Peter Hammill

The Margin +

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An extended version of the original 1985 release, The Margin + captures Hammill at a point where he was still struggling to adapt to the critical decline that, probably coincidentally, followed his departure from the Charisma label in 1981. Any lack of confidence that may have beset him, however, is far from view as 21 tracks wander through his entire back catalog, solo and Van Der Graaf Generator alike -- and if the emphasis is on the last few years' worth of material, then that only amplifies this album's achievement. Material dating from the Black Box/Sitting Targets period highlights the set; "My Experience" is especially scintillating, and if the live "Flight" cannot match its side-long studio incarnation, still Hammill can only be applauded for trying. Of the older tracks, "Moderne" is as disconcerting as ever, while "The Sphinx in the Face" actually benefits from the revisions required to pull it off. Anybody raised on the sheer daring of earlier Hammill will detect a certain familiarity creeping into the proceedings -- the time was long gone when Hammill still scared his audience every night. But in terms of actual listenability, this set is actually one of the best of all the man's live recordings.

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