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Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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Van Der Graaf Generator Merlin Atmos album cover
3.86 | 62 ratings | 2 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Live, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD1 (70:59):
1. Flight (21:30)
2. Lifetime (5:11)
3. All That Before (7:46)
4. Bunsho (5:48)
5. A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers (24:05)
6. Gog (6:39)

CD2 (71:13):
1. Interference Patterns (4:28)
2. Over The Hill (12:36)
3. Your Time Starts Now (4:14)
4. Scorched Earth (10:14)
5. Meurglys III (15:24)
6. Man-Erg (11:40)
7. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (12:37)

Total time 142:12

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitar and keyboards
- Hugh Banton / organ, bass pedals and bass guitar
- Guy Evans / drums

Releases information

Feb 2, 2015
Format: single CD (CD1), double CD, and a special vinyl gatefold edition containing the main events - 'Flight' & 'A Plague of Lighthouse-Keepers'.

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Merlin Atmos ratings distribution

(62 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(60%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Merlin Atmos reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Even though Van Der Graaf Generator have by now released quite a few live recordings, none of them has struck a chord with me like Merlin Atmos. Recorded during the band's 2013 European tour and featuring complete performances of Flight and A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers, the album is a mix of music taken from 1971 and onward. Featuring two tracks from Pawn Hearts, one from each of Godbluff/Still Life/World Record, two tracks from Peter Hammill's solo records and a total of six tracks from Trisector/A Grounding In Numbers. There is clearly something for every Van Der Graaf Generator fan to be enjoyed and some of the less familiar material might just surprise you!

The opening 21-minute Flight was quite a surprise for me since I've only once previously heard it on Hammill's 1980 album A Black Box and this version is a much more modern sounding hence omitting the dated sounds of synthesizers and sequencers. Hammill's voice sounds older but it really doesn't bother me, in fact, some of the moments throughout the opening track actually sounds more potent with his nuanced vocal approach.

The next three compositions are all taken from the current lineup's albums Trisector and A Grounding In Numbers. Lifetime has not been a favorite of mine from the studio recording but this live version has more power to the performance and engages me much more. Bunsho follows in the same suit while All That Before gives the album some much needed energy.

A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers is considered by many to be one of the greatest Van Der Graaf Generator compositions, which is why it's surprising that this is the first complete live version of this 24-minute suite. The performance keeps most of the highlights in tact and organ layers actually manage to make up for the absence of David Jackson. Gog is another highlight since the track has always been considered an unofficial Van Der Graaf Generator classic, even though it was originally recorded as a Peter Hammill solo number.

The so-called bonus disc adds quite a few great performances like the energetic version of Interference Patterns where Hammill clearly makes a strong effort in his vocal delivery. Over The Hill is another memorable Trisector number while the opening track from A Grounding In Numbers, Your Time Starts Now, makes much more sense on this setlist compared to it's role on the band's 2011 release.

The album concludes with almost 50 minutes of classics from the '70s with a lovely performance of Scorched Earth, the slightly trimmed down version of Meurglys III still sounds a bit too excessive for my tastes, Man-Erg makes me wish that David Jackson was still in the lineup even though the keyboards do try to make up for his absence. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End sounds pretty much in line with the studio counterpart but somehow this version doesn't really do as much for me.

As mentioned in the beginning of my review, none of the previous Van Der Graaf Generator live records have managed to grab my attention as much as Merlin Atmos. Yes, there are a few tracks that sound better on the studio recordings and some might even argue that a couple of these performances are overshadowed by the band's previous live offerings. Still, I'd definitely recommend you to give this one a go. Hopefully there will be a video release of these performances since we haven't got enough of those.

***** star songs: Flight (21:30)

**** star songs: Lifetime (5:11) All That Before (7:46) Bunsho (5:48) A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers (24:05) Gog (6:39) Interference Patterns (4:28) Over The Hill (12:36) Your Time Starts Now (4:14) Scorched Earth (10:14) Man-Erg (11:40) Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (12:37)

*** star songs: Meurglys III (15:24)

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another VDGG tour, another live album. This is the fourth double live offering from VDGG since 2007, and their third in their trio formation. The three previous live offerings came from tours in support of the current albums, although all feature plenty of old favourites as well. The tour which spawned Merlin Atmos had a different agenda; there was no studio album either to preview or promote. As always the set list varied from night to night, but on every date they played both Flight and A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers in their entirety, with the remainder of the set leaning mainly on more recent material but usually throwing in at least one more oldie. I was lucky enough to see this show at The Barbican - the second time I've seen them as a trio - and it was superb.

The single disc version of Merlin Atmos gives a pretty accurate idea of a typical show on this tour. Flight opens the proceedings, although it was generally the second or third number in the set. It originally took up side 2 of A Black Box, and was played almost entirely by Hammill apart from a bit of sax. A few years later it was a regular fixture on the K Group set list, and a rather muscular version can be found on The Margin. Three decades on, it is finally presented as the great lost VDGG epic and it sounds magnificent. Banton and Evans subject it to a process of Van Der Graafication, replacing the rather wooden drumming and early 80s synth squelches of the original with something much more nuanced, while Hammill glides serenely through the arrangement and breathes new life into the rather complex lyrics. We then get three more recent selections from Trisector and A Grounding In Numbers, although only All That Before really improves on the studio version, before we get to the main event, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. Although sections had been played as part of a medley in VDGG's heyday, it had only been performed in its entirety once before. Like A Black Box, it was given a bit of a makeover, not least because David Jackson's sax was such a key component of the original (to say nothing of all the studio trickery). Rather than try to replicate the saxophone, for the most part Banton uses the full sonic potential of his mighty organ to guide the epic through all its twists and turns, with Hammill again turning in a remarkable vocal performance. Age might have diminished his upper register, but his voice is as strong as ever and has become even more expressive as time has marched on. This disc closes with an intense reading of Gog, another Hammill solo piece that has found its place in the recent VDGG repertoire and which was a regular encore on this tour (when I saw them it was Childlike Faith in Childhood's End).

Disc 2 gathers up pretty much everything else that was played on the tour but not included on disc 1. 3 recent offerings kick things off, including a splendid version of Over The Hill, then 4 lengthy old favourites take up the last 50 minutes. All of the songs on disc 2 have been included on at least one other recent live album, and the sound quality isn't great (disc 1 was mixed by Banton, disc 2 by Hammill). It's a nice souvenir if you were there, but otherwise decidedly non-essential, particularly if you have any other recent VDGG live albums.

The single disc edition is a solid 4 star addition to any prog collection; Flight and A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers would have filled a single album in the days of vinyl, and justify the price of the album on their own. The remainder of disc 1 is prime quality and beautifully played and recorded. The deluxe 2 disc edition is a nice souvenir, but the second disc is heading into 'collectors only' territory; if you weren't there, enjoy the single disc version and don't worry about missing out on anything.

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