I first heard this album in 1980, when I was fourteen years old (at exactly the same time as his album of that year 'A Black Box'). Everyone has to have 'epiphany' albums and this one was one of mine. Together, these two records utterly changed my appreciation of what music is capable of being, and of what expression through sound and words can mean. Initially, the opening track made little impact - just a pleasant sounding love song - good but nothing remarkable. I almost dismissed it as just another self-indulgent dated hippie album. But with the next track - No More the Submariner - I realised I was in quite different territory. This album cannot be used as background music, nor can it be danced to.
Though it lacks conventional coherance, it is a brainstorm of an album, with moments that are so intense that I am surprised Hammill's four-track didn't explode just trying to keep up with him. This is the sound of a man hammering at the technological walls that try to confine him. 'Submariner' is an ecstatic pean to free will, 'Faint-heart and the sermon' a psychedelic hymn to the disorientation of faith, 'The comet, the course, the tail' an ode to the futilty of war, and 'Gog' - well this is a record that presents the concept of evil as a deafening carnival of dramatic swirling gothic organ and howling vocals, trailing away into the utterly clamourous doom of Magog, the final track of atmospherics. I am not surprised there were no hits off this album. Some inevitably dismiss this on ground of 'good taste' as OTT prog theatrics, but I personally cannot imagine a world without this man and his extraodinary visionary commitment.
The extra tracks are also faultless examples of Hammill's solo piano style, and are excellent versions in their own right. Rarely do extra tracks add anything truly extra to reissues - but in this case they really do.