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Pawn Hearts [Bonus Tracks]
     

Pawn Hearts [Bonus Tracks]

by Van der Graaf Generator
 

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Van Der Graaf Generator's third album, Pawn Hearts was also its second most popular; at one time this record was a major King Crimson cult item due to the presence of Robert Fripp on guitar, but Pawn Hearts has more to offer than that. The opening track, "Lemmings," calls to mind early Gentle Giant, with its eerie vocal

Overview

Van Der Graaf Generator's third album, Pawn Hearts was also its second most popular; at one time this record was a major King Crimson cult item due to the presence of Robert Fripp on guitar, but Pawn Hearts has more to offer than that. The opening track, "Lemmings," calls to mind early Gentle Giant, with its eerie vocal passages (including harmonies) set up against extended sax, keyboard, and guitar-driven instrumental passages, and also with its weird keyboard and percussion interlude, though this band is also much more contemporary in its focus than Gentle Giant. Peter Hammill vocalizes in a more traditional way on "Man-Erg," against shimmering organ swells and Guy Evans' very expressive drumming, before the song goes off on a tangent by way of David Jackson's saxes and some really weird time signatures -- plus some very pretty acoustic and electric guitar work by Hammill himself and Fripp. The monumental "Plague of Lighthouse Keepers," taking up an entire side of the LP, shows the same kind of innovation that characterized Crimson's first two albums, but without the discipline and restraint needed to make the music manageable. The punning titles of the individual sections of this piece (which may have been done for the same reason that Crimson gave those little subtitles to its early extended tracks, to protect the full royalties for the composer) only add to the confusion. As for the piece itself, it features enough virtuoso posturing by everyone (especially drummer Guy Evans) to fill an Emerson, Lake & Palmer album of the same era, with a little more subtlety and some time wasted between the interludes. The 23-minute conceptual work could easily have been trimmed to, say, 18 or 19 minutes without any major sacrifices, which doesn't mean that what's here is bad, just not as concise as it might've been. But the almost operatic intensity of the singing and the overall performance also carries you past the stretches that don't absolutely need to be here. The band was trying for something midway between King Crimson and Genesis, and came out closer to the former, at least instrumentally. Hammill's vocals are impassioned and involving, almost like an acting performance, similar to Peter Gabriel's singing with Genesis, but the lack of any obviously cohesive ideas in the lyrics makes this more obscure and obtuse than any Genesis release. [The 2005 reissue from EMI features exceptionally crisp, vivid sound, extensive, detailed annotation, and also five additional cuts that push the running time on the CD up by more than 20 minutes, well over the one-hour mark. Starting with "Theme One" in its original mix, this material showcases various outtakes from the two months' worth of sessions that yielded this album. The sound is good enough, and the playing is of the same intensity if not quite the same quality or complexity as the music on the finished album. A lot of editing and development was needed on much of it (all except the eminently accessible, jazzy "Ponker's Theme"), and it sounds like reed instruments are close to being overblown on some of what's here; and Hugh Banton's "Diminutions" sounds like the band delving into territory usually reserved for the likes of contemporary classical composers such as Ligeti and Messiaen. That said, most serious fans of the band (and it's difficult to imagine a "casual" fan of Van Der Graaf Generator) will probably appreciate this look at the work-in-progress body of music, and will almost certainly love the Banton finale, which nicely bookends the keyboard-heavy "Lemmings" at the other end of the album.]

Product Details

Release Date:
06/14/2005
Label:
Blue Plate Caroline
UPC:
0724347489020
catalogNumber:
74890

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Van der Graaf Generator   Primary Artist
Peter Hammill   Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Electric Piano,Vocals,Slide Guitar,Group Member
Hugh Banton   Synthesizer,Piano,Bass Guitar,Hammond Organ,Vocals,Mellotron,farfisa organ,bass pedals,Hammond Synth,Group Member
Guy Evans   Percussion,Piano,Drums,Timpani,Group Member
Robert Fripp   Guitar
David P. Jackson   Flute,Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Vocals,Devices,Group Member

Technical Credits

Peter Hammill   Composer
Van der Graaf Generator   Composer
John Anthony   Producer
Hugh Banton   Composer
Robin Geoffrey Cable   Engineer
Guy Evans   Composer
David Hentschel   Engineer
Paul Whitehead   Cover Design
Phil Smee   Artwork,CD Package Design
Mark Powell   Liner Notes,Reissue Producer,Tape Research

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