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


Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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3 stars Well, I really dislike edits - and sadly Peter Hammill have no good live tracks from the Good Old Times (why didn't they record their gigs, I don't know). This could have been an essential retrospective if only... there were more outtakes... demos... jams... but I am well aware I'm writing as a progman, there's no VDGG production I don't know very well, et cetera. So, the problem is that I asked for rarities - and there are only a few (most of them I knew from bootlegs). Excuse me: VDGG are really great - if you aren't hardcore fans (having ALL), buy this box!
Report this review (#27305)
Posted Monday, May 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an excellent box set, well-balanced, with most of the classic tracks and some unreleased treasures. I have all VDGG's albuns, and still found attractive to buy "The Box": most of the first CD came from BBC sessions, there are some fantastic live material recorded in Rimini in 1976, one previously unreleased track and one of the ommitted tracks from "Vital"'s CD version. The booklet also is worth nnoting, with a complete list of gigs and a chronological overview of the band. But there are some problems: some songs are edited to fit into the CD's (or maybe mr. Hammill decided that shorter versions would make more sense in those days - who konows?), and the other ommitted track from "Vital" (the band's version of "Nadir's Big Chance") is MIA. But this box is a fantastic introduction to VDGG's creepy world, and will also interest fans and completists.
Report this review (#27309)
Posted Friday, April 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On the first CD of this compilation are the earliest material of the band, and my favorites from this disc are the old BBC recordings of "People You Were Going To", "Afterwards" (which is so raw and beautiful) and "Necromancer" (which is so very nutty). CD2 has great live material from the "Pawn Hearts" period on it, and CD3 has good re-masters with slight edits from the 1975-1976 period, "Arrow" being my personal favorite of these. CD4 has then material from their 1976-1977 recordings, and I must admit I didn't appreciate these recordings artistically much anymore, but the re-masters are of good quality.

The informative booklet included is also marvelous, so this is a very recommendable artifact for those who own VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's albums only as vinyl, for those who collect this material fanatically or for those who can afford this box as an introduction for the band's music. I found this also from the Vantaa's library at Finland!

Report this review (#41403)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This Box set is expensive. This box set contains a few rarities. This box set includes material that is neither new or difficult to obtain. I would like to see a version of this for fans that contains the stuff that we have not already got two or more copies of and is also way more affordable. If you are well healed this would make a good introduction on the grounds of the material this box deserves a 5 star rating. However when you take account of the above comments it is hard to justify such a high rating for this exploitative release. Nice to own maybe but even for most fans hardly essential. Save your Penny's and buy the remasters. I give this only 2 stars for value. So I'll settle for 3 stars over all and admit that so far although I have heard this set I have not bought it, with so many LPs out there can you justify the price of this Box set for the very sparse gems it contains......
Report this review (#92048)
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a great box-set for those who like their VDGG on special occasions. I'd consider myself a fan of their work, but not a fanatic. It contains all of my personal VDGG highlights, so I'm a satisfied customer. The remastering is also excellent. Great liner notes and a wonderful booklet.
Report this review (#165304)
Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars I am a fan of box sets, having acquired over the years box sets of many artists including King Crimson, Yes and Pink Floyd, however I was not sure whether a high price tag would be justified for a set of Van der Graaf Generator CDs. This set known iconically as "The Box", consists of many of the tracks already available on their studio albums and, as I already have all these albums, I was hesitant to buy. However it has been a long time since a VDGG purchase and there were enough live and alternative versions of tracks to peak my interest.

CD1 is a collection of the early years of the band who need no introduction. Some unusual live versions from a BBC Top Gear session recorded in November 1968, starts off this wonderful compilation. The live tracks were new to me, including upbeat 'People You Were Going To', slow wondering 'Afterwards', and the drum-heavy 'Necromancer' that is even better than the version on the debut thanks to the staccato organ hammering. There is also a live track from BBC Peel Session recorded in December 1971, 'Refugees'. Fascinating compositions 'Darkness (11/11)', with some scintillating sax, and acoustic and organ-driven powerhouse 'After The Flood' are from BBC Top Gear January 1970, and all are agreeable versions; raw, low-fi and intense, but almost as good as the originals despite the hissing radio production. The CD does include some original studio tracks, the dark dynamic 'White Hammer' from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", and from "H To He Who Am The Only One" the pensive reflections of 'House With No Door', 'Killer' and 'Lost'. 'Killer' is definitely indispensable and had to be included, but in place of some of the other tracks here perhaps 'Gog' or 'Octopus' would have been a better choice. In any case, it is a solid start showcasing the pioneering years of the band.

CD2 has some unusual choices, as the band became prog legends during the 70s, such as BBC Black Sessions recording from June 1971 of the exuberant catchy 'Theme One' and for some strange reason the B-side of this single, the plodding 'W' is here, not a great song but I like the weird instrumental break. Quintessential VDGG is present with the extraordinary prog epic from "Pawn Hearts", 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers', all 23 glorious minutes of it. I cannot offer enough superlatives about this atmospheric beast, needless to say it is a masterpiece not to be missed. Then three live tracks recorded in Rimini 1975, the hypnotic raucous '(In The) Black Room/The Tower', the bludgeoning 16 minute 'Lemmings' and reflective odyssey 'Man-Erg', the latter two that are brilliant studio releases but still hold some power on the stage, and have some killer passages of mind blowing music that light up with a detonation of sax, organ, bass and drums. The live songs are bootleg quality but are nevertheless prime examples of the band exploring dynamics and jaw dropping freakouts of improvisation, and as such are well worth a listen. Overall, a great CD, especially for those who do not own "Pawn Hearts".

CD3 features familiar VDGG material from the excellent "Still Life", such as 'La Rossa', the title track, 'Pilgrims', and 'Childlike Faith In Childhood's End', which are great but the edited version of 'My Room' is nothing worth pursuing. There is also an edit of 'Arrow' from "Godbluff" that ruined the original, fading up during the instrumental, but it was nice to hear 'Sleepwalkers' both from the wonderful "Godbluff". From the Rimni 1975 concert is the intense masterwork 'Scorched Earth', and it still sounds as powerful as the original. A decent CD but with some unfortunate cruel edits marring the work of the band. VDGG should never be edited no matter what, but this is what happens on box sets when producers try to cram as much as they can into the CDs, the same applied for King Crimsons box sets "21st Century Guide to King Crimson", and the edits are seldom welcome.

CD4 encompasses the poorest era of the band and features the best of "World Record", 'Masks', 'When She Comes', 'Wondering' and an edit of the epic 'Muerglys III' that never did impress me in it's lengthy form either. That takes care of VDGG's worst album and then we move onto "Quiet Zone" with 'The Wave', and 'Chemical World' which are not too bad, though 'Cat's Eye/ Yellow Fever' is the best track on that album. This track is featured however as a live track from a 1974 BBC Peel Session, and it is quite appealing with violent violin serrations, deep bass and Hammill's anguished vocals. 'Door' is also here from Virgin Vault in 1977, and it is as good as the version that appears as a bonus track elsewhere. From the great live "Vital" album the choice is 'Sci-Finance' and the compilation concludes dramatically with 'The Sphinx In The Face' from BBC Peel Session 1977.

The booklet is always a drawcard in these boxsets, where we learn about the making of albums, the lineup changes, the highs and lows of being involved with a strange eclectic prog band, scattered with interesting pictures, cuttings, headlines and information. The box is sturdy and looks great on the shelf, so if you are into the band this is certainly a worthy addition. On the other hand for those who only have one or two VDGG albums, I fully recommend this set as it features such a wide range of material, with some incredible live performances such as 'Lemmigs'. There is enough here to appreciate even if you have all the albums but even with the double ups of tracks, it is a good evening's listen culminating in a 5 hour marathon of the brilliant bizarre progenitors of prog, the almighty Van der Graaf Generator.

Report this review (#777129)
Posted Monday, June 25, 2012 | Review Permalink

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