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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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Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
Audio CD$4.26
$4.99 (used)
After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77
Import
Imports 2015
Audio CD$5.74
$13.69 (used)
World RecordWorld Record
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Virgin / Charisma 2005
Audio CD$4.26
$4.99 (used)
Aerosol Grey MachineAerosol Grey Machine
Import
Fie 2005
Audio CD$12.24
$14.78 (used)
VitalVital
Remastered · Extra tracks
Virgin / Charisma 2005
Audio CD$6.32
$5.29 (used)
Merlin Atmos: Live Performances 2013 2CD Digipack Limited EditionMerlin Atmos: Live Performances 2013 2CD Digipack Limited Edition
Import · Limited Edition
Esoteric Antenna 2015
Audio CD$13.24
$14.39 (used)
GodbluffGodbluff
Import · Remastered
Caroline 2005
Audio CD$4.21
$5.00 (used)
Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each OtherLeast We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
Audio CD$4.99
$5.98 (used)
H To He, Who Am The Only One (180 Gram Vinyl)H To He, Who Am The Only One (180 Gram Vinyl)
4 Men With Beards 2012
Vinyl$18.68
$11.21 (used)
H To He Who Am I The Only OneH To He Who Am I The Only One
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
Audio CD$4.99
$4.60 (used)
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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 | 496 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.05 | 801 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1289 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 1694 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.49 | 1592 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1173 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.82 | 604 ratings
World Record
1976
3.63 | 519 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.64 | 412 ratings
Present
2005
3.52 | 399 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.41 | 392 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.46 | 164 ratings
ALT
2012

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

3.73 | 215 ratings
Vital
1978
4.10 | 107 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.09 | 148 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.66 | 69 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.55 | 30 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.89 | 32 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.36 | 14 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

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

4.09 | 94 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
5.00 | 2 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.13 | 24 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.04 | 5 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
3.97 | 49 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.48 | 31 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

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

3.66 | 32 ratings
68-71
1972
4.50 | 2 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
2.29 | 51 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.43 | 57 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.39 | 41 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.11 | 35 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.31 | 50 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.91 | 58 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 | 19 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
4.60 | 23 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.63 | 25 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.86 | 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
 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.82 | 604 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review N 54

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

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

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

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

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 ALT by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 2012
2.46 | 164 ratings

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ALT
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Lewian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1289 ratings

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

Review by AngusH

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

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

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

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 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1173 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review N 44

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1694 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's beautiful, dreadful, evocative, and challenging Pawn Hearts is rightly one of the highest rated albums on this website... and I feel sort of ashamed that it went noticed by myself for as long as it has! This ambitious album is packed with so much artistry, musicianship, and unapologetic noise that it deserves to be held up alongside the best of the best, even though it doesn't give one the same experience as the pinnacle of Yes' or Genesis' output. If you're familiar with VDGG, then you probably know why. If you're just discovering prog music, or haven't yet explored this sometimes forgotten classic group, here's why you should check out this album.

Pawn Hearts makes great use of VDGG's unique instrumentation: keyboards, percussion, bass, and woodwinds. The absence of guitar seems at first like a gigantic risk, but the holes it leaves opens up so many musical opportunities explored by the group. Organ, piano, and mellotron often take the lead, but very differeantly than that "other" keyboard-led prog band (ELP). The keyboards weave a complex, moody, and often times dark tapestry of sound that pulls the listener in deeper and deeper. The excellent drumming of Evans provides an equally complex and nuanced performance, creating patterns and rhythms that must be explored to be truley appreciated. The woodwinds provide the most unique flavor of all, giving the album those not-quite-jazz moments that add one more level of originality to the songs. The players are all exceptional and play very tight together. While there are solos, they are rare and not attention grabbing. The end result is a sound that is very unique when compared to other bands that form the core of classic prog.

The songs and their composition are amazing. At times abstract, others beautiful, and others still manic or intense, there is genuine creativity and depth to these works. More so than say, Yes, who as a band often rely on very strong melodies or driving rock moments, Pawn Hearts is much more abstract, daunting, and unapproachable. It takes guts to listen to this album, but its rewards the listener constantly with powerful, sweeping moments of dramatic pay off. Outstanding writing and implementation of the group's talents make for many wonderful musical moments adrift in the moody darkness.

Hammill's lyrics are poetic and dense, telling introspective stories. His voice has a dynamic range and is full of emotion, though again is a factor that will challenge many listeners. Don't expect the sweet sustains of Jon Anderson, playful tenor of Ian Anderson, or theatrical polish of Peter Gabriel. Hammill instead sounds raw, even unhinged at times. As a prominent sound throughout Pawn Hearts, vocals may be the thing that turns listeners away from this work. In the past I've had guests be weirded out when approachable classic prog like "Close to the Edge" and "Supper's Ready" come on my music list... I can guarantee that any song on Pawn Hearts will make people leave the room. Now that's prog rock!!!

This is an experimental, musical, and complex work that should belong in every prog fan's library. Though VDGG doesn't have quite the legacy of some of the other bands that got me into prog, they're every bit as creative and important to the genre. Take the challenge and check out Pawn Hearts.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

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 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.49 | 1592 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Quinino

5 stars My ALL-TIME Greatest #8

Although my first love was the former Pawn Hearts it's this one, born 4 years later, that has made me since then continuously and unfailingly happy. My friends, these are the big Dinosaurs, the Velocyraptors of Prog, and this is their Opus Magnum!

Global Appraisal

The whole, as often said, is bigger than the sum of the parts; no band - not even them - has or would ever sound like on this one, a gigantic landmark of inventive, innovative, inimitable music.

A band that is reputably a boundaries pusher and has produced a body of work of the greatest magnitude (5 albums in a row with a rating here on PA of 4 plus) created in only 35 minutes what represents a monument and a legacy of historical dimensions.

Goodies

Peter Hammill voice, formidable, at the height of his expression powers.
Hugh Banton a master at the keys, one has to hear to believe the way he plays the organ, be it prepared or not.
David Jackson blows the saxes, sometimes even simultaneously, like his life depends on it.
Guy Evans developed a personalized drumming style that imprints here a signature sound; outstanding!
The lyrics are a remarkable example of PH renowned poetic skills, permeated with a pathos that at times will give you shivers, really.

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 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.49 | 1592 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review N 27

Van Der Graaf Generator is a British band formed in 1967 in Manchester while their band members studied at the Manchester University. As all we know, the group still exists today, even after two interruptions in their musical career. The group's name was inspired in the electric equipment of Van de Graaff generator, which is a machine that creates static electricity. The group had also some changes into their line up over the years. Van Der Graaf Generator was always a different kind of a progressive band, in so many ways. They incorporate, in addition to the traditional musical instruments normally used by a rock band, the sound of saxophones and flute, which is one of the keys of their music. The other main characteristic of the band is the importance of the Peter Hammill's very intricate and personal lyrics, sung by him in a very personal, peculiar and unique way. The sound of his voice isn't for everyone.

After the release of their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts" in 1971 and due to financial problems within the group, Hammill left the band to pursue his solo musical career, putting an end in the group and making their first hiatus. After five solo efforts, Hammill re-formed Van Der Graaf Generator, and the band released their next three studio albums, "Godbluff", "Still Life" and "World Record", only in two years, between 1975 and 1976.

"Pawn Hearts", was my first review of a Van Der Graaf Generator work. As I wrote before, when I made my previous review of that album, "Godbluff" is my favourite album still "Pawn Hearts" is, for me, their best work.

"Godbluff" is their fifth studio album and was released in 1975. It's the first album that belongs to their famous trilogy, already mentioned by me. They maintained the same line up until the new breakup of the band. So, the line up on the album is Peter Hammill (lead vocals, piano, clavinet and electric guitar), Hugh Banton (keyboards, bass guitar and bass pedals), David Jackson (alto, tenor and soprano saxophones and flute) and Guy Evans (drums and percussion).

"Godbluff" has four tracks. All the tracks were written by Hammill, except "Scorched Earth" which was written by Hammill and Jackson. The first track "The Undercover Man" is absolutely an astonishing piece. It begins with Hammill's voice in a low timbre, accompanied by Jackson's flute and Evans' drums. The track develops, with a slow crescendo of Hammill's voice and Banton's organ. In my humble opinion, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever created by the band. The second track "Scorched Earth" is a more traditional band track. It's much darker, aggressive and complex, than its debut previous track. This is a track with a great work by Jackson on saxophones, perfectly well accompanied by Hammill's aggressive vocal work. This is another great track and represents the closest track to the musical style on their previous album, "Pawn Hearts". The third track "Arrow" is the most aggressive musical piece on the album. Musically, it's a very complex and strong song, with a very aggressive vocal work by Hammill. However, "Godbluff" is an album full of great vocal passages. As with "Scorched Earth", this is another song more in the vein of the classic band's repertoire. For me, these two songs, especially "Arrow", make the transition, between the previous musical era, ended with "Pawn Hearts", and the new musical era started by "Godbluff", followed by "Still Life" and ended with "World Record". The fourth track "The Sleepwalkers" is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs of the group and represents the great highlight of the album. This is the lengthiest track on the album, and is also, in my humble opinion, one of the best songs ever made. When I wrote that "Pawn Hearts" is probably the great masterpiece from the band but that I preferred "Godbluff", I was just thinking only on "The Sleepwalkers". Definitely, this is the song that makes me to tend for "Godbluff". Sincerely, for me, "The Sleepwalkers" is a truly masterpiece by itself.

Conclusion: As I said before, "Godbluff" is my favourite Van Der Graaf Generator's album. Despite I deeply love, practically all of their musical studio works of the 70's, it always had and always it will have a very special place into my heart. The only four tracks of the album showed a unity, coherence and a musical inspiration, which appear as having been cut from the same cloth. An attentive listening of the album show that the group had changed, abandoning the aesthetic of their earlier albums in favour of a more direct and streamlined approach. However and unfortunately, Van Der Graaf Generator never quite managed to make the same impact on the generality of the public of the 70's as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes, had done. They always differed from the traditional progressive rock groups. If we want to define the band, we can say that probably, they are the band that clearly defines the dark side of the progressive rock music. To finish, even if we can enjoy more or less the band, and if "Godbluff" is the best Van Der Graaf Generator's album or not, which is really truth is that "Godbluff" is one of the best albums ever made.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1694 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead

5 stars Review N 26

This is my first review of a Van Der Graaf Generator's album. Usually, my favourite album by any band corresponds to what I think to be their best album. However, in this case, this doesn't really happen. With this group, my favourite album from them is their fifth studio album 'Godbluff'. Although, I sincerely think that probably their best album is really their fourth studio album 'Pawn Hearts'. This probably seems to be a little bit incoherent, even for me, but sincerely, this is what I feel. Logically, I would begin my first review from the band by one of them, and so, in this case, I decided to begin with 'Pawn Hearts', leaving 'Godbluff' for my next review on Progarchives.

'Pawn Hearts' is the fourth studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1971. The line up of the band on the album is the traditional, and in my humble opinion, is their best too. So, we have Peter Hammill (lead vocals, acoustic and slide guitar and electric and acoustic pianos), Hugh Banton (backing vocals, Hammond and Farfisa organs, piano, mellotron, ARP synthesizer, bass guitar and bass pedals), David Jackson (backing vocals, alto, tenor and soprano saxophones and flute) and Guy Evans (drums, percussion, tympani and piano). On the album we have also the presence of Robert Fripp of King Crimson on guitar, as a guest musician.

'Pawn Hearts', was originally conceived as a double album. The first side of the vinyl LP would be the album as it came to be released, and the second side would be divided between personal projects and live studio versions of the band's members. By some reason, this project never met the daylight. Probably it was the best thing to do. However, when the album was remastered in 2005, some tracks from the missing project, were added, as bonus tracks.

'Pawn Hearts' has three tracks. I'm talking about the European release, which is mine. The American and Canadian releases contained four tracks. Squeezed between 'Lemmings' and 'Man-Erg' there is the fourth instrumental track, 'Theme One'. In Europe, 'Theme One' was released as a single with the song 'W' as the B side. So, the first track 'Lemmings' written by Hammill 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. The second track 'Man-Erg', also written by Hammill, is sung by him with in a more traditional way. It's a song with a beautiful piano introduction and is followed by Hammill's voice. On the track we can hear Banton's organ work accompanied by Evan's very expressive drumming, great Jackson's saxophones works and some very pretty acoustic and electric guitar works made by Hammill and Fripp. Probably, this is the most beautiful song on the album. The third track 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers' takes the entire side B on the vinyl LP and is divided into ten parts: 'Eyewitness', 'Pictures/Lighthouse', 'Eyewitness', 'S.H.M.', 'Presence Of The Night', 'Kosmos Tours', '(Custard's) Last Stand', 'The Clot Thickens', 'Land's End (Sineline)' and 'We Go Now'. This is the monumental track on the album, and is, without any doubt, one of the most innovative and creative pieces ever made by them. The twenty three minute of this conceptual piece is very epic and is finished by a great guitar solo by Fripp. All the parts were written by Hammill, except 'Pictures/Lighthouse' written by Hammill and Banton, 'Kosmos Tours' written by Evans, 'The Clot Thickens' written by Van Der Graaf Generator, 'Land's End (Sineline)' written by Jackson and 'We Go Now' written by Banton and Jackson.

Van Der Graaf Generator toured extensively until 1972, but a lack of support from the record company and some financial difficulties, forced Hammill to split the band and pursue his solo career. Despite that, the apparent end of the band, proved not to be permanent. Two and a half years after, the group returned to record more four studio albums, 'Godbluff' in 1975, 'Still Life' and 'World Record' both in 1976 and 'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' in 1977.

Conclusion: 'Pawn Hearts' is an emotional and captivating album and isn't surely for the casual progressive listener. It demands attention and respect, in order to get the most of it, which is usual in all band's albums. Lyrically, I highly encourage the future listeners to following along with the lyrics to get the real spirit of it. Musically, it has the ability to evoke very deep personal emotions. Both things together, show perfectly what separates Van Der Graaf Generator from its contemporaries. 'Pawn Hearts' is a perfect place to start to see who Van Der Graaf Generator is. Surely, 'Pawn Hearts' is one of the best and most innovative masterpieces of progressive rock, but I'm afraid that it cannot be for everyone. It's very rare to find an album with such raw emotion as 'Pawn Hearts'. It's one of the darkest musical experiences the progressive rock as to offer, and is an essential addition to any serious progressive collection.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.63 | 519 ratings

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

Review by ross warren

4 stars Very much like World Record I didn't like this one as much at first, but my goodness it is a grower. Part of the appeal is the fantastic recording and of course having Nic Potter's bass, which was one of the highlights of their first Charisma recording. It may not be quite a five star recording but it's worth more than four stars really. In reality there tends only to be two types of people, those who get, and love Hammill and those who don't. Really this is an excellent set of songs, but my favorite is the wave. Maybe Peter says rather than sings a great deal of this set, but it works very well. The violin is a perfect match for Hammill's rather highbrow take on rock music. Such passionate music deserves great performers and that is exactly what we get. This record is of course a product of it's time, gone are the out of this world lyrics, and the bizarre song structures, but in comes a more new wave take on dark rock. Sadly they would only release one more recording, the extreme Vital, another recording that took my a while to fully enjoy. These days I find I play this and world record more often than their earlier records. It seems to me that this is a more mature Van Der Graff, playing some of the best material Peter had written for some time. As for the haters, go and listen to Yes or some such band and leave records like this one for the grown ups.

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 Inside Van Der Graaf Generator by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover DVD/Video, 2005
3.13 | 24 ratings

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Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars The inside series of DVDs are an interesting snapshot of prog history for the progressive rock fan. It is worth noting that there are a series of "Inside" DVDs available, including Pink Floyd, Yes, Supertramp, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and of course "Inside Van der Graaf Generator". Each DVD is in Dolby digital 5.1 and DTS so the sound is incomparable.

The Inside series is an independent critical review featuring rare archive footage much of which has been previously unavailable on DVD. VDGG clips from their golden years are always a sheer delight and there's a lot to indulge in from their early albums including "Pawn Hearts" gem A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. I've seen many performances of this but here is a treat from the best version recorded. These performances have seen the light of day previously but I can never get enough of Hammill's voice and Jacksons' Saxophones.

Musicologists of varying backgrounds critically assess the music to discover the essence of the band. It is a very brief look at the band as are all of these DVDs of the "Inside" series, clocking just over one hour in length. Therefore it is more of a taster for those new to VDGG or for those who just want to look back at the golden years of this powerhouse prog rock band.

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