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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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Merlin Atmos: Live Performances 2013 2CD Digipack Limited EditionMerlin Atmos: Live Performances 2013 2CD Digipack Limited Edition
Limited Edition
Esoteric Antenna 2015
Audio CD$13.65
$19.96 (used)
Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Blue Plate Caroline 2005
Audio CD$4.36
$4.20 (used)
Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each OtherLeast We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Blue Plate Caroline 2005
Audio CD$4.36
$3.10 (used)
H to He Who Am the Only OneH to He Who Am the Only One
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Blue Plate Caroline 2005
Audio CD$4.36
$4.86 (used)
GodbluffGodbluff
Remastered
Caroline 2005
Audio CD$4.36
$6.18 (used)
After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77
Import
Imports 2015
Audio CD$31.99
Quiet Zone / Pleasure DomeQuiet Zone / Pleasure Dome
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
Audio CD$4.36
$6.35 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Remastered
Caroline 2005
Audio CD$4.36
$5.28 (used)
Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios LondonLive in Concert at Metropolis Studios London
Import
Salvo 2012
Audio CD$8.63
$5.98 (used)
Grounding in NumbersGrounding in Numbers
Import
Esoteric 2011
Audio CD$9.31
$12.12 (used)
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19h 47m
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19h 50m
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19h 54m
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CD a grounding in numbers
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
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LP a grounding in numbers
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
~ USD $23.42
LP after the flood (the early sessions)
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
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CD alt
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
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LP h to he, who am i the only one
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
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LP visions
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
~ USD $19.82


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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR shows & tickets


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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 | 457 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.05 | 740 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1200 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 1575 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.49 | 1475 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1096 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.80 | 553 ratings
World Record
1976
3.62 | 479 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.65 | 393 ratings
Present
2005
3.52 | 379 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.42 | 375 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.46 | 146 ratings
ALT
2012

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

3.74 | 202 ratings
Vital
1978
4.10 | 103 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.15 | 142 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.68 | 64 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.57 | 27 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.90 | 22 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.50 | 2 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

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

4.09 | 90 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
5.00 | 1 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.17 | 22 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.04 | 5 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
3.98 | 49 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.49 | 30 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

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

3.64 | 30 ratings
68-71
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
2.27 | 48 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.44 | 53 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.38 | 39 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.26 | 32 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.31 | 49 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.89 | 52 ratings
The Box
2000
3.44 | 15 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)

2.50 | 15 ratings
People You Were Going To / Firebrand
1969
4.08 | 18 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
4.68 | 22 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.61 | 24 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.93 | 14 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.60 | 15 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
4.12 | 17 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
 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1575 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars In early 1971 Van der Graaf Generator toured for the promotion of ''H to He, who am the only one'' with fellow Charisma bands Genesis and Lindisfarne, receiving good feedback by the audience, that should have been a real show back in the day!During their live performances they started writing material for a fourth album and actually their intention was to come up with an ambitious double LP.However Charisma believed it was not a good idea, so the band had to make a selection of songs for the upcoming release, the tapes from the unreleased pieces are said to have been lost.Upon returning to the Trident Studios around July most of the album was ready and the band finished the recordings in just two months, inviting again Robert Fripp to contribute on guitars.''Pawn hearts'' was the title and the album was launched in October 1971.

Three very long cuts was Van der Graaf Generator's brand new delivery on this album and the opening ''Lemmings'', nowadays considered a classic of the band, sets the tone for the whole album.At this point they sounded a lot like KING CRIMSON, just a bit darker due to Hammill's unique, sensational voice with the theatrical extensions, making heavy use of sax and flute and exhibiting tons of jazzy elements in their arrangements next to the sinister sound of Hugh Banton's Hammond organ.This is mostly impressive jazzy Prog Rock with a few folky underlines and a strong psychedelic nature.The 10-min. ''Man-Erg'' sounds even better to my ears, it contains the beautiful poetic feel of PETER HAMMILL's solo albums along with the band's flawless inspiration from Psychedelia, Jazz and Classical Music, the soft opening theme with the slow organ and the insane lyrics about Good and Evil is followed by everchanging climates in a great contrast of dark and romantic offerings with symphonic and jazzy overtones, filled with powerful piano and organ and mellow sax soloing.The 23-min. ''A plague of lighthouse keepers'' is among the best compositions ever recorded and performed by the band, talking about a lighthouse keeper, who sees people dying offshore and can do nothing about it.His state of mind is masterfully reflected on the music and lyrics of the piece, which contains several movements.I can compared this one only to Italians OSANNA, it goes from mystical jazzy interventions to Theatrical Rock and back, the music is very complex with grandiose segments and lighter tunes and a very dark feeling overall, featuring some fantastic interactions and preludes, propelled by a lovely Classical background and an even more obvious love for abnormal musical constructions, based on constant breaks.

A true classic of Van der Graaf Generator's discography.An excellent display of sinister and softer climates with a tremendous instrumental background.Beware, this not an easy one to handle, but once you find yourself understanding the evolution of the group, spins will become endless.Highly recommended.

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 Merlin Atmos by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Live, 2015
3.90 | 22 ratings

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Merlin Atmos
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1200 ratings

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

Review by danyboy

4 stars H To He, Who Am The Only One is an absolute VDGG masterpiece. The songwriting here is more sophisticated that is has been in the past, and the musicianship still reigns supreme, and the compositions are still incredibly complex if not more so. This music is highly eclectic and jam packed full of instruments from all eras of time, consisting of the obvious sax and keys. One thing that I've always loved about VDGG is the absence of organ sounds, usually opting for much more interesting keyboard variations. Most of the music is full of energy, but is always wildly creative and never boring in th least. And ofcourse Peter Hammill's voice...what a gift!!! Very highly recommended masterly crafted eclectic prog.

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 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.49 | 1475 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

5 stars VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR are one of those classic prog bands that must be in any decent prog collection. I believe this now with affirmed feelings. Yet early on I had a difficult time finding something to appreciate in the music. Whenever I gave a listen, it was Peter Hamill's vocals that quickly put me off. The music may have had a genius quality but Hamill was more of a madman. How was that singing? He'd have done better by talking.

Well, one day I noticed that I was slowly acquiring and enjoying most of the albums on the PA top 20 of all time and so I figured I'd just order "Godbluff" and give it a good listen. And well that I did.

"The Undercover Man" begins slowly and the music is easy to get into because it is not weird and builds very nicely as the song progresses. Peter Hamill sounds like he's reading a book and singing the odd word here and there. If I had never been able before to imagine the concept of someone singing without a tune or melody then I sure can now. But soon I seem to get what Hamill is doing. He's singing poetry. And actually it's not that bad.

"Scorched Earth" begins without me even noticing the first time because it seems to just be another part of "The Undercover Man". But the music turns more energetic and aggressive and there's a new twist to the sung poetry. This is getting interesting now. The song has edge and the music is pleasantly powerful. This I can dig.

The album continues to impress on side two with a great drum and bass intro to "The Arrow". A saxophone comes in and I am trying to imagine what image this music can conjure in my mind's eye. I settle on ghost ships appearing through the fog. The song rolls with that keyboard sound and Hamill delivers the lines with a rough edge to his voice at times. All right. So two very good songs so far and one that's interesting enough to be worthy of repeat listens.

And then we reach the climax of the album and for me THE VDGG song to have me hooked: "The Sleepwalkers". The song begins just as good as anything I've heard so far. I am really surprised that I am enjoying music without electric guitar this much. There's this wonderful bit that sounds like living room dance music for my dear grandmother's generation, with images of barrel-bodied seniors in brown pants and knit one- piece sweater/skirts dancing joyously in the living in the 1970's. Love it! Then the first part wraps up and morphs into a spacey organ bit that goes on a bit longer than I'd like. But that's OK because presently a serious rock section begins and my ears are soaking in all in. This is really good music. The sax and organs along with an acerbic Peter Hamill screaming the lyrics as well as any punk rocker is just bliss. And again I notice that there's no electric guitar and I am loving the saxophone. Fantastic!

Based on the sheer joy of listening to the music on "Godbluff", I bought "Still Life" but was disappointed. Later I bought "Pawn Hearts" and though I like it now, it took some time to appreciate. But "Godbluff" is quite a package of music. It sure deserves it's place among the top albums of progressive rock. Certainly, VDGG is not for everybody and if the music isn't too hard to swallow then Peter Hamill's voice might be the clincher. More than a singer, I would call him a theatrical vocalist. But if you can "get" this then this album should really please. One thing I really appreciate is that I can listen to the whole thing through and keep my interest, and as well, I can pick two or three songs to put on mix playlists. These are two of the traits of a great album for me.

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 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1096 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by thebig_E

5 stars After the sound and fury of Godbluff, you might think this is a disappointing follow-up, but no, Still Life is another excellent album. This time there is more of a focus on lyrics. Peter Hammill's voice may be at its best on this album. He effortlessly hits all of the high notes, while also providing a more calm and introspective tone. The musicians are still at the top of their game with the drum/organ combination created by Guy Evans and Hugh Banton, the bass, played by Nic Potter, and David Jackson's incredible saxophone lines.

"Pilgrims" is an exciting opening and "Still Life" has a slow build that reaches a dramatic climax. "La Rossa" has all of the rage and catharsis of Godbluff, while "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)" is a much more laid-back tune. After about 32 and a half minutes, we get to the final track on the album, and the one that I consider to be the best, "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End". The lyrics in this track detail what might happen if the human race were to end and what the last moments would be like. Again, Hammill screams with a primal roar as the album comes to a close. Truly an operatic voice.

There is also a bonus track on the remaster titled "Gog", which is a live recording, but the sound on it isn't very good. All in all, Still Life is an essential part of any VDGG fan's or progressive rock fan's collection.

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 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.49 | 1475 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Luís de Sousa

5 stars Is there a perfect record? One that grabs the listener from the very beginning into a breathless journey without detours, distractions or waste of time? If there is such a record it is this one. Writing a review is rather simple: no week points, no negative remarks, it is just pure excellence. It just happens that this is not any ordinary kind of music: eerie sounds from an unconventional set of instruments topped by disgruntling vocals and outstanding lyrics. But it all works together remarkably well, with the sum of its several parts reaching far beyond their individual value. An unrepeatable moment in the history of music. A record without peer.

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 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1200 ratings

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

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars For this second masterpiece in a row to grace the year 1970 from one of the earliest of progressive giants..... VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, I have to put on my Freudian psychologist's hat in order to understand the complexities of the allegories going into the truly poetic lyrics of Peter Hammill, who IMO is the best of the best in terms of singer / songwriter sensibilities in a progressive rock context. Every verse is constructed to milk out the desired emotional response with the musical accompaniment designed to heighten those precise desired effects.

This was my very first VDGG album that I ever heard and upon first listening I actually didn't like this at all. It seemed like a very bad pompous version of David Bowie, an art rock artist who to this day I feel has some similarities with Mr Hammill, however as we all know Bowie went in a more accessible direction and garnered well deserved success for his art rock contributions to the musical world and VDGG, sadly, while going down the same path and adding layers of complexities on their work bench didn't quite get the same results and although the magic can be clearly heard after many listens, the contemporary listening audience wasn't ready for such startlingly complex, darkened and mournful music when it was released much like my first encounter.

The title of this album has always intrigued me and it is by no means obvious as to what its reference may be, however after listening to this album several many times and studying the lyrics, it seems to me that the odd title H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE taken with the obsessive fascination with abuse of power as well as the cover art depicting a lonely pair of legs in space with two rounded objects representing a pair of over-sized testicles makes me think that the actual meaning of this album is to represent the disconnecting nature of improperly used testosterone.

H TO HE symbolizes the fusion of hydrogen to helium and the WHO AM THE ONLY ONE changes the chemical symbol He from helium to the subject pronoun "he." This represents the mindset that male humans are the next logical step in creation after the primary building blocks of matter and that a man who is filled with testosterone and damaged psychologically can usurp power and go on to do nasty things by placing himself as the center of the universe and therefore making it possible to justify ruthless actions no matter how brutal or cruel. As far as anti-war stances go occurring in music, it just doesn't get any more poetically perfect or musically masterful than this splendid album by Peter Hammill and the gang.

Outer space and inner space seem more similar than not and a true poet like Hammill supplicates these portrayals like no other. "Pioneers Over C" perfectly represents this theory IMHO while referencing the laws of physics, it actually has a second meaning euphemistically referring to the tyrannical abuse of power. I see this piece as representing the domination of the natural and social worlds in a detached and frozen manner. The image of a man lost in outer space looking down on the world below viewing the world in disdain as he becomes increasingly isolated from the human family below and as this downward spiral escalates the desire to control and destroy only becomes stronger and stronger until....

This album really ramped up the experimental tendencies started on the previous album and because of the musical direction, bassist Nic Potter just couldn't get down with the whole thing and left the band in the middle of recording this album. Organist Hugh Branton whose keyboard playing is a major ingredient to the band's sound picked up bass duties and went as far as incorporating the bass parts with his foot pedals when playing live in addition to his already complex and haunting organ playing. David Jackson continued to amaze everyone with his rare ability to play two wind instruments simultaneously and with Guy Evans staying on as percussionist the band found a stable lineup that would be considered their classic lineup and they would go on to pump out some of the absolute best music ever made on this planet.

As with the last album every song flows perfectly into the next mixing pleasant melodies with jarring outlandish outbreaks of cacophonous sounds that perfectly emphasize lyrical subterfuge in their deliveries. Despite my countless listens to this masterpiece of music I am still floored by it. It not only ages well but because of the roundabout way of presenting the lyrics i'm constantly considering new meanings in the lyrical content. An intellectual teaser to say the least but one that fascinates me and keeps my constant interest. Of all the albums I have rated five stars this one comes close to the top of my list for best albums of all time. A timeless classic that I never tire of and sounds better after every listen.

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 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.49 | 1475 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by thebig_E

5 stars This record was a change in style for VDGG. Instead of the gloomy atmospheres of some of their previous records such as Pawn Hearts, the band goes for an all-out attack. I like this era of the band the most, with this release and its follow-up, Still Life.

"The Undercover Man" opens the album quietly and with restraint, until it grows more dramatic in the mid-section. "Scorched Earth" is one of the darkest tunes made by the group. The instruments continue to build on one another, until the song ends with feedback. "Arrow" starts with an improvisation and gradually builds. Peter Hammill gets some good screams on this track. "The Sleepwalkers" is the choice cut from the album. There's a good organ and saxophone combination throughout, and the tune slowly drifts away at the end, creating a heavy mood.

It might seem like a mess and a bit of a chore to listen to at first, but if you return to Godbluff, you might find new things to be uncovered. For all of its noise and power, Godbluff is an essential prog masterpiece.

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 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1096 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by ibnacio

5 stars "Still Life, still living."

Van der Graaf Generator was not exactly one of my favourite bands of the moment, wayback in the 1970s (paraphrasing The Incredible String Band). I used to find Peter Hammill's singing unnatural and overacted. In addition, the dark aspects of the music were not my cup of tea, either. I wanted more light, being the Spanish scene quite a dark one after forty years of dictatorship, I guess.

Anyway, the Generator's music has grown or matured in me with time, like those sour or bitter tastes you get used to with the years and find pleasure in them as well as in the sweeter or milder ones. I guess it is a question of maturity.

So, after having revisited for some five years VdGG's oeuvre (the core of it, from "H to He..." to "Still Life", not in chronological order, though), I now own their music as an indispensible part of classic prog rock. And from all these four awesome albums, I must conclude "Still Life" their masterpiece for I find it is like a summary of all the best these four talented musicians were able to do with the exact balance of musicality, progressiveness, virtuosism and dark tones that any of the other three albums exceeded in one or other way.

Pilgrims kicks off with admirable organ phrasing and ambient which grows and grows till acquiring epic proportions and grandiose musicality, all of it repeated with variations on the second verse and coda.

The title theme begins in soft dark tones which turn into lyrical as Hammill unwraps his poetry on the text, a reflection on life's meaning. Then it changes with verse three to a more dinamic tempo and the band, mostly the rhythmic section, reach perfection. A perfect match of music to text.

I think never before has Hugh Banton's organ sounded better than in this album,and "La Rossa" is an example of it with its beautiful intro. After one minute, the band explodes and now we know we are in front of one of the strongest, more complex and achieved of the album's tracks, which means of VdGG's tracks. A (white) hot point. After six minutes, a short fugue resets us at full speed till the last cry : "Give me life!" with superb soloing from Banton and Jackson.

It is not my purpose to review every single track in the album, but I thought this incredible side A was worth reviewing. Just two tracks occupy side B, which continues in the mood of its reverse. "My Room" beeing more lyrical with beautiful jazzy arrangaments from Jackson while "Childlike Faith..." is a short epic reaching over twelve minutes which again reflects on life's basic questions. Hammill getting philosophical at full.

I guess those gap years the band took between "Pawn Hearts" and "Goldbluff" and the tour that followed that last album were the perfect conditions for the band to rebloom and provide us with a significant prog rock masterpiece.

Five stars without a doubt. Somewhere in South Spain, 17/07/2014.

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1575 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by MyDarling95

5 stars What can I say for Pawn Hearts? It is mind-blowing, one way or another! Many people find Van Der Graaf's records irritating, confusing and mad, but come on! That is the special flavor of this band, and it is over the edge in this one. Each and every song is filled with the pure essence of this band, from the classical sax's play of Jackson to the insane voice of Hammill.

Pros: +Lemmings: I cannot say this is beautiful, yet it is exciting and enjoyable. +Man-Erg: another crazy voyage from the mellow to the crazy and back and forth... +A Plague...: a real reference to prog!

Cons: -Wierd (I have to say it). -Takes a lot of listens to get into it.

Veredict: although this one stays a little short for me compared to my favorite VDGG album, "H To He, Who Am The Only One", I simply cannot give "Pawn Hearts" anything less than 5 stars, it is a complete masterpiece, a prog rock reference and 3 songs that stay in your mind a long, long time, cheers! It isn't the correct album to start, but every VDGG album from "The Least We Can Do..." to "World Record" are worth to be checked.

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