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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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Live At Rockpalast: Leverkusen 2005 (2CD+DVD)Live At Rockpalast: Leverkusen 2005 (2CD+DVD)
Made In Germany Musi 2018
$15.31
$20.73 (used)
Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
$5.32
$13.01 (used)
GodbluffGodbluff
Remastered
Caroline 2005
$5.32
$6.03 (used)
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each OtherThe Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Extra tracks · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
$6.42
$5.83 (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
$5.32
$3.92 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Remastered
Caroline 2005
$5.32
$6.51 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Super Audio CD - DSD
Universal 2015
$40.61
Quiet Zone/The Pleasure DomeQuiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome
Extra tracks · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
$8.12
$8.83 (used)
Alt /  Van Der Graaf GeneratorAlt / Van Der Graaf Generator
Antenna / Esoteric 2016
$8.88
$7.43 (used)
Aerosol Grey MachineAerosol Grey Machine
Fie 2005
$13.47
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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)

3.26 | 588 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.06 | 969 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1512 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 2013 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.48 | 1888 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1393 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.82 | 710 ratings
World Record
1976
3.65 | 605 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.61 | 479 ratings
Present
2005
3.51 | 457 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.44 | 454 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.48 | 221 ratings
ALT
2012
3.56 | 146 ratings
Do Not Disturb
2016

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

3.82 | 260 ratings
Vital
1978
4.09 | 130 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.09 | 173 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.65 | 80 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.57 | 42 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.84 | 49 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.26 | 40 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

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

4.14 | 106 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
4.18 | 11 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.14 | 26 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.22 | 8 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
3.99 | 55 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.53 | 34 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

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

3.56 | 33 ratings
68-71
1972
4.33 | 3 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
3.33 | 3 ratings
Reflection
1975
2.67 | 3 ratings
Rock Heavies
1978
2.31 | 56 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.41 | 62 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.35 | 45 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.14 | 39 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.29 | 53 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.93 | 66 ratings
The Box
2000
3.29 | 20 ratings
An Introduction
2000
4.33 | 3 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
4.59 | 25 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.66 | 30 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.81 | 16 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.47 | 17 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
4.11 | 18 ratings
Cat's Eye
1977
1.69 | 17 ratings
The Masters
1998
3.00 | 7 ratings
Highly Strung
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1393 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by The Jester

5 stars I'm sure that VDGG fans will propably disagree with me, as they would prefere one of the first period's albums. But for me the second period (that starts with 'Godbluff' and finishes with the live album 'Vital'), is more mature, less experimental, and contains some of the band's finest moments.

Van Der Graaf is a difficult band to listen to, if you are not 'well trained' with Progressive Rock. Their music is dark, based more on piano/organ and saxophones, and with Peter Hammil's unique voice which at some parts is melodic and soft, while other times it is flirting with cacophony. (Many times that happens during the same song). Still Life was released on 1976 a few months after Godbluff and a few months before World Record. (The band actually released these 3 albums in a 13 month period). It wasn't commercially successful, (only in Italy became kind of a success), but it is a very strong album, that if you get used to it you will discover the magic of VDGG in all its glory. I got all their albums in my collection, but Still Life always had a special place in my heart.

Songs like Pilgrims, Still Life and Childlike Faith in Childhood's End are, in my opinion, among the greatest synthetic moments of VDGG. Definetely Recommendd! 5 stars

 An Introduction by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
3.29 | 20 ratings

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An Introduction
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 194

Few progressive rock bands have ever been cluttered with so many controversies as Van Der Graaf Generator was. Even for many progressive rock fans, Van Der Graaf Generator is often viewed as a ridiculous and pompous band that made music too much complex and difficult to listen to and understand. They are often viewed as a bunch of guys who took only the worst aspects of the progressive rock music and never bothered to throw in any of the best. However, Van Der Graaf Generator always was a cult band like Gentle Giant, except that they always had a really big and great number of followers all over the world, especially in some countries with a penchant for the "deep and dark progressive rock".

"An Introduction" has nine tracks. The first track "Darkness" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a great opener for that album and is also one of its best tracks. This is a song dominated by the continued presence of the keyboards of Banton and by a very good and strong bass line. It's the song where we can hear, for the first time, the incredible and unique sound of the saxophones of Jackson. The second track "Refugees" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It represents the most sentimental moment on that album. This is a very beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with a nice flute work by Jackson. It's a song that reminds me very much "Running Back", the third track of their debut studio album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Hammill. The third track "Killer" was released on "H To He, Who Am The Only One". It's a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. This is one of my favourite songs of them. It shows the great atmosphere so typical of their sound. The fourth track "Theme 1" is a song taken from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts". The track didn't appear on the UK release, but did appear on the release of the album in the USA. It was also released as a single with "W" as the B side. This is a truly amazing instrumental piece dominated by Jackson's saxophones. It has a funy tune and retains the optimistic vibe of the band. It manages to relesse for a while the emotional tension that we can feel on the whole album. I'm sure it was used in many radio stations. The fifth track "Man-Erg" is a song taken from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts". It's a song with a beautiful piano introduction and is followed by Hammill's voice. On it we can hear Banton's organ accompanied by Evans' very expressive drumming, great Jackson's saxophones and some very pretty acoustic and electric guitar work made by Hammill and Fripp. Probably, this is the most beautiful song on "Pawn Hearts". The sixth track "Sleepwalkers" was taken from "Godbluff". It represents the highlight of "Godbluff". This is the lengthiest track on that album and is one of their best songs. It's a very energetic track with very powerful vocals by Hammill, which combines an aggressive saxophone work by Jackson and an astonishing orgn work by Banton. The seventh track "Still Life" was taken from "Still Life". This is a very dark song that speaks about the death and one's own resignation before the death. It's about the consequences of the immortality and the inevitable paradoxes of the eternal life, if there is such kind of thing. It starts with Hammill's singing and Banton's playing organ. The song grows with intensity all over it. The eighth track "When She Comes" was taken from "World Record". This is a song related with Peter's personal love affair. It relates how unstable and unpredictable the relationships are, and how we can live with a person that we didn't know as well as we thought. This is a very sarcastic song with excellent works of saxophones and organ by Jackson and Banton. The ninth track "The Sphinx In The Face" was taken from "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". It's the dynamic rocker song on that album, representing Van Der Graaf Generator's heaviest moment on it. This is a kind of a blues rocker track. It was, perhaps, the weakest track on that album. So, it wasn't a great option to add this track on this compilation.

Conclusion: "An Introduction" is a good compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator. It has songs from almost all their studio albums of the 70's. The exception was "The Aerosol Grey Machine", without any songs. So, the songs were from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff", "Still Life", "World Record" and "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". The selection of tracks is very good. It has two of the best tracks from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "Darkness" and "Refugees", one of the best tracks from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Killer", one excellent track from "Pawn Hearts", "Man-Erg", probably the best track from "Godbluff", "Sleepwalkers", one of my favourite tracks from "Still Life", its title track, one of the highlights from "World Record", "When She Comes". Relatively to "Theme 1", is also a good track but it hasn't the same quality to be compared with all the other tracks on this compilation. Still, a compilation can never substitutes the original albums, especially in the case of progressive rock bands. So, this is only a good compilation, but none an essential purchase.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 2013 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

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

5 stars In just a few short years, Peter Hammill's VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR project had evolved from a de facto solo effort ("The Aerosol Grey Machine") to an early progressive rock band ("The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other") and then up another few notches to one of the most innovative and boundary pushing pioneers within the prog world on "H To He Who Am The Only One." And as if the world were coming to end in the foreseeable future, this outlandish quartet that consisted of Peter Hammill, Hugh Benton, David Jackson and Guy Evans went for the jugular on their fourth album PAWN HEARTS, an album so gorged full of musical ideas that it seems like it's ready to collapse under its own bloated grandeur in a shriveled heap of sonic sesquipedalian entropy. But it did not and instead created a beacon of complexity that would continue the arms race of proposing which band could compose the most challenging and daring music set in a rock context possible. The album's title resulted from a humorous spoonerism where Jackson stated "I'll go down to the studio and dub on some more porn harts", meaning "horn parts".

It is without question that PAWN HEARTS ranks as VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's most complex album and arguably one of the most demanding listens within the progressive rock paradigm. Often a rather love or hate sort of affair in no doubt due to Peter Hammill's Bowie-esque schizoid vocal style, this is a band that prog fans love or hate but perhaps the hate side of the equation is a result of simply not being indoctrinated fully into their own little private club of the prog universe. While my first exposure offered intrigue, i can't say that i loved it. What it did was make me want to investigate and delve into its idiosyncratic charm in order to unlock the secrets that await like an ET Bhuddist monk holding the key to longevity in some mysterious underground fortress in Mongolia or something. The virtuosic and tightened band effect was due to the fact that VDGG hit the road and relentless played their material from "H to He?" on the infamous "Six Bob" tour which featured other Charisma Records acts like Genesis and Lindisfarne. The band was said to be almost impossible to top as they reached their creative peak live performances as well as in the studio with the emergence of PAWN HEARTS, an album so sublime that it is one of the rare sonic portals into a truly alternative universe.

Despite the precarious balance of elements on board, somehow like a lion tamer in the circus, these musical pioneers subdued their wild and adventurous beast into one of progressive rock's most elegant displays of pomp and awe with an ever changing eclectic carousel ride through multi-layered suites that more often threaten to derail the melodic tightrope act but somehow emerge from the chaos like an egg dropped from the top of the Empire State Building only by happenstance to land on someone's lost down comforter. PAWN HEARTS has emerged through the decades as one of the pinnacles of progressive rock with its undulating relentless pursuit for complexity that takes the seemingly innocent although demented melodies of Peter Hammill's keyboardist singer / songwriting skills and teasing and torturing them until monstrous mountains of sound meander about in psychedelic hallucinations that realize the potentials of the 60s but taken to the proggy promised lands by raising the bar so high that very few have dared even tread these exalted elevations of exuberance.

While the late 60s was ground zero for the most experimental and adventurous musical explorations to have emerged since the dawning of recorded music, few took this opportunity to heart more than VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. By 1971, the somewhat rotating cast of members had stabilized into the classic lineup with mainman Hammill forging his role as lead vocalist, keyboardist and conductor of everything demented, dark and dangerous. In accord, Benton would follow suit with his double role as bassist and second keyboardist which was one of the features that allowed VDGG an over-the-top and in-yer-face musical approach. And likewise Jackson, the band's one-man wind section provided the appropriate jazzy touches with healthy doses of the avant-garde in the forms of tenor, alto and soprano saxophones and flute would often bedazzle audiences with an uncanny propensity to play two different wind instruments simultaneously. While Guy Evans would provide the varied percussive sounds, he would also provide an extra layer of piano strewn throughout. Through the relentless tours of 1970, VDGG caught the attention of King Crimson's Robert Fripp who signed up as guest guitarist making PAWN HEARTS a veritable classic of the ages indeed. Granted, i agree with those who find the guitar duties a little underwhelming as they hardly take the limelight but if one listens attentively, they are there!

Despite the relentless strive to go where no musicians had gone before, in VDGG's native UK, it was a bit too much too soon, however Peter Hammill's passionate vocal style and rather symphonically driven eclectic prog was a major hit in Italy where PAWN HEARTS hit #1 on the album charts while failing to make even the smallest dent in Britain. And so it was VDGG's destiny to find solidarity in Italy where they would find themselves touring and pleasing their largest fanbase. The Italians were right on board with the outlandish, overwrought and passionate vocal styles coupled with classically infused progressive rock tendencies that pushed the limits as evidenced by some of the biggest Italian acts to follow. While Genesis got much credit for their symphonic pastoral contributions in the Italian prog scene, VDGG was in fact one of the main contributors with their ability to shapeshift pleasant yet seductive melodies into progressive powerhouse performances that let loose the full fury of psychedelic rock infused with the complexities of jazz, classical and the furthest reaches of the avant-garde.

PAWN HEARTS consists of a mere three tracks (except for the US and Canadian releases) but in reality contains more creative ideas than most bands muster up in their entire career thus making it not only VDGG's most ambitious and complex album of their entire career but also ranks way up there in terms of most intrepid, inspiring, emulous and zealous albums released in the entire era of recorded music with a burning desire to go where no musical entity had gone before thanks to the big bang of progressive rock inspiration fathered by the great Robert Fripp and his King Crimson outfit. I would be remiss to omit the contributions of Tony Stratton-Smith whose further explorations into the development and arrangements of PAWN HEARTS would have gone nowhere without his involvement. Despite the claim that PAWN HEARTS as well as any VDGG release is a Peter Hammill dominated one-man show, nothing could be further from the truth as much of the structural edification of the album was brought to life by the contributions of others. For some reason in the US and Canadian releases there was a fourth track added after "Lemmings" called "Theme One" which was written by none other than fifth Beatle member George Martin but has been demoted to merely a bonus track on newer versions.

"Lemmings" including "Cog" (11:39) While "H To He Who Am The Only One" seemed to castigate the powerful elite for their overweening misuse of testosterone in their relentless domination of humanity, on PAWN HEARTS, the opener "Lemmings" seems to take a jab at the populace themselves for relinquishing their freewill and allowing these tyrants to have their way. This opener immediately screams that VDGG has come of age. They have relentlessly nurtured their freak flag talents and taken them to the next level or two. While the backbone of the tune revolves around Hammill's usual piano based vocal style, the track takes no time at all to delve into schizoid dissonant segments that implement a psychedelic synthesized frosting with jazzified prog stabs and admittedly totally far out weirdness that is beyond bizarre even by modern day standards.

********** "Theme One" (2:55) Another mystery of the universe comes in this surprise. One that i wasn't even aware of until i started this review. Surprisingly this was written by George Martin, yeah that George Martin, producer or "fifth member" of The Beatles who wrote this track which only appears on the earliest of US and Canadian vinyl editions. This bouncy jazzy pop track has since been nixed as it totally feels out of place. Perhaps a slightly more digestible track to attract interest? I dunno. Shatters my personal experience for sure. NOT RATING THIS ALBUM on the basis of its inclusion. I'm going to pretend i never knew this existed.

"Man-Erg" (10:19) is perhaps the most "normal" track on the album. While beginning with a seemingly innocent piano ballad style that would become a Hammill solo staple, it retains a sense of melancholy and darkness. While the piano riff is recurrent it's not until the track shifts into the schizoid and jittery angular and bizarrely timed heavy rock section that alternates abruptly that things get really wild and out of control. It has been suggested that the title is an anagram of "German" and in actuality about Hitler, which in retrospect, 1970 was within an era not totally removed from the reality of the period. Perhaps about the duality of good and evil, the possibility that any man can attain a god complex and find a way to justify any atrocity. Some of the most thought provoking lyrics in conjunct with a dualistic compositional approach. The ultimate Jekyll and Hyde composition.

"A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" (23:04) is not only the album's magnus opus but even claimed by the band members themselves to be the pinnacle of creative fortitude. While the side long vinyl track that in reality was a multitude of individual musical pieces composed by the various members that were only later in the studio stitched together to create a meaningful unified theme as it was in essence a batch of snippets that were recorded between gigs only to emerge as the progressive behemoth that appears on the album. While deep analysis of a deeper meaning can spiral into a fertile imagination to infinity, the truth is that Hammill claims the track is really very simply about the story of a lighthouse keeper and the experiences of life and death and the psychological baggage involved. While the storyline is clear, the musical construct is anything but as it navigates through ten distinct movements with none logically connected to the others. However the main opening melodic riff recurs throughout offering a stabilizing factor to an otherwise nebulous journey through the sonic universe. PAWN HEARTS seeded the musical universe in unforeseen ways and many future bands would pick some of the ripe fruits that were never really further developed by the band itself. For example, at 16:37 this musical monstrosity develops into a schizoid marching band type of frenetic outbreak which seems like the blueprint for the spastic zolo style adopted by the Cardiacs and other bands like Oingo Boingo down the road.

Despite VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR receiving lavish praise from some UK critics, the band unfortunately fell to deaf ears in their homeland and concentrated their efforts on their lucrative success in Italy where they engaged in a grueling tour schedule which ultimately led to burn out and the first break up of the band. Hammill continued with the other members on his less crazed solo albums and after a few years of recovery would return for 1975's lauded "Godbluff," but they would settle into a more streamlined prog sound and leave behind the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. PAWN HEARTS remains one of the pinnacles of progressive rock and a fan favorite as it exudes a brash bravado that transcends the time and space from which it was created. Desert isle pick if there ever was one.

The eerily constructed melodies are sadistically addictive and the labyrinthine compositional approach means that you can literally listen to this one over a hundred times and still be surprised by how it zigzags around through its many movements and schizophrenic outbursts. If you think you can understand PAWN HEARTS by a single listen or even ten, you'd be fooling yourself as this is one of those albums that is so bold and so daring that even for hardened proggers such as myself, it took many years to finally come to grips with. However in its wake it has emerged as one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time and i can say that despite not making such lists due to my preferences changing frequently. Needless to say, PAWN HEARTS is not only VDGG's creative peak but one of progressive rock's crowning achievements. You better believe five stars in every way. Compositionally, lyrically, performance-wise and creatively weird as bleep. It just doesn't get better than this one especially for the year it materialized.

 After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977 by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Live, 2015
4.26 | 40 ratings

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

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars One of the biggest disappointments in progressive rock is that we don't have a definitive Van der Graaf Generator live album from their peak period in the 1970s. That isn't in any way a knock against the excellent Vital live set, which captured the roar and snarling of the band's final 1970s incarnation as the ship was going down - but at the same time, I would argue that Vital's harsh energy isn't really representative of what the band had been doing during the preceding ten years or so - it's really its own unique beast. We do have other live snippets of the band from here and there, but they're universally of pretty awful quality - nowhere near the standards of, say, a Yessongs or a Seconds Out.

We're lucky, then, that we have the next best thing - a collection of "live in the studio" sessions performed for the BBC ranging from 1968 all the way to 1977. Some bits and pieces from this set have seen the light of day elsewhere; a truncated collection emerged as Maida Vale some years back, and selections on here were also used to provide most of the alternate versions and non-album tracks to be found on The Box. After the Flood, however, is well and truly the most complete collection of BBC sessions from VdGG to date - in particular, it includes a September 1971 John Peel session which had previously been thought to be lost to the ages.

What you get here, then, is a nice collection of alternate takes on well-known tracks, as well as a brace of rarities - Theme One, W, and a version of People You Were Going To which on balance is actually nicer than the original single. It's not a live album as such, but it's close to one in spirit, and captures the varying lineups of the band from 1968 to 1977 in buoyant mood. If you're a VdGG fan, this will be an essential pick, and if you want a two-CD overview of their original run then you could do a lot worse than this.

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 2013 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by TheDapperFactor

4 stars Brilliant, but not without its faults.

This album is a must listen for any prog fan. I remember when I was in my infant prog days, I looked up bands to listen to. VDGG was one of them. The first song of theirs I listened to was "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". I was frankly bored by the song at first (in retrospect I have no idea how that happened). The only entertaining portion for me at the time was at 16:40 (Where's the god that guides my hand...). I was a bit weirded out by that part. It took me a while to truly appreciate the brilliance of the song. More on that later.

Lemmings| 6.5/10 I've never been able to really feel anything with this song. In fact, writing this review required me to listen to it again because I could not for the life of me remember what it sounds like. Before I trigger fans who swear by this album, let me say I do not dislike this song. When I am consciously listening to it and assessing every detain, i can honestly call it a good song. But it is just unmemorable to me (perhaps because it is surrounded by two far superior songs).

Man-erg| 8.5/10 A solid song after the sort of shaky "Lemmings". Begins with a beautiful vocal section and transcends into an intense saxophone section. For me, this is really where the signature "Pawn Hearts" sound comes: Hammill's screaming, Jackson's sax, etc. It all feels so chaotic (in a good way). The song is not perfect though. It just doesn't have the adventurousness of "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers"

A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers| 10/10 As I said before, i was not blown away by this song when i first listened to it. The second time I listened to it was about a year later, after I had gained more prog knowledge. THIS is the listen that made me fall in love with this song. I have yet to find a song that it derivative of this, let alone as innovative or abstract as it. Are the lyrics pretentious? Sure. However in my mind, pretentiousness is far overused in prog criticisms, its become meaningless. All I can say for the songs lyrics is that they are dense, and I struggle to comprehend exactly what Hammill meant when he was writing them ("Unreal, unreal' ghost helmsmen scream And fall in through the sky"). I dislike the general nitpicking of lyrics and claiming them as "pretentious", because I find the assertion that the author is speaking "out of their boundaries" to be quite an arrogant assumption. Overall, a brilliant song with brilliant, dense lyricism from Hammill. Hell, Hammill could sing [&*!#]ty lyrics and make them sound good. The man is innovative in his vocal delivery. A true original.

Average: 8.33/10

Weighted Average: 8.75/10

 I Prophesy Disaster by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1993
3.29 | 53 ratings

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I Prophesy Disaster
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 182

Van Der Graaf Generator was formed in 1967 while their members were studying at Manchester University. The trio was composed by Peter Hammill (vocals and guitar), Nick Pearne (keyboards) and Chris Judge Smith (drums and wind instruments). However, soon Smith left the band, amicably, by feel superfluous on it. In 1969 Pearn was replaced by Hugh Banton. After that, the band acquired a bass player, Keith Ellis and the drummer Guy Evans joined to them too.

Some line up changes and some changes in the style and sound of the group would stabilize Van Der Graaf Generator in the beginning of the 70's. Financial difficulties in 1972 undermined the group's career and in the late of the 70's, Van Der Graaf Generator went through several exits and entrances of old and new members and the result was the split of the group. However, the classic line up of Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans would return in 2003.

'I Prophesy Disaster' has ten tracks. The first track 'Afterwards' was released on 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'. This is a very simple and na've song, very beautiful, one of the most beautiful and simple songs composed by Hammill. It's one of the best tracks on that album. The second track 'Necromancer' was released on 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'. It's a very bizarre, obscure and deep song with scary lyrics. This is a song with a superb Hammill's voice and with a good and melodic chorus. The third track 'Refugees' was released on 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other'. It's the most sentimental track on that album. This is a beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with a nice flute work. It reminds me 'Running Back', of 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'. This is one of the most beautiful songs written by Hammill. The fourth track 'The Boat Of Millions Of Years' never was released on any of their albums. It was written in 1970, the time of the release of 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other'. It was probably made to be part of that album. It was included later on that album, as a bonus track. This is a good song, but as a leftover, it isn't one of their best tracks. The fifth track 'Lemmings (Including Cog)' was released on 'Pawn Hearts'. It has 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. Still, is very pleasant to listen to. The sixth track 'W' was never released on any of their albums. It was written in 1971, the time of the release of 'Pawn Hearts'. It was probably made to be part of that album, as a bonus track. This is another leftover. It's a soft song with some interesting lyrics. The seventh track 'Arrow' was released on 'Godbluff'. It's the most aggressive piece on that album. Musically, it's very complex and strong, with a very aggressive vocal work by Hammill. This is a track in the vein of the classic band's repertoire. This is a track that makes the transition, between the previous musical era, ended with 'Pawn Hearts', and the new musical era started by 'Godbluff'. The eighth track 'La Rossa' was released on 'Still Life'. It's an epic tale about a desire fulfilled. This is a very powerful song, is the hardest rocking song on that album and is one of my favourite songs of the group. It's a real highlight of that album. The ninth track 'Ship Of Fools' was never released on any of their albums. It was written in 1977, the time of the release of 'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome'. It was probably made to be part of that album. It was included later on that album, as a bonus track. This is the third leftover. It's a rage and angst track with heavy guitar playing. This is one of the heaviest things they ever made at the time. It's good but not very impressive. The tenth track 'Medley (Parts Of 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers' And 'The Sleepers)' is a medley of two different tracks from two different albums. 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers' was released on 'Pawn Hearts' and 'The Sleepwalkers' was released on 'Godbluff'. This medley was released on 'Vital'. This is a good track but I prefer the complete studio versions of the songs. Anyway, I'm not a great fan of 'Vital'.

Conclusion: 'I Prophesy Disaster' is a good compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator. It has songs from six of their eight studio albums, released in the 70's. The songs taken from 'The Aerosol Grey Machine', 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' and 'Pawn Hearts' are from their first musical era, 1968-1972. The songs taken from 'Godbluff', 'Still Life' and 'The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome' are from their second musical era, 1975-1977. But, it lacks to it songs from two of those albums, one from their first era, 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', and other from their second era 'World Record'. The selection of tracks is excellent. It has the two best tracks from 'The Aerosol Grey Machine', 'Afterwards' and 'Necromancer', one of the best tracks from 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other', 'Refugees', one excellent track from 'Pawn Hearts', 'Lemmings', one of the greatest tracks from 'Godbluff', 'Arrow', and one of my favourite tracks from 'Still Life', 'La Rossa'. The tracks that never were released on any studio album from them, 'The Boat Of Millions Of Years', 'W' and 'Ship Of Fools' are all good tracks but its quality level is slightly inferior. The closing track 'Medley' is also good but I prefer the complete studio versions of the tracks, surely.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977 by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Live, 2015
4.26 | 40 ratings

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

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This double-disc collection of archival material presents VdGG "live in the studio" performances for several notable BBC Radio shows from 1968 to 1977, thus covering their entire original career prior to 2005 reunion. Several of the tracks were previously unreleased so this is the opportunity for the band's hard-core fans and completists to add them to their precious collections. Sound quality varies considerably from session to session, but it is generally accepted for this type of archival release.

Some key VdGG songs such as "Darkness" and "Man-Erg" are included in two versions, which may sound overwhelming and frustrating to casual listeners. Still, the VdGG experts will rejoice in comparing the sound of "Darkness" with a bass guitar (Top Gear Session 1970) and without it (Sounds of the Seventies Session 1971). And since "Man-Erg" is one of the best and most important songs, not only of VdGG career, but also of entire progressive rock era and beyond, I don't mind hearing it twice in this set. It is particularly interesting to listen to the band in their earliest incarnation of 1968 playing three songs in rudimentary arrangements, that sound quite different from their later officially released versions on a single and the first album.

Another oddity is the inclusion of both songs from the rare single "Theme One/W" of 1971, as well as "Vision" that was released on the Hammill's debut solo LP "Fool's Mate" the same year. In terms of sound quality and production the second disc is much better. Performances from the latter days of 1976-77, such as "La Rossa", "When She Comes" and "Cat's Eye", are simply amazing; they could match perfectly their released studio versions.

In the absence of official live albums prior to the farewell release of 1978 "Vital", "After the Flood" serves the purpose well in order to present stage power of this seminal band, who for the most part of their career before 1976 rocked hard and heavy on saxophone and organ, without bothering to include guitars in their line-up. However, the uninitiated are advised to study the original eight studio albums first before buying this quite extended and at moments not very nicely mixed set of historically important radio performances.

 A Grounding In Numbers by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.44 | 454 ratings

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A Grounding In Numbers
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars If "Trisector" suffered from uncertainty of how to adjust the trio line-up to writing new studio material, its successor seems to overcome this problem. "A Grounding In Numbers" presents an almost perfect sounding trio band, which does not carry the burden of the past. Absence of Jackson's reeds is no longer felt and the band seems to have found the way to fill all the remaining soft spots in their sound. In no small part this must be credited to the producer Hugh Padgham who, while mixing different sections as contributed by each band member in an extensive period of recording, came up with a modern sound of 21st century that still preserves a good old VdGG identity from their past glories.

Science was always one of favourite topics of Hammill's song writing, and this time it extends from the cover artwork, the album title and up to the songs "Mathematics" and "5533". There is a popular expression in my region - when one wants to praise talents of a singer it is often claimed that he or she could sing "a phonebook lyrics" and that would sound beautiful. Well, Hammill can sing mathematical equations that sound not only beautiful but also confident and meaningful in the context of a rock song. Be it a song about the Euler's Number, which coincidentally is often referred to as a "mathematical poem", or his musings about matrix pattern found in the number 5533223, Hammill employs his voice to full potentials, so "you'd better believe" what he sings. On the other side of his lyrical spectrum, the very power of belief concentrated in a circle of a master/teacher and his devotees/adherents, which can apply to any system of doctrines in human society, is scathed in "Snake Oil" ("the companionship of the herd"), one of the album's highlights.

Another interesting feature of this album is that most of the songs are much shorter than what would you expect from VdGG, running from 2 to 5 minutes. This shows the band capable of condensing their arrangements and content into almost pop song structure, yet still retaining their trademark quality. Mid-tempo opener "Your Time Starts Now", heavy guitar-led New Wave-ish sounding "Highly Strung", irresistibly catchy "Mr. Sands", or funky "Smoke" recalling David Bowie's late 1970s dance beat experiments could easily be appreciated by general audience. With the exception of the longest track, 6-minute boredom of the closing "All Over the Place", the album is full of diverse sounds, topics and surprises, while several brief instrumentals, out of which a dark and percussion-heavy "Red Baron" is the best, provide a necessary break. And all of this diversity somehow sounds coherent, well devised and brilliantly performed and recorded. Finally, another highlight that must be mentioned is "Bunsho", where Hammill questions his ability as the author to anticipate the public reception of his art, while music-wise it is one of the best tracks VdGG made after the 2005 reunion.

Although not every single track on this album works 100 per cent (I could easily skip "Splink", "Medusa" and "All Over the Place"), the album as a whole deserves appreciation as the best studio effort of the post-reunification VdGG to date. "I can't see my stream" - complains Hammill in "Bunsho", but we as his audience are sure that we can see it, all the way through, even if that sounds like a "slavish devotion" to the master. :-)

 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.82 | 710 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by notafrog

2 stars I've only just caught up with VDGG's back catalogue so this album was new to me. Given the sheer quality of this group's work on the five previous albums, from The Least We Can Do through to Still Life, I can only assume the second side of this one is some kind of wind up. The one thing the five predecessor albums all had going for them was a relentless sense of purpose that left the listener pretty much exhausted. This time I didn't feel any sense of purpose at all. The only song on the album that came anywhere near that effect was Masks. For the rest, the only thing that risked exhaustion was my patience. Maybe if they'd replaced the last ten minutes of Meurglys with a thunderer like La Rossa, the album might conceivably have crept into my collection, but as it is there's no chance.

Look, I can understand a band wanting to evolve, but normally bands evolve out of, not into, four kids jamming in a garage. Maybe this was the album that convinced them they couldn't in fact evolve, so they called it a day. That's fine by me. I'm happy and grateful to them for laying down five of the finest albums ever to grace the record stores and I'll politely overlook World's End - wow, that's a genuine Freudian slip.

 68-71 by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1972
3.56 | 33 ratings

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68-71
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 164

Van Der Graaf Generator was formed in 1967, by Peter Hammill and Chris Judge Smith, at Manchester University, but was settled in London. On arrival at London, Hammill and Smith met up the classically trained keyboardist Hugh Banton, who was a brother of one of their friends in Manchester. Later, the bass guitar player, Keith Ellis and the drummer Guy Evans joined them. However, soon Smith left the band, amicably. He felt his presence superfluous.

In 1969, they recorded their debut album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". It was intended to be the debut album of Hammill. After the release of the album, Ellis decided to leave off and was replaced by Nic Potter. Shortly, saxophonist and flautist David Jackson was invited by Hammill to join them. With that new line up, a new sound was established by the band, leaving beyond a more psychedelic musical influence of "The Aerosol Grey Machine" in favour of a more darker and complex musical textures. It was in that context, that the group released their second album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", in 1970. In the same year, the band recorded their third album, "H To He, Who Am The Only One". However, during the recording sessions of the album, Potter quit the band. So, the quartet composed by Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans, became on what is now considered the classic Van Der Graaf Generator's line up.

"68-71" is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1972. It includes eight tracks released on their first three albums. So, it comprises songs from "The Aerosol Grey Machine", "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and "H To He, Who Am The Only One". The first track "Afterwards" was released on "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is a very simple and nave song, very beautiful, one of the most beautiful and simple songs composed by Hammill. It's one of the best tracks on that album. The second track "The Boat Of The Millions Of Years" was never released on any studio album of them. It was written in 1970, the time when they released "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It was probably made to be part of that album but it was only included later on the album, as a bonus track. It was released as the B side of the single "Refugees". This isn't a bad song, but as a leftover, it doesn't represent one of their best moments. Still, it represents a rarity. The third track "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a good track with different passages and different rhythms. This is one of the most progressive tracks of that album. Still, it isn't as good as some other tracks. So, it isn't one of my favourite songs. The fourth track "Lost" was released on "H To He, Who Am The Only One". This is a brilliant track. It's a song about loneliness, lost, love and madness, and it has also very good lyrics. There is a lot of variety in this piece. "Lost" is one of the most depressing pieces ever written by Hammill. The fifth track "Necromancer" was released on "The Aerosol Grey Machine". It's a very bizarre, obscure and deep song with scary lyrics. This is a song with a superb Hammill's voice and with a good and melodic chorus. I think this is another interesting song. The sixth track "Refugees" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It represents the most sentimental moment on that album. This is a very beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with a nice flute work by Jackson. It's a song that reminds me very much "Running Back", the third track of their debut album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Hammill. The seventh track "Darkness" was released on "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a great opener for that album and is also one of its best tracks. This is a song dominated by the continued presence of the keyboards of Banton and by a very good and strong bass line. It's the song where we can hear, for the first time, the incredible and unique sound of the saxophones of Jackson. The eighth track "Killer" was released on "H To He, Who Am The Only One". It's a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. This is one of my favourite songs of them. It shows the great atmosphere so typical of their sound.

Conclusion: "68-71" is a good compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and a great window to their first musical years. It has songs from their first three studio albums that belong to their first musical era, from 1968-1972. However, it lacks to it songs from their fourth and best studio album "Pawn Hearts", released in 1971. The selection of the tracks is excellent and irreproachable. It has the two best tracks from "The Aerosol Grey Machine", "Afterwards" and "Necromancer", three of the best tracks from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?", and especially "Refugees" and "Darkness" and two excellent tracks from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Lost" and "Killer". Although, all the tracks on "H To He, Who Am The Only One", could be part of this compilation, because all are great. The only track with inferior quality is "The Boat Of The Millions Of Years". It's true that it's a good track, but it's inferior to the others. The final result is a good compilation but not an essential purchase.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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