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Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 808 ratings

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5 stars Peter Hammill was much more than just the lead singer for Van der Graaf Generator; he was the creative force behind the band. Whilst the music on his solo albums are shorter, one feels as if they are travelling further into the upside-down world of VdGG land, where the songs and ideas are experimental, but extremely classy. 'The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage', Hammill's third solo release, is no exception. With guest appearances from all the members of VdGG (minus Nic Potter), there is a lot here to keep fans of the group happy, between listening to Hammill's more personal songs.

The album begins with Modern, a bizarre track that is not explicitly experimental, but contains many experimental elements, especially in the instrumental. This is certainly not the type of music you could put on at a party, but the heavy music can be really gripping.

Wilhemina is a more calming song with a lullabye like verse sound, and an emotional bridge section. At around the 3 minute mark, there is a powerful instrumental section that always stirs me. A beautiful track, although it can be hard not to snigger at the name 'Willie'.

The Lie is my second favourite track off this stellar album. The lyrics have a profoundly religious theme, and with a brilliant echo effect, the track even sounds like it was recorded in a giant cathedral. The lyrics 'Genuflection / Erection in church' reach out and grab you in the first line, and one feels slightly embarassed that it's taken the word 'erection' to get you listening to the powerful lyrics. The use of dynamics in this song is phenomenal, and the grand piano has never sounded quite so grand.

Forbidden Gardens is then my third favourite track. This is essentially a VdGG composition, as all of Hugh Banton, Guy Evans and David Jackson can be heard here. The rocky middle section provides the backbone to this track. There must be many interpretations of the lyrics, but I personally like to think of a man who is obsessed with gardening having a mental breakdown and just spouting garden-related nonsense. The most memorable line in the song is 'The fences erected to protect simply divide'. For a VdGG song, it's actually rather short, clocking in at just over 6 minutes.

On Side 2, the next two songs aren't much to shout about. Red Shift is a longer track, but while there are good moments, there is little meat to be found. Rubicon is one of Hammill's many acoustic guitar tracks, a tradition I have never become used to.

However, Hammill saves the best till last with the epic 12 minute opus that is A Louse Is Not A Home. Like Forsaken Gardens, this is a bona fide VdGG track, with all members participating. Further than that though, this is actually one of VdGG's best tracks! It's honestly up there with Man-Erg, Lost and Scorched Earth (to pick three of the bands' many 5-star tracks). Honestly, I'd say it's better than all three of them! Never staying in one place too long, and implementing scores of metre changes, this track is complexity incarnate. Honestly, so much happens in this song, that it will seem like 12 minutes have passed, when only 6 have. This is one of the meatiest prog tracks a man can hear, with great musical passages throughout. Despite the silly name, this track is quite dark and serious, just like any other VdGG tune, with Hammill's twisted lyrics permeating throughout. The standout lyric here is 'Maybe I should delouse this place / Maybe I should deplace this louse'. It's worth buying the record just to hear this amazing track.

The original gatefold cover for the album was the second to bear Hammill's unique insignia, but was the first to contain handwritten lyrics on the inner sheet. These handwritten lyrics give the album a really personal touch, and make listening a far more intimate affair.

If you're a fan of Van der Graaf Generator, and want to hear more from the prog rock masters, you should definitely hit this album first, as you may be stunned by the music you hear. There is no doubt in my mind that this is his best album, at least from his classic period. With A Louse Is Not A Home and The Lie on this album, this is Peter Hammill's magnum opus.

baz91 | 5/5 |


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