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Peter Hammill

Phil Kime:

One of Hammill's more accessible very solid mid period albums. Opening with My Favourite, a light and pretty ballad with the characteristic nuance. Not as political as The Future Now and the songs are a lot more encapsulated. I would consider this as a good introduction to Hammill, even if only for people of fairly adventurous tastes. Without the streak of adventure, it would be hard to take Careering with its wondrous overdubbed vocal lines and Hammill fire. Heavens, the bass even sounds like Paganotti era Magma. I had heard Mirror Images on a Van der Graaf bootleg before here and the version here is a little tame in comparison but a fine song nevertheless with quite an amusing keyboard sound. Handicap and Equality is one of those themes that often overrides any attempt at music but Hammill's delivery manages to cope perfectly. The lyrics are actually quite good. A simple tune, well executed. More classic Hammill is found on the piano and voice track Not For Keith. The performance proves that his voice can still rend hearts when necessary. Time for a Change is a track by Chris Judge Smith which really stands out as a lovely piece. Very simple but written for Hammill's vocal style. He declaims the lyrics with an utmost solemnity accompanied by himself in harmony with simple guitar arpeggios. Outstanding. Imperial Walls is also outstanding, derived from an 8th century song and containing moments of pure inspiration that steal the album. It begins like the very earliest Van der Graaf but the melody is shockingly beautiful. This fades gently and intensely into the final two tracks that finish on more obvious ground. Mr X (gets tense) and Faculty X both have considerable merits, particularly the angular piano theme of the former. Echoes of the final Van der Graaf album. Faculty X has some exciting interludes where Hammill and his piano appear from nowhere to grasp the stage in inflamed performance. This is an exceptional album yet lacks a certain amount of coherence. It feels like a compilation of various work. This is not particularly a problem but if you care about thematic homogeneity, then this album might be a little disconcerting.

© 1996 Phil Kime

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