The McBroom Sisters – Black Floyd (Album Review)

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Oh by the way, which one’s Pink?” With the volume of Floyd tribute albums that are continually released over the years, it can be hard indeed to know which – if any – are worth the listener’s time. All the more reason to spotlight the McBroom Sisters’ unique offering which stands out from the crowd on numerous accounts. For one, it’s a project led by two of the women who sang backup for Floyd in its latter incarnations: the sisters Durga and Lorelei McBroom who have a wealth of experience in the music industry since the 80s. Their cleverly-named project “Black Floyd” works on several levels as a moniker, not to mention the diversity of material contained herein. One could say the roots of much of Floyd’s music comes from black culture – not to mention the blues-men who inspired the very name Pink Floyd – and so it feels perfectly natural and even fitting to have two black female leads singing these songs. In addition to Floyd classics and deep cuts, the McBrooms also chose to feature several original songs which in some cases were co-written by musicians in the Floyd family. Supported by members of the Dave Kerzner Band and Australian Pink Floyd, this is a high-caliber release which delivers a different colour of Pink Floyd music.  All of this leads us to want to recognize and celebrate this innovative album on its one-year anniversary of being released, in case it flew under the radar of some listeners amidst 2020’s stupor. 

Let’s start with the Floyd cuts, since that is what will initially draw most listeners to this project. The seven songs chosen are a fine selection, albeit slanted towards the second half of the band’s history which makes sense, given that Durga herself sang on “The Division Bell” and both sisters were on the live albums of tours from the 80s and 90s. “What Do You Want From Me” is one such prime pick to be covered. While the production suggests an arrangement based in a smokey club stage rather than the massive stadium soundstage that is featured on the original, Durga utterly captivates the spotlight, occupying a tone not far from Gilmour’s own register. When she belts out a searing wail at the end of the first chorus, her voice reaches down the listener’s throat and rips their heart out. David Fowler’s guitar is engaging but the production lets both of the women dominate the proceedings, and rightfully so. Lorelei gets her chance to shine on an incendiary reading of “Have A Cigar”, augmented by fantastic harmony vocals on the chorus from Durga. Simply put, Lorelei absolutely owns this piece – originally sung by Roy Harper – and it’s a choice example of why this tribute album makes complete sense. An extended guitar solo from Randy McStine amidst the sisters’ vocal improvs further seals the deal, rooted by the rhythm section of Derek Cintron on drums, Fernando Perdomo on bass and Dave Kerzner’s funky keys just like Rick Wright laid down. It’s a helluva start.

Acoustic cuts are featured heavily, such as a gorgeous rendition of “Goodbye Blue Sky” where Perdomo’s guitars add just the right amount of heart-string-pulls while leaving enough space for the sisters’ harmonies to enthrall, augmented by guests Emily Lynn and Lara Smiles. Adding several extra “…goodbye”’s at the end is a subtle stroke of genius. “Poles Apart” is a nice surprise pick, featuring Billy Sherwood on bass and acoustic guitar. Kerzner’s keys and Perdomo’s electric guitar add to the richness of the arrangement (and what a whopper of a closing solo!), keeping close to the original with a few more Animals thrown in for fun. Of course, signature song “Wish You Were Here” is represented, David Fowler perfectly nailing the guitar and production, including a cool vocoder spot. Guest vocalist Louise Goffin sings for a verse which is a little jarring given how different her tonality is from the two McBrooms, especially with this being the first Floyd song on the album, so a better track running order may have helped first establish the sisters in their own right.

“Black Floyd” Album Artwork

On the Turning Away” feels right at home with this setlist, both sisters delivering a performance that conveys the sincerity of the song’s message as Fowler’s lead guitar soars overhead. And then we have the “Great Gig”. What was originally a vocal improv created in the studio has been elevated into a calculated composition which demands complete deference to the original. Here the ladies completely and utterly nail it, note-for-note, inflection-for-inflection, devastatingly-so. What’s more, this duet adds in an occasional harmony that sends shivers down the spine. When they close with a final call and response wail, a dry eye is impossible. Could this version even rival the original?

In addition to the covers, “Black Floyd” surprisingly contains six original pieces. On the downside, there’s little thematically that connects most of them to the vibe of the Floyd pieces, aside from a couple being co-written by modern-day Floyd men Jon Carin and Guy Pratt. On the plus side, they’re all damn good songs and worthy of their own album. Opening track “Gods and Lovers” is an excellent track penned by Durga and Carin, an uplifting and expansive inquiry into the depths of eros. Durga immediately establishes her vocal cred, delivered via a memorable chorus that could easily be a radio hit single. Lorelei is up next with “Money Don’t Make the Man”, an addictive highlight of the album which benefits from Perdomo’s insistent bass groove and funky strut from Cintron.  Kerzner does his best to tie the song to Floyd with his wonderful “Any Colour You Like” keyboards, but ultimately this song has more in common with Annie Lennox’sMoney Can’t Buy It” than Floyd’s own “Money”. Nevertheless, it’s a killer track.

Durga continues plumbing the depths of the romantic search in “Love of a Lifetime” and the vulnerable but empowered “A Girl Like That”. The latter cleverly quotes the classic Roger Rabbit movie line, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” while satisfyingly revealing a heavy Joan Armatrading influence. ”Forgotten How to Smile” was co-written years ago by Lorelei and Lemmy (yes, THAT Lemmy) and here she delivers an impassioned rendition with support from a killer band. Finally, “Cocoon” finishes things off, which Durga and Kerzner co-wrote together. Of all the originals, this is the one piece which carries a Floyd feel to it, no surprise given Kerzner’s talent in that regard. A searing guitar solo from Fowler touches on a Gilmour edge, along with violin accompaniment by Lili Hadyn. It’s an ideal closer which bridges the two approaches to the album.

So, what are we to make of an album containing half originals and half Floyd covers? Is it the best of both worlds or a confusing mixture? The answer lies in the listener’s tastes. In some ways, the quality of both aspects is so strong that it would be nice to have one full album of McBroom originals and another full album of Floyd that goes even deeper into the catalog. Combining the two can make for some un-even segues, like “Great Gig” into “Forgotten How To Smile”. But truth be told, I find myself reaching for this album more often than any other tribute album, likely because of the diversity of songs, along with the quality of the material. It’s almost unheard of to call a tribute album “essential” but it feels that more than ever, the world needs “Black Floyd”.

Released by: Independent
Released on: July 4th, 2020
Genre: Progressive Rock

Musicians: 

  • Lorelei McBroom / Vocals
  • Durga McBroom / Vocals

Black Floyd” Track-listing:

  1. Gods and Lovers
  2. Money Don’t Make The Man
  3. Wish You Were Here
  4. What Do You Want From Me
  5. Love of a Lifetime
  6. Poles Apart
  7. Have A Cigar
  8. Goodbye Blue Sky
  9. A Girl Like That
  10. On The Turning Away
  11. The Great Gig In The Sky
  12. Forgotten How To Smile
  13. Intermission
  14. Cocoon

9.3 Excellent

Having toured and recorded with Pink Floyd, Durga and Lorelei McBroom are in a unique position to cover material from the extensive Floyd catalog. Hearing black female voices in the lead vocal spot is a natural fit and in some cases these versions may even be preferred to the original recordings. In addition, half of the album contains new compositions by the McBroom sisters, which might seem a bold choice were it not for the consistent quality of their performance. Part tribute album/part coming-out party for these songwriters, “Black Floyd” spectacularly succeeds on both accounts.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9.5
  • Production 9.5
Share.

Comments are closed.

24,373Fans
1,986Followers
26,900Subscribers