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Van Der Graaf Generator - Merlin Atmos CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 49 ratings

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4 stars Even though Van Der Graaf Generator have by now released quite a few live recordings, none of them has struck a chord with me like Merlin Atmos. Recorded during the band's 2013 European tour and featuring complete performances of Flight and A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers, the album is a mix of music taken from 1971 and onward. Featuring two tracks from Pawn Hearts, one from each of Godbluff/Still Life/World Record, two tracks from Peter Hammill's solo records and a total of six tracks from Trisector/A Grounding In Numbers. There is clearly something for every Van Der Graaf Generator fan to be enjoyed and some of the less familiar material might just surprise you!

The opening 21-minute Flight was quite a surprise for me since I've only once previously heard it on Hammill's 1980 album A Black Box and this version is a much more modern sounding hence omitting the dated sounds of synthesizers and sequencers. Hammill's voice sounds older but it really doesn't bother me, in fact, some of the moments throughout the opening track actually sounds more potent with his nuanced vocal approach.

The next three compositions are all taken from the current lineup's albums Trisector and A Grounding In Numbers. Lifetime has not been a favorite of mine from the studio recording but this live version has more power to the performance and engages me much more. Bunsho follows in the same suit while All That Before gives the album some much needed energy.

A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers is considered by many to be one of the greatest Van Der Graaf Generator compositions, which is why it's surprising that this is the first complete live version of this 24-minute suite. The performance keeps most of the highlights in tact and organ layers actually manage to make up for the absence of David Jackson. Gog is another highlight since the track has always been considered an unofficial Van Der Graaf Generator classic, even though it was originally recorded as a Peter Hammill solo number.

The so-called bonus disc adds quite a few great performances like the energetic version of Interference Patterns where Hammill clearly makes a strong effort in his vocal delivery. Over The Hill is another memorable Trisector number while the opening track from A Grounding In Numbers, Your Time Starts Now, makes much more sense on this setlist compared to it's role on the band's 2011 release.

The album concludes with almost 50 minutes of classics from the '70s with a lovely performance of Scorched Earth, the slightly trimmed down version of Meurglys III still sounds a bit too excessive for my tastes, Man-Erg makes me wish that David Jackson was still in the lineup even though the keyboards do try to make up for his absence. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End sounds pretty much in line with the studio counterpart but somehow this version doesn't really do as much for me.

As mentioned in the beginning of my review, none of the previous Van Der Graaf Generator live records have managed to grab my attention as much as Merlin Atmos. Yes, there are a few tracks that sound better on the studio recordings and some might even argue that a couple of these performances are overshadowed by the band's previous live offerings. Still, I'd definitely recommend you to give this one a go. Hopefully there will be a video release of these performances since we haven't got enough of those.

***** star songs: Flight (21:30)

**** star songs: Lifetime (5:11) All That Before (7:46) Bunsho (5:48) A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers (24:05) Gog (6:39) Interference Patterns (4:28) Over The Hill (12:36) Your Time Starts Now (4:14) Scorched Earth (10:14) Man-Erg (11:40) Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (12:37)

*** star songs: Meurglys III (15:24)

Rune2000 | 4/5 |


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