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


Peter Hammill

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars Maybe the best solo effort of PH, a sort of a lost VDGG album (if you look at the line-up, you'll see the very well known names Banton, Evans and Jackson). The melancholic feeling and the emotive Peter's voices are always present, and the listener is involved in a sad and opressive sensation sometimes. Dark and nostalgic, it is the most symphonic solo album from PH. "Wilhelmina", "The Lie" and "Forsaken Gardens" -tracks 2, 3 and 4- are really pearls of prog music.
Report this review (#17712)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is very much in PH-Van der Graaf style. It's heavy, but in the same time interesting, with unpredictible evolutions of the songs. It's passing from the tough style of "Modern" to the quietness of "Wilhelma" and then, passing through the next tracks in the well-knowned PH kind of music, it's arriving to the last song, which I consider a real masterpiece of the prog-music. Each time I listen it, and I have listened it hundreds of times, it's bringing me to a "prog-music orgasm", if you allow me to call in this manner the real prog feeling. Try to listen this album with attention and with your mind and senses opened widley, listen carefuly to the evolution of the songs (the last song is beginning and ending with the same words, but in a completly different melody and rhytm), and probably you'll feel the same satisfaction. Enjoy it!
Report this review (#17713)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars I always wondered if I was hallucinating or if I was a pervert looking at this weird or should I say bizarre cover.Another good solo album on which some of those numbers might have been placed elsewhere on a VDGG album (albeit rearranged for the group). Some of those tracks are spine-tingling , notably The Lie and Forsafen Gardens. I had high hopes for Randy "Spirit" California's guitars parts but unfortunately , he was not given a free rein. Other standout tracks are Red Shift , Rubicon and Louse.
Report this review (#17714)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars There's a few reasons an artist will decide to do a solo album; he wants to explore a style that is at odds with the band or he wants to achieve a measure of success apart from the band's recognition. It's difficult to imagine Hammill being constrained or at odds with VDGG- he led the band, and everyone stays with him on this album anyway. So why is it not a VDGG album? Maybe it's the addition of the suspiciously named 'Randy California'- sounds like an in-joke to me...

Oh well, that being said, if you're a fan of Hammill there is plenty to satisfy you here. Vocally I find him somewhere between early Bowie and Bruce Dickenson (IRON MAIDEN) with a hint of "Frankenfurter" Tim Curry in some of the less credible dramatic moments. The songs mainly move when the lyrics move, only rarely finding a steady rhythm in songs like the jazzy "Red Shift". "Modern" is full of interesting spacey, synthetic textures upon which he speaks, sings, mumbles and screams- much of his range is ably demonstrated here. "Wilhelmina" softly caresses and then gets harsher in the way "Man-Erg" fans will recognize, but notably focuses on something other than Peter for a while (relatively- it's about what "Willy" means to "Peter", and stop giggling). "The Lie (Bernini's St. Theresa)" is Hammill's examination of religious ecstasy- not sculpture- against a dramatic piano and organ score. "Forsaken Gardens" continues the piano and vocal structure before breaking into the first real rhythmic section on the album. The lyrics deal with isolation and unrequited...something. Upon hearing the emotionally charged climax of the song, my wife exclaimed, "I'd like to meet him...and then slap him." The Echoplex (or whatever primitive delay unit they had) is used to great extent, especially on "Red Shift" and "Modern", and contributes nicely to the psychedelic/ progressive tone of the album. "Rubicon" has a loping acoustic feel- probably the most like "Space Oddity"-era Bowie or even pre-electric Marc Bolan. "A Louse is not a Home" is my favorite song title on the album, and reveals a little of the humor I wish he had more of in his lyrics. The music, however, is a bit too blatantly emotional to be fun and a bit too "Rocky Horror" to take very seriously. As it progresses, however, it reminds one more of VDGG than most of the album and features some interesting passages and textures.

I'm tempted to start liking Peter Hammill, mainly because he so consistently surprises and amuses me with his eager, humorless dedication to defy all notions of taste and restraint. Be warned- playing this album will bring out previously hidden violent tendencies in your friends and relatives, but if you are (or think you may be) one of the fragile, uncommon souls out there who really love Peter's music, you'll find paradise within this album.

Report this review (#17716)
Posted Friday, June 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'The Silent Corner & The Empty Stage' follows in the same vein as its predecessor 'Chameleon', only this time assuming a more agressive disposition. The opening track 'Modern' shows you exactly that right away. with its delirious guitar layers (some sound really creepy) and frantic singing about the dehumanizing side of modernization. Hammill's incendiary spirituality continues to express itself on the next three tracks, all of them piano based. 'Wilhelmina' reveals this performer taking a more candourous attitude as he speaks to his first daughter (back then, still an infant) about the confusions of adult life. Then, the first bass piano notes come thundering increasingly to give way to a mystical/psychological observation on 'The Lie', a disturbingly dark Gothic- tinged number, and may I add, an exercise of lucid expressiveness throughout the use of very few notes - brilliant! Track 4 is performed in a VsGG ambience (well, it's supposed to, since his fellow members are all guests here): 'Forsaken Gardens' explores and laments about the destructive side of self-centredness in a progressive manner, sounding very similar to the most pompous moments of 'H to He' in the harder sections - yes, a piece can be hard rocking without including a guitar in it. But again, the album doesn't end here. 'Red Shift' does include a pretty amount of guitar parts (riffs, textures, brief dissonant solos) creating a perfect partnership with Jackson's saxes, in a context of electric blues and psychedelia: this piece is not too frantic, but it certainly is powerful instrumentally. Its structure even anticipates at some degree that of La Rossa, soon to appear in the VdGG album 'Still Life'. The only calm piece in the album is 'Rubicon' (calm under Hammill patterns, that is, only voice and acoustic guitar, yet still portraying a disturbing set of lyrics that brings turmoil into the listener's ears and mind). The closing number is pretty effective, since it's the most dramatic and fiery track in the album. 'A Louse is not a Home' brings back the VdGG sound to the fore, with Hammill experimenting with his vocal range undefatigably to match the track's gloomy grandeur. Once again, the subject of the ego's potential and limitations brings back a Hammill wildly exorcising his own personal existentialist ghosts. Tracks 1, 3, 5 and 7 are my chosen highlights of 'Silent Corner', though the rest of the material is also captivating enough. I give it 4 stars, though I wish I could give it an extra half.
Report this review (#17717)
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Like much of Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter hammill's third solo outing THE SILENT CORNER & THE EMPTY STAGE can make for some disturbing (if not outright painful) listening, yet this 1974 work is not without its substantial rewards. Hammill's wild vocals and soul-lashing lyrics are very much an acquired taste -- as fellow reviewer James Lee wittily suggests, playing this dark and strange stuff in the presence of the "uninitiated" may well test the limits of tolerance and/or friendship.

If, however, you're already a fan of pyrotechnic prince of darkness Herr Hammill, you should find much to "enjoy" in this musical version of the medieval hair shirt. (Feels good when you take it off.) As with my initial exposure to VDGG, I was at first almost repulsed by this disc, but found that, over time, and much like a sunbather's neglected melanoma, it began to grow upon me, and sink its hooks into my substance. I can't really maintain that TSC&TES represents "an excellent addition to ANY prog rock collection," but I can say that it is "good, but non-essential," and thus award it a solid three stars. (That being said, I do urge VDGG and Hammill fans to get this one -- I don't think you'll be at all disappointed!

For my tastes, noteworthy tracks include the multi-faceted "Modern," which forcefully establishes the near-suffocating atmosphere right away, the "quieter" piano-driven "The Lie" (an extended response to a religious sculpture, with the memorable opening line "Genuflection -- erection in church"), and the very Van der Graaf-esque "Forsaken Gardens," which finds band mate David Jackson contributing his signature flute and sax sounds to the mix.

"Red Shift" is another winner: it starts slowly, but steadily builds to a powerful piece that is quite reminiscent of the harder moments of King Crimson's LIZARD, especially via the "Frippoid" guitar of Randy California (of Spirit), and the militaristic snare.

My overall favourite though (perhaps predictably, as it could easily have been lifted from a VDGG album) is the longest and closing track: "A Louse is Not a Home," with its theme of (surprise!) isolation and incipient madness, alternately strangled, spitting and quietly intimate vocals, Jackson sax and eerie keyboards, strongly deserves a place in the collections of all Van der Graff/Hammill adherents. This one is not to be missed -- check out the MP3 here!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Hammill's tender address to his little pink Willy. His (then) baby daughter's name serves as the title for "Wilhelmina," though I don't know just how soothed the tot might have been by papa Hammill's crib side crooning of lines like "life's hard now -- you know it gets harder -- and hope, it is but a single strand. We pass it on, and hope you'll understand." Despite the unflinching, non sugar-coated lyrics, this softer song is actually rather nice. (Though perhaps not destined for inclusion on an "All Time Best Lullabies" compilation any time soon....)

THE SILENT CORNER & THE EMPTY STAGE is thus a good (verging upon great) Hammill album, and one that followers of his solo career, and/or Van der Graaf Generator, will want to check out. (Four stars for them, three for all other prog listeners.) Give it a go.

Report this review (#17719)
Posted Wednesday, October 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A trully masterpiece!!! It's hard finding words to describe PH's "The Silent Corner..." I believe in this album PH's lyrics are more ingenius and matured than ever. E.g. "Forsaken Gardens" is a hymn to human nature and wonders if a man can really be on his own. The final answer is stunning: "Through the grief, through the pain, our flowers need each other's rain...." Or what one can say about "modern"? It stands for mankind's today's attitude and treatment on society. The music of all the songs is deeply emotioned and Hammill's lyrics...well simply the best. "A louse is not a home" is one of my favorites and it leaves me with a feeling of paranoia and insanity as it speaks of loneliness, "creepy" visitors in our rooms and image distortion. Honestly, one of the best albums I 've ever heard.
Report this review (#17720)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Surely it belongs among the best solo efforts of PH. My personal favorites are Foolsmate, Chameleon.., this one, as close as this, out of water and especially fireships. The rest are still very good and original, but I do not listen them often. And also among the above named ones there are albums which are hard to approach and make them out. And TSC&TES is like that. It is quite similar too the Chameleon, yet different. It is very complex, like all hammills's album. From silent fluent chamber songs full of sad lyricism (wilhelmina, rubicon), through heavy and demanding pressing songs being acumulated with the electricity-like power, eg red shift (just as in a van der graaf generator, mean now the device), to the final explosion in The louse is not home which is very unique and extremely strong, it is nearly impossible to stand such an impact of emotional energy. And exactly the great vulcano of emotions is what make this and not only this PH's album very hard to perceive. But anyway try it.
Report this review (#17722)
Posted Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This one has the highest rate of PH albums for a good reason. At least everyone who digs VDGG should love this, clearly the closest in style and sound to VDGG's classic albums and also featuring other VDGG members. The second in a trilogy where Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night has more acoustic approach and quite a rough sound quality, and In Camera carries on deeper in the extremes of sanity and experiment (I admire that too, but it's a bit harder to enjoy).

'Modern' is a frantic classic? track which I rather skip. 'Wilhelmina' is as an emotional ballad to a little girl quite different from the overall tone. To me the magic of this album begins with 'The Lie' (inspired by the named church art) and continues all the way to the ending of 'A Louse Is Not a Home', a gorgeous 12- minute study of alienation which would be perfectly at home in Pawn Hearts (get the mp3!). 'Forsaken Gardens' is very touching ("there is so much sorrow in the world"... "thru the grief, thru the pain, our flowers need each other's rain"). David Jackson (fl,sax) makes 'Red Shift' sound a lot like Godbluff which appeared the next year. In a word: a treasure for fans of VDGG!

Report this review (#46585)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The third work announced in 1974 "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage". Work by which all members of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR are participating as well as the former work. The final tune is already indistinguishable with VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR.The appearance of Peter Hammill is divine. It is a wonderful masterpiece.
Report this review (#47262)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Quite frankly this album is stunning. Each track draws you into its own unique atmosphere, be it the church organ soaked "The Lie (Bernini's St. Therese)" or the outer space of "Red Shift" and the living breathing claustrophobia of the house in "A Louse is Not A Home". Even after 20 years of first hearing this album I sit stunned for five minutes after listening to it. Its power is such that I've only just realised myself that there are no drums on it until halfway through (on "Forsaken Gardens"). If it is ever replaced as my favourite album ever then I shall be (pleasantly) surprised
Report this review (#55787)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think it's the best album of Peter. It is some sort of step from VDGG to the solo carier. It consists great melodical line, great lyrics and of course great instrumental and voice. It hadn't had the lifeless insrumental line yet. I think it's maybe one of the most colourful of Hammill's albums. Phylosophical and atmosperic "Modern", breezy and kind "Wheelmina", the great "The lie" - one of the best Hammill's composition, "Forsaken", "Rubicon", "Red shift" - also great songs. And of course the monumental epic "The louse is not a home" with great phylosophical lyrics and sharp, amazing structure. I think, even you don't like VDGG you must listen this essential work because it contains so many feelings...
Report this review (#71417)
Posted Wednesday, March 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A beautiful, essential record I discovered in 1990 when I spent a few days in London. Ever since that day, I've been to probably more than 20 Hammill solo or band concerts (including VDGG in Germany last year)! Silent Corner is not very different from the best of VDGG's works. More personal in a way and quite diversified in terms of instrumentation. Whereas some songs come with a band arrangement others are simple and pure, where the intensity can shine even better... Modern and Louse are simply two of the best things he has ever written. Powerful, intimidating, engrossed. It's a great album to start with. Having heard Wyatt's Rock Bottom the other day, this could in fact be something like a twin.
Report this review (#72464)
Posted Tuesday, March 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first PH solo album I obtained. I must confess that it was several years after obtaining most of the VDGG back catalogue that I decided to chance one of his albums. I have always found the 'solo' careers more of an inferior sideline. Mr Hammill's career is a big exception to my rule!

As soon as the first track played, I knew I was onto a winner. There was still a lot of the VDGG elements: Anger, lightness, darkness and power. Probably due to the fact that all members backed on certain tracks. However, it maintains enough personal aspects to give a solo feel on the record. Indeed if did come out as a VDGG credit, it could be critisised as being self-indulgent on Hammill's part!

One the whole, this LP is brilliant from start to finish. So emotional in so many different ways. Stand out tracks include the doomy opener: Modern, The Lie with its theatrical and huge, spine tingling piano sound and Red Shift with the reverbed, feedback ladened vocals. This track features SPIRIT's Randy California on guitar. I did mistake this for Robert Fripp until I read the credits, very much in his style. Not a weak track to be found on this one, highly recommended. Wouldn't like to say if it's his best, as I've yet to obtain them all, but easily the one to start with.

Report this review (#114675)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I came late to this album having struggled with some of Hammill's late 80's albums. For a real flavour of the best of Hammill it is to the early 70's period one must look, and this album represents the peak of that period. It is not a piece of easy listening but rewards the listener with repeated plays. So demanding is the music that it is probably best listened to alone, maybe in the car. For sure, your girlfriend is not likely to appreciate it the way you do...! That said there are some great moments of sensitivity with "Wilhelmina" which features some profound insights into how it feels to look into the eyes of your first baby.

"Hope is but a single strand: we pass it on and hope you'll understand...."

The album open and closes with two of the most powerful pieces Hammill has written with Modern and A Louse is Not a Home. If there is one album you need to listen to from this artisit, then this is the one. Worth of the coverted 5 stars as it represents not just the artists best but one of a kind, with no other comparable albums like it.

Report this review (#121365)
Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A really shocking album that turned my whole world upside down....when I heard it for the first time( about 7 years ago) I was absolutely astonished by this music and since that time Peter Hammill has become my number one prog artist. Altough it must be mentioned that this is not a music for everyone...its very dark and decadent therefore I would not recomend this album to anyone in a depressive mood. As far as the others are concearned its a must have album. I would suggest listening to it in a dark room lit only by the flickering candlelight.In such a place this music could heal your broken heart filled with the memories of fading yesterdays and the pain of being left out in the cold without any chance of returning .....A masterpiece!!!!!!
Report this review (#133638)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album i have to confes was a litle bit of a dissepointment yust a litle bit its a realy great album but seeing it is the most popular and highest rated PH album on this site i actualy tought it whuld be beter maybe seting my expectaions a bit to high, well the album start off realy great with Modern maybe my favorite song on the album, the song are very sonic musicaly very raw that i like very much and hammill sings about how we are prisons in the big city's or something like that. Wilhelmina is a good ballad that whuld have fited in good on the previus album, and adds good divesety on the album. The Lie (Bernini's Saint Theresa) is a more typical hammill song with some angry screaming hammill vocals pretty good song but not realy my fav on the album. Forsaken Gardens is another highlight for me toghter with Modern this is realy amazing with the similar them as modern but this time about plants (note that im no lyrical expert while i love hammills lyrics i dont always understand what exact they are about and english is my second langue not makeing it easier and sorry for my sucky spelling too ;). Red Shift is pretty much my least favorite song on the album and its one of the longer ones this song dont realy do anything for me its okay and some nice parts but as a whole this is what drags the album down from the 5 star rating for me it reaminds a litle bit about hawkwind very spacey so i shuld like it tough i dont, i yust dont remeber anything about it when its over. Rubicon is another nice litle ballad and very good sweet lilte song simply. And then the album ends with A Louse Is Not A Home yust like on the preavius album this is a more typical VdGG song and it was probobly meant to be on a vdgg album from the start, and i know they played it live, with lots of diffent sections and things goin on. Its a ghost tale about a house with some creepy things goin on if i understand it right, its very good but i prefer The Black room/the tower from the preavius album. So all in all this is for me not a masterpeice like Cameleon in the shadow of the nigh and "In Camera" but still a great Hammill album no doubt whory of 4 stars.
Report this review (#147281)
Posted Friday, October 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I discovered VDGG a very long time ago, and when I looked at the friends that surround Peter for his earlier ''solo'' work, I really wonder why VDGG was put to a (temporarily) end after "Pawn Hearts".

All the likes of Jackson, Evans and Banton are featured on his first three albums (and the story will go on, episodically, for quite some time) which is an excellent news but plunge me in some perplexity. Was this all necessary?

This album starts almost like a VDGG one. The noisy moments are back and the organized cacophony is fully present during "Modern". A dark yet strong song. The next "Wilhelmina" sounds as "Man-Erg" for a while. Simple piano and the man. So vibrant. Just the two of them. He is probably the one and only to be able to bring me these feelings. One of his very good songs. A delicacy.

The structure of "The Lie" is almost similar but the vocals are more tortured. If you would have added some powerful sax in here, this would have been another great VDDG song. As such, it reaches the barrier of the good piece of music.

As if my vow would need to be fulfilled, this is exactly what happens during "Forsaken Gardens" as well as with "Red Shift". Other highlights from this very good album so far which can be considered by now as another VDGG album actually. At least, I feel that way.

As during his prior album, Peter had the good idea to release a long and great song as the closing number. The counterpart of "Black Room" here is "A Louse Is Not A Home". A wonderful journey in the dark and sad affairs, with vocals changing from delicate to screaming, but always passionate. The band following the pattern brilliantly.

Gloomy atmosphere, scary. Thinking that I'll go to bed just after this review (it's about three AM here). Not very comforting. This piece of work is really on par with the greatest Van Der Graaf Generator songs. Maybe because it is one?

Four stars for this Silent Corner. By far his best ''solo'' work so far. Thanks Peter.

Report this review (#169755)
Posted Saturday, May 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
5 stars Review 55, The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage, Peter Hammill, 1974


The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage was my first venture into Peter Hammill's solo career, and every bit as stunning as I could have expected. Given that it features my favourite lyricist and vocalist, as well as the assorted members of Van Der Graaf Generator, it couldn't have really flopped for me, but I was not expecting so diverse, powerful and interesting a range of material. Consistently superb, with highlights beyond all expectation and lowlights virtually non-existent.

Modern kicks off the album with an odd ascending acoustic before Hammill's vocal enters, clear but extremely dark. The second verse features a much starker and more aggressive delivery to match the increased intensity of the lyrics. The piece features roaring sax, whirling electric guitar with an eclectic edge and a very driven, near-mechanical bass. A desolate mid-section features softer organ, and hollower twists on the acoustics. Throughout the two vocal sections and intermediate instrumental section, the piece is horrifically dark, highly eclectic and powerful. Hammill's vocals are, as usual, entirely stunning, with matching lyrical city-characterisations fitting the delivery brilliantly. Certainly one of the best.

Wilhelmina is a contrast to Modern's intensity, with a basic piano-vocal entrance gradually being supplemented by bass and later acoustics and something that sounds like a harpsichord. The mellotron makes an appearance when appropriate. All the performances are excellent, piano, vocals, acoustics, and the end piece is a very personal and touching song.

The Lie is similar in its feel to the opener, though achieving the darkness and intensity in a very different way. The piece is basically sharp piano, incredibly powerful vocals, and a whirling synthesiser thing. Later on in the song, church-like organ makes its appearance. The final two lines are perfectly handled, moving from optimism to rejection. Brilliant, and lyrically enigmatic and potent.

Forsaken Gardens is the first didactic piece in the album with a related theme to Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. A capella opens the song, and piano and bass again feature prominently. Guy Evans' percussion and David Jaxon's flute are added skilfully to this mix, along with sax and a more harmonised vocal. A very convincing argument for community and more open lives is presented by emotional vocals with the support of incredible musical material, managing to be persuasive as well as thoroughly rock-based. A very impressive combination, and worth more words than I've given to it.

Red Shift moves back to sheer experimentalism, again featuring Guy Evans with a very odd bass-disregarding drumming part. Very thick bass and guitar feature, as well as a wonderfully unrelated/disassociated guitar solo. The vocals move between very strong and prominent to equally strong, but fading and disappearing. The incoherence and alienation is conveyed well musically and quite naively, but without feeling unconnected and without alienating the listener. Wonderful, even if it took a fair few listens to 'get'.

Rubycon features a clean vocal, with resonant quality, and is very lyrically dominated with its interesting and intelligent evocation of choice. Oddball acoustic guitar and bass are most of the instrumental content, though slippery sax does turn up on occasion. I did only get it after focusing on the lyrical content more actively.

A Louse Is Not A Home is simply one of the best pieces of music ever, certainly in my top ten. It is very much a Van Der Graaf Generator-styled piece, with splintering sax, cascading rock drumming and subtle organ featuring alongside the dark, potent piano. High-tempo powerful rock meets softer breaks, haunting and tense slow parts, vocal parts fast enough to make it difficult to sing along and varied enough to equal A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers. All of these extremely varied features are merged into one entirely coherent whole. Lyrically stunning, both in terms of its personal connection (and its mildly didactic nature), clever recurring themes that become clear with a little examination, delivery and stylistic originality. Stunning throughout, and an essential piece for anyone.

The live version of The Lie included on the remaster follows this after a sufficient break and is different enough from the studio version to merit inclusion. An extended piano introduction opens it with stunning energy and haunting resonance. The vocal begins softly, and only later moves onto hideous force similar to the studio version. The piano is slightly more edgy and abrupt than the studio version. All these differences pay off brilliantly, and suggest that I am highly deficient in Hammill and VDGG live material. The sound quality isn't brilliant, but that doesn't really bother me.

The other two live versions (BBC sessions) feature David Jaxon. Rubycon features wonderful flute additions, as well as some significant twists on the acoustics. It holds up surprisingly well without the bass, and the vocal performance is equally sublime. Red Shift is very different in arrangement, though it is essentially the same song, with acoustics taking over the role of the bass, harmonised vocals appearing, and the sax taking over flawlessly from the lead guitar. The vocals are stunning, and the acoustics are done with energy and verve. A surprisingly strong and loyal live adaptation for such a complex piece by (as I understand it) only two performers. The sound quality on these two is perfectly good. Overall, the bonus material adds to the album and my enjoyment of it, fitting in neatly at the end without imposing itself on the listener.

Given my glowing review, I can in good conscience consider it a masterpiece. Essential for anyone who enjoys Van Der Graaf Generator or high-quality lyrical content. Anyone who doesn't fall into those two groups should still find something of interest.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: A Louse Is Not A Home

Report this review (#176496)
Posted Friday, July 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. For many Hammill fans this is the one, their favourite. With Banton, Evans and Jackson on board it might as well be a VDGG album right ? Well it's probably the most VDGG sounding record that Hammill did anyway. I have to say that this album only recently clicked with me. This was tough going. Experimental and dark, with Peter's tortured and theatrical vocals doesn't exactly make this very accessible. In fact I think this music would clear out unwanted guests fairly quickly.

"Modern" opens with strummed guitar as vocals and fuzz bass join in. Mellotron foods in before Hammill spits out the lyrics. Organ and an atmospheric interlude after 2 1/2 minutes. It's building 4 1/2 minutes in as it becomes pretty dark and experimental. Vocals are back before 6 1/2 minutes. "Wilhelmina" is a song for Guy Evans' daughter who they called Willie. Piano and vocals lead the way. Mellotron 3 1/2 minutes in is a nice touch. "The Lie (Bernini's Saint Teresa)" is a rant against organised religion. The vocals get really passionate here, but the lyrics are even more biting. I really like his reserved vocals with piano to open. Organ 2 1/2 minutes in before it calms right down after 3 minutes. The organ is back before 5 minutes reminding us of church. Experimental ending.

"Forsaken Gardens" is a song VDGG would play after the Godbluff reformation. Fragile vocals, piano and flute early. Evans comes pounding in on the drums before 2 minutes as the tempo picks up. Very meaningful lyrics about the suffering and pain in the world. Amazing track. I like the sax that comes in later. The drumming is really upfront as well. "Red Shift" features guest the late Randy California from the band SPIRIT on guitar. Hammill said the talking at the start of the song was a mistake and shouldn't have been left on there. This track goes back to the sixties. It has a psychedelic flavour to it. I like the sax, and the drumming is outstanding. The guitar comes in after 5 minutes and suits the psychedelic mood. The guitar goes on for 2 minutes. Nice.

"Rubicon" is mostly strummed guitar, bass and vocals. "A Louse Is Not A Home" had already been played by VDGG before the band broke up and was originally to be on their next album that was obviously didn't happen at the time. Almost gothic vocals to open with piano. The tempo and mood really sway back and forth a lot. Hammill is incredible vocally on this track. This really is a monster song, a classic ! I like the drumming late followed by the floating organ to end it.

Patience might be the key here. This is still growing on me.

Report this review (#188060)
Posted Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Willie, what can I say to you? this album right now!!!! I´m not one to make those 10 best.. rankings, since is very hard for me to decide the exact order in which I like albums or artists. Anyway, in the unlikely case someone asked me for my favourite album of all times, The silent corner and the empty stage would be a most probable answer. Therefore, seems like an obvious choice for my first review. The album opens with the stunning Modern, with its dark and oppressive mood, edgy Fripp-influenced guitars and razor sharp vocals (sure Halford got that one!). I particularly like the wicked blues section in the middle. When a record starts in such a way, it hardly gets any better, but...this one does!!!. Whilelmina is a classic Hammill ballad, really pleasant. The lie is another of the album¨s headlights; with Hammill singing darkly over Banton´s church organ, it really gives you the feeling of being alone in an obscured church. Then comes Forsaken gardens, another gem with a perfect melody and a vulcanic vocal performance. Side B starts with Red shift, the most crimson-esque song to my ears, sounds inspired by the mid section of Schizoid man. And surely an amazing one. Rubicon is the lowpoint of the album, not bad but nothing special about it. Alea jacta est. And in the end...A louse is not a home, maybe the best song Hammill ever wrote...maybe the best song anyone ever wrote, who knows. The whole VDGG lineup performing a very VDGG sounding one, with several parts, each one better than the other, sang by PH in a way that no one could match, not even himself, going fron whispers to spine-chilling screams. A perfect closing for a perfect album. A dark, somber, almost painfully beautiful album, with perfect geometry.And the lyrics...well they are brilliant, even for Hammill´s standards. Although it doesn´t sound like a concept one to me, most of the songs deal with loneliness and isolation in our world, most clearly in Forsaken Gardens (After all, what are we trying to do in the internet forums but showing our gardens to other people before each root is killed?). As he states in Modern: people are drawn together simultaneously torn apart. And in Red shift he compares isolation in our society to the movement of gallaxies away from each other.The feeling of solitude in this album is so intense that he ends up with the conclusion that people are imaginary, nothing else exists. The only weak spot would be the sound quality, that as in all PH/VDGG early records is quite poor (Notice that I own the Caroline CD, I haven´t heard the remastered version), but in a way it adds to that feeling of disquieting mistery. Would I really want a better produced version? Who knows. All in all, you might have noticed that I really like this record. Even though my wife, who doesn´t speak english, calls it agonizing music. A perfect match???
Report this review (#188353)
Posted Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the corner... an olympic goal!! Peter is on the high level...a la VDGG!!! All pieces are perfectly correlated to the wild hammillian spirit! It´s art and it´s a wonderful and powerful touch of perfection. Voices, arrangements, musicianship, ambience,climax, prog-art-sympho-..... Could be a VDGG disc and Peter flies over the lights of the years...being now an absolutely masterpiece!!!

Peter and his friend making good, very goog art-music. It is a classic one.

Willie does not lie, perhaps too much modern to our forsaken gardens but we must trespass the rubicon with a red shift to understand that a louse is not a home!!!

I?,I?,I?....... Monsieur s´il vous plaît!!!!


10 stars

Good luck and red shift!

Palinurus...the castaway

Report this review (#202403)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars I just love this album! Peter Hammills best solo album undoubtedly! Very dark and depressing lyrics reminescent of Pink Floyd but musically it almost sounds like a King Crimson album musically. Modern is a crazy song in which Hammills vocals almost sound as if he is deranged. Wilhelmina is a full-blown prog rock ballad, a love song that shows Peter Hammils lighter side. Forsaken Gardens is a hidden gem in the prog rock catalog and A Louse Is Not a Home is one of the best epics Hammill has ever written in which his vocals are almost operatic. All through the album you get the feeling that this is a Van Der Graaf Generator album and not Hammills solo work and it's no wonder, three of the original members play on the album! Excellent work by Peter Hammill!
Report this review (#216217)
Posted Saturday, May 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is essential for all VDGG/PH fans and a masterpiece of progressive music. Peter Hammill has a very dynamic and unique voice that can be polarizing, so I would stop short of saying that this is essential for every prog collection. It is, however, a masterpiece that deserves 5 stars. Hammill displays some of his best and most diverse vocals on this album, and it is a lot like a Van Der Graaf Generator album, but where Hammill gets a big chance to shine. I find his vocals on many of the tracks on this album to be better than anything he has done with VDGG. All of Hammilll's best vocal styles are on display, from dark and tormented, to calm and beautiful. The highlight of the album has to be A Louse is not a Home, which you can listen to on this site. All the musicians from VDGG play on this album, so it is almost a VDGG and fans of the band are sure to enjoy it. For people who are not fans of them, unless you really dislike Hammill's voice, this could be the album that really makes to realize how great he is. I know that personally I though Hammill was just different but not great and it took me a while to really come to love his vocals. There are some who have given Hammill a chance and strongly dislike him, so for those people this album is not essential to your collection. For everyone else, The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is a masterpiece of progressive music, essential for any Hammill fan and a great place to start for someone who has never heard of him.
Report this review (#232127)
Posted Monday, August 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars 3rd Delivery of the England born thin man, the music, a fusion between classical and modern, electric sounds created from synths and turn with acoustic, delayed and bizar guitars. This Silenet Cornes... it´s a kind of a different album, not for anyone who hits his first chords from "Modern" a tune that begins with acoustic guitar and change forming to create a mortar sound, frenetic, intense, fallen as they were arming themselves, Hammill music revolves around the feelings of being; ears from an existential and nihilistic ... Love, sadness, depression, madness and a little bit of light and hope. Musical structures are very complex, a bit away from what he did with Van Der Graff, a sound more melodic, acoustic and classic ...
Report this review (#232395)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
4 stars The Silent Corner and The Empty Stage is Peter Hammill's third solo record. The album is technically an huge leap forward from his previous album. Silent Corner contains lots of experimentation, like the heavy fuzz sound on "Modern", the distorted bass on "A Louse is Not a Home", and the heavy use of an oscillator on the whole album.

The heavy experimentation can clearly be heard on the first track, "Modern", a bass heavy and very dissonant sounding song. The song starts out very interesting, with some good verses, and acoustic guitar playing. Soon after this a extremely fuzzy sounds come in. The song is incredibly dark and ominous and took me a while to get into. Another rather bombastic track is "Forsaken Gardens", a song with pretty much the same structure as VDGG's Still Life, from the same titled album. "Forsaken Gardens" is a very enjoyable and dramatic song, one of the best on the album, and perhaps one of the best Peter Hammill has ever made.

The album contains three songs that somewhat sound like most of the material from Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night. "Wilhelmina", "The Lie" and "Rubicon" are more minimalist tracks, and are less experimental than most of the album. The songs all are interesting, though nothing more. Exception is "The Lie", which is much stronger and more interesting than the two. The two remaining tracks on the album are "Red Shift" and the epic "A Louse is Not a Home". "Red Shift" is an extremely experimental and mysterious, brilliant piece of music, and it always keeps me interested.

The magnificent climax, "A Louse is Not a Home" is probably the best song on the album, and arguably the best song Peter Hammill has ever made. The song starts pretty minimalist with only piano and vocals, but soon the song becomes a bombastic masterpiece, with lots of amazing unexpected changes and some of the best lyrics I've ever seen. The melancholic music and lyrics in combination with Peter's extremely powerful and haunting vocals make this song one of the most extraordinary ever made. A true masterpiece.

This album deserves four stars in my opinion. From the three "classic" Peter Hammill albums (Chameleon, this one and In Camera) I probably enjoy this one the least though. The magnificent "Red Shift" and "A Louse is Not a Home" really worth the money though, they're both masterpieces. I would recommend this to anyone who's (getting) into Peter Hammill, but I think he has made a few better solo albums.

Report this review (#237966)
Posted Monday, September 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Obviously, when you have to review an album that has been a long-lasting companion, it's entirely different then assessing music you've just come to know for a few years.

Can you be impartial and review it without nostalgic sentiment? Or doesn't it stand a chance against new stuff that always sounds so fresh and exiting? Can you avoid being over-critical when you know every little detail of it by heart? When it comes to Hammill's Silent Corner, the answer to those questions would be 'No'. Thrice.

No, I'm not impartial. This used to be my Hammill favorite at an age where one doesn't listen to new albums every day. So whatever you listened to, you put almost on endless repeat. As such, the album became an essential part of your life and every time you hear it again, you're flashed back, right to the days and ambiance of your past.

No, it doesn't stand a chance against new stuff. The acoustic guitar and piano sounds old and aged. The rusty production can't live up to modern standards.

No, I can't help feeling critical towards the often weird twists in the songs and the theatrical vocals. Nor can I always support Hammill's naďve and inexperienced choices in the sonic arrangements.

So no, I wouldn't be surprised if even the people that have similar tastes wouldn't get this album at all. Luckily, many seem to share my appreciation of this masterpiece: the pure emotion, the sparkling creativity! 4.5 stars!

Report this review (#248127)
Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This is so far my favorite Hammill solo effort. The album starts with Modern which is easily the best intro track out of the Peter Hammill trilogy and sets a great mood for the rest of this release. There isn't really a single lesser/weak composition here and, once again, the trilogy-album ends on its biggest highlight.

I just realized that I still haven't said anything about the lyrics that are so prominent on all Peter Hammill albums. Forsaken Gardens is my favorite lyrical theme of this album because it deals with such ground breaking every realizations that are just too good to be contemplated on by a 25-year old.

Still this albums biggest highlight is A Louse Is Not A Home which will always be one of my top ten favorite compositions ever recorded! There is just nothing I can write that will be good enough praise for it so I'll just recommend everyone to listen to the sample available here on Prog Archives!

***** star songs: Forsaken Gardens (6:15) A Louse Is Not A Home (12:13)

**** star songs: Modern (7:28) Wilhelmina (5:17) The Lie (Bernini's Saint Theresa) (5:40) Red Shift (8:11) Rubicon (4:11)

Report this review (#259878)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am a huge fan of VdGG so I decided to check Peter Hammill's solo records too. I usually don't check band artists solo albums, because they are almost always sub-par to band efforts. But since the wholo band actually is present on the album, I gave it a try. I was (very) pleasantly surprised!

The first three tracks have almost no instruments except for Peter's acoustic guitar. The songs are just epic. Peter Hammill whispers, he screams, he soars, he growls. The emotion and dynamics are out of this world. The last track, A Louse Is Not a Home and Redshift are probably my favorite tracks. Not to say there is a bad track on the album, they are all excellent.

The lyrics are of course coming from Peter Hammill are dark in nature, poetic and just top- notch.

This should have been a VdGG album. I don't know why Peter decided to disband VdGG, and then record solo albums with exactly the same lineup. This album would get much more attention and would have been just better known had it bore the VdGG name. Oh, well...

Recommended for fans of VdGG and generally fans of excellent, vocal-driven prog. If Peter Hammill isn't the most versatile, enduring and excellent vocalist alive, I don't know who is...

Report this review (#279388)
Posted Sunday, April 25, 2010 | Review Permalink

This is my first ever review on progarchives and I am not (yet) sure about my critique-writing skills.

The Silent Corner is one of the three Hammill's solo albums I've heard to this day (the other two are Fool's Mate and Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night). Peter has made another step forward compared to Chameleon, and Silent Corner is nothing less than a prog-rock masterpiece. It can easily be compared with the greatest VDGG masterpieces (H to He, Pawn Hearts, Godbluff and Still Life). His companions Hugh Banton, Guy Evans and David Jackson also have to be mentioned, because they play a very important role on this album.

There are seven songs on the album and every single one is at least good. Modern and Red Shift are probably the two most experimental pieces of the album. Wilhelmina, Forsaken Gardens and Rubicon are all beautiful songs with epic elements, great lyrics and (as always) magnificent singing by Peter. The Lie is in my opinion the second best track of the album. Peter's singing suits the lyrics so incredibly well that it has to be heard to be believed. And without a doubt the greatest song of The Silent Corner is the epic 12-minute long masterpiece, A Louse is not a Home, probably the best song about schizophrenia ever. The complexity and variety of emotions on this track are crazy and Peter's voice is at its absolute peak.

To sum up, The Silent Corner is an almost perfect album. It presents Hammil's art in the best possible way and is therefore a must-have for anyone who appreciates VDGG and/or Pete Hammill. And for anyone who doesn't know them yet, but loves progressive music and is ready to try something new.

Report this review (#417942)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#475453)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars A refinement and perfection of the model established on Chameleon In the Shadow of the Night. Once again, the whole of Van der Graaf Generator returns to record a storming version of a track originally intended for the followup to Pawn Hearts - in this case, it's A Louse Is Not a Home, which takes the themes of isolation and dissolution of identity from In the Black Room and sets it in an architectural framework which results in some of the band's best playing and Hammill's most clever lyrics. ("Maybe... I should... delouse this place... maybe... I should... de- PLACE this LOUSE!!!") Once again, we have odd "prog singer-songwriter" tracks with Hammill alone or accompanied by sparse instrumentation, as on Wilhelmina or The Lie.

There are also some masterful collaborations, such as Red Shift (featuring Spirit's Randy California on guitar), and some tracks which once again reveal a learning for prog excess, such as Forsaken Gardens. And opening track Modern is one of the most startlingly original of the tracks that Hammill developed during the VdGG hiatus between Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, pointing the way to the avant-garde experimentation his solo career would take in later eras. Quite simply vital.

Report this review (#509877)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sometimes it's very scared. Sometimes it's very sad. Sometimes is something else. It's Prog!

I think "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage" is the best album of PH. The previous work ("Fool's Mate" and "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night") are full of songs that are very intimate and very personal. Compared to the first two records, "Silent Corner" is much more closer to the style of VDGG.

Certaily, it is very difficult to remain indifferent to an album like this. Without doubt those who do not know Hammill might find some parts of this album almost insufferable: if you are not prepared for the brilliant and unconventional way of making music of PH, you might find difficult to digest some songs (Modern for example is a piece incredibly experimental, very rough and full of dissonance). However there are more melodic moments like Wilhelmina and Forsaken Gardens (this latter is a song that could be part of any album of VDGG). More modest and bland Rubicon, which reveals a fleeting return to the simplicity of "Fool's Mate".

But now the masterpieces: Red Shift, manages to be incredibly harmonious in its disordered succession of echoes and sound effects. Randy California plays something here. The Lie dramatic and intense, is the apex of the Gothic style of Hammill. A Louse Is Not A Home is probably the best song of the album: after starting apparently sad and resigned, the song develops in an extraordinary way with continuous changes of time signatures and different atmospheres: yes, it's Prog! The decisive contribution of the other members of VDGG (and in particular David Jackson at sax) is very evident here.

In conclusion, a masterpiece of Prog. Five stars and a final rating of 9/10.

Best song: A Louse Is Not A Home

Report this review (#585491)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars As already pointed out by many, this is a true VdGG lost album, and one of their best at that. Unfortunately it is still somewhat overlooked here on this forum and most of my friends who are into prog do not even know it exists. The lyrical impact of "Forsaken Gardens" as well as the frantic and at the same time monumental "A louse is not a home" is really hard to top. The structure of most of the songs, especially the dissonant yet highly expressive "Modern" and again the Louse are progressive in their deepest core and the reason why I appreciate this genre so much. "Forsaken gardens" is a work of sheer beauty, musically and lyrically and a song that I have listened over and over again and have never ceased to be amazed by its elegance and significance. The only bad thing about it is the short running time. During the years this album has become an intimate friend of mine even tough I am not usually listening to music this dark.

Modern: 9/10 Wilhelmina: 8/10 The lie: 7.5/10 Forsaken Gardens: 9.5/10 Red shift: 8/10 Rubicon: 6/10 A louse is not a home: 10/10

Report this review (#591929)
Posted Tuesday, December 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars Controlled passionate vocals, dynamic everchanging music, mindbending lyrics - "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage".

Peter Hammill's solo efforts only appealed to me due to my avid interest in the mighty Van der Graaf Generator. Hammill's voice has a distinct storyteller quality that has made him a popular icon of the prog scene for many years. At least 3 of his solo albums have become revered treasures and "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage" is definitely one that is closer to the VDGG sound than many others. Jaxon, Banton and Evan's contribution is of course a primary reason for the Van der Graafian sounds. The consistent quality of the songs is another reason for the high status of this album; whereas many Hammill albums wallow on one style, this one throws in a plethora of styles and holds the interest on repeat listens. it also contains arguably Hammill's finest solo composition 'A Louse is not a Home'.

In the first 5 seconds Hammill makes his presence known with the exhilarating 'Modern' with potent lyrics; "Jericho's strange, throbbing with life at its heart, people are drawn together simultaneously torn apart." His vocals are a pervasive force. The music is as VDGG as it can get with fuzz bass and odd time sigs with very unusual instrumentation. In the liner notes Hammill states the song is, "simply a sonic assault." There is nothing simple about this with its weird meter and shifting moody atmospheres. The instrumental break is a dynamic soundwave of hyper tense musical structures, high pitched soprano saxophone screeches from Jaxon, and an ominous build-up of Banton's keyboard and Hammill's angular phased guitar. Then after this tension it releases into a new time sig and back to the descending acoustic chords. The dissonance of woodwind competing against the melody is astonishing.

'Wilhelmina' is a piano ballad similar to the softer VDGG songs where Hammill croons about his existential state of mind. However the lyrics of this are more focussed on the love of Guy Evans daughter and giving advice to how she can cope with the changes in her life as she grows to be a lady. Quite beautiful and a little sad in tone. 'The Lie' features a slow cadence and the familiar cathedral organ of Banton. At times Hammill rises to his passionate aggressive voice and it even climaxes on a grinding Hammond blast. It is also directed towards Evans' daughter.

A capella Hammill begins 'Forsaken Gardens', a slow moderate melancholy song. Hammill points out in the album notes, "we played it on a few occasions after the "Godbluff" reformation." It is a transition between the two VDDG periods and sounds similar to that style, building with flute and some scorching sax passages. It is so great to hear that sax on a Hammill solo release, a part of the more recent VDGG albums that was sorely missed for a time. The birds twittering at the end is an effect using Hammill's Fluid Sound Box, a Leslie effect according to Hammill.

'Red Shift' is a track that must rank as one of the solo highlights, along with the album closer. It begins with some narrative, spacey sax squeals and a VDGG time sig. Lyrics are off the planet, "once all the stars were bright now they are red and fading, and all the colours we wore, the shades that we bore have moved, and the gold turns to red with no time for changes: Red shift all moving away from we." The chorus is a slow meter vocally, with odd sporadic percussion from Evans. This is a darker song on the album and Jaxon's sax is dynamic. The track immerses the listener into its dark recesses as only Hammill can.

The release of the next track, 'Rubicon' is a welcome relief. It is acoustically driven and peaceful with some poetic beauty; "open the toy box, you are Pandora, I am the world, if you cross the stream you can never return."

The last song is the clincher, the masterpiece of the album, 'A Louse is not a Home' and it reeks of VDGG. It should, as the band were going to add this to their new album before they disbanded again. The sound is pitch dark and reflects the downbeat lyrical content which at times is brilliant; "my words are spiders upon the page, they spin out faith, hope and reason, but are they meet and just, or only dust gathering about my chair" and later "day is just a word I use to keep the dark at bay, and people are imaginary, nothing exists except except the room I'm sitting in, and of course the all-pervading mist - " Hammill is chilling speaking of a presence of someone watching him and his paranoia is frightening.

The time sig that pounds with Banton's staccato sax blasts and loud guitar is similar to the "Pawn Hearts" era. It soon settles into quiet meditative reflections. The haunting solitude is an intense atmosphere, with spasms of sax and organ. It builds with a ferocity and Hammill's scream to the world is unnerving. It returns to the huge melodic motif at the beginning with, "maybe I should delouse this place, maybe I should deplace this louse, maybe I'll maybe my life away, in the confines of this silent house." A brilliant eargasm clocking 12 minutes and encompassing the best of Hammill in his blackest mood.

The bonus tracks are intriguing raw versions of album tracks played live in various locales and with varying quality. The rumbling thunder of Hammil's piano is a weapon to project his anger and anxiety on 'The Lie', especially the primal scream at the end. As Hammil makes clear in the liner notes, "somewhat deficient in sound quality but very much there in Presence." 'Rubicon' live is a flute driven evocative version, 'Red Shift' is acoustic and sax dominated, no drums necessary fore either recorded at BBC Radio One. "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage" is a definitive Hammill classic and certainly one for VDGG fans as well as those with a proclivity for dark atmospheric moods.

Report this review (#613116)
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Before beginning this review, I should say I've tried to find the best way to begin literally a half dozen times to fully express just how truly sublime the album is and decided that it's beyond words. I'm not the type to review an album before I feel I've had a chance to honestly assess just how strong it is based on initial impressions, lasting impact, and level of musical achievement. This album has all three of these qualities in such high regard that I can't help but rave over it. Every track masterfully crafted, showcasing Hammill's wildly diverse compositional talents. And not only that, but his lyrical talents reach a pinnacle of poetic quality the likes of which you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Everything about it, from its dark atmosphere to its almost manic level of diversity to the intriguing yet tasteful complexities us prog fans know and love is on point, and I believe everybody should at least give it a chance, whether you're a VDGG fan or not.

Modern is a driving, intense song that really captivates you and refuses to let you go from start to finish. Quite an impressive feat, considering it doesn't implement all that many instruments if you sit down and analyze its textures closely (not a single drum on the track, but I guarantee you won't miss em).

Wilhelmia is a primarily piano and vocal driven piece. It features wonderfully reflective lyrics reminiscent of "House With No Door", although directed instead at a single person rather than any anonymous listener as in the aforementioned H to He standout.

The Lie evokes the gothic with its enveloping organ, piano, and echoing vocals. If you close your eyes, you almost feel like you're in the middle of a cathedral. Dark and gloomy, yet larger than life, this piece transports you to a unique place within yourself and reaches new heights of emotion thanks to Hammill's dynamic range and expressive variety. Truly a standout that everyone can enjoy, assuming you don't get too bummed by the subject matter.

Forsaken Gardens is a track that serves as a great contrast to the first three pieces by recalling the classic VDGG sound. The first track that utilizes the full band thus far, it brings a frech energy and new dynamic that grabs your attention in a unique way. The lyric is more optimistic than the previous tracks as well if one chooses to heed the warning conveyed by Hammill's words.

Red Shift is a track unlike any other I've heard before listening to this album. Its spectral vocal texture and jazzy, experimental instrumental components create a track that to me symbolizes one of the most charming qualities of the album: its variety and willingness to venture into previously uncharted territories, as far as Hammill's songwriting goes. I will say this much about the track: DO NOT form a hasty opinion based on the first listen. It's a little more out there than most other songs within his entire artistic output by comparison, when you look at the nature of how he usually constructs and delivers his material. Given how diverse this album has been thus far, however, it feels right at home and after taking the time to give it the attention it deserves, it's one of my personal favorites.

Rubicon is a lighter track, but by no means would I regard it as a mere palate cleanser. No, this track offers a unique imagery with its lyrics. It's much more peaceful than the other tracks and offers something special, also far removed from his usual offerings. It may be more tame and shorter than the other tracks, but the album would be incomplete without it. Lyrically beautiful and its gentle textures are so inviting. A unique journey in its own right.

But then...

You hear this...

A Louse is Not a Home...

Guys and girls, I'm literally tearing up right now writing about this true masterpiece of music. Let me just say this track right here is on par with or surpasses the following: Starless, Close to the Edge, Supper's Ready, Tarkus, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers... I could go on, but in the interest of not pissing off those with differing opinions any further, I digress. This monumental track features not only some of Hammill and company's most tasteful, varied, intricate instrumental work, but the plethora of moods and emotions they's like every possible introspective emotion will be channelled and confronted with each atmospheric change. And the lyrics! And the lyrics... You just have to hear them. I'd even say just look them up on your own even if you haven't heard the song. The poetry itself will change you. It hits you in a place within yourself you may not give enough attention, as it discusses issues of identity, feeling uncomfortable and even threatened by yourself and your surroundings, and feelings of internal homelessness and instability. His vocal delivery has always been very powerful and confronting, but here he really fires on all cylinders, almost as though his life depended on getting out this message. Almost as though by getting out this message, he can be absolved of this feeling within himself...

If you're on the fence about this album for any reason, I would say that no matter what your musical preferences are, you're likely to find something on this album you can at least appreciate. Even friends and family of mine who don't like VDGG have told me they thought this album contains qualities they can appreciate. No matter what, there will always be something new to discover within each of these songs as well. Each one its own world containing its own message, but somehow still strongly unified into one of the most cohesive collections of tunes I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. 5 stars without hesitation.

Report this review (#894313)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Peter Hammill's The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is a classic of prog rock. Hamill fuses rock, folk and experimental jazz elements into a unique, powerful and accessible sound. Lyrically, the album deals with the big issues of life, love and death, often in quite personal terms, with the vocals delivered in Hammill's characteristic dramatic and emotive style.

It is the final song, A Louse is not a Home, that really lifts this record into the masterpiece category for me. This is a twelve and a half minute journey into the mind of an emotionally and physically isolated individual seeking connection with others and fearing for his own sanity : 'Sometimes it's very scary here/sometimes it's very sad/sometimes I think I'll disappear/betimes I think I have.' This monumental song contains Hammill's most brilliant writing, lyrically and musically.

An essential record for those interested in darker, emotional progressive music.

Report this review (#1091562)
Posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars 40 Years On: The Silent Corner

The Actor Plays His Last Elegy to the Deserted Pews

I must have been incredibly tired or maybe a bit under the influence of something on the night that I first heard The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage. I mean, I like the album now, but at the time when I first heard this, I was entranced. Never had I known something so well produced and forward-thinking to come out of the 70's. It was so immaculately played, the production could be from a modern Porcupine Tree album, and the melodies were just as stellar. This was a rare, rare find for me. It even had a great cover! Those were rare in the 70's as well.

Because, you see, I'm a modern prog man, and I always have been. I can listen back to the classics, and appreciate them for the influence on material I love or their ingenuity in creating something never made before, but I, simply put, just couldn't ever enjoy them as much as a modern album. I'm not sure whether it's bias against old sounds (likely) or the fact that music is simply better now (also likely), but for me, finding an old record that I enjoy is a milestone. After time, I have learnt to appreciate Selling England by the Pound and Thick as a Brick, basically all the lauded prog records with the exception of anything by Yes (who have always evaded me). But to find a record that clicked as fast as The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is a rare thing. The only other ones I can honestly think of would be In the Court of the Crimson King and Misplaced Childhood.

But I fear I did jump the gun a bit, as I realise every time the stunningly weird opening track of "Modern" comes on in each subsequent listen. How I was so perplexed by this jarring and seriously odd introductory track is beyond me, since I can't really find much of the glory I felt when I first heard it. It's abrasive and confusing, and contains some of the noisiest and weirdest guitar tones that were available in 1974, not to mention the oddly free-time way that the vocals are sung and that odd brass part during the bridge. It's songs like this, and a couple later on in the album, that single out The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage as a defining album in the early stages of avant-prog, coming just as Magma took off with Zeuhl and Henry Cow pioneered Rock In Opposition.

But it isn't all bad, I still thoroughly enjoy this album as I did when I first stumbled upon it, but just not to the extent. The next two tracks, both heavily reliant on Peter's piano/vocal combination, are far more to my liking, even if both have their weaknesses. What I adore about The Silent Corner as an album, and these two tracks are probably the best representation of this, is how much it feels like a lonely soul upon a stage belting his lungs out about feelings in the most theatrical and epic way imaginable. I wouldn't exactly call this a rock opera, but there are certainly huge elements of theatricality in the album, which is the reason I call it one of the most perfectly titled albums in existence (although "Modern", and most of the B-side don't entirely fit this theme). Both these track are more or less Peter smashing a piano and singing in an evidently large room with echoes raining around and the thunderous roar of the low end keys filling up every corner of the stage. It doesn't feel like a big audience production, no, it feels more like something hours after a play has finished, the stage has been cleared and it's just a solitary man with a piano, singing about his false persona or his act or his feelings or whatever any of these songs are really about.

"Wilhelmina" is more of a ballad piece than "The Lie", focusing on a simple vocal melody and some quite introspective lyrics, speaking to a child, the hope of the next generation. In my melodramatic version of how I believe these songs are portrayed, this is the epic when the actor realises that he is lost or fake or dying and needs to leave (suicide) and his child, of a lost mother, is the only thing left and he has to give her away. I love the amazing sense of cliché and melodrama in this track, yet despite knowing that, it still doesn't fail to touch you. Unfortunately, the melody introduced at the end ("don't think that I'm silly?") is probably the best in the track, and each time I hear it, I hear a massive explosive ending coming soon, but the song simply just stops dead, destroying any feeling I had.

Fortunately, "The Lie" makes up for anything that the previous track killed in its outro, although it does take a couple of minutes to build to something worthwhile. If "Wilhelmina" was the solitary actor on The Empty Stage singing an elegy to a life not yet lived, then "The Lie" is the cathedral, equally empty and containing the same enormous space as the Stage, but filled with spirituality and wonder. The central point of the song, is the statue of the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and although I am not entirely certain of the meaning behind it, some French person has written a 6000-word essay on it, so if you speak French or can tolerate google translator, you should give it a read. But musically, "The Lie" is the best here, because of the sheer emotional delivery that Peter thrusts into it ? "LIKE CHASTITY, LIKE LUCIFER, LIKE MIIIIINNNE", and the sound drains out into the sides of the cathedral, cackling all around and chilling everyone within earshot. It's not the melody or the music that makes this track so chilling, it's the intensity and raw emotion that gets you.

Side one finishes of with a third piano-focused track, "Forsaken Gardens", which is the longest of the three. But although I thoroughly enjoy parts of this song and the verse melody is one of the strongest on the record, I can't say I enjoy the chorus too much, and I feel it brings the song down a few notches in my mind. It sounds a bit more like the classic prog of Genesis and Yes than the other tracks, but the lack of uninspired instrumental wankery means I enjoy it a bit more.

Side two, however, returns back to the avant-prog stylings of "Modern", with the epic track "Red Shift", with its saxophone and chopped and layered vocals spread throughout making it one of the more progressive tracks on the album by the literal definition. The influence from this song on many avant bands to come is obvious. These odd and eclectic moments make their way onto the final track on the album, the epic-length "A Louse is Not a Home", which I honestly have to say took me a few listens to enjoy, but I now consider it one of the better tracks here. The lead motif ("cracked mirror?" melody) is one of the best, and although the song messes around with some weird effects and avant-prog-ness for unnecessary amounts of time, it has the cohesion to feel as a twelve minute track should, with a sense of direction and flow.

The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage may not be the absolute masterpiece that I thought it was when I first heard it, but I still raise it as a classic, simply because it's an album released in 1974 that still has an impact on me, forty years later in 2014. I honestly think this album should be considered more of a classic in prog than anything by Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer. An emotional and complex listen, and most certainly years ahead of its time.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1129115)
Posted Sunday, February 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Naked, stark and pounding sincerity marks a high point of Hammill's tortured persona on The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage. It's a chilling exposé of ravaging emotional stirrings and storms set in a stately musical framework of high-impact melodies, rhythms and sonic posturing with dark experimental bite. Interestingly, it's also very diverse and full of movement in terms of general ideas and musical backing.

Where I've always found Hammill drawn to stripped-down and a bit ponderously simplistic (but dense) arrangements that brings the unhinged emotionality of his vocals front and centre, there's a refreshing delicacy and richness to this album. It's still full of those focused, top-heavy and bare melodies that just barely hold up under the weight of the immense vocal delivery, but in the end it never really loses balance.

Some skeletal and spindly guitar here and there, keyboard noodling and oscillations erratically lost in time and space, a wash of ceremonially dignified organ, a flute deliciously fluttering around like a doomed moth in the vicinity of the otherwise electrified atmosphere, the dry and pure sounds of a harmonium and the ringing, yearning clarity of piano, edgy saxophone. There's more, but the point is that it feels rich and ever so slightly more of an extrovert dialogue (rather than an introvert diatribe), something I've always considered a bonus where Hammill is concerned. Melodies (acoustic or electric) come and go, interlock, reach a burning point in a pressure-relieving and resolving hook or a beautifully placed pause before dissipating into asocial disharmony or starting over in yet another intricate pattern and emotional state. At times it borders a more twisted side of symphonic. There's even enough room for the scaled-down and musically intimate to sneak in with the airier singer-songwriter material you often hear in his solo efforts.

But the real magic comes from how this wealth and diversity flow between sensitive and frail grace and crushing and commanding onslaughts of anger and frustration. It's a constant battle between reflective and lucid moments and grinding chaos and catharsis. Fuzzy, screeching or sharp guitar and dirty bass pommel the unwary into submission and push you ever downwards into spiraling noise, accompanied by an organ collapsing in on itself or another tasty sonic calamity . Other times it's more subtle, letting things move towards uncertainty and madness in gradually disassociating instruments or by lurking hints of trouble in bubbling, underlying atonality.

I guess the middle-point between these two sides are the more rocking Van Der Graaf Generator-styled parts, with spitting, synchronized instrumental and vocal attack, concentrating the layering into sharp, thrusting strikes of unapologetic impact. Everything is lined up and thrown right at you in cascading force, leaving a smell of vitriol and cordite in its wake.

Even if it's never been said outright yet, you might have guessed that this isn't a smooth or forgiving affair. It takes its toll, even the less intense bits. While there are certainly a lot of dark, destructive and frustrated energy, ominous uncertainty and disorder around, even the softer and more melodious bits have a beautiful, but sapping, sadness and haunting melancholia. But in spite of that it is still more welcoming, diverse and outgoing than a lot of Hammill's other output. Just a bit more willingly engaging.

An album that's been growing on me for years and one that's teasingly near the masterpiece status so many think it deserves. Only time will tell.

4 stars.


Report this review (#1142584)
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars An album I bought in the 70s that baffled me and left me cold but which I have revisited many times throughout the years--and more recently--due to its acclaim and curious dissonance. Though Peter's voice has never quite won me over (though his performances on H to He, Who Am The Only One are wonderful), coupled with the fact that I am not a lyric/content man have always left me "outside" music like this. Plus, I do not find any of the instrumental performances impressive or to have stood up very well over time. There seems to be a lot of starkness and relative simplicity in PH/VDGG's recording styles that leave me cold and unimpressed. "Red Shift" is amazing and "A Louse Is Not a Home" is interesting but ultimately always forgettable. There is nothing else here that I can ever attach myself to much less remember despite numerous listenings over forty years.
Report this review (#1166041)
Posted Saturday, April 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Peter Hammill's solo stint during Van der Graaf Generator's original hiatus continues in 1974 with the album ''The silent corner and the empty stage''.This was another record to feature the member's of the demised legendary British band minus bassist Nic Potter, who decided to focus on the attempts on the newly established Long Hello, a jazzy-flavored instrumental group of a Hamill-less Van der Graaf Generator line-up.However the new album features the surprising appearance of Randy California in one track, the guitarist of Psychedelic Rockers Spirit.''The silent corner and the empty stage'' was recorded during two periods, spring and autumn of 1973.The ever-supporting Charisma was once again the labelhouse to support another Van der Graaf Generator-related album.

Reputedly all these early Peter Hammill albums contained material intended for inclusion in future VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's albums, but this one sounds more like a team effort than Hammill's second album and for the first time so close to VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's classic style.And what a team effort it was!It contains a mix of lyrical pieces with full-blown Prog Rock deliveries, based on an epic keyboard sound, an incredible balance between electric and acoustic moments and discreet sax/flute drives with Hammill's voice being deeper and more expressive than ever.The music follows the dark lines of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR with hidden jazzy flavors, atmospheric orchestrations and poetic singing, completing powerful, haunting and complex songs with great instrumental work, full of unexpected twists and sinister moods.The smoother pieces are mostly based on Hammil's unique voice, supported by his piano, guitar and sporadic organ, sax and flutes, but even these tracks are not easy for the non-mystified listener, evolving from poetic atmospheres to Classical nuances to pastoral, acoustic interludes.For the longer and more complicated pieces, words are poor to describe the monumental atmosphrere this group of musicians could create.From an extreme lyricism to the scratching saxophone of David Jackson, from mellow piano lines to symphonic themes, showered by Mellotrons, organs and harsichord, from psychedelic textures with abnormal structures and deep bass to minimalistic sounds with a dark atmosphere, everything seems well placed to create great, progressive pieces with an original character.

The definition of dark and doomy Progressive Rock.There are no silent corners or empty places in this album.This should be easily regarded as a Van der Graaf Generator offshoot work, which means that the content can be no other than passionate, complex and irritating.Highly recommended...4.5 stars.

Report this review (#1172395)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Peter Hammill was born in London 1948 and has a huge discography of progressive rock. I know him particularly for his twelve Van der Graaf Generator record but he is also a solo artist which has done thirty-eight records. These records was in the beginning done with the same line-up such as Van der Graaf Generator so it's not strange that I like this record very much. "The silent corner and the empty stage" from 1974 is Peter Hammill's third studio album. It is amazing that this one celebrates its fourtieth birthday this year. The cover is discreet, showing something soft I don't figure out. The line up is Peter Hammill of course who plays guitar, piano, bass, harmonium, keyboards, mellotron and oscillator and sings, Randy California who plays guitar, Hugh Banton who plays organ, guitar and keyboards, Guy Evans who plays drums and percussion and David Jackson who plays flute and saxophone. So it's almost a common Van der Graaf Generator-record. But I would consider this record different from VDGG anyway. The compositions are more artistic and romantic and not as bombastic, even if they're bombastic enough.

I haven't heard this many times but I know that I love this record. If a musician wonder how to do rock music as pure art this is the answer. The music is brutal as punk and the vocal performance of Hammill is monumental. He extends the though of what you can do on an empty stage. When you listen to this record the stage is definitely not empty anymore. The record has also a longer playing time than other lp:s which is great. The record starts with the new thinking and heavy "Modern" which hits the romantic level this album happens to stand for(9/10). The "Wilhelmina" starts which is one of the most lovely songs I have found in a very long time. The lyrics, the melody and Hammill's vocals make my feelings swell over(10/10). "The Lie" is almost as fantastic, a track of a genius(10/10) and "Forsaken gardens" has a lot of drama and the famous Jackson saxophone and I love this too(10/10). The little acoustic piece "Rubicon" is the least fantastic part of this album(8/10) because the bottom is high. The final is of course "A louse is not a home", the longest track which is a fantastic symphonic tale for those ears which are not afraid of new thinking rock and cacophony. How I wish more musicians were blessed with a musical mind as Hammill(10/10). This record has a self-written place in every prog rock collection and I do not doubt a second to rate this high. A have hard to pick the best songs but "Wilhelmina" holds a special place in my heart, partially because I love the name, and the final "A Louse is not a Home" can you not hear to many times I pick them.

Report this review (#1277592)
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my favorite Hammill's album and along with VDGG's Pawn Hearts my favorite album of all time. The most shoking and most artful in the same time. This album same as VDGG releases isn't for those who think that Pink Floyd defined art rock , no no no, this album is for those who are deranged enough to sit through 50 minute apocalypse and later say : would you like another cup of tea dear? Well, anyway, I really love this album. If Pawn Hearts can be described as an organized chaos this one is chaos and beauty. Yes, so much beauty in this chaos, that's why I like it so much. It's not just chaos, you can find many misarable albums with just chaos. But this, this is MUSIC. And like other early Hammill's albums, the best in that box. Unless you don't want music. So If don't, buy some Can album. But if you want music listen to Peter Hammill and enjoy the perils of pure pleasure.
Report this review (#1511221)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2016 | Review Permalink

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