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Van Der Graaf Generator - Still Life CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.29 | 1449 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 44

If there's a group that might be considered as a really progressive band, we can say that their name is Van Der Graaf Generator. They're a truly progressive band, in every sense of the word, and they are undoubtedly responsible for some of the most experimental, savage, heavy, original, complex, difficult and beautiful music that has already ever been made, in any type of music or in any time. Even for those who dislike of this group and of their music in general, many of them consider the importance and the legacy of the band in the progressive rock movement.

Following the recording of their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts" released in 1971, which is for many the best musical work made by the group, the band's leader Peter Hammill broke up with the band, and chose focus all his energy and spend all of his time, out to develop his solo musical career. When it came the time for reuniting again all the members of the band, in 1975, the Hammill's solo experience had its effects on the band's music, and the result of that was a kind of a change on their musical direction. While the traditional musical structures of their music continued to be complex and dense, there seemed to be a far less and different musical accent, on their following studio albums.

"Still Life" is the sixth studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1976. It's the second studio album recorded by the group after their reunion, and corresponds to one of the famous trilogy of albums of the band that begins with their fifth studio album "Godbluff" released in 1975 and that ends with their seventh studio album "World Record" released in 1976. It's interesting to note that the group released three albums in only two years, and those works has some of the best material ever composed by the group, especially "Godbluff" and "Still Life".

"Still Life" has five tracks. All the songs were written by Hammill, except "Pilgrims" which was written by Hammill and David Jackson. The first track "Pilgrims" is a track about the human cooperation and is a very good theme to opens the album. It seems start with a gloomy and melancholic note, along with your own mood and then slowly pulls out its melancholy, ending in a not to clear, but still somewhat with an optimistic message, pulling you out of your gloominess as well. There is a beautiful Hugh Banton's organ work with soft vocals from Hammill, but the Jackson's saxophones make the real mood on this song. The second track "Still Life" is the title track song. This is a very dark song that speaks about the death and especially one's own resignation before the death. It speaks about the consequences of the immortality and the inevitable paradoxes of the eternal life, if there is such a kind of thing. The title song starts with Hammill singing and Banton playing organ and the song grows with intensity all over the theme. The third track "La Rossa" is an epic tale about a desire fulfilled. It's a very powerful song, is the hardest rocking song on the album and is one of my favourite songs of the group, a real highlight. The fourth track "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)" brings its echoes about the imagination and loss and is the more melancholic, peaceful and beautiful song on the album. The song follows a similar rhythm throughout, dominated by the Hammill's voice and it's very well accompanied by Hammill's piano, Banton's organ and Jackson's saxophones. On "La Rossa" and "My Room", Jackson delivers some of his most inspired saxophone performances ever made by him. The fifth track "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End" is the lengthiest track on the album and is an epic track that speaks about the theme of the grand fate of the humanity. It's a brilliant composition and it has some of the best lyrics ever written by Hammill. This is a wonderful and dramatic song that finishes the album in such and brilliant way, and with an impressive great style.

About the album's cover it shows a Lichtenberg figure. Lichtenberg figures are branching electric discharges that sometimes appear on the surface of the interior of insulating electric materials. The name derives from the German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who originally discovered and studied those kinds of electric phenomena.

Conclusion: Usually, "Still Life" is considered a minor Van Der Graaf Generator's album, especially when it's compared with "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff". It seems that it's too much meditative and philosophical to the common progressive listener. However, I find it a very charming album, if I would never recommended it to an inpatient listener. Sincerely, I really think that "Still Life" is an exceptional piece of music and is one of the most emotional albums I've ever heard. Of the four best albums of the band, "H To He Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" and "Still Life", this is probably, the most accessible of all. For those who aren't familiar with this group, or for those that remain resistant to enjoy one of the best and most important groups that ever existed in the progressive rock music, I suggest you, without any kind of doubt, to begin with "Still Life". But attention, you must have your mind fully opened.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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