Take Five: David Gilmour’s Top Solo Turns

David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd in 1968, initially as a second guitarist alongside band leader and childhood friend Syd Barrett. After Barrett left the group, Gilmour applied his own style of playing. His signature guitar sound and vocals would become a centerpiece of the group’s appeal.

Gilmour was a professional guitarist even before he joined Pink Floyd; recordings from his first group, Jokers Wild, recently became commercially available for the first time. And in the mid 1970s when Pink Floyd quietly went on a hiatus, he – like his three bandmates – released a solo album. And David Gilmour has continued his on-and-off solo career ever since; there are rumblings of a new album, possibly due this year.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his second album, 1984’s About Face, here are five non-Pink Floyd tracks that demonstrate the versatility of David Gilmour.

“There’s No Way Out of Here” from David Gilmour (1978)
Enlisting the aid of Foreigner bassist Rick Wills and former Jokers Wild bandmate Willie Wilson on drums, Gilmour’s self-titled solo debut was a modest chart success. Released as a single, “There’s No Way Out of Here” was a cover of a song by Gilmour’s friends and protégés Unicorn, a highly regarded country-rock band. Gilmour’s version is similar to the original, but his distinctive guitar work – and the female chorus vocal backing – help make the song his own.

“Love on the Air” from About Face (1984)
With its soaring arrangement, this Floydian ballad from Gilmour’s second solo album is a songwriting collaboration between the guitarist and The Who’s Pete Townshend. “Love on the Air” was released as a single in the UK. Highlights include Pino Palladino’s memorable fretless bass work and elegiac piano from Steve Winwood.

“This Heaven” from On an Island (2006)
More than two decades would pass between the release of About Face and its followup. But On an Island proved worth the wait; filled with an assortment of styles, the album showcased Gilmour’s stylistic breadth like never before. Standout tracks are many, but the bluesy shuffle of “This Heaven” is among the album’s deep-cut gems.

“Fat Old Sun” from Live in Gdansk (2008)
David Gilmour has never been an especially prolific songwriter, apparently valuing quality over quantity. One of his earliest songs – for which he wrote both music and lyrics – is “Fat Old Sun.” The lovely melody first appeared on Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother LP in 1970. An extended workout of the song was a highlight of that group’s live concerts in the days before The Dark Side of the Moon. Nearly 30 years later, Gilmour added it back into his solo concert set; it appears on both Live in Gdansk and 2017’s Live in Pompeii.

“The Girl in the Yellow Dress” from Rattle That Lock (2015)
Who knew? David Gilmour is a credible jazz singer! He proves it on “The Girl in the Yellow Dress,” a beautiful jazzy number on his most recent solo album to date. Rattle That Lock’s deluxe version in fact features two versions of the song. The regular album version sports a sultry jazz combo arrangement with Jools Holland on piano; the second version finds Gilmour crooning in front of a full orchestra.