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PETER HAMMILL

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Peter Hammill biography
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

Peter Hammill official website

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Silent Corner & The Empty StageSilent Corner & The Empty Stage
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline 2006
Audio CD$3.68
$9.97 (used)
Chameleon in the Shadow of the NightChameleon in the Shadow of the Night
Extra tracks · Remastered · Import
EMI Europe Generic 2006
Audio CD$3.68
$7.76 (used)
Other WorldOther World
CHERRY RED 2014
Audio CD$10.98
$12.64 (used)
Fools MateFools Mate
Extra tracks · Remastered · Import
EMI Europe Generic 2005
Audio CD$3.68
$5.00 (used)
In CameraIn Camera
Extra tracks · Remastered · Import
EMI Europe Generic 2006
Audio CD$3.68
$11.03 (used)
Over LP (Vinyl Album) UK Charisma 1977Over LP (Vinyl Album) UK Charisma 1977
Charisma
Vinyl$25.36 (used)
In the Passionkirche Berlin 19In the Passionkirche Berlin 19
Multiple Formats · Import
Voiceprint UK 2010
DVD$11.49
SonixSonix
Import
Fie 2000
Audio CD$23.93
$19.99 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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PETER HAMMILL CHAMELEON IN THE SHADOW OF THE NIGHT CD US $7.94 Buy It Now 2 days
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Peter Hammill IN CAMERA Japan ORIGINAL mini lp CD MINT US $34.95 [0 bids]
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Peter Hammill THE SILENT CORNER AND THE EMPTY STAGE Japan ORIGINAL mini lp CD M US $34.95 [0 bids]
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Peter Hammill - Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night (NEW CD) US $8.45 Buy It Now 3 days
Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner & And The Empty Stage (NEW CD) US $8.45 Buy It Now 3 days
Peter Hammill - Fool's Mate (NEW CD) US $8.45 Buy It Now 3 days
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PETER HAMMILL shows & tickets


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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)

3.74 | 210 ratings
Fool's Mate
1971
4.01 | 235 ratings
Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night
1973
4.35 | 529 ratings
The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
1974
4.13 | 248 ratings
In Camera
1974
3.71 | 169 ratings
Nadir's Big Chance
1975
3.97 | 222 ratings
Over
1977
3.44 | 136 ratings
The Future Now
1978
3.63 | 134 ratings
pH7
1979
3.92 | 159 ratings
A Black Box
1980
3.46 | 117 ratings
Sitting Targets
1981
3.73 | 101 ratings
Enter K
1982
3.62 | 98 ratings
Patience
1983
3.27 | 55 ratings
Loops & Reels
1983
2.97 | 78 ratings
Skin
1986
3.55 | 81 ratings
And Close as This
1986
2.78 | 58 ratings
In a Foreign Town
1988
3.27 | 65 ratings
Out of Water
1990
3.41 | 69 ratings
The Fall of the House of Usher
1991
3.19 | 34 ratings
Spur of the moment (with Guy Evans)
1991
3.59 | 90 ratings
Fireships
1992
2.62 | 54 ratings
The Noise
1993
2.31 | 29 ratings
Offensichtlich Goldfisch
1993
3.12 | 62 ratings
Roaring Forties
1994
3.16 | 56 ratings
X My Heart
1996
2.35 | 37 ratings
Sonix
1996
3.41 | 59 ratings
Everyone You Hold
1997
3.38 | 57 ratings
This
1998
2.89 | 29 ratings
The Appointed Hour (with Roger Eno)
1999
3.74 | 67 ratings
The Fall of the House of Usher (New Version)
1999
2.61 | 45 ratings
None Of The Above
2000
3.24 | 48 ratings
What , Now?
2001
2.76 | 33 ratings
Unsung
2001
3.54 | 60 ratings
Clutch
2002
3.71 | 85 ratings
Incoherence
2004
3.51 | 67 ratings
Singularity
2006
3.25 | 74 ratings
Thin Air
2009
3.50 | 41 ratings
Consequences
2012
3.53 | 54 ratings
Other World
2014

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

3.67 | 33 ratings
The Margin +
1985
3.29 | 32 ratings
Room Temperature Live
1990
3.56 | 32 ratings
There Goes the Daylight
1993
3.59 | 29 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1995
3.08 | 12 ratings
Tides
1996
3.29 | 20 ratings
The Union Chapel Concert (with Guy Evans)
1997
4.07 | 39 ratings
Typical (Solo Performances)
1999
3.90 | 35 ratings
Veracious (with Stuart Gordon)
2006
3.73 | 11 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII
2009

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

4.08 | 7 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII (video)
1992

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

3.59 | 9 ratings
Vision
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Peter Hammill
1982
2.57 | 28 ratings
The Love Songs
1984
3.82 | 3 ratings
The Essential Collection
1986
3.87 | 16 ratings
The Calm (After The Storm)
1993
3.27 | 11 ratings
The Storm (Before The Calm)
1993
3.02 | 6 ratings
Past Go - Collected
1996
3.20 | 5 ratings
After The Show (A Collection)
1996
2.33 | 6 ratings
The Thin Man Sings Ballads
2001
2.50 | 2 ratings
Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
2012

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Red Shift
1973
2.14 | 3 ratings
Birthday Special / Shingle Song
1975
0.00 | 0 ratings
If I Could
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
My Experience
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Paradox Drive
1982
0.00 | 0 ratings
Film Noir
1983
2.26 | 8 ratings
Just Good Friends
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
Painting by Numbers
1986
0.00 | 0 ratings
A Fix On The Mix
1992

PETER HAMMILL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Appointed Hour (with Roger Eno) by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.89 | 29 ratings

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The Appointed Hour (with Roger Eno)
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by admireArt

3 stars The audiophiles who knew too much!

I am going to bore you a bit, about how this "The Appointed Hour", 1999, music experiment came upon. On a specific hour and date, Roger Eno in his "studio", miles away of Peter Hammill´s one, recorded unconnected from each other for an hour exactly and then stopped at the same "appointed hour". Then met afterwards to mix both impro/compositions... Mmh! All of this, promptly explained in its packaging. Also an emphasis that - no overdubs or time/syncs were used. That shows how happy they were with the actual results!

The progger's ratings are quiet average. And then again, the average young progger does not even consider this kind of music to be prog for starters!..., I mean, "modern classical piano music" with "impressionistic influences" + "ambient" and no "happy" moments, all hell broke loose!

Anyway! 20 unaltered songs came out of this "dadaistic" way of composing. Completely "instrumental", impro like, but similar in its "classic music" oriented, "ambiental" tone.

All tracks do behold an above average quality, some are shinier, some others more "impressionistic" and some move towards the "obscure", but really all catch your attention, beyond a purist prejudice of this way of songwriting.

As I listen, Satie's and Debussy's piano pieces come to mind, as a reference not a comparison. "No masterpiece but neither trash!", ***3.5 PA stars.

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 Fool's Mate by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.74 | 210 ratings

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Fool's Mate
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

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

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

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

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

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 Other World by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.53 | 54 ratings

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Other World
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by javajeff

5 stars This is a very interesting album, because it is not a normal Peter Hammill release. It really is a collaboration with lots of ambient passages. You will get your fill of Peter Hammill, but Gary Lucas is equally felt on this release. The title is fitting, because this release is experimental space rock in many ways and rewards a very patient listener. If you are looking for something different, but very familiar at the same time, this is a great choice. With the exception of And Close as This and A Black Box, this is his best album since the 70s.

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 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.35 | 529 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

4 stars Peter Hammill's solo stint during Van der Graaf Generator's original hiatus continues in 1974 with the album ''The silent corner and the empty stage''.This was another record to feature the member's of the demised legendary British band minus bassist Nic Potter, who decided to focus on the attempts on the newly established Long Hello, a jazzy-flavored instrumental group of a Hamill-less Van der Graaf Generator line-up.However the new album features the surprising appearance of Randy California in one track, the guitarist of Psychedelic Rockers Spirit.''The silent corner and the empty stage'' was recorded during two periods, spring and autumn of 1973.The ever-supporting Charisma was once again the labelhouse to support another Van der Graaf Generator-related album.

Reputedly all these early Peter Hammill albums contained material intended for inclusion in future VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's albums, but this one sounds more like a team effort than Hammill's second album and for the first time so close to VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's classic style.And what a team effort it was!It contains a mix of lyrical pieces with full-blown Prog Rock deliveries, based on an epic keyboard sound, an incredible balance between electric and acoustic moments and discreet sax/flute drives with Hammill's voice being deeper and more expressive than ever.The music follows the dark lines of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR with hidden jazzy flavors, atmospheric orchestrations and poetic singing, completing powerful, haunting and complex songs with great instrumental work, full of unexpected twists and sinister moods.The smoother pieces are mostly based on Hammil's unique voice, supported by his piano, guitar and sporadic organ, sax and flutes, but even these tracks are not easy for the non-mystified listener, evolving from poetic atmospheres to Classical nuances to pastoral, acoustic interludes.For the longer and more complicated pieces, words are poor to describe the monumental atmosphrere this group of musicians could create.From an extreme lyricism to the scratching saxophone of David Jackson, from mellow piano lines to symphonic themes, showered by Mellotrons, organs and harsichord, from psychedelic textures with abnormal structures and deep bass to minimalistic sounds with a dark atmosphere, everything seems well placed to create great, progressive pieces with an original character.

The definition of dark and doomy Progressive Rock.There are no silent corners or empty places in this album.This should be easily regarded as a Van der Graaf Generator offshoot work, which means that the content can be no other than passionate, complex and irritating.Highly recommended...4.5 stars.

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 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.35 | 529 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak

3 stars An album I bought in the 70s that baffled me and left me cold but which I have revisited many times throughout the years--and more recently--due to its acclaim and curious dissonance. Though Peter's voice has never quite won me over (though his performances on H to He, Who Am The Only One are wonderful), coupled with the fact that I am not a lyric/content man have always left me "outside" music like this. Plus, I do not find any of the instrumental performances impressive or to have stood up very well over time. There seems to be a lot of starkness and relative simplicity in PH/VDGG's recording styles that leave me cold and unimpressed. "Red Shift" is amazing and "A Louse Is Not a Home" is interesting but ultimately always forgettable. There is nothing else here that I can ever attach myself to much less remember despite numerous listenings over forty years.

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 Nadir's Big Chance by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.71 | 169 ratings

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Nadir's Big Chance
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by 1970sgenesisfan

4 stars When you think of progressive rock, the last band to come to mind would probably be the Sex Pistols, a group notorious for hating the genre to the point that burning life sized effigies of Keith Emerson was not uncommon practice at its shows. Considering this, imagine my surprise when I first discovered that John Lydon was a fan of none other than Peter Hammill. Not being all that well acquainted with Hammill's career at the time, I struggled to make the connection. What relationship could there be between Hammill's musings on louses and lighthouse keepers and the Sex Pistols' straightforward brand of punk rock?

This is the answer.

When I decided on a whim to pick up a cheap, used copy of Nadir's Big Chance at my local record store, put it on the car stereo, and pressed play for the first time, everything made sense. The opening track features Hammill in full-on pissed off mode as he nearly screams lyrics about how he's "gonna scream gonna shout gonna play [his] guitar" while his Van der Graaf bandmates make a wild, chaotic racket in the background. Even though it was recorded in 1975, this first track is very much punk, but at the same time it's clearly 100% Hammill. Oh, and it kicks some pretty serious @$$ too.

Still, title track included, I wouldn't say there are more than three LOUD, straightforward rockers in total on this disc, the others being "Nobody's Business" and the lyrically fantastic "Birthday Special" (both of which I love very much, if you must know). One thing which really stands out to me about Nadir is the sheer variety of material on offer here and, unlike quite a bit of Hammill's solo career, it's all very accessible and melodic. By a hair, my favorite track might just have to be "Open Your Eyes". I love how Hammill almost seems to be singing under the instrumentation in the verses before soaring above everything else when he sings "and I opened my EYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEES!" It's absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the fact that both Hugh Banton and Dave Jackson kill on this track. There's a fine line between chaos and absolute beauty here unsurpassed anywhere else on this album.

There are also a few ballads. "Been Alone So Long" makes my heart want to melt every time I hear it (God, I can't believe I just wrote that, but it's true), and although it took awhile for "Pompeii" to grow on me, I now find myself listening to it more than nearly anything else on the disc. I'm also a big fan of "The Institute of Mental Health, Burning." The combination of the bizarre, sarcastic (almost joyful) lyrics with Guy Evans's eerie repeating drum pattern just works...somehow. There's even a re-recording of an old Van der Graaf Generator song, "People You Were Going To," which--despite a few awkward lyrics--comes off a great success. If there's a weak moment, though, I must confess that I've never been a fan of "Shingle Song". Lacking any interesting performances or notable hooks, it simply fails to keep my attention.

In the end, all flaws aside, this is a well constructed, melodic, diverse album of short, digestible songs. It bears mentioning, before I wrap up, that this album has one of the coolest atmospheres on any record I have ever heard, certainly different from Hammill's other work--dark, mysterious, somehow innocent--I'm not totally sure how to describe it. Listen and you'll see what I mean. Although this is quite different from the stuff VdGG was doing at around the same time, the band plays absolutely fantastic on here, and it almost goes without saying that Hammill's vocal performances are simply FANTASTIC, even if I get the feeling that the lyrics might not cut quite as deep as usual. Still, this is undoubtedly one of his best. Johnny Rotten liked it enough to play two tracks from it on national radio, and I must say that--for once--I am in total agreement. Recommended for anyone looking for an accessible way to get into Peter Hammill's work.

4 Stars

Originally posted (by me) on rockandprogreviews.wordpress.com

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 Other World by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.53 | 54 ratings

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Other World
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by 1970sgenesisfan

4 stars Hypothetically, if I were asked to pigeonhole this album into some sort of genre or category, the closest I would be able to come would probably be something along the lines of twisted, psychedelic folk. Let me explain. This collaboration between Van der Graaf Generator frontman Peter Hammill and guitar maestro Gary Lucas, of Captain Beefheart fame, is--in a word--otherworldly. For every track here which could be classified as a straightforward, melodic "song" (and there are plenty), there's a spacey, instrumental soundscape to match.

Of the "normal" songs, the opening "Spinning Coins"--short although it might be--starts the album off strong. Considering his age, Peter Hammill's voice sounds to be holding up very well, and Gary Lucas, who I was not acquainted with prior to hearing this album, makes his presence felt from the first note with some simple but oh-so-effective guitar chords. It's very solid, as are nearly all of the traditional songs, if not particularly remarkable. "Of Kith and Kin," by contrast, stood out from the beginning and has only gotten more enjoyable with repeated listens. I love how Hammill's earnest vocal in the verses is juxtaposed with the song's reflective, melancholy bridge to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The instrumental backing here, a tasteful mixture of Lucas's strong acoustic guitar and Hammill's soundscapes, is simply perfect. "This is Showbiz," with its layers of vocals and excellent sense of rhythm, is another standout, as is the melodic, almost playful "Black Ice".

Unfortunately, Otherworld isn't without it's weak points, and a particularly unfortunate one comes in the form of "Cash" which, despite a strong start, quickly starts to sound contrived, somehow lacking enough ideas to sustain its paltry three minute running time. I've also found that, try as I might, I can't remember much of anything when it comes to the vocal part to "Two Views". I really dig Gary's eerie, echoey guitar part, though, so it can stay. On the whole, these songs are--

--never all that far from veering in the direction of the bizarre. Whether they come in the middle of a relatively normal track or not (there's a pretty awesome psychedelic freakout in the middle of "Black Ice"), the instrumental, soundscape type work is something which really sets this album apart. "Some Kind of Fracas," for example, despite a fairly normal start, quickly dissolves into an ugly, almost Frippian mass of sound... and it works. I wasn't a huge fan of these pieces when I first heard the album, but the more times I listen the more details I pick out, and the more I realize how unique each piece is from the others. I won't try to talk about them in too much detail (I don't think I could anyway), but I will say that when combined with the other songs, they give this album a powerfully strange atmosphere that makes the whole thing work. Check out "Built from Scratch" or "Slippery Slope" to see what I mean.

To close, I feel that it's worth mentioning just how much Gary Lucas adds to this album. If Hammill had performed these songs alone, my evaluation would still be positive, but Lucas's often understated guitar playing takes things to another level, especially when compared to Hammill's more recent work. There's an energy here which I thought some of those albums lacked, good as they often were. Although Otherworld isn't likely to blow your socks off, it's worth checking out if you're a fan of either Hammill or Lucas.

3.5 stars, rounded to 4 because I'm in a good mood.

**Originally published (by me) on rockandprogreviews.wordpress.com

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 Birthday Special / Shingle Song by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1975
2.14 | 3 ratings

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Birthday Special / Shingle Song
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

2 stars Peter Hammill took a radical sidestep in his musical career in 1975 and relased the album Nadir's Big Chance. It contains very straight-forward songs that have almost nothing to do with prog, instead many songs sound like punk rock - before such genre even existed officially! And yet that honest and personally charming album has stood the test of time better than several others by Hammill.

The A-side of this single, 'Birthday Special', is among the punkiest songs by him. Not exactly raw in the execution, but a plain poor composition. To me it's not even interesting enough to listen to for a second time. Luckily it's not on the album, because if it was it would probably be the worst one.

B-side's 'Shingle Song' is featured on the Nadir album and is among its finest and calmest songs, a melancholic slow-tempo love song in fact. David Jackson adds his saxophone and Hammill's emotional vocals are very good on this one. For a bad non-abum song and a good album song I think two stars is fair enough.

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 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.35 | 529 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by LinusW
Special Collaborator Italian Prog Specialist

4 stars Naked, stark and pounding sincerity marks a high point of Hammill's tortured persona on The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage. It's a chilling exposé of ravaging emotional stirrings and storms set in a stately musical framework of high-impact melodies, rhythms and sonic posturing with dark experimental bite. Interestingly, it's also very diverse and full of movement in terms of general ideas and musical backing.

Where I've always found Hammill drawn to stripped-down and a bit ponderously simplistic (but dense) arrangements that brings the unhinged emotionality of his vocals front and centre, there's a refreshing delicacy and richness to this album. It's still full of those focused, top-heavy and bare melodies that just barely hold up under the weight of the immense vocal delivery, but in the end it never really loses balance.

Some skeletal and spindly guitar here and there, keyboard noodling and oscillations erratically lost in time and space, a wash of ceremonially dignified organ, a flute deliciously fluttering around like a doomed moth in the vicinity of the otherwise electrified atmosphere, the dry and pure sounds of a harmonium and the ringing, yearning clarity of piano, edgy saxophone. There's more, but the point is that it feels rich and ever so slightly more of an extrovert dialogue (rather than an introvert diatribe), something I've always considered a bonus where Hammill is concerned. Melodies (acoustic or electric) come and go, interlock, reach a burning point in a pressure-relieving and resolving hook or a beautifully placed pause before dissipating into asocial disharmony or starting over in yet another intricate pattern and emotional state. At times it borders a more twisted side of symphonic. There's even enough room for the scaled-down and musically intimate to sneak in with the airier singer-songwriter material you often hear in his solo efforts.

But the real magic comes from how this wealth and diversity flow between sensitive and frail grace and crushing and commanding onslaughts of anger and frustration. It's a constant battle between reflective and lucid moments and grinding chaos and catharsis. Fuzzy, screeching or sharp guitar and dirty bass pommel the unwary into submission and push you ever downwards into spiraling noise, accompanied by an organ collapsing in on itself or another tasty sonic calamity . Other times it's more subtle, letting things move towards uncertainty and madness in gradually disassociating instruments or by lurking hints of trouble in bubbling, underlying atonality.

I guess the middle-point between these two sides are the more rocking Van Der Graaf Generator-styled parts, with spitting, synchronized instrumental and vocal attack, concentrating the layering into sharp, thrusting strikes of unapologetic impact. Everything is lined up and thrown right at you in cascading force, leaving a smell of vitriol and cordite in its wake.

Even if it's never been said outright yet, you might have guessed that this isn't a smooth or forgiving affair. It takes its toll, even the less intense bits. While there are certainly a lot of dark, destructive and frustrated energy, ominous uncertainty and disorder around, even the softer and more melodious bits have a beautiful, but sapping, sadness and haunting melancholia. But in spite of that it is still more welcoming, diverse and outgoing than a lot of Hammill's other output. Just a bit more willingly engaging.

An album that's been growing on me for years and one that's teasingly near the masterpiece status so many think it deserves. Only time will tell.

4 stars.

//LinusW

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 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.35 | 529 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars 40 Years On: The Silent Corner

The Actor Plays His Last Elegy to the Deserted Pews

I must have been incredibly tired or maybe a bit under the influence of something on the night that I first heard The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage. I mean, I like the album now, but at the time when I first heard this, I was entranced. Never had I known something so well produced and forward-thinking to come out of the 70's. It was so immaculately played, the production could be from a modern Porcupine Tree album, and the melodies were just as stellar. This was a rare, rare find for me. It even had a great cover! Those were rare in the 70's as well.

Because, you see, I'm a modern prog man, and I always have been. I can listen back to the classics, and appreciate them for the influence on material I love or their ingenuity in creating something never made before, but I, simply put, just couldn't ever enjoy them as much as a modern album. I'm not sure whether it's bias against old sounds (likely) or the fact that music is simply better now (also likely), but for me, finding an old record that I enjoy is a milestone. After time, I have learnt to appreciate Selling England by the Pound and Thick as a Brick, basically all the lauded prog records with the exception of anything by Yes (who have always evaded me). But to find a record that clicked as fast as The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is a rare thing. The only other ones I can honestly think of would be In the Court of the Crimson King and Misplaced Childhood.

But I fear I did jump the gun a bit, as I realise every time the stunningly weird opening track of "Modern" comes on in each subsequent listen. How I was so perplexed by this jarring and seriously odd introductory track is beyond me, since I can't really find much of the glory I felt when I first heard it. It's abrasive and confusing, and contains some of the noisiest and weirdest guitar tones that were available in 1974, not to mention the oddly free-time way that the vocals are sung and that odd brass part during the bridge. It's songs like this, and a couple later on in the album, that single out The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage as a defining album in the early stages of avant-prog, coming just as Magma took off with Zeuhl and Henry Cow pioneered Rock In Opposition.

But it isn't all bad, I still thoroughly enjoy this album as I did when I first stumbled upon it, but just not to the extent. The next two tracks, both heavily reliant on Peter's piano/vocal combination, are far more to my liking, even if both have their weaknesses. What I adore about The Silent Corner as an album, and these two tracks are probably the best representation of this, is how much it feels like a lonely soul upon a stage belting his lungs out about feelings in the most theatrical and epic way imaginable. I wouldn't exactly call this a rock opera, but there are certainly huge elements of theatricality in the album, which is the reason I call it one of the most perfectly titled albums in existence (although "Modern", and most of the B-side don't entirely fit this theme). Both these track are more or less Peter smashing a piano and singing in an evidently large room with echoes raining around and the thunderous roar of the low end keys filling up every corner of the stage. It doesn't feel like a big audience production, no, it feels more like something hours after a play has finished, the stage has been cleared and it's just a solitary man with a piano, singing about his false persona or his act or his feelings or whatever any of these songs are really about.

"Wilhelmina" is more of a ballad piece than "The Lie", focusing on a simple vocal melody and some quite introspective lyrics, speaking to a child, the hope of the next generation. In my melodramatic version of how I believe these songs are portrayed, this is the epic when the actor realises that he is lost or fake or dying and needs to leave (suicide) and his child, of a lost mother, is the only thing left and he has to give her away. I love the amazing sense of cliché and melodrama in this track, yet despite knowing that, it still doesn't fail to touch you. Unfortunately, the melody introduced at the end ("don't think that I'm silly?") is probably the best in the track, and each time I hear it, I hear a massive explosive ending coming soon, but the song simply just stops dead, destroying any feeling I had.

Fortunately, "The Lie" makes up for anything that the previous track killed in its outro, although it does take a couple of minutes to build to something worthwhile. If "Wilhelmina" was the solitary actor on The Empty Stage singing an elegy to a life not yet lived, then "The Lie" is the cathedral, equally empty and containing the same enormous space as the Stage, but filled with spirituality and wonder. The central point of the song, is the statue of the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and although I am not entirely certain of the meaning behind it, some French person has written a 6000-word essay on it, so if you speak French or can tolerate google translator, you should give it a read. But musically, "The Lie" is the best here, because of the sheer emotional delivery that Peter thrusts into it ? "LIKE CHASTITY, LIKE LUCIFER, LIKE MIIIIINNNE", and the sound drains out into the sides of the cathedral, cackling all around and chilling everyone within earshot. It's not the melody or the music that makes this track so chilling, it's the intensity and raw emotion that gets you.

Side one finishes of with a third piano-focused track, "Forsaken Gardens", which is the longest of the three. But although I thoroughly enjoy parts of this song and the verse melody is one of the strongest on the record, I can't say I enjoy the chorus too much, and I feel it brings the song down a few notches in my mind. It sounds a bit more like the classic prog of Genesis and Yes than the other tracks, but the lack of uninspired instrumental wankery means I enjoy it a bit more.

Side two, however, returns back to the avant-prog stylings of "Modern", with the epic track "Red Shift", with its saxophone and chopped and layered vocals spread throughout making it one of the more progressive tracks on the album by the literal definition. The influence from this song on many avant bands to come is obvious. These odd and eclectic moments make their way onto the final track on the album, the epic-length "A Louse is Not a Home", which I honestly have to say took me a few listens to enjoy, but I now consider it one of the better tracks here. The lead motif ("cracked mirror?" melody) is one of the best, and although the song messes around with some weird effects and avant-prog-ness for unnecessary amounts of time, it has the cohesion to feel as a twelve minute track should, with a sense of direction and flow.

The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage may not be the absolute masterpiece that I thought it was when I first heard it, but I still raise it as a classic, simply because it's an album released in 1974 that still has an impact on me, forty years later in 2014. I honestly think this album should be considered more of a classic in prog than anything by Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer. An emotional and complex listen, and most certainly years ahead of its time.

7.4/10

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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