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Thread: FEATURED CD - Van Der Graaf Generator : Pawn Hearts

  1. #1
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    FEATURED CD - Van Der Graaf Generator : Pawn Hearts



    (This is one of my desert island albums.)

    Per Greg Northrup on Gnosis
    This is one of Van der Graaf Generator's absolute finest efforts and considered by many to be their biggest statement. It is indeed one of my favorite albums of all time; truly glorious progressive rock that manages to be haunting, engaging, unique and totally brilliant in every imaginable way. Here the early VdGG sound that had been developing on the prior two albums has reached its apex. Hammill's lyrics have become works of harrowed genius, while the musical environment around them is sonically flawless. The result is a perfect melding of dissonance, incorrigible rage and chaos along with roaring melodic power. Inspiration drenches every moment of the album.

    On "Lemmings (including Cog)", David Jackson spits out a pummeling saxophone riff while the band creates a disjointed yet infectious rhythmic pulse. Hammill's outpouring rages over a psychotic circus waltz as the song builds into uncontrollable frenzy. The next classic, "Man-Erg", begins as a dark gothic ballad with ominous vocals and music before tearing into a explosive, mind-bending middle section of unimaginable chaos. The epic "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" is easily one of the single greatest progressive rock pieces of all time. This is timeless music with all the VdGG hallmarks; stately organ, heart-wrenching vocals, and wailing saxophone. Van der Graaf Generator, and this album in particular, are a must for those with a taste for the darker side of progressive music. Pawn Hearts will mine the depths of your consciousness, if you allow it to.
    http://www.gnosis2000.net/reviews/vdgg.htm



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  2. #2
    Clearly one of the top 5 Progressive Rock epics of all time. This stands the test of time for me and I revisit it often. I'll never forget the first time I heard this back in around '79. So bloody brilliant on MANY levels!!!!

  3. #3
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    These guys were what, 23 when they came up with this? Christ.
    Critter Jams "album of the week" blog: http://critterjams.wordpress.com

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    One of those albums which has a legitimate claim to being the best the genre has to offer. A towering work of brilliance from start to finish, and truly original.

  5. #5
    Genesis, Yes, Tull, Floyd and Camel were all easily swallowed, ELP and KCrimson took some effort. There was still a long way from there to Soft Machine, Egg, Hatfield, Gilgamesh, Henry Cow, Magma et al. But in the middle somewhere, I got on to Gentle Giant and VdGG. These bands were "symphonic rock" yet also profoundly transgressive - as in the dreaded "avant-garde".

    I still love them, and this album is a milestone.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  6. #6
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    Astonishing album from the first second to the last, and the one that marked the end of the first period of VDGG. This one is tied with Godbluff for the #1 position IMO... I will never, ever tire of it, and like all truly great albums, it still holds me enthralled no matter how many times I've played it.

    Factoid: The bizarre inner sleeve photo of the band is taken at Tony Stratton-Smith's house in Crowborough, where Genesis rehearsed for the entire summer of 1971 while putting together Nursery Cryme.

    The handful of Hammill solo releases that fall in between Pawn Hearts and the Godbluff reformation are vital, too. Both those PH and the VDGG albums of the day are among my very favourite albums.
    Prog, Metal and Classic rock reviews/interviews - www.velvetthunder.co.uk

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    I'm not sure what was going on in Britain by this time, though. Nothing they did after 'The Least We Can Do...' charted here in the 70s, extraordinary.

  8. #8
    Chronic Overspender zombywoof's Avatar
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    When I did a feature on this on my Facebook page, I wrote the following ...

    "With exams of the horizon, I can't possibly think of a better record than this doomy gem of dark symphonic progressive music. I still remember receiving this in the mail on Christmas eve and digesting it early in the morning, a cold chill looming in the air. This and "H to He" formed the soundtrack to 'Snowmageddon', the epic snow storm that left us without power and heat for about a month. With school canceled, I turned to the music of VdGG, which somehow painted in music what we were experiencing outside.

    For that, the atmospheric music and lyrics of Peter Hammill will forever recall that time in my life when I return to them. I will forever be transported to my room, covered from head to toe in blankets, and listening to VdGG on my MP3 player. Later, of course, I met Peter Hammill and he and the remaining band members signed my copy of this classic album. And so, today's Album of the Day is the bleak classic of Horror Prog, Van der Graaf Generator's "Pawn Hearts", released in October of 1971.

    Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, to me, trumps Close to the Edge, Supper's Ready, In Held Twas in I, Gates of Delirium, and the entire Tales from Topographic Oceans album. The only prog epics that it plays second fiddle to, in my opinion, is Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play. It's quite a ride and I've never heard a single epic that has the same mystery, drama, horror, and ultimate resolution that PoLK delivers in a short 23 minutes. It's just that good. Just thinking about those opening Moog chords is giving me chills...

    Many claim Godbluff to be the best VdGG record. Godbluff is a flawless piece of art rock / progressive rock. Pawn Hearts is a masterwork that transcends "music" and becomes an experience of the very human psyche and condition. Godbluff is perfect, but this is otherworldly."
    Check out Colouratura's sophomore release Unfamiliar Skies - out this spring on Melodic Revolution Records!

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  9. #9
    Subterranean Tapir Hobo Chang Ba's Avatar
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    A pillar of prog-rock IMO.
    No humor please, we're skittish.

    Never let good music get in the way of making a profit.

  10. #10
    A fantastic album that I shockingly only heard for the first time about two years ago! Needless to say, once I heard it, I tracked down the rest of the band's catalog (along with Hammill's 70s albums), though nothing quite reaches the same heights, IMHO.

  11. #11
    [QUOTEMany claim Godbluff to be the best VdGG record. Godbluff is a flawless piece of art rock / progressive rock. Pawn Hearts is a masterwork that transcends "music" and becomes an experience of the very human psyche and condition. Godbluff is perfect, but this is otherworldly."[/QUOTE]

    Well said my friend.

  12. #12
    Traversing The Dream 100423's Avatar
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    Several others have waxed poetic about this album better than I am capable so I'll succinctly say, "I love it!"

  13. #13
    I first heard this when I was 13 and borrowed it from my local library(they also had a copy of "H TO HE"...). It was pretty shocking the first time I heard it to say the least. I think PAWN HEARTS is Van Der Graaf's very best album.

    It is certainly one of the greatest "epics" along with "Close To the Edge", "Supper's Ready", "Tarkus", etc. I wouldn't say it's better than CLOSE TO THE EDGE but it's a masterpiece.

  14. #14
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    Yeah, it's great. Not my fave of them, but anyway, a classic VdGG.

  15. #15
    Member Vic2012's Avatar
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    Love it. I think I have 5 VDGG albums now. This was my first and still my favorite.

  16. #16
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    Fantastic stuff, and one of dozen or so the albums - along with Uncle Meat, MDK, the first one by the Hatfields, and others - that truly formed what I am as a musician. Whatever that is.

  17. #17
    Progga mogrooves's Avatar
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    The apotheosis of "Prog."

    Somehow "music" (let alone "Prog") seems an insufficient word to invoke here, a tag too lazy, small, and prosaic to encompass a sonic gesture so simultaneously cosmic and interior, a sound beyond so mundane a categorical designation; it can neither contain nor consecrate it. Four guys, one consciousness; it rarely happens.

    If someone put a gun to my head and said, "only one!," this LP likely would be it.
    Hell, they ain't even old-timey ! - Homer Stokes

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    Unlistenable.

  19. #19
    Member oilersfan's Avatar
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    Tremendous.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by JJ88 View Post
    One of those albums which has a legitimate claim to being the best the genre has to offer. A towering work of brilliance from start to finish, and truly original.
    I fully agree with this and much of what you guys are saying. A VERY impressive record.

  21. #21
    After this album came out, people were writing "Hugh Banton is God" all over the streets of London.


    Well, that should have happened.

  22. #22
    Separates the men from the boys.

  23. #23
    Absolutely, from the first I heard it 40+ years ago this remains my favorite release by anyone, period. Some other albums from the past haven't aged and my interest has waned over the years. Not this one. I revisit it often. Heck I still do a VdGG marathon about once a year! Just never gets old. Godbluff was a great release, probably their most consistent, but Pawn Hearts has a certain rawness that pushes it over the to.

  24. #24
    What a mindfuck this was for me upon heating in 74. I mean, this was scary shit--and absolutely enthralling. I've read somewhere that this record can actually have a physical effect upon listeners.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bucka001 View Post
    Separates the men from the boys.
    Well I suppose I'm just a boy then.

    VDGG - tried them back in the seventies when I was still at school and desperately trying to hoover up everything prog-related. Tried them on-and-off over all the intervening years. Am trying them right now, listening to the Youtube clip above...

    I guess I just have to accept that I'm never going to like them. They are too discordant. I hate Peter Hammil's voice and style of singing. I don't like the drumming. The songs are tuneless....

    Not for me, I'm afraid.

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