Peter Hammill

The Peel Sessions

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Through the 1970s, Peter Hammill was something of a regular on John Peel's BBC radio show, both solo -- recording five sessions -- and as a member of Van Der Graaf Generator (seven more). Many of these latter sessions have since seen release, either officially or otherwise; Hammill's solo sessions, on the other hand, have proven very difficult to pin down, with even this collection omitting his first two outings in July 1973 and March 1974. Instead, things get underway with a September 1974 session, featuring material from the then-imminent In Camera album, an angular set whose highlight, "(No More) The Submariner," is delivered here with an intensity in ideal keeping with the song's themes of childhood loss. From there, listeners leap to 1977 and three songs from Over -- Hammill's most personally anguished album -- haunted here by a brittle violin that drapes fresh resonance over the familiar arrangements. Four tracks from the late-'70s The Future Now/pH7 sequence are even more remarkable, as Hammill adopts an all but unplugged approach for numbers that, on record, took their fire from the sheer electricity of studio trickery. Here, the only technical assistance seems to be a few overdubbed vocals during a brittle piano-led "Faculty X" and a lot more spread out behind a scarifyingly a cappella "Mediaevil." There's also a lovely version of "Time for a Change" that prompts listeners again to bemoan the loss of Hammill's first solo session from 1973 -- the same song, but a very different performance, was included in that broadcast. Instead, The Peel Sessions wraps up with a four-song session gifted to the Beeb during 1988, an enjoyable enough excursion but one that sounds as distinctly out of place as the nine-year gap would demand of any constantly shifting artist.

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