With only a few proper solo albums over the decades, Pink Floyd legend David Gilmour's inconsistency can make it hard to keep up: There was once an amazing stretch of 22 years between official releases.

Folks who remember his self-titled debut, which was wedged between Pink Floyd's Animals and The Wall, might forget the 1984 follow up – which arrived between The Final Cut and Momentary Lapse of Reason. Oh, and did you happen to catch Gilmour's surprising, but ultimately very fitting collaboration with the Orb?

Dig around, and you'll find there's more than enough to warrant an exploration of his work away from Pink Floyd. But where to start? Here's a look at David Gilmour's 10 best solo songs:
No. 10. "Rattle That Lock"
From: Rattle That Lock (2015)

Back then, there was a criticism to be made about the most recent major projects led by David Gilmour: His solo album On an Island and Pink Floyd's finale The Endless River didn't rock much. The lead-single title track from Rattle That Lock, the follow-up to On an Island, at last broke that spell.

The lyrical inspiration actually comes from a far different place: "Rattle That Lock" boasts a narrative built in part by wife and songwriting partner Polly Samson around Book 2 of Paradise Lost by John Milton. Sure, you've got Satan trying to battle past Sin and Death at the gates of hell, but any references to very old literature – written, of course, in the stoic language of a yellowed age – don't exactly bring to mind rock music's basic visceralness.

But check out the found object that Gilmour brought to the musical side of this composition, something very much in keeping with Pink Floyd's decades-old quest to make music with everyday items. "Rattle That Lock" is powered along by a recurring chime, recorded on Gilmour's iPhone in a French train station, that alerts passengers to impending public address announcements. He builds lithe propulsion from that simple sound, one entirely foreign to the more considered things he's concerned himself with lately.

By the end, Gilmour sounds as if he's just come fully awake. He sings "Rattle That Lock" with a fierce attitude, occasionally going outside his range. He plays with an aggression unheard for some time, too.

No. 9. "Spheres Side"
From: The Orb's Metallic Spheres (2010)

Gilmour's familiar Fender Stratocaster vibrato effortlessly blends with the Orb's next-galaxy synthesizer washes, mid-tempo house flourishes and whoa-man effects. And, along the way, helps both Gilmour and the Orb reclaim a measure of their own early promise.

In fact, this might just be the best collaboration from any edition of Pink Floyd over its last decades. After Roger Waters' departure, Gilmour worked alongside a series of lyricists and co-writers, notably partner Polly Samson, achieving mixed results under the Floyd moniker. Revisiting a pre-Dark Side of the Moon penchant for narrative instrumental musings in the vein of "Echoes" allowed Gilmour a return to his own roots, even as it hurtles him past an impossible talisman.

After all, Gilmour-as-Floyd was never going to top Dark Side – or even The Wall, for that matter – and certainly not without Waters. Besides, several elements of the ambient house/techno movement that the Orb helped define actually sprang from initial-era Pink Floyd performances, anyway. Together, they blended perfectly.

No. 8. "Murder"
From: About Face (1984)

From the very beginning, Gilmour's solo albums provided a showcase for his more emotional side. Gone were the overt political screeds of Pink Floyd's contemporary albums. That doesn't mean they didn't occasionally punch back, just that Gilmour could suddenly travel a much wider subject plain.

"Roger addresses himself to whole problems in life and then tries to expand and broaden that and make a whole album fit around that sort of idea," Gilmour told The Boston Globe in 1984. "He wants to explore that idea in very, very, very great depth from many angles, which I don't have any disagreement with. But there are moments when I personally would not make some of the things quite so preachy and complaining."

Still, when Gilmour decided to explore his feelings about the assassination of John Lennon, he didn't shy away from his own serrated fury. "Murder" begins in a contemplative place before bluntly confronting its protagonist both lyrically and musically. Yet there remains a very un-Waters-like uncertainty running underneath it all. In the end, Gilmour admits that "none of the tears that we cry in sorrow or rage / can make any difference, or turn back the page."

No. 7. "On an Island"
From: On an Island (2006)

For so long forced into a square peg of diffidence and/or crankiness by Roger Waters' narrative contortions, Gilmour's third – and, by far, best – solo album was full of nocturnal reveries. The waltzing title track balances the album's typically elegant atmospherics with a series of Floydian elements – from his arching rumination on the guitar to the presence of old bandmates in Richard Wright on organ and Andy Newmark (who appeared on Pink Floyd's The Final Cut) at the drums. Bassist Guy Pratt was part of the 1987-94 post-Waters touring units, as well.

But the title track, based on a twilit memory from the island of Kastelorizo near Greece, finds its most important contributors in a place that has nothing to do with Gilmour's old band: Graham Nash and David Crosby give "On an Island" its emotional propulsion, settling in behind Gilmour's airy vocals.

In so doing, they discover a place "halfway to the stars" – just before a typically visceral solo, augmented this time by sensitive orchestrations by Zbigniew Preisner – that works as both launching pad and soft landing. When Gilmour returns to the lyric, Crosby and Nash take up a cascading vocal counterpoint that only adds to the song's enchanting embrace.

No. 6. "So Far Away"
From: David Gilmour (1978)

Several songs in the Gilmour solo catalog appeared to be directed at Roger Waters, including "You Know I'm Right" from About Face. But "So Far Away" seems to speak to a deeper sense of confusion about where their relationship – and Pink Floyd itself – was clearly headed in the late '70s.

"Why am I suspended here?" Gilmour asks, as Waters moved to take control of the group. "Should I kid myself that I have no fear? I get no choice, I just have to wait. It may already be too late." It was, of course. The Wall would appear with only a smattering of his creative ideas (including a chorus progression that's similar to this song in "Comfortably Numb"), followed by The Final Cut – which had none at all.

Pink Floyd as it had been known was coming apart at the seams. That added new gravitas to soaring moments of uncertainty and alienation like "So Far Away," whether that was Gilmour's intent or not.

No. 5. "Out of the Blue"
From: About Face (1984)

A track that was said to have been at the demo stage in the run-up to 1983's The Final Cut, only to be discarded (along with "Murder," "Near the End" and some other odds and ends), the smartly episodic "Out of the Blue" would have done much to smooth out the didactic nature of Waters' finale with Pink Floyd. Instead, that uneven album was completed with leftovers from The Wall project, leaving Gilmour with no compositional credits – and the future of Pink Floyd very much in doubt.

Gilmour would next gather with an ace studio band that included drummer Jeff Porcaro, bassist Pino Palladino, and guests that included Pete Townshend, Jon Lord, Steve Winwood and Pink Floyd orchestrator Michael Kamen, and About Face was born. The album itself suffered from the era's mechanized production sensibility (in particular on "Blue Light" and "Murder"), but songs like "Out of the Blue" transcended those of-the-moment sounds.

Beginning as a diaphanous, quietly English meditation on the suddenness of our fates, Gilmour fills the song's middle with a thunderous bit of rage, before settling into a perfectly conceived, open-ended conclusion. This is the song Gilmour was trying for again – but not quite reaching – with "On the Turning Away," from Pink Floyd's subsequent Waters-less return, 1987's Momentary Lapse of Reason.

No. 4. "There's No Way Out of Here"
From: David Gilmour (1978)

Gilmour's work with the Surrey-based group Unicorn included producing Blue Pine Trees and Too Many Crooks in 1974 and One More Tomorrow in 1977. Then he stole one of their songs. That's an oversimplification, of course, but it's not untrue.

Most of Unicorn had been together under various monickers since 1963. They met Gilmour while jamming at a wedding reception a decade later, and soon Unicorn was being managed by Pink Floyd's Steve O’Rourke. (For some reason, they played Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" that day.) "No Way Out of Here," written by Unicorn bandleader Ken Baker, had appeared on Too Many Crooks.

It's easy to see why this quite Floyd-like song appealed to Gilmour, who basically recreated their approach. Still, the single went nowhere. That provided an early indication that no matter how great the song, Gilmour needed to work under the Pink Floyd banner to find his widest audience. Within a few years, he would.

No. 3. "A Boat Lies Waiting"
From: Rattle That Lock (2015)

Gilmour returned with a more rock-focused album after descending into this studied quietness for much of his third solo LP and Pink Floyd's almost completely instrumental farewell The Endless River. Those earlier albums were gorgeous, largely meditative, and for some fans admittedly boring. Was Gilmour ever going to shake free of such steadfast reserve? Thankfully, Rattle That Lock served as a needed reminder that he could still cut loose – in particular on the title track and "Today."

And yet the truth was that Gilmour remained in mourning over the loss of longtime Pink Floyd bandmate Richard Wright, who succumbed to cancer in 2008. Gilmour "worked him for 40 odd years, and that has now come to an end," he told The Guardian. "There is all sorts of music that I'll not be able to play again, without him, which is a source of sadness for me."

He summoned up those billowing emotions in "A Boat Lies Waiting." There'd be no more chances to hear the "blend of his and my voices and our musical telepathy," as Gilmour recalled in his emotional eulogy for Wright. But Gilmour's grievously tender goodbye somehow found beauty in that loss.

No. 2. "Short and Sweet"
From: David Gilmour (1978)

A kind of precursor to the far more widely known "Run Like Hell" on Pink Floyd's The Wall, "Short and Sweet" combines the sweetly romantic sound of Gilmour's voice with a serrated guitar edge. Co-written by Roy Harper (who later issued his own version of the song on 1980's The Unknown Soldier), the track is part of an obvious attempt to showcase Gilmour as something more than just another member of Pink Floyd.

He's perhaps never sounded more personal. David Gilmour is loose, never too deep, often instrumental – and anything but a knockoff of what the larger band was doing (like, say, Pink Floyd's Gilmour-led Momentary Lapse of Reason). The liner notes provide a hint as to why: This was a reunion of Bullitt, an early Gilmour group that included drummer Willie Wilson and bassist Rick Wills.

Of course, Gilmour quickly folded back into Pink Floyd, and this album – other than its minor hit cover of "There's No Way Out of Here" – became largely forgotten. Gilmour would rejoin Waters at these same Superbear Studios in France to work on The Wall, where Pink Floyd continued its disintegration.

No. 1. "Pocketful of Stones"
From: On an Island (2006)

An excruciatingly beautiful song, "Pocketful of Stones" connects with the same shattering sense of loss that defined Pink Floyd's 1975 masterwork Wish You Were Here (not to mention the time-is-running-short themes of Dark Side of the Moon), but with a contemplative orchestral counterpoint that adds oaken new depths.

Zbigniew Preisner's crepuscular arrangement takes center stage – at least at first. Gilmour's most important contribution here is vocally. "Pocketful of Stones" stands as perhaps his most sensitive work ever at the mic. Quietly confidential, strikingly open, Gilmour's approach to the lyric is the perfect accompaniment to a typically searching solo.

Together, they create something simultaneously wonder filled and so very still, a song with this darkness around the edges that couldn't be less like what we've come to expect from David Gilmour as a member of Pink Floyd, or even as a solo artist. The songs ends with another purpled flourish from Preisner, who brought along regular collaborators Leszek Mozdzer and Alasdair Malloy. They only add to the cobalt-hued sense of heartbreak surrounding "Pocketful of Stones."

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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