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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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The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each OtherThe Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
4 Men with Beards 2012
$19.99
$15.99 (used)
Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
$7.31
$5.77 (used)
Quiet Zone/The Pleasure DomeQuiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome
Extra tracks · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
$6.79
$8.39 (used)
World RecordWorld Record
Extra tracks · Remastered
Virgin / Charisma 2005
$5.95
$4.24 (used)
Do Not DisturbDo Not Disturb
Esoteric Antenna 2016
$14.84
$7.99 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Remastered
Caroline 2005
$5.96
$3.39 (used)
H To He Who Am I The Only OneH To He Who Am I The Only One
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
$5.73
$4.28 (used)
Aerosol Grey Machine: 50th Anniversary EditionAerosol Grey Machine: 50th Anniversary Edition
Esoteric 2019
$71.56
$65.64 (used)
GodbluffGodbluff
Remastered
Caroline 2005
$6.01
$7.98 (used)
After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77
Universal 2015
$9.61
$13.48 (used)

More places to buy VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR music online Buy VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR & Prog Rock Digital Music online:

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)

3.28 | 620 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.07 | 1024 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1605 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 2133 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.48 | 2012 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1471 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.82 | 745 ratings
World Record
1976
3.65 | 632 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.61 | 497 ratings
Present
2005
3.51 | 468 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.44 | 467 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.48 | 228 ratings
ALT
2012
3.59 | 160 ratings
Do Not Disturb
2016

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

3.82 | 266 ratings
Vital
1978
4.08 | 130 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.09 | 177 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.65 | 80 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.60 | 44 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.85 | 50 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.24 | 42 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

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

4.15 | 110 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
4.36 | 14 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.17 | 28 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.31 | 10 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
4.01 | 59 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.54 | 38 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

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

3.57 | 34 ratings
68-71
1972
3.25 | 5 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
3.13 | 5 ratings
Reflection
1975
2.21 | 5 ratings
Rock Heavies
1978
2.41 | 59 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.42 | 63 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.36 | 46 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.14 | 39 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.30 | 54 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.94 | 68 ratings
The Box
2000
3.32 | 21 ratings
An Introduction
2000
3.25 | 5 ratings
First Generation / Godbluff
2012

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

2.57 | 18 ratings
People You Were Going To / Firebrand
1969
4.08 | 21 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
3.84 | 30 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.38 | 32 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.88 | 17 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.50 | 18 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
4.16 | 19 ratings
Cat's Eye
1977
1.72 | 18 ratings
The Masters
1998
3.25 | 8 ratings
Highly Strung
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.65 | 632 ratings

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The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

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.

 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.82 | 745 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Van Der Graaf Generator in 1976, with a short distance from Still Life, churned out the third Lp in a year and a half, and after the short Godbluff, the duration of the records increased more and more, in fact they went from 35 minutes of Godbluff to 52 minutes of World Record. The sound remains dry, almost live, with the drums always too prominent, and Hammill's voice increasingly hoarse and choked, so much so that the overall sound becomes more and more shocking. This album features Hammill's acid- sounding electric guitars that anticipate the next record.

Side A. 1. When She Comes (7:58) After a pastoral preamble of classical music conducted by Jackson's flute begins the first song, marked by Evans's rhythm too prominently and too monotonous. In the instrumental part we recognize the usual van der graaf sound, but on the whole the song is by trade, without inspiration. there is a distressing progression but not up to the past and Hammill's voice on the high notes is too choked. Vote 7,5.

2. A Place to Survive (10:00) Very cadenced ballad with Hammill's hoarse voice that makes her heartbreaking. Sound rough, at times noisy, deafening, almost hard rock. VdGG scoffs and sounds shrill, scratchy, loud, acidic, to the point where we are indisposed to listening. The production of the pieces affected his listening. Rating 7.

3. Masks (6:55) Third song, Masks, with a slow start, ballad with drums and saxophone but soon came the electric guitars almost hard rock, and the piece becomes a hard-pop-rock, which completely changes rhythm towards the middle - typical proressive change. The sax plays on the low notes. The sound is bad, it's difficult to arrive to the end. Rating 6,5

End of Side A. The worst first side of VdGDS ever until 1976.

Side B: 1. Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild (20:47) The Meurglys III suite arrives almost twenty-one minutes, certainly the most challenging piece on the album, which begins with a dissonant rhythm between the relaxed and the obsessive, the guitars are acid. Van Der Graaf has now moved far away from Godbluff. A very slow and jazzy instrumental piece arrives, and after a routine beginning Van der Graaf come back to amaze, the level of qualifying rises a lot. At about 4 and a half minutes the song stops, and then re-starts slowly, with Hammill's singing almost quietly. Then begins a long instrumental piece, very good, ruined in part by the excessive amplification of Evans' drums, too prominently, especially with the sound of the case. Also here comes Hammill's acid electric guitar, the group reach an hybrid music, remarkable, an acidic, obsessive jazz. It follows a noise, cacophonous piece, which then leads towards 12 minutes and 45 seconds to a new pause, a short sung piece by Hammill that ends at 13 minutes and 15 seconds and then about 7 minutes of instrumental tail. Masterpiece. Rating 8.5

5. Wondering (6:33) The second side could end with Meurglys III, instead VdGG decide to add a ballad guided by keyboards and flutes where Hammill's singing fights with music. VdGG seem to have lost the proportions between music and singing and sound, the right balance that is found from the second to the fourth album. The song sounds pompous, and again is ruined by sound, arrangement and singing. Vote 7.

Total Time: 52:13

With this completely heterogeneous album, marked by 4 modest songs, ruined by the overall sound, and a great, wonderful suite, Van Der Graaf proves that they have lost their sound and their internal cohesion, and that they need a break.

Rating: 7.5. Three Stars.

 Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1970
3.84 | 30 ratings

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Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Time Vaults by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1982
2.41 | 59 ratings

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Time Vaults
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars True fans of prog legends VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR often lament over the lost years that spawned in between the band's first "breakup" in 1971 after the release of "Pawn Hearts" and the 2.0 version of the band that resumed with the 1975 release of "Godbluff." The great VDGG had every intention of releasing an album after "Pawn Hearts" in 72 but the prog behemoth who notoriously gave it 110% of their time, energy and resources to keep the artistic expression afloat found a diminishing return as lesser talented bands laughed all the way to the bank. Having literally burned out from the touring scene and other pressures, VDGG "officially" called it quits but in reality the four members of Peter Hammill (vocals, guitar, piano, bass), David Jackson (sax, piano), Hugh Banton (organ, bass) and Guy Evans (drums) remained together as a band only under the guise of a solo career of Peter Hammill.

The timeline from 1971-75 between albums began with the writing and practicing of material for a real followup to "Pawn Hearts" but evolved into the rehearsals for Hammill's solo works. Somehow bootleggers had acquired rare compilations of unreleased tracks and were commanding hefty prices so VDGG decided to release a collection of some of these tracks in the form of this official release that was titled TIME VAULTS. Originally appearing in 1982 on cassette only, due to enough interest a vinyl LP followed and finally a CD appearing ten years later in 1992. This album covers the whole range from 71-75 but most of the tracks are from 72 which were slated to be on the new VDGG album of the same year. While the recordings are from out-takes and rehearsal recordings and were never finished for studio quality recordings, the performances give a glimpse into one of the great prog bands at work running the gamut between tracks completely worthy of studio album glory as well as silly nonsensical experiments. While the material is raw, there were 9 hours of overdubbing just because.

While the majority of tracks had never been released, "Black Room" is a different version than the one found on Hammill's solo album "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night." One of the pluses of releases such as TIME VAULTS is that since these tidbits were never refined into studio-friendly diamonds, they retain the feisty independent streak in its pure experimental form but also displays how brilliant the band was in all stages of its productive output displaying aspects of the band truly from behind the scenes. For example "Coil Night" featured Hammill on bass and Jackson on piano and is one of the brilliant tracks on the album as is the opening "The Liquidator" which were both worthy of being featured on a VDGG album. "It All Went Red" displays a rare jam where all musicians shine but Guy Evans displays his amazing drumming skills that were never allowed off the leash on the actual albums. While VDGG was pretty much a guitar-free unit in the early years "Rift Valley" found Hammill on electric guitars instead of keyboards and proves to be the hardest rocking album the band ever recorded.

Other tracks are quite quirky and unusual for VDGG and obvious why they were never considered for album inclusion. The cute little number "Tarzan" starts out with a drumbeat that sounds something like "Billie Jean" from Michael Jackson but has a funkier groove. It almost sounds like the band is going into disco territory but instead delivers an interesting progressive rock sound albeit all funked up. The title track is the most experimental piece which is essentially a collage of disparate playful moments. It tackles some free jazz and seems to be wrapped around the piano melodies of the Christmas song "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer" but it also has snippets of the traditional Wedding March, a few moments of reggae and heaps of psychedelia. It's very much like a monkey-brain stream of consciousness scrolling up and down the radio dial of the mind. "Drift (I Hope It Won't)" is a freeform styled mix of nonsense really with lots of conversation between the members. Overall the quality of the recordings is pretty poor but the strength of the material more than makes this a worthy addition.

It goes without saying that this sort of material is strictly reserved only for the hardcore fans of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR as this has little appeal outside of the staunchly loyal fanbase of which i consider myself a part of. For those inclined, this is an excellent array of rehearsals and experimental pieces not fit for an album but listening to a band of this level at a practice session is still a magical moment and on this one there are ten such moments.. For my interests, there's not a single bad track on this one and if one can forgive the crude unfinished production then there is plenty of VDGG magic mojo in action in a true live setting with only the slightest production as an afterthought to give a little bit of consistency between the tunes. This is a band that was so great that i would gladly pay just to watch a rehearsal and this collection of goodies doesn't disappoint at all considering what it is. True that the phantom masterpiece that lay between "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff" never truly emerged except in snippets that were modified to suit the solo career of Hammill, so in some respects this is the closest it gets the mythical beast that should've been and while it doesn't come close to fulfilling that destiny, it sure is an interesting glimpse into the possibilities.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.48 | 2012 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by dougmcauliffe

5 stars Well lets talk Van Der Graaf Generator.

When I was first getting into prog, my friend lent me a stack of albums, one of those albums was Pawn Hearts. I gave it a spin and well.... I hated it.

But I eventually came back around to VDGG and grew to appreciate lemmings, and then the rest of the album which I now consider a 10/10. I had always seen Godbluff on Progarchives but slept on it for months and months. I finally blind purchased a copy of discogs and after dozens of listens, I can safely say this is very much worthy of its rating on this site.

The pure amount of creativity and detail is mind-boggling. Peter Hammill uses his voice as if it was a lead instrument. His delivery is just so terrifyingly creative that I cant get enough of it. This band is almost too prog to be considered prog. This album comes after a long four year hiatus where Hammill went ham (no pun intended!) on the solo albums with the other band members joining him on those albums. The album follows a structure that is essentially four similar length songs ranging from 7:00-10:26 minutes. It's brimming with layers of Organ and Saxophone with a prominent jazz influence that really creates a unique sound for this album.

"The Undercover Man" starts the album off a bit more mellow. There is amazing depth to the instrumentals creating a vast soundscape throughout the song. It is perhaps my favorite on the album. "Scorched Earth" seems to fade together nicely with The Undercover Man. It a bit more on the intense, heavier side of things. Around 3:40, a really sick heavy groove kicks in that is eventually reprised near the end of the song. The third song titled "Arrow," is the other contender for favorite song. We are treated to a nice extended jazzy jam that opens the song getting things going. Once again, this song has a really cool dark groove for the verse that is established by whatever tone Hammill is using on the keys. Along with the verse, the chorus is a highlight of the song. It builds up to an amazing crescendo where Hammill shouts, "swift as any ARRROOOOWWW!" Yeah great song. The final track, "The Sleepwalkers" makes me envision chaotic evil circus music. There's one section that stood out to me right from first listen and its the part around 3:00 minutes in that sounds like surf music for a moment. In typical Van Der Graaf style, it quickly turns dark and speeds up creating one of my favorite moments throughout the album. It is such a complete 180 from everything else on the album that I can't help but adore it. There is an abundance of detail throughout the song that has given me something new to hear on every repeated listen.

The Undercover Man 10/10 Scorched Earth 9/10 Arrow 10/10 The Sleepwalkers 9/10

This album is perfect and an easy 5-Star rating for me.

 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1471 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Van der Graaf, second phase.

After Godbluff, comes Still Life.

1) Pilgrims begins with a serene atmosphere, keyboards and vocals, and with a sound quite similar to Godbluff (only drums beat more dryly). The song reaches the pathos in rhythmic progression, when drums and Jackson's sax explode, and the song becomes epic and solemn and tormented, as the songs in The previus record. Rating 8+

2) Still Life. The beginning, voice and keyboards, with church atmosphere, goes on until almost three minutes, risking becoming boring, but luckily then take over the rhythm section and the saxophone. Hammill then sings the same melody but with a raucous, gritty voice, which in some moments becomes epic, but is not adequately supported by musical arrangement. As mentioned for Godbluff, Hammill can no longer reach the high notes without turning his voice into an unpleasant growl. The song, however good, does not take off, paradoxically being the weakest of the album. Rating 7.5

3) After two linear pieces of about 7 minutes, comes a longer and more tortuous piece, more "prog", with continuous rhythm changes and frenzy in the execution. According to many it would be the most engaging piece on the album but personally I find it too hectic. After 4 minutes the rhythm changes completely, becoming slower and relaxed but then begins a progression that leads to an instrumental piece towards 6 minutes, which brings back to the initial rhythm. Hammill's voice often appears choked, the rhythm becomes consulted, hyperexcited. Rating 7,5/8

4) The second side opens with a slow and melodic song, among the most sober of the group, with saxophone, piano, drums in the background, hammill's voice singing on the low notes, and proceeds thus to the end. It looks like a Roxy Music ballad, with a good central solo by Jackson. Pleasant song, perhaps too slow and repetitive, with an excessively long ending. Good, but it doesn't reach the climax. Rating 7.5/8

5) The final piece, the longest is also the one that would like to be more epic. Slow and melodic beginning, then after two minutes the rhythmic progression begins, alternating with more relaxed moments in a grueling and pathetic song, always raucous, that does not touch the sublime vertices of the epic songs of the first albums, but that strives in a great effort. Rating 8.

Still Life is a Godbluff-like disc for sound, arrangement and production, as if it were its second part, with more material, compact but less inspired.

Rating 8+. Four stars.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.48 | 2012 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator disbanded after the Pawn Hearts tour, in 1972, they disappeared when prog-rock exploded, spread: the years 1972, 1973 and 1974 are dominated by progressive rock, and they are not there: they return in 1975, when the prog movement is now the straight of arrival, it is leaving the scenes to punk; as if primitive dinosaurs that appeared in the Triassic disappeared throughout the Jurassic and then returned to the end of the Cretaceous, just before extinction. VdGG returns in a more stripped-down robe (without the mellotron and synths and terrifying sound orgasms of the past), a drier, almost live sound, where the drums are too prominent, and with more linear but still prog songs that are long , with changes in time and atmosphere, and instrumental variations on the theme.

GODBLUFF (1975)

Side A. 1) The undercover man (8+): Slow beginning with a soft, very expressive singing, followed by a beautiful melodic progression dominated again by Hammill's singing (and here it feels like the complex sounds more calmly and more linear than in the past, according to the more classical schemes of a song), then finally comes the instrumental piece and the epic ending ? but the performance does not touch those very high expressionistic summits of pathos of the past.

2) Scorched Earth (8.5/9): More gritty song than the previous, more expressionist, masterpiece of the album, with frightening sound passages reminiscent of the golden days. Hammill's voice does its part, it is the music that does not have the charge of the past, but is unleashed in the paroxysmal ending. Dark and hallucinatory atmosphere.

Side B. 3) Arrow (8+): It starts with a beautiful jazzy instrumental passage (great Banton on the bass guitar), then comes the sound characterized by a rabid, almost snarling chant of Hammill. Throughout the record is missing the wonderful singing on the high, elegiac notes of Hammill, who prefers here to perform in a raucous rant that is not up to par. The atmosphere, in fact, is more of anger than anguish.

4) The Sleepwalkers (8): Song with a sarcastic atmosphere, the only theatrical, with continuous changes of rhythm, at times ironic as a popular dance, sometimes obsessive. It's fine as a final piece to lighten the atmosphere and close in a pyrotechnic way; it is the longest and lightest piece of the album pleasant, even if it lacks a real direction.

VdGG returned to the scene by churning out an album with a very different sound from the previous ones, as did King Crimson with LTIA, overall rough, sober and fuzzy, where Hammill's voice and Banton's keyboards are less prominent. The arrangements and melodies are all too homogeneous and paint a desolate picture of the loss of hope. The four songs all look a bit like each other in various passages. The pieces are all solid and more than good, if not excellent, and on them hovers an existential nightmare, especially in Scorched Earth and Arrow, and only the last song has slight passages. VdGG do not betray themselves, they reproduce with songs inspired and easier to access than in the past but they do not play and no longer sing with that existential urgency of the beginnings, and this partly affected the pathos transmitted by the music, which still remains well present (O God, compared to Yes, EL&P, Genesis the pathos is always very high) but it does not reach the heights of which they are capable.

Average: 8.15 Great album, small masterpiece, five stars.

 Rock Heavies by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1978
2.21 | 5 ratings

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Rock Heavies
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Review Nš 276

"Rock Heavies" is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1975. This is a compilation that includes tracks from four studio albums of Van Der Graaf Generator. So, it includes one track from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts", released in 1971, one track from their sixth studio album "Still Life", released in 1976, one track from their seventh studio album "World Record", released also in 1976, and three tracks from their eighth studio album "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome", released in 1977. Their album "Pawn Hearts" belogs to what is usually considered their first musical era and the other three belong to what is considered their second musical era.

"Pawn Hearts" is with "The Aerosol Grey Machine", released in 1969, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", released in 1970 and "H To He, Who Am The Only One", released in 1970 too, one of the four albums that belong to their first musical period. "Pawn Hearts" is with "H To He, Who Am The Only One", the two best albums of that era and two of their best albums ever. Of their second musical era, with also four studio albums, only lacks their fifth studio album "Godbluff", released in 1975, to be joined to "Still Life", "World Record" and "The Quiet Zone/ The Pleasure Dome".

So, we have represented here one of their best albums from their first musical era "Pawn Hearts" and represented also one of their best albums of their second musical era "Still Life". But unfortunately, we don't have tracks from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", from their first era and tracks from "Godbluff" from their second era. That is really a pity, because "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" and "Still Life", are generally considered their greatest four masterpieces. Furthermore, the representativeness between both eras is somehow unbalanced, really.

"Rock Heavies" has five tracks. The first track "Lizard Play" was released on "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". "Lizard Play" is a song with some very peculiar rhythm and with a very interesting violin work. "Lizard Play", with its infectious rhythm section is one the biggest standout on the first side of that album. It has a laid back and the pacing and sharp delivery makes for a very interesting contrast with the strings which are quite nice to hear. This is a good song to open that album and this compilation too. The second track "The Habit Of The Broken Heart" was also released on "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". "The Habit Of The Broken Heart" is also a good track and is essentially an acoustic song commanded by acoustic guitar, but the bass becomes the real driving force of the song. The sound of the organ is very subtle, quiet and nice. The middle of the song consists of a fast tempo, book- ended by slower and gentler passages. This is also a very nice track. The third track "Lemmings (Including COG)" was released on "Pawn Hearts". "Lemmings (Including COG)" has very powerful vocals with different harmonies and strange vocal passages, and musically, it has parts with extended saxophone work, keyboards and guitar passages. The track is pretty calm but contains some long musical dissonant parts, but is very pleasant to listen to. This is the weakest song on that album, but it manages to be a very good composition, with all the essential characteristics of the band. The fourth track "A Place To Survive" was released on "World Record". "A place To Survive" is probably the most standard Van Der Graaf Generator's track on that album. This song is about we are 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 one of the better tracks on that album with some great Hammill vocals and a great instrumental break with scorching blasts of sax and organ. The fifth track "La Rossa" was released on "Still Life". "La Rossa" is an epic tale about a desire fulfilled. It's a very powerful song, is the hardest rocking song on that album and is one of my favourite songs of the band, a real highlight. "La Rossa" combines a magical groove with imaginative shifts in texture and mood. On "La Rossa" and "My Room", another track of that album, Jackson delivers some of his most inspired saxophone performances ever made by him.

Conclusion: So, "Rock Heavies" has a track from one album that belongs to their first musical era, 1968-1972, "Pawn Hearts", and four tracks from three albums that belong to their second musical era, 1975-1977, "Still Life", "World Record" and "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". So, we can say this isn't a well balanced compilation album by two reasons. First, of their first era only one album was represented, while from their second era there are three. Second, and above all, some of the best representative albums of both eras aren't represented, even of their second era. It's absolutely incomprehensible that from their first era, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and "H To He, Who Am The Only One", aren't represented with any track. The same goes to their second era. I can't believe that any track from "Godbluff" wasn't chosen. Besides, "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" and "Still Life", are usually considered the great four masterpieces of the band. Finally, why two tracks from "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome", an atypical album and one of their weaker. So, this isn't a well representative compilation of the band.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 2133 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars In September 1971, VdGG finished recording what critics consider their masterpiece, their artistic peak: "Pawn Hearts". it consists of two songs in the first facade and a suite in the second, thus following the fashion inaugurated by King Crimson (Lizard) and Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother) in 1970, and continued by EL&P (Tarkus) in 1971.

Side A. "Lemmings". In this song the narrator ascends the hill and sees people jump into the sea, committing suicide like lemmings. The beginning describes this situation with a vocal instrumental crescendo, then the music gets gloomy, Hammill's voice more cavernous because to speak is a person of this people who is committing suicide, who explains his reasons, and concludes by asking "What cause there left but to die?" The music follows the lyrics perfectly, becoming more and more distressing, and the initially grave singing becomes increasingly angry and desperate. The sound is thick, there are keyboards and electronic effects that describe a desolate lunar landscape beaten by winds and misfortunes, and only the acoustic guitar gives some sign of light. Evans's drums combined with the electronic sounds of Banton and Hammill, and Jackson's excruciating saxophone, create an end-of-the- world atmosphere, and one wonders what would add to all this sound, sometimes cacophonous, Potter's bass, whose absence makes the music more silt dry, naked, especially the drums played by Evans. Yet, always with this distressing background, Hammill responds to the suicidal people that lemmings teach nothing and that the only thing left is to live, or at least try. It is a message of hope that arises from despair and therefore is proposed with the same apocalyptic atmosphere but the ending takes place with slow fade, and Gothic mood with flute in very suggestive evidence. First masterpiece, rating 8,5/9.

"Man-Erg". Hammill sings: The killer is inside me, but the angels are also inside me, and I myself are, I do not know who I am and I contain inside me everything, angels and demons. An existentialist text hovers along with an epic piano music from the first note, more melodic than the previous one. Hammill's charge of pathos with his singing making it sublime until Banton fills it with sound effects similar to terrible screams (and perhaps playing bass guitar in the background), and an atmosphere worthy of a horror movie, very rhythmic and menacing thanks to Evans's work, is filled by Hammill's voice with echoes that asks how to be free. It is an artistic moment of the highest of contemporary music. After the fear, returns the melody and the singing of Hammill confirms his path of awareness between epic flashes and menacing progressions, and finally creeps behind the melody the frightening rhythm, which rises in crescendo creating a music on two layers, that melodic-sublime-epic and percussive- looming- terrifying and so Hammill succeeds in the miracle of unifying, to make synchronous two antithetic music, manages to express at the same time and in an intense way, a pathos composed of the two opposite poles: ecstasy and anguish. In my opinion, Man-Erg is maybe the most beautiful songs ever composed. Rating 10.

Side B. "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", suite formed by ten movements. The lighthouse keeper inaugurates the album suite prophesiing disasters, encrusted with seaweed. behind a melody on the piano that quickly becomes a rabid cry, followed by port noises, perhaps even trains, artfully created by Banton and Jackson: we are in full avant-garde and concrete music, then a solo of organ fades and with the third movement resumes the melody and again the rabid progression, until it begins a much more powerful music in rhythm (S.H.M.) where again the Gurdian-witness growls his despair. Then follows a pause in the music, a suspended moment where Banton is also heard on bass (mixed however always low, not as powerful as Potter used to do), but this is the prelude to the most distressing progression, sung with more pathos than the whole suite, followed by a cacophonous sound orgasm that makes this movement (Kosmos Tour) the most enthralling in the suite. And after the storm returns (for a short time) the serene (Last Stand) with a melody similar to the initial, but this melodic passage, as often happens, is the prologue to the most desecrated and grotesque piece of the record, associated with questions about God as a guide, piece that it ends again in a cacophony similar to the previous, at the end of which Hammill's voice and piano return, which always mark the resumption of the narrative after the storm and the last two movements arrive where hope rises again in the lighthouse keeper, after touching Land's End.

This suite is much more sophysticated and avant-garde than those mentioned at the beginning (Lizard, Atom Heart Mother, Tarkus), which preceded it, and also compared to those of Yes (Close to the Edge) and Genesis (Supper's Ready), released in 1972. This is a real literary poem translated into music, has no refrain, has an unpredictable development that follows Hammill's singing, and can be ardous to listen in various passagess. Compared to the two mini-suites in "From H to He" (Lost and Pioneers), also able to go hand in hand with Hammill's lyrics, this suite has no musical themes that come back, it has no repetitive structures, it is an ever different unfolding, which requires more effort because Hammill's changes in pace and mood can sometimes be exasperating. Rating 9+.

The music of the whole album, characterized by the absence (or almost) of the bass guitar, is much more homogeneous than in the past, and in general the atmospheres of the Lp are less varied: we are faced with the refinement and intensification of a precise songwriting and sound arrangement, which comes here to touch peaks beyond which it would become hyper-accentuated. For all these reasons, I think it is debatable that "Pawn Hearts" is the absolute masterpiece composed by VdGG because "The Least We Can Do" (the most melodic and varied, where the pathos comes directly to hit the listener) is at the opposite pole of "Pawn Hearts" (the most sophisticated and varied in-depth, where the pathos is more filtered and insisted towards a precise sound) but in their complementarity they reach artistic peaks of similar quality, and "From The H to He" possesses intermediate qualities between the two. Therefore, it is difficult to uniquely choose the best masterpiece, among these three artworks, three gigantic operas baked by Hammill and Co. in less than two years: I know no other artist capable of doing the same.

Absolute masterpieces of contemporary music. Rating 10/10. Five stars (and more).

 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1605 ratings

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

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars After a few months from their progressive debut, Van Der Graaf Generator released a new album that is similarly based on the two sides of "The Least We Can Do": 1) anguished/scary song 2) melodic ballad 3) dramatic song or suite with many changes. In the second side of "From H to He", however, "Lost" summarizes the distressing and melodic song before "Pioneers", that is a mini- suite, arrives.

Side A. "Killer" is a powerful song, very rhythmic and aggressive, very structured (verse-chorus), with an instrumental interlude where we listen to a throbbing solo of Jackson's electronic sax, that are sounds that are unparalleled in progressive. Hammill's extraordinary voice and Evans's overflowing drums do the rest (Banton is on the bass but here Potter would have done better). After Darkness (The Least We Can Do), again an absolute masterpiece as incipit. Rating 9.5.

"House With No Door" is a wonderful piano ballad, with melodic openings to the flute, and with a certain prog restlessness that has the merit of not making it monotonous; in the ending Hammill's voice touches more acute notes, the listening becomes sublime and gives way to the beautiful tail with the variations of the piano. Gorgeous, masterpiece, as far as it doesn't reach the superlative level of Refugees. Rating 8.5.

"Emperor" has got verses with dreamlike atmosphere punctuated by organ and flute that create a very beautiful space-rock mood, it seems to be suspended in space, then chorus with rhythmic progression and dramatic voice by Hammill, which are repeated twice, then bridge, then again verse and chorus that are repeated twice, and new bridge, then variation with largely instrumental interlude where you finally hear Fripp's electric guitar and Banton's overflowing drums, but to punctuate the rhythm there is always the mighty bass played by Potter, then the verse and rhythmic progression with Hammill's voice becoming more dramatic, and a greater sound orgasm, until the slight ending. Very studied and structured song in a controlled way. Rating 8.5.

Side B "Lost" begings well rhythm, with great work by Banton, followed by a wider part, where Hammill shows off his expressionist singing, let's call it chorus, then another verse and chorus, then instrumental variation dominated by Jackson, I would say almost bandistic; it returns Hammill's dramatic voice, the an interlude with Hammill touching the high notes, it follows pause with organ and sax (we are halfway, 5'30''), Hammill expresses his solitude ("truly lost") and returns to sing with an unfolded voice, it seems we are coming to the climax but... this is prog, and then again the instrumental banding digression comes back that extinguishes the emotion for give pleasure to the brain, until finally the voice of Hammill returns that concludes this tiring epic by desperately singing " love you" It's a melodic song of love, dramatic, potentially with a lot of pathos, which could have been developed more linearly reaching probably a greater intensity and instead Hammill wanted to offer these continuous variations in prog style that take away some of the emotional intensity but that in a certain way go hand in hand with the emotional ups and downs of the artist, of the lyrics, making the emotional experience more complex and articulate. Rating 8.5/9.

"Pioneer over the C" starts slowly, starring Banton, then Hammill explains that the pioneers who travel beyond the speed of light left Earth in 1983, and then the bass, here again played by Banton, inaugurates a new passage where Hammill sings "It's all dark around" and the music, like a symphonic poem, describes well the emotional state of the singer, with all his ups and downs; the rhythms change continuously while Hammill proclaims "We are the lost ones, we are the pioneers", Hammill's astral journey traces his solitude in the world, Banton's bass returns for another progression that leaves space for new atmospheres suspended in the space followed by dissonances and here the piece becomes a suite that, like the last song of The Least We Can Do, constitutes the sum of the whole record, summing up the whole music heard so far in a synthesis that also assumes avant-garde connotations thanks to experimental sounds to the sax, atonal, followed by a jazzed space-rock diversion, which fades while the voice of Hammill returns; finally, for the third time the bass turn, confirms that this piece must be heard as a sung symphonic poem, until the dissonant ending arrives. Rating 9.

"The Least We Can Do" and "From H to He": We are facing the second consecutive absolute masterpiece by Van Der Graaf Generator (difficult to choose which is the best), surely, in my opinion, the two best English albums released in 1970. Compared to "The Least We Can Do", compositions are on average less melodic and more elaborate, i.e. progressive. We have seen in this album, starting from the first two pieces, the deconstruction of the song form to arrive at increasingly longer and more articulated pieces, composites, with various melodic and instrumental passages assembled together to finally arrive with "Pioneer over the C" to the mini suite that describes a journey with music and lyrics representing a program music, a symphonic poem sung. Hammill marvels at his state of inspiration, his ability to transform in music the mood of his verses and confirms himself as one of the most gifted songwriters of all time, with exceptional intelability and depth.

Rating album 10/10. Five stars (and more).

Thanks to Ivan Melgar M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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