Matt Wilson wrote:
Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage
After Pawn Hearts and the subsequent tour, the band took a break for a few years while Peter began his solo career in earnest. There's a whole cult around Hammill and his records, but I only own or have heard this one. There's many more PH solo LPs than there are VDGG ones so there very well may be some that are better than this. Prog Archives doesn't rate one higher until The Fall of the House of Usher in 1991 though, so I feel reasonably secure that this is one of the better ones.
You're looking at that bizarre LP cover, aren't you? Wiki - "The cover was designed by Bettina Hohls, ex-member of the psychedelic German rock band Ash Ra Tempel. Hohls also contributed to the cover of Hammill's earlier album Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night.
Peter Hammill – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars (1, 2, 5, 6), piano (2, 3, 4, 7), Mellotron (1, 2), bass guitar (1, 2, 6), harmonium (1), oscillator (6)
Hugh Banton – Hammond organ, bass pedals and bass guitar (3, 4, 7), Farfisa organ (5), backing vocals
Guy Evans – percussion, drums (4, 5, 7)
David Jackson – flute, alto, tenor, and soprano saxophones (4, 5, 7)
Randy California – lead guitar (5)
All tracks are written by Peter Hammill.
1. "Modern" 7:28
Instense acoustic guitar strumming until Peter's vocals slide in and we're in Van Der Graaf territory. You can't really tell you're not listening to one of their albums to be frank. He's not trying for commerciality, that's for sure. Images of modern city life and urban decay are the theme of the day here. Wonder where he lives, anyway? Organ by Hugh and weird effects assault the senses. Wonder what a VDGG album would have sounded like in 1974? This is probably it. Wicked guitar sounds after the four-minute mark. Hammill makes somebody like Robert Fripp sound like a top 40 artist. This would clear the room at a party I'll bet.
2. "Wilhelmina" 5:18
Peter's piano and voice begin. "Willie..." He's addressing a small child, or maybe even a baby - giving her advice for the upcoming years. Pete's idea of a children's song, I imagine. As commercial as his songwriting gets, folks. "Wilhelmina" is written for Guy Evans' newborn baby girl, Tamra." - Wikipedia
3. "The Lie (Bernini's Saint Theresa)" 5:41
Same beginning with his piano chords, but organ this time. That sense of drama and urgency so prevalent in Hammill's music is all over these tunes. He's pulling an Ian Anderson here and commenting on the Catholic church it sounds like. "I'd embrace you if I only knew your name." Wiki says this cut alludes to the Ecstasy of St Theresa by Bernini. Okay. Wonder if Charisma actually thought this kind of stuff would get airplay? Intense, I'll give it that.
4. "Forsaken Gardens" 6:16
"Where are all the joys of yesterday?" is the first thing you hear before the piano comes in. I'll bet he wrote these songs on the instrument. You do feel assaulted when listening to this music, I must admit. "Forsaken Gardens" (also played live in 1975) and "Red Shift" are two more songs which feature ex-VdGG members. - Wikipedia
5. "Red Shift" 8:11
Strange days, indeed. Weirdness abounds, and you get Jackson's sax as well! I'm not even trying to follow what he's saying anymore and just going with the current. A little red wine helps, of course - and I've always got plenty of that. The chutzpah to record stuff like this and expect an audience. But that's exactly what he got, so haters take note. Actually digging the vibe of this one. Spirit's Randy California plays guitar too, it starts about 5:30. Hammill's melodies aren't written to sound pretty. Damn, it's getting loud, hope the neighbors don't mind...
6. "Rubicon" 4:41
More acoustic guitar as Peter tries to sound normal for once. Wonder how long this will last? I tried to read the words but the vino has dulled my senses and I can't concentrate. Probably for the best. He's singing about being the lone wolf, hmmm... The most conventional number on the disc.
7. "A Louse is Not a Home" 12:15
Ooo, a long one! (Yeah, I get that a lot...) Pete must really have something to say with twelve minutes to say it in. He's growling and groaning after only a minute in so he's saved this angsty track for last. Enjoying Jackson's sax as always. Lots of changing tempos tell us it's prog. My daughter just came in, wonder how much of this she can take? LOL... She's trying to talk to me but Peter's voice is cranked up so loud I can't hear her. Good thing this is the last track. Guess I'll cut it short then. That's it for tonight, folks!
Wiki - "The lengthy "A Louse is not a Home" is a song about the nature of identity. It was originally written for Van der Graaf Generator's album following Pawn Hearts, an album that because of the band's split never came to be. It features Van der Graaf Generator's ex-members and was (just like "In the Black Room" from the previous album) played live by the group already in mid 1972 (just before the split) and again with the reformed band in 1975."
An excellent solo album and possibly my favourite Hamill album - certainly one of the top 2
Full of music and angst
It always makes me chuckle to see Randy California's name who contributed some guitar
An interesting juxtaposition