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Peter Hammill

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Peter Hammill pH7 album cover
3.65 | 240 ratings | 15 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. My Favourite (2:52)
2. Careering (Don't Ask Me) (4:06)
3. Porton Down (3:41)
4. Mirror Images (3:51)
5. Handicap and Equality (3:56)
6. Not for Keith (2:25)
7. The Old School Tie (5:07)
8. Time for a Change (3:15)
9. Imperial Walls (4:16)
10. Mr. X (Gets Tense) (5:13)
11. Faculty X (4:58)

Total Time 43:40

Bonus track on US/Canada 1979 LP editions:
7. The Polaroid (single) (2:24)

Bonus tracks on 2006 Virgin remaster:
12. Mr. X (Gets Tense) (live) (6:05) *
13. Faculty X (live) (4:50) *

* Recorded for the "John Peel Show" on BBC Radio 1; first transmission September 24, 1979

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion, arranger & producer

- Graham Smith / violin (1,3,10,11)
- David Jackson / saxophone & flute (2,3,11)

Releases information

Artwork: Barney Bubbles/Rocking Russian Design with Dan Kirk (photo)

LP Charisma - CAS 1146 (1979, UK)
LP Charisma ‎- CA-1-2205 (1979, US) Extra track also released as a Single and on Canadian LP

CD Virgin - CASCD 1146 (1989, UK)
CD Virgin - CASCDR 1146 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Peter Hammill w/ 2 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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PETER HAMMILL pH7 ratings distribution

(240 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Fishy
4 stars This is another overlooked item of the extensive back catalogue of the ex VDGG front man. This was released after "the future now" which showed Hammill moving in a different modern direction. One could easily think this album contains more of the same. I've always considered hammill's 78 - 80 output as one of the most original sounding of his whole carreer. PH7 is the most consistent album he released during this period where 3 albums were issued. The electronic influences which he introduced on "The future now" are still present. Yet it's more integrated in the sound. Although "My favourite" seems a sign the man has found his urge for romantic melodies again, "Carreering" seem to be a perfect example of the new Hammill. A track that is built on the idea of the spelling of the name of the song. Hammill would maintain this working method in the future. "porton down" is a magnificent alternative pop track. It starts with computerised keyboard and electronic drums although the chorus has a strong emotional melody and on the background there's the jazzy sax of David Jackson. The song gets driven by a dry sounding but compelling guitar riff. Somehow this intriguing track just works ! In the lyric of the ballad "Handicap and equality" some interesting social commentary is included. Lovely track where every instrument seem to fall in place. On his solo albums Hammill seems like a cross over artist, somewhere between an excellent songwriter, a rock artist and a progressive artist but during this period the progressive leaning seem to be minimal. This album shows his excellent abilities to write good songs. "Not for Keith" which is a simple piano ballad, became a classic. Most tracks on this album are quite simple but effective in translating an emotion into a song. In "The old school tie" the piano and the sound effect provide a strange form of rhythm. Especially in the second half of the album there's a lot of tracks without any form of percussion. "Time for a change" is a melodic track of world class. It has sparely arrangements but it doesn't need to have more to support the strong composition. This track shows the wide range of high and low notes Hammill's voice is capable of. Hammill is a terrific vocalist but either you hate or love his rather raw voice. This track could have been included on an album like "Chameleon in the shadow of the night". When I hear a static sounding track like "imperial walls" it reminds me on the third Gabriel album. It must not be a coincidence these two guys are living in the same town. In the late seventies Gabriel also started to write music that was rather based on rhythm than on melody. Hammill's past comes alive the most on the final track "faculty x" , another great track which includes classical influences in its violin, flutes and sax parts. This must be the closest that Hammill gets to prog on Ph7 though the classical influences are sounding quite minimalistic.

The artwork for this album could not illustrate better the main atmosphere on this album : cold, dark and symmetric but still containing a human cry. It's hard to mention a highlight as the track listing shows no flaws at all, each song is a pearl on his own. The musical ingredients that are used on this album are pretty much the same like on "The future now", yet I prefer this album above the aforementioned one. I suppose the reason for that are the emotional compositions, the excellent melodies, the arrangements that mix electronic sounds with real instruments. This is a great album full of Hammill classics but fans of symphonic progressive better take another album first for getting to know the work of this gifted composer.

Review by slipperman
4 stars Why is this called 'PH7'? By my count this is Peter Hammill's eighth solo album. And while I'm admitting confusion, there's a song listed on the label of Side 1 called "Polaroid", a dopey, almost Monty Python-esque song, but the lyrics aren't printed along with the rest...and on the flip of the lyric sleeve 12 songs are listed, "Polaroid" not among them but one of them being "The Moebius Jigsaw", which doesn't appear here at all. Strange...

This is one of Hammill's best albums, but be warned, it's very quirky, sometimes unsettling, sometimes beautiful and often experimental. The rigid, dissonant strains of "Porton Down" and "Imperial Walls" are the kind of progressive thing he would tend to leave behind in the '80s decade, while "Mirror Images", "Mr. X (Gets Tense)" and Faculty X" might as well be Van Der Graaf songs. In fact, "Mirror Images" was a Van Der Graaf song, as it appears on 1978's 'Vital - Live' album. And then we have the wonderful, very human vocals and sentiments in "My Favourite" and "Handicap And Equality". Even '60s-era Van Der Graaf Generator co-founder Chris Judge Smith's name pops up, as lyricist of "Time For A Change". With a wide sonic landscape, a variety of instrumentation and recording techniques, and appearnces from VDGG alumni Graham Smith and David Jackson, it should be clear that 'PH7' is one of the most complex and complete Hammill solo albums of them all.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars While an acidic pun also, this album's title certainly gives the important information that this was Hammill's seventh solo album. And the first one (maybe second) recorded after the final VdGG break-up (until very recently that is), and the first one to be done completely free previous influences.

By this time, his friendly musical mutual admiration, made him and Peter Gabriel's path cross many times around that period or shall we say era! Era due not only our archangel Gabriel, and Robert Fripp but Brian Eno also, from the more glam rock scene of prog (those musically close to Bowie and its androgynous music), but to the other side of the pond, this lead to the Talking Heads and others, but also Hammill himself were all busy "electronifying" prog rock. This would then lead to the 80's music scene that was simply partly the result of the push the Artistes (with the big A) mentioned just above influenced tremendously with all of its excesses. If I am going through this general overview, it is because this scene was actively challenged by Peter's seventh album.

But the usual Hammill is still present also, listen to Mirror Man to see if Hammill 's shot at Bowie melodies (Five Years style), but also a more solemn hymn-like Handicap And Quality, definitely one of the most grandiose-sounding raconteur troubadour rock song Hammill wrote. Poignant lyrics and majestic Jacques Brel-like vocal delivery (pure compliments, Peter!!!!) make a spine-chilling moment, because this also appeared clearly the case in the following Not For Keith (Ellis, most likely).

On the other side of Peter's universe are the definitely experimental edges where he stretched his voice "to places it was not necessarily supposed to be natural " (sic) and this attitude translated to his music also and stretched to making it sometimes aggressive (and challenging) to the more discerning prog fan. Careering, Porton Down, Old School Tie and Mr. X are typical examples. A few tracks in this album are very subtly pointing towards Eno, or Krautrock too (Imperial Walls for ex.).

Certainly a departure from his old group's music Zone, rather challenging at times and yet another worthy Hammill album with its strengths and weaknesses.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "They may not be normal, but they're people just the same"

According to Mr Hammill, calling this album "PH7" when it is in fact his 8th solo album was intended as a joke. Apart from the obvious numbering discrepancy, the humour is also based on the neutrality of the PH number seven in chemical terms, being neither acid nor alkaline. As he says on his website, " these recordings are neither neutral nor balanced".

With VDGG having apparently run its course, Hammill dispenses with the band format all together here, with just Graham(e) Smith and David Jackson contributing violin and sax respectively.

After the deceptively melodic opening track "My favourite", complete with string accompaniment, things start to take shape with the manic frenzy which is "Careering". The uncontrolled sounding backing only serves to heighten the disturbing nature of Hammill's vocal. The chaos continues on "Porton down" but things are brought back within relative control for the softer "Mirror images", the troubled lyrics bringing out one of Peter's fine emotional performances. The song had previously appeared on the VDGG live album "Vital", Hammill being not fully satisfied with that rendition.

"Handicap and equality" deals with a sensitive issue in a forthright and pragmatic way. The lyrics here should be emblazoned across billboards world-wide. "For all their grunts, their stumps, their tumours, their eternal wheelchairs; we're the freaks, we're the inhumans if we close our eyes and turn aside, pretend that if we do they'll not be there".

After a dedication to the late Keith Ellis ("Not for Keith"), an important working companion of Hammill's, "The old school tie" seems to focus on the lyrical jobs for the boys message at the expense of the song itself.

A couple of consecutive tracks see Hammill using songs, or at least lyrics, which are not his own. Chris Judge Smith's "Time for a change" is a rather curious acoustic piece, which extends Peter's vocal range to the full. The lyrics for "Imperial walls" are taken from an inscription in the Roman Baths in Bath in the south west United Kingdom. The melody, which for Hammill came first, has a military feel, complementing the tale of abandonment well.

The closing suite is actually two separate tracks, "Mr. X" and "Faculty X" segueing together. Peter cites the piece as his first real attempt to write a VDGG style epic for his solo career. The frantic vocals and offbeat rhythms are undoubtedly an acquired taste, which many will find just a little too bizarre.

This was to be Peter's last album for Charisma records, which was perhaps a relief to both parties. It certainly was not the commercially orientated product the label were hoping for, but Hammill saw it as an honest representation of where he was and where he was heading. For fans of Hammill's unique style of writing and delivery, this is a worthy album. For those less familiar with him as an artists should approach with some caution, this is not an easy listen for the curious.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Same trio as for The Future which was my least favorite Hammill album so far.

VDGG has now disbanded for good (unfortunately) and Peter will soon be kicked out the Charisma label for obvious commercial reasons. All this to say that this album is not easily accessible. Nor for the casual fan, but not even to some confirmed ones.

A mixed bag of electronic experiments which I can't endorse ("Careering", "Porton Down") highlights his new musical direction. After a somewhat weak start, the album is more oriented towards the classic Hammill. The one I prefer. A very good trio of songs full of his excellent poetry, dark and touching, brings me back some warmth. And I needed it.

Peter, as usual, has written some acid lyrics, highly critical and depicting some of his contemporaries. As the show-biz hard review in "Pushing Thirty" (from his prior album), he is now targeting the political class ("The Old School Tie"). An angry song which is hard to digest. But it was maybe to be on par with these people.

It seems that Peter plays with my nerves and switches again between his traditional style ("Time For A Change" which is an old song written by Judge Smith, an original VDGG member) and some newer oriented music, more electronic and experimental ("Imperial Walls"). The latter is no fave of mine.

Only one song can be related with the gone VDGG. "Mr. X" possesses the power, the texture, the tortured but charismatic approach. I wonder why it is I my favourite song from this album...

As for "Future Now", this album represents a bit of a deception. Same rating: two stars.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The 77-80 era was a second golden age for Peter Hammill, since his writing remained as strong as ever and his experimental interets gained a renewed power. To my ears, pH7 is the least accomplished Hammill effrt from this era but still is very worthy of the level of excellency that this rock visionary usually sets as a pattern in a very unafraid fashion. This album continues absorbing the new-wave sound initiated in The Future Now (there is even a cover from the pop-rock mainstream in the tracklist!), and the overall sound is more robust: there is only a certain lack of cohesiveness in the album, a factor to be mended in A Black Box one year later. The album kicks off with a candid acoustic ballad, 'My Favorite', dealing with the rare Hammillesque topic of joy for a love found. 'Careering' is the new-wave oriented song that light things up, with 'Porton Down' pursuing a simila rextrovertd vein: actually, there is potential for a more developed epic undertone in this track, but that thing was kept for the live album The Margin. This sutido version pales in comparison, but stills makes a pertinent follower for 'Careering', given the fact that it is more elaborated. 'Mirror Images' is a Vital-era song from the Van der Graaf Generator repertoire: actually I find that the more Spartan instrumentaion in this version is more effective when it comes to reflect the aura of angry dissapointment with oneself exposed in the lyrics. 'Handicap and Equality' is a socially concerned acoustic ballad, not really as emotionally charged as the preceding track or the next one ('Not for Keith', a serene lament for the death of a lifelong friend and former VdGG bass player, Keith Ellis), so it is easily outdone by both. The second half starts with 'The Old School Tie', a political satyre about the corrupting power of political power, which kills all ideals of justice in the minds of those who sell their dreamss for a safe home in politics. This song, with such a patent irony in its deceitfully lighthearted spirit, can be appreciated as the flip side of 'The Future Now': whose lyrics seem designed to explain the reasons why the future that should be at our hands cannot be achieved by the powers-that- be. 'Time for a Change' is a beautiful introspective ballad penned by good old friend Chris Judge Smith: this is my personal favorite ballad in the album. With 'Imperial Walls' the real experimental side of the album starts . a piece full of challenging tricks and intense density. The last two tracks state a continuous piece of social observations about the madness of our urban society in a progressive scheme: in terms of sound and writing, none of these pieces would have been out of place in World Recod... in fact, any of them would have improved it. 'Mr. X' and 'Faculty X' are effectively complex and notably weird, while preserving some sort of catchiness in the motifs. The multilayeed violins provided by Graham Smith in 'Mr. X' are climatic on their own terms, while the flute flourishes delivered by David Jackson in 'Faculty X' add the right colors to the whole track. The only minus for this album is the not so rich rhythm section (Hammill played the drums valiantly but not too successfully). 3.75 starts for yet another great Hammill album - pH7.
Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars pH7 continues his newfound confidence of The Future Now. The album has some of the stronger cuts of both albums but loses due to lack of consistency.

The opener is a rather forgettable, a run of the mill Hammill ballad. Nice, but not on par with what is to come and a strange way to start an album really. By contrast, Careering and Porten Down are breathtaking. Such anger and intensity, such innovation and fury can only be found on a Hammill album. Mirror Images is a softer track with nice buzzing keyboards. Handicap and Not For Keith continue this excellent string of songs.

The Old School Tie is maybe a bit of an acquired taste with its very accentuated singing and piano, but the beautiful ballad Time For A Change and the marching impetus of Imperia Walls are essential Hammil tracks again. Mr X (no it's not that song from Ultravox) and Faculty X are astonishing tracks again but the addition of live drums make me desire for more. In a slightly extended full band format these tracks might have worked better. At least that is what I thought till I got the 2006 remaster which adds amazing Peel Sessions of these songs where Hammill is solely accompanied by his brilliant piano work.

The difference in quality is in the details. While it has some of Hammill's strongest song writing it never feels like a coherent album. Nevertheless, 4 stars well deserved.

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars While it may be true that Peter Hammill projected punk attitudes, if not subject matter, prior to the punk movement, by the time of "ph7", he was more follower than leader. He's like the interesting fellow that you meet on a hike who possesses insightful opinions about almost every subject, but by the end of the day you have had enough, and you therefore have become exactly the sort of person he rails on about.

.The best songs here are those where he takes a more measured approach that is nonetheless equally incisive. Unfortunately these highlights are few, the best being "Handicap and Equality", as much for its pre-politically correct terminology as for its blunt tenderness and "Time for a Change". For every one of these are 2 or 3 others which remind me how his voice is like a pickle - one hits the spot but then the rest of the jar languishes in the fridge for months.

Not to take anything away from Hammill's skills as songwriter, but musically I rate this so low that, with few exceptions, I care not a whit what he is trying to say. It's all too caustic and acidic for me, even without taking the subject matter into account, and that's saying something.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars My Favourite - at least it was.

This album was my first venture in Peter Hammill's solo albums. I had ventured into van Der Graaf Generator by way of Robert Fripp's performance on "H To He", and eventually found this album is a used record store. After a somewhat maudlin opening piece, My Favorite, I found the album to be very enjoyable.

Careering is a biting, slightly dissonant song that has Hammill overdubbing on guitar, bass, drums, and odd background vocals. This song has a very Eno-esque sound. What new wave should have been. Porton Down follows, with an eerie synth track, and Hammill angrily singing about the dangers of toxic waste. Cool and political. I like that.

Then there's Mirror Image. A very proggy ballad, with some great, deep lyrics over some tasty baroque sounding keyboards. Handicap And Equality is an okay ballad, but here Hammill gets a little too preachy, although I admire the sentiment. Not For Keith is a ballad that sounds very personal to Hammill.

The first side of the LP ends with Polaroid, an odd, jokey song, sung in a Cockney accent. The song, not listed in the album notes, is similar is spirit to some of those throwaway ELP songs that cause so much controversy. Maybe that's why I like it.

Side two begins with The Old School Tie, another song with biting lyrics aimed at future politicians being coddled in a college or prep school. It feels like a companion piece to Careering. And it's a great song. Time For A Change is one of those songs in a style that I usually don't like. A guitar/vocal ballad usually isn't my style. But Hammill puts so much into it that it just grows on me. Imperial Walls is so creepy, it's cool.

Mister X (Gets Tense) may be the closest hammill gets on this album to tradition prog, and it's just fantastic - and creepy. Faculty X springs from the end of this tune, with a slightly jazzier riff, but is no less exciting.

You know what? It's still my favorite. 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Review by Warthur
4 stars pH7 sees Hammill retain the sparse backing group of The Future Now but softening the sound a little, incorporating more soft acoustic songs alongside the New Wave experimentations. The proggiest material here is probably the closing pair of songs, Mr X (Gets Tense) and Faculty X, on which Graham Smith's violin ably evokes the tension required by the song. Hammill's lyrics are as insightful and thoughtful as ever on songs like Handicap and Equality and Not For Keith, and his singing is as emotionally genuine as usual. Still, it seems rather slight compared to both the firey The Future Now and the more progressive A Black Box, though not enough to slip down to three stars.

Latest members reviews

3 stars File under interesting. An eclectic mix of rock, folk, punk and (possibly) prog. A collection of relatively short songs in what today would probably be described as a lo-fi style: stripped-down instrumentation, direct lyrics delivered in characteristic emotional style, and basic production. There ... (read more)

Report this review (#1092278) | Posted by jmeadow | Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Work announced in 1979 "PH7". Aggressive violent tune. Tune of pious mood to think of past. And, the tune like VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. It is a work where these tunes exist together. It is a work with the beauty of powerful and the self-intoxication that doesn't change indefinitely.The last tw ... (read more)

Report this review (#47266) | Posted by braindamage | Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In some respects, the solo albums of PH are quite different from the VDGG production. He both explores and exposes the deepest rooms of his soul in his solo outputs, which is not the case in the vdgg albums usually. However, both these branches convergate to each other, often they are overlapp ... (read more)

Report this review (#17812) | Posted by | Monday, May 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Coming after the minimalist but enthrallingly experimental The Future Now, pH7 is a return to more familiar song-based territory. Mainstream compromises? Hardly. This is a disconcertingly eclectic set of recordings, even by Hammill's standards, and yields it's fair share of sonic delights. We fin ... (read more)

Report this review (#17811) | Posted by | Monday, March 28, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Hard to get hold of album. Inclusive of all lifes worries i.e. health service weapons of mass distruction, psychosis and the forever process of change, desires and wishes.. What can anyone else want to listen to way ahead of its time, relatively unrecognised and obscure. Wish i had a copy. ... (read more)

Report this review (#17808) | Posted by | Tuesday, September 7, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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