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

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.29 | 1318 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After releasing Pawn Hearts, Van Der Graaf Generator enjoyed respectable chart success, got a fair amount of radio play and started touring a lot more than before. This obviously included a lot of hard and exhausting work. That combined with lack of support from Stratton-Smith and Charisma label led to financial problems, resulting in Peter Hammill leaving the group. At that time, he recorded a few solo albums such as Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night or The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage. In 1975, the group reunited, refusing to play audience's favorites, and continued to create ambitious material. The same year, Goldbluff came out meeting a relatively warm welcome. In 1976, the band recorded Still Life. The keyboardist Hugh Banton considers this album as one of the quartet's most accomplished works.

1976 was not the best year for progressive rock. Peter Gabriel left Genesis, King Crimson broke up, Yes slowly gravitated towards radio-friendly pop songs with Going For the One. Of course, many interesting things came out after that, but the overall freshness and vigour of the genre once so exciting, was nearly gone. Despite that, Still Life sounds vivid, with Van Der Graaf Generator's "classic" sound in a great condition. Compared to Graaf's previous works, this album is more organ-centric and not as dark. However, the classic moodiness and theatricality, that the band became so renowned for, is very much present. The group's signature outer space-like quality still reverbrates in places.

It sometimes seems like Van Der Graaf Generator's sound is shifting towards more soul-influenced scenario with the symphonic influences being estranged. Some of the pieces like "My Room" sound a tad more pop-oriented, but it is all done with phenomenal taste and does not sound ubiquitous. David Jackson's jazz-inspired saxophone appears in places bringing back the band's older material to mind. Besides phenomenal organ playing, Hugh Banton plays bass guitar, and quite proficiently may I mention, which I found to sit very loud in the mix. Peter Hammill's unmistakeable voice has a very melodic factor to it, making it appear almost like another instrument. All in all, the musicianship on this release is excellent.

The album consists of five tracks, all fairly long, never getting below the 7-minute mark. What I especially like is that musicians seem to be taking their time in drawing the charming soundscapes, rather than rushing because of the recording time limitation. Some find the album boring because of its slow, phlegmatic development, but I have grown to appreciate that. "Pilgrims" and "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" are two pieces that I feel are the most representative of this work, showcasing all of the previously mentioned elements.

Van Der Graaf Generator are back in a tasteful fashion with Still Life. Although their material might not be as exciting and luminous as it used to be, it s without a doubt of superior quality. All of the band's classic ingridients are there, put into great use once more! Naturally, Still Life is a treat for Van Der Graaf Generator fans and is a perfectly accessible album. A gem of progressive rock, recommended!

ALotOfBottle | 4/5 |

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