Pink Floyd Anthology by Alfred makes a Great Gig in the Sky Possible
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-03-10)
I often have major issues with various editions of band music published as sheet music. Well, one issue in particular, but one that I find makes the music itself not even worth playing. All too often, editors will fudge, cut, dice, or full-out rewrite various instrumental parts in favor of keeping the vocal line in the right hand of the piano (Especially you, Hal Leonard!), resulting in a mashed-but-still-recognizable version of the former song. It also leads to piano players who, not having learned chord symbols and/or being fearful of improvisation, play the singer's notes during performance, which instantly destroys the professionalism in a performance by dropping it down to the level of karaoke. For those who are still learning how to sing or play the piano, a publisher makes (or should make) individual Easy Piano arrangements and create the Standard editions with those who can handle a directly transcribed score in mind. I can't remember how many times I groaned about this even as a young teenager wanting to learn. This is something I immediately check for in sheet music, and I found Alfred Publishing's edition of the Pink Floyd Piano Sheet Music Anthology completely innocent. As an added bonus, it's also printed on 100% recycled paper, like all of Alfred's books, so you can feel a little better about saving the planet. With those two points out of the way, I moved on to the main test, the music itself.
Playing through the book, I found that the editor(s) judiciously weaved the keyboard and guitar parts in and out across the seventeen selections, ten of which were, of course, taken from their best-selling album, “The Wall.” All parts were immaculately transcribed, including Guy Pratt and Roger Waters' pounding bass lines in the left hand. There are a few tracks taken from other albums as well to show a little variety, including Rick Wright's magnum opus “The Great Gig in the Sky” in its entirety, as well as cuts from Animals, The Division Bell, Wish You Were Here, and the other cut from Dark Side of the Moon, “Us and Them.” I especially appreciated the inclusion of one my favorite tracks from The Wall, the quirky track “The Trial.” Being a Pink Floyd junkie, I of course wish the book included more of the band's gigantic songbook, but for now I can only hope for a Volume II to bring more transcriptions like the title track from The Final Cut, or lesser-known classics from A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Also present in the transcription are all the vocal harmonies for these tunes, particularly necessary for tracks like “Goodbye Blue Sky” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” The vocals are transcribed with the harmony parts in smaller notes and the main melodic line normally sized so that the music is easy to follow. As an added bonus, transcriptions of solos can be found throughout the book, like the saxophone solo in “Us and Them,” and the guitar solo in “Goodbye Blue Sky.” Extras like this that can bring extra people into a performance and make it a bigger experience are what make these books worthwhile.
That said, since it is a keyboard anthology, I'm curious to know why Alfred didn't include anything on Rick Wright. He was, after all, Pink Floyd's keyboardist for almost all of the band's life, but when I open up the book, I don't even see so much as a paragraph on him or on his gear or various sounds he used. It's not essential, but some people do like to read these things, especially to get a jump on exactly what Rick Wright played. For example, it's probably interesting to note that he rarely opted for any sort of solo playing unlike his rock contemporaries, and that he had one of the smaller stage rigs of his day, including an often-broken Farfisa, Leslie speakers, Mellotron, electric piano, and a Minimoog, among other boards. It's also worth noting in the music exactly what sounds he's using. I think it would be a cool gesture to indicate individual parts of the music as being played on Hammond organ, Mellotron, or a string patch.
It's still a cool book, and it's yet another way to keep the Pink Floyd legend alive. I think all of Floyd would be happy with the way this turned out; the selections are perfect for piano, the editing is superb, and the score can be easily split up to use bass guitar, electric guitar, and a few extra singers for a full experience. It's fun for the solo player and equally inviting for a group to read and jam on, which is exactly what sheet music should do. Songs are laid out professionally and page turns are easy. I'm sorry to say that it lacks a little flair that can really bring the pianist into the world of Pink Floyd and into the soul of each song's genesis, performance, and instrumentation. This can be done with an introduction to the anthology and a paragraph here and there with tidbits of information that bring the player in and make the world that this music was born out of something to be curious about. Don't let me mislead you: these are not shortcomings, only qualities which keep the Pink Floyd Sheet Music Anthology from being brilliant. Right now, it's great, and that's still worth a two-thumbs-up recommendation from me. At $19.99, it's well-worth your money.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He will be spending the Fall and Winter months working on playwright Frank Gagliano's Voodoo Trilogy and Bodoni County Songbook.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.