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Van Der Graaf Generator - Still Life CD (album) cover

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog


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lewisoutrider
5 stars If "Pawn Hearts" was the capstone of the early years for VDGG, then "Still Life" is a worthy contender from their second generation. Every track is unique in itself while fully supporting the whole. Like any truly classic album, their is never a lull in the precedings and the listener's attention is engaged from beginning to end. If you haven't heard this band before and and wondering what all the fuss is (was) about then bend your ear towards "Still Life".

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7954)
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
5 stars As there were remaining tracks from the previous writing/recording sessions, Still Life arrived fairly quickly on the market, and what a splendid album it was! Godbluff's twin album is actually superior (and ultimately more rewarding) to it and it shows with the stunning artwork sleeve.

Opening Pilgrims (and its slowly solemn descending crescendo) is a sure winning salvo only topped by the lengthy La Rossa (their Italian affinities showing), while the very personal My Room (Hugh Banton on bass and Jackson's superb ambient sax, with Evans' restrained drumming) is a real contender for the best Graaf track >> not far from House With No Door. The title track is another spine-chiller, with Hammill's doomy and desperate vocals crying out in the middle of the night, before the quartet is picking up momentum and Hammill's mood changing to anger. Then comes the lengthy and awesome Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (inspiration taken from a book that was particularly well appreciated from all band members) closing off the album in a grandiose way.

While two of the five songs were written (and recorded) during the Godbluff sessions, the remaining three tracks are certainly of the same calibre if not even better, but certainly the proof that Graaf still had major things to say in the realm of prog rock. As I said before, I prefer Still Life to Godbluff for it has no weak track, but sincerely, choosing between there two is something I would rather not do.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#7956)
Posted Wednesday, February 04, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars one of my favorite VDGG albums, another magic moments and very touching as well, great keyboard work it's norm in the band and Peter Hammil's voice this time sounds more bitter but also great. Fantastic record and one of the best prog rock albums ever.

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Send comments to l-s-d (BETA) | Report this review (#7959)
Posted Monday, March 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Picking the best of this lot is not an easy task, but "Still Life" is an all time classic recording. This is VAN DER GRAAF at their best with the classic line up of musicians. The music here is deep dark and rich adding some of VDG's most notable song writing skills. "Childhood's End" is a brilliant epic tracks and one of my all time favorite VDG tracks. This band were one of the most influential in the world of Prog rock and have been praised in many circles. This album pulls all the right buttons and has a superb recording quality to it with just enough hiss to give you that classic feeling to it. Peter HAMMILL is at his finest here and sounds just superb with the rest of the band. This is a needed jem to show off to all your friends!

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#7960)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
gabby56@netvi
5 stars I fell in love, and guess with whome. With Peter Hamill. He sound like an angel in this album. Thier second album in thier second phase. Sound great, relaxed, not provocative as thier first albums, which were spectacular. Listen to My room and you will fall in love with that silk, angel voice which in a slice can turn into satanic, demonic.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7961)
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars When Hammill decides to write a set of lyrics about a reflective subject, he gets really intense, explosive and desperate. That's because Hammill doesn't just settle down to merely stating an idea; he needs to expose the process of grasping that idea, consider and reconsider it, then draw conclusions out of it. That is particularly true concerning the lyrics of this masterpiece 'Still Life'. Their evocative power is enhanced by the melodic lines he composes, as well as his fiery singing style. Having said that, let me say that this album is quite optimistic, not from an easy-going point of view, but regarding a positive attitude Hammill now endorses: this attitude is delivered through the typical Hammill-esque intensity. 'Pilgrims' celebrates the power of solidarity, 'La Rossa' explicates the joy of a consumated love, and 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End' is an affirmation of the existence of a meaning to life, though it may be "hidden" or "elusive", yet it must be recognized by all means. Behind the gloomy portrait of a City of Immortals in the namesake track, lies the need to accept death as an integral part of life: if we denied it and miraclously eventually achieved it, we would be doomed to live pointlessly for ever and ever. Meanwhile, 'My Room' is a regretful meditation of a past time spent on fruitless lamentations. Musically speaking, this work signifies a fluid continuation of their previous effort 'Godbluff' (also brilliant), though I must say that I find the musicianship tighter and more impressive on this one. The dramatic ambience of 'Still Life', the combination of genuine energy and sophisticated complexity in 'La Rossa' and the epic splendour of 'Childhood's End' make them absolute highlights of this album, and their whole career as well. The majestic vibe that are displayed in the organ layers for the namesake number are really anthological, while Hammill sings about the lack of meaning for the Immortals' lives: the final sentences are literally deadly. Also deadly, but at the same time compellingly enthusiastic, is the manifesto of life delivered in the final lyrics of 'Childlike Faith'. I won't skip the intimate spirit of 'Pilgrims', nor the delicate beauty beneath the languid surface of 'My Room': in these two pieces Jackson delivers some of his most inspired sax parts ever. Let me finish by saying that this is my fave album from VdGG's second era, and I find it almost as enjoyable as 'Pawn Hearts' (my all-time fave from this band).

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#7963)
Posted Monday, June 07, 2004 | Review Permalink
25226dfv@comb
5 stars Absolutelly a masterpiece. It´s like the vdgg´s horizon whre we can look for thr poetry, the eclecticism, superb music and more the arrengements...Pilgrims , La Rossa, Childlike Faith, My Room and.. Still Life. The organ can be heard between saxes-flutes and a guitar in second phase,the drums balancing the VOICE and THE VERB!!!

Uauuuu!!!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7980)
Posted Tuesday, July 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
r.constant@uo
3 stars One of my favourite bands but if you are a progressive fan this is not the place to start becaus this record is not so progrssive. The first track is hymn to me, Peter Hammil is a wizard, and his lyrics speaks about thing that i believe. The rest of the record has some good mements but i think this phase was an attempt to shift their music style and try to be more "adult" or something like that.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7964)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I never got into the 2nd part of VDGGs carrer (75-77) like I did the first part (69-71). Even though the last song on Pawn Hearts was a preview of what was to come and a song I liked very much, this cd was kind of a letdown. I like the first two songs but the rest of the disc just sounds so alike and not as inspired as earlier VDGG. Still, between the four albums released between 75-77, this is the one to buy.

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Send comments to Carl floyd fan (BETA) | Report this review (#7966)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
vladimir.leks
5 stars This is my most favorite album of VDGG because it involves all the things I like in music: heartmoving melodies, breathtaking rhythms, poetry, epic, atmosphere; all perfectly balanced, perfectly sung and played. And not overexposed. From absolute silence to thunder and lightings, from dark to light, everything is here. And, unlike some other stuff of PH, I find it positive and optimistic, perhaps I am naive. This is a good startpoint to begin with hammill or VDGG. A pearl.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7981)
Posted Saturday, October 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
walker65@tisc
5 stars I cannot think of another prog band that managed to maintain such quality over the course of three back-to-back LP's. This album and the one's that bookend it mark the pinnacle of VDGG's career. The only ciriticism I have of 'Still Life' is that I feel that, in comparing those three albums, the final two tracks here do not quite match the peerless quality taken as a whole. Having said that 'Pilgrims' has to be my favourite VDGG track ever.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7971)
Posted Thursday, November 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
mashnova2000@
5 stars If you look for a soundtrack for the Nietzsche Books you never read start here. If you are in need of listening to intelligent music in near perfect harmony with intelligent lyrics start here. If you think Van Der Graaf Generator is all but a Pawn Heart listen (up) again, and if you should be a novice to the likes of Hammill, Jackson, Evans, Banton this is the album to start and to end. One could analyze each and every single word sung, spoken and shouted in 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End' but then be missing the musical point of this monumental track, and/or vice versa: "In the death of mere humans life shall start" might just sum these blistering 45 minutes of essential listening up. Then again, this not just merely essential, it is simply a MUST for everybody ending up on this site!!!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#7973)
Posted Thursday, December 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This is the first album that I have listened from this band. Maybe I expected very much from this band after reading several reviews about their albums, and after reading that many people considers this band in the same "level" and "sound" as GENESIS (recording albums in the same label, Charisma Records, and also touring together sometimes in the 70s), YES, and other famous and praised Progressive Rock bands. Maybe I`m not fair with this band, but it took me several listenings, and this album is not as interesting for me as other albums by other Progressive Rock bands. It is "hard listening" for me, really. This is an "atypical" band in several things, in my opinion. Their history tells that Peter Hammill was signed to a record label as a soloist, and that he had this band. He had the songs, and the rest of the musicians simply played them in their first album in 1969. The band split in 1972. Hammill then started a solo career. Later, he reformed the band for more albums during the mid 70s. So, this band has mainly Hammill`s songs and vision, with few collaborations from the other members in the songwriting. This is a band without a regular bass player (like the band called Traffic), without predominant guitars, with the organ being the main instrument accompanied by the drums, and occasional saxes. I think that Hammill shares with Peter Gabriel the taste and sound of "theatrical vocals". Hammill has a very good voice, but sometimes his vocals sound to me with "exaggerated emotions". He is a very good lyricist. I like some parts of the lyrics in this album. "Existentialist" lyrics. Maybe this is the best part of this album, but the music is not very interesting for me. The sound of the saxes is for me similar to the sound of the late Chris Wood from the band Traffic. I have never listened to Hammill`s solo albums, but I know that he has released a lot of solo albums and I think that he really never needed to have this band to have fans for his music and lyrics. The first time that I heard him sing was in Robert Fripp`s "Exposure" album. I heard a strong very good voice in that album, and this also made me expect very much from this band. I consider this "Still Life" album only for the fans of Van der Graaf Generator. So, I give to this album a 2 stars rating.

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Send comments to Guillermo (BETA) | Report this review (#7976)
Posted Monday, December 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars No doubt! This is a TRUE MASTERPIECE album! [IMHO. Sorry, . there is no room for me to compromise on this ..]

This band was well known by name if only because they headlined the Charisma Records package tour at the dawn of the 70's. One of their supporting bands was a young English outfit going by the name of Genesis. Never fitting any traditional box, VdGG forged their own path, with the wailing organ of Hugh Banton and Peter Hammill's hallmark voice - described as having a multi-registered miracle - being the most distinctive features. [2]. It was often said that VdGG music a kind of putting more emphasize on organ as the main instrument to form their music textures - replacing what was famous at the time: keyboard / moog synthesizer and guitars. Woodwind instruments, especially sax, were also used to strengthen the role of organ and sound variety. Practically, most people thought that VdGG was the band that pushed their music with the non existence of guitar in most of their compositions. Of course there were some songs with guitars, but they were not a lot of that kind.

The band's lineup changed through the formative years, even featuring Robert Fripp (King Crimson) as a guest guitarist on two of of their classic albums: "H To He Who Am I The Only One" (1970) and "Pawn Hearts" (1971). After the latter they took a break from the music business before appearing again in 1975 with the organ- driven "Godbluff".

Personally, this band has colored my life since childhood altogether with all seventies' heroes. As many people mentioned that "Pawn Hearts" is the masterpiece, I would opt to say that "Still Life" is their finest album followed by "World Record" and then "Pawn Hearts". It's probably a difference in musical tastes. But I have a compelling reason of putting Still Life as their finest. First, there is no such track out of overall five that is considered as mediocre track; all of them are excellent. Second, this album was written with a solid concept - a melodically-based songwriting - and tight composition. This is not something to do with "I like it" or "I do not like it" ball game, I'm talking about overall songwriting, composition, structure and delivery (performance). And, this album fulfills all those dimensions very well with practically no flaw at all. As I understand from my prog mates, most people found hard to get the melody line of VdGG music. But I consistently told them: "Be patient, open your mind - free your mind with any preconceptions or expectations - sit down and relax until you got the line, then the rest it will stay in your mind forever!". Then I gave them this album and ask to jump start enjoying the third track "La Rossa" where it has a solid melody.

Let's talk about this album in great details, if you want. Otherwise, just buy this album as this is a masterpiece!

"Pilgrims" begins with a nice organ sound which by in it is already a melodic and atmospheric opening, I think. This opening organ touch is really killing. The tonal voice of Peter Hammill enters beautifully with "Sometimes you feel so far away .". A fantastic opening part already. Peter has been well known for his ability to shift between angelic whispering, sultry baritone crooning and violently impassioned screaming as unnerving as it is exciting to witness. He does excellently in this opening track. The contribution of Hugh Banton on organs augmented with David Jackson's sax have enriched the textures of this song. Excellent!

"Still Life" starts off differently. Hammill starts his angelic whispering with "Citadel reverberates to a thousand voices, now dumb: what have we become? What have we chosen to be?". It's dark nuance opening and it provides a very good atmosphere setting of the song. Hugh Banton puts his thin-layered organs at the back, accompanying Hammill's singing. One-third of the song overall duration is set with this style until Guy Evans enters his drumming work. The music and the singing flows into higher register notes where Peter Hammil's singing turns screaming in some peak segments. The most interesting part is the thin-layered organ sounds (augmented with sax) that have textured the song brilliantly. The music turns to quieter passage with a piano and voice line until it ends beautifully. Brilliant composition!

Ahem . I cannot wait until this my all-time favorite track since I heard this album for the first time in 1977. Yeah, "La Rossa" is a great song with easy to digest (at least for me personally) composition. In here, I think the Peter Hammill's voice is somewhat theatrical and is a pivotal element of the song. Observe this lyrical part: "Lacking sleep and food and vision, here I am again, encamped upon your floor, ..". It demonstrates Hammil's top caliber singer as the way he sings this opening part is like mumbling but with a very strong accentuation and excellent melody. The strong accent is very obvious when he says "floor" at the end of this first lyrical part. It then continues with next lyric "craving sanctuary and nourishment, encouragement and sanctity and more.". Again, you may observe when he sass "more"; it projects a very strong accent that he repeats as he previously says "floor". Very cool. The music gradually enters in its full swing led by drum work during this lyrical part: "The streets seemed very crowded, I put on my bravest guise - I know you know that I am acting, I can see it in your eyes". It flows beautifully to higher notes with excellent singing style accompanied with wailing organ sounds and drum beats. The melody is so uplifting. The composition of this song demonstrates the band's ability to mix high and low points brilliantly. Sax fills its part nicely in between transitions or sometimes during Peter's singing. Despite all, what makes this song brilliant is that it shifts the melody-line unnoticeable as at the end part the tagline melody is completely different with the first half of the song. Well, I can talk a lot about this song as this is - for me - is a very beautiful song. But I have to stop it and put one overall comment on this song: a true masterpiece!

"My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)" is a mellow track and it starts with a baritone voice of Peter accompanied with sax at the back and some augmentation of piano sounds. I can sense the jazz influence of this song especially during the first part of the song. David Jackson is given a chance to do his sax solo in the middle of the track until Peter Hammil'ls low register voice enters the music. The tagline melody does not change much over the full stream of this song. Only at the end the piano and sax are given more roles in avant-garde jazz style to conclude the song.

The concluding track "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" starts with a dark nuance through a combination of Peter Hammill's voice and organ at the back; playing the same notes. At approx minute 2:01 the music turns into a faster tempo with Peter Hammil's singing takes the lead to lift up the tone. Saxophone provides some rhythmic sounds to enrich the role of organ. Some sax solo is also performed at approx minute 4 of the song until Peter Hammil's voice returns theatrically. It turns to a quieter passage with solid accentuation and the music turns fully symphonic. I can hear a lot of emotions involved enjoying this track. At approx min 7:30 the music shifts into a more avant- garde style with some sort of complex arrangements but still maintaining the baseline melody so when it returns back, it happens smoothly.

It's a highly recommended album as this is a true masterpiece with a progressive approach. Still Life is a good album to start for the beginners and those who start to explore progressive rock. You won't regret at all to own this brilliant record. BTW, the band will do a long awaited REUNION CONCERT this year. Visit their website for details! Keep on progging!

Yours progressively,

GW - Indonesia

References:

1. The band's website - it's a simple design site with a lot of links available here.

2.PROGRESSION magazine Issue 35 - Spring / Summer 2000 "Interview with Peter Hammill by Tony Emmerson and Steve Baylin.

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#7982)
Posted Saturday, February 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Needs a bit of movement and direction...

For me, an easy and initially engaging but ultimately wearying listen. At first, the music engulfs the listener in a rich groove and washes of full Hammond. The only initial obstacle is Hammill's slightly over-enthusiastic warbling, which has somewhat precious tendencies. However, obstacles are meant to be overcome - especially when the music is of this sort of quality, and the lyrics give plenty to chew on.

A fine organic ebb and flow introduces the album, and, although there's nothing remarkable or particularly memorable going on, the music is very much "for the moment", and provides a comfortable easy chair for the mind to relax into, despite Hammill's dark and somewhat angst-ridden vocals. There's nothing particularly outstanding about the first two songs - they're just nice. It's the texture of the music that tempts us in deeper.

La Rossa combines a magical groove with imginative shifts in texture and mood. It sadly is not perfect, as it becomes altogether too raucous for my liking towards the end, with sax and keyboards apparently battling it out after a particularly impassioned vocal section. Several times, the texture and direction appears to get lost - but at least the ending is possible.

My Room is a good place to be... if I may put it like that. A beautiful if slightly over- loose jazz groove winds its way around melancholic vocals. The only real criticism I would offer is that the bass tends to be a bit directionless and uninteresting - otherwise a smooth track, one that stands out without trying to.

Childlike faith in Childhood's End somehow fails to maintain the interest, throughout its' epic length - although all the right noises are made... with the exception of Hammill, who maintains a wearying level of intensity with little light and shade or sensitivity to the lyrics.

There are interesting episodes, when it feels like it might all come together, but generally it all seems a bit aimless and directionless.

...which last paragraph sums up this album as a whole, really. Definitely one for the fans - but I wouldn't say Fans/Collectors only, as I am sure that many would get something out of this album. I don't think it's an essential album, but really, every self- respecting prog collection should have at least one VDGG album in it. This may not be the one though.

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#7984)
Posted Friday, March 04, 2005 | Review Permalink
James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Why do I do this to myself? I know I don't care for VDGG, and yet I keep trying. Part of it is because I value (to a certain extent) the opinions of fellow progressive rock fans, many of whom think VDGG is the cat's meow. Part of it is that Peter Hammill is so appealingly over-the-top that I enjoy listening, in the same way I love listening to THE LEGENDARY STARDUST COWBOY and BAD BOY BUTCH BATSON. But even I have to concede that there's much more to VDGG than a novelty thrill, and out of pure respect for the fans and musicians involved, I'll keep the review as objective as possible.

Having said that, I'm happy to say that "Still Life" is one of the better VDGG albums with which I've tormented myself. There's a real sense that the band has progressed from the "Pawn Hearts" days, while losing nothing of their unique sound and musicianship. While refusing to compromise with a more mainstream sound, the songs on "Still Life" are relatively accessible- there are few mixed-meter passages and the melodic component is largely conventional rather than experimental (not a bad move for a band that focuses on emotion rather than virtuosity). The atmosphere is typically moody, with plenty of minor-key keyboard-led slow-burners that erupt sporadically into aggressive bursts of raspy organ and Hammill's patented ragged throaty declaiming. Everything reaches a cathartic culmination at the end of "Childlike Faith" which puts a nice closure to the album as a whole.

Banton and Hammill provide a solid and competent keyboard foundation for the vocals (there's very little guitar here), leaving solo duties to Jackson for the most part. The saxophone adds color and a bit of soulfulness- especially in the understated opening to "My Room" (but, in other places on the album, contributes to the recurring temptation to compare VDGG to the "Rocky Horror" soundtrack). Hammill seems more comfortable with his voice, crooning softly over the majority of the album and belting out the louder sections with more control and expressiveness than ever before. Evans' drumming is better on this album than I've ever heard him- tight and masterful, and quite well-recorded, providing much of the energy and structure for these otherwise soft-and-dark tracks.

If you've been waiting for me to get nasty, keep waiting. "Still Life" is mostly a pleasant experience (pleasant isn't exactly the right word, but I can't find a word to describe "mellow angst" and I've already over-used the word "moody"). It's not too different in texture and approach than PINK FLOYD's "Dark Side of the Moon"; both albums create a seductive current, a relaxed but emotion-drenched flow to the final organ-filled crescendo. VDGG has less variety and experimentation (both compared to "Dark Side" as well as to their earlier works), and as a result the songs are rather similar, but it's not a wearying similarity; if you like the sound, you won't mind hearing it re-interpreted from song to song. The most complimentary thing I can say is that "Still Life" came closer to satisfying me than anything VDGG has done.

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Send comments to James Lee (BETA) | Report this review (#7986)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I seem to be the among the minority of hard-core VDGG fans that consider Still Life to be a real disappointment. I feel that after the majestic comeback that was Godbluff, Still Life was a pretty sharp decline and is really not much better than the average post 1975 Hammill solo album.

Perhaps part of it has to do with the production, for while Godbluff retained the raw sound of the early 70s albums, Still Life is a slicker, clearer album. Maybe the pervading ennui and desperation that had shone through vibrantly in past albums, suddenly became a sullen affair. It's not easy for me to pinpoint exactly why I consider this album to be so inferior to its four predecessors, but I do.

At first glance, the differences between this album and classic VDGG are subtle. The opener Pilgrims for example has all the familiar ingredients but except for the outro sax solo from David Jackson, it seems so lifeless. For the first 3 minutes, the title track is even more so ... a draggy pleading affair that makes me want to switch my player off. Even when Hugh Banton's organ kick-starts the band, this song seems more like a tepid track from Coverdale-era Deep Purple than a true VDGG effort. An impassioned rant from Hammill doesn't save the song.

La Rossa is often cited as a VDGG classic, but it doesn't really hit the spot musically, until around the 4 minute mark, when the song finally undergoes a change of pace. I also quite like the break that kicks off after 6 minutes but I think what sums up the crucial difference between this album and its predecessors for me is that Banton seems to spend far too much time holding chords and Jackson's sax lines lack their usual bite. What we are left with is dense, static prog that it is too much for me to handle.

My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) is definitely my favourite song on the album, and in fact is often the only reason I come back to this one. The lighter feel of Jackson's lines and just about the only memorable melody from Hammill on this album clinch the deal. Nonetheless, I don't rate it among my top 10 VDGG songs.

The concluding piece Childlike Faith In Childhood's End is another boring, generally monolithic piece. Even when the band picks up the pace, and Banton's organ briefly comes to the fore, I rarely hear anything that excites me. Jackson's sax work consistently seems flatulent and "mainstream" compared to what he's done in the past, and even some probing lyrics and violent screaming from Hammill leave me cold.

I've sat through this album 7 or 8 times, and still feel like there's some joke that somebody's playing on me. Don't get me wrong, compared to many other prog bands, this is still a good, albeit non-essential work, it's just that compared to what preceeded it, Still Life is poor. ... 54% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#37912)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars More aggression and jazz sensibilities from VdGG. A very organ dominated album, the saxes of Jackson are very subdued and play a much more minor role than on previous albums. Hammill's lyrics never let up, either, he's working at the same pace and with the same fury as in Pawn Hearts and their previous efforts. The rhythm unit is very tight and provide the foundation to great jazzy influenced music. There are many catchy rhythms and hooks in the music here, which was somewhat unheard of in their structure. Sure, there were some hooks in their music, but this album is filled with them. The aggression and angst that you feel in their music and from Hammill's raw and powerful voice is a very predominant force.

Stand out tracks are Pilgrims, which opens with some beautiful organ work and some soft vocals from Hammill. It soon evolves into a rollicking jazz jam with more great organ work from Banton and some very precise drumming from Evans. The next track that stands out in my mind in La Rossa, which begins with very emotional vocals from Hammill and organ that slowly fades into the mix. The bass work from Banton on this track is also among the best work he's done. And the final stand out track is the Still Life, which features some intricate piano work, and some very good work form Banton and Evans, as well as Jackson, who takes the forefront.

Overall, this is Van Der Graaf's second masterpiece, the first being Pawn Hearts. No fan of this group's collection is complete without this stunning collection of works that make up the album. It is my favorite VdGG album, and is a must have in my mind. 5/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#39402)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Still Life" is probably the peak of the "second generation" VDGG career 1975-78.

A true masterpiece of progressive music, slightly more accessible than, say, "Pawn Hearts", but with a genuine signature heavy sound of organ, piano and saxophones. Hammill delivers his vocal/lyrics performance with emotions and confidentiality, without compromises.

"Pilgrims", "La Rossa" and "My Room" can easily be proclaimed the top best prog compositions ever, while extended and complex "Childlike Faith in Childhoods End" offers a rare and effective electric guitar solo, atypical of VDGG music.

This album is essential for any prog collection, provided you have already acquired a taste for Hammill's dark, expressionist lyrics and his angered, frustrated and highly emotional voice.

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Send comments to Seyo (BETA) | Report this review (#39406)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a great album, but not as great as the previous four. Most of the fans sya this was VDGG's last great recording , but I prefer "World Record" to this one, for one single reason: this album is consistently good, as "World Record", but there is no outstanding track on "Still Life": they're all equally good songs. It would be easy to say this makes "Still Life" better, but VDGG always made memorable music, and this album, IMHO, is not as memorable as "World Record" is.

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Send comments to M. B. Zapelini (BETA) | Report this review (#39658)
Posted Sunday, July 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars VdGG struck gold on this one. IMHO their best effort. They combine all the things we love about VdGG into one stellar album. The poignant, emotional lyrics and vocals of Peter Hammill who has never sounded this time truly testing all the octaves his voice can achieve. Hugh Banton's organ never sounded swirlier. Hugh easily fills up the space left by Peter's minimal guitarwork with both organ and synth while perfectly matching Peter for every note he hits. David Jackson gives us his best brasswork: both melodic and emotional without ever sounding atonal (which is the downside to Pawn Hearts.) Guy Evans while being simplistic throws down some incredible percussives that perfectly match the songs. His most aggressive and pleasing drumwork without ever overstepping his boundaries.

Pilgrims sets the feeling for the album in a melancholic mood that eventually raises into hope. David Jackson's sax makes this song; his solo at the end defines the mood of the song.

Still Life is Peter's expression of his fear/distaste for marriage and this time it is hughs organ that makes the song.

La Rossa is Peter weighing the options on a certain girl but cannot decide whether or not to make love and create a new relationship or remain abstinant and relish the old one. The intro by Hugh is perhaps my favorite with his Wakeman-esque flicker of the fingers on his plunky hammond. Guy's use of the cowbell in this song was unexpected but thoroughly enjoyed. There is one section in the ("take me, take me away") that just gets your head bobbing and makes you want to...i dont know what i would do but it makes me happy. David and hugh match each other in their solos and sound great doing so. one of my faves.

My room is a slower number that inspires some amount of despair. Peter's piano is a great accompaniment to hughs organ and bass pedals while davids sax matches peters voice and keeps the song going with a slow background solo throughout the entire song.

childlike faith in childhoods end raps up the album with the longest comp on the album. a slow started that grows into an incredible track that exemplifies Peter's feeling of hopelessness and despair. he once again explores the realms of existence and how we all live our lives and whether or not it is worth living. soon we realise that his probing of his existance has led him to the conclusions which he so eloquently wrires. this song does all this while still rocking your socks off. the combonation of all 4 instruments in their accented punches gives the song a real umph. david's sax solo is incredible along with peter hammill's seldom heard electric guitar which he executes quite well. awesome.

this album is incredibly well produced far surpassing that of its predecessor (which is an incredible album in its own write.) each song is brilliantly executed and the compositions are complex yet melodic and easily enjoyed. there is not a single part of this album that i have to say "o i cant wait for this next part.." all of it is part of the masterpiece. i dont know if my words can do justice to my feelings for how incredible this album is. the darker side of prog is incredible and peter hammill is truly a master of words and expression. i think i will let all five stars do the talking.

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Send comments to soccerbum (BETA) | Report this review (#42272)
Posted Tuesday, August 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
Peter Pan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is a review of the remastered version of "Still Life".

The remastering process has polished the song material of this album in a remarkable way. The republished "Still Life" has four sections.

- "Pilgrims" (Track 1) and "La Rossa" (Track 3) were recorded during the "Godbluff"-Sessions, which easily can be heard. Both are powerful songs and typical for this VDGG-phase in 1975.

- "Still Life" (Track 2) is in my opinion the best song in popular music at all and shows what an amazing man Peter Hammill is. His topic are the inevitable paradoxes of eternal life if there is such a thing. The lyrics have high literary quality and give you a shiver if you follow them closely. Peter Hammill's singing is breathtaking and the instrumentation changes between sensitiveness and power according to the respective verses. Already on Vinyl the recording technique of this song had the high standard of the follow-up "World Record" which benefits the remastered version naturally. All instruments including the bass drums and bass pedals are clear and isolated. In the calm sections of this song you can hear Peter's exquisite voice as if he sits right in front of you at his piano.

- Track 4 and 5 are a matter of taste. Personally I like the expressive and intense solo live interpretation of "My Room" (released on on "Typical") much better than the sweetish version on "Still Life".

- The bonus track "Magog" is taken from a former bootleg and has the same extreme trashy sound quality as the bonus tracks on the remastered "Godbluff".

The booklet is pretty and useful but the text has many repetitions from the "Godbluff"-booklet.

Three great songs remain. The song "Still Life" alone is worth knowing Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator.

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Send comments to Peter Pan (BETA) | Report this review (#42549)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Work announced in 1976 "Still Life". Looked lyrics and a powerful symphonic sound are works of the feature. The second work after it forms again. The harmony of the sensibility and the sound is perfection of beauty. Easiness to listen was included and it became a work that was able to be called a masterpiece really.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#45399)
Posted Sunday, September 04, 2005 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is one of the most interesting dark progressive works by Hammil and C., in which his lyrics (often in search of a superior artist value, above all in the development of the songs), are complex. Therefore his approach on the excellent vocalism is particular, and in spite of being not equal to his masterpieces (first of all "Pawn Hearts", then also "H to He.") it's a very deep work, both in the arrangement and in the immediate harmonic construction.in fact it's still remain as a unique and diverse episode within the career of P. Hammil, sometimes representing a true "tour- de force" by V.D.G.G., looking for a different music dimension. Of course their music is harsh, sometimes heavy in its content and quite difficult to take as well, but at the end it's their own "trademark", that you cannot emulate anyway. "Still life", in my opinion, is closer to the mood of his solo works, more than the other most successful albums by Hammil & C.: if you like his recent career the present issue is well worth checking out, as it's mainly composed by Peter.otherwise you could discover some diverse features within the dramatic compositions of V.D.G.G., depicted by means of new interesting colours both in the melody and the music harmony, even in the situation in which the stuff work is a bit inferior in comparison to the other albums. However - after all- it's a minor defect, as this work is worth to be collected; otherwise erase an half star at least, only if you're not too much into their intricate stuff!!!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#46421)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first record i listened to by Van Der Graaf Generator and after the first listen i was confused and amazed by the voice and music.The voice of Peter Hammill is unique i never listened to no one who compares to it.The sax of David Jackson contributes to the madness that is Van Der Graaf music.But this madness is something unique and Van music is different from all other bands and is great sound.Buy it you won't regreted and you will discover something that can be with you for the rest of you life.Great band with a unique style.

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Send comments to npinho (BETA) | Report this review (#47394)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
con safo
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars VdGG's second album after their glorious return with "Godbluff". The band released two of their best albums after a four year hiatus, returning to their trademark sound (slightly altered of course) The organ is much more pronounced on the later albums, with the sax being no less excellent but becoming a less pivotal instrument as it was on the earlier albums. The music doesn't suffer one bit, in fact it's a fresh change to their sound that keeps true to their earlier work yet lets the band explore more musical ideas. The album "Still Life" is one of the bands most mature releases IMO, Peter Hammill's writing style peaked during this period, his lyric work on this album is absolutely brilliant. Dense, intricate song themes that take many repeat listens to fully grasp. Whereas the earlier albums the song meanings were more literal (well as literal as Peter Hamill can get) these songs are brilliant observations of human kind, including the pursuit of immortality which eventually strips all meaning from life. The inner battle that ensues when considering destroying friendship for an intimate relationship, and ultimately where the human race is heading in this time. All superbly written backed by glorious music.

"Pilgrims" opens with Banton's sublime organ, soon joined by Hammill's beautiful voice, a great composition which ties into the album's themes perfectly. A standout passage in this song is the atmospheric and menacing "Away, away, away - look to the future day for hope, some form of peace, within the growing storm." Then exploding into the uplifting chorus that reaches emotional peaks rarely heard. Fantastic opener! "Still Life" is a wonderful track that begins with Hammill's voice only: "Citadel reverberates to a thousand voices, now dumb, What have we become? What have we chosen to be?" Hugh's organ softly floating behind Hammill's mournful voice. The song gains volume until Hugh's organ, densely layered, takes off behind Guy Evan's always fantastic drumming. David Jackson again in the background of this song but definitely add's nicely to the overall texture. Great song writing!

"La Rossa" is the highpoint of this album, and one of my all time favorite VdGG songs! Complex , beautiful and chaotic, this is song writing at its absolute finest! The song is the mental debate within, deciding whether sex is worth destroying a friendship, using a clever "Organ Monkey" metaphor. Hugh's organ shimmers and swirls, complex and brilliant, all augmented superbly by David's again submerged but excellent sax performance. The song gains momentum as the debate within is eventually resolved and the song bursts into the finale "Drown me, drown me now and hold me down before your naked hunger burn me at the altar of the night - give me life!" Thrilling conclusion! "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland), a beautiful jazzy track, angelic piano and excellent organ generated bass. The song follows a similar rhythm throughout but never gets boring. This is the song that David get's to shine, contributing some impressive solos. The song almost resembles a free jazz jam near the end, quite nice!

Still Life ends in epic splendor as we reach our final track "Childlike Faith In Childhoods End" A radiant composition, and some of the best writing Hamill has done thus far! The whole band shines on this one, the interplay between Banton and Jackson is superb and wonderfully textured. The song reaches several epic peaks, musical and emotional splendor, there's really no way else I can describe it! Hamill belts out this song in an almost prophetic manner, singing as if these were his last words. Listen for David's solo during the first climax, intense! The song ends in epic brilliance, almost taking you with the human race and they are brought to the apex of the universe, naked to all, preparing for the final day's of human kind. But hope is not lost - there is something more for the human race, a more meaningful existence, a better place for all -

And though dark is the highway, and the peak's distance breaks my heart, for I never shall see it, still I play my part, believing that what waits for us is the cosmos compared to the dust of the past.

In the death of mere Humans Life shall start!

Superb closer to this masterpiece of progressive rock! 5/5 - con safo

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Send comments to con safo (BETA) | Report this review (#54153)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is my fourth VDGG album and I have to say that it is also the weakest. Album starts off great: "Pilgrims" is an excellent track, unfortunately it is the only really good and essential song on this album. There are some other good songs like the balladic "My Room" but the epics like "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" doesn't reach the standards of previous VDGG albums. If you have already previous 3 VDGG albums then get this one, otherwise don't. My favourite VDGG album is "Godbluff", which is a great place to start discovering the magic of VDGG.

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Send comments to karbs (BETA) | Report this review (#56326)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is another progressive rock album: VDGG keep the same style and sound here, and the compositions seem slightly less elaborated than usual. There are VERY lengthy bits; the music is mostly unmelodic and Hammill's voice is annoying, as always. The keyboardist is too linear, especially when he plays the organ in the background, which seems to be the only keyboard used here, excluding piano: the mellotron is very hard to detect. "La Rossa" is more loaded, reaching a climax between 6:10 and 6:40, but it still remains tedious to listen. The sax parts are often as annoying as the singer's lead vocals. The "Pilgrim" and "Still Life" tracks are often insipid and go nowhere. "My Room" is among the best tracks here, with more delicate, jazzy & echoed saxes, catchy piano and gentle cymbals patterns. "Childlike faith in childhood's end" is not really memorable, except for the bit between 7:35 and 7:50, which reminds the Happy The Man band of the 70's, and except for some more interesting parts during the second half of the track. I don't think VDGG is a difficult music: their ingredients just do not work very much for me. After 6 albums, I feel like I do not want to know more about them...

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#77267)
Posted Saturday, May 06, 2006 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars As i said on God bluff, this band means a lot to me. One of the most challenging and cerebral bands ever. Absolut marvelous album from the first note to the last. Still life is in my top 10 albums ever. I describe it like this: inventive, well played, with an enourmous feeling add to the album by this four gentlemans. For the track Pilgrims 5 stars is not enough in my opinion, the highlight here, the rest gets from me 4.5 stars. The title track is also a damn good one. A highly recommended album and band. Everything in the album will surely prove superior enough to be one of your favourite albums, and why not one of the best prog albums ever in the history of music. Still life, 5 stars, grandious as always, and for sure a masterpiece of prog, stunning album.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#84072)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
lafont59@hotm
5 stars Why are we here for? What's the purpose of our passage on earth? All those questions remaining a preoccupation in Hamill's lyrics and again, it is deep and dark. Listening to still life songs, could bring the listening into a profound sense of human irony, no questions on why the punk scene of the 70s were also attracted by VDGG. Again, Hamill's does not only sing a song within an easy musical structure, no real chorus,as a matter of fact, i always have the feeling that he is in front of the music singing us deep text, a bit like, if he was reading us 5 long letters on how he is seeing the world.

Musically, still life is similar to godbluff (another masterpiece) in a sense that the musical arrangements always seem to serve the extraordinary voice of hamill. never to loud, never taking too much place,always this little jazzy drum, the perfect sax, the nice piano but always in perfect harmony with the meaning of the song and the atmosphere created. I often heard people not too keen with prog rock, mentionned that it is too full, too many instruments, too many solos or change of beat, too much sound (ften referring to yes, KC or other symphonic prog), with still life, you dont have that, you have a man singing alone with few organs notes, nice riffs with few chords and it seems to me that each note is fully meaningfull to become the vehicule of the dark and mad message of that magnificient unique voice.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#89330)
Posted Saturday, September 09, 2006 | Review Permalink
Philrod
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is the second album i bought from the band, just after Pawn Hearts, wich set an incredible precedent. Is it as good as the other one? Not really, but it remains a true must for any prog fan. Some songs are just incredible. The album has flaws, it's true. but let's look at it song by song. Pilgrims starts off the album in a great way, because this song is probably, at least in my case, one of the easier to get into in the whole back catalogue of VdGG. This is a good thing, because it will get you at least one reason to buy the album: listen to ''somewhat'' accessible Van de Graaf, because nothing is really accessible about this band. Then there is Still Life, wich is an ok song with incredible vocals from Peter Hammil. If only for that, this song is great. After is La Rossa, a truly great song wich you should all listen. The lrycis are great, the mood too. My room is the weakest song of the album. It goes nowhere, it is mostly too long. At least, they kept the best for the end. In fact, Childlike Faith In Childhood's End is one of the greatest song the group has ever done. An absolute gem you should love, and if you don't, I definitely do. All in all, not perfect, but awesome. 4.5/5

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Send comments to Philrod (BETA) | Report this review (#94545)
Posted Saturday, October 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The best of 2nd era VDGG.

Competes with Godbluff for best of the 2nd era, you really can't go wrong with either one. I find this album more complete and more polished. No one single track particularly stands out, although La Rossa is my favorite here, and the only real flaw I see is My Room.

Pilgrim is somewhat of a flashy song, with a brilliant sax line. It could easily be a song on Godbluff similar in style to Arrow and Scorched Earth. The next track, Still Life emphasizes a solemn tone, with soft organs backing Hammill's story-telling vocals. This leads to a dynamic instrumental section, and then back to a quieter, backing organ.

La Rossa is one of the few tracks with guitar by Hammill himself (rather than Fripp) that I like. My favorite part about La Rossa however is the different percussion employed to back the creative sax/organ interplay. It really helps to build the vocal sections and add another flavor to an easily recognizable classic VDGG sound. The ending here fits perfectly as well.

My Room is a bland track to these ears. It's more jazzier and laid back, Hammill's voice is deeper here as well, and it sounds more like a cafe song to me than anything else. It's a nice little track, but it doesn't do much for me.

Childlike... is one of the most disparaging tracks VDGG have written, and their have been many, so you know it's pretty bleak. Lines such as "Even if their is a heaven when we die" wouldn't be the thoughts of an optimist. This track reminds me somewhat of Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, even if the eccentricities are much more pulled back. I see it as such mainly for its structure and the importance of the lyrics to the music.

The second best VDGG album, and the place I would look to for new fans to the band. I say here, rather than Pawn Hearts, because I feel that album is perhaps most difficult to get into and most standoffish to casual listeners. Of course, this all depends on your interpretation of Hammill's intriguing vocal delivery.

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Send comments to OpethGuitarist (BETA) | Report this review (#101624)
Posted Tuesday, December 05, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After Godbluff, could VDGG strike hard again ? Well, let's hear.

As "Godbluff", I purchased it at the time of release. During these ancient times,VDGG was one of my beloved band (I still come back regularly to them, especially with this one).

IMO, it is their second masterpiece in a row. And probably their best record ever.

The title track, as opener, is a brilliant song : good keys, discreet sax and omni- presence of the smooth vocals from Peter : "What have we bargained and what have we lost ? Unlike "Undercover Man", this one is not a crescendo song. It switches straight form light to hard. From the most subtle VDGG moments to the strongest one : great keys and sax. How fabulous is Jackson again.

I can only be disappointed that I will soon see VDGG again after an enormous break in my life (just over thirty years) but without Jackson...(he will not be touring with the band in 2007). Banton is also great during the instrumental break. The "finale" is full of emotion, with Peter almost alone in command (but he is used to this). This is one of my Van Der Graaf all time fave (together with "Refugees" as you might know).

Next is : "Pilgrims" : a fresh, very emotional song full of hope; a bit like "Refugees". I quote : "I've been waiting for such a long time just to see it at last, all of the hands tightly clasped, all of us pilgrims". This quiet song for most of its duration ends in a torrid sax solo with great backings from the band. Superb. I have to admit that VDGG second generation pleases me a lot. Better than "Mark I". Their repertoire turned from quite obscure, frightening, extremely difficult to perceive into an almost light and accessible music (for VDGG standards of course).

"Pilgrims" is a marvelous song. IMO it is probably to best one of their whole career (only equalled by "Refugees"). It is amazing to notice how close they are in their atmosphere but at the same time quite far from each other in terms of release. Thank you guys to delivered such a great piece of music again.

"La Rossa" is a more classic VDGG, harder and darker with a very powerful band supporting Peter. It is the first song in which he seems tortured as he used to be. More keys than usual and Jackson more in a background mode (but this is valid for the whole of "Still Life"). It works pretty well, though. The finale is extremely powerful : the band being really strong. A great track but the less accessible of the album.

"My Room" is the darkest one on "Still Life". Quite desperate lyrics : "My lungs burst to cry: - Finally, how could you leave me here to die ? I freeze in the chill of this place with no friendly face to smile goodbye - How could you let it happen?" Brrrr.

I guess you should not listen to this song if you are in a depressing mode to avoid commiting suicide. Very slow tempo all the way long (the atmosphere of this song is pretty close to the one of the album "Berlin" from Lou Reed).

I would say, typical Hammill lyrics ("Necromancer" style). Scary, bizarre but oh ! so passionate ! Slow, very slow tempo all the way through. If you want to get the shivers on a tropical holiday, put this song on your MP3 player to cool down. Guaranteed. The whole song is harmonious. It has the (very) dark side of their first generation but with no "weird" intrumental passages. So, even if "My Room" is rather morbid, it is another great song.

The closing number "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" combines the best of both VDGG worlds : wonderful melancholic tone (typical of this album), Peter is again very passionate in his rendition, Jackson is absolutely "grand" in the backing sax. But really the whole band (including Evans and Banton of course) is really on par. This wonderful song closes the original vinyll album in such a wonderful way. Fabulous. Another highlight.

So, it seems that it's the fifth highlight so far. And it's the last track. Out of five !

The remastered CD version proposes a live bonus track "Gog" which is rather poorly recorded (specially the vocal parts : Hammill is more eructing/shouting his text than singing it). Not an essential track at all (unless you are a collectionist of their work, like I am) to get this remastered version. Since it is their most accessible album, I would strongly recommend it as an entry one if you are new to VDGG. So, yes. VDGG stroke hard. Definitely! Five stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#108081)
Posted Friday, January 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
infandous@exc
5 stars What can I say? The second masterpiece.

This second era of VDGG took longer for me to get into than the first. Probably because it is far more subtle (by VDGG standards anyway) than the first era. And compared to Pawn Hearts and H to HE these albums seemed almost tame to me. But what the first era had in flamboyance and experimentation, the second makes up for with depth and style. While certainly not a band that will ever be accused of subtlety, these second phase albums are more subtle than the first era albums certainly.

Pilgrims and La Rossa are my favorites, displaying Hammill's way of giving everything he possibly can to the vocal delivery and then some (a fact that probably turns many people off this band). He can never be accused of not being emotional enough that is for certain. He feels every note and syllable with every fiber of his being. And these two songs demonstrate that more than any other VDGG song I can think of. Still Life is a great song as well, just more somber than those two. My Room is the only weak track, and it is still pretty good. Just not up to the standards of the rest, but not bad by any means and not enough to downgrade the rating. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End is the album's somewhat epic track, though it is really just a long song unlike Lighthouse Keepers which is a multi part epic. This is similar in style to the music of Pawn Hearts, though certainly not as experimental and complex. A great dramatic ending finishes the album in style.

This is essential for VDGG, and might even be a decent place to start for the curious. My only qualm on that score is that while the music might be less over the top and experimental than the first era of the band, the vocals are even more an acquired taste in the second ear (at least to my ears). But if you already like their stuff, you must have this album.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#112729)
Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
clkarob@nbnet
2 stars In going through more than a few VDGG albums, I'm curious if the ratings tend to be submitted mainly by their fans. I've listened to their classics, re-listened & again, nothing. Not bad, but the backing band seems to lack imagination that matches Peter's lyrics. And that is probably what kept them out of the majors, sales & mainstream success wise as opposed to Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd et al. The melodies & sonic tablet seem not to vary from one album to another. Every now & then they break out, but those moments/songs tend to be scattered through the collection. The example on this album is La Rossa. But for a legendary band, this should be a middling cut, yet for me is the one standout here.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#115148)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Every now and then things change, people change, lives revolve around a myriad different meanings. Walking home through the rain alone, fragments of thoughts darting in and out of your conscious mind, shards of music, heard, familiar and uknown "I climb though the evening" hits home what's that, a hymn, yes a modern hymn uplifting (not religious) but bloody uplifting nonetheless. "Pilgrims" starts of this album in striking mood, familiar but brand new like (most) of the best music it sits comfortably with you straight away with a soaring sax line and tremendous rhythm.

The titular track itself brings a sombre mood to proceedings but boy how good it feels to be this dirty and grimy, Hammill seems to bring a scornful, menacing mood to marriage ("my wife", sung so sourly), but surely beauty will seep through, sure there are snatches, but this is as low and dirty as it could get.

"La Rossa" what a change from the previous piece, sexy, as sexy as VDGG get, ever, you can imagine the sweat pouring from each pore as the music grinds down, whether a sexy, rhythmic song by design who knows, but it sure feels that way.

"My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)" again changes the mood, now this is a beautiful song heartbreaking in parts the way Hammill sings some lines ("I wait by the door wondering when you come and keep me warm") sends a shiver down the spine even 20 years after first exposure.

A classic album then sure "Childlike Faith..." is an epic sometimes overwrought, painful even in some aspects what else can you expect from this group they won't let you go gently, oh no, so a five star classic (only bettered by Pawn Hearts) in VDGG's canon. Give it a go, what have you to lose?

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Send comments to Gog/Magog (BETA) | Report this review (#122188)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Ok, let me start off by saying that it is very, very rare for me to listen to a Van der Graaf album for the first time and be blown away, they usually take three listenings at least for me to say "hey... this album is pretty damn good"... with this one the very first time I was listening to it I knew I would write a 5 star review about it.

And yes, ladys and gentlemen, it is really one hell of an album, all you could ever ask from VDGG is here and better than ever, music does not get much better than this... specially not the vocals!!! And I mean it, ladys and gentlemen, the vocals here are not only superb as always (it´s Hammill... what else could you expect?) but I think maese Hammill never sung with more emotion before (I do not dare to say "after", there is a lot of his material, specially solo I haven´t had the chance to hear yet). I mean, liste to the part where he sings "I climb through the evening, alive and believing in time we shall all know our goals and so, finally, home" from the opening act Pilgrims without feeling something. I mean. it´s simple imposible, this one line, this one and only line is so... so damn charged with emotions... I can only take my hat off to Hammills genius. Of course the rest of the album is just as good, specially La Rossa, which might be the strongest song of this album, and one of the top... three of their whole career or so... that´s for sure!

What more to add?... mmm, nothing really; damn, I had not written such a short review in a very long time... but there isn´t really anything more I can say... I can maybe with some synonymous to Still Life. marvellous, excellent, masterpiece, incredible, the [&*!#], extraordinary, just to freakin´good. and I could go on and on.

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Send comments to el böthy (BETA) | Report this review (#129220)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Definitely top 5 material.

I'm not sure if i like Still Life or Godbluff better. I can't really tell anybody that Still Life is the better album or not, but i do know that it has meant more for me, personally. That

Musically, i would say that Still life is more Keyboard-heavy than Godbluff, but that there is less of David Jackson's fantastic sax- and flute-playing. Once again, the lyrics deal very much with the concept of loneliness, but they are much more existential than on earlier albums. In "Pilgrims" Hammill sings of how loneliness is a path that "all of us pilgrims" must walk, and that while we might be alone, we're not worthless, for he "knows in a purpose". It's definitely the most uplifting song i have ever heard on the subject, and the way Peter delivers the words are more powerful than ever.

The title track starts out very soft with Peter singing and Hugh playing organ, but intensity grows and halfway through it breaks loose and Jaxon gets his chance to really shine. Lyrics deal with the idea of eternal life and how... well, boring it would be to live forever. Good lyrics for being a rock song, but i'm not sure it would do on it's own.

La Rossa starts at once with keyboards which are all over the place, and then Hammill begins to sing. It does not take long before the song gets going for real, and then it pretty much rocks out for all of the 10 minutes of it's duration. A very emotional song, in which Peter compares himself to an organ monkey because of how he just keeps up the dance, chained, without having the guts to try change his life by declaring his love to a female friend for fear of losing her friendship. Eventually, though, he realises that he would give up "all the friendship and the trips" for "the warmth of your body, the more vidid touch of your lips". I think that practically everybody can identify with this song, and it's very powerful, and sort of uplifting in the same way that "Pilgrims" is.

My Room (waiting for sonderland) is another great tune, definitely one of my top 5 still life tunes. Perfectly located, sandwiced between thw two most intense and powerful tracks on the album, it provides a chance to breathe out and enjoy the softer side of Peter Hammill's voice. "My room" does not progress like other Vdgg-songs, but it's never dull nontheless, David Jackson's saxophone is great here, giving emphasis at just the right places and giving the song just the tension it needs. Lyrics are about loneliness and longing for another life, hoping for someone to come and take you away, while at the same time knowing that it might never happen.

Childlike faith in childhood's end will probably be many people's favourite track off "Still Life". Once more, the lyrics are very existential, dealing with the matter of believing in a higher purpose in life, and how to go on living with the belief that this is not all that there is, waiting for a sign but never seeing one, as well as the realisation that, if there is indeed a grand plan, we are only the pawns and must go on as best we can while everybody else does the same, and then one day, there will be "a time for the pilgrims and a time for the fakers too, a time when we shall all stand alone and nude, naked to the galaxies". Musically, it is very thick, even more so than La rossa, and as an album closer it does it's job perfectly, with one of the most powerful endings ever. The very last lines has peter singing with the sme force with which he uttered the words "how strange my body feels impaled upon the arrow" in "Arrow" off the previous album. When the album is finished, i'm almost physically exhausted from just listening to him. It also has a certain similarity to "Sleepwalkers" on the same album in that it contains an instrumental break that might seem out of place the first few times you listen to it, but just like on "Sleepwalkers", it only serves to give the band even more power when the original groove comes back in. Brilliant.

If i were to compare Still Life and Godbluff, i would say that Godbluff is the better musically, but that Still Life is the winner by far lyrically. Since this is a prog site and us who really listen to lyrics are in minority, i can see why Godbluff is more popular, but since my hero before prog wre Bob Dylan, Still Life is the favourite. Still, if you like Vdgg, you can't really go wrong here. Just don't expect the weirdness of "Pawn Hearts".

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Send comments to Evans (BETA) | Report this review (#129610)
Posted Saturday, July 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The follow up to the amazing comback album Godbluff and what an follow up to that masterpiece, this yust as good and mayby even beter. It starts of with the awsome Pilgrims it feautures realy amazing organ work from Banton yust like the whole album, as some peopel have pointed out the Godbluff album was a showcase for Jackson and his amazing sax and this album is a real gem for organ fans caus Banton got many shining moments, the song allso has an chorus that has been described as sounding like sunlight bursting through dark clouds, have to agree with that and it was for a long time my favorit tune on the album, the next song is probobly the darkest on the album and its the title song starts of realy downbeat then comes in a rocking organ riff and hammill sound realy angry on this one. La rossa is the hardest rocking song on the album and probobly the hardest rocking song VdGG ever recorded it starts off rocking and then yust builds up to a real monster track the ending alsmot blows off my head every time and there is not even any guitrars but the sax and organ is so heavy its unbeliveble a highlight amongs highlights on the album, after that brain melting thunderstorm we get a calm ballad typ of song My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) with sweet sax palying form Jackson and beautiful sining from Hammill, manys favorite song on the album i have read and its sure is nice but hard to pick a best song on this album realy, the closing song is a epic ending to the album, Childlike Faith in Childhood's End starts of very calm yust like the last song but goes trough many diffrent tempo changes and twists the most proggy song on the album, and a grand final. My 2005 remastered album got 1 bonus track Gog magog and its 100% darker and scarier then the originla version from the PH solo album "In Camera" i found myself even skiping it sometimes becuas hammill screams like a mad man but if your in the mood and if you like growling type of sining you will sure like this sometimes i like to hear it sometimes it yust gets to much for me. Anyway 5 stars for this masterpice of prog if your a Hammill/VdGG fan this is a must if your not mayby this isent the best place to start (I recomend The least we can do is weave to eachoters as the VdGG album for newbies to start with) but if you give it some time you will soner or later see its greatness.

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Send comments to Zargus (BETA) | Report this review (#146128)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This the second Record of the second trilogy finds VDGG on top of their game. This is a more varied set than Godbluff , the material is also much more complex. Pilgrims (7:07) is a rousing anthem that starts this record off in a rocking and upbeat mood. Maybe this is not the greatest song here but it is a cracking way to start the show.Still Life (7:20) is a different beast in every respect, a sci-fi themes about an unageing but sterile future. This features a very strong melody and highlights Peters unique voice. When the band thumps it it become a heavy rocker. Still life is prehaps not to everyone's taste but it is hard to think of a better example of the darker more introspective aspects of VDGG's work. La Rossa is a more typical VDGG dark rocker, with an interesting lyric. This is quite an upbeat song dealing with passion and control, a great track. My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) (8:09) Kicks off side two. Slower and achingly beautiful this is by far my favorite cut on this record. Jaxon's sax playing is absolutely perfect on this track.Childlike Faith in Childhood's End (12:20) ends the record with a hopeful and very upbeat message about life the universe and everything. This is the most complex tune that VDGG did during their 2nd incarnation and it is a joy to listen to, it may require a couple of run troughs before this music is familiar enough to enjoy. All in all Still life is an excellent record not quite so in the moment or a fresh sounding as Godbluff but the more complex material is worth exploring. The cover art is also very good. It is hard to fault this record which has aged very well, still sounding progressive but retaining its rock roots. As an example of prog rock this must be in any serious collection and earns all five stars without difficulty. As it is this record was the peak moment in the second reincarnation, although the material on World record was pretty good it did not work as well as this or Godbluff. The bonus cut is the excellent Gog, a real brain smasher from the in camera set. However the sound quality is not terrible good. In my opinion this track would have fitted better on the box set rather than hear where the poor sound quality rather damages this near perfect set. Still its nice to own and its a great shame no other better recorded examples of Gog are available.

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Send comments to burgersoft777 (BETA) | Report this review (#146355)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 4.5 stars. As others have mentioned Hugh Banton's organ work takes a more prominant role on this recording while David Jackson's sax work is reduced to more of a supportive role except for on "La Rossa". Peter Hammill's vocals really shine on this album, and his lyrics are second to none as usual.

"Pilgrim" is my favourite song on this record. The lyrics are encouraging and hopeful with the music to match. Some mellotron on this one as we get a dark section that only makes the passage before 5 minutes even more uplifting. "Still Life" has interesting lyrics about what it would be like to be immortal. Soft vocals and organ to open and the song doesn't really kick in until 3 minutes with aggressive vocals, drums and organ leading the way. Piano and reserved vocals 6 minutes in. "La Rossa" is a song that wasn't used on the "Godbluff" record. It builds to theatrical vocals, percussion and sax. Lots of vocals and sax until the song sort of takes off after 7 1/2 minutes with faster paced vocals and some great sax melodies.

"My Room(Waiting For Wonderland)" is about dealing with lost love. It's sad with sax and light drums to open. Reserved vocals arrive,but it's the higher pitched vocals 2 minutes in that are such a highlight. "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End" deals with thoughts about life. Is life and death all there is ? This is the longest track at over 12 minutes. Peter's vocals go from aggressive to passionate. I really like the drum, organ and sax melody early. Check out the powerful organ 12 minutes in. Emotional.

This is one of my favourite VDGG records. A must have for all prog heads.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#146819)
Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another Van Der Graaf masterpiece, this album is less dark then previous great vdgg album Godbluff. And it is somewhat similar to Godbluff. Every track on Still Life is strong and as usual Peter and the boys are on top of their game. This was the third masterpiece in a row for VDGG. Some standout tracks on the album would be La Rossa, this one of my all time faves of vdg a very powerful song, and another great track is the opener Pilgrims this one kind of builds up like Undercover Man, but is less dark. And the closing track childlike faith shows Peter Hammills powerful vocals. They always know how to close a great album. Still life gets 5 stars from me and i just started listening to Vdgg recently and they are already one of my favorite bands of all time. This is a band that always delivers great music.

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Send comments to JROCHA (BETA) | Report this review (#151040)
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Picking the favorite album from VDGG is undoubtedly a tough task for many, specially considering how masterpieces such as The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other, Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, etc..., but for me Still Life is the one.

Basically the album has not a single weak song and when you start playing it, turns out to be hard to stop listening before it ends and skipping a song is really something that does not cross one's mind.

Remarkable characteristics of Still Life is Hammil's vocals - which shows up specially agressive on this album notably on La Rossa, Pillgrims chorus and Childlike Faith in Childhood's End, and the incredible Hugh Banton's work throughout the album.

The thoughtfull lyrics that VDGG shows through their carreer, shows up clearly on Still Life as well. I just love the lyrics on Pilgrims, Childlike Faith on Childhood's End and My Room. By the way, the amazing sax combined with the depressive yet just wonderful lyrics, makes My Room a unique experience.

Van Der Graaf Generator is a must have to any progressive rock fan, and listening to Still Life is clearly explains why. Strong, powerful yet emocional and reflective... Incredible album.

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Send comments to pilgrim (BETA) | Report this review (#157856)
Posted Saturday, January 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think I may like this one better than Godbluff, but not as much as Pawn Hearts. Peter Hammill sounds really pissed off here, as does the rest of the band. Each song is strong, and it's a better idea to play this album for your friends rather than any of its predecessors (unless they are prog-inclined). I've actually had some friends ask me if it was David Bowie. No, it's better than Bowie, I reply. Highly Recommended!

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Send comments to kabright (BETA) | Report this review (#163264)
Posted Wednesday, March 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
sean
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is VdGG's second album after their first break up and it arrived quite soon afterwards. Although Two of the songs are leftovers from the Godbluff sessions, I have to say I prefer Still Life to its predecessor. This album, my favourite from VdGG's second era, contains some of their deepest and most moving material. Musically and lyrically it tends to be very dark but beautiful, with an element of hope in the darkness, as if he is showing us that though life can be dark and hopeless, that if we persevere we will find light and hope. Lyrically, Peter Hammill deals with familiar subects like death, immortality, and loneliness. The standout in the department is Childlike Faith in Childhood's End, a musing on the necessity to give life meaning, and how even in the darkest times we must work to make things better for the future. The title track also excels here with its lyrics about the necessity of death and how immortality would take away our wills to survive and better ourselves. Musically, the album bears a jazz influence, mainly due to David Jackson's sax work, while still working within the structure of rock music. Honestly, this band sounds like no other so it's hard to make comparisons and state influences. Simply put, this is unique, special music. It is dark, savage, experimental, and beautiful all at once and I highly recommend this album for any fan of music. My favourite VdGG is Pawn Hearts but I'd say this could be the best album for a starter on the band, as that one is a bit further out there and this one is a bit more digestible, but still great music.

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Send comments to sean (BETA) | Report this review (#163483)
Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Another grand album from these boys. However, compared to Godbluff, it's not quite as impressive. La Rossa and the massive Childlike Faith in Childhood's End are my favorites off this one, and I almost wasn't surprised at all when I read that they were written during the Godbluff sessions. Pilgrims and Still Life are both pretty good songs, but a bit less exciting than I was hoping for. Certainly not bad, but just not the kind of explosively surprising that I had been hoping for on account of other Van der Graaf songs. My Room has some grand saxophone work, as well.

In all, a very good album, and certainly not one worth ignoring, but not necessarily as impressive as some of the others these boys cranked out. Of course, any fan of VdGG needs to buy this one, too, as it is more of them in peak form. Not great enough to merit five, but still very enjoyable.

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Send comments to LiquidEternity (BETA) | Report this review (#168640)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hammil's voice alone will floor you

For my 200th review I thought I'd visit an old friend. That, and around the time of my 100th someone said I'd committed a sin not having reviewed Still Life yet. So here we go.

This record is, simply put, one of the best and most emotional collection of songs ever put to tape. From the opening organs to the ring of the last chord, this is an album that induces nothing but a spine numbing chill that will leave you breathless. If you're familiar with other Van Der Graff Generator [VdGG] albums, then this one won't be entirely hard to ''get'' but it will come as a shock as though you've just been defibrillated back to life. What's most noticeable about this album is a few things - yes, Hammil has always been a very emotional vocalist, and yes VdGG have always been a group of superb musicians, but something about this album just clicks.

It's been said that during the recording of Godbluff there was so much material that they simply had to make another album, Pilgrims and La Rossa were performed on stage during the Godbluff shows and it really makes sense considering how amazing each of these tracks turned out. This album is definitely not the simple off cuts of a masterpiece - it is a masterpiece in of itself as a separate entity who has much in kin with it's older brother but has coming into it's own enough to know what's up in the world.

Starting with the ever beautiful and classic Pilgrims we're treated to the same kind of VdGG we know and love. But then... something happens. As though Bruce Banner had just been belted by gamma rays this one explodes with Hammil's voice coming into the apex of the track. Not to say that the track reaches it's pinnacle early and then burns out, but who can ever forget that amazing delivery from Hammil as he screams, ''I climb through the evening, alive and believing''. From there on in the album's course is set. And ho boy, is this a good course for the band to take. The lo-key Still Life follows the opening track quite well, almost forming a cohesive suite with how well the songs segue into one another. A similar melody to Pilgrims makes for more spine chilling moments but somehow the track stays as it's own voyage.

The second of the two songs from the Godbluff sessions finally rolls around. La Rossa is an amazing track which, while not as tear jerking as the opening track is still burning powerhouse with Hammil's sharp delivery. A frantic and frenetic track, this is one that's not to be taken lightly. Typical VdGG madness molded into a very fine tune.

Coming into side 2 we have some of the finest tracks ever laid down by VdGG. Starting off is the mellow and melancholic My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) which sees Hammil tone down the grumble on his voice for a precious moment to allow this pretty track to unfold. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End however, is a bomb waiting to explode. Opening with a very calm and wispy intro the track eases along for a moment following suite of the previous track until it starts to pick up with the intro of a drum. By the time a couple minutes have passed however, this one has turned into a fast and evil track which makes use of everything done on the album and even epitomizes it in a way. Excellent solos and voicing make this one of the standouts of VdGG's career, with the ending segment showcasing Hammil's voice with excellent melodies that will get stuck in your head for ages.

There is nothing more to say about this album other than it is an essential masterpiece that demands listen after listen. VdGG fans will be blown away (if they don't already have it) and potential VdGG fans will become diehards. This is a stellar effort that has been, and should be seen as a landmark release. 5 stars, no hesitations - Recommended for all.

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#172341)
Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An oddity, 'Still Life' is an excellent VDGG album, but somewhat out of place in 1976. The band's choice of instruments was by now somewhat regressive and, like 'Godbluff', this was still VDGG without their youthful fire. They seem more dedicated to following rock music's unwritten rules than in breaking them, and by this time other bands, notably GENTLE GIANT and HENRY COW had ploughed new fields, leaving VDGG out to pasture.

Nevertheless, this is as good as they got post 'Pawn Hearts', and there are some truly memorable moments here. Notably, the title track, 'La Rossa' and the sterling final track 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End' all remind one of the energy the band possess, married here with a much greater reliance on melody that had been the case earlier in their career. HAMMILL's voice is unleashed, and it has never been better than on these five tracks. He uses it judiciously, no longer solely for shock value, and at times sounds plaintive, gentle and melodious, not words normally associated with the great man. JACKSON's sax appears on occasion, but the album is dominated musically by HUGH BANTON's organ and bass pedals. His work drives the title track, for example, a short but powerful musical statement sandwiched in between reflective opening and closing sections. 'My Room' is a beautiful interlude, a fragile theme developed into a moody, powerful lyrical statement of loss, HAMMILL's favourite theme. The closer doesn't quite measure up to their glory days, but it is close.

Lyrically this album is as dark as any of their work, though more personal and self-revelatory and less reliant on metaphor. This self-revelation more than the music make the album compelling. However, at no stage is this album worthy of the tag 'heavy prog', nor is it difficult to penetrate in the way 'Pawn Hearts' undoubtedly is. It is neither unsettling nor caustic. 'Still Life' reveals a band at the peak of their powers and confidence, but some distance away from the genre-shaping music they had authored five years previously.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#174765)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Still Life is second album after band's first reunion and it'a plain to me Van Der Graaf Generator were in the best condition at the time. Some people that praised Godbluff were a bit disappointed with this release but the most accepted it from the first time and agreed it's a continuation of the previous masterpiece. Album starts with mighty song called Pilgrims. Peter Hammill plays his role. That's a good term. He plays his role. He's more than just a singer. He creates a true theater and poetry. Some may say this song is filled with so much pathos and hysteria but don't forget other musicians. I think everyone is same important here, every single musician. Title song is one of my favorite Van Der Graaf Generator's tracks. It starts with gloomy vocals and pretty quiet melody but when Peter starts to sing:take away the threat of death... it changes into kind of wild rock and roll with hysterical vocals. It's amazing. There's more energy in that than in popular at the time punk rock music. Lyrics are awesome as well. It describes endless boring ecstasy of eternal life that Peter sees as a living hell. Excellent idea, excellent song. La Rossa is also a great track and it reminds me a bit Arrow from previous release. It's maybe a bit more complicated but Peter yells the same way as in that classic song from Godbluff. There's also kind of mix of English folk and hard rock which to me sounds like something between Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant. But hey, guys didn't have to copy. VDGG were same experienced as all those prog bands of that era. While Jethro Tull had an original flute player, Emerson Lake and Palmer a keyboard virtuoso Van Der Graaf Generator had Eddie Jackson and his amazing work adds very positive vibe to that sometimes gloomy keyboard sound and sadness filling every composition. Peter Hammill to me is the best vocalist in progressive rock and he proves that everytime he opens his mouth. My Room is very quiet simple piece, kind of ballad I'd say but it's more than just a few lines of love song. Especially that it's not about love. This piece it's not maybe as good as the rest of material but it doesn't matter. I never skip that song. It's a good quiet passage between wilderness of La Rossa and true epic finish called Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. It's the longest track on this album and it's also one of my favorite VDGG songs. It's built of few segments and it's a bit similar to Sleepwalkers on this level but the music itself differs. I don't know if any artist ever put so much emotions in one song. Peter Hammill did. He just put the history of all mankind in this epos. Human we can all be, but humanity we must rise above Isn't it amazing? I won't describe that song cos it's impossible to describe all the beauty it creates but I must add that a bit of rock and roll is present also in that song. You've got to hear this one...and the whole album cos it's one of the best record ever made.

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Send comments to LSDisease (BETA) | Report this review (#176628)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Still Life is the sixth studio album from Van der Graaf Generator. I´m new to the band and have listened to their albums from an end. I had a hard time appreciating and accepting the unique approach Van der Graaf Generator has to progressive rock and therefore my reviews of the first four albums weren´t as appreciative as they would be now ( I´ll redo them some time in the future). It was not until I came upon their fifth album Godbluff that I was truly intrigued or better put blown away by their innovative and experimental style and therefore I was really looking forward to listening to Still Life which is the successor to Godbluff.

Van der Graaf Generator disbanded after the tour for their fourth album Pawn Hearts and Godbluff was a kind of re-union album. The sessions for that album was a very fruitful and inspired time for the band and they wrote a lot of songs. Not all songs made their way unto that album and two of them, namely Pilgrims and La Rossa, are present here on Still Life. Van der Graaf Generator had performed both live for a while and really wanted them to be on Still Life. The three other songs on the album Still Life, My Room ( Waiting for Wonderland) and Childlike Faith in Childhood´s End was written for Still Life.

The music on Still Life is centered around Peter Hammill´s distinct vocal style and melody lines. Peter Hammill is a theatrical and emotional performer and his approach has taken me a while to appreciate, but today I regard him as one of the most original and unique progressive rock singers. His performance on Still Life is a bit more subdued than his generally aggressive style on Godbluff and due to that Still Life is a much more subtle album than Godbluff. Hugh Banton´s omnipresent organ playing is also a big part of Van der Graaf Generator´s sound while David Jackson´s sax and flute playing compliments the vocal melodies. Guy Evans is a great drummer. I really enjoy his style of playing. There are little regular bass on the album. Hugh Banton mostly uses bass pedals. The bass lines are usually pretty simple.

All five songs on Still Life are excellent progressive rock songs. Pilgrims, La Rossa and Childlike Faith in Childhood´s End are my favorites while the two more subtle songs Still Life and My Room ( Waiting for Wonderland) are still growing on me. The mood is very melancholic and the music is generally pretty dark.

The musicianship is excellent. Original and unique performances all over the line.

The production is excellent. Really enjoyable.

Still Life is one of the most unique progressive rock albums I have ever heard. Extremely emotional and cleverly composed. I´m still undecided if this is a true masterpiece and just the slightest hesitation in giving the 5 star rating means that I´ll give Still Life 4 stars. This is the kind of album that I might upgrade some time in the future though. This album just keeps growing on me the more I listen to it. Right now I think that Godbluff is a notch better than Still Life but if you enjoyed that album be sure to check this one out as well as they are like freak siblings. If you like your progressive rock dark and a bit out of the ordinary Van der Graaf Generator should certainly tickle your treat.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#184445)
Posted Thursday, October 02, 2008 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well, in fact my review (and rating) could almost be a copy+paste from the one James Lee did, at least for 90% of it. Because I also keep trying with this band whilst I know this isn't my cup of tea and never will be. But same as with TAAB from Tull where I stated that as a prog reviewer you should check out the most famous prog albums, I couldn't ignore this one either. And this is one of those famous ones, that's for sure and I also bought it because it was for sale here and another personal rule is that I review every progressive album I own.

So maybe that's bad luck for VDGG because I also bought Pawn Hearts and Godbluff for the same reasons (the "Wave" one was already in my collection) but same as James I also will review fairly and as objectively as possible. This is my first of the quartet VDGG, let's see how it will end up.

Yesterday I played PH and I wasn't impressed really and compared to that one I have to say this album is more to my liking and that's simply because it's slightly more accessible. This is not yet very obvious with the opener and the title track which are more like what I heard on the Pawn Hearts album. But third track (La Rossa) is actually an example of what I mean. I like their jazzy approach here as well.

The other two tracks are somewhere in between the two options I mention above. Acceptable for what I can stand but not as nice as La Rossa. The bonus track Gog (live) is well, what shall I say, ..... interesting. Bit strange I hear no audience afterwards, probably they cut it out.

Anyway, this wasn't really as bad as I feared. And I will never be an eclectic fan which is not a big surprise if you're a neo and prog metal fan to the bone like me. Of course it's also possible you like everything (like Gatot for instance) but alas, I'm not as broadminded as he. VDGG will have to settle for 3 in this case and it's rounded up from some 2,7.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#196695)
Posted Thursday, January 01, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars VdGGs best album!

Why? The answer is consistensy. While a few other albums of VdGG have high points even higher than the ones on this album, no other album is as consistently good throughout as Still Life. Not a single weak song.

The album starts of with "Pilgrims". This track starts up quietly, and slowly builds during the entire song, into a magnificent crescendo. A powerful song. "Still Life" comes next. A haunting song. Starts off with almost nothing but Peter Hammills vocals. And what a vocal performance it is! Great mood! It then gets a little rockier, and finally slows down at the end. Another great track. "La Rossa" is a quite long and varied rocker. Good song also. "My Room" is a VdGG song of the gentler kind. One of their best actually. David Jacksons sax is simply breathtaking on this one. The only complaint with this song (and the album altogether) is that the ending of the song is too longwinded. It's just the same melody repeating itself and fading for a couple of minutes. Could have been two minutes shorter. This minor flaw is not enough to dent the album though. If you grow bored you can always hit the 'skip' button, and this is no bad thing, as it takes you more quickly to "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End", the epic of the album. This song is just great. Very dramatic (if you don't like drama, steer clear, but then again, maybe you wouldn't listen to VdGG in the first place). The song is very dynamic, and the ending is glorious.

This is the VdGG album I always return too. I'm priviliged to have heard this album. If you like VdGG, this is a must!

Masterpiece: 5 stars!

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Send comments to Malex (BETA) | Report this review (#214921)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's a good thing I held off on rating this album, because after the first couple of listens I would have undoubtedly given it only a single star. As it stands, this remains perhaps the most difficult album in my collection to review, simply by merit of it's striking uniqueness within the prog spectrum.

Perhaps the most important thing that the listener needs to understand going into this album is that it is a vocally-dominated affair. Please note that there is no value judgment attached to this statement - whether it is a positive or negative aspect of the album will surely vary from listener to listener and from mood to mood. I can say that if it is an instrumental venture that you crave, this album will sorely disappoint. This was my first VDGG album after Pawn Hearts, and after being ensorcelled by the complex layers of chaos laid down on that cut, I was craving more of the same here. It ought to be no surprise, then, that the much more straightforward and understated music of Still Life left me a bit cold on the first few listens. Make no mistake, there are certainly moments of brilliance to be found in the music here, however these are few and far between and even when they do occur are usually playing second fiddle to Hammill (with the notable exception of the saxophone solo on My Room (Waiting for Wonderland).

However, if you are craving an album with stunning vocals, or even if you're willing to be open-minded, then there's a lot to like about this record. Peter Hammill delivers masterpiece after masterpiece - his typical electrifying vocals powerfully dominating the recordings as he passionate sings, screams, croons and whispers his way through vocal melodies that can vary from catchy and anthemic (Pilgrims) to full of despair and mourning (Still Life) to soft and reflective (My Room). The lyrics are, as always, top notch and are guaranteed to provoke thoughts and questions from the listener as Hammill deals with various topics: from the broad, sweeping examination of existence on Childlike Faith, to the exploration of the value of death on Still Life, to the deeply personal material found on My Room. The only clunker of the bunch would be La Rossa - while a captivating song vocally, the topic of what seems to be a stereotypical "nice guy" trying to have sex with a girl who sees him as "just a friend" seems rather out of place amongst the heavy, highly existential lyrics that define much of the rest of the album.

All in all, this album falls in at around 3.5 stars - somewhere between good and excellent. Peter Hammill is at the top of his game and delivers a stunning and powerful performance, but the fact that the rest of the band ends up getting strapped in the back seat limits the album's mileage considerably.

Highlights:

Peter Hammill's emotional vocals on Still Life; David Jackson's haunting sax work on My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)

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Send comments to KingCrimson250 (BETA) | Report this review (#231952)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Still Life seamlessly continues the revival started with Godbluff.

Pilgrims and La Rossa were already recorded during the Godbluff sessions and are another proof of the huge creativity and energy that must have peaked during those sessions. The three remaining songs are a bit less rough around the edges and get to their point in more subtle ways. The combination results in a strong and varied album that boasts some of my favourite VDGG tracks (La Rossa and My Room).

Because of the slightly smoother approach the album might be a good VDGG introduction candidate for music lovers that are maybe not that much into prog. Reason is that Still Life has a broader range of appeal then what you expect to find from your classic prog dish: with their dark intensity they might win over some of the more adventurous dark wave fans (Bauhaus anyone?), with their complex song structures, absence of guitar and dominant sax/organ instrumentation they might attract an occasional jazz enthusiast and with their harsh and evil (!) atmosphere they could easily lure some metalheads into their realm.

Hey, with an album title like Still Life they should have won over all Opeth fans already!

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#236925)
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It took me a while to get into Still Life, a long while actually. Still life is the first release after the magnificent Godbluff, and though there are some similarities between the two, Still Life is very different from Godbluff. Godbluff was full of raw power, while the strength of Still Life is not the band's fierce and angst laden sound, but the sensitive and melancholic sound.

The first time I listened to Still Life, I didn't like it at all. It was the marvelous VDGG, but it was not even close to some of their other albums. For example, "Pilgrims" sounded a bit too euphoric, and songs like "La Rossa" seemed like songs not worthy enough to be on Godbluff. After a long while, my opinion has totally changed. I think Still Life is an exceptional piece of music, as it is one of the most emotional and haunting albums I've ever heard.

Still Life does not have any bad song on it, though some are really better than others. The albums opener is the mysterious "Pilgrims". The song starts kind of euphoric, but in a mysterious way. The song soon takes some turns and really becomes a diverse and brilliant piece. So is the soothing "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)". Both these song give me some feeling of relievement, very good. The title track is a very lyric driven song, as half of it is Peter singing over some very low volume instruments. The song might take a while to understand, but it's a great piece.

The two big highlights of the album are the epic "Childlike Faith In Childhoods End", a twelve minute VDGG classic, full of different riffs, moods and styles and the powerful "La Rossa". My ideas about about "La Rossa" sounding like a song not worthy enough to be on Godbluff have completely changed. In fact, "La Rossa" is one of the best pieces VDGG ever made. It's one of those songs that makes me constantly shiver and at some moments make tears appear in my eyes. This really is one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard.

Still Life is one disc full of brilliance, I have rarely heard an album as haunting and sensitive as this one. I ca't give it another rating than five stars, because it fully deserves those. This really is a masterpiece of prog, and though it might be tough to fully understand and appreciate, I would recommend it to anyone liking or wanting to like VDGG.

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Send comments to The Sleepwalker (BETA) | Report this review (#237123)
Posted Friday, September 04, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars After having just listened to the debut of this eclectic prog band I had to release one of the classics upon my senses. There is no comparison.

This album is truly a wonderful foray into the dark netherwold of VDGG. Ear splitting vocals and ambient keyboards are the order of the day and Hammill is a master of the insightful existential lyric. This is him at his existential best. Listen to the caterwauling of La Rossa and Still Life to hear his heartbeat and feel the tension and angst of a life dedicated to music.

My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) is an 8 minute journey into the darker consciousness of the man. This is not an easy album to digest, in fact no VDGG should be, but of the big 5 classics this is the most difficult and takes several listens to appreciate. I still cannot appreciate it as much as PH, TLWCDIWTEO, GB, or indeed HTHWATOO. However those albums are from a different era, maybe a different universe, and this is a diverse detour for the band. It does not rely heavily on heavy guitar or keys and is a lot more melancholy than any VDGG. Hammill is turned way up in the mix and the instrumentals accompany his instrument/voice on each track. It is gentle and quiet but very brooding and moody. Stunning vocals throughout and Jaxon, Banton and Evans are quintessential to the evolution of the group. Perhaps this is the best line up, no arguments there I suspect. But it is surprisingly restrained and may turn some off as there is not a shred of heavy rock unlike previous albums.

The bonus track though rocks out and is a freak out of sound - incredible. Gog! What is this? Where does it come from as no album features this in studio format. It is a wonderful raw vibrant performance from the band.

I cannot quite give this 5 stars, unlike PH, my favourite release of the band, perhaps my top 5 prog of all time is Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, but 'Still Life' must be awarded 4 stars for sheer ingenuity and audacity. A jaded album for sure, slightly twisted in places, too quiet for comfort, uneasy listening, but a very good release from VDGG.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#252566)
Posted Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
5 stars And so just like the pilgrims we have been on a long journey through Van Der Graaf Generator's discography but now we've finally reached our goal!

Still Life is one of the essential albums in my music collection and it's definitely as great as a Van Der Graaf Generator album can ever be! All these tracks have something different to bring to the table and the end result is satisfying to say the least. The track-list does bare a resemblance to H to He, Who Am the Only One and that's not the only thing in common because Still Life basically plays the role of the older and more mature brother to that record.

Of course nothing is without its flaws. One possible problem that I can think of is the fact that most people consider La Rossa to be the albums biggest highlight but after more than 40 listens I still can't agree with that statement. The song is good but I actually prefer all of the other compositions a whole lot more!

Is this album a continuation of Godbluff? Well I certainly don't think so, in fact I find it to be a very different beast indeed compared to the rest of the band's discography. There is a much more personal and emotional touch embedded into these compositions flavored by Peter Hammill's exceptional themes and Hugh Banton's subtle but yet so powerful arrangements.

It took almost a year and more than 40 revisits for Still Life to grow on me but in retrospect it was definitely worth the investment!

***** star songs: Pilgrims (7:07) Still Life (7:20) Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (12:20)

**** star songs: La Rossa (9:47) My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) (8:09)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#266921)
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Van der Graaf Generator - Still Life (1976)

Silence after the Storm

VdGG became one of my favorite bands in recent years. Their confronting sound and their no- consensus approach to progressive music is truly a blessing. Still Life is considered their best record by some because of its professional sound and good recording. It is also considered the last of their prime period.

I myself do not agree with the majority in this matter. Though I can understand people like the professional atmosphere of this record, but I miss the naive and psychedelic approach. Another letdown are some of the lyrics, those who also listen to Peter Hammill's solo career know that his divorce had become his main lyrical theme. I found a vinyl copy of Hammill's 'Over' which was totally ruined by this theme. On Still Life both the title song and La Rossa are about his ex-wife. I would rather have seen some fantasy story or some philosophical approaches like on the great opener Pilgrims.

Talking about the song Pilgrims, this is one of my favorite VdGG songs because of it's great vocals, musical development and lyrical message. The refrain theme is catchy and powerful, it gives me the feeling life is real and serious. Wonderful! The second track, the title track, has a great opening theme, but the couplets are a bit simple and the aggressive vocals are a bit out of place. La Rossa has a stronger composition, with more melodic development. To bad this track hasn't the strong vocals as some of the other tracks on the album and the ending section is bombastic but a bit chaotic.

On side two we begin with the excellent My Room, which could be considered to be one of the most gentle and intimate tracks VdGG ever record. This track shows the true power of the wind-section of VdGG, played by Peter Jackson. Some jazz influence were adapted for the melodic sax lines of Jackson. The changing between major keys and minor keys keep the song interesting throughout and give the vocals a boost. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End is the longest epic of the album with a lot of melodic themes and lyrics. Though most parts are interesting I do sometimes loose my attention. Luckily the "Even if there's a heaven if we die' - part has a great philosophical stream of thoughts and do I finish the album with a good feel.

Conclusion. Not my favorite VdGG, I would prefer Godbluff, Pawn Hearts, H to He and maybe even The Least we can Do over Still Life. It somehow sounds like a silence after the storm (as the Dutch say), other records of VdGG are less quiet. I will still give this record a small four stars and I must say I should listen to it more often, if only Pawn Hearts and Godbluff weren't so perfect... All fans of VdGG should own this and people interested in confronting music and eclectic prog also shouldn't skip on this one. Actually a 3.5 stars for me.

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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#275611)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars To my mind, maybe it's the "cleanest" album of VDGG, even if "La Rossa" is rougher and is crossed by some paroxystic moments of tension. Not always so still in fact, but the rythm appears to me more quiet than in preceding and following records, Jackson's sax does not often have such a pure sound ("My room") in VDGG's discography and the organ is often subtile.

Of course, I would not say it's a peaceful record. The depth of human are always just under the surface in Hammill's words and voice. Maybe it is just a step in the maturity of the group. A splendid maturity.

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Send comments to Kjarks (BETA) | Report this review (#275975)
Posted Friday, April 02, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars OH MAN, This album I love, love, love so so so much. As I write this, it is currently my favorite album ever. It is perfect. The lyrics, the music, the singing, it is all fantastically marvelous. This is a very solid performance on VDGG's part. Just spectacular. "Pilgrims" kicks things off the right way, aggressive, catchy, and thoughtful lyrics. As the album progresses, it develops into a mighty snowball of prog! My favorite song from "Still Life" would definitely have to be "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End". I love the somewhat atheistic leanings of the lyrics (seeing as how I'm Atheist myself), very beautiful. I highly recommend this album to anybody, it is pure bliss everytime I listen to it.

1. "Pilgrims" - 10/10

2. "Still Life" - 10/10

3. "La Rossa" - 9/10

4. "My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) - 9/10

5. "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" - 10/10

48/5 = 96% = 5 stars all the way, baby

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Send comments to Lark the Starless (BETA) | Report this review (#281799)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After the Generator scored one hit (Godbluff) and one miss (Pawn Hearts) in my book, I chose the next step to the album that contained some material written during the Godbluff sessions.

Seemed like good logic, but I am less than pleased with the results.

Godbluff had lots of rocking, which I think this band can really do well. This continues into Still Life. However, on Godbluff, even the expository or softer bits had an edge, or at least moved along rather briskly. Not so with Still Life, particularly with the title track and My Room. Even the closer, Childlike Faith, has too many slow bits to keep me into things.

Some love Hammill's voice others detest it. I tolerate it--even appreciate it at times--but at no point do I think it can carry the music, particularly with falsettos and extended vibratos. It just sounds bad to my ears when it's used more than sparingly...and unfortunately it's on full display in Still Life.

Highlights for me include Pilgrims, the opener which features a stately pace and melodies to match. The best of course is La Rossa, which contains most of what the band does best: greasy sax, hammerin' hammond, and a rousing finale, with a special nod to great use of the cowbell. Bravo!

To those who love this album, I suppose we're speaking different dialects and certainly have different tastes. It's pretty tame by Generator standards, but it's also uniquely VDGG enough that the throbbing masses will have little tolerance for what's inside.

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#285383)
Posted Sunday, June 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Hard to follow up the mammoth GODBLUFF album, but Pete Hammill and co. were more than willing to try with STILL LIFE. VdGG still goes after the heavy keyboard assault here, but this happens in fewer moments and only the Hammond organ is involved, one of the more overused instruments in prog rock. Actually, there are more quiet, softer moments (Oh, no!) here than there were on the last album. Seeing that I'm more of a fan of punchier moments, this doesn't sit well with me.

It's a rather weird, amusing side of VdGG we're seeing here, even if this is one of their better efforts. However, I don't consider ''My Room'' a VdGG highlight; it's a soft jazz track that, while not bad or unnecessary, doesn't really do anything. Much of the same goes for the first two tracks, although fans will appreciate the traditional perks. Heck, Hammill is vocally at his peak here and ''Pilgrims'' is quite memorable.

''Childlike Faith'' is the big epic on the album, and it's one of the better tracks. The best part is when the piece reaches this cathartic climax with Hammill singing in a rather scratchy tone, and then the song ends with him gasping. However, the best piece here might be the best VdGG track overall, and I'm speaking of ''La Rossa''. It carries that overt heaviness from GODBLUFF and mixes it with an ever-building middle. My only complaint is that the song dawdles for forty seconds longer than needed.

GODBLUFF holds a more favourable opinion with me because that album revitalised my interest in Pete Hammill's world. STILL LIFE is a continuation of GODBLUFF; in my mind, it's not nearly as good, but it's still a very good album that can stand up on its own, barring the soft spots.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#292773)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is one of those slow growing masterpieces. None of the tracks here really grab the attention immediately, but over repeated listens, they reveal depth and detail that truly astounds. Of all of Van Der Graaf's releases, this one is the one that I find I connect the most with emotionally. Every once in a while, I have to listen to the title track, and it can almost bring me to tears - very few songs I can say that about. And it is not even the best track on the album; I would give that honour to La Rossa, a love song that doesn't sound like anything you will hear on the radio, in part due to the darker undertones. And of course, the idea of hearing Van Der Graaf Generator on the radio is, in itself, somewhat laughable.

I'm going to keep this short, even though it's one of very few albums I've given a five star rating to so far, in part because so much has been said about this one, but also simply because this album connects with you on a strong, emotional level that no review can truly do justice to. Suffice it to say that, while this is perhaps not the most adventurous thing Van Der Graaf did, it is the most emotional.

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Send comments to TheGazzardian (BETA) | Report this review (#295565)
Posted Friday, August 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars With a trademark and singularily unique style, VDGG follows up the excellent Godbluff with an album almost as good, but one that is unable to connect with this listener.

The intro has a nice energy and dynamic, but the stately feel of the composition doesn't take the group far musically. My favorite track is probably the slow, poetic, and increasingly morose "My Room", which is brilliantly conceived and performed. The celebrated "La Rossa" is a lively and driving change of pace, with more intenste bottom end lending a more striking counterpart to Hammill's sometime sloppy though exciting vocals. This tune is a fine example of VDGG's songwriting style, moving from a quite and poetic intro to a unique organ-led rocker, shifting dynamics and tempo back and forth throughout. While as a whole enjoyable, this also highlights my only real problem with Still Life: the loud parts often turn into a directionless mess, with instruments sounding like they're stepping on each other's toes in an attempt to make as much classy noise as possible... and Hammills voice during these sections regresses into hollering very often.

This has the effect of undermining a lot of the connection I might have otherwise made to these songs. On Godbluff, for example, we were offered more thoughtful instrumental sections and, dare I say, hooks which are very likeable despite the complexity and ambience they're surrounded by. With Still Life we're offered no such life-lines, so the listener had best be prepared for old-school prog at its most dense and eccentric. Very close to a 4-star album.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#298392)
Posted Friday, September 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Oh man, this album is just to good. It's one of those ones where every single moment of every single song just blows your mind. I put this over Godbluff any day. In fact, I'd call this one of my top ten favorites. The music is composed perfectly. The melodies, the interplay between all of the instruments, it's all just perfect. Lyrically, it's to good for words, "even if there is a heaven when we die, endless bliss would be as meaningless as the lie." "Ultimetly bored by endless ecstasy." It gets quoted allot! I've found the theme in the album to be about death mostly. Uncertainty about death to be more precise. This is summed up in Childlike Faith in Childhoods End, the best song off the album, and maybe Van Der Graafs best song overall. La Rossa is an odd song that really has nothing to do with death at all. La Rossa is about giving up your friendship with a woman in exchange for something more. I'd call La Rossa my second favorite song on the album, but there all great, the whole thing is great. If you're looking for a place to start with this band, I'd call this not only there best, but there most accessable as well. 5 Stars.

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Send comments to Billy Pilgrim (BETA) | Report this review (#301233)
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars A huge drop in quality compared to "Godbluff". I'm very desappointed.Surely not remember the Van der Graaf Generator I've heard in yours previous albuns("H to he,who i am the only one","Pawn Hearts","Godbluff").Peter Hamill I was always ambiguous about his voice, and although I liked the way he sings on the previous album, the same can not be said here. He just does growl, and this is horrible.In my opinion the only people who saved here is David Jackson, because he does a great job with his saxophone and flaute.On fact all, except for Hamill, do good works, the melodies are not so nice, and very hard and cold,very different from previous albums.

Excuse me, VdGG but 2.5 stars rounded down.Not arrive at the feet of "Godbluff".

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Send comments to voliveira (BETA) | Report this review (#421270)
Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Still Life is one of the more boring albums that I've listened to of VDGG's discography. The overall sound is still gloomy jazz inspired progressive rock, but is much more subdued and ultimately more forgettable. Peter Hammill's voice completely dominates this album, and that annoys me to no end. I've always considered his voice to be absolutely awful, and that is what this album is all about.

I've listened over this album multiple times, and nothing ever sticks. I really wanted to like it, because I really wanted to like VDGG and learn to acquire the taste for Hammill's vocals, but the unnecessary theatrics in his vocals can't make any positive impression on me. The composition on this album is much lighter, less memorable, and remarkably less pessimistic sounding that their previous albums; all qualities that make this albums less superior to its predecessors.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#431092)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I'll be the first to admit, I haven't been a Van Der Graaf fan for a significant time for me to know what I'm getting into the moment I add another album onto iTunes.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but after listening to a few tracks off "Pawn Hearts" and "The Least We Can Do...", I began to appreciate VDGG's brand of prog. Once I hit "play" on "Still Life"'s "Pilgrims", I was ready to expect another solid album with different influences of other genres and maybe even an instrumental section.

Then the title track comes on and yes, it's a slow starting track. I figure it's going to slowly rise into a bombastic epic. And then all of a sudden, it's like I'm listening to "Pilgrims, Pt. 2". The second half of the track is the exact same thing as the first. "La Rossa" is an entertaining song with the delicate mellow sax, and then "My Room" is like a "softer" version of "La Rossa", and "Childlike Faith" is pretty much all 4 tracks wrapped up in a 12 and a half minute outro.

Despite being musically good, it just seems like the entire disc lacks creativity, order. While the drums and keys stay on track most of the time, everyone else seems to splinter off and play what they feel like, when they feel like. I would've given more praise to Peter Hammill if he actually tried to sing with rhythm, harmony and in some particular form or pattern instead of spouting out random words in syncopation and disjointing the entire track, but it just aggravates me too much.

Maybe it's how he's always sung on VDGG albums; I haven't noticed on "Pawn Hearts". It just seems like the release of this record really began to show Hammill's takeover of the band and how the progressive majesty of it just sort of faded away.

Or maybe I'm just retarded. Either one seems likely reasonable.

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Send comments to Wicket (BETA) | Report this review (#476544)
Posted Tuesday, July 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can I say? The second masterpiece.

This second era of VDGG took longer for me to get into than the first. Probably because it is far more subtle (by VDGG standards anyway) than the first era. And compared to Pawn Hearts and H to HE these albums seemed almost tame to me. But what the first era had in flamboyance and experimentation, the second makes up for with depth and style. While certainly not a band that will ever be accused of subtlety, these second phase albums are more subtle than the first era albums, certainly.

Pilgrims and La Rossa are my favorites, displaying Hammill's way of giving everything he possibly can to the vocal delivery and then some (a fact that probably turns many people off this band). He can never be accused of not being emotional enough that is for certain. He feels every note and syllable with every fiber of his being. And these two songs demonstrate that more than any other VDGG song I can think of. Still Life is a great song as well, just more somber than those two. My Room is the only weak track, and it is still pretty good. Just not up to the standards of the rest, but not bad by any means and not enough to downgrade the rating. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End is the album's somewhat epic track, though it is really just a long song unlike Lighthouse Keepers which is a multi part epic. This is similar in style to the music of Pawn Hearts, though certainly not as experimental and complex. A great dramatic ending finishes the album in style.

This is essential for VDGG, and might even be a decent place to start for the curious. My only qualm on that score is that while the music might be less over the top and experimental than the first era of the band, the vocals are even more an acquired taste in the second era (at least to my ears). But if you already like their stuff, you must have this album.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#477510)
Posted Wednesday, July 06, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Hugh Banton provides one of his finest organ performances on this Van der Graaf Generator album, which picks up where Godbluff left of to continue its weird and wonderful explorations of bizarre conceptual spaces. Kicking off with Pilgrims, a strident and purposeful counterpoint to The Least We Can Do's more nervous and uncertain Refugees, the album takes us through explorations of immortality, classic Arthur C. Clarke novels, wild love and lonely meditation in a murky musical haze dominated by Banton's organ and David Jackson's ever-present sax. Standout track has to be the title piece, which combines one of Peter Hammill's most fervent vocal performances with some of his most philosophically intriguing lyrics. At the same time, though, tracks such as La Ross and My Room drag on a little too long for my liking, suggesting that the band could have pushed this up to a five-star piece had they spent a little bit longer cooking up new material for it.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#549108)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Supposedly the lil' brother of Godbluff I originally liked the latter way over Still Life. Over the years it turned out to be almost the opposite now. Whil I connected really quickly with the Godbluff, Still Life was always a little more subtle, somewhat harder to grasp. It seemed to lack a bit of structure compared to Bluff. The positive thing about this that it got less worn out over the years. Even after numerous listens I still appreciate the little sublte things in La Rossa or the Sax towards the end of "My Room".

Pilgrims 9/10 Still Life 7/10 La Rossa 9/10 4.My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) 8.5/10 5.Childlike Faith in Childhood's End 10/10

plus some extra points for remaining so fresh over the years

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Send comments to Mexx (BETA) | Report this review (#606178)
Posted Monday, January 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Clearly, Hugh Banton and Peter Hammill are the defining elements of Still Life. The organ is omnipresent and dynamic, serving the even more dynamic lead vocalist. I find Still Life to be the least indulgent of the 1970s Van der Graaf Generator albums, and in spite of that, still retains histrionic vocals and ostentatious compositions fans had grown to crave. The album is remarkably inconsistent despite being the most consistent in terms of sound: While all five of the tracks are like very close sisters in terms of sound (almost identical, really), the compositions range from masterpiece status ("Pilgrims") to uninteresting ("La Rossa").

"Pilgrims" Over a satisfying organ, Peter Hammill's voice gets atmospherically falsetto, but that is part of the charm depending on the listener's mood. His voice has managed his theatrics to the point where there is softness where it must be and bite where it must be. The melody and chord progression make this one of Van der Graaf Generator's "déjŕ vu" tracks- for me, it's never remembered until I hear it again. Yet it is one of their finest.

"Still Life" Pensive vocals and low organ open the title track. The brilliance of this song is how Hammill's voice grows from quiet to regal to biting angst and then to lamentation, all in the course of a relatively concise piece. Everything takes a background role to his theatrics.

"La Rossa" The quiet singing over organ soon becomes flamboyant. This piece has energy but fails to engage me. It eases up in the middle, with Banton offering subtle organ bits under a saxophone motif.

"My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)" Hammill's voice is uncharacteristically deep over quiet but melodic music. Bass and saxophone enjoy some time in the fore over gentle piano. This song has one of the band's best melodies.

"Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" Alternating between heavy sax-led rock and the quieter music that pervades this album, the final, longest piece on Still Life is hard-driven, but I find it incoherent and, while far more consistent that some of Van der Graaf Generator's earlier long tracks, inconsistent in its own right. The album always loses me at this point.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#728891)
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars It may take some time to truly love this prog gem, partly due to Hammill's voice. Once you acquire the taste, you'll live it, love it. There's no denying the ragged beauty of each song on this album, what this amazing band has (besides a singer who sings all different types of moods) is solid instrumentation throughout. Each song has a pace which builds, a wide variety of flavors which prevents any one of these songs from becoming boring or dull. The KEY to a great prog album!

A cinema of sound, Pilgrims has a bitter-sweet loveliness to it, with vocals building up, becoming rougher and rougher. Because of this, Pilgrim's was one of Van Der Graaf's bigger hits, being played at multiple concerts. Definitely a reasonable pick, as it's one of the best song on the entire album!

One of the more calmer pieces, the album-titled Still Life is filled to the brim with intelligent lyrics to keep the listener following each word from Hammill's spoken mouth. Unlike all the other songs on this album, the beat never really increases and what's left is a story only following one storyline, nonetheless another great song.

Perhaps the most aggressive song is La Rossa, which is a constantly-changing, tempo-breaking masterpieces. Through listening to this valiant effort, it only gets better and better, this rough beauty stays fresh through the entire listen, towards the end this gem truly shines. And oh how it shines brightly.

My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) can only be described as a Van Der Graaf lullaby, not that it's boring but the utter sweetness of the drums, sax, and piano. The title tells all, as the sound resembles a dream. If I must critique, my only complaint is it's perhaps too short, Graaf could of made an entire album from this piece. Just pure brilliance.

To end the album on a high note, we're left with Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. The song really sets the tone for the whole album, a calming presence oozes out. After 2 minutes, the vocals begin to build strength as Hammill puts the listener in a vocal voyage. Like the whole album, there's touches of a jazzy feel to all of it. From soft, to sharp, to a peaceful grace this song is ever-changing. As the other review said, a perfect ending to a perfect album. Luckily this song is so long in length, leaving you with a theatrical ending instead of a quick finisher.

All together, this Van Der Graaf Generator album is by far different then any other album produced by this legendary band. (Though, each album seems completely separate, an important skill to keep the listener to buy each and every album) A much jazzier type of feel, I wouldn't say the best Graaf album, only because each album is unique and incredible. But if you're trying out the Graaf for the first time, the highest recommendation goes to Still Life.

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Send comments to Raccoon (BETA) | Report this review (#749474)
Posted Sunday, May 06, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Still Life is the cleanest VDGG album I ever heard to date. And it's my third experience from them, after Pawn Hearts and Goldbluff. But every record I heard of them has been a masterpiece. Seriously, from the distortion of Pawn Hearts to the mythic Goldbluff and this, these have everything you should hear about this great progressive band.

Pilgrims is a great opener. The first notes of organ within this song are just epic. A perfect opener from a perfect album.

The title track is beautiful and also very great musically. Everything that should be on a progressive track is there.

La Rossa has something that you never expect from a VDGG album. Worldwide influences. Especially from Italian music. It is the second best track of the album.

My Room is beautiful. The sax is just beautiful.

And finally, it is the moment to say to you everything I love about the final track. The best song of the whole album. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. It is a Masterpiece. Everything I love about this band is here (exept for the distortion in the saxophones).

In conclusion, it is an underestimated masterpiece

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Send comments to geneyesontle (BETA) | Report this review (#779238)
Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This band embodies just about everything I love about prog. Tortured time signatures, experimental passages. Lyrics that take on heavy subjects. And original music that seems to have no barriers except to be as far from simple and mainstream as possible. These guys have such an original sound, I believe it's damn near impossible to replicate.

Still Life as you all should know by now was one of their "comeback" albums after they disbanded in 1972 after the "Cosmos Tours" supporting the amazing Pawn Hearts album. Thankfully they had much another couple of masterpieces left in them. Still Life continues the leaner, harder sound evidenced on Godbluff. Although there isn't much studio wizardry and it's a low budget album that was written and recorded very quickly, there is so much creativity, detail and astounding musicianmanship throughout this album. The material itself and the execution carry this album. There are no weak moments on this album. Like any other great progressive work, it takes time to sink in. There are just plenty of stuff to marvel at that it's too much to take all in the first couple of listens.

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Send comments to ster (BETA) | Report this review (#871423)
Posted Tuesday, December 04, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perhaps it's my own failure, but seeing this album as any kind of let-down, disappointment, or inadequate follow-up to the highly regarded Godbluff, is incomprehensible to me. Within this record, the listener is treated to propulsive jazz-rock riffs, memorable tagline melodies, fantastically atmopheric interplay between Van Der Graaf Generator's signature instruments - saxophone and organ, and also the less characteristic electric guitar and mellotron - and Peter Hammill's epic poetry projected with a delivery as varied as it is inspired. I shoud restrain myself from being too detailed at this point, because the element of surprise is personally one of Prog's most appealing qualities.

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Send comments to Tubes (BETA) | Report this review (#937850)
Posted Monday, April 01, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Still Life, still living."

Van der Graaf Generator was not exactly one of my favourite bands of the moment, wayback in the 1970s (paraphrasing The Incredible String Band). I used to find Peter Hammill's singing unnatural and overacted. In addition, the dark aspects of the music were not my cup of tea, either. I wanted more light, being the Spanish scene quite a dark one after forty years of dictatorship, I guess.

Anyway, the Generator's music has grown or matured in me with time, like those sour or bitter tastes you get used to with the years and find pleasure in them as well as in the sweeter or milder ones. I guess it is a question of maturity.

So, after having revisited for some five years VdGG's oeuvre (the core of it, from "H to He..." to "Still Life", not in chronological order, though), I now own their music as an indispensible part of classic prog rock. And from all these four awesome albums, I must conclude "Still Life" their masterpiece for I find it is like a summary of all the best these four talented musicians were able to do with the exact balance of musicality, progressiveness, virtuosism and dark tones that any of the other three albums exceeded in one or other way.

Pilgrims kicks off with admirable organ phrasing and ambient which grows and grows till acquiring epic proportions and grandiose musicality, all of it repeated with variations on the second verse and coda.

The title theme begins in soft dark tones which turn into lyrical as Hammill unwraps his poetry on the text, a reflection on life's meaning. Then it changes with verse three to a more dinamic tempo and the band, mostly the rhythmic section, reach perfection. A perfect match of music to text.

I think never before has Hugh Banton's organ sounded better than in this album,and "La Rossa" is an example of it with its beautiful intro. After one minute, the band explodes and now we know we are in front of one of the strongest, more complex and achieved of the album's tracks, which means of VdGG's tracks. A (white) hot point. After six minutes, a short fugue resets us at full speed till the last cry : "Give me life!" with superb soloing from Banton and Jackson.

It is not my purpose to review every single track in the album, but I thought this incredible side A was worth reviewing. Just two tracks occupy side B, which continues in the mood of its reverse. "My Room" beeing more lyrical with beautiful jazzy arrangaments from Jackson while "Childlike Faith..." is a short epic reaching over twelve minutes which again reflects on life's basic questions. Hammill getting philosophical at full.

I guess those gap years the band took between "Pawn Hearts" and "Goldbluff" and the tour that followed that last album were the perfect conditions for the band to rebloom and provide us with a significant prog rock masterpiece.

Five stars without a doubt. Somewhere in South Spain, 17/07/2014.

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Send comments to ibnacio (BETA) | Report this review (#1185065)
Posted Thursday, June 05, 2014 | Review Permalink

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