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Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1962 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Peter Pan
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is a review of the remastered version of "Pawn Hearts".

With "Pawn Hearts" progressive rock music reached it's height. And Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator a first peak of their innovation and creativity.

The remastered edition of "Pawn Hearts" shows which masterpiece has been achieved in the summer of 1971. Though the remastering process hasn't led to the same high clearness and isolation of all separate instruments and voices in the same way as e.g. "H to He". The reason seems that heavy mixing and overdubbing has been done on the original recording tapes. But so the sound of this CD is nearer to the original vinyl-release than the other remasters of the first pack of the VDGG catalogue. Yet you can hear a widely improved sound.

The core of this album is the epic "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". In musical and technical terms this was cutting edge and on the very limit of what could be recorded in a studio by a rock band in these years. Peter Hammill's voice is as forceful as vocals can be and unbelievable versatile. The lyrics have high literary quality as it should be so often in Peter Hammill's recordings after this album. Some passages of "Lighthouse Keepers" are unforgettable. Who else in rock music could write and sing sentences like:

"'Alone, alone', the ghosts all call / pinpoint me in the night" or "The seal of death / lingers in the molten wax / that is my head". Peter's scream in "Locked in silent monologue / in silent scream" makes you shiver inside.

But the music had gotten so complex and in part experimental that it couldn't be pushed further this direction. "Lighthouse Keepers" already was unperformable live. Furthermore the band was drained and exhausted from heavy and nearly non-stop touring over a period of 2 years. Their last contract for an Italian tour saw them even doing 3 gigs a day. Little financial reward and growing tensions between group members added to the conclusion to split. The most fascinating and unusual band of progressive rock music had come to end. But it's members had saved their identity and their physical and mental health which had been at stake.

Overall no other album of any rock music band has been so inventive and - yes - progressive. "Pawn Hearts" still sounds fresh and thrilling as it has been when it was first released. The remastered edition makes the sound even more powerful. The CD is accompanied by an extensive and beautiful booklet. The bonus tracks bring two songs which are more of historical interest and three takes which were formerly supposed as part of the never released second LP of "Pawn Hearts". These three "solo" works from Hugh Banton, Guy Evans and David Jackson show one possible direction Van der Graaf could have taken in these days. Straight into jazz fusion similar to Soft Machine. But they didn't lose their roots in rock and the high literary impact with Peter Hammills writing and singing. So Van der Graaf Generator came back two years later with music still eloborate and sophisticated but instrumented and recorded in a more "simple" and accessible way than "Pawn Hearts". -

Peter Pan | 5/5 |


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