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Van Der Graaf Generator - Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans) CD (album) cover

NOW AND THEN (VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR / JACKSON, BANTON, EVANS)

Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars N&T is a weird release that many fans should at least once get their ears on it as much of it is the group's tapes between their two classic periods. If you wondered what VdGG would've sounded without Peter Hammill's voice and songwriting, you have two choices: either you find the first album of The Long Hello or you get onto this sometimes poor-sounding release. Actually from having listened to both, none of them two disc sound the same and neither do they sound much like VdGG either. Actually, you will find a few tracks where Peter is indeed present

The opening Saigon Roulette is obviously taking after one of their classic track, but also mixed a bit with their Theme single. Liquidator is one of two tracks that do sound Graaf-esque, not surprisingly because Hammill is present, but it is out of character and ends strangely. The trio effort of Gentlemen Prefer Blues is exactly that: a blues done the Graaf way and Jaxon shines on this effort as he takes of the lead and comes close to even soloing.

One of the more sinister tracks ever to come from the Generator must indeed be The Main Slide (written by drummer Evans), which is made of slow drones, atonal percussions and some improvisation (while hardly free jazz, it is nevertheless . Tropic Of Conversation is a sax-lead reggae track that expands strangely (percussion-wise as well) with Jaxon even sounding like Supertramp's Helliwell. Spooks is anything but spooky, but more of a lightweight mid-Carribean affair: there is again some reggae, but mixed with more stuff from the small Antilles islands as well. Tarzan is again in that register as well. Epilogue is almost an elevator sorta Calypso music track where Banton's electric piano and Jaxon's sax are just boring me away.

Certainly not recommended, N&T does deserve to be heard at least once in the proghead's life, just to know what dGG sounds like without Van.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#137820)
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Music to make your hair stand on end? I think not!

Most of the tracks on this album were recorded around 1984, after VDGG had split. With Hammill perusing a solo career, the other three band members (Guy Evans, Hugh Banton, and David Jackson) recorded a number of tracks together. It is doubtful whether these were ever seriously intended for commercial releases, and even more doubtful that they were intended to bear the name Van Der Graaf Generator. Inevitably though, they found their way into the bootleg market as "Gentlemen prefer blues" and bearing the VDGG name. They have since gone on to acquire quasi-official status in terms of release, although there is no indication that the band have ever sanction them.

Two of the tracks, "The liquidator" and "Tarzan" are from an entirely different period in the band's history, both featuring the classic line up including Hammill (who writes both tracks). These songs date from 1973/4, between the "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff" albums. These tracks are taken from the "Time vaults" compilation.

Those seeking the lost treasures of Van Der Graaf Generator would be well advised to tread carefully when it comes to the 6 Jackson, Banton, Evans tracks. I am not saying there is anything wrong with them, but they bear little resemblance to anything VDGG have ever done. All the tracks are instrumentals, Hammill's defining vocals are absent altogether. The tracks are much more accessible than is customary for VDGG's work, with simple rhythms and themes; they are effectively soft smooth jazz outings.

At times, we move into pure, traditional jazz, such as on "Gentlemen prefer blues" which is simply a sax improvisation by David Jackson. The jazz is put aside temporarily for the experimental "The main slide", a piece devoid of musical structure or form. Bizarrely, this gives way to a reggae influenced synth backed interlude called "Tropic of conversation". As pleasant pop/reggae/jazz ditties go, this one is actually quite enjoyable. While "The epilogue" fits in well with the other tracks, it actually dates from a previous incarnation without Hammill from 1977. Jackson and Evans are absent from this track, which features Eric Cairns and Ian Gomm instead.

Of the two tracks which include Hammill, and are thus by the full VDGG line up "The liquidator" is one of the most upbeat and enthusiastically performed songs ever recorded by the band, with Hammill positively bouncing along to his vocals. "Tarzan" is a short funky instrumental more in keeping with the rest of the material here.

In all, one for the VDGG collector really. The music is reasonably enjoyable, but it is somewhat different to the style usually associated with Van Der Graaf Generator.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#185420)
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
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Symphonic Team
2 stars In 1984, following the split up of legendary VDGG, Guy Evans, Hugh Banton, and David Jackson found their way into a studio and churned out a bunch of tracks that eventually were released unofficially on a bootleg known as "Gentlemen Prefer Blues". Inevitably, with the rise of interest towards the band, the moniker VDGG with the 3 members was too irresistible and the tracks were mastered and picked up by Thunderbolt (The Magnum Music Company) and given the title "Now and Then". It really is a weird oddity to hear VDGG sounding like this but it is not half as bad as the avant kanoodling on their improvised material, namely "ALT".

"Now and Then" consists of mostly instrumental material that feature Jackson's awesome sax taking centre stage with the occasional flute solo. The music is upbeat mostly and bright such as the jumpy rhythms of 'Tropic of Conversation' and the Caribbean influenced 'Spooks'. 'The Liquidator' and 'Tarzan' are highly unusual, as they come from a different VDGG era, but they are quite pleasant. 'Tarzan' is a jazzy saxy thing with a steady tempo and some thunder claps. Hammill actually wrote these pieces and his presence is a definite improvement. His vocals on 'The Liquidator' are very welcome, and it is far superior to the other tracks contained therein. This song in particular is taken from the 1973 and 1974 sessions in the intertestamental period between "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff". They are not new to this compilation however having been fleeced from the "Time Vaults" album.

The jazzy instrumentals are nothing like the odd prog of the VDGG studio releases but are nevertheless nice background music. 'The Epliogue' in particular is just a smooth jazz filler that would work in a late night cabaret club. I would love to hear it playing as I walked in the doors of a swank restaurant with a hot date draped on my arm. Really this atmospheric music is not something to return to on a regular occasion, unlike other VDGG albums. It is definitely something to savour for completists, but I doubt it will trouble anybody's collection if they did not own this.

The weirdest pieces are definitely 'Gentlemen Prefer Blues', a sax improvisation, and the chilling experimentalism of 'The Main Slide', that is dissonant atonal fractured sounds without any structure. Overall the album is definitely a collectors only item but not the starting point for those who are intrigued with this astonishing progressive band.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#803762)
Posted Monday, August 13, 2012 | Review Permalink

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