by Seth Rogovoy
(NORTH ADAMS, Mass., March 23, 2003) – On paper at least, it seemed like an intriguing idea to recast Pink Floyd’s 1979 prog-rock epic, “The Wall,” in country and western dress. And when Canadian twang-rockers Luther Wright and the Wrongs set out to “Rebuild the Wall,” as they named their re-recording of the portentous song-cycle about an alienated rock star, it even made some musicological sense. Pink Floyd’s acid-tinged psychedelia and the Wrongs’ neo-hillbillyisms both share roots in the blues and in Anglo-Irish folk, and David Gilmour’s electric slide guitar and Olesh Maximew’s pedal steel guitar are clearly cousins whose ancestry can be traced back to the American South.
There is something inherently funny about the idea of a bluegrass version of “The Wall,” which is how the Wrongs’ experiment is often described. The Wrongs’ electrified, guitar-centric country music, however, is decidedly not bluegrass, but solidly in the outlaw country and country-rock school of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, George Jones and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and propelled by the swinging drums of Cam Giroux. In this way, it’s not quite as much a stretch as it would be were it to have been a genuine, bluegrass setting of “The Wall,” without drums and with fiddle, mandolin and banjo coloring the music.
It was, however, funny, in that at times in its performance in Club B-10 at Mass MoCA on Saturday night, The Wrongs’ “Wall” was delivered with more than a modicum of irony, such as in “The Thin Ice,” a bit of simplistic pop psychologizing that goes down a lot easier with a spoonful of sarcasm, utterly lacking in Pink Floyd’s original.
Unfortunately, the Wrongs made a fateful choice that left this “Wall” unfinished. Rather than deliver the song cycle as written – in the way that Pink Floyd performed it and in the way that the Wrongs’ CD, “Rebuild the Wall,” recapitulates it, in order from beginning to end – the Wrongs instead mixed and matched songs from “The Wall” out of order and in juxtaposition with the group’s original honky-tonk material, thus depriving the audience of the narrative drive and flow that, for better or worse, Floyd songwriter Roger Waters attempted to build into the structure of the original “Wall.”
Without that structure and continuity, the dramatic impact was lost. Instead, it was just a concert featuring some songs from “The Wall,” songs that, while performed well, such as a country two-step version of “Another Brick in the Wall,” and a Charlie Daniels-style, Southern rock version of “The Happiest Days of Our Lives,” weren’t strikingly different from the Wrongs’ own material.
As rendered by the Wrongs, this “Wall” had more than a few holes.
[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 24, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]
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