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

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.28 | 973 ratings

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russellk
Prog Reviewer
4 stars An oddity, 'Still Life' is an excellent VDGG album, but somewhat out of place in 1976. The band's choice of instruments was by now somewhat regressive and, like 'Godbluff', this was still VDGG without their youthful fire. They seem more dedicated to following rock music's unwritten rules than in breaking them, and by this time other bands, notably GENTLE GIANT and HENRY COW had ploughed new fields, leaving VDGG out to pasture.

Nevertheless, this is as good as they got post 'Pawn Hearts', and there are some truly memorable moments here. Notably, the title track, 'La Rossa' and the sterling final track 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End' all remind one of the energy the band possess, married here with a much greater reliance on melody that had been the case earlier in their career. HAMMILL's voice is unleashed, and it has never been better than on these five tracks. He uses it judiciously, no longer solely for shock value, and at times sounds plaintive, gentle and melodious, not words normally associated with the great man. JACKSON's sax appears on occasion, but the album is dominated musically by HUGH BANTON's organ and bass pedals. His work drives the title track, for example, a short but powerful musical statement sandwiched in between reflective opening and closing sections. 'My Room' is a beautiful interlude, a fragile theme developed into a moody, powerful lyrical statement of loss, HAMMILL's favourite theme. The closer doesn't quite measure up to their glory days, but it is close.

Lyrically this album is as dark as any of their work, though more personal and self-revelatory and less reliant on metaphor. This self-revelation more than the music make the album compelling. However, at no stage is this album worthy of the tag 'heavy prog', nor is it difficult to penetrate in the way 'Pawn Hearts' undoubtedly is. It is neither unsettling nor caustic. 'Still Life' reveals a band at the peak of their powers and confidence, but some distance away from the genre-shaping music they had authored five years previously.

russellk | 4/5 |

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