More than 30 years ago I listened to a lot of VdG and Peter Hammill. I stopped listening to them when I spent about ten years barely listening to anything and when I got back into music (my mother having sold all my old lps at a garage sale!)they had fallen off my radar. I don't know why - I thought then they were damn brilliant, but Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins et. al. seemed to occupy my ears then. Now I mainly listen to alt.country, but a few months ago, in a nostalgic mood, I bought Pawn Hearts and Trisector and liked them a lot - Pawn Hearts still sounds fresh and vital and Trisector shows a band that never went stale.
Today I could not resist buying this and I have just heard it and am now replaying it, and ordering another five of his albums. I simply don't understand why he never became huge - but I think the same about Kevin Coyne, Tim Rose and Town van Zandt and other marginal geniuses - so much for my understanding of the market.
Irrespective of popularity there is so much talent in these songs - the voice is rich and dramatic (but not corny), and the production is great, very lush (absolutely not VDG). To me it sounds very commercial - though not in a 'sell out' way. It just sounds the kind of music that one would expect most people who like music to like - there is nothing they have to work at (unlike VDG), yet there is a wonderful intelligence in the material and performance and production. Beautiful songs, beautifully crafted, exquisitely sung, and wonderful lush arrangements which, though, still manage to be restrained enough for the songs to breathe (not an easy feat to pull off). Some of the songs that recognized from my youth are simply lovely in these arrangements.
Listening to this it is difficult not to conclude that he is every bit as good as Dylan or Cohen or Townes or Nick. I'm glad Peter Hammill is back in my world - and I would recommend anyone to buy this. Put it on and look out at the sea or sky and drift away.