George Starostin's Reviews



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Vasily Zavorochayev <> (13.11.2001)

To my opinion PETER HAMMILL is the most thoughtfull and non-commercial rock-musician.

He went in his musical images further even than Fripp, Eno and Zappa.

Two last Years he is my most favorite musician (including VDGG). My Favorite album of VDGG/Hammill is (of course!) PAWN HEARTS. THE SILENT CORNER..., LOOPS AND REELS, THE ROARING FORTIES are fantastic too. Hammill has only strong albums (I've heard almost all of his albums, except GODBLUFF, SITTING TARGETS, PH7, ...HOUSE OF USHER and some other). George, You differ discographies of VDGG and Hammill, but I cannot agree with You, 'cos almost all of these albums were recorded by constant musicians. As VDGG as Hammill albums improve united thoughts and theories;creation of VDGG and Hammill are indissoluble. There were only one leader-figure, who made all ideas and composed all material. How do You think: WHO? ...Right!

Tim Van der Mensbrugghe <> (16.11.2001)

After reading the comment of a certain Mr. Vasily Zavorochayev I felt the need the give a short comment myself. First of all, I fully agree with George that Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill solo are two 'projects' one should not look at as a whole. Van Der Graaf Generator was indeed kind of dictated by our good friend Hammill but was nevertheless a group-effort, in which Hugh Banton was also a great driving force.

Just listen to a Hammill album and a VdGG record and you notice the difference: where are all those robotic organ parts gone? Banton appeared on the earlier Hammill records but was kept rather quiet in the production.

Van Der Graaf Generator more and more became a jazz-rock outfit with tight playing: just remark the grooves on 'World Record', which are the result of tight group playing strongly based on organ-sax interference. Hammill solo is more guitar or piano based. On most of his songs, the old VdGG-pals only acted as session players. There is not a single Hammill song that features an organ-sax groove as tight as in the VdGG-days.

Hammill solo is far more electronic, certainly the albums at the beginning of the eighties, like A Black Box or Loops and Reels. Since the melodies of Hammill's solo efforts were motsly based on guitar of piano chords, he did not really need Banton and Jackson. For VdGG he could not do that since there was on other 'formula'. That is why I consider Hammill solo often more interesting - this does not mean better - than VdGG, since Hammill got more engaged into sonic experiments than the VdGG would have allowed (or maybe than his fellows would have). Mind that Hammill could not use the name 'Van Der Graaf Generator' without Banton. That is why on the two last albums, the 'Generator' was droppes.

My conclusion is that Peter Hammill is much more free and thus experimental than VdGG - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse - but that VdGG is more vivid, more, ehr, straightforward. Well, at least on their best records, like World Record, H to He and Still Life. VdGG is stadiumrock (it was in Italy!), Hammill solo is more suitable for a club with candlelight. But am I not overgeneralizing?

Vasily Zavorochayev <> (20.11.2001)

In my introduction of Peter Hammill I've said about non-difference of VDGG-music and PH-music; to my opinion discographies of VDGG and PH are the one individable discography. In PH-readers comments section Mr.Van der Mensbrugghe says that " Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill solo are two 'projects' one should not look at as a whole". He says thet Hammill is more experimental than VDGG. But these experiments were determined by time, not by changing of label! Hammill's general line were always constant. Being read George's reviews I've signed that George thinks: the song cannot be good without memorable melody. Thus, the most original VDGG/PH songs, which hasn't memorable melodies ('Pioneers over C', 'Octopus', 'Into a Game', 'Cat's Eye', 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers', 'A Slow Time', 'Like Veronica' and many others), are "falling down". By the way, 90% of Hammill's songs have unmemorable and complicated melodies. If not to understand these songs - not to understand Hammill's creation! Quality of music cannot be determined by melody only. Yet it is determining by sence, thoughtfulness, originality, arrangement, sincerity and other compounds. Yet I must say that just monumental, gloomywith mideval touch and "a deadly atmosphere with not even an inch of relaxation" musical pieces are the central ones in all VDGG/PH creation; they just shows the Hammill's nature ( I mean masterpieces: 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers', 'man-Erg', 'Lemmings', 'Octopus', 'Killer', 'The Lie', 'Modern', 'Naming the Rose', 'White Hammer', 'In a Bottle', 'Fallen (The City of Night...)'. Some commentators say that these songs are psychedelic and cannot be called as prog. 1ST: I'm convinced that some bands related to psychedely (Beatles, Pink Floyd, Doors, Jimy Hendrix, King Crimson, Gong ...) were progressive in perfect sense. 2ND: these songs haven't an important influence of psychedely but have much elements of experiment and "absurd theatre", and also of surrealism. I think that Hamiill is "Musical Salvador Dali" (let me make this comparison). Of course, except deadly-monumental material Hammill had written a lot of wonderful ballads ('Refugees', 'The House with No Door', 'The Tall Ship', 'Time to Burn', 'Wilhelmia', 'Since the Kids','Child'...) and other fantastic non-ballad compositions. In seventies I usually compare the Hammill's creation with King Crimson's and Genesis' s ones. These bands were the most non-popular of progressive bands and their music had some touches of mideval and Renessance Europe. To my opinion VDGG/PH is the most non-commercial and extraordinary project of all great progressive ones (Yes, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Supertramp, ELP, Roxy Music). It's sad that too many people don't like such fantastic music.

P.S. George, You constantly compare Hammill and Dylan. How can You do it!? They are absolutely different musicians!

P.P.S. Excuse me, if I was too sharp.

<> (30.08.2003)

When somebody asks me: Can you recommend me a P.H. record for a start? I allways answer the same thing: Sitting Targets of course, because without being a "greatest hits" record, acts in the same as if it was. There you have all the hammill possible styles: from the experimental electronic dude ("Glue") to the crawling shuffle path ("Breakthrough"), from the rock "commercial attempt" ("My experience") to the acoustic power ("Sitting targets"), from the menace wall of guitars ("Sign the picture") to the "apparently" trapping ballad ("Stranger Still"), from the crazy distortion ("Empresses clothes") to the post nuclear-war rock ("Central Hotel"), from the sweetness ("Ophelia") to the agression ("What I did?). All of them quite short ( thank god for that) and quite representative.

I think that you have reviewed all the important material, because Hammill reaches his peak just a little bit later on And close as this. I can only think about one of his greatest records dated on 1983. It was Patience, the last record with a lot of greeeeat songs ( nobody should miss "Film Noir", "Commfortable?", "Patient","Just good friends" or "Labour of love". The rest...more Van Der graffy it's also good and keep the tension going). Anyway Hammill (music and words) is for people who are tired of catchy chorus and traditional song structure...but then... what should be a song....ein?


Vasily Zavorochayev <> (13.11.2001)

Very interesting record, structurically unlikes on other VDGG/PH records of that period, but sometimes reminds "Aerosol Grey Machine" (one of the best!) spiritually. Two songs unlikes on ten others - IMPERIAL ZEPPELIN & SUNSHINE, they are fast-temped and gay. If to listen with good attention, you can find all ballads sad and gloomy (and it is so beautifull!). Some songs was recorded with ROBERT FRIPP - IMPERIAL ZEPPELIN, I ONCE WROTE SOME POEMS, CHILD, THE BIRDS, SUNSHINE, VIKING but there's hard to disappear Fripp's guiar (strangely, but fact).

I agree with George about Hammill's Alemannomania ( I'm Alemannoman too), FOOLS MATE really influenced by German music ( PAWN HEARTS is influenced more).  It's hard to separate the best song, all are equally good, maybe IMPERIAL ZEPPELIN, or REAWAKENING, or CHILD with it's wonderfull echoes. Full your collection by this album, that worth it.


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Vasily Zavorochayev <> (13.11.2001)

As one of the best Hammill's albums, as one of the 1974-best albums (I think that 1974 is the Year of Art-Rock Apopheous - Producing of The Lamb (Genesis), Queen-2 and Sheer Heart Attack, Relayer (Yes), Country Life (Roxy Music)...).

There is only one not very interesting "RUBICON". Other songs are eternal classics. Attention: 1st half of album has no drums ( 3,5 songs from beginning). The most emotional PH record.

Silent Corner is opening by apocaliptic multi-guitar sounds of MODERN, absolutely unequal song. You are falling into death hot atmosphere... You can find gloomy mistical atmosphere in the end of WILHELMIA, but other its parts are light and nice (with some keyboards as on Procol Harum's SHINE ON BRIGHTLY). Next song - THE LIE - is the best. I have no words - it's nesessary to hear it! The dark mideval suite. FORSAKEN GARDENS is very nice sad ballad, it reminds me my early childhood, sometimes I even want to cry. RED SHIFT is another one Hell-sounding composition, with interesting effects-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s, sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh... RUBICON is the simple, gentle ballad. A LOUSE IS NOT A HOME is another grand suite, mmm! Did you recognize many moments from SILENT CORNER on NICK CAVE's albums?

Auf wieder sehen, meinem freunden!


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Vasiliy Zavorochayev <> (27.11.2001)

Rather good album, but the worst of PH?VDGG albums that I ever heard. It has no any conception unlike other PH/Vdgg albums. Some songs are rather unpleasant, and Hammill doesn't show possibilities of his voiceeven on quarter.

NADIR'S BIG CHANCE: It's almost impossible to recognize Hammill's sound! What's happened with it!? The mixture of SLADE IN FLAME and Kiss DESTROYER (I hate KISS, the worst band before punks desappearance). I've never known Hammill as teenage idol.

THE INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH BURNING: this song is one of the interesting on the album. It has very interesting arrangement.

OPEN YOUR EYES: Good song, good melody, but what's with Hammill's vocal!?

NOBODY'S BUSINESS: Nadir's Big Chance (Part-2) (see review for the 1st song), excluding text.

BEEN ALONE SO LONG: Pretty ballad. It's style reminds OVER.

POMPEII: The best song on album. Really, it has all components for good song. Also it has very extraordinary rhythm and excellent saxophone passages.

SHINGLE: the dullest ballad of all Hammill's creation.

AIRPORT: Good song. I listen it with pleasure.

PEOPLE YOU WERE GOING TO: this treatment of the song is better than single-debut (1967). It sounds some prophetly. One of the best moments on album.

BIRTHDAY SPECIAL: Nadir's Big Chance (Part-3).

TWO OF THREE SPECTRES: Nadir's Big Chance (Part-4)

The album's coda and precoda are weak. Album rating is 6 of 10.


Stefan Puiu <> (16.11.2001)

I've read your Over review, and I must tell you I agree to a great extent with it (although maybe the rating is a wee bit too high for the comments you make). It's really a great dissapointment, but I think I told you that in another email - most of the tunes are almost melodiless, only 'Crying Wolf' and, maybe, 'Alice' stand out a bit.

I also wanted to add a little info/correction/useless trivia - look what Hammill says about 'Crying Wolf': "(Conscious) self-parody has supposedly never been a strong suit of mine. This song has at least a twinkle in the eye! A rare foray into questionable soloing, too.". So, you can say it's a self-parody, he doesn't address phony hypocrites etc, he's just addressing himself, if I got the comment right.

Vasily Zavorochayev <> (16.11.2001)

After first listenings I thought that dislike this album. But then I've understood, that OVER is very strong. Possibly it's not very originally, but's thoughtful, intelligent and honest (take Your attention to Hammill's vocal - It sound with strongest trust to music, Peter is like an old actor, who plays his list role in life and is ready to die during playing).

All the songs are strong, I cannot the best or the worst. When I and my friends went out to mountains (this time I lived in Tashkent) I always took my guitar, and oftenly I played 'AUTUMN', 'YOGA'... They sounded very good.


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Akis Katsman <> (20.11.2002)

I haven't heard yet this album, but just wanted to say that "pH" is a measurement in chemistry about how acid-like is a substance. For example, the water has pH7, which is the neutral value, while the stomach acid liquid has pH2, means very acid-like. The smaller the number is, the more acid-like is the substance. Values above 7 are not acid-like but caustic instead (NH3 for example has pH above 7). The "pH7" title of this album means neutral pH. I am not an expert in chemistry, so I cannot tell you more, but if you want, you can search in the net about pH. And excuse my English, please!


Mark <> (10.10.2002)

I'm surprised by your outrage on this album! I agree 'FLIGHT' is too much, but side 1 is particularly strong. I can't think of another Hammill album that starts off with 2 such powerful opening tracks, 'Golden Promises' and 'Losing Faith in Words'.

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