ORGAN THING: A man just knocked on the door, a postman, a package, the latest Peter Hammill album, a live album called X…

A man just knocked on the studio door, a postman, a package, the latest Peter Hammill album, a live album called X….

peter_hammill_live

Now don’t be taking this the wrong way, everything about this album is so so right, but could anyone else really get away with this? So laid bare, a live album from the now seventy year old Peter Hammill, it comes with all the history, all those other songs and albums and incarnations, that massive back catalogue, but you only get so far on your (past) charm. It is the fact that he has revealed so so much both as a solo artist and as the brilliant frontman of the mighty Van Der Graaf Generator, one of England’s finest bands ever. It really is impossible to listen to him without investing that vital spark of emotion. Listening to Peter Hammill perform songs from his most recent studio album in this bare and beautiful way (they were bare and beautiful anyway). Getting away with it was the wrong question, it isn’t quite what I mean, but if it was anyone else, if it was someone who hadn’t given us so so much of himself already then we wouldn’t invest so much in the beauty of these recordings, Peter Hammill has earned the right to make beautiful albums like these,

Rather like looking at work of a great painter, it isn’t like a raw sketchbook, it isn’t that these recording and these songs are any less worked than some of those Van Der Graaf master works, and it isn’t a case of these voice with just acoustic guitar or piano are less-is-more because there really is so so much in these sparse recordings, so much in those words of a man nearer to the end of his creative process than he is to the start. A lucky man, this is brilliant actually, and yes, you might well say I wasn’t ever going to say anything other than this is brilliant, I make no secret of the fact that I’m a fan, (with the possible exception of Cardiacs) there is nothing better that the works of Hammill in all his forms, And yes, this is the first listen and yes it is brilliant, yes it is beautiful, raw, not in terms of the recordings or performance, raw in terms of sentiment.raw in terms of everything being there. I don’t really want to be writing a review or writing anything, I just want to listen, to stand quietly and listen to that voice, that unique voice, those words, the space between the words, the quite between the notes, to the flood tides and the tunes and it was suddenly over his head and he was swimming through his life and the jetsom of the past… I really want him to go on and on and on, make more, write more, come on, get on with it, he’s only just turned 70 for gawdsake, but these songs and these beautiful live versions and that recent studio album really are like those last Bukowski books that were as good as anything he ever did (Pulp and the facing of his own mortality for instance),

peter_hammill_x_cover

These are very live recordings of songs from his most recent studio album, last year’s From The Trees, song from Trees recorded live at various shows on his 2017 and 2018 dates – “For the first time ever, I believe, I performed all of the songs from my latest album in the course of my tours at the end of 2017 and during 2018”, “This collection, then, consists of live solo performances of the entire From The Trees album, fully informed by the arrangements which the originals featured on disc, yet also true to the original spirit in which they were written.” – this version of On Deaf Ears is something extra special, so much more tan one last stab, “you never know when time is running out…” and he sings “in these declining years” with all the power of a plague of lighthouse keepers, of course he isn’t as powerful, but he is, there;s so much more power even if he can’t quite belt it out like he and even if hie does sing about no one listening now

peter_hammill_verticle

If you have recent studio album, then this is an excellent companion, as equally vital, just as right, I feel the same way about listening to Peter Hammill as I do standing in front of a Turner painting for an hour or maybe a Francis Bacon painting for not quite so long a time, he’s always been intimate, even when it was of the Van Der Graaf epics it felt intimate, when it he sings like this, just a voice and a guitar or piano on a sparse stage, just a four minute acoustic song it feels so so epic – there’s never a short straw drawn, Where would you start with Peter Hammill? There’s so much, one of the classic Van Der Graff albums for the early 70’s, one of the ground-breaking proto-punk solo albums that he or Rikki Nadir (that were right up there jousting with Roxy or Calvert in ’75) or the edgy things the K Band made? Where would you point someone who had never heard him? At different times at different shows I’ve encountered David Bowie transfixed, John Lydon sitting not far from Marillion’s Fish, I’ve encountered Bruce Dickinson taking notes – they all knew – I have no idea where I’d tell someone who’d never heard Peter Hammill to start? And I really can’t write a serious review of this beautifully intimate wonderfully powerful album, you may as well ask me to explain a Peter Prendergast painting or why a Tim Smith song means so much – this review was holed beneath the waterline from the first note of the first song (and the first letter of the keyboard hit), I can;t write objective Peter Hammill reviews any more , lost apostrophes and the sentence or sense or the whatever all skew-whiff, the art of persuasion, just go check it out (but make sure you do in a quite corner, by yourself, no distractions, and do let it unfold,, but then no one really reads this things so none of it really matters, soft soap, hard sell?

Well the postman has done for my day, on to the second listen of this recently released Peter Hammill album now, he really is something very very (very) special, not sure if anyone would get it if they hadn’t been there with him and waiting for each new album or show, been there for years, there isn’t anything I can play you that would really explain why, he’s as good now at 70 years old as he was at the start, in some ways even better, but then that’s maybe me getting a little long in the tooth and not wanting to admit it as well? .And words flow by as you paint the things just to pay the rent and you forgot what they really meant, oh look, I can’t write Peter Hammill reviews any more, I can’t begin to tell you why this album is so good, I think the end is the start, this album would be a wonderful starting point actually…. all things are… (sw)

PETER HAMMILL

Further reading: ORGAN THING: Is it possible to be too Peter Hammill? Is that vital spark maintained? Is it there on open display? A new album is upon us…

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