(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
"In the old days, pre Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd played to audiences which by virtue of their size were allowed an intimacy of connection that was magical. However, success overtook us and by 1977 we were playing in football stadiums. The magic crushed beneath the weight of numbers, we were becoming addicted to the trappings of popularity. I found myself increasingly alienated in that atmosphere of avarice and ego until one night in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, the boil of my frustrations burst. Some crazed teenage fan was clawing his way up the storm netting that separated us from the human cattle pen in front of the stage screaming his devotion to the 'Demi-Gods' beyond his reach. Incensed by his misunderstanding and my own connivance I spat my frustration in his face. Later that night, back at the hotel, shocked by my behaviour I was faced with a choice. To deny my addiction and embrace that comfortably numb but magic less existence or accept the burden of insight, take the road less travelled and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit. The Wall was the picture I drew for myself to help me make that choice." Roger Waters 1995
...and he continued to draw pictures long afterwards as well. flickering flame is not only a collection of some of these pictures but the name of a new tune which quite mysteriously hints at the old Pink Floyd psychedelic sound. OK OK, I'm getting ahead of myself here already....
The CD opens up with a very heartfelt rendition of Bob Dylan's "Knockin On Heaven's Door" complete with soulful female vocals. This has an 80's feel, like it could have come from the Radio K.A.O.S. album. Clem Clempson adds some very nice bluesy guitar on this, too. I did a little research and found out that this song was featured in the 1998 movie The Dybbuk from the Holy Apple Field, a modern version of a classic Jewish legend.
Like PF's Echoes comp, all of the tunes segue into one continuous mix. Next up is my favorite tune from Amused To Death, "Too Much Rope". The beginning of this is really scary; I have to hand it to Roger and James Guthrie for coming up with such an incredible selection of tracks for this album. It's almost as if it's a concept album unto itself.
"The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid)" has always been one of my favorite Waters tunes. It has a very positive message and commemorates an important event in music history as well. Roger experimented with a lot of different vocals and arrangements after Floyd and this one has a beautiful feel that never ceases to move me.
Afterwards, the sound of the audience comes in and we are treated to the first song on this collection from 2000's In The Flesh live album. "Stop Dave. Will you stop Dave? Stop Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going." This sample from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey spoken by the computer HAL, was to be included on the studio version of the song but Stanley Kubrick refused so good ol' Rog put a backwards message on Amused to Death for folks to decipher. I guess he eventually got permission somewhere along the way because the HAL sample was used on the tour that produced In The Flesh and also here. Jeez, I guess Roger's a convincing guy. "Perfect Sense parts I & II" is just another little innocent tune about world politics, nothing controversial about that!
"Three Wishes" is another troubling one from Amused. This time the subject is divorce. I'm beginning to respect that album much more through this anthology. I think all the female vocals threw me when I originally heard it. "5.06 am (Every Stranger's Eyes)" is surprisingly the only song on here from The Pros and Cons of Hitchiking. I really love that album but I think that may be one of Roger's least favorites. It does appear to be his most painful.
After that we have an excellent remix version of a tune from Radio K.A.O.S., "Who Needs Information". I can't tell much difference from this and the original but I have to admit, it's been a while since I listened to the original. I'm glad they didn't include much of the storyline stuff with Shadow Stevens. When the song fades out, the crowd wafts back in and we hear an organ very similar to the one from "Sheep" off Animals. This isn't that song but one of his newer ones called "Each Small Candle", another one from In The Flesh. A very moving song about the desperation of war featuring a great emotional guitar solo by Snowy White.
OK, here we go...the new song not previously available on an official album. "Flickering Flame", which he calls a demo, reminds me a whole lot of early 70's Floyd. It begins with Roger singing with an acoustic guitar very reminiscent of something that might have been on Obscured By Clouds or Meddle. After the second verse there is a guitar solo that starts out like "Fearless" and ends up with a theme similar to "The Fletcher Memorial Home" (from The Final Cut). There are all sorts of other PF references on this song including more spoken word from that mysterious Dark Side Of The Moon dude.
I'm glad Roger decided to include "Towers Of Faith" from the sadly rare soundtrack to the animated movie When The Wind Blows. Roger and his 'Bleeding Heart Band' provided a whole album's side worth of material for the movie and it's awesome. I highly recommend finding the soundtrack, if you can. Mel Collins provides a wonderful sax solo at the end.
The tempo picks up for a few minutes with the song "Radio Waves." This song sticks out a bit since it's more upbeat than the rest of the album but it is worth hearing again.
The album ends with "Lost Boys Calling" another newer 'demo' that eventually ended up in the film The Legend Of 1900 with a guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen. I guess this was an earlier version than the one I've heard about because there is no solo here. The song, co-written by Enrico Morricone, has a very emotional theme. It seems that Roger will always be coming to grips with his father's death. The music has a very somber orchestral backdrop with Roger's psychotic out-of-tune vocals grating almost like fingernails on a chalkboard. Very fitting song to end the album.
To sum things up, this is quite a different collection than I would have thought he'd release but it's very unique and well worth checking out for the newer songs and the continuously flowing emotions. For such a tiny symbol, flickering flame provides a great deal of illumination.
"Like Geronimo, like Quinn the Eskimo, like the Blackfoot, and like the Arapaho, I'll be the last one to lay down my gun. ... Just out of sight, beyond the next range, I feel the heat of a flickering flame."