12 Pink Floyd Solo Albums Ranked from 'The Madcap Laughs' to 'Amused to Death'...Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, David Gilmour and More
Former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour announced today that he would be releasing his fourth solo album (yet untitled) later during 2015, so Music Times went back and looked at every solo album released by every member of Pink Floyd over the years and ranked them accordingly. How do Gilmour, Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason and Richard Wright do on their own? Keep reading and find out.
12. Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports by Nick Mason (1981)
Drummer Nick Mason was the only Floyd member to only release one album, and this was exactly why. On one hand, jazz is definitely a genre where a drummer can be the main man in the band, but we're always suspicious when a rocker puts his name in the group's title. All that aside, the avant garde experimentation going on in Fictitious Sports doesn't seem to come as naturally to Mason as one might think. That may be because Carla Bley (then wife of jazz great Paul Bley) composed all the songs, not the man who was leading them.
11) David Gilmour by David Gilmour (1978)
We're pretty sure that somewhat self-titled albums taking the last two spots on this ranking is just an unfortunate coincidence. Guitarist Gilmour had always been one of the most straightforward songwriters in Floyd (a very relative statement), but David Gilmour proves that it's not as simple to transition from complex, progressive rock to simpler music.
10) Ça Ira by Roger Waters (2005)
Roger Waters had by this time proven that he could at least assemble a large-scale stage performance out of rock music with The Wall tour and a number of albums we'll see later on in this list. But an outright opera? Obviously Bellini fans were never going to enjoy Ça Ira, but alas even fans of more modern composers as Philip Glass struggled to enjoy this narrative of the French Revolution because Waters didn't take the same sort of risks with opera as he might with a rock album, staying relatively conservative in his approach.
09) Wet Dream by Richard Wright (1978)
Keyboardist Richard Wright often gets the least respect among the members of Pink Floyd, and your correspondent has to plead guilty as well, not even realizing that the album Wet Dream existed. This was the only LP we needed to seek out for first-time listening for this list and our world wasn't shaken by what we had been missing. Despite the edgy title, Wright doesn't introduce anything particularly piquing here.
08) On An Island by David Gilmour (2006)
Pink Floyd represents the best of psychedelic music for your freshman roommate, who smoked too much pot and didn't really understand the concept of psychedelic music. He was probably disappointed with On An Island, the album where Gilmour was joined by Wright and Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, not being able to trip quite as well as he could with Dark Side of The Moon. Although your correspondent finds the whole collection on the "meh" side, the larger audience as a whole at least appreciated the title song.
07) The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking by Roger Waters (1984)
Waters' first solo album was a concept drafted at the same time as The Wall, and shares its depth. The members of Pink Floyd opted at the time to pursue his "Bricks in The Wall" theme for an album (a wise choice), leaving The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking for Waters to handle for himself when the time came. It's a thick script, based on a paranoid man traveling the California highway, with the narrative taking place during a 41 minute span some morning. That means, of course, that all of the activity contained therein remains in the protagonist's mind, and it's not the sort of imaginative material that makes for an epic such as The Wall, although it is well worth the listen.
06) Barrett by Syd Barrett (1970)
Syd Barrett's second solo album had the unfortunate distinction of dropping less than a year after his first, more superior release. That resulted in sales being low, which resulted in the onetime leader of Pink Floyd dropping off the musical map forever, never releasing another album. We do hold that against this LP. Singles like "Baby Lemonade" still reflect a songwriter as genius/nuts as ever however.
05) About Face by David Gilmour (1984)
The typical Floyd acolyte almost always takes Team Waters' side due to his penchant for complexity and experimentation, while jerk music writers scoff at the underwhelming solo debut of Gilmour (ahem). The guitarist proved that there was hope for mainstream rock however with 1984's About Face. Gilmour was often the face of the band's most pop friendly moments, such as the universally beloved "I Wish You Were Here." He may not have gotten that sort of appeal into this album (that's a mighty standard to live up to) but he came close enough.
04) Amused to Death by Roger Waters (1992)
Waters is at his best when his concepts still ring home decades later. Amused to Death certainly fits the bill. This album is looked at too often as merely being a lengthy sermon against the stupidity of television (not exactly a unique idea) but Waters also makes sure to touch upon the benefits of broadcast media (treatment that nuclear power has never gotten). If Waters felt that programming was inane during the early '90s, he must shudder to consider the reality television era, when even the onetime healthy programmers such as CNN are hellbent on encouraging shameful screen behavior.
03) Broken China by Richard Wright (1996)
Wright's second attempt at a solo record put his previous attempt to shame. Borrowing a page from Waters' book, the pianist came up with his own concept, one that struck closer to home: Broken China is an examination of his wife Mildred Wright's battle with depression, featuring Mildred herself singing most of the album's vocals (she was in a band that served as a precursor to Floyd during the '60s), while Sinead O'Connor also sings on two tracks. It would have served well as a purely Floyd album had the message not been so personal to Wright.
02) Radio K.A.O.S. by Roger Waters (1987)
Many believe that Amused to Death is truly Waters' solo masterpiece, and he'd be one to agree with you. However Radio K.A.O.S., which once seemed like an impossible sci-fi tale, follows a disabled man who can neither walk nor speak with his mouth, but possesses the ability to hear and modulate radio waves. Using said powers, he pranks the world into believing that nuclear devices are about to strike all around the world, causing a panic and, in a happier twist, inspiring the world to turn away from politicians and media who preach constant paranoia. This message has aged even better during an era where terrorism and hacking are everyday events on the news.
01) The Madcap Laughs by Syd Barrett (1970)
There is a small percentage of the population who still believe that Pink Floyd never outdid its original album, Piper At The Gates of Dawn. We can't say that we quite agree but there's no doubt the genius of the album, the same genius present in Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs. He released his first solo album two years after his brief and wondrous stint in Floyd and it seemed almost to encompass all the rest of what he had left. Although a brilliant album, it's a bittersweet sensation, knowing that had he not wrecked his career with psychedelic drugs, Barrett could have reached an influential status perhaps even greater than the one Waters holds now.