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THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE

Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog


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Van Der Graaf Generator The Aerosol Grey Machine  album cover
3.26 | 416 ratings | 39 reviews | 10% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Afterwards (4:58)
2. Orthenthian St. (Part I) (2:23)
3. Orthenthian St. (Part II) (3:53)
4. Running Back (6:32)
5. Into a Game (5:56)
6. Aerosol Grey Machine (0:56)
7. Black Smoke Yen (1:18)
8. Aquarian (8:27)
9. Necromancer (3:30)
10. Octopus (7:41)
11. Giant Squid* (3:19)
12. Ferret & Featherbird** (4:34)
13. People You Were Going To*** (2:44)
14. Firebrand*** (4:08)

Total Time: 60:20
*USA Mercury LP release included
no 11 in place of no 09
** The FIE! Records CD release includes no 9 and 11 with one Extra No 12
*** The Repertoire CD misses no 11, but contains no 13 and no 14 as additional tracks these 2 songs were first published in 1968 as a single.

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Hugh Banton / piano, organ, backing vocals
- Keith Ellis / bass, backing vocals
- Guy Evans / drums, percussion
- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Jeff Peach / flute

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to bdddv for the last updates
Edit this entry

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Now and ThenNow and Then
Import
Eastworld 2010
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H to He Who Am the Only OneH to He Who Am the Only One
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Real TimeReal Time
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GodbluffGodbluff
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Pawn Hearts (180 Gram Vinyl)Pawn Hearts (180 Gram Vinyl)
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Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each OtherLeast We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other
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Grounding in NumbersGrounding in Numbers
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Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios LondonLive in Concert at Metropolis Studios London
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR The Aerosol Grey Machine ratings distribution


3.26
(416 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(10%)
10%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
33%
Good, but non-essential (45%)
45%
Collectors/fans only (11%)
11%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR The Aerosol Grey Machine reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars for those (like me) who had big problems getting into this band , this is an invaluable album to enter this dark and gloomy wonderworld but this is only a first step as this an unusual album for VDGG (read the liner notes- they explain this better than I could) so nothing is sure even if you like this one.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#7740) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Review by Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Not as bad as some might think it is. This album is like many debuts: showing promise with even more great things to come. Think of this album like the first two YES albums or GENESIS' "Trespass". The lineup is a bit different from their classic albums, this album featured guitarist/vocalist Peter HAMMILL, drummer Guy Evans, keyboardist Hugh Banton, and bassist Keith Ellis (who quickly hopped on to a band called JUICY LUCY). Notice that David Jackson is absent on this album. Some anonymous figure by the name of John provided a little flute.

This album is more of a proto-prog/psych/folk type of offering. It was intended to be a Peter HAMMILLl solo album (since VdGG broke up) but since VdGG reformed, it became a VdGG album. Strangely the album did not initially receive a British release, the US print on Mercury is the original pressing. It later appeared in Britain on the Fontana label in the 1970s (as well as Vertigo over in Italy). The album still has good material on it, like "Aquarians", "Octopus", "Necromancer", "Running Back". The title track is one of the rare times the band showed a sense of humor. "Aquarians" seems to have more strong hippie overtones than what is normal for the band. "Octopus" is by far the most progressive song on this album, with extended organ solos. Certainly this album shows that many of the late '60s psychedelic elements have not left, but it's still a nice album worth having. Of course, start with "H to He" or "Pawn Hearts" before you come here.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#7745) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Review by Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Debut albums are never a great place to start off with because usually the band members are just getting use to each other and are experimenting with different sounds in an attempt to find their given niche. This album is no exception. However, if you're a big VDGG fan, this is reccommended, just avoid it if you're new to the band, because it isn't the best or the most interesting.

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Send comments to Carl floyd fan (BETA) | Report this review (#7747) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I got myself the Repertoire reissue version of this debut album of a very interesting group. I think it is slightly unbalanced from the perspective of quality, having some very good moments paired up with some poorer tracks. Fragile "Afterwards" and hilarious "Necromancer" were known to me from their trashy BBC recordings before I listened to this album, and I admit I like those radio versions more. I felt them pulsing with life more vitally than these more sterile sounding studio recordings. "Orthenthian St. (Part I & II)" has a folky sound with acoustic guitars and pianos, resembling little the sound of the first long player of Genesis. Melodies are pretty, and the fine song is edited as a one CD track to the Repertoire's CD. The shifting of the parts has a weird fade out, creating a mysterious moment to the song, which then moves to a bit more troubled directions predicting the pessimisms dominating the group's forthcoming career. "Running Back" continues the acoustic sound and melancholic moods presented in previous track, being a quite good song with some flute solos in the middle. The duller moments are crystallized for me on songs "Into a Game", which has a bit more aggressive punch in the music, and somehow quite unpleasant piano, maybe being bit out of tune. Anyway, there are many features in the song's structure, which I believe were evolved further in the longer compositions on the following records. "Aerosol Grey Machine" is short joke song little in vein of Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Benny The Bouncer", being a really terrible in my opinion, making me think why to title the whole album with such piece? "Black Smoke Yen" is another short one with jumpy rhythm for the dance of piano and bass guitar, morphing to "Aquarian". This song starts to sound much more like the upcoming longer pessimistic songs of the band, being again very good material with interesting lyrics, good melodies and nice instrumental passages. The cautious piano playing also sounds here much better than in the previous tracks. "Octopus" is another longer aggressive song, but I didn't like this one very much, though there's some funny obscure jamming in the end. The organ theme is little poor I think, and it gets very repetitive. I understood the bonus tracks on my version are from their early single. The A-side song is a tragicomic fatalist "People You Were Going To", great lyrics and keyboard driven melodies. The B-side "Firebrand" is a bluesy tune with raw keyboards and high-pitched bass guitar sound similar like on Wigwam's first album. There's similar hilarious madness in the song like on "The Necromancer".

Though I'm usually quite keen on late 1960's stuff, this album was a slight disappointment from some parts, and few moments satisfying my musical appetite quite well. As an anecdote, I found a picture from net which was claimed to be an early version of the album cover, having a hippy clothed lady spraying grey stuff from an aerosol can. I'm not totally sure about the truthfulness about this picture, but anyway it was so much neater than original one with screaming colours and primitive figures that I printed it out and placed over the original CD cover.

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#7751) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 01, 2005

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In contrast to some other reviewers, I do not have a problem with "Aerosol" being a starting point to explore the dark worlds of vdgg. As the matter of fact I did get hooked on them via "68-71" compilation first (2 songs from here included), then went on to "Aerosol" and "Least" which I still enjoy very much. I will not repeat what other members had to say, I am just stressing that this is quite acoustic album with strong Ellis' wah wah bass rhythm and lots of organ/piano, mirroring the age of psychedelia which is mostly evident in lyrics of "Afterwards" and "Aquarian" along with the cover art. Other highlights include acoustic ballad with wonderful bass melodic hook and flute "Running Back" and a hint of what VdGG would sound soon after this, "Necromancer", which was even a minor hit! Overall excellent album keeping in mind the circumstances under which it was recorded (Fie CD issue, along with bonus "Ferret and Featherbird" and "Giant Squid", contains valuable historical liner notes by Hammill personally!), which IMO can serve as mellow introduction to the novices. Far from masterpiece of course, but surely for any prog (and not only prog) collection!

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Send comments to Seyo (BETA) | Report this review (#7754) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 29, 2005

Review by Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars You can compare the debut of Van Der Graaf Generator with "From Genesis To Revelation", it contains shorter, simplier songs but isn't as overdone as the debut from Genesis. You can hear at times the promising future that the band acclaimed with their followed prog classics, but isn't representative for the typical VDGG sound, like it's with Genesis' debut. The follow-up "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" is historicaly seen like "Trespass": The band found their own niche and wrote complexer, difficulty songs, short said: progressive. On this record the band wasn't involved in the songwriting, Peter Hammill wrote all of them, so the follow-up is oftenly described as the real VDGG debut, it was also the first album released on the legendary Charisma label. This album isn't bad, it contains some goodies like "Afterwards", "Aquarian" or Octopus (in a wilder version available on the new remastered cd version of "H To He, Who Am The Only One"). I recommend this cd rather for it's historical value, less for it's quality. Fans and Collectors, who want a complete collection should pick up this album, if you look for a prog masterpiece, pick up one (better all) of the followed records by this unique prog band. Fans of Peter Hammill's solo work could enjoy this though.

5.5/10 points = 56 % on MPV scale = 2/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Collectors/fans only

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Send comments to Marc Baum (BETA) | Report this review (#50462) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, October 07, 2005

Review by Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' was initially planned as the first Peter Hammill solo-record, but was finally released under the group name 'Van Der Graaf Generator', a device for producing high electrostatic potentials up to 15 million volt and quite a good name for such an energy loaden band. Now, VDGG owns as much to Byron, Shelley, Keats and E.A.Poe as to Chuck Berry. Peter Hammill is like Bob Dylan in the first place a poet, who composes music for his poems, supported by a great band . Hammiill has an expressive vocal range (from lamantations to cries and whispers) and on 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' one can already find the major elements of VDGG's music : Hammills expressive vocal style and poetry, Banton's classical inspired keyboard playing and Guy Evans' subtile drumming. The first five tracks (four songs) have a similar structure, the instruments enter one after the other (first the guitar, [on 'Afterwards' organ] than the bass, the piano or organ, Evans enters on drums establishes a medium tempo groove and Hammill starts singing , with small variations throughout the track. It is already typical VDGG, but the dynamic of the later records is still missing. The most interesting track of the four is 'Into a Game', the song starts the same way as the others, but in the middle there is an instrumental break starting with bass and drums joined by Banton, who delivers a nice piano solo and then Hammill joins and sings ad-libitum "into a game.." over the groove, until the track fades. 'Aerosol Grey Machine' is a funny publicity spot followed by a short instrumental 'Black Smoke Yen', where Evans establishes an interesting drum pattern joined by the bass and another piano solo by Banton. Now comes the best part: 'Aquarian' is a fantastic Prog-Pop-Song! It is the only track on the record (a part from the Bonus tracks) that follows a classical song structure with verse & chorus. [with the band joining on vocals for the chorus]. It starts with a great groove by Evans heavily phased drums and a pumping bass line joined by Hammill's vocals, a great chorus and a final organ frenzy.'Necromancer' is a nice stop and go rocker and 'Octopus' a heavy rocker with a ostinato bass line, organ washes and a nice organ solo in the second half, reminding Jon Lord. The record misses the dynamic tension of the later records, but is nevertheless a great record.

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Send comments to Alucard (BETA) | Report this review (#61275) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2005

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Like most listeners, I stumbled upon Aerosol Grey Machine years after having been consumed by the brilliance of albums like The Least We Can Do, H to He, Pawn Hearts and Godbluff. I had been given the prior impression that this was a virtually unrecognisable record in which Hamill goes through a lot of embarassing hippie cliches. As such Aerosol Grey Machine was a wonderful surprise. It's an extremely confident, expressive debut album that can hold its own among alongside the tentative late 60s debuts of Yes and Genesis (which I also happen to enjoy, by the way). In fact, while I will say that this record doesn't reach the heights of the suceeding four VDGG albums, I actually prefer it to the dense, depressing records that follow Godbluff (Still Life and the like) and I believe it to be an important part of the band's catalogue.

The odd hint of 60s pop on Orthenthian Street and the garish music hall chaos of the brief title track aside, many of the hallmarks of the great VDGG sound are present here. The darkness of Afterwards and Necromancer, the psychedelic tinges of Running Back (which sounds like one of Quintessence's or Traffic's flute-led psych jams) and the mind-boggling atmospheric changes of Into A Game (damn thing even gets funky at one point) show that even at early juncture point in their career, VDGG were somewhat ahead of their time. Sure the actual instrumental involvement may seem somewhat subdued, but it's not as if VDGG is a band that thrives on rip-roaring solos anyway.

If there's any real complaint it might be the lack of a truly exceptional song on this record ... or that it lacks sufficient variety from track to track. One could argue that by the halfway point, everything that is going to be said has already been said ... which is far from the unpredictable streak that VDGG possessed on subsequent albums. The lengthier pieces that close out the album (Black Smoke Yen and Octopus, which is probably my favourite track on the album) promise much, but lack the darker, frenzied edge that is a crucial element of this outstanding group's music. Dynamics, unlike rip-roaring solos, are indeed crucial to VDGG!

There is nonetheless a quaint allure to Aerosol Grey Machine, and I dare say that it come close to competing with the 2005 reunion album Present (to go right to the opposite end of the scale) for my favourite VDGG album outside of the big four that followed this. Personally, I always get a real kick out of imaging a stoner hippie audience confronted by a switched on Van Der Graaf Generator! ... 60% on the MPV scale

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Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A suprisingly good debut.

With few exceptions, debut albums are littered with averageness. It appears here that VDGG is already well-aware of where they stand and have a good grasp of their direction. After being well aquainted with other band efforts in both of their eras, I found this to be quite a suprise, expecting it to be a lesser effort after seeing how lowly it is ranked here.

Keep in mind that this is no Godbluff or Pawn Hearts. Much of the brilliance, or perhaps oddness, that is the hallmark of VDGG's sound is missing here. Hammill's lyrics are not nearly as depressing or disturbing, for one. And his voice is perhaps the most "listenable" of his career (as in no wild shrieks). We have obvious psyche/hippy type influences here as well, which can be good or bad depending on your taste, although it isn't in overload.

Of note here is the production, which is just awful. It's two shades short of being a black metal album in terms of production quality. The instruments seem dull, and the record overall feels lacking in vibrance in parts where the sound should ring through. However, the songwriting and its potenial is all there. I would not start here for VDGG, but would recommend it as the 2nd album to look for should you not care for one of the other releases.

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Posted Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I am always reluctant to review the very early days of some great bands reviewed on this site because for most of them their first album was not really great. Yes being one the few exception. So, what happened with this VDGG album ?

Actually, there's a story behind this album : Hammill (alone) signed a contract with Mercury. When they wanted to record their first album, the other band members didn't agree with the terms of the contract from Mercury and refused to sign. They disbanded althouth they had already performed in the Albert Hall as an opening act for ...Hendrix (24th February 1969) and at the Marquee Club as opening again for ... Yes (27th November 1968) without having recorded anything.

So, Peter was alone and ready for a solo album. The problem being that the music was not the one for a solo artist. He needed additional musicians and ask to his VDGG friends to help him. Mercury left them TWO days to record the album : rehearsals, recording and mixing all together in 48 hours ! Their manager, Strat, will negociate with Mercury : they will release the album in the US but under the name of VDGG not on Hammill's one. If so, Hammill could get rid of his binding contrat with the record company. That's why the European release will only be available later on .

The line-up for this album is a quintet. Jackson and his sax is still missing.

The opener sounds a bit psychedelic but naïve. Peter's voice is already the one we all know. Quite in the mood of the era I must say. This song announces great ones like "Refugees". Good piano from Banton. This is a nice, relaxing song (VDGG will not produce a lot of this type throughout the years).

With "Orthenthian" parts, we enter a bit more in the dark and scary world of Peter Hamill. It lacks in power but, still it is a good song.

"Running Black" : this quiet song reminds me very much "Refugges" as well. Not only with the mood, but also with the text : "I know I can say I did my best, but there were no more warm winds from the West". The ambiance of the track is very Genesis like (Trespass). The flute playing makes it a quite fresh and light song, full of poetry. It would have been interesting to hear a version with Jakson on sax... A highlight.

The intro for "Into The Game" with the acoustic guitar, reminds me seriously "Pinball Wizzard" from the Who ("Tommy"). Bass is very present in this song and it is quite nice to hear this since for almost all their career, they will be no bass player as such in the band. This song (almost seven minutes) shows already how complex the band will be. It ends up in a jazzy jam, but not annoying at all.

The title track is a fourty six seconds joke . Next song "Black Smoke Yen" is a short and repetitive intrumental (1'46") : both are quite useless and should have been avoided.

"Aquarian" is truely precursory to numbers like "Darkness" : weird text ("we are cloaked in veils of mystic protection... joking a lot, smoking or not"), heavy background band (bass again is a plus). As in "Running Black"; I really would have like to hear what the sax could have brought to this track. But we'll never know. I'm not that found of "Necromancer" : this is a very bizarre track with scary lyrics (as Peter will write an awful lot - I wonder where he got such a dark inspiration, although ...). The Necromancer says : "I live in the black woods, where you dare not even, Speak my name If there is evil in your heart and you will come near to me you will, Lose your sane". There will be a better version available in The Box (2000) .

"Octopus" is again a very typical VDGG song. Hectic in the construction, starting some jam after a while (which they will do a lot in the future), Peter singing like if his own life depends on his performance. Not the best of the album but interesting.

"People You Were Going To" is a short poppy attempt (it will be released as a single) : poor. "Ferret & Featherbird" is a folk song with nice fluting like the Tull could have released.

The so particular VDGG sound is not yet fully developped but well present. Unlike the Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Purple etc., this first effort clearly indicates what's coming. Three stars.

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Posted Monday, January 15, 2007

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Van Der Graaf Generator is a very celebrated band in the prog archives. Personaly I have never had the chance to listen to their albums before now, so I figured I would start with their debut The Aerosol Grey Machine.

Well I would compare this album to Genesis "From Genesis to Revelation", because it has a lot of sixties elements, and it doesn´t sound like much else they have made, just like with Genesis debut album. The production is very much in the sixties vein too. Van Der Graaf Generator is a little more dark than your average sixties psychadelic band or Genesis for that matter. This is what intrigues me the most about this album really, because the music isn´t that captivating in my ears. Songs like Running Back and Octopus show the way to the seventies though, with pretty progressive ideas.

The musicians play with a lot of enthusiasm and they are very competent. I had to get used to Peter Hammill´s voice as it is rather special and he sings very theatrical. I guess some people never will get used to it. That´s what I can understand from some of the other reviews, but the real fans love him. I´m still undecided on the matter. But importantly enough I don´t hate him.

Well for the time ( 1969) this is a pretty impressive album, but being new to the band and not having lived with them for many years, I can only give this album 3 stars, because there are so many other good things out there today. I will note though that it is easy to hear why this band has been so influencial.

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Posted Monday, December 03, 2007

Review by russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I could never take seriously a band whose name was accidentally mis-spelled, so I ignored VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR during the 1970s. I've caught up on them since, and because this their first album, I'll start here.

Except ... this isn't really VDGG's first album. It was written and recorded as a PETER HAMMILL solo album, and only after pressure from their record company did the band's name get appended to what was essentially a solo effort. Of course, it could be argued that subsequent VDGG albums also bore the HAMMILL mark.

That mark, on this album, is derivative of late-60s psychedelica. Compared with the dark prog rock to come, this is a light affair, with none of the operatic, theatrical feel VDGG generate at their best. Nor is there much of the threatening, dissonant sound that became their trademark. It's all swirling organ, basic rhythms and hippy sentiments, reminiscent of DONOVAN. The relatively simple compositions are largely forgettable, with nothing here either challenging or enthralling the listener. Worse, it's rough. GUY EVANS misses the mark on too many occasions, and the synchronisation between drums and bass could have been far better. The only real clue that this is VDGG is HAMMILL's voice, which is less dominant here than on any subsequent VDGG release; certainly it is not the instrument of aural torture it was to become.

There was so much great music being made in 1969, it's hard to see how the band even got to make a second album after this inauspicious debut. Fortunately they did, as they went on to make some excellent albums.

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Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
3 stars 01. Afterwards A beautiful body of Hugh Banton is the whole basis of the song, along with wha guitar and the beautiful voice of Peter Hammil. A beauty of melody together almost entirely from the guitar (most of the disk is). From now on we have half of a solo keyboard sensational.

02. Orthenthian Street (Part I) / 03. Orthenthian Street (Part II) Guitar again, something that the guitar be the main gives a completely different touch the band, as they are not folk, not even the guitar. The first part is easy to work with prominent tribal hit of Guy Evans. The second part is guitar, voice and keyboard in his introduction to all deceiving. Because the sequence is quite chaotic. The voice of Hammil is always very welcome, weird but good.

04. Running Back Totally psychedelic, good bottom line. Full of climates, a landscape Arabic means the air. A total surprise traveler.

05. Into The Game It has a very nice guitar, a great climate, a great melody. I think it's the highlight of the disc. Full of purpose and an instrumental and atypical, and of course a good piano line that makes all the difference.

06. Aerosol Gray Machine The sticker funny and sensational disk. If it was music I bought an advertisement (laughter).

07. Black Smoke Yen A small instrumental for the music that follows.

08. Aquarian Half tribal, half psychedelic, Keith Ellis of the low timbre has a super serious and 'dangerous' in a general psicodelia general. A base guitar and a guitar solando almost all the time. The vocals are very good, and the chorus is one of the most exciting I've ever heard. Reminded me quite a phase of Space Oddity David Bowie.

09. Necromancer Without a shadow of doubt obscure track and deep, but with a good melodic chorus. With superb voice, especially the half forward the song is taking shape and growing so convincingly.

10. Octopus This is beginning Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd ) And this is by no means bad. Very psychedelic and full of changes and changes in noise and sounds crazy. Especially in parts of keyboards. Doidera extreme.

Every band has a different beginning, especially the bands progs, this disc as almost all the bands first disc is only the embryo, but I think we should start at the beginning (laughs).

www.progshine.com

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Posted Monday, January 05, 2009

Review by The Whistler
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars In a rare moment of strange happenstance, I agree with Van Der Graaf Generator fans: no, I do not like this album very much either! Weird, huh? Not that there’s anything wrong with the album. It’s okay, mind you.

It’s really quite hit and miss for me: take the slow paced opening ballad, “Afterwards.” I like it. Hell, it might be my favorite track on the album (it is the first one I heard, naturally). The vocals are pleasant, the lyrics are nice, and the Doorsy keyboard soloing is a very good way to start off the record. However, while "Orthenthian St., Pts. 1 & 2" is a nicely constructed epic attempt (and it’s obvious where the part 1/part 2 split is). The first part kinda passes me by; and the second part does too, and I pause only for Hammill’s powerful vocal delivery.

“Running Back” presents us with another atmospheric groove, and interesting one, but once again, it’s Hammil’s vocals and lyrics that are the song’s main fixing point. “Into a Game” is the first time so far there’s been energy on the album, which is good, but the musical delivery ends up being a little too schizo and aimless for my tastes.

Anyway, “Aerosol Grey Machine” is the most memorable thing on the album. Fifty seconds of psycho pop. Hilarious, in a Bonzo Dog Band sort of way. “Black Smoke Yen” is also short; less than two minutes. A whacked out instrumental. And, once again, the energy it provides is welcome.

“Aquarian,” now there’s a strange one. The verses are a Syd Barrett psycho mess, but the booming, glorious chorus is pure Bowie. The tune is good, combining the atmospheric aspects of the first couple of songs with the energy of the latter couple. I don’t quite trust the Hammill vocals; somehow, hearing the man sing about hippie ideals (oh, the lyrics are pretty trashy this time around) isn’t quite believable, giving the whole affair a depressing, rather than uplifting, note. Anyway, definitely a highlight, and the most epic piece on the album.

“Necromancer,” however, I don’t buy at all. A fast, keyboard dominated theme, but the lyrics are absolute trash. And somehow hearing a screwed up pop melody about black NO, WAIT, NO, WE’RE WHITE MAGIC! Yes, screwed up pop about white magicians. Hmm. Didn’t expect this kind of thing until Uriah Heep got on the scene. Anyway, it’s dumb, and I don’t like it. “Octopus” is probably the most freaked out of the lot; and it’s also the most representative of the later V der G sound. Whacked out but interesting lyrics, solid but dull organ riffage, and an attempt to disguise lack of musical variety with shifty, “atmospheric” sections. I think it’s “dull but interesting” (read: okay but not good), but maybe you’ll eat it up.

But therein lies the problem! Okay, therein does not lie the problem. The problem lies with a couple of factors, and all of them can be best explained by talking about other bands.

First off, its’ obvious that Peter and the gang have been paying attention to the world around them. Aerosol is built out of spare parts: Procol Harum-ish song construction, Barrett/ Floydian stylistics. This means that, unfortunately, there’s no real innovation to this record. This is pretty basic art-psycho pop, circa late sixties. Decent, but not shocking.

Which wouldn’t matter so much, if the record were honestly fun to listen to. Which this isn’t really. The band sound like they’re still in “tune-up” mode most of the time, and when they come around, it’s usually a mess. The overall sonic effect is pleasant, but never that memorable. Moody, but not really atmospheric. The only saving grace is Hammill, and even that’s a crap shoot. Half the time he’s vocally inspiring and lyrically interesting, the other half the lyrics are stupid and he sings like he’s embarrassed of it.

Which brings to mind another connection I could make. This album is a lot like the first Doors album. That was another case where the band was unsure and the powerful vocalist took center stage most of the time. Of course, in the case of Aerosol Grey Machine, the band isn’t just unsure, they sound like they don’t quite know how to play their instruments, so they play them as little as possible. And without the Doors’ sense of memorability, they stick mostly to atmospheric side of things. The result is a lot of songs that have the overall vibe of “The End,” but none of the power. And the vocalist...well, I discussed his pros and cons up there. Basically, Morrison, Kreiger, Manzarek and Densmore these guys are not. Recommended more for fans of the era rather than fans of band; tread carefully.

(There are two bonus tracks usually awarded to the Aerosol Grey Machine, and neither of ‘em’s that good. HA! I jest. No, not really. They are sort of bad. Actually, most people hate these two tracks, “People You Were Going To” and “Firebrand.” As for me, I sort of like the first one. Some bouncy piano work and lyrics about people dying and leaving the narrator at home alone while go on vacation all set to a jaunty psycho-pop theme might be silly, but I kind of dig it. However, I can utterly understand the hatred towards “Firebrand.” An attempt at sounding “serious” and “moody,” this bloated organ rocker makes the album’s “Necromancer” sound like a good idea. Oh, and, the guy singing the chorus? HILARIOUSLY BAD. No other way to put that. So, neither track is really necessary (And “Firebrand” sucks hard), but you’ll have to recall that...meh.)

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Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
2 stars I have been putting off this painful review for a long time, but its time to come clean. This is the worst VDGG album by a long shot!

But I refuse to bag out one of my favourite bands and I will not do that but it is nevertheless a massive let down after listening to the brilliance of the next 4 albums to follow this.

But every band begins somewhere and this is where it all began for these progenitors of prog rock. Perhaps this is on a par with King Crimson or Genesis' early works. Extremely experimental and wonderfully weird throughout. Very hard to like on a first listen though some fanatics will disagree. Don't listen to them. This really does have some rubbish such as the title track. I have all the VDGG albums and received this last on protest of hearing about it. I need not have bothered. It doesn't hold a candle to future releases such as the brilliant Pawn Hearts, H to He, Godbluff or The Least I can do. Heck, even the recent releases Present and Trisector bury this album for sheer production quality and songwriting. This debut rarely troubles my CD player, and I must admit I have listened to its fully for a grand total of 3 times. I heard it yesterday again and cringed, trying like heck to like it but failing miserably. It was a drag even listening to the first 3 tracks, in fact the last three are better.

But here it is in all its glory - the debut for VDGG. I am trying not to be negative but this is getting difficult. Lets look at the highlights. There are highlights, people.

Aquarian - dont ask me how it goes now as its not memorable but at the time I remember thinking this track was very good, Necromancer - OK except for that corny "I am tne Necromancer" line that ruins it. Octopus -THE highlight for certain, a track that appeared as a bonus on a VDGG classic, live in concert with Squid. It is better played with Squid though. People You Were Going To - a very short quirky thing that works well enough. Well, folks that about wraps this one up.

PLEASE do not judge this wonderful band by this album. Grab the other albums to follow with eager anticipation of opening your senses to perhaps the greatest 70s prog band in history. Their recent stuff is excellent too. But this debut - well, 2 stars for fans and completists.

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Posted Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
2 stars VDGG's debut is a rather amateurish and clumsy affair that only rarely hints at things to come.

A few songs save it from utter forgetfulness. Afterwards has a nice leading melody. With a slightly updated sound this might have fit well on Hammill's debut Fool's Mate. Most of the tracks are droning affairs however with strong 60's pop and psychedelic influences. But it never comes near to the quality of say The Nice's or Pink Floyd's debut albums. There's one track I need to single out. Necromancer is really an excellent tune with a droning march rhythm that doesn't sit too far from Can's debut. It also has a nice playful and dramatic chorus and good vocal harmonies.

This was not re-issued in the recent batch of VDGG and Hammill remasters. So either there's a dispute over the ownership of the master tapes or also Hammill doesn't really regard this as a true VDGG album. In fact it was supposed to be his first solo album.

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Posted Thursday, November 26, 2009

Review by friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Van der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine (1969)

Late sixties psychedelia listeners read this!

I've become a great fan of VdGG in 2009, but this album didn't got my attention until recently when my brother gave a vinyl copy for my 21th birthday. I've read a lot of mixed reviews on PA so I got pretty excited to hear it myself.

This record is in no way clumsy, immature, amateurish or simple. This is record made in '69 that sounds like it was made in '69. This is no symphonic or eclectic prog, it's pure late sixties psychedelia! Songs with nice atmospheres, strange lyrics, a distinctive sound and above all a (relatively) happy pre-VdGG sound. The recording of this record is perfect for the time being, really good! It was recorded in twelve hours, which is quite unbelievable.

On side two there are some promising long compositions 'Aquarian' and 'Octopus'. These two tracks may remind you of the later VdGG sound with heavy organs and drums and even some frenzied key-playing of Hugh Banton. The vocals of Hammill get darker during the last part of the album and it feels like you could listen to The Least we can Do right after the last song of this record.

Peter Hammill does a great job with his gentle vocals on this album, something rarely seen after this short period. Your friends won't even notice this is one of the most disliked vocalists of the genre! This makes it a good album to try for people who didn't get into VdGG earlier because of the vocals.

Hugh Banton plays gentle throughout, but rages on Octopus. His sound isn't quite like the later work of the band but you can hear he uses the right equipment on the right moments. Classic organ sounds always get me into the music.

Keith Ian Ellis plays bass and does a great job on the album. His wahwah bass sometimes sounds like acid music and give the music a powerful sound. It made my brother order a copy of this re-issue vinyl himself. The drums of Guy Evans are very effective and introvert most of the time, but the sixties recording gives it that magical vibe.

The lack of a wind section by our beloved Jackson is compensated by some nice flute sections by Jeff. Jeff who? No-one knows.

Conclusion. This is great material! An album with an own sound, that does not necessarily appeal to VdGG fans. It is however a very important sixties psychedelic record that should be tried by every-one that likes the genre. I myself am very happy to own this record. Three stars for progressive rock, but four-and-a-half stars for late sixties rock. Just try it!

* Edited

I've changed my rating to four stars. This album is just too effective and has had too many replay to give it a three. I just love VdGG with this sound and I hope to find some early Hammill albums soon!

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Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars According to the All-Music Guide, this originally started out as a Hammill solo album (the band broke up before it got into the studio), but the band came back together in the midst of recording, so it became Van Der Graaf Generator's debut. The best thing about this is that the album is primarily a showcase of Hammill's talents and less of the others, and since Peter was the most talented of all of them, this can't really be a bad thing. Some tracks aren't as well-formed as others, focusing on dark atmosphere far more than on interesting melody twists, but quite a few of them showcase Peter's strengths in each at the same time.

A couple of the tracks, in fact, are among my favorites that Peter and the band would ever put out. "Running Back" is related to a "normal" song subject, a man's feelings towards a woman, but it's done in a dark, stately manner unlike most any other 'love' song I've ever heard. From the somber bass and acoustic lines the piece is built around, to the moody vocal melody (and incredibly well-formed lyrics for a love song), to the dark shadow of Peter's singing, to the alternately happy and melancholy flute lines in the mid-song instrumental passage, this piece is a virtually ideal snapshot of everything I like about the band, with basically none of the bad. Similarly, "Aguarian" showcases Peter's singing and melody-writing abilities extremely well, even as Peter moves into bizarre whacky land with his lyrical imagery. Come on, is there any chance of getting that "Now we look to the sun in every direction" chorus out of your head after hearing it? The rest of the band does fine too, though - the thumping bass sound is killer, and the minimalistic piano lines are perfectly placed.

There's other good stuff to be found as well, most notably from the opening "Afterwards," which shows that the band could have been perfectly successful working in the "conventional" formulas they would avoid in the rest of their history. The vocal melody is memorable and non-trivial (ie my definition of "catchy"), Peter gives a warm vocal performance (while singing a somewhat chilly vocal melody), the low-key wah-wah's give a strangely uplifting feel in the midst of the moodiness of the rest, and the electric piano solo in the middle is very pretty and moody. What else could be wanted? Oh yeah, lyrics like "the pedals that were blooming are just paper in your hands."

The album also has three other short tracks, which is definitely something not to be found on later VDGG albums. "Necromancer" is a fine energetic piece, with "spacey" keyboard and guitar parts helping out a bunch of energetic vocal lines about, well, being a Necromancer (not to mention that funny part where Peter wails up and down on the word "blaaaaaaaaaaack"). The other two short tracks are insubstantial, but cute nonetheless - the title track is a goofy fake jingle, and "Black Smoke Yen" is a minute-and-a- half of bass, drum and piano jamming that works more as an introduction to "Aguarian" than anything else.

The remaining three tracks are more or less ok, but unfortunately not particularly interesting in the context of the album. The two parts of "Orthenthian St." are each fairly pretty as background noise, but aside from the great sound of Peter's voice, and maybe one or two memorable lyrics, I'll be damned if, even after a ton of listens, I can describe much about it. "Into a Game" is a bit more aggressive, but except for parts of the chorus, " " Finally, fans might like "Octopus," since it comes closest to the classic VDGG style than anything else here, but except for the downward organ swirls, I'm not too impressed with Peter's hysterical ramblings or with the instrumental parts or whatever (though the moody organ chords in the middle do kinda rule in their own way). It's pretty danged far from the worst thing VDGG has ever done, though, and I do like the feeling of desperation in the last couple of minutes, so it's not an album killer.

In short, this album shows a band with quite a bit of talent but that occasionally has trouble getting that talent put on record. In other words, a quintessential VDGG album. Quite good, though; it's almost a ****.

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Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars I can't say that I wasn't trying to take this album seriously. I really was. By seriously I mean overlook to some extent their later work and judge this album as some kind of late Psychedelic album. But it's not possible at all.

Nice collection of songs, good to know about band's beginnings, most of them flows easily and are quite melodic. Before I know their later stuff I was enjoying this album quite a lot, but this was before I get into Prog at all. Anyway, sentiment aside, this album, when compared to other albums in similar genre, when I add some kind of Prog sense + my rating system I use, this album isn't as strong as I thought, even though this decision is still something I hesitate about. Of course, it's been a while since I've last heard it.

Aguarian is probably the strongest track here, by strange coincidence it's also the most VdGG sounding song.

4(-), troubled album, haunted by later releases. It's not VdGG sound at all, but when trying to be fair, this album isn't as bad as other similar albums here in catalog of PA (or others I know in this "weight")

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#287662) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, June 21, 2010

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Originally planned as a Peter Hammill solo album before Van der Graaf Generator signed to Charisma, The Aerosol Grey Machine was only released as a VdGG album as part of a deal to release Hammill from his contract with Mercury Records. As such, it could be seen to be a companion piece to Fool's Mate - a collection of Hammill compositions that are of good quality in this context but wouldn't have worked on an "official" VdGG album. The lyrics to the likes of Orthenthian St. and Aquarian take an optimistic tone that stands in stark contrast - particularly considering the sailing imagery of Orthenthian St. - to the apocalyptic tone of the first "true" VdGG album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, though musically some of the songs - in particular, album closer Octopus - point the way to future Van der Graaf glory. A fascinating album for anyone interested in Hammill's work, but hardly in the top tier of either his solo albums or VdGG's work.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#453750) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album actually made a lot more sense to me once I understood it was a Peter Hammill solo album. His VDGG mates are the session musicians as it were and then the label ended up putting it out under the VDGG name instead of under Peter Hammill. I have had such a hard time with the rating for this one. For me this truly is a 3.5 star album but the choice to give it the 3 or 4 stars has been difficult.

The album opens with the laid back "Afterwards" which I like a lot. The focus is on the vocals and stummed guitar but we do get some good drum and organ work. A top three. "Orthenthian St. Part I & II" are next and it's fairly relaxed as well but I really do not like parts of this. This is hit and miss for me. "Running Back" starts off quite slow with reserved vocals. This is another track that doesn't do much for me. Not a bad instrumental section part way through with flute I suppose. "Into A Game" is better but not by much, then we get the very short title track. "Black Smoke Yen" is a cool sounding instrumental but it's very short too.

"Aquarian" is simply fantastic ! We get 8 1/2 minutes of bliss with Peter's interesing lyrics along with some excellent growly bass throughout. A catchy chorus here too that is quite uplifting and I like the piano on the verses. A top three for sure. "Necromancer" is fairly urgent sounding but I don't like the chorus at all. "Octopus" sounds great when the organ arrives and check out Hammill getting passionate on vocals. It calms down half way through as it turns fairly dark with organ then it builds. Nice. More chunky bass late. The final top three and a good way to end the album as it shows us the direction this band would steer to.

Just a few too many misses for me to offer up the 4th star sadly. Sadly because this has some great material on it.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#858279) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Latest members reviews

3 stars A good historical relic of a debut by one of the prog giants that falls more into the proto-prog category than full blown progressive rock which would come very soon. This album was supposed to be a Peter Hammill solo album but it seems Hammill and original member Chris Smith were coaxed into sig ... (read more)

Report this review (#1088537) | Posted by siLLy puPPy | Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If you are a fan of the true 60's psych-rock, this album offers some kind of "high", with unique rich orchestration, and musicality- which are not specific by the average psychedelic bands. This stuff sounds as if have been released in 1967, and not that so close in the timeline to the VdGG's sec ... (read more)

Report this review (#882163) | Posted by Sismondi | Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I know the general opinion of prog lovers about this record, but regardless of it, I quite like it. Sure, this sounds like nothing Van der Graaf Generator would do in the future, being more in the vein of Syd Barrett psychedelia, but it's a very good record at that. The only real problem about Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#454945) | Posted by JackFloyd | Monday, May 30, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Well, we all have to make a debut..... The VDGG debut from 1969 did not exactly set the world alight when it was released and it also fail to live up to the VDGG trademark forty years later to. The Aerosol Grey Machine has all the typical traits of a debut album. Various ideas is tested o ... (read more)

Report this review (#418834) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, March 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Despite the fact this is the first VDGG album, it's kinda good if you take it as AN album, not THE first album of VDGG, as I think it should be. The band's line-up is unusual for VDGG: Evans' drums are developing and Banton's keyboards are not very important in this album (instead later he'll i ... (read more)

Report this review (#302745) | Posted by progknight94 | Friday, October 08, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars My inclination is to rate this album nearly a five stars. I agree with George Starostin's essential view of the album: a delightfully psychedelic album that is much different than later period VDGG. It's lighter in tone musically, with more simple song structures and melodies and lyrics that are ... (read more)

Report this review (#299947) | Posted by SonicDeath10 | Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Maybe it depends when in time you first heard this record as to how you feel about it. Admittedly it has dated less well than the later recordings but sounded pretty darn good in 1974 when I heard it for the very first time. Considering it was recoded in a single day its a brilliant demo. But y ... (read more)

Report this review (#287716) | Posted by burgersoft777 | Monday, June 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars VdGG debut album, and compered to tiher other work pretty lame album, PH havent yet found his voice and sings very ordinary no screams or the typical PH singing style on this one he sounds very nice and beatiful tough, but most of the songs are a bit to long and pretty boring. Its not a bad albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#144074) | Posted by Zargus | Friday, October 12, 2007 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I'll not go over this album in too much detail. According to my ears, there is but one memorable song - Octopus. The rest, you can hear the basis of what would become VDGG classic & for me their standard sound. You hear the remnants of the 60s psych era, but if you know the later albums, the dire ... (read more)

Report this review (#115101) | Posted by | Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars -Historical information In 1967, Peter Hammill attended Manchester University to do a degree in liberal studies in science. There he met Judge Smith (drums and wind instruments) and with organist Nick Pearne they formed a band. A year later Mercury Records offered them a recording contract. ... (read more)

Report this review (#92834) | Posted by sularetal | Sunday, October 01, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I have a problem with Van Der Graaf Generator, some songs I consider to be absolute masterpieces, others I can happily live without and some songs I hate with a vengeance. Most songs on this album belong to the second categorie, nice but forgettable. Peter Hammill's voice, is definetly an acqu ... (read more)

Report this review (#89590) | Posted by DeathRow | Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Even though Van Der Graaf Generator is one of my absolute favourite bands, and even though this particular album was my first meeting with the band, I still cannot believe that it in fact IS VDGG that has made this album. It is just so far away from the rest of the group's discography in both ... (read more)

Report this review (#43713) | Posted by Tyrant | Sunday, August 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It is interesting to see all prog reviewers so far united on the number of the stars to give to this album... Not many debut albums are as brilliant as this, you can compare it to ItCotCK, or Grobschnitt's excellent debut. The album seems to suffer inferior production quality though (I remember ... (read more)

Report this review (#41287) | Posted by Bilek | Tuesday, August 02, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I know this album is always kind of disregarded and ignored by many (Hammill included?) but all in all, it's fantastic! Personally, I love the beginnings of the art rock bands, when they were finding their legs and starting to create their own sound. This is an album of just that. There are ... (read more)

Report this review (#40331) | Posted by | Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars As (almost) everybody knows, this was intended to be the first Hamill solo album. Van Der Graaf Generator had broken and Hammill, armed with a bunch of songs and his acoustic guitar, went to the studio to record his album. He then called Guy Evans and Hugh Banton to play, along with bass playe ... (read more)

Report this review (#38938) | Posted by M. B. Zapelini | Saturday, July 09, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars the first and less complex album of vdgg. there is no point in comparing it with the masterpieces that followed it. for me all vdgg albums are equal with each other. this group changed my life and considering that this album was the reason for their start i cannnot rate it with less than 5 stars. ... (read more)

Report this review (#36326) | Posted by | Sunday, June 12, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars the VDGG debut album (which was really recorded as a Peter Hammill solo album) gives a look at the roots of this great hard-prog band, which appear to be a leftover from the psychedelic years (like a lot of other prog bands). it does have some long pieces in it (aquarian, octopus) and it is go ... (read more)

Report this review (#7753) | Posted by bobo | Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This record was amogst the first VdGG I ever heard, I was a little disappointed. Having heard pieces of masterpieces like Pawn Hearts & H to He..., I guess I expected a little more from this extraordinary band. But anyway as a debut this isn't at all bad, certainly better than Genesis' debut ... (read more)

Report this review (#7744) | Posted by ummagumma08 | Wednesday, May 26, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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