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Van Der Graaf Generator - Time Vaults CD (album) cover

TIME VAULTS

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

2.38 | 68 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars True fans of prog legends VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR often lament over the lost years that spawned in between the band's first "breakup" in 1971 after the release of "Pawn Hearts" and the 2.0 version of the band that resumed with the 1975 release of "Godbluff." The great VDGG had every intention of releasing an album after "Pawn Hearts" in 72 but the prog behemoth who notoriously gave it 110% of their time, energy and resources to keep the artistic expression afloat found a diminishing return as lesser talented bands laughed all the way to the bank. Having literally burned out from the touring scene and other pressures, VDGG "officially" called it quits but in reality the four members of Peter Hammill (vocals, guitar, piano, bass), David Jackson (sax, piano), Hugh Banton (organ, bass) and Guy Evans (drums) remained together as a band only under the guise of a solo career of Peter Hammill.

The timeline from 1971-75 between albums began with the writing and practicing of material for a real followup to "Pawn Hearts" but evolved into the rehearsals for Hammill's solo works. Somehow bootleggers had acquired rare compilations of unreleased tracks and were commanding hefty prices so VDGG decided to release a collection of some of these tracks in the form of this official release that was titled TIME VAULTS. Originally appearing in 1982 on cassette only, due to enough interest a vinyl LP followed and finally a CD appearing ten years later in 1992. This album covers the whole range from 71-75 but most of the tracks are from 72 which were slated to be on the new VDGG album of the same year. While the recordings are from out-takes and rehearsal recordings and were never finished for studio quality recordings, the performances give a glimpse into one of the great prog bands at work running the gamut between tracks completely worthy of studio album glory as well as silly nonsensical experiments. While the material is raw, there were 9 hours of overdubbing just because.

While the majority of tracks had never been released, "Black Room" is a different version than the one found on Hammill's solo album "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night." One of the pluses of releases such as TIME VAULTS is that since these tidbits were never refined into studio-friendly diamonds, they retain the feisty independent streak in its pure experimental form but also displays how brilliant the band was in all stages of its productive output displaying aspects of the band truly from behind the scenes. For example "Coil Night" featured Hammill on bass and Jackson on piano and is one of the brilliant tracks on the album as is the opening "The Liquidator" which were both worthy of being featured on a VDGG album. "It All Went Red" displays a rare jam where all musicians shine but Guy Evans displays his amazing drumming skills that were never allowed off the leash on the actual albums. While VDGG was pretty much a guitar-free unit in the early years "Rift Valley" found Hammill on electric guitars instead of keyboards and proves to be the hardest rocking album the band ever recorded.

Other tracks are quite quirky and unusual for VDGG and obvious why they were never considered for album inclusion. The cute little number "Tarzan" starts out with a drumbeat that sounds something like "Billie Jean" from Michael Jackson but has a funkier groove. It almost sounds like the band is going into disco territory but instead delivers an interesting progressive rock sound albeit all funked up. The title track is the most experimental piece which is essentially a collage of disparate playful moments. It tackles some free jazz and seems to be wrapped around the piano melodies of the Christmas song "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" but it also has snippets of the traditional Wedding March, a few moments of reggae and heaps of psychedelia. It's very much like a monkey-brain stream of consciousness scrolling up and down the radio dial of the mind. "Drift (I Hope It Won't)" is a freeform styled mix of nonsense really with lots of conversation between the members. Overall the quality of the recordings is pretty poor but the strength of the material more than makes this a worthy addition.

It goes without saying that this sort of material is strictly reserved only for the hardcore fans of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR as this has little appeal outside of the staunchly loyal fanbase of which i consider myself a part of. For those inclined, this is an excellent array of rehearsals and experimental pieces not fit for an album but listening to a band of this level at a practice session is still a magical moment and on this one there are ten such moments.. For my interests, there's not a single bad track on this one and if one can forgive the crude unfinished production then there is plenty of VDGG magic mojo in action in a true live setting with only the slightest production as an afterthought to give a little bit of consistency between the tunes. This is a band that was so great that i would gladly pay just to watch a rehearsal and this collection of goodies doesn't disappoint at all considering what it is. True that the phantom masterpiece that lay between "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff" never truly emerged except in snippets that were modified to suit the solo career of Hammill, so in some respects this is the closest it gets the mythical beast that should've been and while it doesn't come close to fulfilling that destiny, it sure is an interesting glimpse into the possibilities.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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