REVIEW

PETER HAMMILL & VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
1971-1974 [no label 1CD Pink Robert 435]


Peter Hammill's 1974 Canadian tour, opening for Charisma labelmates Genesis, marked his first live outing in over a year (he played a handful of solo dates in Italy shortly after VDGG split up), and is often described as one of his most incendiary solo outings ever - a verdict that the immaculately-rendered performance here unequivocally confirms. Though only six songs (plus Peter Gabriel's onstage intro) made it onto the broadcast, from the opening "Solitude" on, Hammill sings and plays with an intensity that even his albums only sporadically captured.

He was ostensibly promoting the newly released The Silent Corner and the Empty Change album, but it doesn't even get a look-in. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the set ranges from Van Der Graaf's "Out Of My Book," through "The Birds," "Slender Threads" and "German Overalls," and onto a Chris Judge Smith number that would not make it onto Hammill vinyl for another five years, "Time For A Change." And every last moment of it is magical.

The Canadian show is the meat and potatoes of the disc; somewhat unnecessarily, the package is rounded out by Van Der Graaf's now oft-reproduced 1971 Belgian TV performance - that is, a full length "Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" (deceptively split over two tracks) and a very poorly recorded "Theme One"; and the equally familiar BBC In Concert versions of "Killer" and "W." It's a disappointing way of filling up an otherwise essential disc, but you don't need to play the whole thing. The first six tracks are more than enough. - Dave Thompson

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