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

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.29 | 1020 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hammil's voice alone will floor you

For my 200th review I thought I'd visit an old friend. That, and around the time of my 100th someone said I'd committed a sin not having reviewed Still Life yet. So here we go.

This record is, simply put, one of the best and most emotional collection of songs ever put to tape. From the opening organs to the ring of the last chord, this is an album that induces nothing but a spine numbing chill that will leave you breathless. If you're familiar with other Van Der Graff Generator [VdGG] albums, then this one won't be entirely hard to ''get'' but it will come as a shock as though you've just been defibrillated back to life. What's most noticeable about this album is a few things - yes, Hammil has always been a very emotional vocalist, and yes VdGG have always been a group of superb musicians, but something about this album just clicks.

It's been said that during the recording of Godbluff there was so much material that they simply had to make another album, Pilgrims and La Rossa were performed on stage during the Godbluff shows and it really makes sense considering how amazing each of these tracks turned out. This album is definitely not the simple off cuts of a masterpiece - it is a masterpiece in of itself as a separate entity who has much in kin with it's older brother but has coming into it's own enough to know what's up in the world.

Starting with the ever beautiful and classic Pilgrims we're treated to the same kind of VdGG we know and love. But then... something happens. As though Bruce Banner had just been belted by gamma rays this one explodes with Hammil's voice coming into the apex of the track. Not to say that the track reaches it's pinnacle early and then burns out, but who can ever forget that amazing delivery from Hammil as he screams, ''I climb through the evening, alive and believing''. From there on in the album's course is set. And ho boy, is this a good course for the band to take. The lo-key Still Life follows the opening track quite well, almost forming a cohesive suite with how well the songs segue into one another. A similar melody to Pilgrims makes for more spine chilling moments but somehow the track stays as it's own voyage.

The second of the two songs from the Godbluff sessions finally rolls around. La Rossa is an amazing track which, while not as tear jerking as the opening track is still burning powerhouse with Hammil's sharp delivery. A frantic and frenetic track, this is one that's not to be taken lightly. Typical VdGG madness molded into a very fine tune.

Coming into side 2 we have some of the finest tracks ever laid down by VdGG. Starting off is the mellow and melancholic My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) which sees Hammil tone down the grumble on his voice for a precious moment to allow this pretty track to unfold. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End however, is a bomb waiting to explode. Opening with a very calm and wispy intro the track eases along for a moment following suite of the previous track until it starts to pick up with the intro of a drum. By the time a couple minutes have passed however, this one has turned into a fast and evil track which makes use of everything done on the album and even epitomizes it in a way. Excellent solos and voicing make this one of the standouts of VdGG's career, with the ending segment showcasing Hammil's voice with excellent melodies that will get stuck in your head for ages.

There is nothing more to say about this album other than it is an essential masterpiece that demands listen after listen. VdGG fans will be blown away (if they don't already have it) and potential VdGG fans will become diehards. This is a stellar effort that has been, and should be seen as a landmark release. 5 stars, no hesitations - Recommended for all.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |

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