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Peter Hammill

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Peter Hammill Fool's Mate album cover
3.78 | 389 ratings | 34 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Imperial Zeppelin (3:39)
2. Candle (4:17)
3. Happy (2:36)
4. Solitude (4:59)
5. Vision (3:15)
6. Re-Awakening (3:58)
7. Sunshine (4:00)
8. Child (4:26)
9. Summer Song (In the Autumn) (2:13)
10. Viking (4:43)
11. The Birds (3:36)
12. I Once Wrote Some Poems (2:46)

Total Time 44:28

Bonus tracks (previously unreleased demos) on 2005 Charisma remaster:
13. Re-Awakening (4:33)
14. Summer Song in the Autumn (2:46)
15. The Birds (3:18)
16. Sunshine (3:50)
17. Happy (2:46)

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / acoustic guitar, piano, lead vocals

- Robert Fripp / guitar (1,7,8,10-12)
- Hugh Banton / organ, piano & backing vocals (1,3,5-9,11)
- David Jackson / alto & tenor saxophones & flute (1,3,6-8,10)
- Nic Potter / bass (1,3,6-9,11)
- Guy Evans / drums & percussion & backing vocals (1,3,6,7,9,11)
- Ray Jackson / mandolin, harp & backing vocals (2,4,10)
- Rod Clements / violin & bass (2,4,10)
- Martin Pottinger / drums (1,2,4,10)
- Paul Whitehead / percussion (10)
- John Anthony / backing vocals, producer

Releases information

Artwork: Paul Whitehead / Cleen Mashine Studio

LP Charisma ‎- CAS 1037 (1971, UK)

CD EMI Gold - 1037 (1988, ?)
CD Caroline Blue Plate ‎- CAROL 1697-2 (1990, US)
CD Charisma - CASCDR 1037 (2005, Europe) Remastered by Peter Hammill w/ 5 bonus tracks (Rehearsal demos from 1971 w/ VDGG, previously unreleased)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy PETER HAMMILL Fool's Mate Music

PETER HAMMILL Fool's Mate ratings distribution

(389 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

PETER HAMMILL Fool's Mate reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars I was expecting more out of this one but I suppose he saved the stronger stuff for VDGG and he kept the more personnal songs foer here. Did not find this very prog , but as a Hammill fan, this is a worthy album
Review by loserboy
5 stars This is in my opinion Peter HAMMILL's shining moment in the prog spotlight (although there have been many). With such a diverse musical history it is very hard to pick my favorite, but "Fool's Mate" has been a household fav for some time. The songs on "Fool's Mate" are very well written and performed to perfection. This is a concept like story line and seems to start and end with a hyptnotic like circular song (Imperial Zeppelin). Throughout we are treated to some incredible musicianship including the worldly guitars of a young Robert Fripp. "Fool's Mate" also covers a wide range of emotions and moods throughout. This is a slightly more relaxed recording than others from HAMMILL and it makes those dark cold winter nights fly by.
Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I take Peter Hammill solo albums for ones of the most successed prog albums, emotionaly speaking. This first, declines all the multi-faceted of human sensitivity. "Fools Mate" is more poppy & melodic than VDGG albums, however it's such pleasant & touching to listen to this album that I can't imagine to live without it. The album starts with a powerful prog rock song...but the general flavor of this release is orientated to romantic, introspective songs. Peter Hammill defenitely know how to write a great love song. MAGNIFIC.
Review by diddy
3 stars 3.5 Stars actually

Peter Hammill's solo releases are always a good thing to purchase because they are musically and emotionally perfect. The only problem about Hammill's albums is the instrumentation, sometimes perfect, just like on his regular band, VdGG; but sometimes the instrumentation is quite sparely and everything is carried by Hammills wonderfull voice. I know that his voice is the essential part of his music but the music often gets too muted, often even quite inconsiderable. "Fool's Mate" shows the opposite: perfect mix between voice and instruments. Featured are as well some, no all of Hammill's band mates of VdGG who really become the sound. Robert Fripp also appeares from time to time, his appearances are real highlights, just like on some of the VdGG releases (H to He...). The songs are rather short but far away fom being too short, it fits quite good. Of course Hammill's voice can be regrdes as some kind of star turn of this album and his releases in general. Unlike his songs in general, some tracks sound gladder and more optimistic, the first song even sounds quite fast and cheery as if Hammill doesn't take himself seriously, pretty funny. Other songs could be part of "H to He" and sound pretty melancolic, just like we know and love Hammill. On "Fool's Mate" his perfect voice and the good musicians and instrumentation match and make this album a good choice for all fans of Van der Graf and Hammill's solo releases.

So like I said in my review for "Offensichtlich Goldfisch" this album is a good one to start. If you like Van der Graaf Generator I can assure that you will love "Fool's Mate". It's not the best album Hammill released so far but definitely a very good one. Due to it's rather short songs it's also a good introduction to the world of Peter Hammill.

Review by Matti
4 stars Most PH albums can be compared to some other PH albums - for example In Camera and Silent Corner are close to each other - but what would you compare to his first solo album? The funny thing is that it came the same year as Pawn Hearts (1971, I'm sure) but is almost the perfect opposite of it. Happy, light, reminding of 60's pop in song structures. Progressive elements are almost absent in the compositions (12 quite simple songs each less than 5 minutes); the overall sound is not that far from VDGG, with more or less the same lineup. My favourites are 'Candle', 'Solitude', 'Child', 'Viking' and 'The Birds'. Although it's not Hammill as his most typical, it's easy to enjoy by a PH fan and, despite the lightness, is among his best albums, I think. Paul Whitehead's cover art is a classic too.
Review by slipperman
4 stars This debut solo album from Peter Hammill is a nice look at the man's multi-facets in a more straightforward light, but this approach didn't last long. Even one more album in this vein would've been nice, but it never happened. (Of course, I don't lament masterpieces like 'In Camera' or 'The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage').

'Fool's Mate' benefits from having the other Van Der Graaf Generator members along for the ride, as well as the incomparable Robert Fripp. All are clearly heard exerting their musical personalities, but within the framework of curiously short songs. As usual, Hammill takes center stage with his songwriting and captivating voice. Highlights that I cannot ever listen to enough include "Vision" and "The Birds". If there are songs more beautiful than this, I have yet to hear them.

Elsewhere we get the zany "Imperial Zeppelin", the life-affirming "Re-awakening", the mini- epic "Viking", the springtime brightness of "Sunshine" and a handful of introspective mood pieces.

Oddly, this is the only Peter Hammill solo album from the '70s era that could never have doubled as a VDGG album. This gives it a special place in his discography...the fact that it contains 12 solid, strong, wonderful songs is another reason for continued revisitation. I'm not usually taken by short, concise, simple songs, but this one works because Hammill is not a vacant pop artist. He's clearly a sensitive person who needs to get this stuff out of his system...and we all get to witness his emotional outpourings. 'Fool's Mate' stands as one of his most successful communications.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hammill's solo debut is mostly acoustic effort, almost in a singer/songwritier folk style. But this fact does not make it less innovative, emotional, personal or musically creative - on the contrary. The entire VDGG is here present as a backing band with a little help from R. Fripp. Apart from two sympathetic, albeit rather silly opening A and B side of the vinyl, "Imperial Zeppelin" and "Sunshine" respectively, the album contains a load of excellent songs which shows an enormous creative capacity of Peter Hammill that he wanted to spare VDGG of his too personal poetic expressions. Paul Whitehead's cover picture is excellent too (it invokes early Genesis album covers as well as "Pawn Hearts"). Highlights include: "Candle", "Solitude", "Re-awakening", "The Birds"... If you like more acoustic side of VDGG, this album is highly recommended.
Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars It is a pleasure to listen to Peter Hammill and his friends. Still, the mood of VDGG, is far away.

Short and light pieces of music like "Happy" proves that Peter can also write more optimistic songs (even if "Solitude" is not the most joyful one). Some songs from his debut album are extremely pleasant.

Amongst these, "Candle" is my absolute fave. What a great melody! What a passion! So sweet and gentle crescendo building. And his so recognizable voice which, in this case, is full of poetry. At the opposite of his tortured VDGG style.

One has of course to get used to these shortly formatted songs. No long and disjointed Jackson interventions nor complex song writing. This album is much more accessible than the usual VDGG production ("Still Life" excluded). A song as "Vision" in fact holds some of the mood of this great album (although released five years earlier).

But "Fool's Mate" has little to do with a VDGG (which is OK with me). Other ones from his solo work will have this indelible mark associated (which is also fine with me). I can't really tell that this album is a masterpiece. Too many average songs are included to get the level ("Re-Awakening", "Sunshine").

"Fool's Mate" is almost folkish at times ("Child"? the closing "I Once Wrote Some Poems") but I will always be biased by Peter's extraordinary tone of voice. I just love it. And as such I rate this album with three stars which depicts a good album (and let's forget about the non-essential stuff).

The dark and sad mood is not totally absent of course. Besides "Solitude", the gloomy "Viking" has this frightening side so dear to VDGG (and to me).

Is it necessary to add that the guest list is absolutely impressive? But so will it be on lots of PH "solo" albums.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars "Fool's Mate" was Peter Hammill's first solo album, it was recorded between the albums "H To He Who Am The Only One" and "Pawn Hearts". Peter himself says VDGG were not going to record these songs for one of their albums, even though they had done demos of them, and played them live. Yet Peter says these songs had a certain validity about them,even if they were fairly light-weight for the most part. Hammill had composed these songs from 1966 to 1969, with most of them being from 1967. He felt if he waited any longer he wouldn't be able to identify with these songs enough to want to record them. And so he felt a sense of urgency to do it when he did, and that he couldn't rest until it was done. He enlisted the help of Robert Fripp who had guested on VDGG's "H To He..." record, as well as his band-mates from VDGG. Also two guys from the band LINDISFARNE who were label mates helped out.

"Imperial Zeppelin" is a fun uptempo track with some good organ work from Banton. Some backup vocals late as the humour continues. This is my least favourite though. "Candle" was composed in 1966 and is one of my favourites. Hammill is one of those rare artists who seemed to write great tracks right from the beginning. He even makes a burning candle seem like a dramatic event. Incredible ! The mandolin is a nice touch, but it's all about Peter's vocals. "Happy" is my favourite. I just love when he sings in that higher voice. Flute from Jackson. His lyrics are so personal and interesting. A poet indeed.

"Solitude" is a darker tune with acoustic guitar and harmonica. Great sound 3 1/2 minutes in to the end. "Vision" is simply Peter on vocals and Hugh on piano. This is melancholic and emotional. Beautiful lyrics, perhaps the best on this record. "Re-Awakening" is lighter with vocals and drums leading the way. Some nice organ work and sax late. I really like the way this song is arranged. That's 5 amazing songs in a row. "Sunshine" is a light silly song. I like it better the opening track though. Great lyrics as usual, and I like the vocal melodies late. "Child" features strummed guitar and vocals. Piano and flute later. "Summer Song In The Autumn" sounds so good with the organ and piano as Hammill comes in vocally. The tempo picks up and drums eventually join in. "Viking" opens with the sound of water as acoustic guitar then vocals arrive. A fuller instrumental sound before 3 minutes. Hey there's Fripp with some angular melodies. "The Birds" features solemn vocals, piano, bass and light drums. Fripp comes in at 1 1/2 minutes sounding very tasteful. A sad tune. "I Once Wrote Some Poems" opens with whispered vocals as strummed guitar comes in. It all builds. Peter becomes theatrical 1 1/2 minutes in. Fripp ends it with a noisey soundscape.

For me this is easily 4 stars. Hammill is in my opinion the greatest songwriter to have ever lived. "Fool's Mate" is further proof of that.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Fool´s Mate" is the debut full-length solo album by UK progressive rock artist Peter Hammill. The album was released through Charisma Records in July 1971. The material featured on the album was recorded in April 1971 at Trident Studios, London with producer John Anthony. It bridges the gab between Hammill´s main act Van der Graaf Generator´s third and fourth full-length studio albums "H to He, Who Am the Only One" (December 1970) and "Pawn Hearts" (October 1971). Some of the material dated as far back as 1967 and some tracks had been played live by early incarnations of Van der Graaf Generator, but none had made it unto the studio releases of said act.

The album was recorded in three days with the help of fellow Van der Graaf Generator collegues David Jackson (alto and tenor saxophones, flute), Hugh Banton (piano, organ) and Guy Evans (drums) along with other session musicians. Most notably former Van der Graaf Generator bassist Nic Potter and guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson), but also some members of Lindisfarne.

Considering the progressive nature of the two Van der Graaf Generator albums bookending "Fool´s Mate" and the generally long tracks inhabiting those releases, "Fool´s Mate" is a very different listening experience. The album features 12 tracks and a total playing time of 44:28 minutes. None of the tracks are longer than 4-5 minutes in length and they all feature relatively regular vers/chorus structures, so in that respect it makes perfect sense that Hammill chose to release the material as a solo album.

The album features saxophone, mandolin, harmonica, violin and organ/piano in addition to drums, bass and guitar, all of which add colors and atmosphere to the material. The mood varies from quite sombre ("Happy", "Solitude") to harder rocking ("Imperial Zeppelin") to more lighthearted ("Sunshine"). Quite often with a psychadelic touch. The focus of the songs are Peter Hammill´s vocal lines and performance though and as always his paatos filled singing style and distinct sounding voice are an aquired taste. This is one of his more restrained performances though and people who wouldn´t normally enjoy Peter Hammill´s voice and delivery may be able to find this a listenable release.

"Fool´s Mate" is a well produced affair featuring a sound which suits the material well. The album features high level musical performances, and it´s not audible that the album was recorded in only a few days in the midst of an incredibly busy touring and recording schedule for Van der Graaf Generator. When that is said, not all material on the album are equally catchy or interesting. In fact some tracks are slightly forgettable, while others are thankfully a little more memorable. "Fool´s Mate" is upon conclusion a relatively good quality release, but the songwriting could have been more memorable and therefore a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Review by TGM: Orb
3 stars Fool's Mate, Peter Hammill, 1971

Peter Hammill's solo debut is a veritable outpouring of things Van Der Graaf Generator weren't doing at the time... pop songs, positive songs, tuneful embellishment, songs with a select 'leader', songs with less-than-fantastic vocals and songs with naive, light-hearted lyrics. Thankfully, this lot is all taken with a hint of irony, distinct professionalism and a number of immensely capable musicians (you may know Fripp, Jaxon, Banton, Evans and Potter... the rest are from folk rock band Lindisfarne, I believe) who are given freedom to work and a generally solid production (well, the bass sound is a bit dull, but I said generally). And most of the songs themselves are pretty good, the weak points never drop beyond a bit awkward and the high points are superb. Worth having, sooner or, more reasonably, later.   Feedback bookend 1 and we're off with the immensely fun Imperial Zeppelin. With brisk rollicks between mock-philosophical, cartoonish rock, haunting and deeply unusual interplay between Jaxon, Banton and Evans and even an R&B-type all-vocal section, it's probably the best thing on the album. Hammill's vocals flick from screeching to humming to hurried to snide and mocking without an inch of quarter given. Superbly played, of course, and a real highlight.

Candle is one of the more clumsy Aerosol Grey Machine sort of ballads. The mandolin presence is its main prop, and the vocal melody is confused rather than Lost. Nice piano, but, really, a throwaway?

Happy has a fun, choppy organ melody that is drawn together in the verses, and supported by Banton's great tone, the delightfully compact interplay of the well-greased Van Der Graaf Generator line-up (they can play positive music, believe it or not) and a dancing vocal melody. And that drum-and-organ flourish on the end is just gorgeous.

Solitude is the first of the album's convincingly moody numbers, with a haunting acoustic running along with a strange watery vocal and a gorgeous drawn-out, longing harmonica. The bass part perhaps seems superfluous to the rest of the piece until it at last comes into contact with Martin Pottinger's drumming and the occasional odd violin shimmer, and if the lyrics aren't as tight as elsewhere, they compliment the mood. Innocent, lonely, but empowered.

Vision is a piano and voice piece by Hammill. Frankly, there's only one way those go for me. The piano sound is wonderfully full (Hugh Banton is one of the rare pianists ), the voice flicks into the picture with precision, harmony, melody and the adoring vulnerability that fills out the lovesongs on, say, the more developed Nadir's Big Chance.... 'be my child, be my lover, swallow me up in your fireglow... take my tongue, take my torment, take my hand and don't let go' might seem saccharine to the uninitiated, but it's a mood anyone who believes they've been in love can probably appreciate.

Re-awakening is the odd one out? The grandiose combination of thick organ and limited piano makes an impression, as does the rushing breath all over the verses. On the minus side, I'm not convinced there's really a great song beneath the instrumentation, and if the lyrics are fun, they're not really particularly song.

And now, Sunshine, which features our stars Jaxon and Fripp playing rather unusually conventional  bluesy parts with great vim and vigour and Hammill sliding all over a vocal with refreshing contrast and energy and a carefree jazz piano. One of those pieces so positive you can't help being dragged in.

Child is a piece driven by a jabbing acoustic with Hammill's more naive voice and lyrics striking through with sporadic power. But even if I feel a more constant vocal could really turn this into a classic, the current content is already very, very good: some of Banton's lush, detailed piano-work, casual and yet striking flute from Jaxon and an astonishingly beautiful understated solo from Fripp.

Summer Song In The Autumn... male alto type vocals, displaying a healthy vocal range along a nice lyric, I believe, and with the presence and dedicated interaction of all five of the Generator-men here, this has a much-needed snap, isn't taken entirely seriously and comes off as a fairly potent piece. Hugh Banton's organ pedigree again works for it.

Viking is a bit of harmless medieval-vibed pastoral music with little bite, charming acoustics, some Fripp backgrounds along with the occasional lush lead from him, frankly unconvincing lyrics but at least an earnest approach to the vocals that offers something inside it to appreciate. A mead hall with ambience but not nearly enough drinks? And some water sounds, because otherwise, a song about Vikings would be unconvincing.

The Birds is essentially another Hammill piano-and-voice piece, though this time augmented by the suddenly extraordinarily beautiful work of Fripp, more of Banton's wonderful piano tone (reminds me a lot of Toni Pagliuca's (Le Orme) approach to the piano...) and a constructive rhythm section (Evans' capacity to contribute in quiet songs over or under the obvious numbers is one of his best attributes). And the vocal has the rounded and haunting qualities which I can't help feeling some other songs here could do with. Wonderful stuff.

I Once Wrote Some Poems is a one-man conclusion with another quick-and-dirty feedback bookend tacked on. The acoustic part is convincingly tender and then jarring, and Hammill's ability to express himself vocally comes across yet more powerfully without other musicians crowding the picture... the lyrics are some of the best here. It ends the album sternly.

Note on bonus tracks: Van Der Graaf Generator rehearsals of early takes of the songs. Probably not worth re-grabbing the album for unless you're an absolutely fanatical completionist or really love the album.

I think a three is probably in order... sweet, a tad sentimental, undertaken with a suitable ironic detachment, and once you're familiar with the overwhelmingly rich cake that is every single Hammill solo album from Chameleon to Over, perhaps this musical brioche is a decent alternative to the brooding coffee-shop desserts of the early 80s. Long sentence, final meaning: be aware of what you're in for and take a look at some reviews of other, later, more experimental and probably better Hammill albums you don't have before picking up this charming but occasionally lacking endeavour.

One mostly superfluous mention: any more serious fans (I mean the bootleg-collecting, got every League of Gentlemen CD type) of Fripp or Banton could do with this as well... their performances are some of the album's most beautiful and understated moments.

Rating: A gentle three stars, 10/15 Favourite Track: The Birds, I think

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pleased, that's what I'm. Very much, to be exact. I suppose that a lot of people here wonders what's better, if his work with VDGG, or his solo effort(s). That's quite a black&white point of view. What about simply answer: "both is better" (when compared to certain other bands, I rather wouldn't name them).

Imperial Zeppelin is good start of even better album, but there's one thing I'll never accept. First ten seconds, which are terrible music experience. But these "ten seconds of horror" aren't good example of how this album sounds like, more like song Happy, which reminds me "Godbluff" (keyboards), bringing new classical feeling (eh, I hear "Beggars Opera" here). Solitude, typical VDGG song, but with harmonica, which reminds country/folk feelings done in prog way (oh my dear lord, having country prog, that's, that's exciting). And not bad one though. Important thing here is that it's album for everyone, no crazy things with Pete(r) Hammill's voice.

But, there's a word "but", I can't give 5, nor clean 4. I'll give

4(-), because not only songs are short (that alone wouldn't be so big problem, even he can't have songs build so through this way. You need minutes to prove something and longest track here has 4:43), but also they sounds like pop. VDGG influence (indeed) is here, but also pop and this combination is quite weird.

Review by Kazuhiro
3 stars Talent for element of his poet. Or, the method of philosophical thought and the expression might be exactly evaluated always high as one of the expressions of the field of Prog Rock and the music character. The activity of Van Der Graaf might always have poured the energy. As for the part of some groping and restructuring, whether the expression and the thought of music from which Van Der Graaf is counted very in total were spent on the work might be understood for the band.

There is an opinion made for the revolution of the band and the dismantlement of the band to have been done since the time of which Van Der Graaf has already debuted according to a certain theory, too. However, it is said "Pawn Hearts" doing the decision for Peter Hammill to multiply own life and to work on music that van Der Graaf announced in 1970. Zeal to music might been exactly decided for Peter Hammill by this debut Solo album.

The member of Van Der Graaf is participating basically as a situation at that time for the recording of this album. However, a private element and the soundscape of Peter Hammill that follows the methodology of the band might be emphasized if talking about the overall part when considering it with the band as Solo of Peter Hammill. The part of secret poetry and the part of philosophical thought might express the element that Van Der Graaf has further in detail.

And, the point that should make a special mention as a situation at that time in time when this album was announced might be participation of Robert Fripp. At that time, Robert Fripp did not participate in work other than King Crimson. Hammill at that time and Fripp will be able to ask that there be very zeal to the communication of the intention and music.

Performance and idea that Hammill did in band. And, the construction of the tune might progress with the part refined further with this album. And, this album that should be commemorated has been done for Hammill for four days from April, 1971. The work at the period including the processing of the recording and the mix might be evidence that the embodiment of the idea went out strongly very efficiently.

The listener will learn the soundscape has gone out of at the beginning of the album strongly. Or, the beautiful melody in which Hammill of "Solitude" and "Vision" is skillful is constructed. And, the methodology of Van Der Graaf might appear remarkably in "Re-Awakening". Arrangement of piano with song and anacatesthesia in close relation to acoustic guitar in "Child". And, "Summer Song" and "Viking" are good at poetic lyrics of Hammill the good feeling that the band weaves each other.

The history of his music starts from this album including a mental part.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fool's Mate was my first Hammill solo album. I got it soon after finding Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, almost 25 years ago. Time Flies. I've always found it a most satisfying album with an exciting VDGG-lite sound that you will not find on anything else featuring Perter Hammill. Only Nadir's Big Chance represents a similar attempt at basic ballad and rock song writing, be it in a much rougher jacket there.

Fool's Mate is not only the lightest; it's also the brightest moment in Hammill's catalogue. It sure features a lot of beautiful melancholic ballads but how many other Hammill songs do you know that are sheer fun like Imperial Zeppelin, Re-awakening or Sunshine (the title alone)?

I guess appreciation will largely depend on the moment you came to listen to this album. For me it's always been an excellent and unique album, a first 4-star in an endless series of strong Hammill solo albums.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Recorded in just over a week, this is a grab-bag of early Hammill solo material - a series of songs composed during the early Van der Graaf Generator days which tend to be too simple and/or short for consideration for the group's own albums. It's therefore a bit less serious than subsequent solo albums produced by Hammill, in periods when his solo albums were his major creative outlet, and the opening Imperial Zeppelin makes that clear, from the goofy lyrics to the VdGG-gets-happy music to the a capella portion at the end.

This isn't to say that the material here is necessarily lightweight; Hammill's lyrical skills are as adept as ever, and several songs stand out as true gems. Happy is a perfect slice of late-60s psychedelic pop, Vision has stayed in Hammill's solo set for ages, and Viking - co-written with VdGG co-founder Chris Judge-Smith - seems to allude to Refugees from The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, both musically and lyrically with its allusions to some far-away West.

Ultimately, if you wanted an album to really get the measure of Hammill's solo work, this isn't the one to get, but if you want a slightly jumbled collection of early Hammill compositions in a sunnier and more approachable vein than most of his musical output, this is the one to get. It's probably the happiest album the man's ever done.

Review by friso
5 stars Peter Hammill - Fool's Mate (1971)

Van Der Graaf's frontman Peter Hammill's first solo-album comes right at my favorite moment of VdGG history. The sound of the band of the '69-'71 period was especially well put onto record by producer Mark Anthony, whose absence in later years in de studio would be a disadvantage to the band in my opinion. I just love that soulfull sound with the pastoral reverbs and classic- rock organs of 'H to He' (1970). Moreover, Peter Hammill's voice sounded best in this period in my opinion. Soulfull, free, deep, emotional - but not too troubled.

Fool's Mate feels to me like a logical step forward from the VdGG debut 'Aeresol Machine', which originally was planned to be Peter Hammill's debut. The songs are short, tight, slightly adventerous without being bombastic. Clearly progressive and innovative, but without the elements that would eventually lead to progressive rock's demise. All songs are original in their own way and the performances of Peter Hammill are destinctively different on every one of them. Some songs are playfull and could even be considered to be happy-sounding, whilst on side two slightly darker (but not bleak!) compositions give depth to the total listening experience. VdGG is present as a backing band, but the sound is often a bit more eclectig with use of more instruments. The background presence of Robert Fripp on one of the later songs can't be missed by the fans.

This is a perfectly enjoyable record from start to finish. I liked it at first spin, I adored the eight spin I've just had. One of Peter Hammill's finest, happiest and most easily approachable. Only stubbern masochistic progressive rock listeners would look down on such a fine album. Five stars!

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars Peter Hammill's debut album stands in relation to his solo career much like "The Aerosol Grey Machine" does to his output with Van Der Graaf Generator: as a worthwhile anomaly separate from the main body of his recorded work. The album is notable for its refreshing lack of tortured self- analysis, placing it alongside the sunny proto-punk of "Nadir's Big Chance" as the easiest Peter Hammill album to digest in a single sitting.

Compared to subsequent efforts it can appear disarmingly facile at times. Song titles like "Happy" and "Sunshine" suggest an uncomplicated optimism rare for such an otherwise thoughtful artist. And "Vision" stands as arguably one of the purest love ballads ever written, by Hammill or anyone else. But as always there's more to the album than what first meets the ear, and when played in isolation there isn't one song here that isn't unblinkingly honest, or less than typically literate.

Even the jaunty album opener "Imperial Zeppelin" undermines its own Utopian vision of rising above a planet where "hate is seething / nothing's worth believing" with a quick, cold shower of fatalism uncommon in 1971: "Of course we all know very well / It wouldn't work, but what the hell..." And that's during one of the album's lighter songs! By the time Hammill begins slashing at his acoustic guitar with unconcealed fury (in the otherwise gently reflective "I Once Wrote Some Poems") it's clear a very different and darker species of butterfly was emerging from its musical chrysalis.

Very little here conforms to the accepted Prog Rock stereotypes of the 1970's, except the creative thinking and restless intellect ("Let me sleep / Let me dream / Let me be!" he implores us in "Re- Awakening"). At this early stage of his career Hammill was already staking his position as a uniquely personal singer-songwriter, standing apart from the Progressive Rock ideals of the time. Despite the crowded guest list on his first solo album, including all his Van Der Graaf pals, plus Robert Fripp and members of Lindisfarne, Hammill was (and remains) the driver, chief mechanic, and conductor on a bandwagon of one.

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars After the release of "He To He Who Am The Only One," Van Der Graaf Generator found themselves in the heart of the quickly evolving progressive rock scene but suffered a setback when bassist Nic Potter left in the middle of the recording process. Instead of seeking another band member, the role was filled by Hugh Banton by playing bass pedals on his organ. "He To He" was released in December of 1970 and the band embarked on a successful tour with Charisma label mates Genesis and Lindisfarne. These were the peak years for Van Der Graaf Generator as they released one classic and spent the year recording the next masterpiece "Pawn Hearts" which came out in October 1971 and if that wasn't enough, lead singer, keyboardist and songwriter-in-chief PETER HAMMILL found a couple minutes to record and release his very first solo album FOOL'S MATE, which is a combo reference to both the game of chess and tarot cards.

The twelve songs on FOOL'S MATE weren't intended to be a statement of where HAMMILL was at the time musically speaking and more of a testament to where he's already been. None of the tracks were written in the 70s but rather dated all the back to 1966 ("Candle") with the most recent having been created in 1969 ("Happy"), however the majority were cranked out in the 67-68 timeline and thus were written and performed with the earliest lineups of VDGG which included Chris Judge Smith and Nick Perne. While some were used as demos, none of the tracks ever made it onto albums as as VDGG became more and more complex and sophisticated, the simplicity of the more pop oriented tracks became harder and harder to incorporate into the VDGG format so they basically sat on the shelf while the VDGG recording sessions and live performances became the first priority.

As many were puzzled as to why HAMMILL would release a solo album right at the time when VDGG was just starting to take off in select prog circles (especially Italy), HAMMILL explained that these tracks had been floating in his head and he felt that as time went on they would become less relevant and forgotten and felt the utmost need to record them before they lost any relevance in his life and would become impossible to convey in a convincing manner. So off he went into the Trident Studios with not only the full cast of VDGG including Hugh Banton (organ, piano), Guy Evands (percussion) and David Jackson (sax) but also former band member Nic Potter (bass) as well as LIndisfarne members bassist and violinist Rod Clements and Ray Jackson (harmonica, mandolin, harp) as well as the inimitable Robert Fripp of King Crimson. As HAMMILL explained, it was like one big happy family getting together to jam.

Given the nature of the history of the tracks on FOOL'S MATE, it's not surprising that the tracks vary quite a bit but it's apparent that they were not of the year they were released as they exude that 60s optimism with all the hippie dippy trappings however due to the fact that they were newly performed and recorded by some of the masters of the trade, they actually sound quite good, in fact excellent. Led by the darkly distinct vocal style of HAMMILL himself, the unmistakable dramatic emotional outpouring that he crafted while serving as a Jesuit chorister, HAMMILL is joined by an interesting array of different instrumental backings and although his singer / songwriter skills seem to cast him as the Elton John piano man of the prog world, the diverse styles of the tracks on FOOL'S MATE find not only the full band effect as heard on tracks such as the opening "Imperial Zeppelin" but also with the simplicity of a single acoustic guitar as heard on "Child."

A master of the melodic development, despite the short track lengths HAMMILL cranks out some of his most pleasant and uplifting tracks of his entire career on FOOL'S MATE with some sugary pop tracks like "Happy" and "Sunshine" even reminding of David Bowie's first 60s pop album with an unusual out of character bout of cheeriness not heard on any other release. This is especially head scratching on "Sunshine" where he actually utters a series of "la-la-la's" with the intent of gleefully celebrating the beauty of a cloud free day. Despite the gag reflexing knee-jerk reaction to such sunshine pop possibilities, HAMMILL masterfully keeps it all slightly dark in tone at least with the excellent musical delivery making this track as well as the rest utterly irresistible.

It's shocking that this album was recorded in a mere four days in April 1971 and then rushed through the production and mixing process and hitting the market by July where it was sandwiched between the two VDGG albums. The album was praised by the critics which probably helped in the decision to break up VDGG after the exhausting "Pawn Hearts" recording schedule and subsequent tour. The overall sound of PETER HAMMILL's solo career isn't captured in the debut FOOL'S MATE but rather is a throwback to the earliest years. While other artist's record and release this sort of material many years after the fact, HAMMILL felt it imperative to capture the moment before it completely faded away. While VDGG would soon release their most celebrated moment with "Pawn Hearts," HAMMILL's solo career would soon blossom in its own right but only after the long drawn out and enervating last days of the first phase of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. Despite these 60s sounding pop songs finding only slight modifications into the darker more progressive arenas, this is actually a really great album.

Latest members reviews

4 stars An interesting collection of shorter Peter Hammill songs, most of which have strong folk elements, although one can certainly discern the prog influence on songs like Imperial Zeppelin and Happy. Musically, this must be one of Hammill's most upbeat records - indeed at times it is positively jo ... (read more)

Report this review (#1107573) | Posted by jmeadow | Sunday, January 5, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The solo debut album of Peter Hammill is a great album, not distant from Van Der Graaf Generator albums but with more poetry. In general the title of the songs reflect the music: "Happy" (for an example) is an happy song as "Solitude" is a reflective song and "The Birds" is a powerful and jazz ... (read more)

Report this review (#391577) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Tuesday, February 1, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This would be a solid, good but nothing special, 3 star album if the only that stood out wasn't the most annoying sound in the entire world which both opens and closes the album. Why on God's green earth would you want a solid minute of buzzing at the end of your album. I don't think Peter Ham ... (read more)

Report this review (#189328) | Posted by manofmystery | Friday, November 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is an album that should be an interest for the VDGG/Hammill fan. It does not strike me as being as strong as what he did with VDGG or what he would later do on his more accomplished solo albums, however it does have a sort of good thing going in its own right. This basically sounds like the s ... (read more)

Report this review (#155886) | Posted by endlessepic | Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Strange things can happen. I am a Hammill / VdGG fan for about 25 years now, I have this partical album more than 2 years in my house, and it is only this week that I discovered it! When I bought it I gave it 1 listen, noticed that it wasn't like other Hammill albums I love, and put it aside. La ... (read more)

Report this review (#147287) | Posted by Jan den Ouden | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Here we go! Hammill's first solo album and its nothing like the stuff from VdGG this is wierd pop tunes most of em some longer balladish songs like "Child" but most of it is pop but pop with a sweet Hammill twist and so ofcourse its very good, Hammill playing the beatles you culd say. You can al ... (read more)

Report this review (#137651) | Posted by Zargus | Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Simply put, this is the album that Kevin Ayers always wished he'd made. Optimistic, sunny and gloomy in one breath, this is certainly the most listenable Hammill album ever released. Mostly drawn from early VDGG and previous experiments, it hangs together very nicely. Although Silent Corner is u ... (read more)

Report this review (#134307) | Posted by prophet10 | Wednesday, August 22, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A WONDERFUL ACQUIRED TASTE: The sound and the essence of Peter Hammill is not something that the casual listener usually takes to right away, and even in this almost pop context, it is not the easiest sound to digest upon initial listening. I have been an avid Van Der Graaf Generator fan for ... (read more)

Report this review (#107985) | Posted by mootbooxle | Friday, January 19, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This record has to be put into context if you are going to enjoy it for what it is rather than what you might have hoped it would be. Recorded when VDGG were still in their first flush and before the first split it predates Pawns hearts in release terms. The Music here is mostly old songs from ... (read more)

Report this review (#95084) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars -Historical Information Fool's Mate is the debut album of Peter Hammill in his solo career and was recorded while Van der graaf generator where still active in 1971. The same year, Vdgg had released two masterpieces like "The least we can do is wave to each other" and "H to He, who am the o ... (read more)

Report this review (#94073) | Posted by sularetal | Wednesday, October 11, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Good Morning Sunshine, You're All Around My Head" Hammill's solo debut (well officially anyway) is a strange affair, certainly unlike any of the other solo or VdGG offerings it gives a lie to Hammill's reputation for dark and doomy depressive music (I can imagine prog heads running for the h ... (read more)

Report this review (#87311) | Posted by Gog/Magog | Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This album was released in a time when Hammill wasn't pursuing a solo-career at all. The songs are leftovers, unfit for VdGG. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Many of these songs are lyrically more personal than PH's previous songs, but musically some are a bit "light weight" or even jolly, ... (read more)

Report this review (#78998) | Posted by LittleMan | Monday, May 22, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars First Hammill album contains songs that are less complex than the VDGG ones; albeit more melodic. Some very romantic and some more on the wild side. I actually prefer Hammill albums over VDGG albums, mainly because of the more nostalgic and personal touch on the songs. This album has classics ... (read more)

Report this review (#77939) | Posted by | Friday, May 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Each of us suffers his own spirit: a few of us are later released to wander at will through broad Elysium, the joyous fields; until, in the fullness of time ... nothing is left but pure ethereal sentience and the pure flame of the spirit." [Virgil, Aeneid 6.742]. "Cadmus, in vain you travel r ... (read more)

Report this review (#77084) | Posted by | Wednesday, May 3, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The first work announced in 1971 "Fools Mate". It was recorded from "Pawn Hearts" of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR ahead a little."Pawn Hearts" was an avant-garde work. On the other hand, this work looks like VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR of the first album well.It is a masterpiece of variegated music lik ... (read more)

Report this review (#47259) | Posted by braindamage | Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The music of PH was very important for me in the course of my teenage, now I find it a bit deppressive. Nevertheless, this one is full of different emotions, from the sorrow to the joy. Still I love all the others opuses of PH and VDGG but this one is exceptional. ... (read more)

Report this review (#17733) | Posted by | Saturday, October 16, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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