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Van Der Graaf Generator

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Van Der Graaf Generator The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome album cover
3.64 | 764 ratings | 36 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

- The Quiet Zone (LP side 1):
1. Lizard Play (4:29)
2. The Habit of the Broken Heart (4:40)
3. The Siren Song (6:04)
4. Last Frame (6:13)
- The Pleasure Dome (LP side 2):
5. The Wave (3:14)
6. Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running) (5:20)
7. The Sphinx in the Face (5:58)
8. Chemical World (6:10)
9. The Sphinx Returns (1:12)

Total Time 43:20

Bonus tracks on 2005 Charisma remaster:
10. Door (studio version) (3:28)
11. The Wave (instrumental demo) (3:03) *
12. Ship of Fools (1977 French single B-side) (3:43)

Note: Tracks 11 and 12 were labelled the wrong way around on the CD packaging

* Previously unreleased

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitars, keyboards, producer
- Graham Smith / violin, viola
- Nic Potter / bass
- Guy Evans / drums, percussion

- David Jackson / saxophones (7,9)

Releases information

ArtWork: Jess Artem with Robin Schwartz (photo) and John Pasche (logo & layout)
[The new logo omits "Generator" from the original band's designation]

LP Charisma ‎- CAS 1131 (1977, UK)

CD Charisma ‎- CASCD 1131 (1989, UK)
CD Charisma ‎- CASCDR 1131 (2005, UK) Remastered by P. Hammill w/ 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome ratings distribution

(764 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (35%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Owl
5 stars This is VERY different from the last few VDGG albums due to a far different lineup. It tends to feel more like a Hammil solo disc at times. While I do miss the organ/sax interplay, the bands new sound (at least in studio) is still excellent, lots of violin (Graham Smith) and piano as its foundation, driven along by Guy Evan's ferocious drumming and Nic Potter's (returning one last time) thick fuzzy bass lines.

The real highlights are "Sphynx In The Face", "The Siren Song", "Last Frame", "The Wave and Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)". Hammil's lyrical imagery is nothing less than top-notch.

A great swan song.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Boring and irritating! The singer is absolutely awful! Peter HAMMILL talks, talks and talks again in the songs; his voice is not fluid! The drums are good, violin is too random, nervous and free. All the instruments are well played, except that the songs are extremely irritating! I really prefer the silence. There is just one thing I like on this record: the flanged guitar effect a la "Before and after - Rush" in the beginning of "Last Frame"! The worst prog rock band for me! 1.5 stars, for the technical performance!
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Where VDGG becomes VDG as they stopped generating interest for a lot of people. As understandable as it is for the VDGG purist, the line-up is quite different - with Banton out and Jakson guesting on a couple of tracks but the novelty is Graham Smith on violin - and they (the Purists) are lost. However , this is still unmistakably a VDG (not VDGG) album with Hammill at the controls and there are a few good ideas with the violin notably the excellent Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever and Broken Heart. But the rest is rather weaker and this makes it a slightly less inferior GRAAF album along with H To He. Please note that side 1 (up to track 4 incl) is named the Quiet Zone (in fact it is the noisier side) and side 2 of the original vinyl is the Pleasure Dome .

Please note that this is mainly this line-up that you will find on Hammill's solo album Over released around that same year and holding some of his most beautiful songs ever.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album resembles a bit Peter Hammill's solo album "Over", which was done during the same time as this album. The saxophone player is credited only as a guest musician, and he has been replaced with a violin player, so the overall sound of this release differs from their classic days. Maybe to underline this change the album was released with a shortened name Van Der Graaf.

The original vinyl division to two separate sides is enhanced by naming the sides as two different entities, and they even have separate pictures as for covers on the album sleeve. The A-side "The Quiet Zone" is more better of them, which opens with "Lizard Play". It has quite peculiar rhythms in it, and it also reveals that Peter's style of singing is now more like narrating some story for the listeners. I must admit that I liked the earlier sound of this band more that this. "The Habit of the Broken Heart" has a nice groove, and is actually quite good track, as is the "The Siren Song". This is a beautiful piano and violin driven minor ballad with an oppressing middle part. "Last Frame" is a bluesy tune full of anxiety. It starts with fine ethereal sounds in the start, and the composition takes some twists to other directions later in the common style of the band.

The B-side of the vinyl, "The Pleasure Dome" opens with "The Wave", being another piano and violin driven very melancholic and beautiful tune, one of the album highlights. "Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)" is then more dynamic and schizoid tune with violin driving the rhythm. Sadly after this the quality of the record sinks very deep. "The Sphinx in the Face" is some kind of blues rocker. It's middle part with drum bass and piano passages sounds quite painful, as they don't probably play in quite exact same rhythm. A nasty fadeout fulfills the agony with very silly vocals being sung over it. This was a highly irritating song. "Chemical World" is another schizoid tune, being also quite irritating. And about "The Sphinx Returns", I think it would have been a better if it would have not returned. This is a terrible reprisal of the annoying end of the title it refers. Yuck.

As I first listened this album I didn't like it very much, but after some re-listening I found also some positive aspects from it. But I understand why some persons can't stand this music. I would also criticize the heavy using of fade-out endings, found on four tracks out of nine. But anyway, "If I talk to myself, it isn't a crime"!

Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I won't say that this effort is their best, but it is a very inventive and multi influenced album with catchy prog songs masterfully lead by Peter Hammill. It isn't the most progressive and original album made by the band but a pleasant occasion to hear an other side of VDGG, more orientated to short, standard songs but always composed with feelings and creativity. Consequently it alternates dynamic progressive rock songs as Cats' eyes, Lizard Play, the Sphinx in the face to soft emotional ballads ("The siren song"). Without any surprises Peter Hammill's voice is always brilliant and very intense. For sure this album is not perfect and not as complex as "Godbluff" and others but it delivers a serie of varied songs, constantly inspired with captivating melodies.
Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars My first encounter with VDGG was a wonderful track "Cats Eye/Yellow Fever" from this album that happened to be a minor hit in the local discoteque where I used to hang around 1980-81. Nobody ever heard of Hammill at the time but a group of young progsters started building a cult of Hammill/VDGG and I shortly joined them. Thereafter they became one of my fav bands ever and only subsequently I had a chance to actually listen to the entire album.

Noticeably, this is quite a different line-up, without Banton and Jaxon (altough the latter appears as guest here) but with new member Graham Smith of STRING DRIVEN THING on violin. Music is totally different from their classic sound (they even dropped Generator from the name!) and often approaches the minimalism of Hammill's solo works (acoustic guitar and piano frequently used). However the strong rhythm section of Evans and the returnee Nic Potter on bass gives a firm "rock" and even a "new-wave" feel. Stand-out tracks are the mentioned "hit" "Cats Eye/Yellow Fever" with furious violin solo, the opening "Lizard Play", introspective musings of "Last Frame" and a sort of title track in two parts called "Sphinx". Often neglected by fans, this LP is worth every attention since it showcases potentials of this band to ever-change and progress beyond what is usually expected in music business.


Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome is agreatalbum!What's the problem with short song formats? Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running) shows how wrong is the comment by greenback! Boring? Irritating? Last Frame and The Siren Song really are rare gems. Not in the VDGG production (which is a real treasure)but in the general context of the seventies! The same I have to say for Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Strawbs and Barclay James Harvest.
Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I think it's fair to say that Van Der Graaf Generator never quite made another album like this one. The substitution of David Jackson's flute and sax by Graham Smith's violin alone makes it unique. And quite often, the tepid nature of the players backing Peter Hammill (keyboardist Hugh Banton is also absent) makes this album feel much more like a average Hammill solo album than a big-balled VDGG effort. By this time, the gloss of the dazzling comeback album Godbluff had quickly worn off, and despite a brave effort to re-think the band's line up with a more taut presentation of the songs, VDGG had clearly sacrified too much to be able to keep that tenous hold on the magic that had once made it so compelling.

Still, for every tedious track like Lizard Play and The Habit Of The Broken Heart, there's some quality VDGG fare like Last Frame and The Siren Song. Admittedly it's hard to get past the concessions to mainstream art rock sounds (I dare say that one of the better tracks here Cat's Eye - Yellow Fever Running sounds a lot like the Electric Light Orchestra, while David Bowie/Talking Heads moments also abound!), and it does feel as if the band has sublimated its identity without finding a new one that it is comfortable with. Certainly there's quite often a thin feel to the overall sound, whereas in the past, the band showed great mastery of the use of dynamics and density.

It is of course the classic paradox of the progressive rock band ... VDGG did indeed move on, but not necessarily to a better place, and hence one finds oneself yearning for more of the "old stuff". The times when Smith's violin works makes this an essential detour for VDGG fans, but I'm not sure everyone else needs to drop in on this album. In fact, I'd have to say that this is probably the least accomplished studio album VDGG ever put out, although because it does offer more variety than the likes of Still Life and World Record (without ever reaching the heights of those album's best songs My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) and Wondering respectively), I do turn to it more often than the afore-mentioned pair. ... 55% on the MPV scale

Review by Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars More or less seriously (though I considered his argument a very convincing one), a friend of mine, true Van der Graaf Generator fan, told me how he cannot find a single album of theirs something below five stars and complete masterliness effect (or,let's say, at least of four stars). Strange and addictive as his personal opinion sounds, it's really not farfetched. To support my prologue is this 1997 album of Van der Graaf, The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome, one of three stars, perhaps three point five stars. The problem with it? None! Except that it isn't a masterpiece or grand resonance material. Van der Graaf are for me extraordinary gentlemen of music. Their discographic line is almost flawless (the official material release is for sure). It's a rather unique thing to experience such a vision and a masterfull act of art, perpetuated so long and so powerfull.This album features the same more than appreciable essence of Van der Graaf Generator, just that it isn't to be measure with the big names of their history. Perhaps a slight loosened act, but as far as quality, appealingness and charisma are concerned, there is absolutely no downfall in this acomplishment. So I can my friend was right about one thing: even in their low points or apparently unrealized graphics, Van der Graaf stay Van der Graaf. That is my strong feeling and unshattering conception (as well). Short sentenced, The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome isn't the greatest thing you'll hear, but it certainly doesn't invite an opposite to character, vigurous mentality, keen interpretation and old-fashioned state in. To many aspects, this is an album in the context of all albums.

Symbolically placed in a "second generation" phase of Van der Graaf Generator (symbolically by my standards, for I don't really care at all about these delimitations), the album supports the style. Nothing of Still Life and most certainly not of World Record, but nothing to complain at all. It isn't a compromise, it isn't a missed musical aspect. Shortened as effect, but undamaged as perspective. A light abstract, but one authentic nonetheless. A minimalist satisfaction, but the same unchanged desire to make out of music art (and by now, it's not an attempt of a dream, it's a realized thing). Maybe more "talkative" with a wider auditory, but still enough to put the mind, the soul and the everlasting imagination to a tempered active motion. A very positive three stars position, really (considering that,most of times, such a place means for me an incomplete musical manifest). The music here is one very defined and very stable in structure and in effort. The kind is one not of overevalution and most thrilling sensation; complexity, improvisatorical flavour and the wild pulse are not points of resemblance. Instead comes the beauty of the gesture and the rigurous context. To be even more specific, some piece from The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome are quite definitory. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever is a masterpiece. The Sphinx In The Face as well. Presumably "The Pleasure Dome" is better than the "Quiet Zone", but why such a difference in a most unitary presentation?

I like it. I enjoy it. I'm fond of it. The music here is good and more than decent. For me, The Quiet Zone-The Pleasure Dome is not a relaps moment, but just another occasion of seeing the minds up to work and up to their names. In a way, recommended. Not much, but enough.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars I am a die-hard fan of the band. In my earlier reviews of the band's catalogue, I rated no less than three stars in their entire carreer so far. As you all know, this is a Van Der Graaf album : some major line-up changes have occured : exit Banton, almost exit Jackson (who WAS VDGG typical sound, here as a guest only) and welcome back Potter (the bass player present on their earlier work "The Least..." and "H To He").

What can we expect here ? The format of the songs have changed. Short ones (for VDGG standard - maybe not for VDG). The opener as well as "The Habit..." are not bad songs but they are not very interesting either. This will be the problem with this album.

Few good songs here and there (I am not talking about highlights). "The Siren Song" is the first one : melancholical, acoustic, deep vocals and nice violin. Somewhat reminiscent of "Pilgrims" at times.

"Last Frame" is more typical for VDGG (thanks heaven Jackson is back, so let's add another G). Still, the powerful and mighty side of the band has evaporated.

I like "The Wave" quite a lot. It has the flavour of a "Still Life" track. Very melodious and tranquil. Unfortunately it is the shortest one of the album...

With "Cat's Eye, Yellow Fever" I have the impression that VDG is trying to produce an ELO song. Not really successfull to say the least. Press forward. Since you have learned how to do it, just press again to skip "The Sphinx In The Face" : probably the weakest track of the album (before it returns. The Sphinx of course for the closing number).

"Chemical World" is OK but nothing more. No unity, weird noises (or are these sounds) ?

It is obvious than Peter is trying to recreate a new VDG sound, but with a different line- up. I can only notice that he rather failed, unfortunately. Globally this is a rather weak album, the magic has gone. At best, for die-hard fans (like I am) only thanks to two or three good numbers.

Two stars.

Review by sean
4 stars Though I am tempted to give every VdGG album five stars, even I can admit that this one is not perfect. I can't exactly find the right words to say why I find this one slightly inferior to their other works, but for some reason I just prefer the others. Though I miss the organ and sax, i love the violins and Graham Smith does add a lot to the album. The violin is used at times like a lead guitar would be, with wah effects and such. However, because of the absence of the sax, the jazz elements in the music are also gone. On this album, the music is carried by the violin, along with piano. The first four songs here are entitled The Quiet Zone. Of these, standouts for me are the first two, Lizard Play and The Habit of the Broken Heart, both of which feature some excellent violin work. The second half is The Pleasure Dome, which has my favourite track from this album, which is Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever, where multi layered violin adds a classical feel to the music. Vocally, Hammill seems to screech and scream less than usual, which for me is disappointing as I always loved the agony in his voice when he did that. The music tends to be much less intense than their other albums. Like I said, I absolutely adore VdGG and I am tempted to call everything they've done a masterpiece, but here I will resist the urge and only give it four stars. A great album, but less intense and moving then the others from this great band.
Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars VdGG without the second G

One thing I've always found interesting about Van Der Graaf Generator's discography was this album. Before I even heard the record it was appealing to me for a couple reasons. It's the black sheep - it's not seen as anywhere near their best albums and it's considered very strange and... It's not even by Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG] per se. This is an album by Van Der Graaf [VdG], as Peter Hammil decided to shorten the name since it did not feature the entire normal lineup (even if David Jackson would make guest appearances). While it's very much considered a full-fledged VdGG album it's very clear that they were trying to do something different here.

First and foremost the album is split in two. The two sides named respectively The Quite Zone and The Pleasure Dome are two very different entities - one focused on the lo-key and reflective, the other focused on a kind of inner madness that propels the songs. It's also good to note that while Jackson still makes appearances they're far and few compared to VdGG's normal work. Brought much to the foreground of this album is the string sections and the percussions, likely to cover up for the lesser amount of Sax. This makes for a very different sounding album from the band - and it's a nice change. This one sounds very clean and proper as opposed to their normal madness. The madness is still there, of course, but it's smoothed over. Guitars also have a spot on here, but they're very much in the back ground - not a lead instrument at all as we can expect from the band. The compositions are also shorter here. All of them ranging between 4 and 6 minutes, but that's okay because they're all very solid tunes. In terms of style this one follows close to their previous offering World Record but in a much improved from since this time around they don't sound like a bunch of tired lackluster players but instead a band who wants to keep it lo-key for a while.

As mentioned before, the two sides are very different. The Quiet Zone features the more laid back songs, opening with the catchy Lizard Play with it's infectious rhythm section. This is likely the biggest standout on the first side - it's laid back pacing and sharp delivery makes for a very interesting contrast with the strings which are quite piercing. Other songs such as the melancholic The Habit Of The Broken Heart follow suite with the slow approach which works quite well - the bass becoming the driving force of the song. The Siren Song is a pretty and delicate song that starts to get heavy around the middle while Last Frame shows a bit more of that biting evil side of Hammil that we're used to.

Moving onto the second side is where the album gets really good. But first - take everything you know about the band and throw it out the window. The band that used to make black clouds gather overhead when they played is still here - but they've started to pick up the pace. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running) is a true blue VdGG masterpiece compressed into a five and a half minute song. Frantic strings make for a very fast song that will very likely catch you off guard the first time around. It's also strange because this is almost a dancable song without becoming unlikeable. Almost a punk song turned prog this is one that has a lot of force and aggression behind it - very cool indeed. The Sphinx In The Face is another tune very much quick and unlike VdGG - catchy and almost pure rock but without the guitar. Chemical World is another very cool song - this one more to the madness of Hammil that we're used to once again, his voice effects making for a very chilling tune.

All in all a very excellent and somewhat overlooked album. Nothing like the band in their classic era but a very worthy addition to any collection be you a fan of the band or not. Quite surprisingly accessible considering the band, in fact. A huge improvement over their previous record and unfortunately their last for a couple of decades. 4 cat's eyes out of 5! Excellent.

Review by TGM: Orb
4 stars The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, Van Der Graaf, 1977

Bizarre doesn't even begin to describe this album. A blend of progressive punk and almost pastoral music with a mean violin, vocal stylings that baffle even the Peter Hammill initiated, quirky, though generally brilliant, lyrics... the list goes on, and the bizarre melding of standard musical elements and a freakishly experimental mindset works overtime. Really, there is no way to describe this album effectively, it'll probably take a while to catch on as a whole, and any preconceptions you have about Van Der Graaf Generator probably do not apply to this album. Consequently, it's a bizarrely essential album: I really enjoy it, I appreciate there are a lot of people (particularly the pretty vocals crowd) who probably won't get it (not a bad thing, just different tastes), and I think it was really pushing the barriers in a way that the other classic prog bands had rather given up on by 1977. Graham Smith and Nick Potter give the album a great deal of attack, Hammill's experiments with all sorts of vocal ideas have jumped off into the deep end in a way that you'll either love or hate, Guy Evans is solid as ever, and the pianos and guitars are used with a lot more confidence and detail than most previous Van Der Graaf Generator efforts. I think it's a masterpiece, sure some others take the opposite opinion. Lizard Play exhibits the rather Van Der Graaf Generatorish (well, in this case, Van Der Graafish) of having some sort of anti-catch value. On the first listen, it made virtually no impact on me, either lyrically or musically, but now, I can call it nothing less than amazing. The first Meurglys III notes lead us into a little, slightly jazzy intro a bit reminiscent of When She Comes, before Hammill's light-hearted, very cleverly harmonised vocals come in, using a full range of high wispy overdubs to counterbalance low, gritty multiple vocals. Evans is fantastic, of course, providing all sorts of rolls in addition to some absolutely beyond-belief unusual hollow and tingly percussion inclusions. Hammill's lyrics are metaphorical, assertive and extremely potent once you actually see the whole picture, and allow for a couple of clever spins which you somehow never quite expect even when you know they're coming up. Potter's thorough, thick basslines provide the real backbone for the piece, as well as a sort of bestial feel to the piece. The Graham Smith violin is characteristically unusual, and includes a couple of rather neat subtleties that provide a little more weight to the acoustic. A song full of weirdness, shamanic rhythms, a general refusal to accept the standard terms of what rock is, and a touch of whimsicality that works really well for Van Der Graaf.

The Habit Of The Broken heart is another somewhat eclectic song, moving from a fairly basic acoustic riff to a subtle bitter bit of reflection to a full on burst of rock to a small vocal coda. The lyrics are a touch less sharp than I'd expect from Hammill, though they still contain a couple of great lines, and a basic message, which is more than a lot of bands manage to do. The lyrical vulnerability of the song relative to the rest of the album is more than outweighed by the superb musical content and the rather odd mood in Hammill's vocal. Guy Evans and Nic Potter provide a weird bass-driven riff for a fair amount of the piece. The dashes of organ fit in quite nicely, as does the lush background viola. A lot of the punk ethos thumping in again, along with a few elements of dissonance and the rather curtailed melodies than characterise much of World Record. The conclusion is nicely done. Not an absolutely perfect piece, but a lot of redeeming features, and a particularly top notch performance from Evans.

Siren Song features the album's finest lyrics, and some of the finest lyrics in rock, and the closest thing to a conventionally pretty vocal on there. The piano is absolutely lovely, and supplemented by a tragic violin, Guy Evans' very emotional and delicate percussion and the unusual Potter distorted bass sound. The mood changes of the song are distinctive, involving and feature a rather more upbeat, folk-inspired violin part, as well as an example of just how mobile Van Der Graaf Generator can make a song. Nic Potter never did a weirder bass part than that in the middle of this song, and it pays off fantastically. Anyway, the best way to describe this one is with a bit of a lyrics quote. It has reduced me to tears on occasion, and not many pieces can do that.

Laughter in the backbone laughter impossibly wise that same laughter that comes every time I flash on that look in your eyes which whispers of a black zone which'll mock all my credos as lies, where all logic is done and time will smash every theory I devise

The six minute Last Frame could well be the highlight of the album for a lot of the more prog-by-the-books listeners. A hollow atmospheric introductory solo on viola (I think) from Graham Smith leads us into the song proper, coupled with a couple of very dark, full jabs on bass and a tinkle of percussion, takes us onto the tragic retrospective vocals, coupled with a savagely bleak and determined set of lyrics. Hammill provides an acoustic (on occasion surprisingly unusual in sound) pretty much throughout the main part of the song, which is quite a nice change, and it fits in neatly both at the higher-tempo sections and the more introspective low-key parts. A sort of freakish guitar or violin solo backed up by a dab of Meurglys III riff takes up prime position in the instrumental mid-part. The song's conclusion is particularly awesome, with a distinctly rocking bass riff mixing itself in with dabs of percussion, classy lyrical bite and a distorted guitar. As always, Evans is a solid drummer, controlling his sound, volume and feel quite precisely and adding a slightly human feel through the drumming. Fantastic stuff.

The Wave is probably the most daringly introspective of the songs on this album, with quirky, and yet quite moving lyrics about the point of analysis and the effect of that on nature or feeling. The lush, but quite delicate, interplay between Hammill's piano and mellotron (it's probably actually a viola, listening to it a bit more closely) and the strings is extremely well-written, and Hammill's vocals are simply amazing in a way that only they can be. The tension is available, and a mixture of grandeur, uncertainty, high and low and whispered vocals, and selective self-harmonies adding a sort of ebbing feel to the piece. The rhythm section is again excellent, with Guy Evans' fitting in his own sort of style quite softly, accomplishing a number of subtle cadences that other drummers often seem nervous to add into soft songs, accomplishing the same sort of rolling line with no intrusion at all. It did take a while to catch onto me, as one would sort of expect a soft song like this to simply head for plain lyrics, but in the end the combination seems simply more and more right. Unusual soft songs are one of my favourite features of the classic 70s prog rock bands, and this fits that description perfectly. Masterful.

If one track can be described as driven, it's probably Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever, this piece rivets itself into the mind, frantically and schizophrenically leaping off its own ideas. Hammill's lyrics and vocals have a wonderfully reeled-off-on-the-spot tint, albeit not a lot of conventional beauty to counterbalance that. The jarring aggression of the vocals is in the vein of Nadir's Big Chance rather than Arrow or La Rossa, relying on an innate menace, speed and rhythm over volume or arrangement, and yet they are actually surprisingly fitting for the song, ramming in uncertainty, panic, menace and rage without pausing for breath... a burst of vocal dubs only heightens the frantic mood. The exhausted final vocal line is a complete contrast to this schizoid personality... one of the best worst vocal performances ever. Graham Smith's violin and viola provides truly berserk emotionality, reeling off a pulsing, tense riff as well as an array of off-the-wall solos, counterbalanced by the utter catharsis of the concluding solo. Nic Potter has never sounded better, with pulsating, demanding, insistent bass-lines complete with mixed-in sort of bass groans, as well as a bass-sound or two I haven't heard used in that way before. Even under that incredible violin solo at the end, he fits in a tasteful, obvious bass sound. The guitar is equally superb, providing a sort of picked-electric sound that lends a lot of character to the piece, as well as some blitz-on-the-ear wails. One of the big standouts of this piece, though, is Guy Evans. His combination of sort of trapping drum sounds, solid, aggressive beats, tasteful leaves, hard, flat rock beats and manically fast, yet comprehensible, fills, which sort of overspill all the parameters of the song, providing a sensation of real vertigo and being off the edge.

Anyway, I've gone into a bit more detail than I usually do on shortish songs for this one, but it was entirely worth it. An incredible song, one that really both pushes the parameters of rock and yet builds on existing traditions. As Peter Hammill would say, the 'exciting stuff'. It's a sample at the moment, so take a listen to it on the appropriate volume. If you don't like it, the album might not be for you (there's a wide range of material covered, and the lyrics, here, are probably not as strong as the rest of the album), but if you do, really, the album might be your thing. It's the song that brought me to going beyond the obligatory four VDGG albums.

The Sphinx In The Face is another oddity, complete with a particularly anarchically arranged set of lyrics, a range of rather clever musical quotes from previous pieces incorporated into the main piece. Opening with a cheerful guitar riff, backed up by the appropriate groove from the bass. A couple of rather reggae-ish moments are juxtaposed with a general pushing-rock-feel, amazing mellotron/viola, as well as possibly the most remarkably moving harmony in rock. The musicianship, as always, is incredible, and though the 'concept' of it all... the unifying theme of disunity, of a search... is a bit hard to grasp at first, once it kicks in, it sinks below the surface, and a range of exclamations that first seem trivial become extremely moving. Also brilliant, though I can imagine that the harmony ending won't hit anyone until you've really wrapped yourself in the album.

Chemical World is another piece of particularly good writing disguised by a bit of general chaos, noise, and lyrics which alternate between whimsical and acidic. Aside from a surprisingly Spanish guitar melody from Hammill, the song's softer moments are highlighted by Graham Smith's fascinating sax/flute-'imitation's on violin. The noisy, distorted-out-of-this-world mid-section is probably the high point of the piece, with an explosive Evans and a number of tense melodies and more 'psychedelic' ideas, which perhaps resemble that rather haunting section of Nine Feet Underground a little. Nic Potter's bass is very effective, again, handling a couple of lead guitarish licks on one occasion. Amazing stuff, and extremely progressive.

The Sphinx Returns concludes the album proper, with a rocked up version of the outro to The Sphinx In The Face, somewhat sealing up all the themes of the album in one range of bizarre musicianship and a fade to indicate that they continue.

Onto the bonus material. The Door is another great piece, with a killer riff. Rocking everywhere, a high-range thumping bass and a couple of hilarious keyboard effects. The demo version of The Wave is actually very moving and effective even without the lyrics, and it places a little more emphasis back on the individual music parts. Potter is probably a bit more effective (think it's that he's a lot more conspicuous with a quieter piano) on this one. Anyway, it illustrates that Van Der Graaf really could do instrumental extremely effectively... almost as incredible unpolished as it is finished. Ship Of Fools truly kicks, with a hammering riff, neat lyrics, and a sort of electric fire that reminds me a bit of a couple of the things 80s Crimson and Tull would go on to do. The vocals are truly off the wall, or off the charts, depending on how you see it, and Hammill gives a great guitar burst or two. I'd probably call it hard rock, more so than any of the Deep Purple and Uriah Heep stuff I've heard.

So, all in all, a collection including pretty much exclusively absolutely fantastic songs (The Habit Of The Broken Heart is a bit weaker, but not much so), which I would consider among Van Der Graaf (Generator)'s list of finest achievements, and that really does mean a lot, coming from me. The album is characterised by subtlety disguised as blatancy, which is a pretty standard VDGG feature, so if you don't get H to He or Godbluff or something like that, you probably won't get this. The lyrics are typically . Nonetheless, vital for fans of Van Der Graaf Generator, aggressive progressive music, later, but still very progressive albums, or quirky, obtuse concepts. A masterpiece of progressive rock, and (and I say this even with Starless And Bible Black, and Brain Salad Surgery close in mind) Guy Evans' performance on this is perhaps my favourite percussion on one album ever.

Rating: Five Stars... seems a bit standard fare for VDGG and my ratings, but that's alright... Favourite Track: Very, very difficult choice. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever or The Siren Song if I had to pick.

(oh, a couple of considerations)... I'm sure some of the times I reference saxalike/flutealike violins it is actually Jaxon, but I think at others they are, in fact, actually violin sounds that correspond to how I'd expect some of the saxes on World Record to sound. I'm not great on violas, so my exact terminology for string instruments may be horrifically wrong. Finally, the cover art, it's amazing, don't you think?

Edit: felt maybe a four was more in order for an album with an obvious weak track.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Quiet Zone is an entirely different VDGG album. As a matter of fact, it is so different that you might actually like it even if you hate all other VDGG output. Of course you also might hate it even more...

There are a number of reasons for all that: First of all we find Hammill using an entirely different range of his voice again: cleaner, gloomier, less aggressive and more restrained, much like he would be using on his succeeding solo albums. Then, with half of the band gone, there's no sax nor organ anymore but violin and cello instead. Which obviously brings forth a big change in sound. And last but not least, it has groovier and more recognizable 5 minute songs instead of the usual 10 minute chunks of operatic drama of the preceding albums.

Quite a change indeed but still it's a good album, even though it does not always convince me everytime I listen to it. Maybe the new members in the band needed another year to develop their sound and maybe a second album would have been a real winner. But that was not to happen. 3.5 stars.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Though they do so without relinquishing too much of their eccentric style, Van der Graaf Generator became a fair bit more accessible on this album, which contains shorter songs and catchier bits. I would compare it to Yes's Tormato in that respect, also in that it marked some major shifts in direction (in Van der Graaf Generator's case, they quit recording albums altogether). Here this formerly experimental giant of progressive rock dabbles in new wave music in a big way.

"Lizard Play" Upbeat drums are the underpinning of a downbeat song. Peter Hammill sings bass underneath himself, matching each dramatic nuance of his higher voice more or less accurately.

"The Habit of the Broken Heart" Primarily an acoustic song, the organ offers a subtle but pleasing backing. The middle of the song consists of a fast tempo, book-ended by slower, gentler passages.

"The Siren Song" Light piano and Hammill's soft vocals eventually give way to some lively fiddling and flanged bass in the background.

"Last Frame" Violin accompanied only by an occasional chord introduce Hammill's semi-spoken vocal. The piece builds and becomes something more akin to middle-period Jethro Tull, but naturally the signature sound of the lead singer releases it from any semblance to pretty much anything else.

"The Wave" A droning vocal over a tender piano and violin makes for some easy listening. As is his fashion, Hammill still manages to find ways to squeeze as many syllables as possible in occasional places.

"Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)" Shifting to a more classical approach, this piece relies heavily on violin and bass. Hammill's vocals on this one are excessive, even to the point of being superfluous and distracting.

"The Sphinx in the Face" Was it even possible that disco was an influence on Van der Graaf Generator? Perhaps- this song reeks of funkiness, colorful floor lights, and people pointing their fingers up and down alternatively. Even that tale-tell falsetto chorus is so damned catchy. I feel like I am listening to the Scissor Sisters or something. I didn't say I didn't like it.

"Chemical World" Once again carried by acoustic guitar and Hammill's wailing vocals, this piece contains a violin solo and percussion that sound exotic in their own way, but the singing is almost extraterrestrial in places. Utilizing a variety of effects, this outlandish track should have been pared back in order to make it at least palatable. Despite playing well, even the violin sounds thin and dull.

"The Sphinx Returns" The falsetto a cappella ending of the piece before last fades back in, soon accompanied by the band, thus concluding the album.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I adore the music of Van der Graaf and Peter Hammill's voice is one of the best I have heard. I am used to giving 4 star ratings on their albums or even 5 star, but this one I will have to settle with 3 stars.

Why? It is so different and not really up to the standard of other VdGG. One reason, the sax is all but gone and the songs are so safe and short for VdGG standards. I have heard the album countless times but cannot pin down any one excellent song except perhaps the incredible 'Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever' which features Graham's Smith psychotic violin stabs throughout. it is disconcerting and pleasant at the same time. There are no others that could be classed alongside the excellent first few albums and this is a shame as I expect such high standards from these progenitors of prog, perhaps one of the most important 70s band in the history of prog.

Due to these, perhaps unreasonable, standards, and the fact that the band have set the bar so high, any mediocrity becomes a crime. I am not saying this entire album is mediocre by any means, however it is forgettable and acts as more of a bridge between the old and new VdGG, rather than a standout album. Hammill is still here in his existential glory, the unusual lyrical power is evident, as is a sound that is unlike other bands churning out ordinary material in the era, but I still strongly feel that the album was rushed out to appease a label, and Hammill was running dry on good ideas.

The album appears to be 2 different albums merged into one. There is good reason for this. It is indeed a conglomeration of ideas from various sources and the second half of the album seems to work best. The absence of the sax is notable but this album shines for one reason and one reason only, the incredible violin talents of Smith. I haven't heard much from the famous Incredible String Thing he hails from, however his violin lends an ethereal quality to the tracks and makes for some very compelling listening. He is equally good on the live 'Vital' which buries this album.

Overall, the album has a lot to offer but, as stated, to give this 5 stars stretches the boundaries of credibility. Check it out only after first hearing the first 5 albums of the band or at least the masterpieces, 'Pawn Hearts', 'Godbluff' and 'H to He, Who Am the Only One', after that the excellent 'The Least We can Do is Wave To each Other' is a good starting point or even 'Still Life'. This CD 'The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome' is certainly better than the debut album by a long measure, and is at least worth 3 stars for its innovation and energy, but it is not what you might expect when you know these other aforementioned classic albums and the sheer brilliance this band is capable of.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome is the 8th full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Van Der Graaf Generator. The album was originally released under the Van Der Graaf monicker omitting the Generator part of the name though. Thereīs been quite a few significant lineup changes since World Record (1976) as Hugh Banton ( organ, piano, mellotron, bass pedals) and David Jackson ( Sax and flute) have left the band which probably generated the reason for the name change ( David Jackson guests on the songs The Sphinx in the Face and The Sphinx Returns). Instead former Van Der Graaf Generator bassist Nic Potter returns to the fold and violin player Graham Smith is also added to the lineup. The usual suspects in the lineup are Peter Hammill ( vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Guy Evans ( Drums and percussion).

The lineup changes have a significant impact on the bandīs sound. The usual organ and sax dominated soundscape is now replaced by much more guitar and Graham Smithīs violin and viola playing. In addition to those changes the addition of a "real" bass player really gives the music on this album a very different sound compared to the last couple of releases. The songwriting is generally a bit simpler too or in other words closer to the vers/ chorus formula. The songs never fall into a commercial trap though and even the songs that seem most simple have progressive parts that keeps them intriguing.

The album starts with the great rocking Lizard Play and from the very beginning itīs obvious that the music has changed since World Record. Peter Hammillīs paatos filled vocal style is still the center of attention but especially the violin changes the sound. All songs are high quality compositions but I have favorites like Lizard Play, The Habit of the Broken Heart, Last Frame and of course the wonderfully aggressive Cat's Eye/ Yellow Fever (Running). The 2005 Virgin Records CD remaster features 3 bonus tracks. The folky Door, the instrumental The Wave and the B-side track Ship of Fools from the Cat's Eye single. The CD is mislabeled though which means that it appears on the label that Ship of Fools is a demo song and The Wave is mentioned as the B-side track from the Cat's Eye single. The three bonus tracks are a nice addition to the original album but they are mostly a fan thing.

The musicianship on The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome is outstanding. Iīm blown back by the energy and enthusiasm that all four musicians showcase.

The production is fantastic IMO. Powerful and detailed.

The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome is not the bandīs most progressive release and probably not the best place to start for newcommers, but Itīs still an excellent and very unique progressive rock album fully deserving a 4 star rating.

Review by TheGazzardian
3 stars This is one of the oddest albums in the bands discography, not because of the musical content, but because it is very different from what has come before. Gone are Hugh Banton and David Jackson (barring a guest appearance), and right there is pretty much the crux of Van der Graaf Generators sounds. No more organ textures, no more sax - it's hard to imagine this as a Van der Graaf Generator record, and to acknowledge that, remaining members Peter Hammill and Guy Evans shortened the name to just Van der Graaf.

Replacing Banton and Jackson, we have Graham Smith on violins and the return Nic Potter (from The Least We Can Do... and He to He...) on bass. This album also features the shortest songs in a long time, with the songs ranging from 2 to 6 minutes (instead of the normal 5 to 20). Furthermore, it is presented as two separate albums - The Quiet Zone is side 1, and The Pleasure Dome is side 2.

All this leads to a unique disc in the bands discography, albeit not a bad one. Each "album" has one great song, one song that doesn't do much for me, and the rest tend to be enjoyable.

My favorite song on The Quiet Zone is Lizard Play, which may be one of the catchiest songs in the bands catalogue. It also gives a good sense of how the violin will support the band; that is to say, on this track it becomes clear that the band is primarily vocal driven on this album (not that they weren't always, to some degree, largely driven by the characteristic vocals of Peter Hammill). However, while the track is catchy and enjoyable, it doesn't quite have the same level of drama as the band is noted for. The rest of this side is more mellow, never bad but in the case of Siren Song, forgettable. These tracks do give Peter a chance to sing with more emotion than in Lizard Play.

In my mind, The Pleasure Dome is the better side, barring the first track (which, for the life of me, I can never recall except when it is playing). Starting with Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running), it is clear that this is the more energetic side of the album. Truthfully I think this is the song where Graham's violin shines the most, giving the song a really frantic, energetic pace. Peter's singing is also the most frenetic on this song.

I want to give Chemical World a special mention as well, because it's dark, moody sound really helps give this album a unique feel, and I wish that the album had ended there. The reprise of the chorus of "Sphinx in the Face" in "The Sphinx Returns" isn't bad, per se, it just leads to you having that chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day until you finally decide to play this album again - only to have it end the same way. Did the band do this on purpose?

This would be the bands last studio album for nearly 30 years, and while I wouldn't say they went out with a bang, they didn't exactly go out with a whimper either.

Review by Warthur
5 stars The reconfigured Van Der Graaf - no Generator this time - came about with the exit of Hugh Banton and David Jackson from the band lineup (though Jackson sneakily guests on The Sphinx In The Face here, and would soon rejoin as a full member for the Vital live album). Peter Hammill took this as an opportunity to reconfigure and update the band's sound, incorporating the New Wave influences that he'd toyed with to a certain extent on Nadir's Big Chance and Over, increasing his own use of electric guitar, and bringing in Graham Smith from String- Driven Thing on violin.

The result is a true breath of fresh air, a VdG configuration more than capable of holding its own in the punkish days of 1977 - the seeds of the furiously aggressive Vital album were sown here. Though Hammill would eventually decide to move on as a solo artist, the experiments on this disc would inform his solo work for many of the coming years, and whilst the band's turbulent lineup issues would cause the Van der Graaf name to be mothballed, it's material like this which allowed Hammill to stick to a defiantly experimental course over the New Wave years rather than succumbing to the wave of commercialisation other top-flight prog artists of the era did. Don't come expecting long epics or lots of keyboard and saxophone, but do come expecting tense, nervous energy and wild redefinitions of what prog could be.

Fantastic listening for almost all prog fans, unless you're absolutely not interested in prog bands incorporating punk/New Wave ideas into their musical arsenal.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nš 108

After Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd, in my humble opinion, Van Der Graaf Generator is with Camel, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Rush, one of the best 70's progressive groups and is also one of the bands that most influenced the movement of the progressive rock music. Van Der Graaf Generator was formed in 1967 at Manchester University, but soon they were settled in London. They quickly become a celebrated progressive rock band with a very dedicated cult following. However, they never achieved the fame of many of their compatriot bands.

'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' is the eighth studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1977. It's an album that marks several, severe and profound changes into the group and into their music too. In the first place, the band shortened their name to Van Der Graaf, which wasn't a usual thing. In the second place, at the end of 1976, following their previous studio album 'World Record' released in 1976, first Hugh Banton and later David Jackson departed from the band. In the third place, the previous bass player of the group Nic Potter returned to the band, supposedly to replace Banton. In the fourth place, the violinist Graham Smith formerly member of the progressive folk band String Driven Thing was called to replace Jackson. Finally, the last but not the least change, 'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' was Van Der Graaf Generator's last studio album before their 2005 reunion. Thanks God it happened.

'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' has nine tracks. All tracks were written by Peter Hammill except the sixth track 'Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running)' which was written by Hammill and Smith. The album is clearly divided into two distinct parts, 'The Quiet Zone' and 'The Pleasure Dome'. The first part, 'The Quiet Zone' has four tracks. The first track 'Lizard Play' is a song with some very peculiar rhythm and with a very interesting violin work. This is a good song to open the album and telling us that the band's sound has changed. The second track 'The Habit Of The Broken Heart' is also a good track and is essentially an acoustic song commanded by acoustic guitar. The sound of the organ is very subtle, quiet and nice. The third track 'The Siren Song' is a song very calm and beautiful conducted by piano and violin. It's a very melancholic and acoustic song with deep vocals and a nice violin work. This is a song where the sound came direct from the past keeping the same dark musical atmosphere from their previous albums. Somehow, it seems to me a kind of a reminiscent of 'Pilgrims'. The fourth track 'Last Frame' is another song, and like the previous track, also makes a return to the past. It's my favourite track on 'The Quiet Zone' side of the album. It has a great Smith's violin work with some acoustic parts, and is also a song with a very dark musical atmosphere which makes of it a truly fantastic track to close the first part of the album. The second part, 'The Pleasure Dome' has five tracks. The first track 'The Wave' which opens the second part of the album is a very calm, melancholic and a beautiful song in the same vein of Van Der Graaf Generator's songs with good lyrics. It's very well sung by Hammill, and it's also conducted by piano and violin. This is the shortest track on the album, very melodious and tranquil. The second track 'Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running)' is my favourite song on the album. It has a fantastic violin work which fully demonstrates the technical virtuosity of Smith with his violin, which raises this song to the perfection of a masterpiece. This is a very frantic song very heavy on violin and bass and with a kind of an excessive vocal approach by Hammill. By itself, this track deserves the purchase of the album. The third track 'The Sphinx In The Face' is the dynamic rocker song on the album representing in a way the Van Der Graaf Generator's heaviest moment on it. The fourth track 'Chemical World' is another good song on the album, with good working on violin by Smith and it has also a good classic guitar melody. This is a very dark song with a moody sound that helps to give to the album a very unique feel. The fifth track 'The Sphinx Returns' is a reprise of 'The Sphinx In The Face' and concludes and closes the album in a very interesting way.

Conclusion: After take a look at various reviews of the album, it's interesting to note that there are different points of views. Not so much about the quality of the album, in general they're favourable, but about the favourite side of the album and their best songs. For me, 'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' is a very good album of Van Der Graaf Generator but it's also a strange and an exotic album. It's musically divided into two parts and has a different sound mainly due to the changes into their line up. Despite 'The Quiet Zone' and 'The Pleasure Dome' be two distinct parts, the album is very balanced in its quality level. My favourite tracks on the album are 'The Siren Song', 'Last Frame', 'The Wave' and especially 'Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running)'. In relation to the changes into their line up, it's clearly evident the lack of the keyboards of Banton and the saxophones and flute of Jackson. However, both Smith and Potter made a terrific job. So, for me, it remains a great work of the group, especially in that historical and critical context.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR was perhaps one of the most ambitious bands of all the 70s having crafted some of the most demanding musical experiences the decade has to offer. Led by the eccentric and idiosyncratic vision of leader / songwriter / keyboardist / guitarist Peter Hammill, the virtual1969 psychedelic solo project turned full fledged prog band and charted new territory with its unique eclectic mix of progressive rock, psychedelia and Hammill's singer / songwriter charisma but seemed to hit a brick wall after a three album run. The first installation that started with 1970's "The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other" and "H to He Who Am the Only One" combo pack reached its logical conclusion with the over-the-top "Pawn Hearts" the following year. It all found the band literally burning out from exhaustive touring, incessant studio sessions and never ending engagements. The four members of the band which included Hammill, Hugh Bannton (organ, bass), Guy Evans (drums) and David Jackson (sax) continued to play together only under the guise of Hammill's solo career without the VDGG pressures.

Finding the proper time off the band regrouped under the VDGG moniker and cranked out another trilogy of high quality original material that kicked off with 1975's "Godbluff" and ended with the double album year of 1976 with "Still Life" and "World Record." Once again fatigue and financial pressures plagued these seemingly indefatigable musicians but this time around only half the band had found their limit to the never ending tours, financial woes and life dominating commitments that the VDGG existence ever demanded. By the end of the "World Record" tour Banton had had enough and took off for greener pastures. However by having several solo albums under his belt by this time as well as the VDGG albums, Peter Hammill seemed to think that instead of breaking the band up for a second time that perhaps a new beginning was in order and decided to simply change things up to create yet another unique and equally eccentric musical journey. First line of business was to find some new band members to make this come together.

First order of business was the rejoining of former band member bassist Nic Potter who departed after "The Least We Can Do" album. While Banton took off early on, Jackson decided to give this new VDGG a try but soon found that his priorities had drifted from the confines of incessant touring as well as finding his sax playing incongruent with the hard adrenaline fueled sounds that Hammill seemed to be streamlining more towards the emerging punk scene as opposed to the psychedelic progressive jazzy meanderings of the past. Due to the desire to get married, leave the fruitless financial ventures of prog and feeling like a misfit, Jackson departed in the middle of the recording of the new VDGG and left Hammill with a quandary. This inconvenience quickly turned into opportunity and instead of finding another sax player, Hammill went the unexpected route and recruited violinist Graham Smith formerly of String Driven Thing and had also played as a session musician on Hammill's solo albums.

With a new lineup and a completely different sound, the Generator part of the moniker was dropped and newly crafted VAN DER GRAAF signified a new beginning. However short the band's name had become, things soon got wild with the first release having a double title. THE QUIET ZONE / THE PLEASURE DOME donned two titles to represent each side of the album which in reality should be thought of as a double EP of sorts since each side stands independent from the other in terms of mood and musical approach. The first side very much sounds exactly like a Hammill solo album of the era whereas the second side shows a much more ambitious band integration that created some of the most electrified sizzling hot rocking tracks that the VDGG continuum had ever laid down to recording. Somehow this strange new twist in the VAN DER GRAAF world seems logical in retrospect. Hammill was never about stagnating or simply revisiting previous chapters of his book. Ever restless and eagerly ambitious, THE QUIET ZONE / THE PLEASURE DOME created the proper outlet to take things to strange new arenas.

"Lizard Play" initiates the new VAN DER GRAAF which finds Hammill in his usual singer / songwriter passion play however at this point the guitar had become his main instrument and keyboards only supplemental. The main noticeable distinction is the sizzling nimble fingered violin playing of Graham Smith whose dexterity actually sounds like the missing saxophone of Jackson at various moments displaying his extraordinary command of his instrument of choice. While melodic as ever and darkly sinister in delivery, Hammill leads his noisemakers into more streamlined and succinct compositions that pack a punch with little down time. Nic Potter and Guy Evans provide a bombast rhythm section while Smith whizzes up and down the scales on the violin which provides the colorful improv section. The other three tracks on side one are much more contemplative and as a result engage in slower tempos and provide decent but perhaps the less memorable tracks of the album. The really good stuff is on side two.

The second side of the album starts with a repetitive violin riff and bombastic guitar that sounds like it's on the verge of becoming a punk rock symphony. The outstanding "Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running)" was released as the first single and a declaration that a new VAN DER GRAAF has arrived. This track was so in your face and in tune with the current trends that even the Sex Pistols' own John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten was a huge fan of the band. The track drifts in and out of many moods and ultimately comes off as a proggy punk anthem with a Paganini violin delivery. Nothing short of amazing. The second side continues the energetic spunk with the twofer split "The Sphinx In The Face" and "The Sphinx Returns" sandwiching "Chemical World." The former which found Jackson contributing sax parts before his departure and generating one of the most memorable off-kilter vocal melodies. The last part makes a reprise to usher out this strange new VDG sound. "Chemical World" is just plain weird with Hammill's eccentricities fully off the leash as the track wildly starts out very quietly and bursts into full rock fury. Perhaps the heaviest Hammill track of his career and shows brings the proggiest moments of the past back into play.

THE QUIET ZONE / THE PLEASURE DOME was a triumphant musical experiment and after a rare break from the grind, the band went on an extensive tour starting in Ibiza. Hammill's ambitious nature struck him once again and decided that everything would sound so much better with a cello. So he hired Charles Dickie and hit the road. It was this tour from which tracks would be selected to appear on VDGG's only live album of their early existence in the form of "Vital" which would display the tracks from this album as well as reworked material from the past. Ultimately the financial pressures were too great for everyone as the touring expenses vastly outweighed any profits gleaned from this experimental approach to music and Hammill finally broke up the band once again in 1978 before the "Vital" live album had even been released. While this is probably the most bizarre of the entire early VDGG albums, it is certainly a great one bogged down only by the latter part of the first side. I personally would've loved to have heard how this rendition of the band under the name VAN DER GRAAF would have developed, however it wasn't meant to be and all we're left with is this one excellent representation of the third truncated phase of this great band.

Review by jamesbaldwin
3 stars After a deterioration of the sound, which became almost difficult to listen in "World Record", Hammill understands that VdGG has lost that internal cohesion, that balance between the various instruments that determined the anguished and beautiful atmospheres of the first albums.

And so he decides to change the band's line-up and arrangements, to arrive at a much more essential, stringed sound, guided by guitars and violin. Nic Potter, the bass virtuoso who had done wonders on his early albums, returns, and Graham Smith arrives on violin, which influences much of the sound of the record, taking the place of Jackson's saxophone present only in two songs. Remains Guy Evans, Hugh Banton disappears.

- The Quiet Zone (LP side 1): 1. Lizard Play (4:29) 2. The Habit of the Broken Heart (4:40) 3. The Siren Song (6:04) 4. Last Frame (6:13)

1) Lizard's Play. Good rock start, syncopated rhythm, the sound of the violin immediately captivating, and the rhythm section with the virtuoso bass of Potter inaugurates the new sound, clear and sober, for VdG without Generator. A slow fade finish, which will be typical for the album. Vote 7.5/8.

2) Slower and gaunt ballad, with more instrumental diversion, more developed, which acquires good rhythm. We're listening to more art-rock than progressive. Rating 7.5.

3) Romantic dance with the piano that raises the quality of the album by focusing on what Hammill is master: the pathos. An instrumental cut-out ensues, perhaps the first truly progressive piece of the album, finally returns the sweet melody accentuated by the piano and the violin. Epic song on minor tones. It misses the flicker. Vote 8+.

4) Last Frame. It starts as a thriller, with an instrumental minute of beautiful violin, then the song starts, which takes advantage of a syncopated rhythm, which struggles to proceed, and ends with another beautiful instrumental piece. The impression is that the quality of this album is all related to the inventions of Smith's violin. Vote 7.

- The Pleasure Dome (LP side 2): 5. The Wave (3:14) 6. Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever (Running) (5:20) 7. The Sphinx in the Face (5:58) 8. Chemical World (6:10) 9. The Sphinx Returns (1:12)

5) The Wave is another ballad with the piano, where Hammill sings on the low notes, the song does not take off, and begins the B-side in minor tone. Vote 7.

6) Cat's Eye ? Yellow Fever is the masterpiece of the album. Graham Smith's violin score is worthy of a virtuoso of cultured music. The rhythm is gripping, epic, grandiose. Atmosphere that reaches a rare power. Then, after a variation worthy of a Mozart symphony, the violin dries into a dissolving ending that Hammill unfortunately does not accompany with words: it would have been the icing on the cake. Rating 9.5.

7) The Sphinx In The Face. Well-rhythmic rock dance, gritty but quite conventional, which is characterized by Potter's bass solo, instrumental progression and highly sought-after finale but too insistent and repetitive. Vote 7.5/8.

8) Chemical World it is the toughest song on the album, too long, uninspired. Rating 6,5.

9) It's useless.

After "World Record," this Lp with its clear production is once again a pleasure for the ears. Hammill's voice is finally back similar to the original, not the hoarse, choked voice of Still Life and World Record. The music suffers from the punk and new wave climate, and in fact takes on aspects more of art rock than progressive, but we can listen to -One great masterpiece -One great piano ballad - Two very good rock ballad The other songs are modest.

In conclusione, Rating: 8/10. Three and a half stars.

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3 stars For the band's next release, 1977's The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome, they shortened their name by dropping the word "Generator". The songs are also shorter and much more guitar-centric.  "Lizard Play" features an off-kilter rhythm and some folky guitar work. The vocal arrangements are unusual, a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2938685) | Posted by TheEliteExtremophile | Tuesday, July 11, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Very much like World Record I didn't like this one as much at first, but my goodness it is a grower. Part of the appeal is the fantastic recording and of course having Nic Potter's bass, which was one of the highlights of their first Charisma recording. It may not be quite a five star recording ... (read more)

Report this review (#1467438) | Posted by ross warren | Monday, September 21, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm into lizards and I'm into snakes and I'm into Peter Hammill probably more than I should be. But I can't help it, see, he amazes me with his quixotic weirdness and those wonderfully wubulous words that sort of make me feel like a sandwich at Karen Carpenter's bedside. I want to be eaten by th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1172562) | Posted by TerryDactyl | Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I find this kind of albums very interesting. It shows another line up. It is interesting to see the influence of the changing. To change is always very good. Nowadays every one wants innovation and this is waht Vander Graaf Generator did. Then they became Van der Graaf. They sound different from ... (read more)

Report this review (#243669) | Posted by amontes | Thursday, October 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome" is Van der Graaf Generator's seventh studio album and was originally released in 1977, nearly 30 years before they were to return with an eighth, 2005's "Present". Of all of the band's albums, it has a very unique soundscape: Hugh Banton (keyboards etc) and D ... (read more)

Report this review (#163965) | Posted by alextorres2 | Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The last VdGG album for a very long time and i have to say they pretty much ended on a high note, this is VdGG trying to sound like punk with songs like Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever wich rocks very hard (No whonder they became accepted by the punk movement) there are some almost pop songs like the o ... (read more)

Report this review (#140403) | Posted by Zargus | Monday, September 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I Have aways had a soft spot for this album, i think its one of their best infact, Hammill screams, rave and sings softly on some songs, The complete album from a to z is a stunning album (the year was infact 1978) Much better than world record, the highlights are the complete album!! The rema ... (read more)

Report this review (#84291) | Posted by zebehnn | Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars after years i again listened to that album from an old cassette in the car. I remembered that I had somehow ranked it as not as good as previous VDGG albums. But I was wrong, it is fantastic and unique. You do not find here long compositions a'la plague, you do not find here profound journeys ... (read more)

Report this review (#75595) | Posted by ryba | Thursday, April 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This must certainly be the most under-rated of all VDGG albums (though worth noting the band is technically "Van der Graaf" here, dropping the generator along with a personnel change.) The sound is very unique and different than the earlier albums -- this LP is almost like a "third phase" in ... (read more)

Report this review (#51022) | Posted by | Sunday, October 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Work announced in 1977 "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". The name of the group has been shortened. It is a work by which fiddler Graham Smith of STRING DRIVEN THING joined. It is an album by which the band attempted miraculous. It is a little peculiar unlike them usual style.It became the la ... (read more)

Report this review (#47231) | Posted by braindamage | Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is a very controversial album. When Jackson & Banton left Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill decided to drop the "Generator" from the band's name and started to rebuild the band. Nic Potter came back as the bass player and a violinist, Graham Smith (ex-String Driven Thing) joined the ... (read more)

Report this review (#46669) | Posted by M. B. Zapelini | Thursday, September 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I refrain from writing reviews but a three-star grade for this masterpiece is tragic! I use the vinyl as a reference album for exotic phono cartridges, such is the quality of the recording itself. As much as I love 'Pawn Hearts' and 'Godbluff', this is the record that belongs in my persona ... (read more)

Report this review (#36304) | Posted by | Sunday, June 12, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Hardly one of VdGG's best records, but surely worth a listening . The two members who have had a great impact on the sound of earlier VdGG, David Jackson & Hugh Banton are missing, and so is "Generator" (This record & Vital was released under the name "Van der Graaf"). The record is a great e ... (read more)

Report this review (#8031) | Posted by ummagumma08 | Tuesday, August 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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