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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.48 | 1975 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars Progressive rock seems to have peaked in the mid 70s for 1975 boasted some of the most endearing prog classics and Godbluff is one of them. Van der Graaf Generator, the pioneers of prog at its most dark and off kilter, made a massive comeback with this release and it is surprisingly as good, if not better than their classic early releases. The first thing one notices is the almost maddening patience the band has as it introduces each of the 4 tracks. But there are always moments of brilliance with each track the pace ranges from slow to breakneck, and the time signatures change throughout, not only with the instruments but with Hammill's incredible vocal delivery.

'Undercover Man' is an instant classic and celebrated as a concert favourite. It begins with a minimalist approach of a single flute over almost whispered vocals. But it is not long until the saxophone and Hammond kicks in, interwoven with strange percussion patterns. At times the song seems standard but then moves into jazz fusion blended with staccato riffs and killer bass impulses.

'Scorched Earth' is another of the great VDGG tracks. The percussion is notably off kilter as are Hammill's vocals: "Just one crazy moment while the dice are card, he looks into the future and remembers what is past..." The conviction in Hammill's tone is as definitive as ever, and he has not lost momentum as one of the leading prog vocalist legends. There is a great instrumental break with saxophones shining with weird time signatures where a beat is missing then replaced and then removed again. Then it all moves back to the original tune. Simply fantastic.

'Arrow' is another reason why these progenitors of complex rock are infamous and highly revered as pioneers and visionaries. Hammill's vocals are more tortured and raspy on this track and are a surprising contrast to the smoothness on previous tracks. The track begins with a percussion and saxophone improvisation that reminds one of the early King Crimson years. The track relies highly on saxophone and Hammond but the understatement of the bass is admirable and knits it all together perfectly.

'Sleepwalkers' is the sleeper on the album (no pun intended) and is not so much about somnambulism but about zombies, almost a precursor to the 'Thriller' film clip of Michael Jackson, or George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". It is an energetic track that even features a bizarre Zombie Calypso, or a tango of sorts, certainly an ear opener and all the more chilling for it's content. We even hear zombie screams, and there are high pitched atmospheric keyboards throughout. An amazing track designed to awaken the dead. The lyrics include a jaded sense of humour as Hammill muses on "the dancing dead", but interjected within there are dark undertones as we are asked to, "make reason of the sensory world, if I only had time, but soon the dream is ended." the instrumental break is hypnotic and jazz influenced, and it increases in momentum exploding into the chaotic climax. One of the highlights of the album.

Overall the 4 Godbluff tracks are classic VDGG and a must for anyone interested in early dark prog and jazz inspired psycho spiritual music. It is as weird as it sounds and it is as brilliant as I have said. Wonderful headphone music and an essential purchase without doubt.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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