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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.28 | 622 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I am always reluctant to review the very early days of some great bands reviewed on this site because for most of them their first album was not really great. Yes being one the few exception. So, what happened with this VDGG album ?

Actually, there's a story behind this album : Hammill (alone) signed a contract with Mercury. When they wanted to record their first album, the other band members didn't agree with the terms of the contract from Mercury and refused to sign. They disbanded althouth they had already performed in the Albert Hall as an opening act for ...Hendrix (24th February 1969) and at the Marquee Club as opening again for ... Yes (27th November 1968) without having recorded anything.

So, Peter was alone and ready for a solo album. The problem being that the music was not the one for a solo artist. He needed additional musicians and ask to his VDGG friends to help him. Mercury left them TWO days to record the album : rehearsals, recording and mixing all together in 48 hours ! Their manager, Strat, will negociate with Mercury : they will release the album in the US but under the name of VDGG not on Hammill's one. If so, Hammill could get rid of his binding contrat with the record company. That's why the European release will only be available later on .

The line-up for this album is a quintet. Jackson and his sax is still missing.

The opener sounds a bit psychedelic but na´ve. Peter's voice is already the one we all know. Quite in the mood of the era I must say. This song announces great ones like "Refugees". Good piano from Banton. This is a nice, relaxing song (VDGG will not produce a lot of this type throughout the years).

With "Orthenthian" parts, we enter a bit more in the dark and scary world of Peter Hamill. It lacks in power but, still it is a good song.

"Running Black" : this quiet song reminds me very much "Refugges" as well. Not only with the mood, but also with the text : "I know I can say I did my best, but there were no more warm winds from the West". The ambiance of the track is very Genesis like (Trespass). The flute playing makes it a quite fresh and light song, full of poetry. It would have been interesting to hear a version with Jakson on sax... A highlight.

The intro for "Into The Game" with the acoustic guitar, reminds me seriously "Pinball Wizzard" from the Who ("Tommy"). Bass is very present in this song and it is quite nice to hear this since for almost all their career, they will be no bass player as such in the band. This song (almost seven minutes) shows already how complex the band will be. It ends up in a jazzy jam, but not annoying at all.

The title track is a fourty six seconds joke . Next song "Black Smoke Yen" is a short and repetitive intrumental (1'46") : both are quite useless and should have been avoided.

"Aquarian" is truely precursory to numbers like "Darkness" : weird text ("we are cloaked in veils of mystic protection... joking a lot, smoking or not"), heavy background band (bass again is a plus). As in "Running Black"; I really would have like to hear what the sax could have brought to this track. But we'll never know. I'm not that found of "Necromancer" : this is a very bizarre track with scary lyrics (as Peter will write an awful lot - I wonder where he got such a dark inspiration, although ...). The Necromancer says : "I live in the black woods, where you dare not even, Speak my name If there is evil in your heart and you will come near to me you will, Lose your sane". There will be a better version available in The Box (2000) .

"Octopus" is again a very typical VDGG song. Hectic in the construction, starting some jam after a while (which they will do a lot in the future), Peter singing like if his own life depends on his performance. Not the best of the album but interesting.

"People You Were Going To" is a short poppy attempt (it will be released as a single) : poor. "Ferret & Featherbird" is a folk song with nice fluting like the Tull could have released.

The so particular VDGG sound is not yet fully developped but well present. Unlike the Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Purple etc., this first effort clearly indicates what's coming. Three stars.

ZowieZiggy | 3/5 |


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