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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine CD (album) cover

THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE

Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars for those (like me) who had big problems getting into this band , this is an invaluable album to enter this dark and gloomy wonderworld but this is only a first step as this an unusual album for VDGG (read the liner notes- they explain this better than I could) so nothing is sure even if you like this one.
Report this review (#7740)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This record was amogst the first VdGG I ever heard, I was a little disappointed. Having heard pieces of masterpieces like Pawn Hearts & H to He..., I guess I expected a little more from this extraordinary band. But anyway as a debut this isn't at all bad, certainly better than Genesis' debut "From genesis to revelation." Some of the tracks are a bit dull and do not add anything interesting to this album. But tracks like the psychedelic "Aquarian" the more fierce "Octopus" and the beautiful "Afterwards" truly gives a clue of what to expect from a band like this. This day we can all be glad that a man like Tony Stratton-Smith (who also discovered Genesis) had an ability to spot talent like this.
Report this review (#7744)
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Not as bad as some might think it is. This album is like many debuts: showing promise with even more great things to come. Think of this album like the first two YES albums or GENESIS' "Trespass". The lineup is a bit different from their classic albums, this album featured guitarist/vocalist Peter HAMMILL, drummer Guy Evans, keyboardist Hugh Banton, and bassist Keith Ellis (who quickly hopped on to a band called JUICY LUCY). Notice that David Jackson is absent on this album. Some anonymous figure by the name of John provided a little flute.

This album is more of a proto-prog/psych/folk type of offering. It was intended to be a Peter HAMMILLl solo album (since VdGG broke up) but since VdGG reformed, it became a VdGG album. Strangely the album did not initially receive a British release, the US print on Mercury is the original pressing. It later appeared in Britain on the Fontana label in the 1970s (as well as Vertigo over in Italy). The album still has good material on it, like "Aquarians", "Octopus", "Necromancer", "Running Back". The title track is one of the rare times the band showed a sense of humor. "Aquarians" seems to have more strong hippie overtones than what is normal for the band. "Octopus" is by far the most progressive song on this album, with extended organ solos. Certainly this album shows that many of the late '60s psychedelic elements have not left, but it's still a nice album worth having. Of course, start with "H to He" or "Pawn Hearts" before you come here.

Report this review (#7745)
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Debut albums are never a great place to start off with because usually the band members are just getting use to each other and are experimenting with different sounds in an attempt to find their given niche. This album is no exception. However, if you're a big VDGG fan, this is reccommended, just avoid it if you're new to the band, because it isn't the best or the most interesting.
Report this review (#7747)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I got myself the Repertoire reissue version of this debut album of a very interesting group. I think it is slightly unbalanced from the perspective of quality, having some very good moments paired up with some poorer tracks. Fragile "Afterwards" and hilarious "Necromancer" were known to me from their trashy BBC recordings before I listened to this album, and I admit I like those radio versions more. I felt them pulsing with life more vitally than these more sterile sounding studio recordings. "Orthenthian St. (Part I & II)" has a folky sound with acoustic guitars and pianos, resembling little the sound of the first long player of Genesis. Melodies are pretty, and the fine song is edited as a one CD track to the Repertoire's CD. The shifting of the parts has a weird fade out, creating a mysterious moment to the song, which then moves to a bit more troubled directions predicting the pessimisms dominating the group's forthcoming career. "Running Back" continues the acoustic sound and melancholic moods presented in previous track, being a quite good song with some flute solos in the middle. The duller moments are crystallized for me on songs "Into a Game", which has a bit more aggressive punch in the music, and somehow quite unpleasant piano, maybe being bit out of tune. Anyway, there are many features in the song's structure, which I believe were evolved further in the longer compositions on the following records. "Aerosol Grey Machine" is short joke song little in vein of Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Benny The Bouncer", being a really terrible in my opinion, making me think why to title the whole album with such piece? "Black Smoke Yen" is another short one with jumpy rhythm for the dance of piano and bass guitar, morphing to "Aquarian". This song starts to sound much more like the upcoming longer pessimistic songs of the band, being again very good material with interesting lyrics, good melodies and nice instrumental passages. The cautious piano playing also sounds here much better than in the previous tracks. "Octopus" is another longer aggressive song, but I didn't like this one very much, though there's some funny obscure jamming in the end. The organ theme is little poor I think, and it gets very repetitive. I understood the bonus tracks on my version are from their early single. The A-side song is a tragicomic fatalist "People You Were Going To", great lyrics and keyboard driven melodies. The B-side "Firebrand" is a bluesy tune with raw keyboards and high-pitched bass guitar sound similar like on Wigwam's first album. There's similar hilarious madness in the song like on "The Necromancer".

Though I'm usually quite keen on late 1960's stuff, this album was a slight disappointment from some parts, and few moments satisfying my musical appetite quite well. As an anecdote, I found a picture from net which was claimed to be an early version of the album cover, having a hippy clothed lady spraying grey stuff from an aerosol can. I'm not totally sure about the truthfulness about this picture, but anyway it was so much neater than original one with screaming colours and primitive figures that I printed it out and placed over the original CD cover.

Report this review (#7751)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars the VDGG debut album (which was really recorded as a Peter Hammill solo album) gives a look at the roots of this great hard-prog band, which appear to be a leftover from the psychedelic years (like a lot of other prog bands). it does have some long pieces in it (aquarian, octopus) and it is good music basically, but it's best as being a backbone at the evolving of VDGG, seeing the following album and it's successors. I personally baught it as the first record of VDGG along with "the least we can do is wave to each other", and although I think these weren't smart choices to begin with, they didn't ruin the band for me. my favourite track from this one is "necromancer" which tells the tales of the magicman in the forest, and you can already hear Hammill's special voice and pronounciation of the lyrics. as I don't like reissues/remastered with bonus track (since I like the format of a regular original album) I was lucky to get it without the bonus tracks, so I don't know the bonus tracks on the album.
Report this review (#7753)
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In contrast to some other reviewers, I do not have a problem with "Aerosol" being a starting point to explore the dark worlds of vdgg. As the matter of fact I did get hooked on them via "68-71" compilation first (2 songs from here included), then went on to "Aerosol" and "Least" which I still enjoy very much. I will not repeat what other members had to say, I am just stressing that this is quite acoustic album with strong Ellis' wah wah bass rhythm and lots of organ/piano, mirroring the age of psychedelia which is mostly evident in lyrics of "Afterwards" and "Aquarian" along with the cover art. Other highlights include acoustic ballad with wonderful bass melodic hook and flute "Running Back" and a hint of what VdGG would sound soon after this, "Necromancer", which was even a minor hit! Overall excellent album keeping in mind the circumstances under which it was recorded (Fie CD issue, along with bonus "Ferret and Featherbird" and "Giant Squid", contains valuable historical liner notes by Hammill personally!), which IMO can serve as mellow introduction to the novices. Far from masterpiece of course, but surely for any prog (and not only prog) collection!
Report this review (#7754)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars the first and less complex album of vdgg. there is no point in comparing it with the masterpieces that followed it. for me all vdgg albums are equal with each other. this group changed my life and considering that this album was the reason for their start i cannnot rate it with less than 5 stars. musically the album is quite soft without the 'dramatic changes' of the other albums. it includes really great songs like afterwards, aquarian, necromancer, octopus and running back. according to me the album is a masterpiece ( i am not and i cannot be objective) but for its musical value and compared to other great albums of the other rock giants it deserves a 3.5/5.
Report this review (#36326)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars As (almost) everybody knows, this was intended to be the first Hamill solo album. Van Der Graaf Generator had broken and Hammill, armed with a bunch of songs and his acoustic guitar, went to the studio to record his album. He then called Guy Evans and Hugh Banton to play, along with bass player Keith Ellis. This is proto-VDGG, not the band which would record four of the greatest albuns in all prog-rock history: "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "H To He Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff". Getting back to the album: "Afterwards", "Running Back", "Octopus" are all great songs, which stands as high as all other VDGG's classics, but this album is still primitive and doesn't give a newcomer a glimpse of all the glory this band would achieve. So, if you are a new fan, check out for one of the four albuns mentioned above; if you are familiar with VDGG, you will like this album, but somehow you will find it less interesting than other releases. Maybe it's because "The Aerosol Grey Machine"'s production is far below the standards of the next releases, or maybe it's there is no David Jackson at all! I like this album a lot, but the nest four are better. The four albuns mentioned above should be called "The Fantastic Four" (you know, Moody Blues fans call the seven albuns between "Days of Future Passed" and "Seventh Sojourn" as "The Magnificent Seven).
Report this review (#38938)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I know this album is always kind of disregarded and ignored by many (Hammill included?) but all in all, it's fantastic! Personally, I love the beginnings of the art rock bands, when they were finding their legs and starting to create their own sound. This is an album of just that. There are traces of a psychedelic hangover and yet glimpses of the amazing yet to come. Surely "Afterwards" ranks as one of not only Hammill's most beautiful songs, but one of the true gems of the psych/prog era. Obviously, not anywhere near as 'heavy' as they would become, but a unique voice in iteself. 100% recommended!
Report this review (#40331)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is interesting to see all prog reviewers so far united on the number of the stars to give to this album... Not many debut albums are as brilliant as this, you can compare it to ItCotCK, or Grobschnitt's excellent debut. The album seems to suffer inferior production quality though (I remember somewhere the sound comes from only one channel for some seconds), and the material is not yet prog enough. But it is more than a promising sign of what is yet to come.

I also agree that it is a masterpiece on its own, but if I would call this a masterpiece, then I would have to rate the next 6 studio albums six or seven stars each, and since it is not possible I will have to ascribe 4 stars only! Actually this is an essential piece, especially to see the development of a landmark in prog history! Solid 4 stars!

Report this review (#41287)
Posted Tuesday, August 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Even though Van Der Graaf Generator is one of my absolute favourite bands, and even though this particular album was my first meeting with the band, I still cannot believe that it in fact IS VDGG that has made this album. It is just so far away from the rest of the group's discography in both style and quality. Granted, there are good songs on it (like for instance Into A Game), but still I cannot bring myself to give this album a better rating than two stars. Maybe it's a bit unfair, because my demands for a VDGG-album are so high. Maybe, if it had been - say, an early Caravan-record or something - I might have given it a weak 3- star rating? The first track I liked when I listened to this album, was Aguarian. In fact, I liked it a lot for a few days, but it really didn't wear well when listened to a couple of times. Now I think it sounds almost as if it could have benn part of the soundtrack for Hair, or some "musical cousin" to David Bowie's Memory Of a Free Festival (not a compliment).
Report this review (#43713)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars You can compare the debut of Van Der Graaf Generator with "From Genesis To Revelation", it contains shorter, simplier songs but isn't as overdone as the debut from Genesis. You can hear at times the promising future that the band acclaimed with their followed prog classics, but isn't representative for the typical VDGG sound, like it's with Genesis' debut. The follow-up "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" is historicaly seen like "Trespass": The band found their own niche and wrote complexer, difficulty songs, short said: progressive. On this record the band wasn't involved in the songwriting, Peter Hammill wrote all of them, so the follow-up is oftenly described as the real VDGG debut, it was also the first album released on the legendary Charisma label. This album isn't bad, it contains some goodies like "Afterwards", "Aquarian" or Octopus (in a wilder version available on the new remastered cd version of "H To He, Who Am The Only One"). I recommend this cd rather for it's historical value, less for it's quality. Fans and Collectors, who want a complete collection should pick up this album, if you look for a prog masterpiece, pick up one (better all) of the followed records by this unique prog band. Fans of Peter Hammill's solo work could enjoy this though.

5.5/10 points = 56 % on MPV scale = 2/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Collectors/fans only

Report this review (#50462)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' was initially planned as the first Peter Hammill solo-record, but was finally released under the group name 'Van Der Graaf Generator', a device for producing high electrostatic potentials up to 15 million volt and quite a good name for such an energy loaden band. Now, VDGG owns as much to Byron, Shelley, Keats and E.A.Poe as to Chuck Berry. Peter Hammill is like Bob Dylan in the first place a poet, who composes music for his poems, supported by a great band . Hammiill has an expressive vocal range (from lamantations to cries and whispers) and on 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' one can already find the major elements of VDGG's music : Hammills expressive vocal style and poetry, Banton's classical inspired keyboard playing and Guy Evans' subtile drumming. The first five tracks (four songs) have a similar structure, the instruments enter one after the other (first the guitar, [on 'Afterwards' organ] than the bass, the piano or organ, Evans enters on drums establishes a medium tempo groove and Hammill starts singing , with small variations throughout the track. It is already typical VDGG, but the dynamic of the later records is still missing. The most interesting track of the four is 'Into a Game', the song starts the same way as the others, but in the middle there is an instrumental break starting with bass and drums joined by Banton, who delivers a nice piano solo and then Hammill joins and sings ad-libitum "into a game.." over the groove, until the track fades. 'Aerosol Grey Machine' is a funny publicity spot followed by a short instrumental 'Black Smoke Yen', where Evans establishes an interesting drum pattern joined by the bass and another piano solo by Banton. Now comes the best part: 'Aquarian' is a fantastic Prog-Pop-Song! It is the only track on the record (a part from the Bonus tracks) that follows a classical song structure with verse & chorus. [with the band joining on vocals for the chorus]. It starts with a great groove by Evans heavily phased drums and a pumping bass line joined by Hammill's vocals, a great chorus and a final organ frenzy.'Necromancer' is a nice stop and go rocker and 'Octopus' a heavy rocker with a ostinato bass line, organ washes and a nice organ solo in the second half, reminding Jon Lord. The record misses the dynamic tension of the later records, but is nevertheless a great record.
Report this review (#61275)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Like most listeners, I stumbled upon Aerosol Grey Machine years after having been consumed by the brilliance of albums like The Least We Can Do, H to He, Pawn Hearts and Godbluff. I had been given the prior impression that this was a virtually unrecognisable record in which Hamill goes through a lot of embarassing hippie cliches. As such Aerosol Grey Machine was a wonderful surprise. It's an extremely confident, expressive debut album that can hold its own among alongside the tentative late 60s debuts of Yes and Genesis (which I also happen to enjoy, by the way). In fact, while I will say that this record doesn't reach the heights of the suceeding four VDGG albums, I actually prefer it to the dense, depressing records that follow Godbluff (Still Life and the like) and I believe it to be an important part of the band's catalogue.

The odd hint of 60s pop on Orthenthian Street and the garish music hall chaos of the brief title track aside, many of the hallmarks of the great VDGG sound are present here. The darkness of Afterwards and Necromancer, the psychedelic tinges of Running Back (which sounds like one of Quintessence's or Traffic's flute-led psych jams) and the mind-boggling atmospheric changes of Into A Game (damn thing even gets funky at one point) show that even at early juncture point in their career, VDGG were somewhat ahead of their time. Sure the actual instrumental involvement may seem somewhat subdued, but it's not as if VDGG is a band that thrives on rip-roaring solos anyway.

If there's any real complaint it might be the lack of a truly exceptional song on this record ... or that it lacks sufficient variety from track to track. One could argue that by the halfway point, everything that is going to be said has already been said ... which is far from the unpredictable streak that VDGG possessed on subsequent albums. The lengthier pieces that close out the album (Black Smoke Yen and Octopus, which is probably my favourite track on the album) promise much, but lack the darker, frenzied edge that is a crucial element of this outstanding group's music. Dynamics, unlike rip-roaring solos, are indeed crucial to VDGG!

There is nonetheless a quaint allure to Aerosol Grey Machine, and I dare say that it come close to competing with the 2005 reunion album Present (to go right to the opposite end of the scale) for my favourite VDGG album outside of the big four that followed this. Personally, I always get a real kick out of imaging a stoner hippie audience confronted by a switched on Van Der Graaf Generator! ... 60% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#64736)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have a problem with Van Der Graaf Generator, some songs I consider to be absolute masterpieces, others I can happily live without and some songs I hate with a vengeance. Most songs on this album belong to the second categorie, nice but forgettable.

Peter Hammill's voice, is definetly an acquired taste, once accustomed to it, it's nice, but on first listenings you wonder why they didn't hire a real singer, but his emotive expression is a large part of what VDGG is all about, so if you can't cope with it, VDGG will be wasted on you. Another element of VDGG is the lack of guitars, the sounds are dominated by bass, drums and organ and ever increasing dramatic tension. Generally it's a very organic sound growing as it develops.

Best songs on this album are: Into A Game and Aquarian, but only Aquarian comes near perfection, the rest is though not all bad, forgettable, I sometimes put it on, just to check if my taste hasn't altered, and untill now that hasn't happened. I will not recommend this album for starters, but fans of VDGG will probable find some tunes they like. (p) Only for fans

Peace Out

Report this review (#89590)
Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars -Historical information

In 1967, Peter Hammill attended Manchester University to do a degree in liberal studies in science. There he met Judge Smith (drums and wind instruments) and with organist Nick Pearne they formed a band. A year later Mercury Records offered them a recording contract. With Hugh Banton instead of Nick Pearne, and with Guy Evans (drums) and Keith Ellis (bass) introduced to the band by their manager, Tony Stratton- Smith (who would later form Charisma Records), they release a single in 1969 on Polydor Records. For obvious reasons, within a week of its release, contractual problems lead to it being withdrawn. Days later , their equipment is stolen forcing them to borrow equipment to fulfill their gigging commitments and this combined with Mercury's refusal to let Hammill out of his solo contract lead the band's break. In July of 1969 Peter Hammill records what was firstly intended to be a solo work of his with Banton, Evans and Ellis as session musicians. Aerosol grey machine was released under the band name, Van der graaf generator.

-About the cd

Many people do not consider The Aerosol Grey Machine as Vdgg's debut album. Reasons may be David Jackson's absence, the variety of different sounding songs or even that it was intended to be Peter Hammill's solo album. In my opinion those are not enough to make The Aerosol Grey Machine not be recognized as Vdgg's first "real" release because dark melodies, Guy Evan's jazzy influenced drums, Banton's powerful organ sound, Hammill's distinctive voice, interesting and sophisticated lyrics are all over the album. You can tell that this is Van der graaf generator. The overall mood and the feeling you get from this album is very much like Vdgg's later albums.

What makes The Aerosol Grey Machine sound different from Vdgg's later releases is that its like a collection of Hammill's songs. What is missing here is a connection between the songs either in terms of lyrics or in terms of music. Every song is very different from each other and that's why it's very difficult to get used to this cd. Surely not a good starting point for people not into Vdgg. It's very experimental. It's a point where the band needs to do this. They need to get an identity. Strangely enough, they manage to do all that and at the same time create a masterpiece of progressive music. It's not as complex as their later works but that shouldn't be taken as a defect. In my opinion this cd has amazing compositions and ideas and it sounds really honest. Of course not as good as Vdgg's later works or Peter Hammill's solo career but I'm sure that if this cd was released by another band it would have been considered as a masterpiece! The fact that they released much better albums doesn't change the fact it's a masterpiece so I'll give 5 stars.

In my opinion this cd should be in the collection of every progressive rock fan. If you are new to Van der graaf avoid this cd for now. It will be very hard to get into...

Report this review (#92834)
Posted Sunday, October 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A suprisingly good debut.

With few exceptions, debut albums are littered with averageness. It appears here that VDGG is already well-aware of where they stand and have a good grasp of their direction. After being well aquainted with other band efforts in both of their eras, I found this to be quite a suprise, expecting it to be a lesser effort after seeing how lowly it is ranked here.

Keep in mind that this is no Godbluff or Pawn Hearts. Much of the brilliance, or perhaps oddness, that is the hallmark of VDGG's sound is missing here. Hammill's lyrics are not nearly as depressing or disturbing, for one. And his voice is perhaps the most "listenable" of his career (as in no wild shrieks). We have obvious psyche/hippy type influences here as well, which can be good or bad depending on your taste, although it isn't in overload.

Of note here is the production, which is just awful. It's two shades short of being a black metal album in terms of production quality. The instruments seem dull, and the record overall feels lacking in vibrance in parts where the sound should ring through. However, the songwriting and its potenial is all there. I would not start here for VDGG, but would recommend it as the 2nd album to look for should you not care for one of the other releases.

Report this review (#99120)
Posted Thursday, November 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I am always reluctant to review the very early days of some great bands reviewed on this site because for most of them their first album was not really great. Yes being one the few exception. So, what happened with this VDGG album ?

Actually, there's a story behind this album : Hammill (alone) signed a contract with Mercury. When they wanted to record their first album, the other band members didn't agree with the terms of the contract from Mercury and refused to sign. They disbanded althouth they had already performed in the Albert Hall as an opening act for ...Hendrix (24th February 1969) and at the Marquee Club as opening again for ... Yes (27th November 1968) without having recorded anything.

So, Peter was alone and ready for a solo album. The problem being that the music was not the one for a solo artist. He needed additional musicians and ask to his VDGG friends to help him. Mercury left them TWO days to record the album : rehearsals, recording and mixing all together in 48 hours ! Their manager, Strat, will negociate with Mercury : they will release the album in the US but under the name of VDGG not on Hammill's one. If so, Hammill could get rid of his binding contrat with the record company. That's why the European release will only be available later on .

The line-up for this album is a quintet. Jackson and his sax is still missing.

The opener sounds a bit psychedelic but naïve. Peter's voice is already the one we all know. Quite in the mood of the era I must say. This song announces great ones like "Refugees". Good piano from Banton. This is a nice, relaxing song (VDGG will not produce a lot of this type throughout the years).

With "Orthenthian" parts, we enter a bit more in the dark and scary world of Peter Hamill. It lacks in power but, still it is a good song.

"Running Black" : this quiet song reminds me very much "Refugges" as well. Not only with the mood, but also with the text : "I know I can say I did my best, but there were no more warm winds from the West". The ambiance of the track is very Genesis like (Trespass). The flute playing makes it a quite fresh and light song, full of poetry. It would have been interesting to hear a version with Jakson on sax... A highlight.

The intro for "Into The Game" with the acoustic guitar, reminds me seriously "Pinball Wizzard" from the Who ("Tommy"). Bass is very present in this song and it is quite nice to hear this since for almost all their career, they will be no bass player as such in the band. This song (almost seven minutes) shows already how complex the band will be. It ends up in a jazzy jam, but not annoying at all.

The title track is a fourty six seconds joke . Next song "Black Smoke Yen" is a short and repetitive intrumental (1'46") : both are quite useless and should have been avoided.

"Aquarian" is truely precursory to numbers like "Darkness" : weird text ("we are cloaked in veils of mystic protection... joking a lot, smoking or not"), heavy background band (bass again is a plus). As in "Running Black"; I really would have like to hear what the sax could have brought to this track. But we'll never know. I'm not that found of "Necromancer" : this is a very bizarre track with scary lyrics (as Peter will write an awful lot - I wonder where he got such a dark inspiration, although ...). The Necromancer says : "I live in the black woods, where you dare not even, Speak my name If there is evil in your heart and you will come near to me you will, Lose your sane". There will be a better version available in The Box (2000) .

"Octopus" is again a very typical VDGG song. Hectic in the construction, starting some jam after a while (which they will do a lot in the future), Peter singing like if his own life depends on his performance. Not the best of the album but interesting.

"People You Were Going To" is a short poppy attempt (it will be released as a single) : poor. "Ferret & Featherbird" is a folk song with nice fluting like the Tull could have released.

The so particular VDGG sound is not yet fully developped but well present. Unlike the Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Purple etc., this first effort clearly indicates what's coming. Three stars.

Report this review (#107540)
Posted Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'll not go over this album in too much detail. According to my ears, there is but one memorable song - Octopus. The rest, you can hear the basis of what would become VDGG classic & for me their standard sound. You hear the remnants of the 60s psych era, but if you know the later albums, the direction here is pretty obvious. Although this album I found was not as good as the following, I do agree with others that this is not the best place to start with VDGG. & if perchance you've gotten a few others & been disappointed, this one will not change your mind.
Report this review (#115101)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars VdGG debut album, and compered to tiher other work pretty lame album, PH havent yet found his voice and sings very ordinary no screams or the typical PH singing style on this one he sounds very nice and beatiful tough, but most of the songs are a bit to long and pretty boring. Its not a bad album but by VdGG standrads its nothing special it lacks action and energy that the other albums have most of the songs are ballads or soft songs, my favorite is the opener Afterwards with very beautiful singing and a good organ riff. The 3 following songs are all boring and unmemorable, the short "Aerosol Grey Machine" is fun and too me its a bit wierd to hear Hammill sing thos lyrics, Aquarians and octopus are both nice but to long, and the remastered version on "H to he.." have a live in the studio verion of Octopus wich blow this verion away in every way, there are some song here i dont got on my album´the last 2, my album ends with necromancer ïts the song on th album wich sounds most like the the band they whuld become with thiere next reales and its one of the best on the album. Ferret & Featherbird there is a much beter verion of this song on the PH solo album"In camera" and the same with People You Were Going To wich have a superior version on the Nadirs big chanse album i gues PH wasent happy with the version of thos songs on this album and desided to remake em wich was a good idea becaus both songs are good. Well this is a good but absolutly not essential debut, start with "The least we can do is weave to eachoters" is my suestion, for me its the real first vdgg album. 3 stars anyway its still Vdgg and Hammill so ofc its good. Meby its the album for people who think that vdgg is to raw on thiere later album shuld give this a try.
Report this review (#144074)
Posted Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Van Der Graaf Generator is a very celebrated band in the prog archives. Personaly I have never had the chance to listen to their albums before now, so I figured I would start with their debut The Aerosol Grey Machine.

Well I would compare this album to Genesis "From Genesis to Revelation", because it has a lot of sixties elements, and it doesn´t sound like much else they have made, just like with Genesis debut album. The production is very much in the sixties vein too. Van Der Graaf Generator is a little more dark than your average sixties psychadelic band or Genesis for that matter. This is what intrigues me the most about this album really, because the music isn´t that captivating in my ears. Songs like Running Back and Octopus show the way to the seventies though, with pretty progressive ideas.

The musicians play with a lot of enthusiasm and they are very competent. I had to get used to Peter Hammill´s voice as it is rather special and he sings very theatrical. I guess some people never will get used to it. That´s what I can understand from some of the other reviews, but the real fans love him. I´m still undecided on the matter. But importantly enough I don´t hate him.

Well for the time ( 1969) this is a pretty impressive album, but being new to the band and not having lived with them for many years, I can only give this album 3 stars, because there are so many other good things out there today. I will note though that it is easy to hear why this band has been so influencial.

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Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I could never take seriously a band whose name was accidentally mis-spelled, so I ignored VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR during the 1970s. I've caught up on them since, and because this their first album, I'll start here.

Except ... this isn't really VDGG's first album. It was written and recorded as a PETER HAMMILL solo album, and only after pressure from their record company did the band's name get appended to what was essentially a solo effort. Of course, it could be argued that subsequent VDGG albums also bore the HAMMILL mark.

That mark, on this album, is derivative of late-60s psychedelica. Compared with the dark prog rock to come, this is a light affair, with none of the operatic, theatrical feel VDGG generate at their best. Nor is there much of the threatening, dissonant sound that became their trademark. It's all swirling organ, basic rhythms and hippy sentiments, reminiscent of DONOVAN. The relatively simple compositions are largely forgettable, with nothing here either challenging or enthralling the listener. Worse, it's rough. GUY EVANS misses the mark on too many occasions, and the synchronisation between drums and bass could have been far better. The only real clue that this is VDGG is HAMMILL's voice, which is less dominant here than on any subsequent VDGG release; certainly it is not the instrument of aural torture it was to become.

There was so much great music being made in 1969, it's hard to see how the band even got to make a second album after this inauspicious debut. Fortunately they did, as they went on to make some excellent albums.

Report this review (#173900)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions Team
3 stars 01. Afterwards A beautiful body of Hugh Banton is the whole basis of the song, along with wha guitar and the beautiful voice of Peter Hammil. A beauty of melody together almost entirely from the guitar (most of the disk is). From now on we have half of a solo keyboard sensational.

02. Orthenthian Street (Part I) / 03. Orthenthian Street (Part II) Guitar again, something that the guitar be the main gives a completely different touch the band, as they are not folk, not even the guitar. The first part is easy to work with prominent tribal hit of Guy Evans. The second part is guitar, voice and keyboard in his introduction to all deceiving. Because the sequence is quite chaotic. The voice of Hammil is always very welcome, weird but good.

04. Running Back Totally psychedelic, good bottom line. Full of climates, a landscape Arabic means the air. A total surprise traveler.

05. Into The Game It has a very nice guitar, a great climate, a great melody. I think it's the highlight of the disc. Full of purpose and an instrumental and atypical, and of course a good piano line that makes all the difference.

06. Aerosol Gray Machine The sticker funny and sensational disk. If it was music I bought an advertisement (laughter).

07. Black Smoke Yen A small instrumental for the music that follows.

08. Aquarian Half tribal, half psychedelic, Keith Ellis of the low timbre has a super serious and 'dangerous' in a general psicodelia general. A base guitar and a guitar solando almost all the time. The vocals are very good, and the chorus is one of the most exciting I've ever heard. Reminded me quite a phase of Space Oddity David Bowie.

09. Necromancer Without a shadow of doubt obscure track and deep, but with a good melodic chorus. With superb voice, especially the half forward the song is taking shape and growing so convincingly.

10. Octopus This is beginning Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd ) And this is by no means bad. Very psychedelic and full of changes and changes in noise and sounds crazy. Especially in parts of keyboards. Doidera extreme.

Every band has a different beginning, especially the bands progs, this disc as almost all the bands first disc is only the embryo, but I think we should start at the beginning (laughs).

www.progshine.com

Report this review (#197372)
Posted Monday, January 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Whistler
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars In a rare moment of strange happenstance, I agree with Van Der Graaf Generator fans: no, I do not like this album very much either! Weird, huh? Not that there’s anything wrong with the album. It’s okay, mind you.

It’s really quite hit and miss for me: take the slow paced opening ballad, “Afterwards.” I like it. Hell, it might be my favorite track on the album (it is the first one I heard, naturally). The vocals are pleasant, the lyrics are nice, and the Doorsy keyboard soloing is a very good way to start off the record. However, while "Orthenthian St., Pts. 1 & 2" is a nicely constructed epic attempt (and it’s obvious where the part 1/part 2 split is). The first part kinda passes me by; and the second part does too, and I pause only for Hammill’s powerful vocal delivery.

“Running Back” presents us with another atmospheric groove, and interesting one, but once again, it’s Hammil’s vocals and lyrics that are the song’s main fixing point. “Into a Game” is the first time so far there’s been energy on the album, which is good, but the musical delivery ends up being a little too schizo and aimless for my tastes.

Anyway, “Aerosol Grey Machine” is the most memorable thing on the album. Fifty seconds of psycho pop. Hilarious, in a Bonzo Dog Band sort of way. “Black Smoke Yen” is also short; less than two minutes. A whacked out instrumental. And, once again, the energy it provides is welcome.

“Aquarian,” now there’s a strange one. The verses are a Syd Barrett psycho mess, but the booming, glorious chorus is pure Bowie. The tune is good, combining the atmospheric aspects of the first couple of songs with the energy of the latter couple. I don’t quite trust the Hammill vocals; somehow, hearing the man sing about hippie ideals (oh, the lyrics are pretty trashy this time around) isn’t quite believable, giving the whole affair a depressing, rather than uplifting, note. Anyway, definitely a highlight, and the most epic piece on the album.

“Necromancer,” however, I don’t buy at all. A fast, keyboard dominated theme, but the lyrics are absolute trash. And somehow hearing a screwed up pop melody about black NO, WAIT, NO, WE’RE WHITE MAGIC! Yes, screwed up pop about white magicians. Hmm. Didn’t expect this kind of thing until Uriah Heep got on the scene. Anyway, it’s dumb, and I don’t like it. “Octopus” is probably the most freaked out of the lot; and it’s also the most representative of the later V der G sound. Whacked out but interesting lyrics, solid but dull organ riffage, and an attempt to disguise lack of musical variety with shifty, “atmospheric” sections. I think it’s “dull but interesting” (read: okay but not good), but maybe you’ll eat it up.

But therein lies the problem! Okay, therein does not lie the problem. The problem lies with a couple of factors, and all of them can be best explained by talking about other bands.

First off, its’ obvious that Peter and the gang have been paying attention to the world around them. Aerosol is built out of spare parts: Procol Harum-ish song construction, Barrett/ Floydian stylistics. This means that, unfortunately, there’s no real innovation to this record. This is pretty basic art-psycho pop, circa late sixties. Decent, but not shocking.

Which wouldn’t matter so much, if the record were honestly fun to listen to. Which this isn’t really. The band sound like they’re still in “tune-up” mode most of the time, and when they come around, it’s usually a mess. The overall sonic effect is pleasant, but never that memorable. Moody, but not really atmospheric. The only saving grace is Hammill, and even that’s a crap shoot. Half the time he’s vocally inspiring and lyrically interesting, the other half the lyrics are stupid and he sings like he’s embarrassed of it.

Which brings to mind another connection I could make. This album is a lot like the first Doors album. That was another case where the band was unsure and the powerful vocalist took center stage most of the time. Of course, in the case of Aerosol Grey Machine, the band isn’t just unsure, they sound like they don’t quite know how to play their instruments, so they play them as little as possible. And without the Doors’ sense of memorability, they stick mostly to atmospheric side of things. The result is a lot of songs that have the overall vibe of “The End,” but none of the power. And the vocalist...well, I discussed his pros and cons up there. Basically, Morrison, Kreiger, Manzarek and Densmore these guys are not. Recommended more for fans of the era rather than fans of band; tread carefully.

(There are two bonus tracks usually awarded to the Aerosol Grey Machine, and neither of ‘em’s that good. HA! I jest. No, not really. They are sort of bad. Actually, most people hate these two tracks, “People You Were Going To” and “Firebrand.” As for me, I sort of like the first one. Some bouncy piano work and lyrics about people dying and leaving the narrator at home alone while go on vacation all set to a jaunty psycho-pop theme might be silly, but I kind of dig it. However, I can utterly understand the hatred towards “Firebrand.” An attempt at sounding “serious” and “moody,” this bloated organ rocker makes the album’s “Necromancer” sound like a good idea. Oh, and, the guy singing the chorus? HILARIOUSLY BAD. No other way to put that. So, neither track is really necessary (And “Firebrand” sucks hard), but you’ll have to recall that...meh.)

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Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars I have been putting off this painful review for a long time, but its time to come clean. This is the worst VDGG album by a long shot!

But I refuse to bag out one of my favourite bands and I will not do that but it is nevertheless a massive let down after listening to the brilliance of the next 4 albums to follow this.

But every band begins somewhere and this is where it all began for these progenitors of prog rock. Perhaps this is on a par with King Crimson or Genesis' early works. Extremely experimental and wonderfully weird throughout. Very hard to like on a first listen though some fanatics will disagree. Don't listen to them. This really does have some rubbish such as the title track. I have all the VDGG albums and received this last on protest of hearing about it. I need not have bothered. It doesn't hold a candle to future releases such as the brilliant Pawn Hearts, H to He, Godbluff or The Least I can do. Heck, even the recent releases Present and Trisector bury this album for sheer production quality and songwriting. This debut rarely troubles my CD player, and I must admit I have listened to its fully for a grand total of 3 times. I heard it yesterday again and cringed, trying like heck to like it but failing miserably. It was a drag even listening to the first 3 tracks, in fact the last three are better.

But here it is in all its glory - the debut for VDGG. I am trying not to be negative but this is getting difficult. Lets look at the highlights. There are highlights, people.

Aquarian - dont ask me how it goes now as its not memorable but at the time I remember thinking this track was very good, Necromancer - OK except for that corny "I am tne Necromancer" line that ruins it. Octopus -THE highlight for certain, a track that appeared as a bonus on a VDGG classic, live in concert with Squid. It is better played with Squid though. People You Were Going To - a very short quirky thing that works well enough. Well, folks that about wraps this one up.

PLEASE do not judge this wonderful band by this album. Grab the other albums to follow with eager anticipation of opening your senses to perhaps the greatest 70s prog band in history. Their recent stuff is excellent too. But this debut - well, 2 stars for fans and completists.

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Posted Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars VDGG's debut is a rather amateurish and clumsy affair that only rarely hints at things to come.

A few songs save it from utter forgetfulness. Afterwards has a nice leading melody. With a slightly updated sound this might have fit well on Hammill's debut Fool's Mate. Most of the tracks are droning affairs however with strong 60's pop and psychedelic influences. But it never comes near to the quality of say The Nice's or Pink Floyd's debut albums. There's one track I need to single out. Necromancer is really an excellent tune with a droning march rhythm that doesn't sit too far from Can's debut. It also has a nice playful and dramatic chorus and good vocal harmonies.

This was not re-issued in the recent batch of VDGG and Hammill remasters. So either there's a dispute over the ownership of the master tapes or also Hammill doesn't really regard this as a true VDGG album. In fact it was supposed to be his first solo album.

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Posted Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Van der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine (1969)

Late sixties psychedelia listeners read this!

I've become a great fan of VdGG in 2009, but this album didn't got my attention until recently when my brother gave a vinyl copy for my 21th birthday. I've read a lot of mixed reviews on PA so I got pretty excited to hear it myself.

This record is in no way clumsy, immature, amateurish or simple. This is record made in '69 that sounds like it was made in '69. This is no symphonic or eclectic prog, it's pure late sixties psychedelia! Songs with nice atmospheres, strange lyrics, a distinctive sound and above all a (relatively) happy pre-VdGG sound. The recording of this record is perfect for the time being, really good! It was recorded in twelve hours, which is quite unbelievable.

On side two there are some promising long compositions 'Aquarian' and 'Octopus'. These two tracks may remind you of the later VdGG sound with heavy organs and drums and even some frenzied key-playing of Hugh Banton. The vocals of Hammill get darker during the last part of the album and it feels like you could listen to The Least we can Do right after the last song of this record.

Peter Hammill does a great job with his gentle vocals on this album, something rarely seen after this short period. Your friends won't even notice this is one of the most disliked vocalists of the genre! This makes it a good album to try for people who didn't get into VdGG earlier because of the vocals.

Hugh Banton plays gentle throughout, but rages on Octopus. His sound isn't quite like the later work of the band but you can hear he uses the right equipment on the right moments. Classic organ sounds always get me into the music.

Keith Ian Ellis plays bass and does a great job on the album. His wahwah bass sometimes sounds like acid music and give the music a powerful sound. It made my brother order a copy of this re-issue vinyl himself. The drums of Guy Evans are very effective and introvert most of the time, but the sixties recording gives it that magical vibe.

The lack of a wind section by our beloved Jackson is compensated by some nice flute sections by Jeff. Jeff who? No-one knows.

Conclusion. This is great material! An album with an own sound, that does not necessarily appeal to VdGG fans. It is however a very important sixties psychedelic record that should be tried by every-one that likes the genre. I myself am very happy to own this record. Three stars for progressive rock, but four-and-a-half stars for late sixties rock. Just try it!

* Edited

I've changed my rating to four stars. This album is just too effective and has had too many replay to give it a three. I just love VdGG with this sound and I hope to find some early Hammill albums soon!

Report this review (#260621)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars According to the All-Music Guide, this originally started out as a Hammill solo album (the band broke up before it got into the studio), but the band came back together in the midst of recording, so it became Van Der Graaf Generator's debut. The best thing about this is that the album is primarily a showcase of Hammill's talents and less of the others, and since Peter was the most talented of all of them, this can't really be a bad thing. Some tracks aren't as well-formed as others, focusing on dark atmosphere far more than on interesting melody twists, but quite a few of them showcase Peter's strengths in each at the same time.

A couple of the tracks, in fact, are among my favorites that Peter and the band would ever put out. "Running Back" is related to a "normal" song subject, a man's feelings towards a woman, but it's done in a dark, stately manner unlike most any other 'love' song I've ever heard. From the somber bass and acoustic lines the piece is built around, to the moody vocal melody (and incredibly well-formed lyrics for a love song), to the dark shadow of Peter's singing, to the alternately happy and melancholy flute lines in the mid-song instrumental passage, this piece is a virtually ideal snapshot of everything I like about the band, with basically none of the bad. Similarly, "Aguarian" showcases Peter's singing and melody-writing abilities extremely well, even as Peter moves into bizarre whacky land with his lyrical imagery. Come on, is there any chance of getting that "Now we look to the sun in every direction" chorus out of your head after hearing it? The rest of the band does fine too, though - the thumping bass sound is killer, and the minimalistic piano lines are perfectly placed.

There's other good stuff to be found as well, most notably from the opening "Afterwards," which shows that the band could have been perfectly successful working in the "conventional" formulas they would avoid in the rest of their history. The vocal melody is memorable and non-trivial (ie my definition of "catchy"), Peter gives a warm vocal performance (while singing a somewhat chilly vocal melody), the low-key wah-wah's give a strangely uplifting feel in the midst of the moodiness of the rest, and the electric piano solo in the middle is very pretty and moody. What else could be wanted? Oh yeah, lyrics like "the pedals that were blooming are just paper in your hands."

The album also has three other short tracks, which is definitely something not to be found on later VDGG albums. "Necromancer" is a fine energetic piece, with "spacey" keyboard and guitar parts helping out a bunch of energetic vocal lines about, well, being a Necromancer (not to mention that funny part where Peter wails up and down on the word "blaaaaaaaaaaack"). The other two short tracks are insubstantial, but cute nonetheless - the title track is a goofy fake jingle, and "Black Smoke Yen" is a minute-and-a- half of bass, drum and piano jamming that works more as an introduction to "Aguarian" than anything else.

The remaining three tracks are more or less ok, but unfortunately not particularly interesting in the context of the album. The two parts of "Orthenthian St." are each fairly pretty as background noise, but aside from the great sound of Peter's voice, and maybe one or two memorable lyrics, I'll be damned if, even after a ton of listens, I can describe much about it. "Into a Game" is a bit more aggressive, but except for parts of the chorus, " " Finally, fans might like "Octopus," since it comes closest to the classic VDGG style than anything else here, but except for the downward organ swirls, I'm not too impressed with Peter's hysterical ramblings or with the instrumental parts or whatever (though the moody organ chords in the middle do kinda rule in their own way). It's pretty danged far from the worst thing VDGG has ever done, though, and I do like the feeling of desperation in the last couple of minutes, so it's not an album killer.

In short, this album shows a band with quite a bit of talent but that occasionally has trouble getting that talent put on record. In other words, a quintessential VDGG album. Quite good, though; it's almost a ****.

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Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars I can't say that I wasn't trying to take this album seriously. I really was. By seriously I mean overlook to some extent their later work and judge this album as some kind of late Psychedelic album. But it's not possible at all.

Nice collection of songs, good to know about band's beginnings, most of them flows easily and are quite melodic. Before I know their later stuff I was enjoying this album quite a lot, but this was before I get into Prog at all. Anyway, sentiment aside, this album, when compared to other albums in similar genre, when I add some kind of Prog sense + my rating system I use, this album isn't as strong as I thought, even though this decision is still something I hesitate about. Of course, it's been a while since I've last heard it.

Aguarian is probably the strongest track here, by strange coincidence it's also the most VdGG sounding song.

4(-), troubled album, haunted by later releases. It's not VdGG sound at all, but when trying to be fair, this album isn't as bad as other similar albums here in catalog of PA (or others I know in this "weight")

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Posted Monday, June 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Maybe it depends when in time you first heard this record as to how you feel about it. Admittedly it has dated less well than the later recordings but sounded pretty darn good in 1974 when I heard it for the very first time. Considering it was recoded in a single day its a brilliant demo. But yes it has dated badly and is nothing like as good as later recordings on the Charisma label. Highlights include the wonderfully dreamy "Afterwords" and the original version of octopus-squid is essential if only for historic comparison. The Title track is a lark, but warns of the dangers of inhaling Aerosols (instant death a possibility ). The rest of the Album is pleasant if not gripping. I have a fond place in my heart for this record and its closest equivalent Fools Mate. Running back is a strong song and I also quite like Aquarian. Necromancer was well known to many long before the German imports finally got into the UK, and for a long time A.G.M was an expensive record to get hold of here. Peters Voice is unbearable sweet as it remained during the first three Charisma records. A record that VDGG fans really should have in their collection. The Fie CD has different additional tracks to the Repertoire one which has the impossible rare Firebrand-people you were going to tagged on it. Both are worth buying in my opinion.
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Posted Monday, June 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars My inclination is to rate this album nearly a five stars. I agree with George Starostin's essential view of the album: a delightfully psychedelic album that is much different than later period VDGG. It's lighter in tone musically, with more simple song structures and melodies and lyrics that are well...not quite as simple as the lyrics from Fool's Mate but pretty naive.

However, this album can make a strong case for the songwriting talents of Hammill. Later efforts can seem like a lot of empty noise to many people but the compact melodies and riffs of this album show a man capable of writing a pop song. It is also very diverse, for VDGG, with light weight acoustic musings paired next to heavy swirling psychedelic epics juxtaposed with music hall piano poundings! All VDGG albums sound different from each other but all the songs in an album sound similar and create a certain mood: it's what makes them masterpieces of mood. However, they do almost always lack the diversity found in this album.

George compared this to Syd Barrett and while I think that's a bit of a stretch, there is a similar sense of simplicity and psychedelic musings. Peter Hammill is a very complex and weird musician, which is especially notable in his solo career. The man wasn't put on this Earth JUST to belt out metaphysical lyrics on top of complex organ, sax, bass, piano, guitar and drum arrangements. It may be what many of his fans prefer him to do but the man is capable of a lot more and this album shows that. Had it been released as a Peter Hammill solo album (as it almost was) maybe others would consider it different.

As high as I praise this album it only gets a four from me because I almost never listen to it. I usually reach for H to the He, Pawn Hearts or Godbluff first. This is strange because I love the album: I think there is some slight personal psychological reason. Oh well. Great album. Investigate it later, though: if you love it, you may hate the rest of VDGG and if you love the rest you may hate this album.

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Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite the fact this is the first VDGG album, it's kinda good if you take it as AN album, not THE first album of VDGG, as I think it should be. The band's line-up is unusual for VDGG: Evans' drums are developing and Banton's keyboards are not very important in this album (instead later he'll improve and now he's one of the best keyboardists I know), while Hammil's electric guitars are present here, ever if they'll disappear to reappair only on godbluff and world record, and the bass, that is something not always present in VDGG, is well-played. So: little piano, a bit of drumming and bass, and only accompaniment guitar. What's left? only Peter's young voice? how can they make an album (and long songs!)? Well, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR can. and here their extraordinary tempering is evident. "You see? we can make a good album as we are now. Try to stop us!" and no one would stop them. So, a STRONG debut album for a STRONG band. We have surely some psychedelic influences on Afterwards, that remains the best track of the album (great the piano solo in the middle!). Orthenthian street is good, but it simply slips away from my mind like Into a game. Running back has a bit of flute, that make it the most various track on this side. Aguarian is maybe the best track of the album, the most structured and very beautiful. Necromancer is nice, but the lyrics are a bit stupid in my opinion (unfortunately Hammil will do something similar, White Hammer), while Octopus is good, but it's also the track with the worst intrumental parts. So I give it 4 stars, mainly not for the album itself, but for what it represents: the beginning of a great band that can do whatever they want with music, and so they're something else more than prog: they're good prog.
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Posted Friday, October 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well, we all have to make a debut.....

The VDGG debut from 1969 did not exactly set the world alight when it was released and it also fail to live up to the VDGG trademark forty years later to.

The Aerosol Grey Machine has all the typical traits of a debut album. Various ideas is tested out. Most of the ideas on The Aerosol Grey Machine falls flat on their face. The music is a mix of David Bowie, space rock, The Nice, The Beatles, heavy rock and what later VDGG developed into. The vocals of Peter Hammel is there and he later used this operatic type vocals with great effect on the next successful albums.

The main problem with The Aerosol Grey Machine though is the lack of any really good tracks. The quality of the songs are simply featureless and pretty dull. Ten listening sessions and Peter Hammel's vocals is the only thing I remember from The Aerosol Grey Machine.

In short; there is no quality here. Thankfully, VDGG improved and became one of the best progressive rock bands ever. But The Aerosol Grey Machine is for collectors and collectors only.

2 stars

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Posted Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Originally planned as a Peter Hammill solo album before Van der Graaf Generator signed to Charisma, The Aerosol Grey Machine was only released as a VdGG album as part of a deal to release Hammill from his contract with Mercury Records. As such, it could be seen to be a companion piece to Fool's Mate - a collection of Hammill compositions that are of good quality in this context but wouldn't have worked on an "official" VdGG album. The lyrics to the likes of Orthenthian St. and Aquarian take an optimistic tone that stands in stark contrast - particularly considering the sailing imagery of Orthenthian St. - to the apocalyptic tone of the first "true" VdGG album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, though musically some of the songs - in particular, album closer Octopus - point the way to future Van der Graaf glory. A fascinating album for anyone interested in Hammill's work, but hardly in the top tier of either his solo albums or VdGG's work.
Report this review (#453750)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I know the general opinion of prog lovers about this record, but regardless of it, I quite like it.

Sure, this sounds like nothing Van der Graaf Generator would do in the future, being more in the vein of Syd Barrett psychedelia, but it's a very good record at that. The only real problem about The Aerosol Grey Machine is it's sameness, the songs, save perhaps Necromancer, Afterwards and Octopus, all have similar arrangements and not enough quirks to make them more different, which eventually leads to some monotony.

But of course, this record was originally meant as a Peter Hammill solo album, and it was only released as a VdGG one to free the band from the cold hands of Mercury Records so they could shift to Charisma, which virtually makes The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other their debut. That said, it sounds more like Fool's Mate than anything else with it's mix of pop/prog, just a bit weirder and less edgy or charming.

This is, from all points of view, a transitional time for the band: apart from the record company change, Hugh Banton became a member after the exit of mysterious organist Nick Pearne, Guy Evans entered the band to double on the drums with Chris Judge Smith who, in turn, left feeling superfluous, also, Peter Hammill has not fully developed his voice and songwritting just yet and road-veteran friend Keith Ellis briefly joined to help on bass. Talking about Keith Ellis, his bass sound is simply monster, to the likes of The Who's John Entwistle but more subdued, laying the groove like not a lot of bass-players would dare by that time. He would eventually die in 1978, and ike Peter Hammill once said: "he was not made for old age", but he is the real star of The Aerosol Grey Machine for me.

"Afterwards" is a lovely ballad featuring wah-wah electric organ, possibly Farfisa; "Orthenian Street" drags for too long even if the instrumental grand finales are beautiful; the sombre "Running Back" has a nice flute workout courtesy of some Jeff Peach; "Into A Game" is too weird and convoluted but the psychedelic coda is worth the listen; "The Aerosol Grey Machine" is a throwaway mock advertising; somehow, "Black Smoke Yen" sounds like a song of it's own instead of it's position as a prelude for "Aquarian" and I wouldn't care if it lasted longer; "Aquarian" itself has a nice tune but the lyrics, the lyrics are simple hippie-flower-power celebrations, are awful; "Octopus" is more like it, Van der Graaf Generator from head to toe and a prelude of things to come, if you will; "Necromancer"'s rhythm is, in my opinion, stolen from Holst's "Mars", but it works, and the lyrics are decent except for the white magic part, which is ridicule (tell me, where on Earth does a Necromancer use white magic?).

This can't be comparated with VdGG 1970-onwards because it was never meant to be so, in this context, it's very good.

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Posted Monday, May 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album actually made a lot more sense to me once I understood it was a Peter Hammill solo album. His VDGG mates are the session musicians as it were and then the label ended up putting it out under the VDGG name instead of under Peter Hammill. I have had such a hard time with the rating for this one. For me this truly is a 3.5 star album but the choice to give it the 3 or 4 stars has been difficult.

The album opens with the laid back "Afterwards" which I like a lot. The focus is on the vocals and stummed guitar but we do get some good drum and organ work. A top three. "Orthenthian St. Part I & II" are next and it's fairly relaxed as well but I really do not like parts of this. This is hit and miss for me. "Running Back" starts off quite slow with reserved vocals. This is another track that doesn't do much for me. Not a bad instrumental section part way through with flute I suppose. "Into A Game" is better but not by much, then we get the very short title track. "Black Smoke Yen" is a cool sounding instrumental but it's very short too.

"Aquarian" is simply fantastic ! We get 8 1/2 minutes of bliss with Peter's interesing lyrics along with some excellent growly bass throughout. A catchy chorus here too that is quite uplifting and I like the piano on the verses. A top three for sure. "Necromancer" is fairly urgent sounding but I don't like the chorus at all. "Octopus" sounds great when the organ arrives and check out Hammill getting passionate on vocals. It calms down half way through as it turns fairly dark with organ then it builds. Nice. More chunky bass late. The final top three and a good way to end the album as it shows us the direction this band would steer to.

Just a few too many misses for me to offer up the 4th star sadly. Sadly because this has some great material on it.

Report this review (#858279)
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you are a fan of the true 60's psych-rock, this album offers some kind of "high", with unique rich orchestration, and musicality- which are not specific by the average psychedelic bands. This stuff sounds as if have been released in 1967, and not that so close in the timeline to the VdGG's second album! I think it's hard to make up from prog-context, but this album is enjoyable on magic mushroom, while Pawn Hearts, for instance less. There are many similarities by some new, or prominent bands of this era- thus The Nice, the first Jethro, the early Floyd, and The Doors. But Banton was simple better qualified keyboardist, than Manzarek or Richard Wright. And there are the constantly presence of Hammill's genius, with amazing gloomy and sentimental vocal and acoustic guitar harmonies, and there plays the classic Rickenbacker bass sound, which are no longer works in the 70's lineup. "Afterwards" is a typical LSD propelled melody and "Black Smoke Yen" is a kind of "In" music as well. Some tracks sounds, something like Beat, or Mod influenced stuff ("Into a game, People You Were Going To"). "Running back" in all respects evoke the flower power era- on its meditative mood, with its sitar and flute harmonies, but Peter's painful vocal gives something strange and bizarre overtone on it. "Orthenthian street" shows the deepest similarities of the later VdGG sound, but even more Hammill's solo works. This is not a typical Van der Graaf track, all the more a typical Hammill self-expression. The eponymous song is like a silly MOI nothings, reflects some Zappa-like anti-consumerism. And I think the "Necromancer" is one of the early progrock songs, with its Holst adaptation. This piece was processed on the Crimson's Poseidon album, but VdGG was the first adaptator. "Firebrand" sounds like a fierce Ian Anderson-VdGG joint work. And my personal favorite is the "Octopus", which has very airy combo-organ sound. It's evoke the later work "Pioneers", feeling like a space, or undersea travel, but this song is more hot and raw, than whichever later VdGG song.
Report this review (#882163)
Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars A good historical relic of a debut by one of the prog giants that falls more into the proto-prog category than full blown progressive rock which would come very soon. This album was supposed to be a Peter Hammill solo album but it seems Hammill and original member Chris Smith were coaxed into signing a contract with Mercury Records who then began to take control of the band and refused to let them record but yet wouldn't let them record with other record companies. So this in effect is a Hammill album that was released as a VDGG one to release them from their contract.

After all that despite being English, their debut was only released in the US and received hardly any promotion at all. This is not a bad album by any means but after falling for the albums of the classic period, I find this a tad lukewarm for my tastes. There are some great tracks but many that are snoozers. You can hear some of the sounds that would become classic VDGG taking form here and this is really a must hear for any true fan. It's apparent from the get-go that Hammil is a unique singing force in the musical world.

Report this review (#1088537)
Posted Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
VianaProghead
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Review Nº 146

Van Der Graaf Generator was formed in 1967 while their members were studying at Manchester University in U.K. The initial trio was comprised by Peter Hammill (vocals and guitars), Nick Pearne (organ) and Chris Judge Smith (drums and wind instruments). In the late of 1969 the band split. But, before that moment, Pearne had already been replaced by Hugh Banton. At the end of 1969 a new version of Van Der Graaf Generator was formed during the recording of an album that was originally intended to be a Peter Hammill's solo release, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'.

However, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' wasn't released as a solo Hammill's album and became as the debut studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in September of 1969. All songs were written and composed by Hammill except 'Black Smoke Yen' which was written and composed by Banton, Keith Ellis and Guy Evans. So, the line up of this album is Peter Hammill (vocals and acoustic guitar), Hugh Banton (backing vocals, piano, organ and percussion), Keith Ellis (bass), Guy Evans (drums and percussion), Jeff Peach (flute) and Chris Judge Smith (vocals on 'Firebrand').

'The Aerosol Grey Machine' always tended to be a little bit an underrated album, as is the case with most debut albums by any progressive rock band. But, especially in this case, and we mustn't forget that we are talking about of one of the most creative bands ever, the real problem is that there's hardly anything groundbreaking on here. So, yeah, this is all really true but if we pay more attention to it, after we took quite a few listens to it, maybe we can appreciate some of its charm. Lyrically, the classic Van Der Graaf Generator's style is already here and somehow all the songs can really rule.

'The Aerosol Grey Machine' has nine tracks. The first track 'Afterwards' is a great song to open this peculiar Van Der Graaf Generator's album. It's a very simple and na've song, very beautiful, one of the most beautiful and simple songs composed by Hammill in his entire, long and fantastic musical career. It's, at my taste, one of the best tracks on this album. The second song 'Orthenthian St, Parts 1 and 2' is a nicely constructed song and is also very interesting. Once more the voice of Hammill is great and I particularly like the way how Evans plays drums on this song. This is also one of my favourite tracks on the album. The third track 'Running Back' is a very peaceful acoustic song with a very simple structure that reminds me very much 'Refugees', the second track of their second studio album 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other'. However, this song is much simpler and less interesting than the other. The fourth track 'Into A Game' is also a good song. It's interesting to note that on this song, for the first time, we can feel some energy in the music of the album. This is a song with some musical complexity, with a very interesting bass line, and once more, I like particularly the way how Evans plays drums on this song. The fifth track, the title track, 'Aerosol Grey Machine' is the smallest on the album. It isn't properly a song but is really a joke of the band. The sixth track 'Blake Smoke' is the second smallest song of the album and is an instrumental song. It's a simple song which is a kind of an introduction to the next song. In my opinion, these two songs are unnecessary and could have been perfectly avoided. The seventh track 'Aquarian' is a song with some psychedelic influences and with fantastic and beautiful vocals of Hammill. This is another song with a very interesting bass and drum lines and also with an interesting chorus. It's also another of my favourite songs on the album. The eighth track 'Necromancer' is a very bizarre, obscure and deep song with scary lyrics. This is a song with a superb Hammill's voice and once more it has a good and melodic chorus. I think this is another interesting song. The ninth track 'Octopus' is the most difficult and complex on the album. This is, in my humble opinion, the most typical band's song of this album and also the most eclectic and progressive in its musical structure. It's the most representative song of what would become the future sound of Van Der Graaf Generator.

Conclusion: I can't agree with those who don't consider this album a Van Der Graaf Generator's album. It's true that it was intended to be the first Hammill's solo album and that lacks to it the necessary presence of David Jackson on flute and saxophones. However, this album has, for me, some of the main characteristics of the group. It has the complex, dark and beautiful lyrics of Hammill as also his beautiful, original and unique voice, it has the presence of the fantastic and unique keyboard sound of Banton, it has the original drumming of Evans and it has also the sound of the bass, sadly missing in most of their future works. I think we can compare this album with the debut album of Genesis, 'From Genesis To Revelation' released in the same year. Despite 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' isn't a great album, it's, in my opinion, better than Genesis' album, because we can see on it some progressiveness and a road to follow in their future musical path. So, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' is a good, na've and a unique album, in their career, very simple and very acoustic. I think it has a single place to be in the musical career of this unique and original progressive rock group.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1824155)
Posted Friday, November 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
jamesbaldwin
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars REVIEW N. 101. Let's start the second hundreds of reviews with (finally!) my favorite artist: Peter Hammill & Van Der Graaf Generator. Published in the same year of "In The Court of..." by King Crimson, "The Aerosol Grey Machine" is still made by psychedelic pop-folk-rock music, but very different for both music and texts from all that appeared in the English landscape (Family, Nice, Procol Harum, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson) in 1969; only Pink Floyd can be matched to this record. Largely acoustic, having been born as Hammill's solo record, the Lp contains excellent songs and is wrongly underestimated.

"Afterwards (4:58)" is a musingly psychedelic song dominated by the organ of Banton, with an excellent singing of Hammill, which here for the first time showed its splendid voice, and a baroque piano solo. Rating 7,5/8.

"Orthenthian St. (Part I) (2:23)" is an acoustic rock piece, quite conventional, but with a percussive piano part and very insisted drums, which finally fades. Hammill is in search of the pathos that he will find in the next records. Uncompleted song. It would have been better to attach it to the second part and make it a less repetitive synthesis. Rating 6.5. "Orthenthian St. (Part II) (3:53)" is longer and resumes the same acoustic theme. and develops it more heat in interpretation. The songs remain intimate for the Spartan arrangement and the atmosphere Contrite. Rating 7.

"Running Back (6:32)" is a melancholy folk ballad with flute (Jeff Peach). The long instrumental piece is proto- progressive. Hammill expresses here to the best his existential spleen. Rating 7.5/8.

"Into a Game (6:56)" is very sustained, and the drums/acoustic guitar progression reminds me of a melody present in "Tommy" (Who, same year, 1969). It feels good also the bass of Keith Ellis. Towards the fourth minute the song ends but then a two-minute instrumental queue starts. Strong song, full of character. Rating 7,5/8.

"Aerosol Grey Machine (0:56)" is a short joke, style of variety acronym. Useless. No rating. "Black Smoke Yen (1:18)" is a short psychedelic instrumental piece. No rating. These two short tracks are useless. They create confusion without a sense. Weak part of the Lp. On the whole, rating 6,5. "Aquarian (8:27)" is another psychedelic ballad, with a good rhythms and and very refined harmonic variations at the singing. The structure is that of a song pop with verses and chorus, the arrangement recalls that of the first Pink Floyd, only that Hammill is not Barrett: he is more serious and dramatic, less surreal. Soon he will have to dissolve the contradiction of wanting to make existential songs with psychedelic music. In the ending we can see a distressing instrumental crescendo like that more developed present in their successive masterpieces. Long song but successful. Rating 8.

"Necromancer (3:30)" is the most extroverted and rhythmic song, which participates in this crackling finale, with a crescendo of intensity and quality. Rating 7,5/8.

"Octopus (7:41)" is a rock ballad with a spectral and psychedelic organ and a anxious voice that creates a very solemn and even obsessive mood, creating the final thriller that will be the trademark of the group. Rating 8+.

On the whole TAGM is an album of psychedelic rock, with folk inflections and with some progressive passages, formed by 8 long songs (plus two short tracks), very elaborate but simple in the arrangements, demonstrating the great quality of the songwriting of Hammill, outstanding composer and vocalist, who in some traits shows the existential pathos and spleen that will become apocalyptic nightmares in the coming records. It is a Lp that already shows a clear identity, which rests on voice, keyboards and acoustic guitars, a melancholy atmosphere or dramatic or distressful or surreal atmosphere. In the records to come the psychedelic part will not be lost but be integrated within a spectral apocalyptic rock where the existential anguish will be very real, and little psychedelic/surreal.

Average quality of the songs: 7,47. Rating: 8+/10. Four Stars.

Report this review (#2182841)
Posted Friday, April 12, 2019 | Review Permalink

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