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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.28 | 622 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review Nš 146

Van Der Graaf Generator was formed in 1967 while their members were studying at Manchester University in U.K. The initial trio was comprised by Peter Hammill (vocals and guitars), Nick Pearne (organ) and Chris Judge Smith (drums and wind instruments). In the late of 1969 the band split. But, before that moment, Pearne had already been replaced by Hugh Banton. At the end of 1969 a new version of Van Der Graaf Generator was formed during the recording of an album that was originally intended to be a Peter Hammill's solo release, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'.

However, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' wasn't released as a solo Hammill's album and became as the debut studio album of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in September of 1969. All songs were written and composed by Hammill except 'Black Smoke Yen' which was written and composed by Banton, Keith Ellis and Guy Evans. So, the line up of this album is Peter Hammill (vocals and acoustic guitar), Hugh Banton (backing vocals, piano, organ and percussion), Keith Ellis (bass), Guy Evans (drums and percussion), Jeff Peach (flute) and Chris Judge Smith (vocals on 'Firebrand').

'The Aerosol Grey Machine' always tended to be a little bit an underrated album, as is the case with most debut albums by any progressive rock band. But, especially in this case, and we mustn't forget that we are talking about of one of the most creative bands ever, the real problem is that there's hardly anything groundbreaking on here. So, yeah, this is all really true but if we pay more attention to it, after we took quite a few listens to it, maybe we can appreciate some of its charm. Lyrically, the classic Van Der Graaf Generator's style is already here and somehow all the songs can really rule.

'The Aerosol Grey Machine' has nine tracks. The first track 'Afterwards' is a great song to open this peculiar Van Der Graaf Generator's 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, long and fantastic musical career. It's, at my taste, one of the best tracks on this album. The second song 'Orthenthian St, Parts 1 and 2' is a nicely constructed song and is also very interesting. Once more the voice of Hammill is great and I particularly like the way how Evans plays drums on this song. This is also one of my favourite tracks on the album. The third track 'Running Back' is a very peaceful acoustic song with a very simple structure that reminds me very much 'Refugees', the second track of their second studio album 'The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other'. However, this song is much simpler and less interesting than the other. The fourth track 'Into A Game' is also a good song. It's interesting to note that on this song, for the first time, we can feel some energy in the music of the album. This is a song with some musical complexity, with a very interesting bass line, and once more, I like particularly the way how Evans plays drums on this song. The fifth track, the title track, 'Aerosol Grey Machine' is the smallest on the album. It isn't properly a song but is really a joke of the band. The sixth track 'Blake Smoke' is the second smallest song of the album and is an instrumental song. It's a simple song which is a kind of an introduction to the next song. In my opinion, these two songs are unnecessary and could have been perfectly avoided. The seventh track 'Aquarian' is a song with some psychedelic influences and with fantastic and beautiful vocals of Hammill. This is another song with a very interesting bass and drum lines and also with an interesting chorus. It's also another of my favourite songs on the album. The eighth track 'Necromancer' is a very bizarre, obscure and deep song with scary lyrics. This is a song with a superb Hammill's voice and once more it has a good and melodic chorus. I think this is another interesting song. The ninth track 'Octopus' is the most difficult and complex on the album. This is, in my humble opinion, the most typical band's song of this album and also the most eclectic and progressive in its musical structure. It's the most representative song of what would become the future sound of Van Der Graaf Generator.

Conclusion: I can't agree with those who don't consider this album a Van Der Graaf Generator's album. It's true that it was intended to be the first Hammill's solo album and that lacks to it the necessary presence of David Jackson on flute and saxophones. However, this album has, for me, some of the main characteristics of the group. It has the complex, dark and beautiful lyrics of Hammill as also his beautiful, original and unique voice, it has the presence of the fantastic and unique keyboard sound of Banton, it has the original drumming of Evans and it has also the sound of the bass, sadly missing in most of their future works. I think we can compare this album with the debut album of Genesis, 'From Genesis To Revelation' released in the same year. Despite 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' isn't a great album, it's, in my opinion, better than Genesis' album, because we can see on it some progressiveness and a road to follow in their future musical path. So, 'The Aerosol Grey Machine' is a good, na've and a unique album, in their career, very simple and very acoustic. I think it has a single place to be in the musical career of this unique and original progressive rock group.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 3/5 |


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