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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Van Der Graaf Generator biography
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is an English eclectic progressive rock band with front man Peter HAMMILL from 'the classic period' that has proven be one of the most important bands of the progressive genre.

In England, 1967 Chris Judge SMITH formed 'VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR', but after his departure it was up to Peter HAMMILL (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Hugh BANTON (organ, bass on organ), David JACKSON (sax, flute) and Guy EVANS (drums) to become one of progressive rock most proliferate and unique bands as well as the first band to be signed to the Famous Charisma Label. The band was named after the scientific instrument 'the Van de Graaff generator', which is used for accumulating high voltage bolts. VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (VdGG for short) is known for its extrovert dynamics (ranging from slow, calm & peaceful to fierce & heavy), its intense and emotional 'love it or hate it' vocals by Peter HAMMILL, its celebrated contribution to extended progressive songwriting and its combination of psychedelic, jazz, classical and avant-garde or even acid influences. Moreover, VdGG can be seen as the first band that was to combine the very progressive with the very personal, whereas other bands used to work with abstractions and fantasy. Peter HAMMILL has a talent for singing out intense graving, anger, panic and confusion whilst still being able to sing warm and caring in other passages. The band never really fitted in the symphonic progressive rock subgenre because of its widespread influences and unique style, though the band would have symphonic leanings throughout it's career. Unusual for the time was the focus on organ, drums and sax, whereas in the sixties the guitar and the bass guitar had played a major role.

The band had a leading role in the very first progressive phase releasing high-rated albums from 1970 to 1975. The strong conceptual 'H to He Who am the only one' (1970), the intense and highly innovative and daring 'Pawn Hearts' (1971), the bleak and ever evolving 'Godbluff' (1975) and the matured 'Still Life' (1976) are often cited as masterpieces of the progressive genre. Alongside VdGG there would be a very interesting solo-career for Peter HAMMILL who frequently invited members of the band to come and join on his seventies recordings, some of which are seen as 'lost VdGG albums'. VdGG would directly influence a lot of Italian progressive acts, a country in which they were particularly well received. The band stopped performing in its clas...
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.25 | 510 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.05 | 835 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1336 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.41 | 1761 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.49 | 1652 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1219 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.83 | 630 ratings
World Record
1976
3.63 | 536 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.65 | 428 ratings
Present
2005
3.52 | 412 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.42 | 403 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.47 | 175 ratings
ALT
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
Do Not Disturb
2016

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.74 | 225 ratings
Vital
1978
4.11 | 114 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.10 | 154 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.67 | 72 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.57 | 34 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.91 | 38 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.44 | 16 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.10 | 98 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
5.00 | 3 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.13 | 25 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.08 | 6 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
3.96 | 50 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.47 | 31 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 32 ratings
68-71
1972
4.50 | 2 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
3.00 | 1 ratings
Reflection
1975
0.00 | 0 ratings
Rock Heavies
1978
2.31 | 53 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.44 | 60 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.41 | 44 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.13 | 37 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.32 | 51 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.91 | 61 ratings
The Box
2000
3.46 | 16 ratings
An Introduction
2000
4.50 | 2 ratings
First Generation / Godbluff
2012

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.54 | 16 ratings
People You Were Going To / Firebrand
1969
4.08 | 20 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
4.58 | 24 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.63 | 27 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.80 | 15 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.50 | 16 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
4.06 | 18 ratings
Cat's Eye
1977
1.69 | 17 ratings
The Masters
1998
2.67 | 3 ratings
Highly Strung
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1219 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by LittleJake

5 stars I know a lot of VDGG fans like to talk about Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, and even H To He... when considering their best work; but for me, Still Life is their absolute zenith. Everything VDGG had done before was preparing them for this magnum opus of an album.

It starts out with the pensive and very catchy "Pilgrims", causing us all to reflect on our journey through life. The interplay between Hugh Banton and Hammill is what makes this song work so well.

Next comes perhaps the greatest piece VDGG ever produced - "Still Life". This has everything - Peter Hammill doing all he does best. I find the lyrics quite uplifting, even though it deals with a somewhat depressing topic of death. Very beautiful and poetic treatment of our relationships in death, and the music takes one through all the emotions one might experience through the trial of losing a spouse or other loved one. Screaming, yearning, grooving, rejoicing, understanding, acceptance, peace. Just stunning.

"La Rossa" - sheer brilliance. Absolute power. Hard to find words to describe the majesty of this music.

"My Room" - wow. the greatest jazz ballad not about love ever? Absolutely beautiful. David Jackson shines brightly.

"Childhood's Faith In Childhood's End" is an epic close. Much has been written about this piece and so I need not hash out the same.

5+ stars!!

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.41 | 1761 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

2 stars Van Der Graaf Generator is a bit of a touchy subject. On the one hand, they're an incredibly influential band and if there were a prog award given out for most original sound, they'd be a shoe-in. On the other hand, this band that has a lot going for it in theory happens to have the most marmite-like, controversial vocalist on the planet, Peter Hammill. For some, Pete's vocal work can strike their ears and permeate into the deepest reaches of their souls, conjuring emotions that they didn't even know could be felt, let alone articulated. For others, Hammill's vocals strike the ear in much the same manner as a cheese grater.

So, like I said, Van Der Graaf Generator is a love it or hate it type of band and "Pawn Hearts" is probably the most extreme example of Graafian excess. Peter takes center stage, giving no room for the rest of the band, a competent bunch of musicians, to carry out any roles past giving tinny, dry, uninspired accompaniment. Hammill, on the other hand, gives himself plenty of liberty to go off on tangents, often far, far longer than I'm comfortable with.

So if you've listened to other Van der Graaf Generator works and can tolerate, or even enjoy, them, this is a good album for you to check out. But despite its ambition and influence, this album is too divisive to call essential. 2 stars; fans only.

 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1219 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars After releasing Pawn Hearts, Van Der Graaf Generator enjoyed respectable chart success, got a fair amount of radio play and started touring a lot more than before. This obviously included a lot of hard and exhausting work. That combined with lack of support from Stratton-Smith and Charisma label led to financial problems, resulting in Peter Hammill leaving the group. At that time, he recorded a few solo albums such as Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night or The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage. In 1975, the group reunited, refusing to play audience's favorites, and continued to create ambitious material. The same year, Goldbluff came out meeting a relatively warm welcome. In 1976, the band recorded Still Life. The keyboardist Hugh Banton considers this album as one of the quartet's most accomplished works.

1976 was not the best year for progressive rock. Peter Gabriel left Genesis, King Crimson broke up, Yes slowly gravitated towards radio-friendly pop songs with Going For the One. Of course, many interesting things came out after that, but the overall freshness and vigour of the genre once so exciting, was nearly gone. Despite that, Still Life sounds vivid, with Van Der Graaf Generator's "classic" sound in a great condition. Compared to Graaf's previous works, this album is more organ-centric and not as dark. However, the classic moodiness and theatricality, that the band became so renowned for, is very much present. The group's signature outer space-like quality still reverbrates in places.

It sometimes seems like Van Der Graaf Generator's sound is shifting towards more soul-influenced scenario with the symphonic influences being estranged. Some of the pieces like "My Room" sound a tad more pop-oriented, but it is all done with phenomenal taste and does not sound ubiquitous. David Jackson's jazz-inspired saxophone appears in places bringing back the band's older material to mind. Besides phenomenal organ playing, Hugh Banton plays bass guitar, and quite proficiently may I mention, which I found to sit very loud in the mix. Peter Hammill's unmistakeable voice has a very melodic factor to it, making it appear almost like another instrument. All in all, the musicianship on this release is excellent.

The album consists of five tracks, all fairly long, never getting below the 7-minute mark. What I especially like is that musicians seem to be taking their time in drawing the charming soundscapes, rather than rushing because of the recording time limitation. Some find the album boring because of its slow, phlegmatic development, but I have grown to appreciate that. "Pilgrims" and "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" are two pieces that I feel are the most representative of this work, showcasing all of the previously mentioned elements.

Van Der Graaf Generator are back in a tasteful fashion with Still Life. Although their material might not be as exciting and luminous as it used to be, it s without a doubt of superior quality. All of the band's classic ingridients are there, put into great use once more! Naturally, Still Life is a treat for Van Der Graaf Generator fans and is a perfectly accessible album. A gem of progressive rock, recommended!

 The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.05 | 835 ratings

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The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" is the first album that really made Van Der Graaf Generator stand out. Still not as complex and dark as their following works, but this one created basis for masterpieces like "Pawn Hearts" or "H To He Who Am The Only One". It shows a strong progress from their already steady and extrordinary, but rather comic debut, which followed many trends of psychedelic movement. A virtuoso saxophonist David Jackson joined the band giving it a rather jazzy and unique feel, somewhat inspired by John Coltrane and even Ornette Coleman. Again, Peter Hammill is the mastermind behind this work. A superb poet, musical genius and an outstanding, creative composer. Every instrument works like a Swiss watch. The music on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" incorporates elements of passing psychedelic rock, folk, jazz with romantic-era classical music sensibilities. Still not what we would call full-blown progressive rock, it encourages many qualities of so called "proto-prog". "Darkness (11/11)", a theatrical and relatively eccentric piece is in my opinion the highlight of the album and a spark of what would be to come. Recommended! Should be found in every prog nut's collection!
 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.41 | 1761 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator were always in their own universe and had a precise, distinct vision of what their music should sound like. After a groundbreaking album H to He Who Am The Only One, which was one of the first works to present the band's "classic" sound, the group recorded Pawn Hearts. The name comes from Dave Jackson's soporenism on his task of recording "horn parts". The iconic album cover was designed by Paul Whitehead.

Van Der Graaf Generator take their musical vision one step further. Thes album contains just three tracks. All of them are eccentric, dark, theatrical, literary and very challenging epics. Conceptuality is one of Pawn Hearts' strongest point. Moods are proficiently expressed with one-of-a-kind musicianship. The music is very smooth, lush, spacey and watery. The group's instrumentation is much different than any other progressive rock group. It does have a strong symphonic element, notably at the end of "Lemmings". However, influences of free jazz and even some world music are put on the first plan. The mixing of the album is great and very dynamic. Pawn Hearts goes from light percussion touches supported by gentle acoustic guitar to Ornette Coleman-like sax solos.

The highlight of the album would probably be a side-long suite "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers". This one in particular presents all of the elements of Van Der Graaf Generator's music we came to know and love. "Man-Erg" is the most ballad-esque of the three, while "Lemmings" draws one the most beautiful musical textures to be seen in progressive rock. This track in particular gives me goosebumps. A beautifully twisted trio!

This is a highly complex album, so it naturally won't be a great experience to newcommers. It was the same with me. It took me quite a few listens to figure out what Pawn Hearts is all about. Regardless, it is an iconic prog rock album and really one of top ten most renowned works of the genre. Highly recommended!

 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1336 ratings

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H To He, Who Am The Only One
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review Nš 64

In my humble opinion, Van Der Graaf Generator is with Gentle Giant and King Crimson, probably, one of the three most creative, original and progressive bands that ever existed. With the exception of King Crimson, which always had an impressive number of fans, Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant, had only a very small but very faithful group of supporters, probably due to the originality and the difficulty of their music.

This is my fifth review of a Van Der Graaf Generator's album. The others are their fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh studio albums 'Pawn Hearts', 'Godbluff', 'Still Life' and 'World Record' which were released in 1971, 1975 and the last two in 1976, respectively. 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' is their third studio album and was released in 1970.

The line up of the album is Peter Hammill (lead vocals, acoustic guitar and piano), Hugh Banton (vocals, Hammond and Farfisa organs, piano, oscillator and bass guitar), David Jackson (vocals, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and flute), Guy Evans (drums, percussion and tympani) and Nic Potter (bass guitar). The album has also the presence on guitar of Robert Fripp of King Crimson, as a guest musician. Potter left the band mid-way through the recording sessions. After it, the group decided to carry on without a new bass guitarist, with Banton alternating bass guitar and organ bass pedals. Therefore, the Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans quartet is considered the classic Van Der Graaf Generator's line up, and were they, that recorded and released their following great masterpieces.

'H To He, Who Am The Only One' has five tracks. The first track 'Killer' written by Hammill, Chris Judge Smith and Banton is a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. This is one of my favourite songs from the band. It portrays the usual hunting musical atmosphere that this band is able to create with their music. The second track 'House With No Door' written by Hammill and Jackson is probably the most calm and beautiful ballad composed by the band and it's also a rather depressing track, lyrically speaking. It's a very delicate and dark song and is also one of my favourite songs from the group. It can show us how great this group can be, even in their quietest musical moments. The third track 'The Emperor In His Room' written by Hammill is a track divided into two parts: 'The Emperor' and 'The Room'. This is another very dark song, which is about the consequences of living a life of war and death and describes the act of a tyrant with torture and the dying of the emperor, with some very violent lyrics. It's the fear and aggression that speaks here. This is another brilliant piece of music with great lyrics and with a magnificent flute work by Jackson. Here we can listen to the guitar work of the master Robert Fripp who plays guitar as a guest as he also did on their next album 'Pawn Hearts'. The fourth track 'Lost' was written by Hammill and is also divided into two parts: 'The Dance In Sand And sea' and 'The Dance In The Frost'. This is another brilliant track. It's a song about loneliness, lost, love and madness, also with very good lyrics, which is a Hammill's traditional trademark. There is a lot of musical variety in this piece of music. 'Lost' is one of the most depressing pieces of music written by this brilliant artist called Peter Hammill. The fifth track 'Pioneers Over C' written by Hammill and Jackson also contains the usual hypnotizing sax and keyboard musical lines. 'C' is the scientific name of the speed of light, and this song is a sort of a musical interpretation of faster than light travel and its consequences on the travellers on their voyages. Musically, it's one of the strongest songs on the album, which sounds great, and finishes perfectly well, this wonderful masterpiece. 'Pioneers Over C' represents a mature and complex end to a superb collection of songs.

Conclusion: In my humble opinion, Van Der Graaf Generator have five studio masterpieces, 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', 'Pawn Hearts', 'Godbluff', 'Still Life' and 'World Record'. Unfortunately, of all these five masterpieces 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' is the only one that I own a copy only a few years ago. Due to the high quality of the others, I had never paid much attention to it and I always thought that it probably wouldn't be at the same quality level as the other four. I was truly wrong and I'm deeply ashamed of it. But now, I'm finally doing justice to this another great album released by this so fantastic and unique band. To my taste, this is probably the most beautiful of all their albums. 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' was probably released too early for the progressive standards, but it remains, as unique as it was then. It has so many parts of Van Der Graaf Generator's music that have set the benchmarks for many bands to came next. I really think that every musical progressive collection should have, at least, three Van Der Graaf Generator's albums, 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', 'Pawn Hearts' and 'Godbluff'.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.83 | 630 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review Nš 54

'World Record' is the seventh studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1976. All the songs were written by Peter Hammill, except 'Wondering' which was written by Hugh Banton and Hammill. When of the recording sessions of the album there were two problems inside the band. The first problem was a lot of tension between the band's members, particularly between the leader Hammill and their keyboardist Banton. The second problem was a Hammill's personnel problem, the forthcoming separation of Peter from his long time girl friend which already shows up on the horizon. The result of this was that it was the last recorded album by this fantastic classic line up of the band until their reunion in 2005. At the end of 1976, following 'World Record', first Banton and then David Jackson departed from the group, having being replaced by their previous bassist Nic Potter that returned to the group to replace Banton, and the new presence of the violinist Graham Smith, ex-String Driven Thing, which replaced the saxophonist and flutist Jackson on their next eighth studio album 'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' released in 1977.

'World Record' is a milestone release for Van Der Graaf Generator. It's the album that features extended guitar use for the first time into all their discography, until then. Hammill has outgrown his fear of inadequacy, probably giving to his guitar the space that it was really needed. Jackson makes for yet another time a brilliant musical work with his saxophones and flutes, which became a perfect cooperation with Banton's keyboard work.

'World Record' has five tracks. The first track 'When She Comes' is a song related with Peter's personal love affair. The song seems to relate to how unstable and unpredictable the relationships are, and how we can live with a person, who after all, we didn't know as well as we thought. After all, we have no guarantees of knowing someone, even if we are very close to that person, and so there is the danger of we are alone in the world. It's a fantastic track and one of my favourites too. The second track 'A place To Survive' is probably the most standard Van Der Graaf Generator's track on this album. This song is about of us be alone in this solitary world, after the breakup of a close relationship, and trying to find a place and a way to survive in this hostile world. This is also an excellent track. The third track 'Masks' is a song more in the style of the first song. It's about to show be someone that we aren't, and so fooling the people who live with us. It reminds us the danger of show a face that isn't really ours and because of that we lose our real face and in the end, we truly don't know who we really are. The fourth track 'Meurglys III (The Songwriter's Guild)' is the lengthiest track on the album and is the most controversial, too. However, I really can't see any problem with this song. The song warns of the danger after the breakup of a relationship that we can isolate ourselves from the world remaining only as friends of our personal objects, for personal use, and only just talk to plants and animals, thinking we are gods in our personal world. This is a very lengthy and slow song especially composed for Hammill's guitar, the Meurglys III. Many people complain that the song is very extensive and has a reggae section. Sincerely, I don't see any problem with the size of the song and even with the reggae musical influences. I remember that we are on a site of progressive rock where musical genres aren't compartmented, and moreover we are talking about the sub-genre eclectic prog, which as its name indicates, receives influences from many different musical styles. The fifth track 'Wondering' is the song that ends beautifully the album. It's a hymn with a note of hope and desperate questions. It's an optimistic song with great lyrics supported by a high quality Banton's keyboard work. It brings us the hope that we need after the breakup on a relationship. We can return, arise and survive in this world. It brings also the hope that this line up of Van Der Graaf Generator may return, which luckily has happened, but unfortunately, only in 2005.

Conclusion: By all the problems mentioned above, 'World Record' is, in my humble opinion, the Hammill's most personal album of all the releases of Van Der Graaf Generator. This album is melancholic, helpless, angry, sarcastic, aggressive, dark, and almost brutal, from time to time, and at the same time it's very hopeful and very beautiful too. Why this album must be a masterpiece? Because 'World Record" has everything needed to be a masterpiece. It has some of the most beautiful lyrics written by Hammill and it isn't inferior to almost all of the previous albums of the group. 'World Record' saw Hammill at the peak of his powers, at just the moment when 'Anarchy In The UK', the punk movement, blew apart a largely stagnant rock scene. Forty years later, all we can do is to admire them, and be grateful for the creation of an album like 'World Record'. It worked as an excellent album that closes magnificently one more Van Der Graaf Generator's musical era. It shows why Van De Graaf Generator is one of the best prog groups.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 ALT by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 2012
2.47 | 175 ratings

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ALT
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Lewian

4 stars This album seems to be difficult to digest. Firstly, any album that deviates so strongly from whatever is seen as the usual kind of thing a band does will have a hard time with the fans; a songwriter and singer like Peter Hammill doesn't sing and doesn't write his trademark songs, where should this end? And then this is the kind of experimental probably largely improvised instrumental album without conventional melodies and songs that doesn't give most people enough to cling to.

I will give this four stars but the reader should know that I'm quite used to very experimental music defying conventional structures; this certainly isn't for everyone.

But I think that in order to rate this fairly, it has to be assessed against what it sets out to be, rather than what fans would have expected from the band. So I try to approach this as experimental music not taking into account that there is a long back story behind it, and a voice that doesn't sing.

Compared with much experimental and improvised music I know, this is quite heterogeneous. There is a big variety of textures and approaches here, from slow at times dark electronic spaces (Dronus, D"Accord) over noisy outbreaks (Tuesday the Riff), subtle and relaxed atmospheres (Earlybird), something more jazzy (Repeat After Me), the nervous synthesizer riff in Batty Loop, to the warm somewhat cheesy organ in Midnite Or So. There are some calmer songs but the "mainstream of the album" has pretty loud drums in the foreground coupled with rich and versatile keyboard parts between rock organ and more unsettling and atonal stuff (Splendid is fairly typical). A guitar is only very occasionally to be heard.

The heterogeneity and the omnipresence of the mighty drums makes for a very rock band-like approach to experimental music, giving the listener some proper beats and rhythms at least and being somewhat anxious to fill the album with enough ideas. I think if they'd go down the experimental route for longer, they would probably aim at producing something more consistent and stripped to the essentials than this. However, this is not meant as a criticism. The music as it is mostly works very well and manages to occupy a very unique space between avantgarde, improvised and rock music, striking a good balance between rhythm, structure (motifs, moods, patterns) and chaos. Had I not known that it's VDGG, I would probably have thought that this is a charmingly naive and youthful shot at avantgarde music. I'd have thought that such a band perhaps later would want to settle with a more consistent style but for the moment I'm happy enough with the variety that we got here.

The main quality of this album is that it generates some really good atmospheres and moments, and that it's lively and animated all the time. There is really much to explore here. I prefer this to much free experimental music for its richness, but also for the quality of many of the ideas.

The drums may be mixed too far in the foreground (Hammill and VDGG are somewhat prone to strange mixing, and some of these unusual sounds grow with time), and there may be the odd part that is rather forgettable, but overall I take my hat off to the adventurous approach of the band here and think that it is quite a success.

 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1336 ratings

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H To He, Who Am The Only One
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by AngusH

2 stars I remember buying Pawn Hearts years ago based on how highly it's regarded by the prog community, but it never really clicked with me. I think I may have listened to this album too at least once before, but I couldn't say how long ago. I think my biggest problem with Van Der Graaf Generator is Peter Hammill. His voice is definitely the focus, with the music mostly serving to drive the vocals along. I just don't find his voice particularly interesting. He sounds like a prog rock David Bowie, which probably sounds like a great thing, but I have the same problem here that I do with a lot of 60s/70s Bowie songs - the music just isn't interesting enough to grab my attention, being neither catchy or interesting enough for me.

'Killer' and 'House With No Door' go past without grabbing my attention, but 'Emperor In His War-Room' has some nice moments, the flute in particular. 'Lost' is another Hammill-heavy number, peppered with some instrumental sections that, even for someone who is not at all that familiar with VDGG, can only be described as VDGG-esque - repetitive organ/keys riffing with sax. The different sections of the song just seem to flow into each other without a lot of direction (to my ears), and I don't find much of it memorable. 'Pioneers Over C' is the first track where I notice a bass guitar (was it there in the other tracks and low in the mix? I'm not interested enough to go back and check), but the track follows the VDGG formula, just with bass & sax leading the riff rather than organ & sax. Oh wait, a break in the music so the saxophonist can tune his instrument, and then back to the repetitive riffing.

Yeah, I just don't think I'm ever going to understand VDGG's popularity in the prog community. I'm sure this was pretty revolutionary in 1970, but listening to it after hearing what came after in those early-to-mid 70s first, it sounds like the prototype that was improved upon by later bands. I shouldn't fault VDGG for being a trail-blazer, but all the same I just don't find this particularly interesting.

 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1219 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review Nš 44

If there's a group that might be considered as a really progressive band, we can say that their name is Van Der Graaf Generator. They're a truly progressive band, in every sense of the word, and they are undoubtedly responsible for some of the most experimental, savage, heavy, original, complex, difficult and beautiful music that has already ever been made, in any type of music or in any time. Even for those who dislike of this group and of their music in general, many of them consider the importance and the legacy of the band in the progressive rock movement.

Following the recording of their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts" released in 1971, which is for many the best musical work made by the group, the band's leader Peter Hammill broke up with the band, and chose focus all his energy and spend all of his time, out to develop his solo musical career. When it came the time for reuniting again all the members of the band, in 1975, the Hammill's solo experience had its effects on the band's music, and the result of that was a kind of a change on their musical direction. While the traditional musical structures of their music continued to be complex and dense, there seemed to be a far less and different musical accent, on their following studio albums.

"Still Life" is the sixth studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1976. It's the second studio album recorded by the group after their reunion, and corresponds to one of the famous trilogy of albums of the band that begins with their fifth studio album "Godbluff" released in 1975 and that ends with their seventh studio album "World Record" released in 1976. It's interesting to note that the group released three albums in only two years, and those works has some of the best material ever composed by the group, especially "Godbluff" and "Still Life".

"Still Life" has five tracks. All the songs were written by Hammill, except "Pilgrims" which was written by Hammill and David Jackson. The first track "Pilgrims" is a track about the human cooperation and is a very good theme to opens the album. It seems start with a gloomy and melancholic note, along with your own mood and then slowly pulls out its melancholy, ending in a not to clear, but still somewhat with an optimistic message, pulling you out of your gloominess as well. There is a beautiful Hugh Banton's organ work with soft vocals from Hammill, but the Jackson's saxophones make the real mood on this song. The second track "Still Life" is the title track song. This is a very dark song that speaks about the death and especially one's own resignation before the death. It speaks about the consequences of the immortality and the inevitable paradoxes of the eternal life, if there is such a kind of thing. The title song starts with Hammill singing and Banton playing organ and the song grows with intensity all over the theme. The third track "La Rossa" is an epic tale about a desire fulfilled. It's a very powerful song, is the hardest rocking song on the album and is one of my favourite songs of the group, a real highlight. The fourth track "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)" brings its echoes about the imagination and loss and is the more melancholic, peaceful and beautiful song on the album. The song follows a similar rhythm throughout, dominated by the Hammill's voice and it's very well accompanied by Hammill's piano, Banton's organ and Jackson's saxophones. On "La Rossa" and "My Room", Jackson delivers some of his most inspired saxophone performances ever made by him. The fifth track "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End" is the lengthiest track on the album and is an epic track that speaks about the theme of the grand fate of the humanity. It's a brilliant composition and it has some of the best lyrics ever written by Hammill. This is a wonderful and dramatic song that finishes the album in such and brilliant way, and with an impressive great style.

About the album's cover it shows a Lichtenberg figure. Lichtenberg figures are branching electric discharges that sometimes appear on the surface of the interior of insulating electric materials. The name derives from the German physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who originally discovered and studied those kinds of electric phenomena.

Conclusion: Usually, "Still Life" is considered a minor Van Der Graaf Generator's album, especially when it's compared with "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff". It seems that it's too much meditative and philosophical to the common progressive listener. However, I find it a very charming album, if I would never recommended it to an inpatient listener. Sincerely, I really think that "Still Life" is an exceptional piece of music and is one of the most emotional albums I've ever heard. Of the four best albums of the band, "H To He Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" and "Still Life", this is probably, the most accessible of all. For those who aren't familiar with this group, or for those that remain resistant to enjoy one of the best and most important groups that ever existed in the progressive rock music, I suggest you, without any kind of doubt, to begin with "Still Life". But attention, you must have your mind fully opened.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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