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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Van Der Graaf Generator biography
Formed in 1967 in Manchester, UK - Hiatus from 1972 to 1975 - Disbanded in 1978 - Reunited in 2004

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 rec...
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR discography


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

3.29 | 698 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.08 | 1152 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other
1970
4.32 | 1773 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.43 | 2347 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.47 | 2231 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.30 | 1624 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.83 | 843 ratings
World Record
1976
3.65 | 725 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.61 | 549 ratings
Present
2005
3.50 | 511 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.44 | 505 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.52 | 263 ratings
ALT
2012
3.55 | 207 ratings
Do Not Disturb
2016

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

3.81 | 291 ratings
Vital
1978
4.09 | 142 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.08 | 192 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.69 | 87 ratings
Live at the Paradiso 14:04:07
2009
3.62 | 54 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.85 | 59 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.11 | 57 ratings
After the Flood: At the BBC 1968-1977
2015

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

4.17 | 119 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
4.32 | 19 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.16 | 31 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.23 | 12 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
4.00 | 61 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.51 | 40 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

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

3.60 | 39 ratings
68-71
1972
3.24 | 6 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
3.18 | 9 ratings
Reflection
1975
2.16 | 6 ratings
Rock Heavies
1978
2.38 | 68 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.44 | 68 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.37 | 50 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.12 | 42 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.31 | 56 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.94 | 71 ratings
The Box
2000
3.28 | 22 ratings
An Introduction
2000
3.33 | 8 ratings
First Generation / Godbluff
2012

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

2.68 | 22 ratings
People You Were Going To / Firebrand
1969
4.07 | 24 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
3.84 | 33 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.40 | 35 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.84 | 19 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.35 | 20 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
4.22 | 23 ratings
Cat's Eye
1977
1.70 | 19 ratings
The Masters
1998
2.34 | 10 ratings
Highly Strung
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Time Vaults by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1982
2.38 | 68 ratings

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Time Vaults
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Review Nš 528

Van Der Graaf Generator is an English progressive rock band, formed in 1967 in Manchester by singer-songwriters Peter Hammill and Chris Judge Smith. They didn't experience much commercial success in the UK, but became very popular especially in Italy during the 70's. They went through a number of incarnations in their early years, including a brief split in 1969. When they reformed, they found minor commercial success with "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and their follow-up album "H To He, Who Am The Only One", where they stabilised around a line up of Hammill, Banton, Evans and Jackson. The quartet subsequently achieved significant success in Italy with the release of "Pawn Hearts". After several tours in Italy, the band split in 1972. They reformed in 1975, releasing "Godbluff", "Still Life" and "World Record", and frequently touring Italy again, before a major line up change and a slight rename to Van Der Graaf and the release of "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". The band split in 1978. After many years apart, the band finally united at a gig at the Royal Festival Hall and a short tour in 2005. Since then, the band has continued as a trio of Hammill, Banton, and Evans, who record and tour regularly in between Hammill's concurrent solo music career.

The band's albums have tended to be both lyrically and musically darker in atmosphere than many of their progressive rock peers, a trait they shared with King Crimson, whose guitarist Robert Fripp guested on two of their albums, and guitar solos were the exception rather than the rule, preferring to use Banton's classically influenced organ and Jackson's multiple saxophones. While Hammill is the primary songwriter for the band, and the other members have contributed to his solo albums, the band arranges all their material collectively. Hammill's lyrics covered themes of mortality, due to his love from science fiction writers such as Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, along with his self-confessed warped and obsessive nature. His voice has been a distinctive component of the band throughout their career. While the band has been commercially unsuccessful, they have inspired several artists across various genres.

"Time Vaults" is an album of Van Der Graaf Generator. It was originally released in 1982 on cassette only, almost four years after the break-up of Van Der Graaf Generator in 1978. Later it was released as a vinyl LP, and in 1992 it was re-released on CD. The album contains out-takes and rehearsal recordings from the period between 1972 and 1975, when the band was on a hiatus. The recordings aren't studio quality recordings. Among others, it contains the first rehearsals by the reformed Van Der Graaf Generator from 1975, and some pieces originally intended for their next album in 1972.

In reality, this is a collection of demos and rough mixes recorded by the "classic" Van Der Graaf Generator's line up, Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, David Jackson and Guy Evans, between 1971 and 1975 in the "lost" period of the band, post "Pawn Hearts" and pre "Godbluff". So, "Time Vaults" aren't studio quality recordings. It was stressed by Hammill that "Time Vaults" was intended to be only for those who are already Van Der Graff Generator's fans. So, these recordings were first released for their fans on cassette, before being reissued several times by several record labels.

About the tracks, the pieces here range from songs in the typical Van Der Graaf Generator's style like "Liquidator" and "Roncevaux", to session like instrumentals like "Tarzan" and "Coil Night", to completely free sound collages like "Drift". The recording quality is sometimes quite modest. It only sounds good just in some of the most interesting pieces, such as the orgiastic "Roncevaux", the surprisingly psychedelic "It All Went Up", or the very badly "Black Room", the original form of a later Hammill's solo piece, rather dull, and where are strong overdrives and distortions. "Coil Night" has Peter Hammill playing bass guitar and Jackson playing the piano. "Rift Valley" contains a passage from "Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild". "Faint And Forsaken" introduces various themes from "Godbluff". A different version of "Black Room" appeared on Hammill's solo album "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night". "Faint And Forsaken" is a combination of "Forsaken Gardens" and "Faint-Heart And The Sermon" that are different versions which appeared on Hammill's solo albums "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage" and "In Camera", respectively.

Conclusion: Since bootleggers were fetching high prices for Van Der Graaf Generator rarities compilations from fans, band's leader Peter Hammill decided to compile ten of the best tracks and give them an official release. Since some of the tracks were never even completed, some present day overdubbing was required, but according to Hammill in the liner notes, all dubbing was completed in nine hours, in order to stay true to the spirit of the venture. And, although the listener is warned that these aren't studio quality recordings, the overall sound is good enough. Besides, most of the people who would buy this album, in the first place they're Van Der Graff Generator's fanatics, who will be happy just to acquire this material. So, this collection is clearly aimed only to die-hard fans, to which the band practically presents themselves in their "raw state". If you want to get to know the band as a beginner you must start by their studio albums.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.43 | 2347 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by WJA-K

3 stars After investing many many hours into Van Der Graaf Generator, notably Godbluff and Pawn Hearts, I have to conclude I'm not a fan. They are a great band, just not my taste.

I'm not the only one who likes acts like Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd but not VDGG.

I don't have issues with the fact that these recordings are daunting or complex. I also don't have issues with compositions that go all over the place. This is what I like about Larks Tongue in Aspic. But VDGG is all over the place in a relentless way. It's difficult for me to get a hold onto something. So difficult that I gave up.

While I do like Godbluff more than this album, I don't think it is fair I'd give it 2 stars. It is good and it has its place in prog. 3 stars from me.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.47 | 2231 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by WJA-K

3 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's Godbluff isn't easy listening. Even for prog fans. It requires you to invest time in listening multiple times to get into it. The music is heavy, the themes are heavy.

VDGG isn't for everyone. I can imagine people would look for other directions of prog instead.

Having said all of this, Godbluff is an impressive record. Consisting of 4 tracks, there are no weak spots.

My favourite tracks are Scorched Earth and Arrow. Especially Scorched Earth has a gripping tale about the horrors of war.

This album isn't up there with the great classics for me. But it is excellent. I give it 3 stars. A great listen for prog fans.

 Trisector by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.50 | 511 ratings

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Trisector
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by DangHeck

3 stars Seeing the mixed reaction for a latter-day album by one of my favorite Prog bands is always [I know, very specifically] interesting. I really had nothing to expect here. But right off the bat, there's something kind of hokey and AOR about the opener "The Hurlyburly". The organ is the enemy and the friend (strange to have such a weak song in retrospect as the introduction to the album, but... whatever). It doesn't sound like the VdGG that I love quite yet. Part of this may turn out to be the fact that there is no David JACKSON. He always felt like a key figure. And that's an understatement. A classic example of a band (at least in their heyday) where truly all of the cogs worked together to make them sound like said band. No need to say it, but an ideal situation actualized in Van Der Graaf.

"Interference Patterns" feels a helluva lot better. Rolling and dark, this is it. And yet it doesn't sound like old hat either. I'm just happy it doesn't sound utterly flat without sax. Would have been nice if they had had a feature, I'd say.

"The Final Reel", I suppose as the name implies, is a melancholic song. This, as most all tracks on the album are, is driven by keys. Do love Hugh's style. Overall, the majority of the song is pretty static and flat. "Lifetime" is another sad and softie, but ultimately feels a lot more confidently 'itself'.

Guitar leads off on "Drop Dead". Some Heavy Prog/Prog-adjacent Heavy Metal with the organ reminds of DEEP PURPLE or AUNT MARY(?). At least we have HAMMILL. Guy EVANS also has some highlights here as well, but at the end of the day, not super for the track. Where they succeed in this heavier mode is "All That Before". Though initially dominated by Banton's organ, it is quickly led by beefy, virile electric guitar (thank you very much, Pete). A serious highlight. His soloing, even, is fresh as hell. A song that is bright in timbre, but ultimately dark in VdGG-style. Also, satisfying in its very slight compositional changes.

"Only In A Whisper" feels like a return to form following "Drop Dead". Dark and brooding, yet minimal. The keys reminded me of Kerry Minnear. I do like the feeling here, but another track that is a tad stale and static. Continuing in the brood is "Over The Hill", which, as we say in this household, is 'spooky kabuki'. Upward climb, even to something instead triumphant, with gospel-readied organ and crisp, soaring guitar. Is good.

Lastly, "(We Are) Not Here" is another return to classic VdGG. I'll gladly take this to send off any release. The icing on the cake is definitely the nice harmonies at the end.

Ultimately, there was enough to keep this album afloat to make it "Good"; but there was enough to keep it from being "Excellent".

 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.30 | 1624 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by patrishiou

5 stars For me this is the ultimate VdGG album. It has it all, the drama, the awkwardness, the edge... Never heard such vocals, Peter Hammil is an absolute genius, the voice goes up and down like waves of energy traspassing your ears, every word is pronounced with the right entonation to that specific word. There's poetry and artistical value in every inch of this piece. The last song must be one of the most powerful songs i've heard.

This is a total must for every prog fan, let yourself rest above those vocals and let the record drive, you will thank me later...

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.43 | 2347 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Argentinfonico

5 stars 1. Lemmings (4,5/5): One of my favourite VDGG songs. The instrumentation is at all times clever and subtle, giving a very precise place to the existential lyrics of the song. I feel that in their subsequent album "Godbluff" they have tried to copy quite a lot of the sound of this album. This magnificent song climbs second by second. It's not one to listen to unfocused or doing anything else. VDGG's music has always been very special when it comes to subtlety and here it is more than demonstrated. The flute makes for some divine arrangements and the collaboration with Robert Fripp makes me like this album even more.

2. Man-Erg (4,5/5): Okay, this is really a song to listen to at full volume. The song starts with a piano that seems like it will introduce an Elton John song but then it starts to sound like one of the best works of this sub-genre. I love the part where the organ makes a small appearance to start (as if it were an introduction) the battle of the other instruments (saxophone, guitars and vocals). The lyrics are simply fantastic: a duel between good and evil set in the last instances of life, supported by an incredibly wise and defeatist instrumentation. The almost total loss of consciousness. This song really possesses an admirable degree of maturity.

3. A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (5/5): My favourite song of this band. It starts digestibly, with an interesting riff and a lyric that follows the concept of the album, but little by little it grows in atmosphere and grandeur, showing a "powerful" human being sheltered in an island illuminated by lighthouses in the middle of nowhere and protected by many keepers that little by little are falling (the grace of the song is to imagine what or who is what kills all of them and corners the protagonist to death). The fusion of the keyboards with the guitars, the subtle and correct interpretation of the drums, the creativity to use each part, the end of the song representing a part of the journey that awaits us after we die and other aspects make this song perhaps the best of all VDGG's discography, just as this song makes the album the best of the band.

45 minutes full of musical intelligence and compositions that will surely influence you for the rest of your life if you are destined to be a progressive music enthusiast.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.47 | 2231 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Argentinfonico

4 stars Despite not being exactly the kind of progressive rock I like to listen to, it would be foolish not to highlight the clean and original sound of this band of virtuoso musicians. Perhaps if the album had been one of the first of the subgenre it would deserve the 5 stars, but I don't think it can pass 4 and I find it strange how so many people consider it an absolutely essential work. The album has very few high moments and the tunes never take the listener to a plane of passion or intelligence. Obviously this is not necessary for an album to be a masterpiece, but the harmonies of the songs give a feeling of constant charge that never quite explodes to realize that release that is expected. A good album and nothing more.
 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.47 | 2231 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Ian McGregor

3 stars This is one of the best Van Der Graaf Generator albums. Having four tracks, VDGG manages to create some fine and enjoyable progressive rock. Peter Hammill is without a doubt the star, having an incredibly unique vocal approach to the lyrics. The opener The Undercover Man is a rock-opera sounding song, Scorched Earth And Arrow both blend saxophone and keyboards very well and The Sleepwalkers is the longest of the album which features some very tight instrumentation. I wouldn't say it revolutionized the genre but it definitely is a solid record and despite giving it three stars, I definitely recommend it.
 After the Flood: At the BBC 1968-1977 by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Live, 2015
4.11 | 57 ratings

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After the Flood: At the BBC 1968-1977
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is a compilation of live VDGG music recorded from 1968 to 1977 the year they released their final studio album before the breakup, reuniting again for 2005's "Present". So a great cross section of music is presented here with eight studio albums to draw on and they do it chronologically which I like. So the first three tracks are from 1968 and from the Top Gear Sessions. They have Keith Ellis on bass and there's no David Jackson yet. Favourite of the three would be "Afterwards" for the organ and vocals. "Darkness" and "After The Flood" are also from Top Gear but in 1970 and the latter makes my top three for disc one. The other top three is "Darkness" yes again but a different version from 1971 and this is powerful with those theatrical Hammill vocals to boot. "Theme One" is from this session as well and is a George Martin composition and a catchy instrumental. The final three tracks from disc one are from a John Peel concert also from 1971. "Killer" from this group makes my final top three for disc one. Stuck in my head too much though last week. Disc two features all tracks from the John Peel Sessions from 1971 to 1977. It opens with my first top three from disc two "Refugees" which is so moving. Love "Masks" from a 1976 session along with "(Fragments Of)A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers/Sleepwalkers" from 1977. There is so much amazing music on here and I'm surprised at how good Hammill's voice sounds throughout.

This is such an important piece of VDGG's history that has been unearthed for us from the BBC. Considering "Vital" was the only previous live recording from this era this is a real find.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.47 | 2231 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Artik

5 stars Let me start with a statement, that I can't help myself and just have to give it 5 stars. It's one of the best prog bands of all time. And I mean a strict elite club, not even containing Pink Floyd (which I love). Hammill is absolute top vocalist of the genre, one of a kind: theatrical, passionate, maliciously angry, pompous, scary or painfuly beautiful and above all - honest and authentic. The music on this come back album is very intense, and I mean very. On these four rather epic tracks the listener can regonise the band from the previous works (the voice, sax organ and all) but it's kinda stripped down to it's bare emotional components, and I would say predominant mood here is anger. Beautifuly served anger: with shrieking voice and saxophones, with heavy sounding organ and guitar providing ominous motives, based on thundering drums and bass with ornaments from flute. Despite the intermission between the band's releases it's third masterpiece in a row of four. It started from H to He and ended on Still life. I know Godbluff for about 25 years but listening to it leaves me deeply touched, everytime. Like I said - it's a masterpiece.
Thanks to Ivan Melgar M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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