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Van Der Graaf Generator - Present CD (album) cover

PRESENT

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

3.61 | 492 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
3 stars TWO CD'S FOR THEIR AWAITED REUNION ALBUM. ONE TOO MUCH.

I've been waiting for a long time before posting this review since I was quite embarrassed with this release. Should I ignore disc II of this set to avoid bumping into some favorable a priori or provide my feelings about the whole picture? I have now chosen for the latter, so be prepared. And I will deliberately start with the one too much.

It is one of their most boring stuff ever recorded. On par with "Time Vaults". A useless jam almost all the way through as if the four of them couldn't cope with more than forty minutes of music after a twenty-eight's year break. Come on!

The opening "song" is totally awful: a pure and long cacophony from start to finish some seven minutes later. Good gracious! This "Vulcan Meld" is such a suffering! But unfortunately "Double Bass" is not any better. Sax noises for 6'33". Quite a long time in such an occasion. But at this time you think: "Well, things are going to improve, these are just two mistakes".

VDGG has been a companion of mine since I was fifteen years old (I am now heading fifty, you can do the math). And even if their music was rather hard to get into for a young kid, I fell in love with "Man Erg", "Refugees", "House With No Door", "The Emperor" etc. And when "Godbluff" was released; it was some sort of illumination.

So, when I listen to this second CD, which is very scarce to be honest, I can only feel fooled. It goes on with the totally unstructured "Slo Moves". If the band had decided to release an experimental CD, they could have integrated it as a bonus CD and not ask the top price for this double album. If you wouldn't know that the band playing such crap is VDGG, you wouldn't give a penny for this.

Things are slightly improving during the second part of "Architectural Hair", although it belongs to their weirdest side. But at least the cacophony sounds more "organized". The powerful sax playing from Jackson brings me back to some sort of VDGG music I can cope with. It is the first track of this second and painful CD which deserves two stars IMO.

Unfortunately, VDGG reverts to the most miserable sounds (can't call this music) for the next "Spanner". A noisy jam. Press nextT to reach "Crux" which is the second good track. A heavy and repetitive beat, hypnotic, powerful. If only this whole improvised CD would hold more of this type (the only worth three stars IMO).

The seventh improv "Manuelle" is also more coherent; almost sounds as music. Still, this is nothing to write home about. Maybe that the band was having fun while releasing this type of work, but I can't feel this.

We are getting back to the worst level again with "Eavy Mate" which isn't any better than "Spanner". But I am heading to the end of this nightmare.That's the only positive aspect even if it is difficult to swallow "Homage To Tea".

One more to go.Almost nine minutes of experimentation. A musical cesspool. I have been listening to the second CD of this package only five times (of which three for the purpose of this review). I am sure that I won't listen to any bits of it till I die (the later the better). It has been a complete waste of time as far as I am concerned.

If I am adding the star(s) for each individual improvisations, I reach the phenomenal sore of fourteen. Divided into ten makes 1.4. Great!

As most people would do, the listening of this work would start with disc one. And the magic is operating of course. The listener is brought back to their hey days ("Godbluff") as anyone here admits. "Every Bloody Emperor" holds the comparison with their greatest songs and is the only one from this album deserving the masterpiece status IMHHO.

This is though a flash in the pan since "Boleas Panic" reverts to their improv style of disc II. But you still don't know this since you have started with disc one. To be honest, it is far much better than the majority of these improv. A good number after all.

Disc one is of course far much better than its second counterpart. The mighty VDGG is back on very good tracks with "Nutter Alert". Enormous sax play, wild drumming and Peter as convincing as always. A very good song which shows that these men can do it when they want to. But there was little doubt about this of course. This song is almost on par with the great "Emperor". It is also the only two songs selected by the band to be performed during their reunion tour. Are they in-line with me?

It seems that the band is playing with our nerves, including only a few great songs here and there and mixing them with very average material. I was not expecting any "H To He" or "Still Life" but a song as "Abandon Ship!" would have hardly fit on there. Heavy and incoherent. To a certain extent, "In Babelsberg" is made of the same mould but less hectic.

The closing number is also an excellent song. Closer to Peter's solo career, it is more intimate and accessible. This ends this CD on a very pleasant mood. Seven out of ten is my rating for this part of the album.

Do I need to add that disc one represents just over one third of the total amount of music represented on this work?

Still, I will upgrade this album to three stars. For what the band has represented to me since 1973. But "present" isn't a great album.

ZowieZiggy | 3/5 |

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