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Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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Van Der Graaf Generator Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years album cover
3.84 | 33 ratings | 3 reviews | 52% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Refugees (single version) (5:24)
2. Boat of millions of years (3:50)

Total Time: 9:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / lead vocals, piano
- Hugh Banton / organ
- Nic Potter / bass guitar
- Guy Evans / drums and percussion
- David Jackson / saxophone and flute

Thanks to floydispink for the addition
and to proglucky for the last updates
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years ratings distribution

(33 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(52%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(27%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Matti
5 stars (First review for this single.)

They didn't always have cover art for singles back then, did they? Anyway, this single (which I haven't seen but heard both tracks of it) would climb very near to the top of my all-time singles, judged by the songs. 'Refugees' is a beautiful prog ballad from their first masterpiece album, Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, very emotional (as only Hammill/VdGG can be) and elegant. It's also one of the highest vocals by Hammill, but he doesn't sound stupid at all. The single version is skillfully edited to under six minutes.

Flipside's 'Boat Of Millions Of Years' then is probably the best non-album tracks of VdGG. I first heard it on a radio (!) in 1990 or so, on a Finnish series about prog. Later I captured the song from a VdGG compilation. It's also included on the 2005 remaster of Least We Can Do CD. It's deeply atmospheric and dark, reminding of for example 'Necromancer' or slower moments of 'Lemmings' in spirit, but more ethereal. Definitive classic stuff!

Review by patrickq
2 stars 'Refugees' / 'The Boat of a Million Years' was a single released by the UK label Charisma (catalog CB-122) in 1970. The attraction here is the non-album b-side, referring to the Egyptian wjꜣ-n-ḥḥw, the sacred barque which Ra rides across the sky each day. The intro reminds me a bit of Caravan's 'Winter Wine,' released in 1971, though the song is unmistakably a product of Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator (VdGG). Guitarist and vocalist Hammill, who also wrote the song, wastes no time issuing his standard pedantry: 'Horus the Good lived in the North in lands of fertility and beauty / but Set stayed in the hard desert; to him belonged all drought and perversity...' His delivery of the lyrics is as heroic as ever, although vocally and instrumentally, 'The Boat of a Million Years'* is a relatively calm number by VdGG standards.

The a-side is a substantially different version of 'Refugees' than appeared as the second track of The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, released a few months earlier. In addition to fading earlier, the single version uses a different mix. Lyrically, the song is straightforward in places ('we're refugees carrying all we own / 
in brown bags tied up with string') and at least to me, obscure in others ('East was dawn, coming alive in the golden sun / the winds came gently, several heads became one'). Like the reverse, 'Refugees' is expressive, yet restrained compared to much of VdGG's other work.

Possessing as it does a non-album track and a unique single mix, this record was an essential item to VdGG fans until both tracks appeared as CD bonus material on the 2005 Charisma reissue of The Least We Can Do. But 'The Boat of a Million Years' is worth having for any fan of Van der Graaf Generator's brand of eclectic prog. [2 stars on the 4-star scale for singles - - see review page for scale]


*Hammill actually sings 'the boat of millions of years,' which is the now-canonical phraseology.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The A-Side Refugees is a somewhat different mix to the Album version. To be honest i find it a more muddy sounding affair, but it is interesting to hear the many slight differences. Finding a copy of this single is hard but the single version (not an edit) is found on the remaster of "The least ... (read more)

Report this review (#2188564) | Posted by RossJWarren | Friday, April 26, 2019 | Review Permanlink

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