Richard Wright solo albums

By now, you've probably heard the news that a new Pink Floyd album, titled The Endless River, is set for release this fall. The official press release describes the album, which will be the Floyd's first in 20 years, as "an album of mainly ambient and instrumental music based on the 1993/4 Division Bell sessions which feature David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright". The way that the news originally was leaked was by a way that could not have been used the last time the Floyd released an album: via Twitter. On July 5th, Gilmour's wife Polly Samson casually tweeted: "Btw Pink Floyd album out in October is called "The Endless River". Based on 1994 sessions is Rick Wright's swansong and very beautiful." (Update: the album is now scheduled to be released on November 10th).

There is at least one word of Samson's tweet that would not quite fit its proper definition. A "swan song" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the last performance or piece of work by an actor, athlete, writer, etc." Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright died from cancer in 2008, but recordings from 1994 would not constitute the final studio work of his life. Wright released a solo album titled Broken China in 1996, which he had in fact worked on after The Division Bell.

Before we get to that, I also want to mention Wright's only other solo album, released two decades earlier.

On his first solo recording, 1978’s Wet Dream, six of the ten tracks were instrumentals. Wright wrote and produced the album, which was recorded with the help of session saxophonist/flutist Mel Collins, touring Floyd guitarist Snowy White, drummer Reg Isidore (who had previously played with Robin Trower), and bassist Larry Steele (who had played with Cat Stevens and Peter Green). The type of “wet dream” that Wright apparently had in mind was a summer vacation at sea. The three instrumentals on Side One (“Mediterranean C”, “Cat Cruise”, and “Waves”) all sound like part of a soundtrack for a seasonal cruise. The lyrics to “Holiday” spell it right out: “Sail on, across the sea / Ride the waves, feel the breeze / Sail on, there's no other way I'd rather be”. The other three songs with lyrics sound more somber. “Against The Odds” (whose lyrics were written by Wright’s first wife Juliette) and “Summer Elegy” are about troubled relationships. “Pink’s Song” presumably refers to Syd Barrett (“Caught between the tangled web, you helped set us free / Sadly then you lost yourself, so you had to leave”). The instrumentals on Side Two (“Mad Yannis Dance”, “Drop In From The Top”, and “Funky Deax”) have a quirkier prog nature, but they don’t quite sound Floydian, despite Snowy’s occasionally Gilmour-like leads. Wet Dream is a half-interesting glimpse at what the “Great Gig In The Sky” guy liked to do in his spare time.

By contrast, Broken China (released in 1996) was a very Floyd-like concept album, a four-part opus about the depression suffered by Wright’s third wife, Millie. The album includes many neo-classical instrumentals, occasional sound effects reminiscent of The Wall, and lyrics by Anthony Moore (who had previously contributed lyrics to the post-Waters Floyd albums). Wright sings six of the songs, which tend to resemble the Floyd at their most somber and understated. Two other tracks, “Reaching For The Rail” and “Breakthrough”, are sung by a mature-sounding SinĂ©ad O'Connor, whose low-key delivery convincingly illustrates the feelings of the condition. Those two tracks easily stand out. Like too many prog-rock albums, Broken China doesn’t begin to catch its stride until the second half, and even at that point it is not as compelling as it wants to be. Still, it does reveal much about the ingredients Wright contributed to Pink Floyd’s famous recordings.

In conjunction with the release of Broken China, EMI issued a three-song promotional CD single containing two seven-minute remixes of “Runaway” by ambient duo The Orb. “Runaway” was a rather nondescript ambient instrumental in its original four-minute album version. The Orb's “Lemonade Mix” adds plenty of pulsating electronic flatulence, while their “Leggit Dub” mix adds a more complex sound collage. Both versions easily have more substance than the original, but both wear out their welcome before the ends of their seven-minute lengths. The third track on the single is an instrumental remix of “Night of a Thousand Furry Toys” by William Orbit with Matt Ducasse. It’s basically an eight-minute trip-hop indulgence, but it doesn’t bore.

Richard Wright - Wet Dream

Richard Wright "Wet Dream" (Columbia JC 35559) 1978

Track Listing:

1. Mediterranean C
2. Against the Odds
3. Cat Cruise
4. Summer Elegy
5. Waves
6. Holiday
7. Mad Yannis Dance
8. Drop In from the Top
9. Pink's Song
10. Funky Deux

Rick Wright - Broken China

Rick Wright "Broken China" (EMI 7243 8 53645 2 5) 1996

Track Listing:

1. Breaking Water
2. Night of a Thousand Furry Toys
3. Hidden Fear
4. Runaway
5. Unfair Ground
6. Satellite
7. Woman of Custom
8. Interlude
9. Black Cloud
10. Far from the Harbour Wall
11. Drowning
12. Reaching for the Rail
13. Blue Room in Venice
14. Sweet July
15. Along the Shoreline
16. Breakthrough

Richard Wright - Runaway

Rick Wright “Runaway” (promo CD single) (EMI CDRW 101) 1996

Track Listing:

1. Runaway (R. Wright’s Lemonade Mix) - (7:05)
2. Runaway (Leggit Dub) - (7:02)
3. Night of a Thousand Furry Toys (Inverted Gravy Mix) - (8:33)