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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff Live 1975 CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4,5 stars really!!!!

As Joren said , everything about this DVD makes a must for VDGG fans. The Charleroi concert is extremely well filmed, with an excellent sound and a very classic performance.

The first part is the concert but I will address the second part most , because this filmed in a studio performance at Belgian state TV by the usual team that also filmed ELP, Genesis , Pentangle and a few more were doing an excellent job. Theme One is just average but the stellar rendition of Lighthouse Keeper is the version that got me to like this tough but awesome epic. Before seeing this the first time in the early 90's , I really had problems with that track but seeing them performing it (well it was a VHS copy viewed in a studio with the complicity of a friend who had access to the archives) changede my outlook.

I suspect that those two tracks are also available on the hard-to-get Classic Rock DVD From The Vaults series. Thanks to Joren I got confirmation of this , so this DVD will suffice.

Report this review (#41397)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars While I agree with the other reviewer's assessment of the performances, the quality of both the sound and the image are really not that good. The '75 material is very bassy, and the vocals are frequently incomprehensible. Worse, the transfer is sloppy - the image is marred at several points by dirt in the film gate, and it hasn't been white or black balanced at all that I can see. The studio performance looks better (yes, it is clearly edited together from three different sections), but the sound is tinny with that god-awful electric piano and the Farfisa drowning out the Hammond through most of it. I'd say as a document it's valuable and enjoyable - the '75 performance especially so, the '71/2 less so because "Lighthouse Keepers" looses some from less-smooth transitions, lack of a second vocalist, and thinness in the last section - but be ready for it it be a little rougher than others have said.
Report this review (#46139)
Posted Friday, September 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Good music as is to be expected, Peter Hammill is a master composer and the band is tight and there are few mistakes except for the occasional time when Peter Hammill goes off key voically but he has never been a great singer in the first place so its alright. The soudn quality is rather poor I could barely hear the electric piano or the bass when it plays and the vocals are sort of muffled, average picture quality as well. Still a good DVD with the only real problems being witht he production and such not the music recommended for VDGG fans
Report this review (#62613)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Peter Pan
5 stars "Godbluff Live 1975" is a must-have for Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator fans. More, all progrock followers should own this DVD. Why?

"Godbluff Live 1975" (with the misleading title) shows two phases in the Van der Graaf Generator story as well as in progrock overall.

1971/72 was the peak of progressive rock music. Van der Graaf Generator recorded their groundbreaking "Pawn Hearts", the last album of their second incarnation, from July to September 1971 in Trident Studios, London. The side-long title track "A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers" was recorded live in a studio performance by Belgian TV on March 21st, 1972 and appears as one part of the "Godbluff Live 1975" DVD.

The TV performance, well produced by an experienced team, shows nothing at all from high tensions between group members and deep exhaustion, which led to the split of Van der Graaf Generator half a year later, in August 1972.

What amazes me most is the compact and dense sound of the band. Lighthouse-Keepers wasn't played often live before because of its length and complexity. To this day I believed studio effects and heavy over-dubbing made it nearly unperformable. But the band is very near to the original sound of the studio production. Hugh Banton playing simultaneously two organs and bass pedals, Peter Hammill with his great voice and playing yet another keyboard (electric piano), David Jackson with two in part simultaneously played saxophones and the dense percussion by Guy Evans nearly make for six or seven musicians!

By 1975 most of the famous progrock bands had split, substantially changed line-up, and/or declined to commercial sounds. But Van der Graaf Generator reformed with a fresh, still avantgardistic sound and published "Godbluff" in October 1975.

The second part of this DVD offers the whole album "Godbluff" in similar quality as "Lighthouse-Keepers". Godbluff was performed on September 27th, 1975, in Charleroi, Belgium, and has more a typical stage atmosphere than the "Lighthouse-Keepers" part.

Video quality of both parts is great, sound quality is well but not excellent.

Report this review (#88851)
Posted Sunday, September 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars A treat from Hammill.

VDGG's only DVD release is quite a good one, if not the fact that we must remember it is material from over 30 years ago, so the quality of it is not so great. Lighthouse wasn't exactly made for a live performance, but they pull it off admirably, and I can't really envision the song being done better on a live setting given its eccentricities.

I guess the downside to this is because of poor production quality (in comparison to now) I can't imagine non-VDGG fans enjoying this. Of course, I'd love to be proven wrong. Some sections are difficult to follow unless you are familiar with the material. The highlight for me was the work of Banton.

If you love what I consider the "peak" years of VDGG, from 72-76, you'll love the addition of this DVD to your collection. Gives you an inside look at the madmen who led this extraordinary band in the 70's.

Report this review (#114335)
Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Finally, there goes a worthy video release of VDGG! It's interesting to see that two of their darkest, heaviest and least penetrable albums ("Godbluff" and "Pawn Hearts") are most reviewed and praised among the fans on ProgArchives. I was personally more inclined towards other albums of this unique group of freaks. Still, I owned a vinyl LP of "Godbluff" and liked it, but sincerely felt that it was an extremely challenging and too dark piece of music. I could live without it for a long time.

But, now how to not get this on DVD? The entire album is played live and it looks like it was actually a multi-part suite grande. Musical performance is perfect and you get a sense of being there in Charleroi. However, my objection goes to video footage itself: there are too many close-ups, especially on Jaxon and Hammill faces! Sometimes it is quite rewarding to look at Dave bowing ahead while stepping on the pedals, equipped with artillery of saxes, flutes, cables and amplifiers. But it is often done at the cost of stage mise en scene. You don't see much of the scenery, the stage itself and the instruments, only the faces are spotted. Banton is particularly under-represented and I barely caught a moment (the only one) when he played bass guitar in "Arrow"!

Bonus material brings a fine short performance of instrumental hit "Theme One" and the entire half of "Pawn Hearts", yes - "The Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", performed live for a Belgian TV. Excellent job! This suite is much more accessible when looked at, rathen than when only listened to it. No guitars whatsoever on this composition (Robert Fripp did add a few guitar licks on the studio version). Hammill with electric piano, Banton on Hammond and a synth, Evans drumming and Jaxon with his double-sax asortment deliver a wonderful reading of a heavy and extremely demanding composition, amongst the candle- lit studio room. A real treat is seeing Hammill bent over his piano where the "Pawn Hearts" black lyrics insert is leaned on the piano slot where usually the music notes are placed! Ha! Even the Author himself cannot remember what he had written while recording the album. Towards the ending notes, Peter raises a glass of wine (if it's not a cranberry juice, which I doubt). Cheers!

Report this review (#115309)
Posted Thursday, March 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars So here infront of us all is a DVD of rare VDGG material. Peter Hammil does not likethis sort of thing being released, yet the VDGG camp show no signs of letting it out either, so this is why I finally made this purchase.

My edition starts with early footage from the Beatclub show, with the band going through Whatever Would Robert Have Said and Darkness (11_11). Here is studio is dimly lit, with odd lighting abound, slightly like the original Break on Through to the Other Side promo from The Doors. Robert starts off with a closeup of Banton's Farfisa organ, which at this point in time is his only piece of equipment, although the wsundtrack allerts us to the presence ofa phaser unit running in the background. Also interesting is Jaxon's saxophone, which at this point is treated as an acoustic instrument. Also, Hammil is strumming an acoustic, and bassist Nic Potter is notably present, adding weighty precision-bass lines which help underpin the early Generator sound. One presumes this is the earliest footage avaiable of the band, and shows no sign of Hammil's later work with keyboards. On Darkness he stands out front, the most honest but minimal job of being a frontman ever afforded in rock.

The band thrash through the two songs and we get the idea we have followed them into the studio on a good day, although there is little experimentation at this point. Banton is very mobile in this video, bobbing up and down behind his tilted keyboard as if he is putting a lot of emotion into the chord clusters and pointed angles he is wringing out his organ.

And then we cut straight into the Belgian footage, shot in a room somewhere in 1971. Oft bootlegged, this version of Theme One has the organ dropping low in the mix early on, but still present thanks to Banton's revised razor-wire phaser units. Infact two identical units are sitting ontop of his magestic Hammond organ, whilst a tape echo unit sits next door. Behind banton is Jaxon's homebuilt and highly idiosyncratic valve-driven stack. Jaxon by this time has kicked the acoustic sax habit and glued transducers to the mouthpieces of his saxs, wiring them through fuzz and wah, and various other routes to get the dry DRY saxophone sound he now uses to great effect on Theme One. The old George Martin work is given an interesting runaround, and whilst close to the recorded version, one wonders if the idea was to iriginally jam the piece out, and make it more freeform, or make it an honest tribute to a remarkable piece of music?

Blam, we are straight into Plague of Lighthouse keepers. With rows of candles (and later, Sparklers) passing around the band whilst each member seems intent soley on their own input into the piece. There is no winks, no sideways nods, the band is running on some remarkable telepathy as the various vignettes and tones of the work pass by.

The original studio version of lighthouse keepers is enigmatic enough, with its curious Fripp-driven sections and tone-row experimentation, each instrument passing infront of the listener but never fully getting the word in, but the live version is even more moribund. Hammil's clavinova piano hails in the piece, with the sound of a harpsichord dessicated and left for dead. Jaxon's eary electrified sax follow into the mix, and Evan's drums, never pinning down a rythm but providing beats where they seem most wraught enters as well. Here we get a good look at Banton's new organ setup. Far away from standing behind his single-keyboard Fafisa, he is sitting behind his Farfisa and his Hammond with the extra electronics. Banton manages to get the most diverse of tones out this new setup, with both the Hammond and the Farfisa patched through phaser units, pushing them to the edge of the audible spectrum.

Watching the performance unfold one starts to ponder the whole purpose of VDGG. Here were guys who were intelligent enough to dismantle a hammond organ, put it back together in a different way, have new circuits and modified circuits happily coexisting, develope huge intricate systems to make a saxophone sound larger than life, and generally prove their technological worthyness, but still come up with highly weighty songs, whereby no real issue is dealt with, but we are taken on amazing journeys. Hammil sings about drowning, being posessed by a murderer, insanity etc, but are these issues he took to heart, or was he just observing from a far. A lot of this pondering would come accross as merely teenage angst if it was not coming from the lips of Peter Hammil, a man whose face is obscured by black hair but seems to be wanting to take the viewer on a 20 minute journey. Lighthouse keepers ends in a fanfare-like way, but we are still made to believe, somehow, that whilst at this present time the demons have been exorcised, we will wake up next morning and it will all come flooding back. Hammil and co are not offering any reward or survival strategy, they are merely content to sit back behind much modified equipment and proclaim loudly to the world that they atleast recognise these traits.

This paradox is spelt out even better in the 1975 footage. In this film there is no stage shots, merely constant juxtapositioning of close ups of hands and faces as the band wring out the entire Godbluff cycle. Whilst probably unintentional, the film-crew capture VDGG at their enigmatic best. We know Hammil is playing a keyboard, for example, as we hear it on the soundtrack, but instead we get a shot oh his face, then a shot of Guy Evans through a fish eye lense. One wonders after a while that there could be anything onstage happeneing, but we are not privy to it. Because we are watching VDGG's restless journey from the comfort of a television screen 35 years later, we don't have the right to truely see the bigger picture. This clostrophobic film style may begin to annoy, but it helps make up the bigger picture of the band. The old German footage at the beginning of the disk shows multiple band members, keyboard settings, amps, microphones, and any combination of the above, but this 1975 footage shows us neck tendons, beads of sweat and single finger keyboard passages. It is almost as if the director tapped a message from the band that the equipment is irrelivent. Banton might have one tape-echo unit, he might have four, either way, the much modified equipment is here to broadcast a message.

So unintentionally this entire DVD takes us on the journey from the merest hint of VDGG's messages at the beginning to all-on broadcasting at the end. Brilliant in my opinion.

Report this review (#172076)
Posted Saturday, May 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars This dvd is perfect thing to watch (hear) as the first thing after you wake up. This music is real shocker, in a good way of this word.

It must have been great experience for people back then, to witness David Jackson's wild sax and soothe flute (nice police officer hat, his whole look a little bit in American style), Guy Evans's very good drumming (fortunately, drum part on Godbluff is very complex and interesting for my liking) and of course, Peter Hammill, whose voice is the main love/hate element here.

Songs are faithfully performed, except one part, higher pitched vocals, there, Peter Hammill, well, maybe slips, I'm not sure, maybe it's an intention, but some of them are done correctly (where correctly means same as original - why this ? because the rest is the same) and some seems muted, I got feeling from this as he reached too high goal (again - at times, most of the times it's OK).

Check my album review, it's basically the same and will explain more. Because I love all these songs

Yeah, this part of "Sleepwalkers" (Latino like?) when main composition breaks and Peter walks on a stage really like someone with sleeping/walking disorder, it really works.

Pawn Hearts session works, even I don't like Theme One that much, even A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers is of course thrilling.

4(+), really bunch of freaks, but loveably freak.

Report this review (#281536)
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars VDGG - Godbluff Live (1975)

This dvd shows the legendary Generator in concert with the original line-up of Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans. The complete Godbluff album is played and even a full version of The Plague of the Lighthouse Keepers is present. The recording isn't perfect, but acceptable for '75. The band plays very good and Hammill sings freely to the intensive material. I would have loved to hear Hammill sing a bit more like on the album I'm so attached to. Whilst most of the parts on the album contain two wind-instruments, the live version has of course only one wind-instrument at a time. This changes the impact of some of the material.

Though they are one of my favorite bands, I must admit VdGG perhaps wasn't the best band on stage. It's strange to see Jackson (wind-instruments) in front of the band and Hammill in the back. The material is however very strong and the emotional content is strong. The version of Plague is atmospheric with the nice use of candles in the studio.

Conclusion. This is a dvd for the fans of the band and by no means a good way to get to know the band. It's nice to see VdGG play in the classic line-up, but still this isn't an essential purchase. Only the version of Plague of the Lighthouse Keepers amazes me. Three stars.

Report this review (#297858)
Posted Tuesday, September 7, 2010 | Review Permalink

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