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Top Customer Reviews
"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.Read more ›
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.
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...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
essential VdGG music - nothing like it original and unique prog rock - listen several times before it begins to hit you!Published 3 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 4 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 8 months ago by Metromania
Lemmings & Man Erg are superb, particularly with the sax driven chromatic riffage of the dark Central sections. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Vinpin77
'Pawn Hearts' (1971) is certainly a contender for the most esoteric progressive rock album of all time. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Prog Rob