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Pawn Hearts Extra tracks, Original recording remastered
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
Top Customer Reviews
PH contains only 3 long pieces, the final one `A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' a 23-minute epic made up of 10 different vignettes run seamlessly together and themed on Hammill's favourite subjects: alienation, isolation, psychosis leading to a kind of resolution/salvation, all highly personal stuff shot through with his lyrical quirkiness and essentially English black humour. A highly controversial image inside the gatefold-cover displayed the 4 band members wearing black shirts and greeting each other with Nazi-style salutes.
VdGG's adventurous music is based around the keyboard work of Hugh Banton and the saxes/flute of David Jackson, so has a different sound from most guitar-based rock music of the era. Hammill's capable acoustic guitar work is used as an accompaniment to his vocals, and his extraordinary singing voice (great range, expressive phrasing, lyrically dark and often very personal) is the most recognizable single element of the distinctive VdGG soundscape. Robert Fripp guests as electric guitarist; his style fits right into the VdGG groove. The music ranges from deceptively simple riff-based numbers to quiet introspective pieces; to loud, complex and atonal compositions redolent of the jazz fusion of the era.Read more ›
There was nothing quite like Van Der Graaf. Capable of the most beautiful tunes, the music was nonetheless angular and spiky, and the nearest prog rock ever got to becoming genuinely frightening. The musicianship is just incredible, as it was for the other Big Guys, Yes, Genesis, Tull and so on - but the difference between now and then is that they could do it on stage, night after night, never the same, always top class.
This record is another of Peter Hammill's explorations of what makes humankind tick, and as with many concept LPs there are actully half a dozen songs here. The Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (as we knew it) features some of the best organ playing of all time (from Hugh Banton who later went on to join forgotten genius Kenny Elliott in Secondhand/Seventh Wave - see my reviews)and Man-erg feautures some of the best sax ever from David Jackson. Hammill's extraordinary voice is one of the most expressive ever in the genre, and anyone who heard his 600 solo albums will know that he explores these themes aagian and again.
I shared a stage with this lot once, in Bournemouth of all places, and they were just hypnotically good, and the nicest guys ever. They were only kids really when they created this masterpiece. Absolutely unrepeatable brilliance
One thing that is bloody annoying - when ALTERNATIVE versions are labelled as ALTERNATE versions. All the rock critics do it now .... if you repeat a lie often enough...
A heady year for those of us who remember.
The Wolf for his part was a fairly undiscerning
musical whippersnapper of a pup; equally happy listening
to The Sweet and Mud as he was exploring the more arcane
avenues provided by the likes of Matching Mole and Henry Cow.
What I loved most perhaps about Mr Hammill and his cohorts
was their unrelenting seriousness; their commitment to a dark,
almost Nietzschean, muse. Man both proud yet torn apart
with doubt and self-loathing.
'Pawn Hearts' was an extraordinary achievement. Challenging,
musically coherant, prodigiously performed and intellectually satisfying.
Were I to have the choice of only one track from this album to take away
to my desert island it would undoubtably be 'Man Erg'.
In this anthemic compostion we are taken on a nightmare journey through
inner conflict, doubt, duality and dissolution to a tentative
reintegration promising some form of fragile survival.
The breakdown into mayhem and madness following the hymn-like
introduction is truly frightening. Hammill's voice and Jackson's
saxes capturing the essence of existential terror.
The theme of alienation continues in the epic 10 part composition
'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers'. Loneliness-Despair-Hope-Ressurection.
A sustained assault of daring thematic and rhythmic complexity finds
eventual resolution in an uplifting coda stunningly augmented with
mellotron and (guest) Mr Fripp's distinctive guitar volleys.
Opening track 'Lemmings' offers little respite but the possibility
of a tenuous optimism and future remains:
"What choice is there but to live
In the hope of saving
Our children's children's little ones?"
The music and the message retain their relevance today.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've been a fan of VDGG since 1969 on the release of their first album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michael Chapman
essential VdGG music - nothing like it original and unique prog rock - listen several times before it begins to hit you!Published 15 months ago by RobV
Highly experimental and so maybe not to everyone's taste, but for those, like me, who enjoy challenging music that pushes boundaries, this is a highly creative and wonderful album... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Chaser
Three songs, the shortest of which is a touch over ten minutes and the longest over twenty minutes. Defines 1970s prog. The bonus tracks add to that too. Marvellous. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Metromania
Lemmings & Man Erg are superb, particularly with the sax driven chromatic riffage of the dark Central sections. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Vinpin77