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Van Der Graaf Generator - Theme One / W CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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mystic fred
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An aural firework display!

As a big fan of Tommy Vance's "Friday Rock Show" I managed to track down this great piece of music eventually, i'm not sure how rare the single is today but i noticed neither track appears on any early VDGG albums on vinyl, though the two songs have managed to find their way onto remastered CD. After I obtained this single I checked out some early VDGG albums - "At Least..", "H to He" and "Pawn Hearts" hoping to find some more gems like this but was disappointed, as I remember feeling the albums were way over my head at the time, and nothing with the instant appeal of "Theme One".

According to the label, the instrumental track "Theme One" was written by George Martin, and starts with a swirling organ intro leading into the extremely catchy main theme, then building up to a crescendo of swirling mellotrons and organs, which I could describe as an aural firework display! Unfortunately a very short piece, though definitely no damp squib, something they could really have built upon as an extended album track. The 'B' side "W" drifts in with a much more relaxed atmosphere, and though Peter Hammill's interesting vocal style is reputedly an acquired taste generally, he seem very accessable on here. The song drifts around with some interesting atmospheric effects, with otherworldly flutes, piano and acoustic guitar.

An excellent little gem to any Prog collection - do I wanna sell it? - not on your nelly!

PS - this version is much better than the one on "The Box"!

Report this review (#97172)
Posted Sunday, November 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars An all instrumental single from VDGG can only be equalled by a vocal one from Tangerine Dream I guess !

"Theme One" is an instrumental piece of music with little inspiration. Repetitive and a bit boring. Few Jackson's interventions (only during the second half). Very keyboard oriented (strong though). It was the generic of the radio programme "Rock Friday Rock Show" and written by Georges Martin. Peter Hammill was not even in the studio when it was recorded ! VDGG will play it first as a rehearsal, then in live gigs but there was never a place for it on a album (guess why). Peter will say : "This was something different for VDGG". I bet you !

B-side "W" is another forgotten song from the "Pawn Hearts" sessions. It starts OK but ends up in a jazz impro leading nowhere. Poor. No wonder those two tracks never made a place on a VDGG album. They were just leftovers (if you have read some of my reviews, you know my feeling about leftovers).

FYI, I started listening VDGG in 1974, I have their entire official catalogue and saw them played live in 1976 (October, Brussels, Cirque Royal). I'll soon go back and see them in April this year - 2007). So, yes : I am a die-hard fan but not blind nor deaf.

This is crappy. Two stars (and I am very generous).

Report this review (#107670)
Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an interesting single by VDGG. Released around the same time as Pawns Heart it sold very well on the continent and pretty well at home. It is still possible to buy a copy on ebay but prices are starting to rise. Theme One is unusual as it is an instrumental with no sign of Mr Hammil's wonderful voice. In fact this track was composed by George Martin the Beatles producer. It showcases Jaxon's sax playing and it is a good track. However the real meal is the Flip side "W" is a brilliant example of VDGG's music with a fun lyric about death and some very interesting sounds. "W" is available on the box set and a couple of compilations and Theme one is available on more and also on the American version of Pawn Hearts. This single is on the highly valued and desired Charisma Pink Label and is a decent pressing as you would expect. This single is a must own item for serious VDGG fans and it is likely that its price will rise over the next few years. As far as Stars go I award 3 to Theme one and the Full 5 to "W". So it gets 4 which is very high for any single release most especially a prog single.
Report this review (#146715)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The contents of this single are not VDGG at their very best (hardly anyone expects them to be!), but my good rating has a lot to do with the fact that both tracks are outside main albums and also pretty good ones.

'Theme One' is familiar to me from the compilation covering the "first generation" of VDGG (1969-1971). Originally written by George Martin for BBC Radio One (sadly I haven't heard that tune), it's been transformed into a killer VDGG track, captivating all the power possibly available in a short instrumental. David Jackson's saxes and Hugh Banton's organ are in the focus. The melody is gorgeous and catchy in a good way - that is, if it happens to linger in my mind after listening, it's not a nasty ear-worm but just continues to spread its energy. And it sounds genuinely classic VDGG!

'W' (> "double-you", referring to the Hammillesque lyrics dealing identity problems) is a slow, low-key song with an improvisatory, wandering atmosphere and a tiny, accessible touch of avant-garde or free jazz. Not melodic or emotionally strong but still quite interesting. Hardly it was a given a faintest chance to be included on the superb Pawn Hearts album. But as single B-side tracks these curiosities nearing the throwaway category are always more justified than filling singles with album material. (Maybe I should give a minus for the nazi-like gestures found also in the inner sleeve of Pawn Hearts.)

Report this review (#784850)
Posted Monday, July 9, 2012 | Review Permalink

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