Peter Hammill - In A Foreign Town - Out of Water 2023

Peter Hammill – In A Foreign Town / Out of Water 2023

Peter Hammill is in my opinion, one of the giants of music, highly influential throughout nearly all genres with a huge catalogue, be it solo, with Van der Graaf Generator or in collaboration with other artists. These two albums, originally released in 1988 and 1990, have been give his personal attention and now feature new re-workings. Why, you maybe asking yourself. Well over the years since their original release, there has been mixed reactions, some praising, others not so happy with the eighties production style of the times.

There has been an amount of uncertainty surrounding the rights of both these albums, and it appears that this prompted Peter to revisit both works, reworking and re-recording the original material in the studio, alongside the issues with the production.

Peter has referred to In A Foreign Town as “having strong songs but having a production style of its time”, describing the album as a “crucial set of recordings in terms of my musical development”. In its original 1988 form, Hammill explored the use of MIDI technology in the studio, coupled with songs that have a political edge. This album features contributions from violinist Stuart Gordon, which have been retained in the re-working. With a slight change in direction, Out of Water featured a more band orientated approach, also Peter was more confident in his approach towards mastering the studio technology of 1990.

So to these new re-workings, released by Cherry Red Records as a 2CD set with an enclosed booklet of lyric and info, and what a very fine job they have done with it. Both the albums sound vibrant and up to date, so much so that they could have been written and released today. All the songs are performed and produced by Peter Hammill, recorded at his Terra Incognita studio in Wiltshire during 2022 and 2023.

I personally do not have the originals and have not heard them. That said, I know what production values in the Eighties/early Nineties were like, and to be truthful they were never to my liking. Therefore my review is solely based on what I hear here on these new versions. A good or bad thing? That’s really up to individual thoughts, all I know is it in no way spoiled my enjoyment of these two great albums.

Listening to these albums it could be argued that Peter Hammill was a musical and lyrical visionary. As noted previously, some of the songs have a political leaning. For example, the lyrics on Hemlock from In A Foreign Town are almost like a prophecy of our current political government, or have times not really changed at all? The lyric of note is “if you swallow hard youʼll believe the lies”. This line is repeated at the end of lyrical statements such as “The earth is flat and pigs can fly – if you swallow hard youʼll believe the lies”, delivered in the way only Peter Hammill can when he sings. It is not only the political feel to some of the lyrics which is important. The music sounds fresh, vivid and so interesting; the re-workings and re-recording have breathed a wonderful new life into these albums. As I have said before, this could have been released today, such is the current modern feel to the songs. Each song on this release is so musically and lyrically strong that it would be difficult to select a favourite.

Out of the Water is as musically strong as its predecessor. Again Peter has re-worked the album to a very high standard, with much more of a band feel, despite all the instruments being played by Peter himself. There are a few notable high points; Evidently Goldfish and the wonderful Something About Ysabel’s Dance to name but two.

Are these re-workings an improvement on the originals? I would guess so as I do not believe they could sound as good as these versions do. Quality releases from a master of his trade, and worth getting. I mean, you can not go wrong with anything from Peter Hammill.

In A Foreign Town (2023)

01. Hemlock (5:59)
02. Invisible Ink (4:21)
03. Sci-Finance (Revisited) (3:55)
04. The Book (5:07)
05. Time to Burn (3:46)
06. Auto (4:00)
07. Vote Brand X (3:52)
08. Sun City Nightlife (3:57)
09. The Play’s the Thing (4:53)
10. Under Cover Names (4:09)
11. Smile (4:55)
12. Time to Burn (instrumental) (3:43)

Time – 52:41

Out of Water (2023)
01. Evidently Goldfish (4:52)
02. Not the Man (4:06)
03. No Moon in the Water (4:28)
04. Our Oyster (5:05)
05. Something About Ysabel’s Dance (6:07)
06. Green Fingers (4:24)
07. On the Surface (8:01)
08. A Way Out (7:13)

Time – 44:19

Total Time – 97:00

Peter Hammill – All Instruments
~ With:
Stuart Gordon – Violin

Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 24th November 2023

Peter Hammill – Website | Facebook