October 7, 2023

Roger Waters, former frontman of Pink Floyd, releases his own version of the classic album, The Dark Side of The Moon Redux, for better or worse

Roger Waters - The Dark Side of The Moon Redux Analysis and Review

Roger Waters - The Dark Side of The Moon Redux Comparison and Review


For the past 50 years we've been graced with one of the most defining albums of all time. One would think that any attempt to "redo" or remake an album of this magnitude, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon, which we reviewed a few weeks ago, would be a foolish task, but the world's been shown that there are creative ways to honor and cover the original material. Back in 2003, reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars released their marijuana smoke-infused Dub Side of The Moon, and then in 2010, Dubber Side of The Moon. The Flaming Lips did their own take with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, giving their remake the same name to a more mixed reception. Overall it shows the appreciation and influence these talented artists have felt from the 1973 masterpiece so much so that paying tribute is mostly a badge of honor.

Come 2023, and a 50 year anniversary later brings a new take from one of the album's singular minds, Roger Waters. Except this time Waters wants fans to know that David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Rick Wright are nowhere near this version, that much he makes fans painfully aware. If anyone considers themselves a fan of Pink Floyd, they might as well acclimate themselves to the hostile climate surrounding the surviving members, which has devolved into a bitter feud of wrestling control and claiming credit for the previous albums that put the band on the map and made them a household name. It is striking how petty the infighting has become, as Waters is already well-known as one of the primary masterminds of such landmark albums as Animals and The Wall. One would assume that such accolades and his world famous The Wall solo tour would give his mind the security of not needing further validation. However, this is unfortunately not the case. Therefore, The Dark Side of The Moon Redux is here to purportedly settle the debate, as Waters claims, that he was the singular songwriter of the classic album. What actually is before us today is a rather bleak, sometimes refreshing, other times dull, remake and an album that fans never asked for and don’t necessarily need.

Comparison and Review

The primary difference in this album, besides “no guitar solos”, Waters’ own jab at guitarist Gilmour, is the presence of Waters own spoken word takes as a supposedly wiser 80 year old man. His primary focus was to bring to the present day themes from DSOTM, and while he does have a point, his sit-on-my-knee-for-storytime approach tends to get stale pretty quick, and it makes the album feel more like a radio play instead of an actual music LP. 

Speak To Me is very timely for the fact that Waters is approaching his twilight years. “The memories of a man in his old age, Are the deeds of a man in his prime,” referencing himself making the classic album. His narration mostly works here, as he imitates a deathbed confession, “For life is a short, warm moment, And death is a long, cold rest.” The heartbeat is faded, and Waters’ dry, gravelly voice is well-suited for this introduction, before the first proper song, Breathe. 

Breathe is dusty and the first of a series of slow-jams on Redux, but it’s surprisingly a follow-up that continues to work, as the prominent guitar melody is accentuated with singing birds, a synthesized organ, and a steady drumbeat, before Waters adds his own poetry to the introduction, "You are the angel of death, And I am the dead man's son, He was buried like a mole in a foxhole, And everyone's still on the run." These spoken word snippets either work or not depending on your perspective. Waters' vocals then come in, except they are hardly sung, and are more like a man singing in a small room for a group of friends. Again, this may work for fans who want a fresh take, but it may come off as lazy or possibly be because Waters can't sing like he used to.

After the dusty-old rendition of Breathe finishes, listeners are introduced to the previously-instrumental On The Run, except now it is full of Waters' spoken word salad in an attempt to describe a nerve-wracking, anxiety-laden dream that he had. It is okay, but his voice is unfortunately too prominent in the mix and deflates the original genius of his own synth-work from 1973. There are music albums where spoken word or poetry works really well, such as the early albums by the legendary Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed, In Search of a Lost Chord, and In The Threshold of a Dream, but here it feels gloomy, overlong, and forced. The sound effects and synthesizer seem complimentary here, but they never take over the track the way they do in 1973. A proper On The Run Redux should have featured a more menacing synth, an updated sound collage for the 21st century, and probably no spoken words, but alas, Waters can't hold himself back or show any restraint with this talky piece. It is unfortunately distracting and the first miss of the album.

Time, although it loses its brilliant ancient-sounding introduction from the original album, is without question the most poignant song on Redux for Waters, both thematically and lyrically. As he recounts the years that have long passed and being “one day closer to death”, there is a chilling reminder to all of us that our time will come and go much like this man and even possibly his legacy if given enough time. It’s worth a listen if a fan were to play any single track from Redux for the 50 year span this song chronicles. Like the others, it’s subdued and moody and sounds like a man penning his final letters in a dark room.

Great Gig in The Sky carries forward the theme of death and what’s to come, this time interspersed with Waters’ recounting of a friend who died of cancer. It could be a meaningful exercise in storytelling but it feels forced and unfortunately these anecdotes of keeping in touch with a family member of his friend and working on his ranch mostly gets in the way of an otherwise brilliant take of Great Gig in The Sky, which is thankfully left wordless in the mid-section and led by a ghostly synth. 

Money and the second half of the album overall follow the trajectory and groundwork laid out by Waters in the first half of Redux. Money is robbed of its rock party swing and instead seems to be placed in a jazzy, late-night club scene, with a battle-worn man crooning gravelly over the microphone. Its novelty soon fades and loses its luster, especially where there used to exist an extended jam in the middle of the song. Money can’t be saved by the middling string section or Waters own addendum to the lyrics either. 

Us and Them, already being the longest and the slowest song on the original album, makes it the single track that remains the least changed from 1973. Listening to this version is just fine, and seems to be the least updated with Waters’ own lyrics, making this version evidently the inferior one to listen to. 

Any Colour You Like has a very solid groove, and it’s curious to hear these previously instrumental tracks such as On The Run, Great Gig in The Sky, and Any Colour, to hear how Waters chooses to handle them. Unfortunately though, they are all pretty much ruined by shoehorned spoken words. This one seems pretty stream of consciousness, which is a very risky approach given how unpredictable stream of consciousness may land. He eventually settles on narrating various colors to the meandering beat, but overall the effort feels very unnecessary and a creative decision that should have not been made. 

The penultimate song, Brain Damage, opens with Waters’ own musing, “Why don’t we re-record… Dark Side of The Moon,” which he can’t seem to say with a straight face, and then laughs to himself foolhardily. Waters seems to know the insurmountable task of re-recording his masterpiece. His self-awareness is here on Redux, but it doesn’t make for any more enjoyable of a listen. The song comes off fine enough if in the mood for a smoother version, and the chorus is able to give a little chill to fans, but it’s otherwise the final buildup to an album that was better left alone. 

Eclipse is a nice final track, smoothing out the album overall. It’s one of the only tracks that employs backing vocalists. Hearing them almost makes one wonder why they weren’t used elsewhere in the album. It’s nice to hear the climax, but it’s all still very run-of-the-mill. 

Final Thoughts

No matter how Waters slices it, songs like Time, Great Gig in The Sky, and Money are still beholden to imitating Gilmor’s guitar, Wright’s piano, and Torry’s soaring vocals, proving that Waters isn't truly free from the contributions and efforts of his former bandmates or collaborators. According to Waters though, The Dark Side of The Moon was always meant to be experienced, but not necessarily enjoyed, and in his twilight years he is offering his new dreary take of the album.

What might’ve been more rewarding is a track-by-track commentary to the classic album, but it is likely this would’ve been blocked by the band as well, much like how Waters’ own liner notes (arguing he is the sole creator) for Animals’ 40th anniversary were blocked and delayed its release for several years. Instead, this Redux comes across like a creative writing project set to music that sounds oddly like Pink Floyd. The only consolation here is that The Dark Side of The Moon Redux is remade by one of the original masterminds himself, but even still, the novelty soon fades after Speak To Me / Breathe and is altogether lost during On The Run. Despite all of this, some songs seem to work more than they should, such as Breathe, Time, and Money, giving them a new flair and outlook in his old age. 

Ultimately, Roger Waters' own preconceived notions about his legacy get in his own way and leave little room for real inspiration or artistic touches in The Dark Side of The Moon Redux. Maybe trying to redo DSOFTM was a fool's errand from the start. But Waters unfortunately sours this release all on his own; if he wants full credit, he can have it. Maybe Waters’ own ego is his Dark Side of The Moon, and fans have no choice but to live in it if they want to experience this new bleak take. One man can’t build a pyramid. Maybe Waters should have gained this wisdom many years ago. Maybe then Redux would have shined much brighter. 

The Dark Side of The Moon Redux - 6.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Breathe, Great Gig in The Sky, Any Colour You Like