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Rob Gould — Plays Pawn Hearts
(Fruits de Mer Friends of the Fish 51, 2021, CD / DL)
by Henry Schneider, Published 2021-11-16
When it was initially released in 1971, Van der Graaf Generator’s Pawn Hearts was not well received in the UK, but in Italy they became superstars. As time passed critics realized the quality of this classic album, referring to Pawn Hearts as a misunderstood masterpiece and one of the most extraordinary albums of its era. So how do you improve upon perfection? Ask Rob Gould about his three year labor of love, completely reworking the music and releasing it to mark Pawn Hearts’ 50th anniversary. I first became aware of Rob Gould through his excellent contributions to several Fruits de Mer compilations providing covers of George Harrison, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd, to name a few. To be fair to Rob, I decided to listen to VdGG’s original first as a benchmark for comparison. Whereas the original featured Peter Hammill (vocals, keyboards, and guitar), David Jackson (sax, flute, and vocals), Hugh Banton (organ, piano, Mellotron, synths, bass guitar, and vocals), and Guy Evans (drums, percussion, and piano), Rob (backing vocals, all instruments) augmented his recording with guest musicians Cary Grace (synths and lead vocals on “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers”), The Purple Gang’s Chris Joe Beard (acoustic guitar on “A Plague..”) and Brazilian band Dr. Fantastico on the other two tracks. Van der Graaf’s music and performance was strong enough to begin with, but 50 years on and with improved technology, Rob Gould’s homage is crystal clear, taking ownership of the album. Rob nailed it, making Rob Gould plays Pawn Hearts superior to VdGG’s incredible life-affirming music. Mic drop!
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