Van der Graaf Generator singer Peter Hammill has announced he will release his very first covers album later this year. In Translation features songs from a variety of musical worlds including classical, American Songbook, Italian pop, and Tango.
In all but three cases, Hammill has also translated the lyrics into English. These songs have remarkable stories behind them. The album has, Hammill, explains, been recorded during the Covid lockdown and partly inspired by Brexit.
“This collection seems to fit together as a group, not least because most of these songs are to do with measures of dislocation, of loss, of some kind of imagined future which didn’t arrive," explains Hammill.
“Only three of the songs here were originally in English; I’ve translated the rest, having had a some experience of song translation over the years. I didn’t feel that I could do proper justice to the songs if I sang them in the original languages. My approach has always been to make cultural rather than strictly linguistic translations, so that the spirit of the song rather than its precise narrative is rendered.
"I was unfamiliar with several of these songs before I began this project. One discovery led on to another in a kind of paper trail. It’s worth noting that many of the back stories to the songs are interesting and some of the writers and singers had a spectacularly dramatic time of things. I doff my hat to these sometimes complicated lives. I hope I’ve addressed the material, the writers, and the original performers, with due and proper respect. Inevitably though there’s spin here, mine all mine.
“These recordings were made, of course, in the time of Covid and lockdown. But also in the knowledge that Brexit – in all its horror – was fast approaching. So these performances of, for the most part, European songs were my last as a European singer, with all the rights and privileges that has brought me for so many years.”
In Translation will be available on CD, white vinyl and as a digital album. Release date is currently TBC.
Peter Hammill: In Translation
1. The Folks Who Live On The Hill - 1937 piece by Kern/Hammerstein
2. Hotel Supramonte - composed by Fabrizio De André
3. Oblivion - composer Astor Piazzola
4. Ciao Amore - 1967 song by Luigi Tenco
5. This Nearly Was Mine - from the musical South Pacific by Rogers/Hammerstein
6. After A Dream - by Gabriel Fauré
7. Ballad For My Death - a second Piazzolla piece
8. I Who Have Nothing - originally an Italian song by Carlo Donida and Giulio ‘Mogol’ Rapetti. The English lyrics are by songwriting giants Leiber and Stoller. Recorded by Ben E King and Shirley Bassey
9. Il Vino - composed by Piero Ciampi
10. Lost To The World - written by Gustav Mahler