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Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts
Label: Caroline Records
Release: 1971

Tracklisting:
Lemmings (Including Cog)
Man-Erg
A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers
---i. Eyewitness
---ii. Pictures/Lighthouse
---iii. Eyewitness
---iv. S.H.M
---v. Presence of the Night
---vi. Kosmos Tours
---vii. (Custard's) Last Stand
---viii. The Clot Thickens
---ix. Land's End (Sineline)
---x. We Go Now
Pawn Hearts - Van Der Graaf Generator
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Average Blamo User Rating: (3 votes)

Simply brilliant. VDGG had increased in power ever since the release of "The Aerosol Grey Machine" in 1969, from havinghuge potential on 1970's "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" to becoming serious contenders with "H to He Who Am The Only One" from the same year, and culminating with this classic that put them right at the forefront of the entire genre.Although, of course, it didn't stay that way - after touring "Pawn Hearts", VDGG decided, not for the first time, to break up. The story of Van Der Graaf Generator and their genius frontman, Peter Hammill, wasn't to end here though, as Hammill decided to embark on a solo career before eventually reforming the band in 1975.

This album though, is a fine last hurrah for the first generation of VDGG - in fact, it's more than fine. It's a masterpiece! Also, it's probably their grandest overall work - there are but a mere 3 songs on here, and one of them is that dreaded work of prog - the sidelong suite. However, don't knock it until you've heard it - "A Plague of LighthouseKeepers" may very well be the best sidelong that prog has to offer. Peter Hammill tells the story of the Lighthouse keeperwho eventually goes mad at all the suffering that surrounds him - the lyrics certainly aren't bad. Typical Hammill, really.Excellent.

And the music isn't forgotten - it's either a good, moody atmosphere, or it's thunderous melodies all around. Strangely enough for a sidelong, there isn't a great deal of soloing - David Jackson gets in a sax break here and there, but mainly, it's the full band who are going for it at full tilt - especially in the "Clot Thickens" part. It's a massive suprise after the sweet "Custard's Last Stand" - a few electronic sounds later, and suddenly every member of the band wants to smash your face in. Hammill roars out lines like "WHERE IS THE GOD THAT GUIDES MY HAND/HOW CAN THE HANDS OF OTHERS REACH ME"and everyone goes crazy, much like the Lighthouse keeper. Hammill delivers his lyrics in terrifying fashion - he's very operatic, but it gives his lyrics a bit of a smash - they wouldn't sound that great if it came from a guy who wasn't PeterHammill. The band don't forget about a big ending either - the final "We Go Now" is a beautiful ending, closing out with a treatedFripp solo, and some final, ever-fading Hammill lines. Fantastic - an absolute VDGG classic.

As for the other two pieces, they're both great too. The opening "Lemmings" is absolutely thunderous - and incredibly moody.It also features several great melody lines, and another astonishing Peter Hammill delivery. Not as astonishing as the othertrack though - "Man-Erg" is another outright VDGG classic. It starts off pretty sweetly, with the great piano and sax, before becoming tremendously ugly, and then going right back to beauty, before ending it right there with a classic ending.Hammill sings the lyrics "I'm just a man, and killers angels all are these/dictators, saviours, refugees" with such amazingconviction and power, before everyone brings their respective melodies to their most outright conclusion. Classic.

Overall, this album will get the 10 from me. I know that it's massively overblown and probably pretty offensive to the earsof some people, but I love it. Perhaps i'm a bit perverse, but I think that the album's pretty catchy in it's own way - I love it, and it gets a big 10. Classic.





Reviewer Rating of CD :

often called the band's best album, it's hard not to agree. contains the infamous plague of lighthouse keepers. insane singing, great playing, and amazing lyrics make a pretty good album.

Reviewer Rating of CD :

 


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