To this day, probably the most popular audiophile record from the Classic Rock era is Dark Side of the Moon. Pristine copies of DSOTM vinyl are carried to audio shows and audiophile meetings on a daily basis, and hi-res copies reside on MACs and PCs throughout this land and most others. The reason for this is simple: It’s a fabulous sounding album. Period. It helps that the music and mood are excellent as well. So, with all of that being said, you should probably have a copy of DSOTM in some format in your library, but Floyd has an incredibly vast discography of excellent sounding songs beyond that 1974 landmark record. So for this week’s Essential Downloads we’re going to look at Pink Floyd beyond the Dark Side of the Moon.

Another Brick In the Wall, Pt. 2 (1979). The fact that this song has been an FM radio staple for almost 37 years kind of washes away the sheer beauty of the recording and production. Particularly, David Gilmour’s doubled rhythm guitars.

Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together and Grooving With A Pict (1969). Off of Ummagumma, written by Roger Waters and produced by the brilliant Norman Smith, this really isn’t a song but is instead an amazing collection of noises and sounds edited together (with razor blades and tape – no digital exiting back then) to create a 5 minute long soundscape that will totally put your headphones or stereo system to the test.

Welcome to the Machine (1975). In college I worked at a factory that sounded like the beginning of this song, except not in nearly as high a fidelity. One of the most beautiful acoustic guitar recordings you will ever hear, plus the synthesizer stuff holds up really well forty years later.  

Learning to Fly (1987). One of Floyd’s strongest post-Waters works, this is David Gilmour completely at the helm. If you like guitar, you should own this song.

Not Now John (1983). The coda to classic Pink Floyd, The Final Cut wasn’t received very well when it was released, but it is a great record. Not Now John sort of perfectly sums up the political and social vibe of the early 1980s. Play this one loud, just probably not in front of your mom. Seriously, the greatest background vocal arrangement, ever.

Wish You Were Here (1975). Upon the breakup of Pink Floyd in 1983, David Gilmour accused Roger Waters of only writing about two subjects: World War II and Syd Barrett. This one is about the latter, but it is an incredible song, so who cares who the inspiration was?

Keep Talking (1994). Long before Stephen Hawking was an occasional guest star on the Big Bang Theory, he was a guest vocalist on this track from the Division Bell. A complete Pink Floyd tour de force production and arrangement, Hawking’s lines are perfectly integrated and completely without irony.

Comfortably Numb (1979). The Wall combined Roger’s fascination with World War II and Syd Barrett, and this song sort of sums it all up. Beyond that, a beautiful recording of what classic Pink Floyd did best.

So there you have it, the Essential Download list (minus Dark Side of the Moon) for those of you who don’t already have a complete Pink Floyd library. They’ll sound much better in high-res, on CD or on vinyl, but even via mp3 these songs are the starting point for new fans.

Jack Sharkey for KEF