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Pawn Hearts Extra tracks, Import, Original recording remastered

4.6 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Extra tracks, Import, October 4, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Remastered album includes the bonus tracks 'Theme One' (original version), 'W' (alternate take) and the previously unreleased tracks 'Angle Of Incidents', 'Ponker's Theme' & 'Diminutions'. EMI. 2005.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 4, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Extra tracks, Import, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Caroline World Service
  • ASIN: B0009F9O6W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,520 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zachary A. Hanson on September 29, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I berate myself for waiting ten odd years after I heard of these guys for buying an album. After twenty years of being an on-again, off-again prog fan (to be "prog" is an ambivalent phenomenon in this world!), I broke down and checked these guys out. Know what? There has never been an album like this by any band. This captures a band at the height of their powers and emotions. Peter Hammill sounds like he's going to crawl into your skin. David Jackson is the Rahsaan Roland Kirk of rock. Millions upon millions of people who think they know rock (including myself) have been missing out on something without comparison for years and years now (with the exception of the Italians and the French who propelled this to number one in their countries in the day).

If you are a progressive rock fan, you will lose your mind over this one. As good as anything King Crimson ever did, if not better. A whole different experience than Yes (the lyrics are about obsession instead of transcendence, the music fit-inducing instead of euphoria-inducing). They share the prolonged keyboard excursions of ELP, but Hammill & Co. actually do free jazz whereas ELP were a little too "polished" for that. Jethro Tull, Genesis, Hawkwind . . . all the bigger prog names. _Pawn Hearts_ surpasses most anything any of them ever did.

I've bought three other of their albums on an impulsive week-long spree. None of them live up to the manic magic of this one, but still VDGG will stick in your head no matter what you hear of them. They are completely their own entity.
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Format: Audio CD
Released in 1971, this album is regarded by many fans as the finest material VDGG ever recorded. I certainly share this enthusiasm and Pawn Hearts ranks right up there with my top ten prog albums of all time. Ever. This is difficult listening however, and themes of despair and paranoia abound, which are wonderfully brought to life in all of their twisted glory with Peter Hamill's anguished lyrics.

The members of the band at this point included the classic VDGG lineup: Hugh Banton (Hammond E&C organs, Farfisa professional organ, piano, mellotron, ARP synthesizer, bass pedals, bass guitar, and vocals); Peter Hammill (lead vocals, acoustic and slide guitar, electric piano, and acoustic piano); superb drummer Guy Evans; and David Jackson (flute, tenor/alto/soprano saxophones). All of the musicians are very good with Guy being an exceptional drummer - just like all of the other remastered VDGG albums, the subtle intricacies of his drumming really come across. The ensemble work is also pretty good too. Before I forget, Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) contributed a tiny bit of electric guitar here and there - it's barely noticeable though.

Now for my favorite part - the music. The album is comprised of two longer pieces (11'39" and 10'22") with the massive 23'05 multimovement suite A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers as the centerpiece. The music is, for the most part, harsh and unyielding with only the briefest moments of reprieve. Hugh's alternately twisted and churchy organ work really drives each piece along, with Dave's angular and jagged sax work slashing through each piece like so many shards of broken glass. OK, maybe that last bit is a little over the top, but it is not far from the truth. Although the music is very heavy, there are a few quieter and haunting moments.
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Format: Audio CD
VDGG offered up a unique blend of "regular" symphonic prog, like labelmates Genesis, and a much harder, almost metallic-edged version of prog more akin to King Crimson. One minute the acoustic guitar, piano and Peter Hammill's dramatic vocals are lulling you into bliss and the next minute Hugh Banton's ferocious Hammond and Dave Jackson's skronking multi-tracked (and sometimes multi-played!) saxes are blasting you out of your seat.

Pawn Hearts was their first full album without a full-time bass player, which goes virtually unnoticed given Banton's fluency with the bass pedals of his Hammond, and the skill of drummer Guy Evans in filling in the rhythms. Often cited as VDGG's best record, Pawn Hearts does not in any way disappoint. Several years before Yes did Close to the Edge, VDGG set the template here with two long songs and one huge, glorious side-long epic, "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers," one of the must-have prog epics. This re-issue has 20 minutes of bonus material, including alternate takes of the "Theme One"/"W" single. The wonderfully concise "Theme One", written by Beatles producer George Martin, is a real keeper. In an era when things like "Classical Gas" and "Hocus Pocus" could be hit singles, it's amazing to me that this tight, tuneful little prog instrumental wasn't a huge hit.

The rest of the bonus tracks are culled from an aborted second album that was supposed to make Pawn Hearts a 2-record set, as is "Squid/Squid/Octopus" on the H to He reissue. Mostly experimental tracks by the band members who didn't get much chance to write, they are interesting but prove just how invaluable Hammill's writing and vocals were to the band.
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