Peter Hammill

The Love Songs

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This odd collection delves, seemingly at random, into the corpus of Peter Hammill songs that, inasmuch as they discuss the fraught path of romantic entanglements, can be construed as "love songs" -- although anybody picking up a copy as a Valentine's gift for his or her own significant other might well regret it. And not only because the sentiments and emotions expressed are often a long way from love itself. Re-recordings and remixes dominate, but that cannot disguise the album's failings. The ten songs here date, in the main, from the sequence of albums Hammill cut for the Charisma label during the 1970s, and that is where they are best experienced. Although the revisions have certainly tightened some hitherto loose arrangements (most noticeable on Over's "(This Side Of) The Looking Glass"), the frail immediacy of the original recordings has been surrendered in favor of a lush homogeny that disguises the songs' roots beneath a uniformity that, frankly, grows a little wearing after a time. Unleashed within the proto-punk apocalypse of Nadir's Big Chance, for example, "Been Alone So Long" emerged a shocking oasis of spellbinding longing. Sandwiched between the never-especially-great "My Favourite" and the drab "Ophelia," it simply sits and scratches itself. "Again" (from In Camera) similarly loses impact within its new surroundings, while the two cuts from Hammill's Fool's Mate debut, "Vision" and "The Birds," sound positively maudlin when divorced from the earnest poetry that once surrounded them. And so forth. In terms of the actual songs, The Love Songs is an excellent digest of one side of Hammill's mighty muse. Lumped together on the off chance that the emotions they share might bind them as a musical experience, however, they instead emerge a one-dimensional and ultimately dispiriting collection of moans.

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