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Peter Hammill - The Peel Sessions CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill

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5 stars This album consists of Peter Hammill's BBC Sessions (1974 - 1988). Some versions of the songs in here are better than original ones! Take, for instance, the two classic tracks - 'Faint Heart And The Sermon' and 'The Emperor In His War Room', which are sung absolutely brilliant with passion overwhelming. Strangely enough, almost all of Hammill's best live performances are the radio ones. This one is perfect, representing two mutually distant periods of Hammill's amazing creative work.
Report this review (#18761)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars In between the uneven albums released by Hammill during the 90s this came as a rather nice suprise. The (late) Peel sessions! The first session (74) contains 2 songs from In Camera (Faint-Heart and Submariner) and one song from VDGG's H to He (The Emperor). They are all played solo on a piano and this gives them a whole new dimension. Peter's voice is crystal clear like a diamond, and although there are some mistakes on the piano, the delivery is far superior than the original songs. Essential gems! The second session (77) has 2 songs from "Over" one of my favourite albums (Betrayed and Autumn), and one song from VDGG's "Aerosol grey Machine" (Afterwards). Betrayed is played on acoustic guitar like the original but has different violin playing by Graham Smith , and the vocal delivery is also different, slightly more resigned and hurt and less angry than the original. However it is still an essential gem. Afterwards is played on acoustic guitar and violin and can fit perfectly as a Hammill solo piece. I also prefer this version over the original. Autumn (about parents letting their children go) is as dark and sad as the original, albeit slightly more angry. The Third session (79) has 3 songs from PH7 (MrX, Faculty X, and Time for a change) and one song from "Future Now" (Mediaevil). MrX doesn't have the mad drums nor the sound effects and is delivered with one piano only, giving it a more reserved but rawer feel. Faculty X is also stripped bare with only the piano, which somehow lessens the madness provided on the original by the flutes and saxes. Mediaevil is an acapella song with full chorus provided by Hammill himself. It is different from the original, the chorus is more like a church choir than the original and the vocals are more edgy. Time for a change is sung as if he's doing characters from a play which is different than the original. The fourth session (88) has 4 songs from "In a foreign town" which is not an essential album in itself. The play's the thing (about Shakespear), "Auto" (about...well.. driving), "Invisible ink" and "Time to burn". Although this session is of lesser importance than the first three, the album is an absolute gem of alternative versions.
Report this review (#78165)
Posted Sunday, May 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is often a great pleasure for me to listen and review a Peter Hammill album (even if some of them got only the two stars rating). This great man moved me as early as in 1973 and belongs to the great persons in my musical environment. To listen to these Peel sessions is worth but at times one can get disappointed as well.

One of out many of my beloved VDGG songs ("The Emperor In His War Room") is quite down-scaled here: Peter on vocals and piano: of course he is passionate, but I can't help: the original and mighty was way much better IMHHO. This one is to be considered as a more intimate and personal interpretation. Still, very good.

There are indeed some deep VDGG oriented songs as "The Sub Mariner", but I already had the same feeling while reviewing the good "In Camera" album. Some additional friend is also welcome on this album; namely Graham Smith on the violin. He adds some depth and feel (if needed) to the songs in which he is involved.

The devoted fans or connoisseur of Peter's huge oeuvre can only be moved with his interpretation; for the casual man in the street: it might not be the same. It is true to say that Peter's work is not easy to approach. It needs some time and comprehension. Once you've been through these first barriers, you will be quite rewarded for sure.

I remember a mail from my friend Febus who reproached me to be quite generous with my ratings about Peter's work. I simply replied that I was charmed (for half of his work or so) and that I couldn't prevent to be laudatory about some of his great songs. How much I miss Febus mails by now?May you see these lines my friend!

I saw the man only once live. With "Van Der Graaf" in Brussels (Cirque Royal) a very, very long time ago (October 76). It was quite an evening and I really am sorry to have missed the opportunity some two years ago for health problems to see him again in Belgium. But maybe he'll show up again not too far from my place.

Not all tracks are great on this album (both "X" songs are rather weak), and the second half of this album can't compete with its first and very good counterpart. Passion is there, emotion as well; but song writing is just not on par. "Auto" and "Invisible Ink" are a total disaster to tell the truth (both were originally present on the average "In A Foreign Town".

In other words, you need to be deeply involved with the man to fully appreciate this set. I wouldn't recommend this album as an entry point to his huge contribution to music. For those of you willing to discover his work, I can only mention that his great albums from the seventies (each of them) are probably easier of reach than this one.

Three stars.

Report this review (#247189)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars As much as I like the songs on this album I will not rate it above 3 stars, even though I can't find any fault with the performances here. Some versions even work better for me then the often excessive originals. The reason is simply that most of the tracks compiled here have been added as bonus tracks on Hammill's re-released back catalogue.

The essential tracks here are the first three songs and the 'X'-tunes, which are all intense performances, from 1974 and 1979 respectively, and which now appear on In Camera and pH7. The remainder of the songs vary between good and interesting. Also the 4 last tracks from the much maligned In A Foreign Town are enjoyable.

If you're a Hammill fan that is still sticking to the vinyl LPs or first CD-issues of Hammill's classic albums, then you shouldn't miss this one. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#252859)
Posted Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permalink

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