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PETER HAMMILL

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Peter Hammill picture
Peter Hammill biography
Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill - Born 5 November 1948 (Ealing, West London, England)

Peter HAMMILL is one of the most unique and influential voices in prog. He was the pivotal figure in VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (VDGG for short) who formed in 1967 at Manchester University. His obsession with lost love, lost faith, time, space and existence itself are the cornerstones of both his work with the band and his solo albums. He was also their principle songwriter. The classic line-up was the HAMMILL, Banton, Jaxon, Evans combo which produced the peak "Pawn Hearts", "Still Life" and "Godbluff" albums. He has since brought out at least 30 solo albums, marked by lyrics of the utmost insight (usually) and a total refusal to compromise. Their complex music, as often brutal as it was lyrical, fitted somewhat uneasily into the once and then niche of Progressive Rock. An interesting figure whose albums certainly merit investigation..!

The first of a classic trilogy in progressive rock history, "Chameleon"... and its companion pieces "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage" and "In Camera", are as good if not better than many of the VDGG albums. FOR FANS OF PETER HAMMILL...!

See also:
- Van Der Graaf Generator
- The Long Hello

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Buy PETER HAMMILL Music


Not Yet Not NowNot Yet Not Now
Box set
Fie 2019
$56.05
$63.12 (used)
X/TenX/Ten
Fie! 2019
$13.85
$10.57 (used)
Fools MateFools Mate
Extra tracks · Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2005
$8.34
$6.28 (used)
The Future NowThe Future Now
Reissued
Caroline Blue Plate 1990
$76.99 (used)
All That Might Have BeenAll That Might Have Been
Fie 2014
$9.35
$15.79 (used)
Nadirs Big ChanceNadirs Big Chance
Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2007
$5.73
$3.34 (used)
Room Temperature : The Complete Two-Disc SetRoom Temperature : The Complete Two-Disc Set
Restless Records 1993
$24.95 (used)
OverOver
Extra tracks · Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2006
$5.73
$4.26 (used)
Silent Corner & the Empty StageSilent Corner & the Empty Stage
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline 2006
$4.94
$2.64 (used)

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PETER HAMMILL discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PETER HAMMILL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.78 | 322 ratings
Fool's Mate
1971
4.07 | 352 ratings
Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night
1973
4.31 | 832 ratings
The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
1974
4.16 | 372 ratings
In Camera
1974
3.76 | 260 ratings
Nadir's Big Chance
1975
3.96 | 330 ratings
Over
1977
3.50 | 210 ratings
The Future Now
1978
3.67 | 199 ratings
pH7
1979
3.93 | 235 ratings
A Black Box
1980
3.55 | 173 ratings
Sitting Targets
1981
3.75 | 147 ratings
Enter K
1982
3.72 | 137 ratings
Patience
1983
3.19 | 79 ratings
Loops & Reels
1983
2.98 | 122 ratings
Skin
1986
3.54 | 123 ratings
And Close As This
1986
2.82 | 91 ratings
In A Foreign Town
1988
3.33 | 99 ratings
Out Of Water
1990
3.43 | 100 ratings
The Fall Of The House Of Usher
1991
3.03 | 59 ratings
Peter Hammill-Guy Evans: Spur Of The Moment
1991
3.66 | 134 ratings
Fireships
1992
2.77 | 82 ratings
The Noise
1993
2.32 | 40 ratings
Offensichtlich Goldfisch
1993
3.29 | 89 ratings
Roaring Forties
1994
3.22 | 87 ratings
X My Heart
1996
2.41 | 59 ratings
Sonix
1996
3.44 | 85 ratings
Everyone You Hold
1997
3.44 | 84 ratings
This
1998
2.83 | 45 ratings
Roger Eno & Peter Hammill: The Appointed Hour
1999
3.97 | 87 ratings
The Fall Of The House Of Usher (New Version)
1999
2.81 | 67 ratings
None Of The Above
2000
3.26 | 72 ratings
What , Now?
2001
2.70 | 54 ratings
Unsung
2001
3.57 | 80 ratings
Clutch
2002
3.75 | 104 ratings
Incoherence
2004
3.59 | 95 ratings
Singularity
2006
3.32 | 99 ratings
Thin Air
2009
3.57 | 73 ratings
Consequences
2012
3.56 | 74 ratings
Peter Hammill/Gary Lucas: Other World
2014
3.67 | 46 ratings
...All That Might Have Been...
2014
3.83 | 39 ratings
From The Trees
2017

PETER HAMMILL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.77 | 49 ratings
The Margin +
1985
3.35 | 43 ratings
Room Temperature Live
1990
3.61 | 36 ratings
There Goes the Daylight
1993
3.66 | 33 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1995
3.18 | 17 ratings
Tides
1996
3.35 | 24 ratings
The Union Chapel Concert (with Guy Evans)
1997
4.32 | 48 ratings
Typical (Solo Performances)
1999
4.00 | 42 ratings
Veracious (with Stuart Gordon)
2006
3.61 | 18 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII
2009
4.00 | 10 ratings
PNO GTR VOX - Live Performances
2011
4.00 | 11 ratings
Live At Rockpalast - Hamburg 1981
2016
3.50 | 4 ratings
X/Ten
2019

PETER HAMMILL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.00 | 11 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII (video)
1992

PETER HAMMILL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 9 ratings
Vision
1978
3.00 | 1 ratings
Peter Hammill
1982
2.59 | 35 ratings
The Love Songs
1984
3.86 | 3 ratings
The Essential Collection
1986
3.00 | 1 ratings
Enter K / Patience
1986
3.00 | 1 ratings
Il Rock
1989
4.00 | 16 ratings
The Calm (After The Storm)
1993
3.35 | 15 ratings
The Storm (Before The Calm)
1993
3.07 | 7 ratings
Past Go - Collected
1996
3.20 | 5 ratings
After The Show (A Collection)
1996
3.00 | 2 ratings
Ο Άγγελος Του Παράξενου
1997
2.57 | 7 ratings
The Thin Man Sings Ballads
2001
3.00 | 1 ratings
Fools Mate / In Camera
2003
3.23 | 7 ratings
Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
2012
4.33 | 3 ratings
Not Yet, Not Now
2019
5.00 | 1 ratings
The K Box
2019

PETER HAMMILL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 5 ratings
Red Shift
1973
2.17 | 4 ratings
Birthday Special / Shingle Song
1975
4.33 | 3 ratings
Crying Wolf
1977
2.67 | 3 ratings
If I Could
1978
2.33 | 3 ratings
My Experience
1981
3.00 | 3 ratings
Paradox Drive
1982
2.50 | 2 ratings
Film Noir
1983
2.33 | 8 ratings
Just Good Friends
1985
1.50 | 2 ratings
Painting by Numbers
1986
1.50 | 2 ratings
A Fix On The Mix
1992

PETER HAMMILL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 832 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars 'Maybe i should de-louse this place, Maybe i should de-place this louse.' And so the poetic prowess of PETER HAMMILL continues on his third album THE SILENT CORNER AND THE EMPTY STAGE. The relationship between PETER HAMMILL's solo career and Van Der Graaf Generator was always a murky one dating back to VDGG's earliest releases but due to an overload of touring, studio time and scant financial payoffs VDGG decided to take a hiatus after 1971's overachieving spirit of 'Pawn Hearts.' Despite the break, the band had been working on the next album and after the decision to call it splitsville, HAMMILL found a surplus of material that he could use on his solo releases which he promptly reworked so he could do that very thing! HAMMILL's prolific and restless nature was in some ways unleashed with the excessive grandiosity of VDGG out of the picture and he started cranking out solo albums at a steady stream. 1971's 'Fool's Mate' was basically a bunch of holdovers from the 60s and showcased HAMMILL's earliest recordings in a much happier mood but beginning with the sophomore release 'Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night' a darker melancholy had completely usurped control and there would be no going back.

On the third album THE SILENT CORNER AND THE EMPTY STAGE, the stylistic approach of the predecessor was retained with piano based melodies teased into slithering emotional beasts that displayed HAMMILL's uncanny modulating abilities of emoting pure sadness to excitation in the drop of a hat. With his fellow VDGG band along for the ride, this album is like many of the early ones and barely distinguishably from the mighty Generator's own manic depressive technically infused emotional rants however HAMMILL remained careful to focus on the singer / songwriter attributes first and foremost no matter how wild and crazy the accoutrements that followed would become. SILENT CORNER is clearly where HAMMILL came of age as a solo performer and one where he displayed his talent of creating a product as magnificently divine yet kept the intimacy of a solo artist's endeavor perfectly in tact. With HAMMILL's piano and vocal talents firing at all peaks, SILENT CORNER remains one of his finest achievements both in and out of VDGG.

Emotional changed and frenetic to the core, SILENT CORNER offers a roller coaster ride of HAMMILL ups and downs as heard on classics such as 'Pawn Hearts' but while the piano rolls and compositional unorthodoxies rule the roost, SILENT CORNER was more willing to adopt some of the more adventurous aspects of Van Der Graaf Generator such as crazy electronic enhancements, unhinged reverb and distortion and schizoid mood shifts from calm and introspective to explosively unhinged and raging ferventness. As reflected in the rather eye-catching album cover, the dramatic themes tackles the emotional depth of the self, loneliness, isolation and above all exists in HAMMILL's own poetic universe of his making. Firmly in command of the compositional structures, with his conductor's hat on, HAMMILL directs the VDGG cast along a uniquely pensive musical experience that exhibits the same roller coaster prog universe epic flair while offering the more tamed down versions of intimacy of a man and his instrument. While the VDGG team of Hugh Benton, David Jackson and Guy Evans play on the entire album, they are allowed to forge new territories outside of the VDGG paradigm and there is even a guest guitar playing performance by Randy California of the band Spirit on 'Red Shift.'

Graced with seven excellently strong tracks SILENT CORNER begins with 'Modern,' a delightful acoustic guitar frenzy with HAMMILL's excitable vocal style lamenting the impermanence of the achievements of the human constructed environment. The track wastes no time slinking around off-kilter time signature rich passages that morph into psychedelic free-for-alls suitable for an Amon Duul II album and then back into the melodic constructs from whence they came. The following 'Wilhelmina' takes on a more intimate approach with a simple piano and vocal performance laced with a contemplative narrative that takes on a few symphonic and heavier stances but remains a rock free moment. 'The Lie (Bernini's Saint Theresa)' continues the piano focus but takes it into more turbulent territory with violent stormy piano noise and atmospheric cloud covers that was inspired by the 17th Century Baroque sculpture 'Ecstasy of Sin Theresa' by brian Lorenzo Bernini. Perhaps one of the moodiest tracks on SILENT CORNER, HAMMILL generates a rather dramatic performance that alternates between soft spoken and demonically possessed.

One of the highlights in my world is 'Red Shift' which is the closest track to a fully fueled Van Der Graaf Generator band reunion performance. Laced with a cyclical saxophone riff and oceans of reverb and echo effects, the track is one of the few true rockers that features Spirit's Randy California offering a guitar performance amongst the crashing tidal waves of recurring musical motifs augmented by HAMMILL's vocal ratcheting effects. The track sort of swings but pummels the senses with heavy pulsing waves of sound and Guy Evans' most dynamic percussive performances on the album. 'Rubicon' calms things down with as an acoustic guitar cooling down period that tackles a progressive folk stance with more insightful lyrics but sounds like a fluffer for the album's most dynamic track of all, the over the top gusto of 'A Louse Is Not A Home,' which was one of the leftovers from the 'Pawn Hearts' followup that never came to be. Not only is 'Louse' one of the best HAMMILL tracks ever but one of the best tracks ever recorded PERIOD. Chock full of a never-ending flow of vocal intonations and mood enhancing drama, the track is actually based upon a rather simple yet effective piano motif but HAMMILL's brilliance is that he dances around it vocally, melodically and by implementing contrasting stylistic effects. The track is a powerhouse of lyrical subterfuge, vocal dynamism and progressive rock divinity.

While HAMMILL had proved himself as the leader of the VDGG band of his making, THE SILENT CORNER AND THE EMPTY STAGE was the point where he hit his stride as a solo artist and proved not only his prolific output was in no danger of burning out any time soon but that he diverse range of subject matter and musical ideas was somehow generated from a fully intact creativity pool. SILENT CORNER built upon the ideas from 'Chameleons' but launched them into the full power of the progressive rock pomp and awe of the early 70s with impunity. Through a wide-range of powerful vocal antics and dramatic stylistic shifts THE SILENT CORNER exorcized the demons from the simple pop melodies that undergirded the melodic flow and twisted them into lengthy edifices that perfectly illuminated HAMMILL's poetic virtuosity, melodramatic theatrical vocal gymnastics which were accompanied by psychedelic overtones and production experimentation. When all is said and done, THE SILENT CORNER is perhaps the most masterful example of HAMMILL's ingenious fusion of progressive rock with his singer / songwriter tendencies and all accompanied by the most outrageous displays of musical accompaniments. Despite HAMMILL's prolific nature that has gone well into the present, SILENT CORNER remains one of his most dynamic and mind-blowing examples of his unique genius and one of the few album's of his canon that i can never grow tired of no matter how many times i give it a spin.

 Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.07 | 352 ratings

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Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Peter Hammill's second solo album represents one of the absolute masterpieces in the history of author rock for three factors: the songwriting, which features existentialist texts of a complexity and depth that only very few can afford; the musical score, both in terms of writing and arrangements; the performance of the musicians, in particular the superlative vocal performance of Hammill.

The incipit, "German Overalls", seven minutes, is slow, prudent, guitar and vocals. Intimate. But even when he is romantic, Hammill breeds embers if not magma ready to explode and in fact the song passes from serenity to neurosis to anguish. The vocal performance is superb and leads the piece to high peaks of pathos, the musical arrangement is perfect and refined in its sobriety. The song proceeds always with the same melodic line but enriched by the harmonic variations of the singing; there is mostly voice and guitar arrangement but with a hieratic solo of existential prog organ (thank you, Hugh Banton!) in the middle. This music is prog folk written by an existential philosopher. Masterpiece. Rating 8.5/9.

"Slender Threads", five minutes, is the second fok song, acoustic guitar and vocals, in the wake of the first, but more narrated; there are more melodic variations but overall it's calmer than the previous one, less original, more conventional. Rating 7,5.

After two acoustic folk songs, comes "Rock and Rôle", almost six and a half minutes of rock music, with drums (Guy Evans), bass (Nic Potter) and electric guitars in the foreground. Good rhythm, great arrangement thank to the sax played by Jackson, powerful song. It fades away very slowly, maybe the final tail is too long. Rating 8+.

Fourth song: "In the End"; seven and a half minutes made of piano and voice. Beginning muted, brooding, then, after one minute of shy piano music, arrives Hammill's reflective voice. At the second minute the voice become dramatic, and then after 5 minutes there is a pause. After that, starts the grand finale, final rush, voice that comes magnificent, impressive, produces a great pathos, a wonderful climax. Then, final tail fade. Rating 9. Masterpiece.

End of A Side.

Second side opens with "What's It Worth", a folk song that lasts four minutes. Acoustic guitar, wonderful flute (thank you, Dave Jackson!), voice and little else. Relaxed, blissful, pastoral piece. Rating 7,5.

"Easy to Slip Away", almost five and a half minutes, is another wonderful piano ballad. It reaches the climax thanks to Hammill's voice performance towards two minutes, after a beautiful progression, when Hammill sings: "Susie!" Then there is an instrumental piece almost dissonant, very proggy; after about four minutes resumes the voice. Final very dramatic: "It's so easy to slip away." Rating 8.5.

"Dropping the Torch", four minutes, is a semiacoustic song very dragged, slow and melancholy; it's the weaker piece of the album, rating 7,

Then starts with the piano "(In the) Black Room/Tower", eleven minutes, a piece typically Van Der Graaffy, certainly the progger song of the Lp, with the whole group that repeats paranoid and obsessive phrases, and changes of rhythm that recall "Pawn Hearts". In any way, the instrumental variations rest on a clear melodic line, evident even in the continuous variations of tone executed by voice and rhythm section and sax. Towards the middle the piece becomes paroxysmal, repeating the same rhythmic phrase until it fades. There is a dramatic theatrical pause, piano and voice, then screams accompanied by dissonances on the sax, finally a threatening rhythmic progression that leads to a pause (perhaps not necessary) before returning to the original melodic theme, repeated with enthusiasm until the grand finale. Historical piece. Rating 8,5/9

This record is the album of a talented folksinger-songwriter (songs 1, 2, 5, 7); it's the album of one of the most gifted vocalist of prog rock, author of wonderful piano music (songs 4, 6); it's the album of great composer and arranger of prog rock music (songs 3 and 8, but even song 1).

Very inspired album. Absolute masterpiece of progressive rock.

Medium quality of the songs 8,16. Rating 9,5. Five stars.

 Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.07 | 352 ratings

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Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The duality of Van Der Graaf Generator and the solo career of PETER HAMMILL may seem arbitrary on the face of it since often the lineup of the albums of both monikers is identical in most cases, however HAMILL has explained that the main difference between the split personalities of what could theoretically be called "PETER HAMMILL & Van Der Graaf Generator" is that of the democratic nature of the band efforts whereas in comparison the solo endeavors offered complete control and the ability to pursue more commercial sounds not suitable for the legendary sound of the band. The results of which found the band VdGG finding richer band participation and the solo albums finding the proper backup opportunities for HAMMILL's often less complex foray into the extremities of progressive rock. Nevertheless HAMMILL was and always has been the primary songwriter / lyricist / performer of both aspects of this bizarre combo package but in the end found the perfect way to deliver this Jekyll & Hyde dichotomy in haunting beauty.

Following the enervating days that surrounded the album "Pawn Hearts," HAMMILL and his VdGG experienced complete burnout with incessant recording sessions, non-stop touring schedules and frustration by the lack of financial success despite the critics and hardcore proggers raving about the innovative and boundary pushing sounds that emerged from one of prog rock's most revered bands. As of August 1972, HAMMILL broke up VdGG in order to focus on a less hectic solo career. While the first solo album "Fool's Mate" emerged during the "Pawn Hearts" days, it was more of a musical exorcism of sort where HAMMILL finally unleashed the pop oriented songs he wrote in the late 60s and laid them down on tape before they became utterly irrelevant as he evolved into new chapters of his musical development. With no more VdGG to swallow up his days, HAMMILL was free to focus exclusively on his own musical visions. The first "proper" solo album in this regard CHAMELEON IN THE SHADOW OF THE NIGHT emerged in 1973 in lieu of the VdGG album that never came to be.

CHAMELEON IN THE SHADOW OF THE NIGHT however was much more than a solo album but more like a giant VdGG reunion party where everyone was invited displaying the maturity of the band and that no ill will resulted from the breakup but merely a consensus of egalitarian enervation. HAMMILL was joined not only by the classic VdGG lineup of Guy Evans (drums), David Jackson (sax) and Hugh Banton (keyboards) but by early member Nic Potter on bass as well. While this sophomore effort was not only liberating from the overwhelming responsibilities of the VdGG behemoth, it was also the point where HAMMILL created his own sonic laboratory and started the arduous journey of learning how to produce his own albums, therefore this album has a very homegrown quality to it however being the perfectionist he is known to be, HAMMILL entered the properly equipped Trident Studios to add all the final touches. Elegant and darkly different from the cheery sunshine pop of "Fool's Mate," HAMMILL reverted back to the brooding and poetically charged lyricism that had made VdGG stand out from the pack.

The album is quite the wealth of diversity. Not only does HAMMILL strut his folky singer / songwriter roots on tracks like "German Overalls" and "Slender Threads" but also entertains his garage rock leanings sounding like a more possessed version of Neil Young with jazzy touches on "Rock And Role." The opener "German Overalls" evokes the "Space Oddity" era of David Bowie and brusquely narrates the final days of VdGG and the pressures that were cast upon the unsuspecting proggers who forever upped the ante to complete burnout. Likewise the expected piano dominated tunes are in full swing on tracks like "Easy To Slip Away" although the piano is for the most part eschewed altogether as HAMMILL opts to exercise his acoustic guitar playing skills as evidenced by the album cover. Look very closely, he's there in that circle in full folk mode. While the album lacks a consistent flow in continuity, it is saved by the strength of the respective tracks on board.

The best track on board in terms of progressive rock chops is the closing 11-ish "(In the) Black Room/Tower" which was played live on the "Pawn Hearts" tour and intended to be included on the followup to that album that never came to be. And much like that album, the track entertains a dizzying diverse palette of schizoid time signature frenzies, multi-suite attacks and HAMMILL's most dramatic emotive vocal utterances on the album that have been described as "a mosaic of schizoid warblings." However the track only hints at what the proper followup to "Pawn Hearts" could've been as HAMMILL channels the dynamisms and thundering freneticism into a more personal direction that would ultimately lead to the more progressive exorcisms experienced on future releases beginning with the following "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage." While CHAMELEON IN THE SHADOW OF THE NIGHT may not come off as the most cohesive album and pales when place amidst the magnanimous nature of the albums that follow, it is indeed a stellar collection of tracks that finds HAMMILL feeling more comfortable in his own skin as the sole decision maker and much like "Fool's Mate" has to be accepted on its own terms in which it shines brightly.

 Fool's Mate by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.78 | 322 ratings

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Fool's Mate
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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.

 Fireships by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.66 | 134 ratings

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Fireships
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Peter Hammill is a long-time favourite of mine, but his vast and many-sided solo discography is challenging to get to know thoroughly. Several of the 80's and 90's albums are partly familiar to me via PH compilations. Fireships and the next one, The Noise (1993) together demonstrate the dichotomic ways in Hammill's creativity. While the latter is noisy and rocking, Fireships concentrates on the softer side. Sadly Hammill's idea of "BeCalm" series of albums didn't materialize further. Of his collaborators only multi-talent co-producer David Lord and violinist Stuart Gordon appear on most tracks here. Two other Graaf mates, bassist Nic Potter and flautist/saxophonist David Jackson, have smaller contributions.

The opener 'I Will Find You' is one of the most unoriginal pop ballads Hammill has ever recorded. The freshness soon wears out as the banal love song just keeps on repeating the same. 'Curtains' is a deeply emotional slow-tempo song featuring piano and a string arrangement. 'His Best Girl' is another highlight, extremely delicate and moody song with interesting lyrics about a possessive relastionship. 'Oasis' has a Middle-Eastern flavour on soft percussion and soprano sax (slightly reminding me of Peter Gabriel's Passion soundtrack). Not quite as moving as the two songs before it, but still very good. 'Incomplete Surrender' continues on the slow and delicate route. A bit too extended at nearly seven minutes, and at this point the listener starts to feel sleepy.

The title track grows from the sonic sparseness la Out of Water (1990) to the edgier and more synthetic sound of Roaring Forties (1994). Even the use of drum machine is justified, to give some variety to the mellow album. 'Given Time' is a slow ballad in which the elegant electric guitar sounds are colouring the sparseness nicely. Also the final song 'Gaia' is in a very slow tempo, and the sonic delicacy builds up to cathartic passion. Cinematic, deeply emotional and perhaps a bit syrupy. All in all, Fireships is pretty well executed set of mellow and passionate songs. Those listeners wishing for more edginess may feel disappointed (and narcotic), but if you're fond of Peter Hammill at his calmest, this is definitely an album worth checking out.

 The Noise by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1993
2.77 | 82 ratings

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The Noise
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by zampino

4 stars I must be one of the few who really likes this record. After the heavy hand of Usher, and the sometimes cloying aspects of Fireships, I found this refreshing. Some of the comments here regard the lyrics, but songs like "Like a shot, the Entertainer" are both insightful, skeptical, and open to interpretation, and the grooves and playing are compelling. Similarly "A Kick to kill the kiss" is great word play in a great setting. Personally I'd remove "The Great European Department Store", but that's the only song that hasn't resonated with me over many listens.

I believe the problem is how "pop" these songs are compared to previous work, but for me it's the start of the modern Peter Hammill, writing songs and not trying to prove how intellectually sophisticated and different his music is. I find it refreshing, and suggest the listener take on his solo catalog in sequence to see how this pushes Hammill forward in the direction that represent the bulk of his coming work. Put it also into perspective with Foreign Town or Out of Water, which use more obvious/electronic beats that date the music; I find "The Noise" to hold up better over the year as a more organic rock record. It's not perfect, but it's a good and unique record with lyrics that fit into a prog listener's aesthetic.

 Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2012
3.23 | 7 ratings

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Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars In 2011 Peter Hammill released 2-CD live set "PNO GTR VOX" of his specifically themed solo performances in Japan; on one gig PH is backing himself solely on acoustic guitar, and on another gig with piano (1st and 2nd discs of this release), and later on he changes the instrument during the gig (or disc), but never using both on a same song. No other musicians or instruments are involved in this entire 7-CD box. Sounds like it was made for die-hard fans only, doesn't it? I'm not such fan, even less a completionist for ANY artist, and actually I was very close to give a "collectors/fans only" two-star rating, as that description hits the nail. Let's get it straight at once: clearly this IS fan stuff, not recommended for more casual Hammill listeners. That being said, I'll use the rating scale more freely, based on my personal reception.

Peter Hammill is an artist that strongly divides opinions. Either you like him or you can't get into his music at all. I do like him, and Van der Graaf Generator especially, but definitely not everything he's done. And often, in this case more than ever, the certain rawness won't win any new listeners. Technically, Peter Hammill is an average player of piano. And he's an average player of guitar too. So it's obvious that the power of this music comes from the unique vocalist/lyricist. For those who dislike his voice, listening to this set through would be mere torture. Not that it would be a light task for a dedicated fan either. In the liner notes Hammill admits that there can be TOO MUCH of Peter Hammill to digest at once, referring both to the restricted lengths of the concerts and the lengths of the CD's that only in three cases out of seven exceed the 70-minute mark. He also encourages the listener to edit his/her own ideal set list.

The four gig themes in Japan were "What if I forgot my guitar?", "What if there no piano?", "'What if I knew this was the last show I'd ever do?" and "'What if I played only VdGG/VdG songs?" You can check out the set lists as well as the three other (more or less artificial) CD themes on the album page. Track lengths are unfortunately missing, but in the leaflet PH has listed the studio albums for all songs (a gesture I appreciate!), and the discographies of both VdGG - or VdG - and Hammill's solo career are being covered pretty evenly, ie. there are no many albums that are not represented at all. Some are by one song only, e.g. 'Afterwards' from the VdGG debut (1968), gorgeous 'The Comet...' from In Camera (1974), 'Too Many of My Yesterdays' from And Close As This (1986), 'Time to Burn' from In a Foreign Town (1988), superb 'A Way Out' from Out of Water (1990) or 'I Will Find You' from Fireships (1992). The last mentioned song is one of the most banal songs in this set, and Out of Water would have been a suitable source album in general for one-man performances, just to pick up two examples of could-have-been-better -cases. Some albums, e.g. Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night, Enter K, Patience, or the latest at the time, Thin Air (2009), are sources for three or four songs.

To get the idea of those solo shows, it wouldn't be unwise to choose the 2-CD version instead of the box set. The most irrelevant is the 7th disc containing alternate versions (yeah, talk about "fans only" stuff...). The disc containing only VdGG/VdG songs was the most striking disappointment for me. Simply because these ripped-down versions are SO inferior to the originals! This naturally applies also to some solo stuff, though to notably smaller degree. The better I remember the original, the more I miss the other instruments such as the violin/viola of Stuart Gordon or saxes and flutes of David Jackson that grace several PH albums. CD's 5 and 6 expand the song selection pretty well (even though being under an hour's length) and offer well-functioning songs such as 'Autumn', 'The Lie' and 'Four Pails'. To sum up: if you're a die-hard fan of Peter Hammill and enjoy his unique magic created by passionate vocals and meaningful song-writing, also in the rawest of settings, you'll enjoy this box set. For all others I advice to get some of the best studio albums instead.

 From The Trees by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.83 | 39 ratings

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From The Trees
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by javajeff

4 stars This is another fantastic release from Peter Hammill, and a very welcome addition. He is an excellent song writer, and provides a vocal performance and phrasing like no one else. With such an enormous catalog of albums, finding new ground must be a huge challenge. The first thing I noticed with this recording beyond the sparse instrumentation is the layered vocals. Some of the backing vocals sound like there are contributors on this album. From The Trees does not deviate much from other of his modern releases, but surely progresses and advances his unique sound. There are no bad tracks on the album, but What Lies Ahead, On Deaf Ears, and Torpor are early standouts for me. I am a huge fan, and can listen to his material for hours. From the Trees is another adventure that I will enjoy in my collection. 4.5/5. Thank you Peter.
 None Of The Above by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 2000
2.81 | 67 ratings

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None Of The Above
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by CliffX

5 stars After more than 35 years of Prog in my life, here arrives NONE OF THE ABOVE. A big fan of VDGG since early 70's, always thought this band would be forever underrated. The same with Peter Hammill. The other Peter conquered the world with more accessible (very good) material, but this Peter would continue in the underground world. Since the 70's the music wasn't the same. Creativity ended up in the late 70's and comercial times arrived. In 2000 this beautiful CD appeared and I bought it with curiosity. I think this album is perfectly magical for a listenner like me, who was tired of unsuccessfully searching for new and fresh music. Never thought it was so damn good! It is dark like all VDGG but fresh at the same time. I'm a guitar player myself and I think Peter did a very good job with the guitars. He is a fairly good piano player too. Great songs, sound ambients, lyrics, majestic hymns (Astart) like the old times. Its a nowadays masterpiece.

 In Camera by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.16 | 372 ratings

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In Camera
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This is by far my favorite solo album from Peter Hammill. Of the few solo albums I own by him, I found them hit or miss. For example, 1977's Over I just plain couldn't get into (I realize he was undergoing a messy divorce and had to express that). Ph7 is pretty good, though, and The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is one of his best. In Camera follows Silent Corner, but the only VdGG member involved here is Guy Evans (OK, so was Chris Judge-Smith, but he was only a very early member of the group). Aside from Evans, is also David Hentschel for the ARP synth programming and Chris Judge-Smith (as mentioned before). Paul Whitehead is also credited, but he was totally unaware he even performed on the album because he already moved to the United States by this time, and was likely an earlier recording he made that was just lying around. Before I go any further, there's definitely a debate about what ARP synth is being used on this album. I've seen sources state ARP 2600. I have always suspect it was the ARP 2500, and here's the reason why: David Hentschel used a 2500 Elton John's "Rocket Man" and most notably "Funeral for a Friend". He programs the ARP on In Camera, Peter Hammill plays it here, and he never used any ARP on any of his other solo albums leaving me to believe it was David Hentschel's 2500. Plus it has a lot of sounds that seem too elaborate and sound effects too complex for a 2600 (I should know, I own a 2600, and I can't get it to do many of those sounds heard on In Camera). Unless there were photos taken of In Camera sessions, I can only guess. Plus the album only states "ARP synthesizer", which could mean (in 1974) Odyssey, Pro Soloist (which would hardly be those), 2600 or 2500.

It seems a couple of the songs on In Camera were Aerosol Grey Machine and Pawn Hearts leftovers, I mean to say, written during that time period, but recorded at the end of 1973/beginning of 1974. Anyways, this stuff is just as great as anything coming out of Van der Graaf Generator. "Ferret and Featherbird" is a gentle acoustic number you often hear from Hammill, this being written in 1969, so it wouldn't seem out of place on The Aerosol Grey Machine (itself intended as a Hammill solo album, but leaked out as a VdGG album). "(No More) The Sub-Mariner" is nothing short of amazing. Those ARP synth sounds are just unbelievable, and the dramatic approach Hammill gives us is truly a sight to behold! I really love that powerful pulsing synth sound that Hammill does here. "Tapeworm" rocks even more than your typical VdGG, while "Again" is a gentle acoustic number that leads to the dramatic "Faint-Heart and the Sermon". Again the ARP rears its heard, with some synth sounds that don't sound too different from "Funeral for a Friend" that leads me to think it was a 2500. It also has some cool synth effects, but I shouldn't forget the nice Mellotron passages found here. "Gog"/"Magog (In Bromine Chambers)" is truly unbelievable. Dramatic to a capital "D" with harmonium being used and his melodramatic voice. You start thinking the reason for a solo career is because some of this stuff would been too melodramatic even for VdGG standards (you can almost imagine Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, and David Jackson telling him to "Cool it down on the melodrama"). Then the album ends up with some strange sound effects that just sound plain sinister. This is truly a career highlight for Peter Hammill, as far as I'm concerned. This album is very much a classic and to me a five star rating, comes with my very highest recommendation!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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