20 years ago or so, we had several friends over for dinner and what I like to call a “record listening party.” One of my favorite things to do is ask my friends to play the role of DJ – picking out records from my vinyl collection they’d like to listen to, in addition to them bringing their own.
Late into the evening, a friend pulled out a record and said, “I can’t believe you own this. It’s garbage!” The record was Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. I’ve always enjoyed this record. We debated this – while listening to other records – and neither of us could convince the other that we were right.
Regardless of who was right, the story of this album’s recording sessions isn’t great. It is clear that this was the end of Pink Floyd as it was known at the time. In fact, many people call this a Roger Waters solo record, and that’s not far from the truth. Just two years after the release of The Final Cut, Roger Waters was off doing his solo work, marking this as his last Floyd album.
This was also the first album missing founding member and keyboardist Richard Wright, who left after The Wall.
The album includes unused material from The Wall along with new material recorded in 1982. Guitarist David Gilmour felt that many of the tracks weren’t worthy of release, and Waters countered with accusations that Gilmour didn’t contribute songs of his own.
When the album was released, it received mixed reviews – some like my friend’s. However, it was a commercial success and has been viewed more favorably years after the release.
Michael Kamen, who also contributed to The Wall, co-produced, oversaw the orchestral arrangements, and mediated between Waters and Gilmour during The Final Cut sessions. He also replaced Wright on keyboards for the record. The other musicians included long-time Floyd drummer, Nick Mason, Andy Bown on Hammond, Ray Cooper on percussion, Andy Newmark on drums, Raphael Ravenscroft on sax, Doreen Chanter and Irene Chanter on backing vocals, and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kamen.
One of my favorite tracks on the record is “The Gunner’s Dream,” in large part to Ravenscroft’s contributions on tenor sax. There’s a magical moment in this track (around the 2:10 mark), when Water’s voice blends in so perfectly with the sax at the start of Ravenscroft’s excellent solo:
While you can argue this isn’t the best Pink Floyd record (and you’d get no argument from me on this), it is still one I revisit regularly.