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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Masters CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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1 stars This is more like a warning than a review (by a VDGG fan): This cheap-looking collection of some studio recordings of mid-seventies or so (that seem to be made just for fun) is so poor that I wonder why it appears under the name of Van Der Graaf Generator. Most have appeared in "Time Vaults" which I haven't heard but probably it at least has some information about these recordings. When I bought this cheaply years ago, I was so embarrased after the first listening that I took it almost straight to a second-hand shop. Music is - what I remember of it - sorta jamming, relaxed, actually nothing but some little riff-based doodling that was never taken to a level of a song composition. Even the sound quality is terrible. So, be warned.
Report this review (#8078)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars The preceding review by Mr. Pajuniemi has it right, I'm afraid. So I, like him, say : warning, this is "un fond de tiroir", very poor quality, don't buy. If you buy it, you'll regret it. But you may borrow it, though. Yes, if you are a VDGG fan - but a real, kind of maniac fan - you should borrow this record (or Time Vaults, anyway it is the same stuff) and listen carefully, never mind the horrible sound conditions, especially to one track. But then, you will have to listen not only with your hears, but with your imagination.

This record is in fact a jam session by Van der Graaf Generator, a band that used improvisation as a means to composition. And composition that was still quite at an early stage when those tapes were recorded (clearly in someone's garage : "garage prog", one more subgenre to add to the list). Incidentally, all voices on the record are retrospective overdubs, save the track I'm refering to : the music was recorded in 1973, the voices were added in 1981. Why? Well, Mr. Hammill and his friends needed money, I'm afraid that's the most likely explanation.

As far as I can understand, this impro session was recorded by VDGG after Pawn Hearts, but before the band disbanded. So here you have the premices for the next VDGG album that was never made. And there is one track, titled "Roncevaux", that I find extremely promising. But then, as I said, you have to use your imagination, your "expertise" as a seasoned VDGG listener... What a waste that this moment of music was never developed into a full-fledged Van Der Graaf Generator song ! Mr. Banton develops an organ theme on this track that really makes me dream... Clearly to me a great VDGG song was lost. Or is it? After all, as you may know by now, there are still some new Van Der Graaf Generator recordings to come...

Report this review (#8079)
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars This one is quite similar to "Time Vaults". Actually seven tracks out of ten are the same. Here was my feeling about "Time Vaults" :

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" ("It All Went Red" on this one) 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" is a typical example of a potentially good song that is 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).

Since, I rated "Vaults" as a one star album, there is no wonder that this one gets the same poor rating. There are virtually NO reason to buy/get hold of this one. The three songs from Jackson / Banton / Evans effort are useless as well. Avoid it by all means. One star.

Report this review (#108598)
Posted Tuesday, January 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars From what I also remember, the quality was quite terrible, but the funny thing is, my flat mates dog at the time actually chewed the CD so I couldnt play it.

The only track which is worth its salt I suppose is "The Liquidator" which is a very funny track about the members of VdGG.. (from what I remember before the dog chewed it!)

This CD apparently has now been deleted, and the only one available (if you look hard enough) is "Time Vaults", but I really would not bother.

It gets 2 stars for "The Liquidator".

Report this review (#111520)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This record is low fi, that's a sad fact. However I am currently part way through a re-record (not my first attempt at this recording) at least with equalisation something valuable can be salvaged from this frustrating disk. This is the point my friends this record is not for the casual visitor or the critic, this is all that remains of utterly irreplaceable slabs of VDGG from their most essential period and for that reason it gets all five stars from me. The Liquidator alone is nearly perfect a great little track that is worth a thousand plays. There is a lot of chaotic stuff that hints at the moments that survived of the eyewitness soundtrack although these are not those tapes. The best moment is quite late when the band run two tracks together without peters voice and that is an extraordinary moment in what is a muddled record at best. Essential to real VDGG fans and nobody else I remain very glad of it's existence because frankly far far too little VDGG was recorded properly. Sadly VDGG's legacy is full of poor recordings of gigs, here we have moments from a lost time, and what's more these are moments from England's most interesting if not completely likeable band.
Report this review (#156995)
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
1 stars What a disgusting scam. This Van der Graaf Generator compilation lures in listeners with the promise of strange, unfamiliar-sounding songs from the band, but don't be fooled! Most of these tracks are recycled from Time Vaults, and suffer from exactly the same poor sound quality issues and general inconsistency as those tracks. (Not that this should reflect badly on the band - the material there wasn't recorded with public consumption in mind.) The three remaining tracks aren't even VdGG pieces at all, but from the Jackson/Banton/Evans collaboration Gentlemen Prefer Blues - a reasonable enough release in its own right, perhaps, but to pass off material from it as VdGG songs rather than giving credit to where it is really due is insulting to all parties concerned. It's debatable as to whether the credit to VdGG or the term "classic tracks" is the bigger lie on the front cover of this one.
Report this review (#791380)
Posted Friday, July 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
1 stars 10 Classic Tracks? In whose universe?

"The Masters" is 10 tracks of which 7 are lifted from "Time Vaults". It begins with an insipid instrumental 'Saigon Roulette' and this is a sign of things to come on this time waster. The mediocrity is a constant reminder that the band are at their best when they are indulging in weird time sigs and existential lyrics with inspirational musicianship. 'Tropic of Conversation' is lengthy and quite a decent instrumental jazz fusion exploration but is still far inferior to material on genuine VDGG albums. Hammill does inject some vocals which is pleasing; namely 'Rift Valley', that is low fi quality but at least Hammill is there, and also 'The Liquidator' with some jumpy jazz fusion. These tracks are not as creative as usual but still not too bad overall. The sax is manic throughout and it has a cool melody but still lacks that VDGG magic.

If every track had vocals and was as quirky as this it may have been a worthwhile effort. However there are too many throwaways and this is really forgettable mediocrity. Wasted talent.

'Coil Night' has that familiar sax blast and jaunty rhythm but as an instrumental it is lacking. 'Roncevaux' is very buzzy bassy low fi but actually grabs me more than a lot of these other pieces collected here. It has a strange melody and time sig, and the only thing that spoils it is the bad quality recording.

'It All Went Red' is a bad quality instrumental but it does capture some VDGG improvisational skill as the music wanders blissfully all over the map, with mad sax blasting over an incessant organ and bass driven melody. The percussion is sporadic and overall this piece would have been wonderful if not for the low fi recording.

VDGG are at their best when Hammill is in his existentialist mood and is banging on about Lighthouse keepers, Killer sharks and the intense darkness of loneliness and alienation, but these warbling instrumentals are mere time fillers. The poor quality recordings ruin what would otherwise be quite intense music. There are some nice moments but the quality is a contributing factor in why this is not a good VDGG album. In fact it is an album to be avoided for all the reasons stated, better left as a bonus CD rather than a genuine album. A real disappointment in almost every department, and whoever calls these "Classic Tracks" needs their head read! Collectors need only apply.

Report this review (#864515)
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2012 | Review Permalink

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