Fans were no doubt lost for words when Pink Floyd and Legacy Recordings announced the December 13 release of The Later Years 1987-2019, the massive new set celebrating the David Gilmour-led era of the legendary band. Well, the set has landed at Second Disc HQ – nearly crushing the front porch in the process – and we’re thrilled to include it as part of our Holiday Gift Guide. The Later Years is the ultimate celebration of this sometimes-maligned era, bringing together remixed studio albums and live releases, unreleased concert recordings, a wealth of video content, new surround sound mixes, and plenty of memorabilia, all with that eye for detail and exquisite packaging that fans have come to expect over the decades.
The huge box set is housed in a loose plastic sleeve sporting what may be the largest hype sticker seen in recent memory. And it’d have to be big to hype up the 5 CDs, 5 DVDs, 6 Blu-ray discs, and the pair of 7″ singles inside – not to mention the impeccably designed photo books, reproduced tour programs, concert tickets, and posters. The box set is a treasure trove for fans of the era, and the memorabilia goes a long way in telling part of the story of this important chapter of the band’s history. The thirty-or-so years covered in this box saw Pink Floyd undergo great change that was met with great success. The band released A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987, The Division Bell in 1994, and The Endless River in 2014 and embarked on elaborately staged tours commemorated by Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988) and Pulse (1995). In all, these albums sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
The first release of the new, Roger Waters-less Pink Floyd featuring Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright was A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Though the songs were good (in fact, “Learning To Fly” hit No. 1 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart), the album’s production hasn’t quite aged well. The synth-heavy collection even gained a reputation among some listeners as a David Gilmour solo album with guests, thanks in no small part to the electronic drums and infrequent appearances from Richard Wright. The Later Years corrects these issues with a new, remixed, and updated version of A Momentary Lapse of Reason which seeks to “restore the creative balance” between the members with new contributions from Nick Mason and keyboard parts flown in from recordings of the late Richard Wright. While little is written about the sources of these pieces, Wright’s parts are likely taken from live concerts and rehearsals. The results are particularly clear on the surround sound version included on Blu-ray.
Comparing the old and new versions of “Learning To Fly,” the 2019 mix strips away some of the over-the-top, gated reverb-y drum machine fills, replacing them with live drums. Newfound fills from Wright are also added in, giving the song a more band-like feel while keeping some of the sonic fingerprint of the original. The whole album remains tastefully done – an alternate experience that will sure to be a treat. And while some may wonder why the original mix of the album wasn’t included, anyone seeking out this box likely already has the original at least once over.
CDs 2 and 3 include a remixed and updated look at Delicate Sound of Thunder, the 1988 live album culled from five shows at Nassau Coliseum. While the original album was a serviceable memento of the tour, it’s made even better on The Later Years with the inclusion of “Signs of Life,” “A New Machine (Parts 1 and 2),” “Terminal Frost,” “One Slip,” “On the Run,” “Great Gig in the Sky,” “Welcome to the Machine,” and “Us and Them.” Though not included on the 1988 release, these tracks have been reinstated to replicate the complete setlist of the 1988 concerts. The video of these shows has also been refurbished. The Delicate Sound of Thunder is now presented in a newly restored and re-edited 2019 version sourced from the original 35mm film. The picture quality of this concert footage is nothing short of amazing, and while they aren’t featured on the Delicate Sound of Thunder Blu-ray and DVD discs, “Yet Another Movie”, “Round and Around”, “A New Machine (Parts 1 and 2)” and “Terminal Frost” are included as bonus tracks on another Blu- ray and DVD that features unreleased live films, music videos, and screen films from across the years.
The 1995 live recording Pulse is also featured. Though the audio version isn’t included, the concert film has been newly restored and re-edited from the original master tapes. For fans (like this reviewer) who may have the 2005 edit of Pulse ingrained in their memory, it’s a treat to see the film again in even better, less-compressed quality with more sensible edits. For the audiophile collectors out there, the surround sound mix is the same as the one included on the 2005 release. As a bonus, three Pulse rehearsal tracks are included on the aforementioned Blu-ray and DVD of unreleased live content and music videos. These include two takes of “A Great Day For Freedom” and a version of “Lost For Words.” Unfortunately, these tracks aren’t available on any of the CDs in the big box, but “Lost for Words” does feature on the 2-CD highlights set that hit shelves at the end of November.
Instead, the box set includes a disc of live recordings culled from contemporaneous B-sides. There’s “The Dogs of War,” recorded in Atlanta in 1987 and featured as a B-side to “One Slip,” two further Atlanta recordings of “On the Turning Away” and “Run Like Hell” from the “On the Turning Away” single; the Miami 1994 take on “Astronomy Domine” from the “Take It Back” single; and the Hannover 1994 version of “One of These Days” originally included as the B-side to “High Hopes.” Though it would have been nice to see some more hard-to-find cuts (for example, the soundscape from the 1994 cassette of Pulse), the set does provide an overview of The Division Bell sessions with a handful of unreleased tracks, including a number of jams, an early version of “High Hopes,” an alternate version of “Marooned,” and “Nervana.” While the composition was included on The Endless River in 2014, the “Nervana” included here is an alternate version.
The final CD presents Pink Floyd’s complete concert at Knebworth in 1990. The band closed out the festival that year, joined by Candy Dulfer on sax for “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” Michael Kamen on keyboards for “Comfortably Numb” and “Run Like Hell,” and Clare Torry who reprised her role as vocalist on “The Great Gig in the Sky,” nearly twenty years after laying down her performance on Dark Side of the Moon. Restored video footage of the Knebworth show is included on Blu-ray alongside video of Pink Floyd’s 1989 gig in Venice, all newly restored for this box set.
And no Pink Floyd box set would be complete without more surround sound. The new mix of A Momentary Lapse of Reason been mixed in 5.1, included alongside the 2014 surround remix of The Division Bell which was previously only available in the hard-to-find 20th anniversary box set of the album (and briefly on the band’s online store as a standalone DVD). The seven unreleased studio tracks from CD 4 are also included in 5.1 on this disc and the results are expectedly immersive and astounding throughout. Aside from the live concert Blu-rays, The Later Years also features treasures like the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, including a performance of “Wish You Were Here” with Billy Corgan. A further Blu-ray disc collects unreleased material, behind-the-scenes recordings, rehearsals, and EPKs. These include video footage of a reunited three-man Floyd performing “Arnold Layne” at The Barbican in London, 2007; album cover shoots for A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell; a TV ad for Pulse; interviews with the 1995 tour crew; rehearsals of “Arnold Layne” from 2007; the Endless River EPK and launch event footage, and – perhaps most intriguing of them all – a previously unreleased music video for the complete Endless River album featuring newly created visuals by Ian Emes. Taken together, these videos tell fans even more about the time period, providing an intimate look at the band preparing for shows and creating iconic imagery. And for those who have somehow not yet migrated formats, all the footage is replicated across five DVDs (the surround mixes of the studio albums remain Blu-ray-exclusive.)
As for construction, few bands can better present a box set than Pink Floyd. Though it may dwarf many of the other box sets on your shelf, The Later Years is a beautiful piece to look at, as well as to listen to. The lengthy photo book features a wealth of live shots, outtakes from album cover shoots, tour maps, and memorabilia, all elegantly presented in a hardbound book. The two 7″ singles are housed in beautiful sleeves and feature laser etchings on each side: The Division Bell‘s famous heads are seen on the other side of “Lost For Words” while the figures from the rear of Piper at the Gates of Dawn are etched on the back of “Arnold Layne 2007,” which fittingly brings the collection full circle.
Those hoping for extensive notes on the era may want to look elsewhere, though. A half-size book provides information about the box set’s content, but while credits have been painstakingly researched, there’s little other writing – no essays explaining the hunt for material, no context on this period of the band’s history; the music and the visuals are the real focus here, as they’ve always been. But with so much quality material – from the albums to the outtakes, from the live shows to the behind-the-scenes footage – there’s more than enough to tell the story and to give this oft-overlooked chapter of the band’s history its moment in the spotlight. And with elaborate packaging, extensive research, amazing audio and visual material, and a wealth of hard-to-find and unreleased content, one really couldn’t ask for a better presentation of the story of Gilmour-era Pink Floyd.
In this season of giving, The Later Years, 1987-2013 is the must-have gift for that Pink Floyd fan in your life (and if that fan is you, give yourself the set — we won’t judge!) The Later Years, 1987-2013 is available today wherever fine music is sold, including through the following links: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada. Merchandise bundles are available on the Pink Floyd Online Store and a two-disc highlights collection is also available. For more information, check out our coverage here.