Patience - Peter Hammill
Enter K - Peter Hammill Enter K
I am going to do something slightly different here. I will cover these two CD's together in one review. The two share several characteristics that make them two peas in a pod, or perhaps two half-peas. Both were recorded, in 1982 and 1983, by the so-called K Group, which included long-time associates of Hammill's who have been in Van Der Graaf Generator at some point or other. This band approach is in contrast to Hammill's DIY approach on most of his albums (Hammill plays all, or almost all, the instruments on many albums). What influence the individual members of the so-called "beat combo" as he facetiously calls it, had on the music is not clear, but the two CD's are definitely moving into a more straight-ahead approach, compared to his earlier work. This was a trend already evident on the previous album "Sitting Targets" (recommended, BTW Sitting Targets). There are fewer avant-garde touches than found on earlier albums (unfortunate in my opinion).
I refer to them as "two half-peas in a pod" because in both cases half the songs are top quality Peter Hammill material, while the other half is decidedly weaker. The better songs on both would actually mix well into one excellent CD. On both albums the "rockers" in general are weaker, whereas the slower and more complex songs stand up. The faster songs just sound too "80's" in a bad way. I was unfamiliar with this material in those days, so I can only react to it listening to it in 2008. Unfortunately some of the choices in the sound and mix have not stood the test of time. Some of these numbers just sound like he's trying too hard to be "modern". I just cannot warm up to "Jeunesse D'Oree" at all, for instance. Of the two, I would say "Patience" is the more consistent one.
The best songs on both albums have all the characteristics that make Peter Hammill such a unique and wonderful artist - the moody overtones, the multi-layered, thought-provoking lyrics, the unexpected twists and turns, and of course his outstanding vocals. Here are my comments on various songs on both albums. I put asterisks after the ones I like:
1. Paradox Drive - at first I hated the semi-disco beat. Not a great song, but I've warmed up to it.
2. Unconscious Life* - Very good
3. Accidents* - Has that 80's sound but it grew on me a lot. Dark & complex. Very good
4. Great Experiment - OK
5. Don't Tell Me - Nicely sung- I like Hammill's low-register ballad style, but this one is a bit bland
6. She Wraps It Up - I don't care for this one
7. Happy Hour* - Excellent! A bar drunk as circus act, perhaps his moment in the spotlight
8. Seven Wonders* - Very Good!
1. Labour Of Love - not a great song, but its oddness makes it interesting. Almost seems like he cut & pasted a pop song with Gabriel-ish music, with a dissonant VDGG-like instrumental section.
2. Film Noir - interesting dark lyrics. Music a bit too 80's, but decent
3. Just Good Friends* - very good ballad
4. Jeunesse d'Orée - one of my least favorite Hammill songs. I always skip this one.
5. Traintime* - great song, very dramatic, intense build-up. A couple of live versions are actually more intense, but this is great
6. Now More Than Ever - decent, not great. Music kind of sounds like 80's King Crimson.
7. Comfortable?* - Another great song, very quirky with dramatic stops & starts
8. Patient* - Perhaps the best song on both albums. Dark lyrics that are open to interpretation. One of his best tunes ever.
In a nutshell, both are mixed bags. Perhaps these are not the ones to buy first for someone new to Peter Hammill, but fans will want both of these, as they contain some top-notch material.
BTW "Room-Temperature-Live Room Temperature : The Complete Two-Disc Set has great "unplugged" versions of several of these songs , perhaps superior to the studio versions.
Also BTW on Youtube there is a video of Hammill performing "Traintime" live backed by an orchestra in 1996, which is great.