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Peter Hammill - Fool's Mate CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

3.79 | 392 ratings

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

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

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

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

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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