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Van Der Graaf Generator - Present CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.61 | 545 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Too bad VDGG decided to present 'Present' as a double-CD studio album, with the first disk being written/composed pieces and the second disk consisting purely of improvs. Too bad, because the improv half is unremarkable, lacking memorability or anything that will make the listener return after the first listen. I found the improvs hard to sit through and I never want to hear them again. It was probably great fun for the band, considering they were renewing acquaintances again after a very long time. It probably would have even been fun to watch and listen, if we were granted admission to their jam room. But for at-home listening, the improvs don't cut it.

As for the real meat of 'Present', the 6 tracks offered on the first disk, it easily feels like VDGG picking up where they left off with 'The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome'-- music that is difficult, challenging, obtuse and captivating. The big surprise is Hammill, who slips into his more volatile band personality on these songs. He may not sound like the youthful god who laid down some of prog's best-ever vocals on the band's early '70s work, but his persona on 'Present' is more dynamic and kinetic than he has been on much of his latter-day solo work. The musicians sometimes sound tentative, looseness looking for an anchor, yet the overall attack does wield plenty of heaving force at times. The songs amble through maze-like arrangements, and only become well-formed after many close listens. You have to give it to VDGG: they didn't take the easy comeback road. This stuff is as provocative as ever. But only two songs sound like total VDGG classics to these ears: "Every Bloody Emperor", pairing politically-pointed lyrics with walloping sax/organ/drum chemistry from mssrs. Jackson, Banton and Evans...and the great, Great, GREAT "Nutter Alert", an engaging piece of magic right from the start, proving Hammill still possesses the vitriol he so regularly spat in the '70s.

For me, VDGG are one of the Top 5 prog bands of all time. And they seemed to be one of the last hold-outs for any kind of reunion (Gentle Giant being the #1 "never to return" band at the moment). 'Present' does the VDGG legacy spots. It's the extra CD that messes up the momentum set by the much better first disk. CD 1 would rate a 4 were it presented on its own, but as a one-sitting 2CD studio album, I can only muster up enthusiasm enough for a 3. But I'll be first in line to buy studio album #10, should it ever emerge.

slipperman | 3/5 |


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