40 Years Ago: David Gilmour Releases His First Solo Album
As any crate digger can attest, it's easy to judge a rock album by its cover. Analyzing a gatefold sleeve can be an illuminating experience -- and there's no better example of this than David Gilmour's self-titled 1978 debut.
For Gilmour -- who basically reinvented the electric guitar with psych-rock pioneers Pink Floyd -- the album was a creative emancipation, a step forward from the diplomatic machine that was his main band. And the cover feels like a deliberate statement of purpose. Where previous Pink Floyd covers (like those for Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon and Atom Heart Mother) were high-concept art pieces, the sleeve for David Gilmour seems like a stark, fuzzy afterthought: a seemingly discarded photograph, with Gilmour himself standing in front, gazing directly into the lens.
Though the music found inside -- with its blustery blues riffs and spacey solos -- isn't a radical departure from the trademark Pink Floyd sound, it came at a crucial point in Gilmour's career, proving he could carry the burden of a full LP all by himself. "This album ... was important to me in terms of self respect," Gilmour told Circus in a 1978 interview. "At first I didn't think my name was big enough to carry it. Being in a group for so long can be a bit claustrophobic, and I needed to step out from behind Pink Floyd's shadow."
David Gilmour wasn't jaw-dropping enough to pull the guitarist out of Pink Floyd's shadow entirely. More than 35 years after the fact, it feels like a warm-up for what Gilmour would accomplish on future recordings (including his hugely underrated 2006 album, On an Island), and it's difficult not to imagine the less-developed tracks (like the repetitive riff-fest of "Cry From the Street") as Pink Floyd scraps. Nonetheless, every second is tastefully played and impeccably produced, and the highlights are truly remarkable: The punchy "Short and Sweet" is a showcase for Gilmour's gorgeous vocal harmonies; "Mihalis" is an ultra-trippy showcase for his psychedelic guitar skills. Meanwhile, the elegant "There's No Way Out of Here" (originally recorded in 1976 by the obscure country-rock band Unicorn) is arguably the definitive Gilmour solo track.
Listen to David Gilmour's 'There's No Way Out of Here'
The album found success on the U.K. charts, landing at No. 17. But from that point forward, Gilmour focused mainly on his work with Pink Floyd. In 1979, Floyd released The Wall, their double-album opus. Gilmour's next solo album, About Face, wouldn't arrive until 1984.
"It's necessarily a compromise to work in a group," Gilmour told Circus. "A lot of people tend to cling together and say 'we live for the group,' and at the beginning you need that. But later on you need other things."