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Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1962 ratings

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Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars The artistic peak of Van Der Graaf Generator. As good as their later albums were, there is just something missing on them. Here you have VDGG at their most crazy and experimental. The band originally wanted this to be a double album but the record company axed that idea. These guys didn't sell a lot of records in the early '70s, but had a huge impact on the few that bought them. The first VDGG song I ever heard was "Lemmings" and it was love at first hear. I didn't get the 'love 'em or hate 'em' mystique this band had about them. The vocals of Peter Hammill never turned me off and he was a big influence on later vocalists ranging from Johhny Rotten to Bruce Dickinson. Maybe it was because I was already familiar with the Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden that I had no problem with the vocals. I could imagine that for some people listening to this album in say, 1972, it could be an acquired taste.

VDGG is basically a bass-less group like the Doors. In both cases, they recorded bass parts for the studio albums but played live without a bass player. Which is a major reason why I can't get into live recordings by either band(Gimme Dat Bass!!!). Vital, of course, is a huge exception because Nic Potter's distorted bass on that one is so integral to the overall sound. Again we have Robert Fripp adding some guitar parts to this album as he did on the last one. However, I think he is much more noticeable on H To HE than he is here, where he just blends into the scenery. The real highlight of Pawn Hearts to me is Hugh Banton's modified organ work. This guy is one of my favourite organ players along with Keith Emerson and Dave Stewert. David Jackson's sax takes the place of guitar and Guy Evans was one of the better British rock drummers at the time.

"A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" was admittedly an influence on "Supper's Ready", but "Plague" is much darker and more inaccessible. You will find some of Hammill's best lyrics and singing here. I love some of the crazy time signatures they use on this epic. You hear a little bit of synthesizer here as well. Nice. "Man-Erg" is the closest thing here to being mainstream sounding, but even it has those trademark VDGG weird time signatures in the middle of it. I have always loved "Lemmings" and there is a sax part in the song that I get stuck in my head sometimes. It sounds like a guitar riff, but probably harder to play on saxophone. If you have never heard this album it is really hard to describe what the music sounds like here. Imagine a more sinister sounding Genesis mixed with a less jazzy Soft Machine. Pawn Hearts will not be for everybody and is probably not as good as a place to start as H To HE or Godbluff is. But it is a prog classic and is worthy of 5 stars.

zravkapt | 5/5 |


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