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Van Der Graaf Generator - Time Vaults CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Another of these side releases that are really for confirmed and even absolutist VdGG fans, but hardly nobody else. Actually this release could've been of a major interest had the recording quality been at least correct, but here it is more often cringey than anything else. All of these tracks date from the period between the two VdGG classic eras and most of them are unheard elsewhere (a few on Hammill's solo records of those years) and most of the songs are work in progress, completely unfinished and some even sound like other official tracks (whether this particular track led to a future official track or whether it was meant to be inspired or digress from an established track is a bit unclear for me), others being simply atrocious sound quality (Roncevaux). Tracks like the closing Blackroom are indeed interesting as work in progress, and are still plenty of drama, but be prepared to have you ear butchered by the sound.

While some of these tracks are of interest to unconditional fans, others are just a bunch of seemingly useless collage (thinking of the title track, Time Vaults), but overall the average/casual fan will only find frustration at such a release as it doesn't do justice to the group's oeuvre. Don't get me wrong, this "album" is worth throwing an ear on it, but this should be done before considering whether to splurge into it. Just make you pick your aural organ up, because you'll need it for more worthy causes.

Report this review (#8062)
Posted Tuesday, December 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Work announced in 1985 "Time Vaults(Unreleased tracks 1971-75)". Album that collected unpublished tunes of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. It is a work that supplements tone quality by the power of the sound and is too much."Roncevaux", "It All Went Up", "Faint And Forsaken", and "Black Room" are very wonderful masterpieces.
Report this review (#47234)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars I am always sceptic about unreleased tracks. Most of the time (let's say 90%), there were very good reasons not to release them at the time of production.

This effort fully falls under this concept.

Some "lost" tracks. On top of being quite average songs, the recording sound is pretty poor (sounds like a boot).

The universe of VDGG is there, at (very few) times they sound like we are used to. "The Liquiditor" is not bad, but on the contrary "Tarzan" is pure crap, "Coil Night" is on par : a repetitive and very poor instrumental. Useless. With " It All Went Up" the band pursues in the same vein : typical VDGG improv. You could swallow four minutes or so from these type of gig while they play on stage; but on a studio album. Gosh !

"Ronvevaux" and "Black Room" are also typical examples of potentially good songs that are completely screwed up thanks to an awful recording. How is it possible for a band of such a standard to record in such extreme conditions (even if these are lost tapes) ? And then releasing such "product"! Shame on you VDGG.

FYI, I am a huge fan of VDGG, I started to listen to (and love) them in 1974. I have most of their albums, I saw them live in 1976 and I am going to see them again in 2007 (but unfortunately Jackson won't be there).

I feel pretty sad with the only rating I can think of : one star. Sorry guys.

Report this review (#108438)
Posted Monday, January 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This was originally available only as a bootleg. It appears that Hammill gave into the pressure to release it proper despite the very poor sound quality. There are plenty of great moments here and if the sound quality was better there would be a lot to get excited about. As it is Liquidator is a gem, describing as it does the pressure that was eroding the band at the time. Black room is also an excellent version. If only the sound quality was better. There is some dross as well. Really this one is only for fans and completists although as a historic document it has some validity in many respect its an exploitative release. I suspect that had the bootleg not been selling quite well P.H. would have resisted the temptation to allow this into the market. A good cover shot raises the value of the record to fans a little. Even though I am a real fan, I cannot recommend this record to anyone other than other fans it must therefore get 2 stars, it deserves no more.
Report this review (#146356)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars What we did on our holidays

"Time vaults" is not an official VDGG releases, and indeed it was never intended that the music it contains be released at all. While some tracks, such as "The liquidator" are pretty much completed, others are clearly works in progress. The tracks here are all Peter Hammill compositions recorded during the band's sabbatical between "Pawn hearts" and "Godbluff". The tracks originally found their way onto the bootleg market, but have since been (perhaps reluctantly) legitimised.

During the period covered by these tracks from 1972 to 1975 VDGG did not officially exist. Hammill was pursuing a solo career, with other members of the classic line up helping out along the way while also working on their own material.

The opening track "(The) liquidator" is the best of the bunch here. Opening with some delightful echoed piano, Hammill offers a fine vocal performance on a rousing, rocking number. The song sits alongside the band's most accessible material, a sort of "Theme one" with vocals.

Unfortunately that's about it really. Much of what remains is made up of studio jams, rehearsals and demos. As the quality of the sound dips, so does the quality of the music. To be fair to Hammill and the rest of the band, the experimentation which can be heard here was just that, this is not a final product by any means. Some of the tracks (such as "Coil night" and "Tarzan") remain in instrumental form, presumably intended as backing tracks for as yet unwritten lyrics and vocal melodies.

The title track is the most bizarre, the piece drifting in and out of "Rudolph reindeer" and a plethora of other themes. "Faint and forsaken" sounds like a loose attempt to recreate "Theme one", but without the benefit of a memorable melody. It sounds great with all those thumping keyboards, but a tune would have been nice.

In short, one for the VDGG fan who has to have everything by them. That said, worth acquiring just to hear "Liquidator".

Report this review (#185825)
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars An archival release of rehearsal tapes from the Van der Graaf Generator hiatus of 1972-1975. The idea that VdGG "broke up" during those years is technically correct since the group weren't recording and performing under that name, but in practice it was something of an illusion - as well as producing the first Long Hello recordings, Guy, Hugh and David were also regularly convening to record tracks for Hammill's solo albums from the break (the last one, Nadir's Big Chance, being a VdGG reunion from start to finish).

Bowing to pressure to release the rehearsal tapes from those years (or perhaps figuring that releasing them himself and making money out of them was a better option than leaving it to the bootleggers), Hammill seems to have done his best to pick out the best extracts this time around, though he doesn't appear to have had much to work with. The best and most polished track of the lot is probably The Liquidator, a comedic number with a rocking instrumental performance from the band and hilarious lyrics from Hammill in which he mercilessly skewers the ridiculous rumours in the music press about VdGG's breakup.

Much of the rest of the album consists of jams and improvs, the most interesting piece probably being the title track -which seems to be a montage of extracts from different tapes, making it an intriguing change of pace from the rest. At the useless/redundant end of the spectrum is Faint and Forsaken - a dry run of some instrumental sections which would turn up in their finished form on The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (Forsaken Gardens) and In Camera (Faint-Heart and the Sermon) - and Blackroom, an early version of In The Black Room which was performed (with the full VdGG lineup) on Chameleon In the Shadow of the Night.

Ultimately, this isn't the Great Lost VdGG album the fans must have been hoping for - and to be honest, most of the material from that ended up being released in nice studio-quality versions on Hammill's first three solo albums of the hiatus, so it isn't even "lost". Time Vaults is very much for collectors and fans only.

Report this review (#540730)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars True fans of prog legends VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR often lament over the lost years that spawned in between the band's first "breakup" in 1971 after the release of "Pawn Hearts" and the 2.0 version of the band that resumed with the 1975 release of "Godbluff." The great VDGG had every intention of releasing an album after "Pawn Hearts" in 72 but the prog behemoth who notoriously gave it 110% of their time, energy and resources to keep the artistic expression afloat found a diminishing return as lesser talented bands laughed all the way to the bank. Having literally burned out from the touring scene and other pressures, VDGG "officially" called it quits but in reality the four members of Peter Hammill (vocals, guitar, piano, bass), David Jackson (sax, piano), Hugh Banton (organ, bass) and Guy Evans (drums) remained together as a band only under the guise of a solo career of Peter Hammill.

The timeline from 1971-75 between albums began with the writing and practicing of material for a real followup to "Pawn Hearts" but evolved into the rehearsals for Hammill's solo works. Somehow bootleggers had acquired rare compilations of unreleased tracks and were commanding hefty prices so VDGG decided to release a collection of some of these tracks in the form of this official release that was titled TIME VAULTS. Originally appearing in 1982 on cassette only, due to enough interest a vinyl LP followed and finally a CD appearing ten years later in 1992. This album covers the whole range from 71-75 but most of the tracks are from 72 which were slated to be on the new VDGG album of the same year. While the recordings are from out-takes and rehearsal recordings and were never finished for studio quality recordings, the performances give a glimpse into one of the great prog bands at work running the gamut between tracks completely worthy of studio album glory as well as silly nonsensical experiments. While the material is raw, there were 9 hours of overdubbing just because.

While the majority of tracks had never been released, "Black Room" is a different version than the one found on Hammill's solo album "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night." One of the pluses of releases such as TIME VAULTS is that since these tidbits were never refined into studio-friendly diamonds, they retain the feisty independent streak in its pure experimental form but also displays how brilliant the band was in all stages of its productive output displaying aspects of the band truly from behind the scenes. For example "Coil Night" featured Hammill on bass and Jackson on piano and is one of the brilliant tracks on the album as is the opening "The Liquidator" which were both worthy of being featured on a VDGG album. "It All Went Red" displays a rare jam where all musicians shine but Guy Evans displays his amazing drumming skills that were never allowed off the leash on the actual albums. While VDGG was pretty much a guitar-free unit in the early years "Rift Valley" found Hammill on electric guitars instead of keyboards and proves to be the hardest rocking album the band ever recorded.

Other tracks are quite quirky and unusual for VDGG and obvious why they were never considered for album inclusion. The cute little number "Tarzan" starts out with a drumbeat that sounds something like "Billie Jean" from Michael Jackson but has a funkier groove. It almost sounds like the band is going into disco territory but instead delivers an interesting progressive rock sound albeit all funked up. The title track is the most experimental piece which is essentially a collage of disparate playful moments. It tackles some free jazz and seems to be wrapped around the piano melodies of the Christmas song "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" but it also has snippets of the traditional Wedding March, a few moments of reggae and heaps of psychedelia. It's very much like a monkey-brain stream of consciousness scrolling up and down the radio dial of the mind. "Drift (I Hope It Won't)" is a freeform styled mix of nonsense really with lots of conversation between the members. Overall the quality of the recordings is pretty poor but the strength of the material more than makes this a worthy addition.

It goes without saying that this sort of material is strictly reserved only for the hardcore fans of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR as this has little appeal outside of the staunchly loyal fanbase of which i consider myself a part of. For those inclined, this is an excellent array of rehearsals and experimental pieces not fit for an album but listening to a band of this level at a practice session is still a magical moment and on this one there are ten such moments.. For my interests, there's not a single bad track on this one and if one can forgive the crude unfinished production then there is plenty of VDGG magic mojo in action in a true live setting with only the slightest production as an afterthought to give a little bit of consistency between the tunes. This is a band that was so great that i would gladly pay just to watch a rehearsal and this collection of goodies doesn't disappoint at all considering what it is. True that the phantom masterpiece that lay between "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff" never truly emerged except in snippets that were modified to suit the solo career of Hammill, so in some respects this is the closest it gets the mythical beast that should've been and while it doesn't come close to fulfilling that destiny, it sure is an interesting glimpse into the possibilities.

Report this review (#2282653)
Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | Review Permalink
2 stars Review Nş 528

Van Der Graaf Generator is an English progressive rock band, formed in 1967 in Manchester by singer-songwriters Peter Hammill and Chris Judge Smith. They didn't experience much commercial success in the UK, but became very popular especially in Italy during the 70's. They went through a number of incarnations in their early years, including a brief split in 1969. When they reformed, they found minor commercial success with "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and their follow-up album "H To He, Who Am The Only One", where they stabilised around a line up of Hammill, Banton, Evans and Jackson. The quartet subsequently achieved significant success in Italy with the release of "Pawn Hearts". After several tours in Italy, the band split in 1972. They reformed in 1975, releasing "Godbluff", "Still Life" and "World Record", and frequently touring Italy again, before a major line up change and a slight rename to Van Der Graaf and the release of "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". The band split in 1978. After many years apart, the band finally united at a gig at the Royal Festival Hall and a short tour in 2005. Since then, the band has continued as a trio of Hammill, Banton, and Evans, who record and tour regularly in between Hammill's concurrent solo music career.

The band's albums have tended to be both lyrically and musically darker in atmosphere than many of their progressive rock peers, a trait they shared with King Crimson, whose guitarist Robert Fripp guested on two of their albums, and guitar solos were the exception rather than the rule, preferring to use Banton's classically influenced organ and Jackson's multiple saxophones. While Hammill is the primary songwriter for the band, and the other members have contributed to his solo albums, the band arranges all their material collectively. Hammill's lyrics covered themes of mortality, due to his love from science fiction writers such as Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, along with his self-confessed warped and obsessive nature. His voice has been a distinctive component of the band throughout their career. While the band has been commercially unsuccessful, they have inspired several artists across various genres.

"Time Vaults" is an album of Van Der Graaf Generator. It was originally released in 1982 on cassette only, almost four years after the break-up of Van Der Graaf Generator in 1978. Later it was released as a vinyl LP, and in 1992 it was re-released on CD. The album contains out-takes and rehearsal recordings from the period between 1972 and 1975, when the band was on a hiatus. The recordings aren't studio quality recordings. Among others, it contains the first rehearsals by the reformed Van Der Graaf Generator from 1975, and some pieces originally intended for their next album in 1972.

In reality, this is a collection of demos and rough mixes recorded by the "classic" Van Der Graaf Generator's line up, Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, David Jackson and Guy Evans, between 1971 and 1975 in the "lost" period of the band, post "Pawn Hearts" and pre "Godbluff". So, "Time Vaults" aren't studio quality recordings. It was stressed by Hammill that "Time Vaults" was intended to be only for those who are already Van Der Graff Generator's fans. So, these recordings were first released for their fans on cassette, before being reissued several times by several record labels.

About the tracks, the pieces here range from songs in the typical Van Der Graaf Generator's style like "Liquidator" and "Roncevaux", to session like instrumentals like "Tarzan" and "Coil Night", to completely free sound collages like "Drift". The recording quality is sometimes quite modest. It only sounds good just in some of the most interesting pieces, such as the orgiastic "Roncevaux", the surprisingly psychedelic "It All Went Up", or the very badly "Black Room", the original form of a later Hammill's solo piece, rather dull, and where are strong overdrives and distortions. "Coil Night" has Peter Hammill playing bass guitar and Jackson playing the piano. "Rift Valley" contains a passage from "Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild". "Faint And Forsaken" introduces various themes from "Godbluff". A different version of "Black Room" appeared on Hammill's solo album "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night". "Faint And Forsaken" is a combination of "Forsaken Gardens" and "Faint-Heart And The Sermon" that are different versions which appeared on Hammill's solo albums "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage" and "In Camera", respectively.

Conclusion: Since bootleggers were fetching high prices for Van Der Graaf Generator rarities compilations from fans, band's leader Peter Hammill decided to compile ten of the best tracks and give them an official release. Since some of the tracks were never even completed, some present day overdubbing was required, but according to Hammill in the liner notes, all dubbing was completed in nine hours, in order to stay true to the spirit of the venture. And, although the listener is warned that these aren't studio quality recordings, the overall sound is good enough. Besides, most of the people who would buy this album, in the first place they're Van Der Graff Generator's fanatics, who will be happy just to acquire this material. So, this collection is clearly aimed only to die-hard fans, to which the band practically presents themselves in their "raw state". If you want to get to know the band as a beginner you must start by their studio albums.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2739761)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2022 | Review Permalink

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