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Peter Hammill - Past Go - Collected CD (album) cover

PAST GO - COLLECTED

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.02 | 6 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I doubt if Peter Hammill himself could tell you exactly how many albums he's recorded over the years: forty? fifty? Let's face it: the man is an Energizer Bunny among Prog artistes, but it means that following his career can be almost a career in itself.

Which makes a compilation like this more than just the usual scrapbook of arbitrary back- catalogue flotsam. It's more an update of an ongoing work in progress, and indispensable for fans like me who can't afford to fill their shelves with the complete Peter Hammill collection.

This 1996 mini-anthology was released on Hammill's own Fie! Label, so you can be sure a little care went into the track selection. Most of it was culled from his then-current mid- 1990s discography, with four tracks from "The Noise" ('93), three from "Fireships" ('92), and three more from "Roaring Forties" ('94), plus an additional one song each from his early '80s albums "Enter K", "Patience", and the experimental "Loops and Reels".

Hammill completists won't find anything new here: no special re-mixes or unreleased songs, but that's not the point. The collection was intended as "an introduction rather than a summation" (quoting the author himself), a handy guide toward further exploration for intrepid travelers willing to dare the unknown. This particular phase in his career was always terra incognita to me, so it's nice to hear his skills as a songsmith still in peak condition (as of 1996, at any rate).

Unlike most singer/songwriters, Prog or otherwise, Hammill always writes with a sense of genuine reflection, philosophy, and sometimes naked candor (remember the album "Over"?). The darker shadows that always haunted his earlier efforts have faded a little over the years, but his pen is sharper than ever: "...so sharp you can cut yourself", as he snarls at one point, in barely suppressed contempt of shallow celebrity self-imagery (my own somewhat jaundiced interpretation).

His words and voice can make you shudder, or make you swoon, or both simultaneously. Witness the ominous undercurrents of sexual exploitation in "His Best Girl", of cultural plunder in "A Ritual Mask", or his canny diagnosis of the whole damned human condition in "Patient". All of it dressed to kill in cutthroat riffs ("Patient" again, or Nick Potter's great subterranean bass line in "Planet Coventry"), ambient ballads ("Gaia"), and something approaching a twisted facsimile of good ol' fashioned rock 'n' roll ("A Kick to Kill the Kiss").

Fifteen years previously Hammill was, in his own words, "pushing thirty, pulling sixteen". The same might be said here, in his roaring forties (from the album of the same name, in the song "Your Tall Ship"). And today, almost ten years later? Well, I'm out of touch again, so maybe it's time again for another retrospective compilation. But I don't have any doubts his creative fire is still burning strong, and likely will for a long time to come.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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