Although not on par with his best albums (1977's Over, 1978's The Future Now, etc.), this solo debut, Fool's Mate, shows Van der Graaf Generator's Peter Hammill taking his first steps toward later prog rock perfection. What makes Fool's Mate different than VdGG's material is that it's more mainstream, and for the most part, piano and acoustic guitar-based. But Hammill is still able convey the grandness of classic VdGG, as heard in the sweeping sounds of "Re-Awakening." And Hammill never grows predictable. The tracks "Sunshine" and "Imperial Zeppelin" show that he doesn't take himself as seriously as many of his then-contemporaries (an important reason why Hammill's music has held up far better over the years than some other prog rockers). But Hammill's lyrics weren't as sophisticated and developed as they would later come to be, which is understandable, since it is his very first solo outing, after all. And the album's closing song, "I Once Wrote Some Poems," hinted at the style Hammill would pursue more thoroughly on future releases (venomous vocals set against contrasting music). Fool's Mate is not as bad as some Peter Hammill purists make it out to be, but casual fans should check out Over or The Future Now first.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Prato