Sunday, December 14, 2014

Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts (Progressive Rock UK 1971)

Size: 129 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan SHM-CD Remaster

Pawn Hearts is the fourth album by English progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator, released in October 1971. The album reached number one on the Italian album charts.

The original vinyl release in the United States and Canada (for example on Buddah Records) contained a fourth track, squeezed between "Lemmings" and "Man-Erg", which was the band's arrangement of the BBC Radio 1 opening and closing theme. This instrumental, called "Theme One", was originally composed by George Martin and released on record in 1967. In Europe, where Pawn Hearts only contained the three tracks, "Theme One" was released as a single in February 1972, with the song "W" as its b-side.

Later North American reissues used the European version of the album, without "Theme One". The 2005 remastered CD contains versions of both "W" and "Theme One" that both are different from the North American album and the European single.

Two of the released versions of "Theme One" appear to have the same backing tracks, but feature completely different overdubs and mixes. These can be found on the compilation CD First Generation – 1968–1971 and the remastered Pawn Hearts. There is also a third version (an entirely different studio take) of "Theme One" included on the 2003 various artists compilation CD The Best Prog Rock Album in the World... Ever.

Pawn Hearts was originally conceived as a double album somewhat along the lines of Pink Floyd's album Ummagumma. The first half of this concept was the album as it came to be released, but the second half was to be divided between personal projects and live-in-studio versions of older Van der Graaf Generator songs like "Killer" and "Octopus".

When the Van der Graaf Generator catalogue was remastered for reissue in 2005, several of the tracks from the missing half of the album were found and added as bonus tracks. A live, in-studio version of "Squid/Octopus" was added to the H to He, Who Am the Only One reissue, while the Pawn Hearts reissue contains three of the band members' personal projects, "Angle of Incidents", "Ponker's Theme", and "Diminutions", credited to Evans, Jackson, and Banton, respectively.

The title of the album resulted from a spoonerism by Jackson, who said one time: "I'll go down to the studio and dub on some more porn hearts", of course meaning to say 'horn parts'. [Wikipedia]

Van Der Graaf Generator's third album, Pawn Hearts was also its second most popular; at one time this record was a major King Crimson cult item due to the presence of Robert Fripp on guitar, but Pawn Hearts has more to offer than that. The opening track, "Lemmings," calls to mind early Gentle Giant, with its eerie vocal passages (including harmonies) set up against extended sax, keyboard, and guitar-driven instrumental passages, and also with its weird keyboard and percussion interlude, though this band is also much more contemporary in its focus than Gentle Giant. 

Van Der Graaf Generator - Advertise Poster 1971
Peter Hammill vocalizes in a more traditional way on "Man-Erg," against shimmering organ swells and Guy Evans' very expressive drumming, before the song goes off on a tangent by way of David Jackson's saxes and some really weird time signatures -- plus some very pretty acoustic and electric guitar work by Hammill himself and Fripp. The monumental "Plague of Lighthouse Keepers," taking up an entire side of the LP, shows the same kind of innovation that characterized Crimson's first two albums, but without the discipline and restraint needed to make the music manageable. 

The punning titles of the individual sections of this piece (which may have been done for the same reason that Crimson gave those little subtitles to its early extended tracks, to protect the full royalties for the composer) only add to the confusion. As for the piece itself, it features enough virtuoso posturing by everyone (especially drummer Guy Evans) to fill an Emerson, Lake & Palmer album of the same era, with a little more subtlety and some time wasted between the interludes. 

The 23-minute conceptual work could easily have been trimmed to, say, 18 or 19 minutes without any major sacrifices, which doesn't mean that what's here is bad, just not as concise as it might've been. 

But the almost operatic intensity of the singing and the overall performance also carries you past the stretches that don't absolutely need to be here. The band was trying for something midway between King Crimson and Genesis, and came out closer to the former, at least instrumentally. 

Hammill's vocals are impassioned and involving, almost like an acting performance, similar to Peter Gabriel's singing with Genesis, but the lack of any obviously cohesive ideas in the lyrics makes this more obscure and obtuse than any Genesis release.[AMG]

♫♪ Peter Hammill – lead vocals, acoustic and slide guitar, electric piano, piano
♫♪ Hugh Banton – Hammond and Farfisa organs, piano, mellotron, ARP synthesizer, bass pedals, bass guitar, backing vocals
♫♪ Guy Evans – drums, tympani, percussion, piano
♫♪ David Jackson – alto, tenor, and soprano saxophones, flute, and backing vocals

Additional personnel:
♫♪ Robert Fripp – electric guitar ("Man-Erg" [5:55–7:10] and "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" [8:10–10:20 and near the end of the song])

01. "Lemmings (Including Cog)" – 11:37
02. "Man-Erg" – 10:20
03. "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" – 23:04, including
- Eyewitness" (2:25)
- Pictures/Lighthouse" (Hammill, Banton) (3:10)
- Eyewitness" (0:54)
- S.H.M." (1:57)
- Presence of the Night" (3:51)
- Kosmos Tours" (Evans) (1:17)
- (Custard's) Last Stand" (2:48)
- The Clot Thickens" (Hammill, Banton, Evans, Jackson) (2:51)
- Land's End (Sineline)" (Jackson) (2:01)
- We Go Now" (Jackson, Banton) (1:51)

Bonus Tracks:
04. "Theme One" (George Martin) – 2:55
(A different mix from the version on the US and Canadian LPs or the UK single.)
05. "W" (first version) – 5:04
(The February 1972 single used the second version.)
06. "Angle of Incidents" (Evans) – 4:48
07. "Ponker's Theme" (Jackson) – 1:28
08. "Diminutions" (Banton) – 6:00
09. "Necromancer" [BBC Live UK 1968] - 04:02
10. "What Ever Would Robert Have Said" [Beat Club 1970] - 05:54

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