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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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H To He Who Am I The Only OneH To He Who Am I The Only One
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
$5.64
$4.19 (used)
Aerosol Grey Machine: 50th Anniversary EditionAerosol Grey Machine: 50th Anniversary Edition
Esoteric 2019
$81.21
Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
$5.64
$8.67 (used)
Live At Rockpalast: Leverkusen 2005 (2CD+DVD)Live At Rockpalast: Leverkusen 2005 (2CD+DVD)
Made In Germany Musi 2018
$17.11
$20.62 (used)
The MastersThe Masters
Synergie OMP 2011
$15.99
The Aerosol Grey MachineThe Aerosol Grey Machine
Fie 2005
$14.21
$17.43 (used)
After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77
Universal 2015
$12.33
$18.89 (used)
TrisectorTrisector
Caroline 2008
$6.44
$5.90 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Remastered
Caroline 2005
$5.60
$4.15 (used)
Do Not DisturbDo Not Disturb
Esoteric Antenna 2016
$10.11
$18.73 (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)

3.27 | 597 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.06 | 985 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1538 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 2049 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.48 | 1928 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1420 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.83 | 721 ratings
World Record
1976
3.65 | 610 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.61 | 482 ratings
Present
2005
3.50 | 458 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.44 | 458 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.49 | 222 ratings
ALT
2012
3.58 | 149 ratings
Do Not Disturb
2016

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

3.82 | 262 ratings
Vital
1978
4.09 | 130 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.09 | 174 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.65 | 80 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.60 | 43 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.85 | 50 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.25 | 42 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

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

4.15 | 108 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
4.25 | 12 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 | 35 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
3.17 | 4 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
3.33 | 3 ratings
Reflection
1975
2.67 | 3 ratings
Rock Heavies
1978
2.32 | 57 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
3.17 | 4 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
4.58 | 26 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
 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.83 | 721 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

4 stars World Record would prove to be the last VdGG release with the classic lineup until their 2005 reunion. To be fair my reaction towards this album was mixed. Side one is absolutely brilliant, I was particular fond of "A Place to Survive". These songs aren't too different from their previous two albums, and in fact "When She Comes" sounds like a Godbluff leftover. Side two kind of falls apart at the end. "Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild" is the lengthy epic, while true never reaches the heights of ""A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" is, for the most part, still very good, until Hugh Banton decides to go all reggae on his organ, which goes on for far too long. "Wondering" is a calm piece but not a favorite of mine. To me an uneven album, but there is still some brilliant material to make it worth having.
 The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.06 | 985 ratings

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The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by KarnEvil2000

4 stars Not the best VdGG album, no. But their first great one? I'd say. I'm conflicted about VdGG's catalogue, but this album I very much like. It's got all the elements that would make up the remainder of their career: cryptic and varied lyrics, a sinister atmosphere, and an organ heavy sound with few guitar parts. The only issue I take with the album (and it's a minimal one) is that many of the songs seem to kind of, err, run together, so to speak. This is a result of, I think, the massive number of musical ideas afforded per song. There's nary a hook in sight, and riffs are also hard to come by. The result is about 40 minutes of music that feels like just that: 40 minutes of uninterrupted music. But that's not much of a problem when it comes to VdGG's whole aesthetic. They didn't make any songs that are as memorable as anything by GENESIS, RUSH, YES, or PINK FLOYD, but they didn't really need to. VdGG is about the holistic musical aesthetic and getting lost in the layered and intricate sound of the albums. So if you're looking for songs to sing in the shower, stay away. But if you want to just let the music wash over you, this album's waiting.
 Repeat Performance by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1972
3.17 | 4 ratings

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Repeat Performance
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 232

'Repeat Performance' is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1972. It belongs to a series of budget compilation albums issued by Charisma Records in 1980. 'Repeat Performance' comprises six tracks which were originally released on four studio albums of Van Der Graaf Generator and two tracks which were never released on any studio album of them. So, we have two tracks from their debut studio album 'The Aerosol Grey Machine', released in 1969, two tracks from their second studio album 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other', released in 1970, one track from their third studio album 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', released also in 1970, one track from their fourth studio album 'Pawn Hearts', released in 1971 and two rare tracks previously unreleased on any studio album.

'Repeat Performance' has eight tracks. The first track 'Afterwards' was released on their debut studio album 'The Aeerosol Grey Machine'. This is a great opener to that album. It's a very simple and na've song, very beautiful, one of the most beautiful and simple songs composed by Hammill in his entire and fantastic musical career. It's one of the best tracks on that album. The second track 'Refuges' was released on their second studio album '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 version on this compilation is the single version. The third track 'Boat Of 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 that 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 great rarity. The fourth track 'W', as happened with 'Boat Of Millions Of Years', was never released on any studio album of them. 'W' was released as the B side of the single 'Theme One', in 1972. It was included later on 'Pawn Hearts' as a bonus track. 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. Musically, it's a good song with atmospheric darkness and great vocals by Hammill. The fifth track 'White Hammer' was also released on their second studio album 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other'. This is an intense dark song about the torture and the crimes of the Inquisition in the fifteenth century. It's a song dominated by powerful saxophone and great keyboard works with good dark lyrics. The music in the end is very aggressive, dissonant and disturbing, providing us a dramatic final. The sixth track 'Necromancer' was also released on their debut studio album '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 very interesting song on that album. The seventh track 'The Emperor In His War- Room' was released on their third studio album 'H To He, Who Am The Only One'. It's a track divided into two parts: 'The Emperor' and 'The Room'. This is another very dark song, which is about the consequences of living a life of war and death and describes the act of a tyrant with torture and the dying of the emperor, with some very violent lyrics. It's the fear and aggression that speaks here. This is another brilliant piece of music with great lyrics and with a magnificent flute work by Jackson. Here we can listen to the guitar work of the master Robert Fripp who plays guitar as a guest as he also did on their next album 'Pawn Hearts'. The eight track 'Man-Erg' was released on their fourth studio album 'Pawn Hearts'. It's a track sung by Hammill in a more traditional way that is usual. This is 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 Evans' very expressive drumming, great Jackson's saxophones works and some very pretty acoustic and electric guitar works made by Hammill and Fripp. It's the most beautiful track on that album.

Conclusion: 'Repeat Performance' is the second compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator released in 1972, from what I know. The other was '68-71', already reviewed by me on Progarchives. Despite both have some common points, both are two really nice compilations from this band, indeed. They have some of the best tracks recorded by Van Der Graaf Generator that belong to their first musical phase, from 1969 to 1971, the period when they released their first four studio albums. Bu,t in the case of 'Repeat Performance', it still has an extra interest. I'm talking about the two previously unreleased tracks, at the time. Despite they aren't properly two of their best tracks, they're good and were almost unavailable till they were released as bonus tracks on the remastered versions of 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' and 'Pawn Hearts'. So, due to the quality of the tracks and of the two rare tracks, I give to it 3 stars.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 World Record by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.83 | 721 ratings

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World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

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

4 stars Peter Hammill had to have been one of the most prolific and hardworking musicians of all 70s prog with perhaps the sole exception of Frank Zappa. If you begin to peruse his canon of the era either as a solo artist or with VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and compare the two canons side by side, you will soon realize that this man with many of VdGG band members released two albums per year in 1970, 71, 74, 75 and 76 and still had time to tour and deal with all the niceties of the music industry. It's simply mind blowing considering the musical adeptness and depth of the compositions and overall quality of all the albums that were cranked out in this period. The year 1976 may have been nearing the end of the second phase of VdGG as a band but the quartet of Peter Hammill (vocals, keyboards), Hugh Benton (organs, bass, bass pedals), David Jackson (sax, flute) and Guy Evans (percussion) still managed to release two albums in its twelve month duration. First in the year came "Still Life" after the successful comeback that started with "Godbluff" along with a tour before releasing the following album of the year, their seventh overall, WORLD RECORD which continued to take the band into new musical arenas. It's not wonder these guys burned out!

WORLD RECORD was created during the hectic non stop tour of "Still Life" and introduces completely new elements in the band's ever changing sound which in many ways presaged the 80s by about four years and introduced a unique hybrid of the classic early 70s prog with the new wave that was beginning to take off. WORLD RECORD is sort of the band's version of King Crimson's "Discipline" only before the group broke up. Once again VdGG was ahead of its time and despite a ridiculously brilliant album released in the latter half of 1976 found too little success in financial terms and would lead to the break up of the classic lineup after this one as both Hugh Banton and David Jackson had reached their breaking points and left the band soon after. While the classic members are still on board on this one, the album sounds like a completely different band in many ways. While some of the taming down of the prog excesses began to present themselves on "Godbluff" and "Still Life," WORLD RECORD takes the more commercial sounds to even greater extremes but make no mistake about it, this is still a prog album through and through.

While earlier VdGG albums eschewed the use of excessive guitar usage with only a few appearances here and there, Peter Hammill developed his electric guitar playing skills and on WORLD RECORD becomes a major aspect of the album's overall style. As usually the five tracks are filled with the melodic keyboard runs that play off of Hammill's emotive vocal style. While many aspects of the album race to the future to tackle new wave styles of cyclical melodies and rhythms, new genres like ska and Styx-like arena rock sewn into the fabric of the compositions, the heavy use of Hammond organs and Mellotron firmly anchors the album's sound into the past which gives it a rather interesting blend of the past with modern flavors. David Jackson's sax solos are less frenetic and more smooth like on Supertramp albums or more pop oriented artists like David Bowie but somehow still convey a sense of magnanimity absent from such acts. While the progressive rock, jazz and psychedelic elements are still around in abundance, they are more streamlined by super catchy ear hooks that keep the music flowing in an almost jam band fashion only in a very calculated way.

The passionate "When She Comes" starts the album off with an almost funky groove as Hammill belts out his ferocious lyrics like Freddie Mercury without losing his idiosyncratic trademarks that has always allowed him to stand out amongst the crowds. The track clearly demonstrates how VdGG could generate an almost pop-like hit and extend it out into an eight minute track by subtly creating changes and developments that are almost imperceptible but stream along perfectly. "A Place To Survive" continues the trend with a standard 4/4 timed beat and Styx like keyboard stabs. It also shows how VdGG adds a funky groove with a more soulful delivery. The drumbeat on this one starts out sounding something like Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" before the other instruments join in which insinuates a sense of disco. However while the track is more tailored for an easy on the ears experience with a soulful sax and syncopated key accompaniment, the band still found ways to have proggy breakdowns and extend the track to a surprisingly pleasant ten minute playing time.

"Masks" thematically conveys the story of a man who was afraid to show his true self in front of others and after wearing face covers for too long, finally lost sense of his true self. While the upbeat musical delivery creates a less dark atmosphere than on albums such as "Pawn Hearts," VdGG find more subtle ways to bring in the darkness. The highlight of the album is the whopping almost 21 minute behemoth "Meuglys III (The Songwriters Guild)," the longest track VdGG had cranked out since "Pawn Hearts," yet nothing like it. While it recounts the tale of a guitarist whose only friend is guitar, the musical delivery is by the most interesting aspect of the lengthy prog behemoth since most of the track is instrumental. It's also no surprise that this is the most proggy track of the album as the time signature liberties are unleashed as are all the past glory attributes as psychedelia and psychotic frenzies VdGG are quite talented in expressing. The entire near 21 minutes is practically engulfed by a single cyclical melodic run with an infinite run of variations although there are many breakdowns and time outs. Structured in both quiet and more aggressive passages, the most memorable climactic frenzy occurs around the 13 minute mark before the main melodic framing picks up again only in a reggae ska style and finds a way to keep the track interesting for another seven minutes with Hammill's guitar call and responses interacting with the syncopated rhythms and flute flutterings!

One of the underrated albums in the VdGG canon. It's hard to compare this one to the ones that came before. While VdGG were always ahead of the curve, this time they were right on it as the musical landscape was changing around them. The band's tight knit chemistry allows this album to shine and even through the basic grooves that drive the compositions have a more commercial appeal, the complexities of how everything is strung together and laid out is utterly brilliant and ultimately addictive. The only track that doesn't resonate with me is the closing "Wondering" which is so happy and exuberant that it sound like a gospel choir happy hour that should have been on Hammill's cheerful and happy debut "Fool's Mate." Needless to say, VdGG at this point were masters of their game and could easily move on from album to album and always find a way to incorporate new methods of musical madness that always created the proper addictive earworms while allowing the instrumental interplay to shine. And of course Hammill never ceases to amaze as his vocals are almost unhinged on this one as he screams and whispers and everything in between to make his passionate pleas to the audience. This is one that continues to grow on me and shouldn't be disregarded because of some of the more pop elements on board. This one is as magical as anything that came before. Despite half the band walking out, Hammill would release one more unique musical specimen before disbanding VdGG for the second time.

 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1420 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

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

4 stars The first phase of the existence of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR proved to be an exhaustive one but produced some of the great classics of the prog rock universe and cemented the band's status as one of the true innovators and boundary pushing bands of the early 70s but also proved to be too much for four mere mortals to sustain. So in 1972 the quartet of Peter Hammill (vocals, keyboards), Hugh Benton (organs, bass, bass pedals), David Jackson (sax, flute) and Guy Evans (percussion) stopped touring and recording under the VdGG moniker and instead remained amicable while they slightly shifted gears as a band for Peter Hammill's solo albums, a rather unheard of situation that i can't find any comparisons. However after a few years of hiatus as the great VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR continued to generate more fans through their classic albums from 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other' to 'Pawn Hearts,' the guys started to get the itch for another run.

And so it was that in January 1975 the band regrouped not as the studio session players for Hammill but as VdGG and hit the live circuit playing tracks not even released to rouse the public's interest and after a few months of creative output the band made a comeback with 'Godbluff' which was released in 1975 and found both fans and critics foaming at the mouth as they devoured VdGG's triumphant return to the prog universe. The band had successfully reinvented themselves with less psychedelic meandering and a tighter cohesive sound that continued the vocal singer / songwriter mastery of Hammill. With a successful comeback undertaken, the band was quite keen on keeping the momentum on track and wasted relatively little time creating the sixth album STILL LIFE for the market released in April 1976. While the album was pretty much a continuation of 'Godbluff' with two tracks 'Pilgrims' and 'La Rossa' as leftovers from those recording sessions, Hammill now took up playing the electric guitar and Hugh Banton found a much more prominent role with some of the heaviest organ work of his career.

The opening track 'Pilgrims' initiates STILL LIFE and the connection to 'Godbluff' with a similarly addictive melodic riff that finds Hammill's emotive declarative vocals leading the keyboard rich prog process as the jazzy drumming and sax supplemental effects add the zest. The track delivers the expected tensions that involve a slow ratcheting up of Hammill's vocal intensity with ever accruing heaviness and organ and Mellotron soaked sequences. The track introduces a more melodic and dare i say even commercial approach as the VdGG albums had become almost indistinguishable between the Hammill solo releases since VdGG had greatly reduced the sci-fi fueled fantasy of their early albums as well as the psychedelic escapist meanderings and production tricks. Also noticeable is the low key sax presence of David Jackson as the sax and flute parts take a back seat to the organ workouts and provide a more subdued melodic counterpoint for the vocals.

While the opener almost sounds cheery, the following title track is drowning in melancholy as a mournful intro finds Hammill mumbling around what sounds almost like a funeral organ roll and drags on for over a couple minutes but finally the track erupts into a bristling rocker that actually reminds me a little of what Styx sounded like in the late 70s with a groovy bass and syncopated stabs around the main rhythmic dance. The sax is also more standard and sounds like a clean Supertramp type of melodic display rather than the usual squawk factory from previous albums. One of the weaker tracks for me but still decent. The highlight of the album comes in the form of 'La Rossa' which delivers the most energetic track of the entire mostly subdued album as it finds Hammill in poetic prose enticing the audience into the groove and then the instruments go fairly wild with Banton's bass groove entering more sophisticated prog territory and the melodic drive much more akin to albums like 'Pawn Hearts' with Hammill's lyrical drive flittering all over the place. The track as the most satisfying sequence of chord progressions as it complexly integrates different melodic stages and teases them out into a near ten minute climax of sound. This is the only track where Jackson really lets loose the sax and woodwinds.

'My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)' is the most solo Hammill sounding track and perhaps the mellowest ballad material ever recorded as VdGG. This emotional tug track focuses mainly on Hammill's labyrinthine emotional turmoil. The melody commences in cyclical form but towards the end the sax replaces the vocals. The longest track on the album is the closer 'Childlike Faith In Childhood's End' which is the most complex track on the album as it shape shifts through various stages of development. The track was inspired by Arthur C. Clark's novel and reprises some of the sci-fi themes of yesteryears which melds the metaphysical with ideas of hope and reincarnation and beyond. The track is the most anthemic of the album as it finds Hammill delivering some of the most emotively strong expressionisms of his career as the cathedral organs and stellar percussive drive of Guy Evans are on full display. The track also creates some stellar proggy forays into intense time signature gymnastics and the only other track where Jackson is allowed to really let loose on the horns. Probably the most satisfying of the lot for the hardcore proggers.

While STILL LIFE is yet another gold feather in VdGG's cap, it nevertheless is the first album where the band didn't really evolve into the next level but is almost exclusively a continuation of the album 'Godbluff' which came before. While a followup of this magnitude is hardly a horrible thing, it still feels like something is a little stagnate on STILL LIFE despite the high quality of the compositions and performances. Lichtenberg figures (the image on the album cover) are associated with branching electrical charges that are engaged in a progressive deterioration of the high voltage and much in common with this natural phenomenon is the career of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR at this point. While STILL LIFE retained the band's status as one of prog rock's greats, the material presented here was the first step down from the series of masterpieces that preceded it and would usher in the band's decline as the musical landscape was forever altered by the punk and new wave artists quickly usurping the soundscapes. While still a phenomenally great album, STILL LIFE fails to match up to what came before but still displays a fiery band cranking out creative gems of sonic delight.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.48 | 1928 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

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

5 stars VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR became quite the rage in the most extreme circles of the prog world in the early 70s having pushed the boundaries exponentially on their critically acclaimed combo pack of 'H To He Who Am The Only One' and 'Pawn Hearts,' the latter of which was so stuffed with musical mojo that even nearly 50 years after its creation still stands proud above the decades of recordings that have followed in its wake and requires some serious dedication to penetrate. So ambitious was the classic VDGG lineup of Peter Hammill (vocals, keyboards), Hugh Benton (organs, bass, bass pedals), David Jackson (sax, flute) and Guy Evans (percussion) during these years that the band literally caved in under the strain of an exhaustive workload that included not only incessant recording schedules but extensive touring that took them on the road in their native UK and across the entire European continent (with Italy proving to be their biggest success).

Having completely burned out, Hammill, the undisputed leader of the band decided to call it quits which essentially dissolved the great VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and instead focused on his solo career and released a series of solo albums. Saying the band broke up altogether would be somewhat of a misnomer since the entire VDGG team played on Hammill's first three solo albums 'Fool's Mate,' 'Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night' and 'The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage.' In fact, tracks like 'A Louse Is Not A Home' from the latter was initially intended to fit in on a VDGG album but adapted to Hammill's more intimate and less psychedelic band efforts. All was amicable. VDGG was not a band of drama and exuded a sense of professionalism rarely found in the music industry. And although the focus was on Hammill's solo career, recordings have emerged that were intended to be possible VDGG material from this era.

After a few years off, the quartet was getting the VDGG bug again. The band's first phase final effort 'Pawn Hearts' was released in 1971, just as the prog rock scene was really getting started so the temptation to reconvene in the ever more crowded scene must've been irresistible especially since the band hastily broke up at their creative peak. While 1975 was a year that saw the prog scene beginning to wane, VDGG were just getting ready to begin the second chapter of existence. The year was spent crafting the first self- produced album and fluffing audiences in live settings to prepare them for the band's long-awaited fifth album GODBLUFF which emerged in October. Having decided to move on stylistically and create a second phase of the band's sound, the four struggled at first to reinvent themselves but in the end found yet another successful formula that was built around Hammill's singer / songwriter skills.

It doesn't take too long to figure out that GODBLUFF isn't merely a continuation of 'Pawn Hearts' but rather more akin to the Hammill solo albums. Gone was the focus on the multitude of studio effects and psychedelic escapades and in was a more cohesive band sound that still focused on the melodic vocal / keyboard riffs as the main underpinning but found new ways to tease out the multitude of variations in an instrumental band effort that eschewed side long tracks divided into suites and instead created a strong collection of only four tracks that all hovered around the seven to ten minute mark. With the psychedelic and improvisational meanderings out of the picture, the emphasis is placed on Hammill's dark and mysterious lyrical content that tells the tales of tortured minds, ancient battles and fantastical progressive rock escapism in near perfect poetic deliveries.

Perhaps the most psychedelic part of GODBLUFF is the very first notes of 'The Undercover Man' which insinuate a continuation of where 'Pawn Hearts' left off with an echoey flute oscillating into the limelight followed by Hammill's almost whispered vocals, however as the track continues it doesn't drift into psychedelic haze or completely unrelated musical motifs but rather takes the more commercial aspects of verses, choruses and bridges and puts them on steroids to create a revolving door effect of the various melodies that are teased out to the seven minute mark. Likewise the following 'Scorched Earth' finds a more feisty Hammill screaming the lyrics as well as adding those satisfying word extensions while the musical riffs create a repetitive cushioning for them to lay upon. While lyrically driven, the instrumental section finds brilliant ways to express their progressive leanings with time signature rich deviations and instrumental interplay.

'Arrow' begins with a percussion rich jazz motif with resplendent sax squawks before ceding to the melancholic organ and piano melodies that slow things down considerably before Hammill breaks in with a series of call and response effects between the vocals and instruments. This track has an addictive melodic build ups that ultimately reach dramatic climaxes with Hammill finding new ways to torture the word 'Arrow' which reaches some of the most visceral emotional outbreaks on the entire album. The closing 'Sleepwalkers' is perhaps the most seductively sinister as the organ and sax riff slink around and create one of the most memorable tracks in the entire VDGG canon. Hammill's lyrics about some sort of zombie state of humanity manipulated by unknown masters finds his vocal prowess reaching new heights as the band effortlessly augments and outlines the main melodic drive in a progressive rock manner and sounds like no other. This track even adds the surprise of drifting off for a short while into some sort of cha-cha- cha Latin music.

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR was back and proved that not only did this creative band still have yet another masterpiece in them but that these guys were able to create another chapter of their established sound without repeating the studio tricks and trinkets stuffed obsessions of the earlier albums. GODBLUFF not only comes off as more focused but also displays VDGG's ability to create lengthy tight-knit and well-crafted tracks that display the intricacies of Hammill's dark lyrical content into perfectly performed by the instrumental and vocal weavings. While a few naysayers like a review in the Lancashire Evening Post panned the album as being an inferior specimen compared to other similar acts and that Guy Evans couldn't drum his way out of a paper bag, GODBLUFF has stood the test of time and decades of accruing fans to the club. Castigating this album for its lack of Yes-like virtuosity or Pink Floyd lysergicism and not accepting the album on its own terms is missing the point as it is a vocal / lyrical driven album that takes the singer / songwriter approach into the realms of progressive rock. For many of us, this is yet another perfect album and VDGG couldn't have crafted a better followup to their brilliant 'Pawn Hearts.'

 First Generation / Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2012
3.17 | 4 ratings

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First Generation / Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nš 220

'First Generation (Scenes From 1969-1971)/Godblufft' is a very special compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator. This is a package including their compilation album 'First Generation /Scenes From 1969-1971)', released in 1986 and their fifth studio album 'Godbluff', released in 1975, on a double compilation album. So, it includes also one of their best studio albums which are also one of the best progressive rock albums ever. But it includes also a compilation album based on three of their best studio albums either. This is really a very strange thing, a compilation including another compilation. This isn't a common thing and we must question the needing of such kind of things on prog rock music.

As I've already reviewed all these albums previously on Progarchives, in a more extensive way, I'm not going to do it again. So, if you are interested to know, in more detail, what I wrote about them before, I invite you to read those reviews. Still, here I'm going to write something about them in a more short way. So, of course, I'm not going to analyze them exaustivelly, as I made before, but I'm only going to make a global appreciation of the album and compilation.

'First Generation (Scenes From 1969-1971)': This is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generation which was released in 1986. It's a compilation that includes tracks from three studio albums of them, their second studio album 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other', released in 1970, their third studio album 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', released also in 1970, and their fourth studio album 'Pawn Hearts', released in 1971. However and curiously, it doesn't include any track from their debut studio album 'The Aerosol Grey Machine', released in 1969, an album of their first phase too. This is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator with a great selection of tracks. Some of their best and most legendary tracks are here. The selection of 'Darkness (11/11)' and 'Refugees' from 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other', couldn't be better. They are, for me, the two best songs on the album and they are also two of the best tracks ever made by them. About the selection of 'Killer' and 'Pioneers Over C.' from 'H To He, Who Am The Only One', I've nothing against. The album is so good that any of its songs could be part of the compilation. Relatively to the selection of 'Man-Erg' and 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers' from 'Pawn Hearts', both suffer from the same problem of 'H To He, Who Am The Only One'. The tracks are also so good that if it was 'Lemmings' to be selected, it would also have been absolutely perfect. Finally, 'The Theme' is a very beautiful and different track, which fits very well on it, too. Still, this compilation can't substitute those albums by any mean. So, it's good but it's not really an essential purchase.

'Godbluff': This 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 it always 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. Besides, 'Godbluff' belongs to one of the rare albums that belong to the glorious pages on the progressive rock music. Very few albums and bands were enabling to do that.

Conclusion: So, 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other', 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' and 'Pawn Hearts' belong, with their debut studio album 'The Aerosol Grey Machine', to their first musical period. These three albums are, without any doubt, the better of their first four studio albums. 'H To He, Who Am The Only One' and 'Pawn Hearts' are also considered with 'Godbluff' and 'Still Life', from their second musical period, the four greatest masterpieces from the band. 'Pawn Hearts' and 'Godbluff' are even considered two of the best progressive rock albums ever made. So, we can consider that the material on here is all of the first class, undoubtedly. But, for those who have already all these albums, like me, this compilation only can be interesting as an addition for those who are progressive collector's fans. So, we can also question ourselves why we need these kind of compilations, especially of progressive rock bands. The only thing that occurs to my mind is to make a bit more money for the bands and record labels. It's even truer in this case because this compilation can never substitute all those amazing studio works. It's true that we have 'Godfluff' in a complete version. But the rest of it is very short to can substitute minimally those three albums. So and despite all I said before I'm going to give it 3 stars because it realy has an amazing set of progressive rock tracks.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.29 | 1420 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by The Jester

5 stars Review # 94. I'm sure that many VDGG fans will probably disagree, 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 not an easy 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 success), but it is a very strong album, that if you get used to, then 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.

I can't find not even one song that I don't like here, and songs like Pilgrims, Still Life and Childlike Faith in Childhood's End are, in my opinion, among the greatest synthetic moments of VDGG. Highly Recommended! 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 Nš 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 | 2049 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.

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

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