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Peter Hammill - The Calm  (After The Storm) CD (album) cover

THE CALM (AFTER THE STORM)

Peter Hammill

Eclectic Prog


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Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The second of two compilations released in 1993 by Virgin-Universal (see "The Storm Before the Calm") works better than its twin because of the wider variety of represented albums, and also because, oddly enough, the title of the CD is so misleading. The collection was meant to highlight only the more gentle and thoughtful side of Peter Hammill's vast musical output (through 1986), but every Hammill fan knows that some of his heaviest songs are also his quietest.

For proof, I direct your attention to "(On Tuesdays She Used To Do) Yoga", taken from the confessional 1977 album "Over". It's another all-too personal dissection of a shattered relationship, beginning as a melancholy, minor key acoustic guitar ballad, and then...a gut-wrenching noise I can only describe as the sound of all Hammill's bridges bursting into simultaneous flame (actually it's an oddly tuned lute, the strings plucked with singleminded ferocity).

Listen also to "Rain 3am", an early, unreleased treasure, with Hammill again on an unadorned acoustic guitar. This is quintessential stuff: a philosophic travelogue of late- night insecurity and disillusionment, all of it pure grist to Hammill's usual lyrical mill. The production is only semi-professional (David Jackson's flute accompaniment was recorded in the bathroom for that au natural echo effect). But, and not for the first time, the singing all but shatters the otherwise meditative mood, touching every degree of extremity in Hammill's considerable vocal range.

So: not exactly calming music, but certainly compelling. The 18 tracks here are divided almost equally between acoustic guitar and piano compositions, drawn from a baker's dozen of Hammill's earlier albums, from 1970 through 1986. Besides the original gems are several remixes which appeared on the 1985 collection "The Love Songs", including a pair of live / studio hybrids ("If I Could" and "Again"), performed by The K Group during "The Margin" tour and enhanced by subtle overdubs after the fact.

Likewise the re-visited version of "Just Good Friends", originally from the album "Patience" but re-recorded for "The Love Songs" in an absolutely gorgeous over- the-top orchestral production. The song was intended, believe it or not, as a single, but I think even its author realized that the lean and sterile early '80s music market wasn't ready for such stylistic overkill.

The CD booklet notes are again by Hammill himself, providing informative and enlightening mini-introductions to each song. Did you know Shirley Bassey almost recorded a cover of one of the selections here? I'll leave you to scan the track list and try to guess the most likely candidate.

Listening to a Peter Hammill song when he's in a contemplative mood has always been a little like peeking into an ex-lover's private diary. And because of that I can see the need for a companion volume of raucous headbangers, to help balance the emotional scale. But this disc alone is closer to the core of his music...sometimes painfully so.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#18786)
Posted Thursday, February 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
4 stars In '93 PH made a) loud and b) calm compilation of his solo material up to late 80's. To me this is clearly better one. Hammill is so intimate and almost painfully open in songs like these. It's not TOO calm and soft - his 90's output includes some much mellower and more boring songs than in this selection. Besides, many 'calm' PH songs have a certain tension just beneath the surface and in e.g. 'Stranger Still', 'On Tuesdays' and 'Autumn' the tension also breaks that surface. Two tracks from the 'keyboards & vocals only' -album And Close as This are the calmest here. It must be noted that versions of 'Birds', 'Again', 'Just Good Friends' and 'If I Could' are from Love Songs (1984).

It could be said that the earliest PH albums are not represented too well; emphasis seems to be in 80's. But then again this serves nicely for those who want to concentrate more on 70's (and 90's-) and are satisfied with these pickings from albums like Sitting Targets or Skin. As a compilation by PH himself, simply 'the best of me' would have probably been better idea than a slightly pretentious loud/calm dicotomy. A generous set anyway, and a good way to start with PH. (On the cover is an interesting tiny gallery of pieces from PH covers - it just looks very messy.)

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#43089)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permalink

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