Former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is not prolific. Rattle That Lock is only his fourth solo studio album (though it follows his late band's final album, The Endless River, by only ten months). Gilmour recorded some 35 songs for this set, some dating back 18 years. Trimming them to ten couldn't have been easy. Titled for John Milton's second book in Paradise Lost, Rattle That Lock is structured as an informal song cycle to reflect the sometimes random, sometimes weightier thought processes of a typical person in a single day. It begins, appropriately, with the instrumental "5 A.M.." Orchestrated by Zbigniew Preisner, Gilmour's signature slow, bluesy, Stratocaster sting enters just 30 seconds in, followed by fingerpicked acoustic guitars, gentle synths, and electric piano amid chamber strings to announce the title-track single. It's the first of five songs co-written with novelist Polly Samson, Gilmour's wife. His meaty guitar lines mirror the spirit of the lyrics, which reflect dissent and the redemption that lies in the freedom to choose. Co-producer Phil Manzanera's Hammond organ, two funky basslines, and soaring chorus vocals from Mica Paris, Louise Marshall, and the Liberty Choir provide a smooth AOR feel. "Faces of Stone" is a waltz done as a tango, colored by Floyd-esque atmospherics and an extended wailing guitar break. The ageless harmonies of Graham Nash and David Crosby grace "A Boat Lies Waiting," a moving, understated tribute to Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright. Gilmour's slide hovers above Roger Eno's elegant piano, chamber strings, and the cry of gulls. Samson's lyrics are economical but mighty, capturing bittersweet nostalgia, pain, and loss in their poignancy. "In Any Tongue" chillingly examines the toll of a global war run by men with deadly joysticks (to drones) in their hands: "God help my son/What has he done?/...I hear 'Mama' sounds the same in any tongue…." In "Beauty," Eno and Gilmour trade contrasting minimal piano and blues-rock guitar lines as strings and reverb bridge them. Second single "Today" commences as a hymn, but erupts into wonky funk driven by Guy Pratt's bass. Here the silken, rockist disco of Wall-era Floyd clashes with Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads, and it all works -- dramatic orchestral accompaniment notwithstanding. Instrumental closer "And Then…" features Gilmour's expressive Strat and acoustic guitars. Andy Newmark's drums and Danny Cummings' percussion frame them amid a backdrop of strings. This tune is so lyrical that Gilmour's guitar playing literally sings, making it one of his finest instrumentals. As a whole, Rattle That Lock reveals more confident and developed songwriting from Gilmour and Samson; they'll be a near-symbiotic team in the future. It is a snapshot of where Gilmour is as a musician in 2015, and not by any means a grand portrait or statement to sum up his career.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek