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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover

GODBLUFF

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.49 | 1336 ratings

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Cygnus X-2
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's album in between the masterpieces Pawn Hearts and Still Life is somewhat disappointing when you compare it to the other two. It's not a bad release by any means, but it just feels like there isn't as much going on in past efforts and that the inspiration on this album was a lot less than other albums by this group. As always, the musicianship and the group is tight and cohesive, and the well structured pieces are performed with vigor and intensity (which is usually what goes into a Van Der Graaf Generator album), but there are little things that hurt the overall score of this album. Throughout the four songs presented on this album, the listener is taken through arguably the most agressive Van der Graaf Generator experience available, and for the most part I like it, but the album does have its faults.

The Undercover Man opens the album with some quiet vocals from Hammill, almost too quiet. It soon picks up and a nice organ based theme comes in. I must mention this now before I say anything, it may be just my copy (which is an original issue of the album before it was remastered), but the audio on this album is a bit subpar, everything sounds a bit muddy and the quality isn't spectacular. But that's only a minor inconvenience. Hammill's dramatic vocals range from his uneasy falsettos to his jagged lower register vocals. Around the middle of the piece, Jackson comes in with a great saxophone/flute interlude that really helps the overall atmosphere of the piece. Scorched Earth follows, and the mood and atmosphere of the piece is much like the title, scorched and jaggedy. Some interesting lyrics and vocals from Hammill are augmented by an interesting organ/sax motif that has some nice drumming on the part of Guy Evans. There's also an underlying lead guitar rhythm, but it is lost in the muddy mix. There seems to be a lot meandering riffs that add some dynamics to the music, but I must say I'm not too fond of the vocals for the better part of this song (they sound distorted and multi-tracked, but they start at different times giving the illusion of an echo that doesn't really echo).

Arrow has a bit of a jam feel to it with a solid rhythmic foundation and some saxes that have an improvisational feel (and they sound like they are going through a wah pedal). A spacey section before the vocals (that in my opinion doesn't really do anything except help fill a time void), and the song doesn't really pick up pace until around third minute, almost a third into the song. Hammill's vocals and lyrics are at their most biting and aggressive (but they sound too compressed and the organ is more dominant than the vocals themselves). It's not a bad piece, but it could have been shorter as that opening jam didn't really help the song. The ending, though, is great, with distorted and modulated organs with a raunchy sax solo on top creating a wall of sound that entangles the listener. The Sleepwalkers has some nice drumming from Guy Evans, who makes good use of the cow bell on this track. The organ arpeggios are also quite nice and fit well with the underlying saxophone motif. There's a nice middle section that offers a different atmosphere with a nice sax line until it breaks into more discombobulated and dissonant riffing. Again, there are some some sections that could have been abridged or edited, but in the end I feel it's a good ending to the album.

So in the end, Godbluff is a good album marred by two things, subpar audio quality at points (but maybe that's just my copy of the album), and some songs that could have been a little more concise rather than having meandering riffs that do nothing except create longer tracks. It's a good album, but I wouldn't consider it Van der Graaf's best and there are certainly better albums than this from the group (Pawn Hearts and their next album Still Life). If you liked previous efforts from this group, you'll probably like this one as well so fans of previous VdGG albums will like this. And if you're not a fan of the group, I don't think this album will convert you. 4/5.

Cygnus X-2 | 4/5 |

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