The Wall [Immersion box set] - EMI
FILTER Grade: 92%
By Nevin Martell on February 28, 2012
Some fans can remember the exact moment they heard The Wall for the first time. For others, it always loomed large without a defined beginning. The masterful rock opera is so intertwined in the pop-culture lexicon and the bloodlines of rock and roll that it’s even possible to believe that you know the sprawling double album without having heard it. Its influence is so great that the concept of “The Wall” has even invaded academic discourse on social criticism alongside 1984 and Animal Farm.
But before it was a movie, a tour, a touchstone or a metaphor, The Wall was an album. This seven-disc “Immersion edition” brings the 1979 classic together with a live performance culled from the original tour, two CDs’ worth of unheard demos, a bonus-filled DVD and a slew of tchotchkes, from marbles to a scarf. It’s an impressive amount of material. Most records don’t warrant such in-depth exploration, but The Wall isn’t your average album. To call it a brilliant record is an understatement so large that it dwarfs even Roger Waters’ massive ego.
Listening back to the remastered edition now, it’s impossible to not be floored by its complexity, hubris, beauty, power and majesty. There are so many moments co-opted by classic rock radio—“Run Like Hell,” “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” and “Hey You”—and yet it is the entirety that is most impressive. The songs working in concert together and their collective storyline still possess the “warm thrill of confusion” and the “space cadet glow.” But this reissue is less about what The Wall was and more about where it came from. And that’s why the two discs of demos are such a key selling point for this exhaustive set. Many of Waters’ original demos are brief fragments—often less than a minute long—which makes them more of an intellectual curiosity than anything else. However, the full band demos are closer to their ultimate running times, so there’s enough flesh on the bones to enjoy. Of special note is “The Doctor,” which ultimately became “Comfortably Numb.” The original is less hypnotic with blunter lyrics, an intriguing genesis of one of the great stoner anthems.
Two of the odder inclusions are David Gilmour’s original take of “Comfortably Numb,” strummed on acoustic guitar with a “doo-doo-doo” scat line, and his instrumental demo of “Run Like Hell.” Even diehard fans will have a hard time not hitting “skip forward” the second time these tracks come up in their iTunes playlist.
Like the “Immersion editions” of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here that came before it, this souped-up reissue requires a substantial investment of time and money. A soft shag rug to lie on and a big pair of speakers are also highly recommended. Whether you’ve heard The Wall a thousand times or if this is your first listen, it’s worth the outlay.