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Pawn hearts

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Import
  • ASIN: B007CKYB56
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 416,504 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The recently rejuvenated VDGG has met with unparalled interest and critical zeal. All the daily newspapers seem to have run articles on them and their place in the history of progressive rock. Whether this is a reflection on the popularity of all things prog today, or the media trying to latch on to an 'acceptable' example of the genre from the 'golden age' in light of the recent progginess of acts ranging from Radiohead to The Mars Volta is open to conjecture. I don't think even in their heyday did VDGG develop such mainstream interest. But it is more than warranted as can be seen from this first batch of back catalogue remasters which peaks here with "Pawn Hearts". This album is without doubt a classic of progressive rock in its purest sense. Nothing else at the time sounded like VDGG. Evolved around the musical vision of Peter Hammill, the band went solidly against the grain of prettiness and positivism that pervaded a lot of post-hippie prog rock. Theses guys were making gloomy, brooding soundtracks to the darkest recesses of our psyche. With Hugh Banton's gothic keyboards and David Jacksons squalling saxes, their chamber rock was declamatory and full of foreboding.
"Pawn Hearts" is made up of 3 monumental tracks; "Lemmings", "Man Erg" and the hugely epic "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". For me, "Man Erg" is one of my favourite VDGG pieces. Lyrically this is quintessential Hammill. He doesn't write basic songs about the usual states of love, happiness and sadness, here he digs much deeper and ruminates about our innermost motivations and one that strikes such a singular and in some ways disquieting chord. No other lyricist expounds so eloquently or bares his wounds so openly or deeply!
Musically this album is VDGG at their most complex.
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Format: Audio CD
Progressive rock is, or was, by definition pushing the boundaries of what could be done with music, and VdGG were one of the pushiest. With this album, they probably reached their peak - the albums previous to this were stepping stones toowards this complete album; the later albums are less radical musical statements.
All three tracks on this album are introspective pieces about aspects of the human condition, and I cannot think of any singer/song-writer who looks deeper into the depths of a human soul than Hammill.
Many people, including Hammill himself, seem to consider Lemmings as the least good track here, even a disappointment; for me it is a very powerful song, at first attacking the warlike nature of humans with venom, then finally mellowing into a plea to save ourselves from ourselves.
Man-erg takes the introspection to an individual level, and is a simple theme. We are all human, no more, no less, and it is this simplicity that makes the song so appealing. Yet again, as with Lemmings, the song ends on a somewhat optimistic note, that of acceptance of our condition. Or is that a pessimistic note?
And so to A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers: what can be said? Is this a tale of madness? A tale of us all? Is it even a tale about a lighthouse keeper? Maybe all of these. Whichever, it is an entrancing piece that is the essence of the album, and, consequently, the essence of Van der Graaf Generator. Whilst seeming to take us through the innermost thoughts of a terminal depressive, paradoxically it can be heard as an uplifting and moving song. However it is received by the listener, it is the central track of any VdGG collection.
So to answer the initial question: is this the best progressive rock album ever? Well, for me, there is no question about the answer - absolutely yes.
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Format: Audio CD
... as we used to hear it in those long gone days.

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...
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