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Van Der Graaf Generator - 68-71 CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator

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4 stars Friends,

Owning most VDGG albums and having first seen the band in the early seventies when their tour-de-force sound was as mesmeric as Tangerine Dream's "cathedral" gigs in the UK around that time, I would recommend this album, "as a taster", to anyone contemplating a first-time experience with the band, who were always greater then the sum of their parts and a legacy of the golden age of British musical inventiveness (64- 79).

As you may get in front of a picture and sometimes see more then a canvas and paint; get in front of your speakers and let the tracks on this album "just wash over you". Let them paint a mental picture for you that will stir your soul and give you an excellent introduction what I consider to be their finest period.

If there is any advice for new listeners that I could give, it would be the following:-

1. Try to have your first VDGG listening experience alone with enough time for a replay. This way you alone can form your impression without external bias or derision from partners or "children". Best of all is in a dark room with headphones on and the volume on the loud side. It can get scary at times!

2. Don't try to "get" the songs at first hearing and don't worry if you don't like a few (no band is perfect for everyone). I found getting into this band to be almost subliminal as I started listening unintentionally around 1970 at a friends home, whilst reading music mags and puffing on a good old ... (well you know what I mean). It was a few months of hearing their stuff before I went out and bought my own copies of the 1st two albums (which is where I suggest you go next).



Report this review (#7900)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I totally agree with Steve's review on this. This was my first VdGG experience and I would recommend to all uninitiated to get the same path. Thereafter you can go to explore "Aerosol", "Least We Can" and "H to He" in that order. Excellent introduction to this unique band, plus containing single-only "Boat of Millions of Years".
Report this review (#7901)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well, I don't know about this one. I never liked compilations especially when it comes to progressive rock. This one includes songs from the first three Van Der Graaf studio albums. All tracks are brilliant but why not get the actual albums? I really think you'll get a much better idea since there is a connection between the songs of each studio album of Vdgg both in music and lyrics.

I think a very good introduction to Vdgg is Godbluff but if you want from the first period then I would say both "H to He, who am I the only one" and "The least we can do is wave to each other" are good. The first one is another story and I think you should avoid it if you are new to Vdgg (it's still a masterpiece though) because the music is a bit different from the other two and you won't get such a good picture of Vdgg's music. Anyway, I think there is no point in buying this one but if you are a collector then go ahead.

Report this review (#103427)
Posted Sunday, December 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This compilation gives an insight of the early days of this great band.

Two songs from their first album (which will take some time to be released in Europe) : "Afterwards" and "Necromancer" : two good songs but not the best ones from this work (I think "Running Black" and "Aquarian" would have fit better).

Half of this compilation comes from "The Least..." which is fine (although I would have like to see "After The Flood" instead of "Whatever ...". "The Boat..." is a left over from the studio sessions. It is not a bad song (but still is a leftover...). It will be released as B-side of the single "Refugees". "Refugees" is for me, the best song from VDGG (first era), so I can only be happy it sits here.

"Killer" and "Lost" are two great numbers from "H To He". No discussion about that (although The Emperor...). I am not quite sure that this first compilation is very useful nowadays. Maybe at the time of release for songs that were not available but in the meantime "The Aerosol" can easily be found (see my review for this album for more info) and "The Boat" will appear on the remastered version of "The Least...).

Three stars.

Report this review (#107666)
Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Hair raising stuff

This was my introduction to the strange world of Van Der Graaf Generator. Released in 1972, the album retailed at a budget price, purporting to represent the best of the band up until that point. The tracks selected are taken from the first three albums, but not the 1971 album "Pawn Hearts".

What I particularly like about this collection is the fact that it was compiled by the band. At the time of it's release, VDGG's first album "The aerosol grey machine" had not been released in the UK due to contractual issues. It would eventually appear in 1973, after Hammill had negotiated himself out of the contact he had enter alone. The two tracks from it included here, "Afterwards" and "Necromancer", were therefore rarities as far as UK fans were concerned. Early US versions of the first album omitted "Necromancer", replacing it with "Giant squid". The other rarity here is "Boat of a million years", which originally appeared only as the B side of a single version of "Refugees".

Almost half of each the "H to He." and "The least we can do.." albums is here, the total running time of almost 51 minutes making for excellent value for an LP. While the band were never considered to be commercial, it is admirable to find a feast of long tracks included, even the single "Theme one" is overlooked.

As a collection, this album works well on two levels. It offers a superb introduction to this unique group and it stands as a coherent and enjoyable experience in its own right. If only all compilations were put together this well!

Report this review (#134912)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was always very fond of this compilation. For many years it was impossible to find a copy of aerosol gray machine in the UK, so this was the only place you could find the Necromancer and Afterwords both excellent tracks. The boat of millions of years was also on the surprisingly rare and even harder to obtain Refugees single release. The rest of this album is made up of generally excellent tracks from the first two Charisma recordings. These days there is nothing to recommend this release to anyone as all of the tracks are available elsewhere. However it has a nice cover with some decent shots of the band and it is also on the highly collectible Charisma pink Scroll label (as are most of the early VDGG records ). The music is brilliant and the pressing was ok considering that this was a budget release. It is probably still essential to all serious collectors of VDGG for the cover art. It would make a decent introduction to the early VDGG but it is pre-pawn hearts so it is far from complete. It plays very well by which I mean it works well as a record and is the best VDGG compilation in that respect ,as it both stands up well as a set and doesnt have the large change in styles that many later VDGG compilations have. If it had the single version of refugees rather than this version it would remain an important release as it is I still like this record a lot and it gets 4 stars not bad for a compilation.
Report this review (#146711)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Review Nş 164

Van Der Graaf Generator was formed in 1967, by Peter Hammill and Chris Judge Smith, at Manchester University, but was settled in London. On arrival at London, Hammill and Smith met up the classically trained keyboardist Hugh Banton, who was a brother of one of their friends in Manchester. Later, the bass guitar player, Keith Ellis and the drummer Guy Evans joined them. However, soon Smith left the band, amicably. He felt his presence superfluous.

In 1969, they recorded their debut album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". It was intended to be the debut album of Hammill. After the release of the album, Ellis decided to leave off and was replaced by Nic Potter. Shortly, saxophonist and flautist David Jackson was invited by Hammill to join them. With that new line up, a new sound was established by the band, leaving beyond a more psychedelic musical influence of "The Aerosol Grey Machine" in favour of a more darker and complex musical textures. It was in that context, that the group released their second album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", in 1970. In the same year, the band recorded their third album, "H To He, Who Am The Only One". However, during the recording sessions of the album, Potter quit the band. So, the quartet composed by Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans, became on what is now considered the classic Van Der Graaf Generator's line up.

"68-71" is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1972. It includes eight tracks released on their first three albums. So, it comprises songs from "The Aerosol Grey Machine", "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and "H To He, Who Am The Only One". The first track "Afterwards" was released on "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is a very simple and naďve song, very beautiful, one of the most beautiful and simple songs composed by Hammill. It's one of the best tracks on that album. The second track "The Boat Of The Millions Of Years" was never released on any studio album of them. It was written in 1970, the time when they released "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It was probably made to be part of that album but it was only included later on the album, as a bonus track. It was released as the B side of the single "Refugees". This isn't a bad song, but as a leftover, it doesn't represent one of their best moments. Still, it represents a rarity. The third track "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a good track with different passages and different rhythms. This is one of the most progressive tracks of that album. Still, it isn't as good as some other tracks. So, it isn't one of my favourite songs. The fourth track "Lost" was released on "H To He, Who Am The Only One". This is a brilliant track. It's a song about loneliness, lost, love and madness, and it has also very good lyrics. There is a lot of variety in this piece. "Lost" is one of the most depressing pieces ever written by Hammill. The fifth track "Necromancer" was released on "The Aerosol Grey Machine". It's a very bizarre, obscure and deep song with scary lyrics. This is a song with a superb Hammill's voice and with a good and melodic chorus. I think this is another interesting song. The sixth track "Refugees" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It represents the most sentimental moment on that album. This is a very beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with a nice flute work by Jackson. It's a song that reminds me very much "Running Back", the third track of their debut album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Hammill. The seventh track "Darkness" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a great opener for that album and is also one of its best tracks. This is a song dominated by the continued presence of the keyboards of Banton and by a very good and strong bass line. It's the song where we can hear, for the first time, the incredible and unique sound of the saxophones of Jackson. The eighth track "Killer" was released on "H To He, Who Am The Only One". It's a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. This is one of my favourite songs of them. It shows the great atmosphere so typical of their sound.

Conclusion: "68-71" is a good compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and a great window to their first musical years. It has songs from their first three studio albums that belong to their first musical era, from 1968-1972. However, it lacks to it songs from their fourth and best studio album "Pawn Hearts", released in 1971. The selection of the tracks is excellent and irreproachable. It has the two best tracks from "The Aerosol Grey Machine", "Afterwards" and "Necromancer", three of the best tracks from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?", and especially "Refugees" and "Darkness" and two excellent tracks from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Lost" and "Killer". Although, all the tracks on "H To He, Who Am The Only One", could be part of this compilation, because all are great. The only track with inferior quality is "The Boat Of The Millions Of Years". It's true that it's a good track, but it's inferior to the others. The final result is a good compilation but not an essential purchase.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1888226)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2018 | Review Permalink

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