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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.28 | 731 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars REVIEW N. 101. Let's start the second hundreds of reviews with (finally!) my favorite artist: Peter Hammill & Van Der Graaf Generator. Published in the same year of "In The Court of..." by King Crimson, "The Aerosol Grey Machine" is still made by psychedelic pop-folk-rock music, but very different for both music and texts from all that appeared in the English landscape (Family, Nice, Procol Harum, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson) in 1969; only Pink Floyd can be matched to this record. Largely acoustic, having been born as Hammill's solo record, the Lp contains excellent songs and is wrongly underestimated.

"Afterwards (4:58)" is a musingly psychedelic song dominated by the organ of Banton, with an excellent singing of Hammill, which here for the first time showed its splendid voice, and a baroque piano solo. Rating 7,5/8.

"Orthenthian St. (Part I) (2:23)" is an acoustic rock piece, quite conventional, but with a percussive piano part and very insisted drums, which finally fades. Hammill is in search of the pathos that he will find in the next records. Uncompleted song. It would have been better to attach it to the second part and make it a less repetitive synthesis. Rating 6.5. "Orthenthian St. (Part II) (3:53)" is longer and resumes the same acoustic theme. and develops it more heat in interpretation. The songs remain intimate for the Spartan arrangement and the atmosphere Contrite. Rating 7.

"Running Back (6:32)" is a melancholy folk ballad with flute (Jeff Peach). The long instrumental piece is proto- progressive. Hammill expresses here to the best his existential spleen. Rating 7.5/8.

"Into a Game (6:56)" is very sustained, and the drums/acoustic guitar progression reminds me of a melody present in "Tommy" (Who, same year, 1969). It feels good also the bass of Keith Ellis. Towards the fourth minute the song ends but then a two-minute instrumental queue starts. Strong song, full of character. Rating 7,5/8.

"Aerosol Grey Machine (0:56)" is a short joke, style of variety acronym. Useless. No rating. "Black Smoke Yen (1:18)" is a short psychedelic instrumental piece. No rating. These two short tracks are useless. They create confusion without a sense. Weak part of the Lp. On the whole, rating 6,5. "Aquarian (8:27)" is another psychedelic ballad, with a good rhythms and and very refined harmonic variations at the singing. The structure is that of a song pop with verses and chorus, the arrangement recalls that of the first Pink Floyd, only that Hammill is not Barrett: he is more serious and dramatic, less surreal. Soon he will have to dissolve the contradiction of wanting to make existential songs with psychedelic music. In the ending we can see a distressing instrumental crescendo like that more developed present in their successive masterpieces. Long song but successful. Rating 8.

"Necromancer (3:30)" is the most extroverted and rhythmic song, which participates in this crackling finale, with a crescendo of intensity and quality. Rating 7,5/8.

"Octopus (7:41)" is a rock ballad with a spectral and psychedelic organ and a anxious voice that creates a very solemn and even obsessive mood, creating the final thriller that will be the trademark of the group. Rating 8+.

On the whole TAGM is an album of psychedelic rock, with folk inflections and with some progressive passages, formed by 8 long songs (plus two short tracks), very elaborate but simple in the arrangements, demonstrating the great quality of the songwriting of Hammill, outstanding composer and vocalist, who in some traits shows the existential pathos and spleen that will become apocalyptic nightmares in the coming records. It is a Lp that already shows a clear identity, which rests on voice, keyboards and acoustic guitars, a melancholy atmosphere or dramatic or distressful or surreal atmosphere. In the records to come the psychedelic part will not be lost but be integrated within a spectral apocalyptic rock where the existential anguish will be very real, and little psychedelic/surreal.

Average quality of the songs: 7,47. Rating: 8+/10. Four Stars.

jamesbaldwin | 4/5 |


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