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PETER HAMMILL

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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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
- Isildurs Bane

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PETER HAMMILL discography


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

3.77 | 364 ratings
Fool's Mate
1971
4.04 | 394 ratings
Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night
1973
4.31 | 930 ratings
The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
1974
4.14 | 420 ratings
In Camera
1974
3.80 | 304 ratings
Nadir's Big Chance
1975
3.97 | 359 ratings
Over
1977
3.51 | 233 ratings
The Future Now
1978
3.67 | 227 ratings
pH7
1979
3.94 | 266 ratings
A Black Box
1980
3.57 | 190 ratings
Sitting Targets
1981
3.74 | 164 ratings
Enter K
1982
3.71 | 155 ratings
Patience
1983
3.17 | 88 ratings
Loops & Reels
1983
3.00 | 138 ratings
Skin
1986
3.51 | 140 ratings
And Close As This
1986
2.88 | 105 ratings
In A Foreign Town
1988
3.32 | 116 ratings
Out Of Water
1990
3.43 | 111 ratings
The Fall Of The House Of Usher
1991
3.01 | 67 ratings
Peter Hammill-Guy Evans: Spur of the Moment
1991
3.67 | 147 ratings
Fireships
1992
2.81 | 95 ratings
The Noise
1993
2.40 | 49 ratings
Offensichtlich Goldfisch
1993
3.30 | 101 ratings
Roaring Forties
1994
3.21 | 98 ratings
X My Heart
1996
2.45 | 67 ratings
Sonix
1996
3.42 | 96 ratings
Everyone You Hold
1997
3.43 | 96 ratings
This
1998
2.74 | 53 ratings
Roger Eno & Peter Hammill: The Appointed Hour
1999
3.93 | 93 ratings
The Fall Of The House Of Usher (New Version)
1999
2.83 | 74 ratings
None Of The Above
2000
3.26 | 83 ratings
What , Now?
2001
2.75 | 59 ratings
Unsung
2001
3.55 | 86 ratings
Clutch
2002
3.74 | 119 ratings
Incoherence
2004
3.59 | 109 ratings
Singularity
2006
3.33 | 110 ratings
Thin Air
2009
3.60 | 84 ratings
Consequences
2012
3.55 | 84 ratings
Peter Hammill/Gary Lucas: Other World
2014
3.69 | 55 ratings
...All That Might Have Been...
2014
3.67 | 52 ratings
From The Trees
2017
3.36 | 22 ratings
In Translation
2021

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

3.75 | 57 ratings
Peter Hammill & The K Group: The Margin
1985
3.36 | 47 ratings
Room Temperature Live
1990
3.60 | 39 ratings
There Goes the Daylight
1993
3.67 | 38 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1995
3.25 | 20 ratings
Tides
1996
3.34 | 28 ratings
The Union Chapel Concert (with Guy Evans)
1997
4.29 | 52 ratings
Typical (Solo Performances)
1999
3.92 | 47 ratings
Veracious (with Stuart Gordon)
2006
3.52 | 21 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII
2009
4.07 | 14 ratings
PNO GTR VOX - Live Performances
2011
4.00 | 14 ratings
Live At Rockpalast - Hamburg 1981
2016
3.38 | 8 ratings
X/Ten
2019
3.00 | 2 ratings
Not Yet Not Now
2019

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

3.91 | 13 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII (video)
1992

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

3.66 | 11 ratings
Vision
1978
3.00 | 2 ratings
Peter Hammill
1982
2.59 | 39 ratings
The Love Songs
1984
3.83 | 4 ratings
The Essential Collection
1986
4.00 | 3 ratings
Enter K / Patience
1986
3.00 | 2 ratings
Il Rock
1989
3.98 | 18 ratings
The Calm (After The Storm)
1993
3.36 | 17 ratings
The Storm (Before The Calm)
1993
3.06 | 10 ratings
Past Go - Collected
1996
3.29 | 7 ratings
After The Show (A Collection)
1996
3.00 | 3 ratings
Ο Άγγελος Του Παράξενου
1997
2.44 | 9 ratings
The Thin Man Sings Ballads
2001
3.50 | 2 ratings
Fools Mate / In Camera
2003
3.35 | 12 ratings
Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
2012
4.25 | 8 ratings
Not Yet, Not Now
2019
2.75 | 4 ratings
The K Box
2019

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

4.29 | 7 ratings
Red Shift
1973
2.40 | 6 ratings
Birthday Special / Shingle Song
1975
2.42 | 5 ratings
Crying Wolf
1977
3.25 | 4 ratings
If I Could
1978
1.48 | 6 ratings
My Experience
1981
3.50 | 4 ratings
Paradox Drive
1982
3.00 | 3 ratings
Film Noir
1983
2.32 | 9 ratings
Just Good Friends
1985
2.75 | 4 ratings
Painting by Numbers
1986
2.00 | 3 ratings
A Fix On The Mix
1992

PETER HAMMILL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.04 | 394 ratings

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Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" is the 2nd full-length studio album by UK progresive rock artist Peter Hammill. The album was released through Charisma Records in May 1973. Itīs the successor to "Foolīs Mate" from July 1971, but the two solo albums are bridged by the release of Hammillīs at the time main project Van der Graaf Generatorīs fourth full-length studio album "Pawn Hearts" from October 1971. As a consequence of the pressure of touring Van der Graaf Generator disbanded in mid-1972 and Hammill opted to pursue a solo career. Some of the material which ended up on "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" was originally written to be included on the (not to be) successor to "Pawn Hearts" (1972). "(In the) Black Room/The Tower" was even rehearsed by the band in the months before they split and all members of Van der Graaf Generator plus ex-member Nic Potter (bass) contributed to the recording of "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night".

If you expect that Hammill picks up where Van der Graaf Generator left off with "Pawn Hearts" (1971), you wonīt for the most part get what you expect with "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night". Except for the 10:53 minutes long "(In the) Black Room/The Tower", which as mentioned above was written while Van der Graaf Generator were still active, and therefore sounds unmistakably like that band, "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" is predominantly an experimental singer/singwriter album featuring quite a few tracks where the main ingredients are Hammill singing his paatos filled and dramatic vocal lines over stripped down instrumentation of either a guitar or a piano (sometimes both). A few tracks like "Rock and Rôle" and "Easy to Slip Away" stand out as they feature more "regular" rock instrumentation (drums, guitar, bass), which provide the album with some variation and a slight psychadelic touch.

Hammill has a distinct sounding voice and an extremely expressive delivery, and itīs usually a strength and a great asset to the projects he is involved in, but his original vocal style and the sound of his voice can also be difficult to listen to over a longer period, and when the instrumental parts of at least half of the tracks on the album are as stripped down and raw as they are here, Iīm often left a bit frustrated with the bareness of the backing and lack of climaxes. Tracks like "German Overalls" and "Slender Threads" seem to go on forever and go nowhere. Itīs a harsher evaluation than I had planned, and maybe also a bit too harsh, as I still enjoy parts of those tracks and the relatively anarchistic nature of the songwriting, but just a few more melodic hooks or interesting instrumental parts would have made the songs more complete and listenable.

To my ears the greatest attraction of "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" is definitely "(In the) Black Room/The Tower". Maybe because itīs the most progressive and adventurous track on the album or maybe because it sounds so much like Van der Graaf Generator. Itīs quite the dynamic, compositionally progressive, and well written track, which could well have fit on the last couple of preceding albums by Van der Graaf Generator (not surprisingly since it was written during that era). "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" is a relatively well produced affair, but Iīm not a huge fan of the cold and harsh sound of the guitars or the sound of the drums. So upon conclusion "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night" is a bit up an down in quality (and listening enjoyment) and itīs not the most stylistically consistent release either. Itīs through and through the bold sound of Peter Hammill though (and praise must always be given for the manīs unending creativity and uniqueness) and while the album may not be perfect in all departments a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

 Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.04 | 394 ratings

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Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Hewitt

4 stars Officially this was Hammill's second solo album (his first, Fools Mate, having been released in 1971 shortly before the final first wave Van Der Graaf Generator album Pawn Hearts) but some have argued that it's actually his third, as the first VDGG album was recorded as a solo effort and finally issued as a group album simply due to the machinations of the music biz (and, bizarrely, in the United States only where the group had precisely no fans at the time. Count them Zero!). The man himself, however, in his sleeve notes to the 2006 remastered CD, states that Chameleon was his 'first proper solo album'.

Confused?

Well, what can be said without fear of contradiction is that Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night was Hammill's first release following the break up of VDGG in mid 1972. Having broken up the band, Hammill was the first to say he was leaving, who did he ask to play on his solo record? His three old pals from Van Der Graaf, of course, plus part time Van man Nic Potter, so from a certain perspective, Chameleon is a fully fledged VDGG reunion!

For an artist setting out on a solo career this album casts many a backward glance thematically and his former band casts a large 'shadow' across proceedings. There is at least one song written for VDGG and played live in the final phase of the band - (In the) Black Room/The Tower - and there are songs about the band and a sequel to a Van Der Graaf song. A parallel might be drawn with the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. Both records see the artist looking back at his former band and trying to find a way forward. Interestingly, for a man so often accused of being a solipsistic misery guts, Hammill's record is the less self pitying, more outward looking and ultimately more optimistic of the two.

The songs divide into piano led, acoustic guitar led and full ensemble. The opener, German Overalls, concerns an episode when VDGG ran out of money while on tour. It's a sort of diary entry, or snapshot from the touring photo album, driven by thrashy acoustic guitar with a dash of Harmonium and some surreal sound effects. The pianistic psychodrama In The End manages to be about mortality and the end of the band simultaneously.

In fact, themes of break up run throughout the album. The gentle acoustic guitar ballad Slender Threads is a meditation on a former lover and the immensely affecting Easy to Slip Away is a sequel to the VDGG anthem Refugees. That song was about a group of friends in the late 1960s, in flight from the values of mainstream society, but bonded and made optimistic by their friendship. But now the friends have drifted apart and the only sliver of hope is that perhaps one day they will be reunited. The elegiac piano mood is enhanced by mellotron and plaintive saxophone. What's it Worth and Dropping the Torch (the latter solo acoustic guitar and the former acoustic guitar elevated by a 'mellifluteous' Jackson) are reflections on choice and responsibility.

Rock and Role is a full band effort, with PH on electric guitar for the first time in his recording career, and one of the highlights of the record. It sound less like Van Der Graaf and more like a weird jump cut to the warped beat music Hammill would be purveying in the early 80s with the K Group. The grand finale, (In the) Black Room/The Tower, is pure VDGG - epic, barnstorming, packed with incredibly exciting ensemble playing and dynamic contrasts, overflowing with emotional and psychological intensity and finally cathartic, with Hammill ending the record exclaiming ecstatically that he's 'feeling like a kid again'. He's spent the entire album trying to make sense of past experience and now he's ready to move on.

In an early interview Hammill was quoted as saying that his ambition was to become 'the Hendrix of the voice'. Quite an ambition but he certainly made a very creditable stab at it. He introduced an entirely new set of tricks and tropes to the rock vocal repertoire and is on fine, if somewhat thinly recorded form, on this platter: soaring high angelically, growling low menacingly, whispering intimately, screaming frenziedly - and very often all within the same song. Hammill turns the act of singing into a theatrical event. He doesn't so much sing these songs as become them. At this stage of his career he was, if not a non musician exactly, then certainly a primitive, and the songs are essentially created by and around his voice. For all the accomplishment of his collaborators the star instrument on this album is Peter Hammill.

Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night was the start of an intensive recording period for Hammill - four groundbreaking albums in less than two years. These records established many diverse threads, both lyrically and musically, which he has spent the last half century extrapolating. It was also important for a very specific reason as it marked the start of his home recording which was eventually to ensure the continuation of his career as a recording artist. The basic tracks were recorded on a TEAC four track tape machine Hammill had purchased and then worked on at Rockfield and Trident Studios. As Hammill notes the guitar sound throughout the album is somewhat scratchy and the whole production a tad eccentric (well he was on a learning curve, and anyway, technical perfection has never really been his raison d'ętre).

The 2006 CD remaster includes solo live versions of Easy to Slip Away and In the End recorded in Kansas City in 1978 (taken from the bootleg album Skeleton of Songs) featuring a fully unfettered Hammill, and also a recording of a very early Hammill song, Rain 3am, made around the time of Chameleon.

So, an intensely personal album expressing the concerns of a young man (he was a mere 24) at a crossroads in his life. But, as with all of Hammill's best work, the intensely personal is transmuted into the universal. Whether you catalogue it as his second album, third or whatever number you prefer, Mr H is undoubtedly right - the real Peter Hammill solo story starts here.

 Nadir's Big Chance by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.80 | 304 ratings

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Nadir's Big Chance
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Hewitt

5 stars Hammill lets his hair down and rocks out in the mid seventies in the guise of anarchistic eternal sixteen year old punk rocker Rikki Nadir, and somewhere out there in the murk, young Master Rotten hears the siren song.

Nadir's Big Chance is a snarling put down of the cynical machinations of the music biz and the prevailing blandness of the rock scene of the time, a raucous exercise in elemental three chord trickery and, above all, an impassioned celebration of the essential simplicity and joyous swagger of pop music. Beefy punk songs, weepy ballads and soul struts. It's a classic.

So come on everybody - smash the system with a song!

 Crying Wolf by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1977
2.42 | 5 ratings

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Crying Wolf
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Both songs on this single were taken from Peter Hammill's album Over (1977) in which the artist pours out his anguish and heartache raised by the ending of a long relationship. The fairly well produced album has never been among my PH favourites, although it has some fine songs. Alas, I'm not referring to these two songs.

'Crying Wolf' is a straight-forward rocker featuring the VdGG rhythm section of Nic Potter and Guy Evans. Undoubtedly the song is soaking with soar emotions from Hammill himself, but as a listener I'm left pretty cold. There's not much of musical substance, and definitely no prog flavours in sight.

I don't know if the B sider is an abridged version as it could be, since 'This Side of the Looking Glass' is nearly seven minutes on the album. The tender and passionate vocals are backed up by an orchestra, arranged and conducted by Michael Brand. I appreciate it as an exceptional Hammill performance (he hasn't recorded orchestral arrangements too often), but maybe it's a bit too syrupy, and the melodies could really be more memorable.

2― stars rounded down.

 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 930 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Artik

5 stars One of those rare solo albums which hold the ground with the best efforts of the actual bands of origin. VDGG aura is heavily present, not only due to the unmistakable Hammill's voice and his usual theatrical interpretations, but also his band mebers who gathered here to help their mate. So we have basically all VDGG members present and the songwriting is as strong as on the best band's releases. High points are many: "The lie", Forsaken Gardens","Red shift" and brilliant closer 12 minutes epic "A louse is not a home". The rest is very good too. There is so much to love here for a Van der Graaf fan.
 My Experience by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1981
1.48 | 6 ratings

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My Experience
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

1 stars -- First review for this single -- Peter Hammill and especially his classic prog band Van der Graaf Generator are among my long-time favourites, but I certainly don't like everything he's done, quite far from it in fact. The majority of the early 80's output is a good example of that. Sitting Targets (1981) does contain some pretty good songs, but the songs in this single -- both taken from the album -- are in my opinion nearly awful to listen to.

'My Experience' is a noisy and punkish song, and it reminds me of Talking Heads but with a harder edge. Not a song I'd wish to re-listen after hearing it once.

'What I Did' is even worse! Noisier and more aggressive. The soundscape is hostile, industrial and cold -- and terribly monotonous. Especially the percussion is like banging one's head against a wall. Good grief. In theory I appreciate the way Peter Hammill was at the time positive towards the punk & new wave movements and let them influence in his own expression, but this is a firm No Thank You for me.

 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 930 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Auslander

5 stars This is my first review and I decided that I would review an album that I found via this website. I was passingly familiar with VDGG but had not heard any of Peter Hammill's solo work. This album came to my attention through its high ranking in the Best Prog Albums of all time chart on this site. When reading other reviews I was mildly apprehensive about buying it, but chose to anyway on a whim. I feel some of the reviews do not do this album justice. They speak of edgy sounds and overwrought vocals but seemingly falter when describing the real accessibility of the melodies and singing. When I hear the vocals it sound like Bowie doing a Peter Gabriel impersonation. Lyrically, there is depth but it does remind me of the song structures of early Genesis, so even though it can seem apocalyptic in tone, there is always that element of song craft. Indeed, I even find myself humming the tune of "Modern" quite often. It is unusual to discover an album without a weak track. Even the bonus live tracks are of good quality, innovative saxophone work is another high point on many songs. The deceptively simple guitar playing is of great quality. Sometimes it isn't the amount of notes you play, but the notes in between that carry a song. Hammill seems to be inherently aware of this fact. Yes, it is complex. Yes, it is prog. But, in my ears, this is accessible. This is music that can transcend fashion and fads. It is timeless and a new essential in my collection of favourites. 5 stars.
 A Black Box by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.94 | 266 ratings

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A Black Box
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by softandwet

5 stars Every VDGG fan, listen to me now. If you love A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and try to find some prog epic with its gloomyness, its awesomeness but can't find it at all, don't search further, it's here and under thy eyes. Flight; Forget about the first side, I've listened to it something like twice. But Flight, I've listened to it 20 time since I found it 5 months ago when I was looking for another A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers, and it's beautiful. It has basically the same vibe as APOLKs but with a more new-wave sound and a out of tuned grand piano (and with more guitar). But yes, it has the saxophone ; yes, it has the powerful horrific The Clot Thickens section (it's called Nothing Is Nothing) ; yes, it has the powerful and voice-fully Land-End Sineline section (it's called A Black Box and it follows Nothing Is Nothing) ; yes it has the grandiloquent Hammill's voice (which is quite terrifying sometimes). All you have to understand is that the lyrics here are quite harder to catch than in APOLKs. Talking about the lyrics, you, basically, can replace the lighthouse keeper with a plane pilot (BUT, with the different layers of narrations, Hammill is something of a poet you know). SO, even if it's quite unorthodox, and because I'm a punk, I'll grant this album 5 stars, only for the Flight epic, because it has to be more well-known among the prog landscape for it's one of the last prog epic of the classical era (if its not THE last). SO, yeah, give it some 4 or 5 listen to get into, it's kinda long, and kinda too new-wave for a classical prog fanatic. Be infulgent.

Fricking 5 stars.

 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 930 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The third album by Van Der Graaf Generator's leader, after the masterpiece "Chameleon in the shadow of the night", "The quiet corner and the empty space" reinforces the progressive component of Hammill's music, thanks to the extensive presence of Jackson, Evans and Banton.

The beginning is spectacular, with

1. Modern (7:28) Hammill produces a music that, like in the first albums, manages to combine aggression, epic, paranoia and existential anxiety, with a hybrid sound that has no equal in rock. Compared to the past, only the line-up changes, where guitars and bass are much more important. There is an orgiastic passage of fantastic instrumental sound and the voice is quite functional. It is an absolute masterpiece. Rated 9.

2. Wilhelmina (5:17) A deeply felt piano ballad, a songwriter story, it starts slowly, then it has an excellent progression between a minute and a half and two minutes, which it repeats a minute later, to reach the climax towards the end of the piece , which arrives suddenly. Excellent arrangement, refined. Rated 8+.

3. The Lie (Bernini's Saint Theresa) (5:40) Beginning at the piano worthy of classical music, with the piano played in a percussive way, comes the voice of Hammill, very at ease with the contrite, penitential, almost church-like atmosphere, then voice and piano perform in a crescendo full of pathos , with slowdowns and accelerations. Typical song by existential philosopher songwriter, with an atmosphere that is at the same time romantic and distressed. Rated 8.

4. Forsaken Gardens (6:15) Splendid rock piano ballad, with a riding progression, which returns three times inside the song and has a splendid epic emphasis and the song of heartfelt Hammill (There is so much sorrow in the world). Voto 8,5.

End of side A.

5. Red Shift (8:11) The song is more experimental than the others, with sound effects and jazz drums, saxophone in evidence, to recreate a cosmic sound that compared to the old Van der Graaf Generator albums is more rarefied and jazzed. The beginning is too much slow but then comes an instrumental piece with Jackson's sax and the very jazzy Evans' drums, until the piece stops, Hammill's voice expresses his lament and at that point the song starts up again with much more energy, with Randy California's acid guitars finally in evidence. The piece then improves in the final, and while not remaining among the best of the album, it arrives at a beautiful instrumental orgy, acid, before the final sung again by Hammill. Rated 8.

6. Rubicon (4:11) Pastoral folk piece, with voice, guitar and bass well in evidence. Hammill's voice makes the music restless, with moments of pathos, but overall it is the calmest and most unadorned song on the record, the acoustic song by a songwriter that interrupts the soundstorm heard so far. It is the weakest piece of the album but its position is strategic, it serves to make the listener breathe. Rated 7+.

The album ends with one of the absolute masterpieces of the solo Hammill, which, as in the previous album ends the disc in a crescendo of sounds worthy of the best Van Der Graaf Generator.

7. A Louse Is Not A Home (12:13). We are at very high levels, we seem to hear VdGG at their peak, and in fact we didn't feel them so full and so fit as In A Black Room. But this composition surpasses even the aforementioned, because it is more homogeneous, more linear, a single sound poem as in the days of the trilogy (The Least, From H to He, Pawn Hearts). After a melodic and epic beginning at the same time, the first instrumental variation begins, which includes the Jackson's medieval flute and soon after sound electronic anguish. The rhythmic progression and the voice of Hammill alternate with moments of stasis, comes a pause with sounds of sax that resemble those of the suite of Pawn Hearts, then the suite starts again. Hammill still manages to amaze the English scholastic prog groups with moments that are completely wild and full of violent pathos that upset the controlled feelings of English people. Hammill confirms itself to be irregular, out of the box of the same progressive due to the emotional charge that it puts us: the progressive music that it forges is disturbing, aggressive, violent, emotionally very strong, and in these its emotional earthquakes it translates into a rock completely unpredictable and composite that is categorized as progressive but in fact, unlike progressive groups, which first of all try to compose complicated music in a planned way, in the case of Hammill the progressive sound of the music is only the consequence of the swing of his emotional stages, and therefore it is a much more visceral and much less cerebral progressive. In the end the piece reaches a climax of rare emotional power. Rated 9.5.

Very inspired album. Absolute masterpiece of progressive rock.

Medium quality of the songs 8,3. Rating 9,5/10. Five stars.

 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 930 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.

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

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