright, as it's his strong suit, and they really add to the album's flow, with the other instruments accenting Rick's playing, smartly and effectively. On the tracks in which Rick sings, I can remember being pretty shocked when I first heard this record, almost ten years ago. I never knew Rick had so much expression in his voice, with some of the singing sounding downright operatic. It was, and is, really nice to hear that underused vocal ability out in the forefront here....and as a sidenote, I hope Gilmour utilizes these talents in his upcoming tour for On An Island, as Rick's going out on the road with him.
Broken China opens with "Breaking Water", an instrumental representing childbirth, which is somewhat in the same vein as "Cluster One" from The Division Bell. It leads abruptly into the "hit single", "Night Of A Thousand Furry Toys", which finds the whole band kicking in, with special mention of Tim Renwick sounding more than a little Gilmourish, and the Pino/Manu rhythm section providing a very catchy song about those precious influential early years of one's development as an impressionable child.
Child abuse appears to be the subject matter in "Hidden Fear", in which Wright showcases some hidden vocal talents that never got utilized within the Floyd catalog, and soon we're back into instrumental territory with "Runaway", showcasing some sinister sounding keyboards from Rick, giving way to some ominous percussion loops and more of Renwick's guitar work, thusly completing the first four songs in a series of four-four song cycles. This record has actual chapters worked into it's theme which is a real nod towards well thought out structure. This part was the "catalyst leading to condition" portion.
The next three tracks are all instrumentals of differing tempos, and lead up to one of the album's standout tracks, "Woman Of Custom". Dominic Miller's acoustic guitar features strongly here, accented by a strong vocal delivery by Rick on what is probably the most lyrical song on Broken China. From here, the album reaches new dark conceptual lows, accentuated by both the music and singing, effectively giving the feeling of insurmountable depression.
"Far From The Harbour Wall" is, to my mind, probably the closest representation of what clinical depression is on album, and also Rick's reaction to it, which must have been quite an ordeal to experience in the real world. The song encapsulates a feeling of despair and hopelessness, and is just not a happy place whatsoever. As if to drive the point home, "Drowning" is nothing if not a downward spiral of an instrumental into total darkness. "Reaching For The Rail" will sound familiar to Dark Side fans, as Rick reprises his keyboards used during the beginning majestic buildup of "Time", but then we're thrown a loop with the unfamiliar voice of Sinead O'Connor delivering a vocal performance that must have hit pretty close to home for her, given her abusive childhood experiences. The "rail" is most definately not the answer to what ails.
The road to recovery from clinical depression is a long one, and involves therapy and lots of patience, and, of course love. Obviously Rick Wright and his wife to be endured a lot and got to their happy ending, and the last four songs find this represented in what is the uplifting portion of the record. A musical highlight on the album is the gorgeous "Sweet July", which is reminiscent of "Marooned", from The Division Bell. A great showcase of Rick's tasteful piano, coupled with Miller's guitar, this track would be right at home on any Floyd album. It leads directly into the rocker, "Along The Shoreline", which, odd as this may sound within the album context, is musically like a fleshed out version of "Run Like Hell". The song is all positive though, and serves as an epiphany of love and respect.
Sinead O' Conner gets the last word in "Breakthrough", which is probably the record's standout track, and indeed, a happy ending. Her voice is perfectly well suited here too in what's naturally a song to be sung from the female perspective. Works out perfectly!
This is quite an album by Mr. Wright, and I'm certain he remains very proud of it. Clearly, much time, effort, and personal experience went into it's creation, and the end results are sublime. Sadly, this totally slipped under all but the most devoted Floydian radars, and as such, the piece is largely unknown. Something this great really deserves a larger audience, but what can you do? Write a review, I guess....
In closing, I'll mention the artwork by Storm Thorgeson....one of his better ones, which IS saying something....so it looks very much like a Floyd release. The album is mastered in Q Sound, which always means the best in fidelity, particularily for this type of music.
If you're into Floyd, and want to see what some of the bands "parts" can do, do yourself a big favor and pick this gem up. Give it a little time to grow on you, and it'll pay you back in kind with many enjoyable repeat listenings.
A Great Musician Regains his Confidence
Bud | Seminole, Texas, USA | 11/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As if Pink Floyd keyboard virtuoso Richard Wright hadn't already made himself a "mystery musician" with his complex dazzling music and one-sided empty grin, his 1996 solo fare "Broken China" firmly established that enigmatic tone his music has always seemed to take.
Perhaps the most fulfilling thing about Wright's "Broken China" is that the keyboardist is found back in tune with himself, his purpose, and his music. Wright is often known to be unsatisfied with a lot of his work, and a bad case of writer's block in the late 1970s resulted in his exodus from Pink Floyd and two less than perfect solo projects. However, with "Broken China," the confidence which Wright regained from his reunion with Floyd has obviously paid off as he goes solo once more.
This 16-song cycle is a semi-conceptual piece dealing with the state of depression, something Wright's music expresses without flaws; his glistening musical arrangements blend together in a surreal flow, with the classic electronic touch. Former Pink Floyd session-contributor Anthony Moore's assistance is worthwhile on such great tracks as 'Night Of a Thousand Furry Toys,' 'Woman Of Custom,' and especially 'Reaching For the Rail' and 'Breakthrough' (both of which see Sinead O'Connor in guest spots). But Wright's work alone in the musical value makes "Broken China" the great work it is, evident on 'Satellite' and 'Sweet July.'
"Broken China" may very well be Richard Wright's masterpiece so far, even if the "new age" label is a bit far fetched. The confidence of a great musician is back and gleaming, and the album's ultimate result is above satisfactory."
"To All Those Brave Enough to Face Their Past"
FloydWaters | 08/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The artist himself acknowledged in interviews that he knew it wouldn't be a bestseller, and seemed to have accepted it. But it seems a terrible shame that a man could pour out his heart--and in such beautiful fashion--and go unheard. Broken China is on a level with Mr. Waters' solo work Amused to Death. I don't say that lightly. But to compare it any further to ATD would be to do both works a disservice. Both are certainly concept albums. However, while ATD has a lyrical focus and the music takes a supporting role, Broken China has a more musical focus, with the lyrics of Anthony Moore in a supporting role.Broken China is the harrowing, but ultimately inspiring story of two individuals alone: the narrator, Mr. Wright himself, and his wife (then his girlfriend--her first name is Millie). Openly emotional in nature, this story will bring you to tears. The story is very personal to Mr. Wright--the experience of watching his girlfriend endure clinical depression. Mr. Wright wrote this album, in part, as a means to help deal with the aftermath of this painful episode.The album is divided into four sets, each containing four songs. Each part deals with a particular "phase" of his girlfriend's life. Most of it is "narrated" by Mr. Wright, but two songs are sung by Sinead O'Connor, who represents his girlfriend. Here's a quick summary as I understand it, but I feel that in this case I have to be careful in stating my interpretations, since this album deals directly with the lives of two real individuals. In Set 1, Mr. Wright describes the childhood abuse his girlfriend endured--some of it probably sexual (from "Hidden Fear": "Why do we feel this adult pain/And hold these secrets that don't belong?"). If the title of this set's last song relates the true course of events, she runs away from home. Set 2 deals with womanhood and her attempts to repress all the pain of her childhood--but the pressure keeps building. Set 3 deals with the breakdown, the depression, and the terrible pain it caused both his girlfriend and Mr. Wright himself. In Set 4 she makes a gradual, but eventually successful recovery with Mr. Wright giving her his love and support. (After the events of the album itself, Richard and Millie Wright married--a true happy ending after a harrowing ordeal.)The sound of the album itself is difficult to describe--quite otherworldly in many places, almost verging on techno for a few tracks (most notably "Satellite"), but nearly classical on a few others (most notably "Hidden Fear" and "Blue Room in Venice"). Yet another instrumental track is reminiscent of The Division Bell's "Cluster One" ("Sweet July"). Always otherworldly, the album shows off the wide range of musical moods and textures Mr. Wright is capable of producing. Though he often goes unrecognized, Mr. Wright's work truly is an influential, if sometimes subtle part of the Pink Floyd sound. Mr. Wright's vocals are noticeably different on Broken China than any of his earlier work. Probably the closest comparison would be to TDB's "Wearing the Inside Out." However, to many of the songs, there's a much more melodic quality to his singing--he makes much more use of vibrato than any other Floyd member ever has (ex. "Hidden Fear"), but he takes care not to overdo it. Mr. Wright's singing is not harsh or overbearing. Though his voice is rather deeper-sounding than fans of early Floyd would be accustomed to, his voice hasn't suffered over time-it's as clear as ever. Mr. Wright said in an interview that in the making of Broken China he felt freer to experiment with his voice to find a way he felt most comfortable. To my ear, it came out wonderfully. Though the music is probably the primary focus for most, the lyrics are emotionally very powerful. One of the most powerful examples is in "Far from the Harbour Wall": "Now, because I could not cope with pain
How things are not the same, she's got no remedies.
A heartbreaking fall and I fear a change of course
I feel like we were born insane,
I hear the love, I fear the love
For the heart is so low, see how it grows apart." My heart really went out to Mr. Wright here--it sounds as if he's blaming himself for everything that's happening to her, and how painfully strong the love is that he has for her. Oh, how that hit home--I could feel it so strongly. I cried when I heard this, because I felt his pain as if it were my own...just as it seems Mr. Wright felt HER pain as HIS own, not to mention his own private pain from what he was seeing. "To all those brave enough to face their past," says the album's dedication. Indeed--it took a great bravery for Mr. Wright to do this. He may be quiet, but there's no denying that he is truly brave. The same applies to Mrs. Wright for agreeing to let him create Broken China and to eventually decide that she was all right with letting him tell the full story about her. This is an album about an issue that affects one out of ten people. ONE out of TEN--think about that. "We were cut off from our lives, by a wall of pain,
It can't be seen, it's so routine, it has no face or name."
--"Along the Shoreline" It HAS a name, and it CAN be treated. I think that is part of the reason that Mr. Wright released this album--so perhaps someone out there somewhere might be spared the suffering the two of them endured. This is the deep bravery that arises out of love--this is what offers hope in the darkest of circumstances. This is the secret of Broken China. "To all those brave enough to face their past.""
We have no night, we have no day, we have no falling rain.
The Dark Side | 01/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan. I own every album and just recently started collecting solo albums by Floyd members. I have allways loved Gilmour, Waters and Barrett but never really thought that Wright was an important Floyd member... O man I was wrong! I never realized that Wright does more then just play the Keyboard. He also SINGS!!!! I love his voice its so smooth and peaceful. I never realized he sang some of my favorite songs like Wearing the Inside Out, Burning Bridges, Stay?, and some others I think. Wright is also the one who did a lot of work on DSOTM and the sound effects! This album is beautifuly writtn, this is as close as you will get to the old Pink Floyd sound!... I'm searching around for the other album he created "Wet Dream" but I can't find it any where... Email me at TheDarkSide73@gmail.com if u know where I can purchase Wet Dream."
Finally Rick get's his due.
Lyn Pastac Lynsey | West Hurley, NY | 11/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been a fan of Rick Wright's talent since July 1971. Why do I know the date? I had just moved to America with my family. We moved into a small house in a small town where, as a boy the telephone poles at the end of the sidewalk were the only world I knew. With one exception; My older brother had a fantasic record collection. He walked in the door after having seen Pink Floyd in Concert. (Note: This is before Dark Side Of The Moon arrived). I remember listening to those early albums with my brother. I liked the way Rick wrote songs for Pink Floyd and missed it when he stopped (or "the powers..." stopped him). His, Paintbox, See-Saw, Stay and Remember A Day were favorites of mine at the time. This Cd is a hybrid styling of the subconcious Pink Floyd influence that lingers through all of the band's members music. But, this is rich in tone,melody, performance. I hope he puts out another. I listen to this record alot. His use of drum loops and his arranged keyboard textures are of a well seasoned professional with a gift that pours itself through the songs. I understand that much of this music comes from personal inner turmoil (depression, anxiety). It's is truthful and brilliant music played by great musicians and written by a quiet great. Finally he gets his due. I look for more. Oh yeah, it was great to hear and see him play and sing with David Gilmour's band this year."