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Van Der Graaf Generator - Time Vaults CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

2.38 | 69 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Review Nš 528

Van Der Graaf Generator is an English progressive rock band, formed in 1967 in Manchester by singer-songwriters Peter Hammill and Chris Judge Smith. They didn't experience much commercial success in the UK, but became very popular especially in Italy during the 70's. They went through a number of incarnations in their early years, including a brief split in 1969. When they reformed, they found minor commercial success with "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and their follow-up album "H To He, Who Am The Only One", where they stabilised around a line up of Hammill, Banton, Evans and Jackson. The quartet subsequently achieved significant success in Italy with the release of "Pawn Hearts". After several tours in Italy, the band split in 1972. They reformed in 1975, releasing "Godbluff", "Still Life" and "World Record", and frequently touring Italy again, before a major line up change and a slight rename to Van Der Graaf and the release of "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". The band split in 1978. After many years apart, the band finally united at a gig at the Royal Festival Hall and a short tour in 2005. Since then, the band has continued as a trio of Hammill, Banton, and Evans, who record and tour regularly in between Hammill's concurrent solo music career.

The band's albums have tended to be both lyrically and musically darker in atmosphere than many of their progressive rock peers, a trait they shared with King Crimson, whose guitarist Robert Fripp guested on two of their albums, and guitar solos were the exception rather than the rule, preferring to use Banton's classically influenced organ and Jackson's multiple saxophones. While Hammill is the primary songwriter for the band, and the other members have contributed to his solo albums, the band arranges all their material collectively. Hammill's lyrics covered themes of mortality, due to his love from science fiction writers such as Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, along with his self-confessed warped and obsessive nature. His voice has been a distinctive component of the band throughout their career. While the band has been commercially unsuccessful, they have inspired several artists across various genres.

"Time Vaults" is an album of Van Der Graaf Generator. It was originally released in 1982 on cassette only, almost four years after the break-up of Van Der Graaf Generator in 1978. Later it was released as a vinyl LP, and in 1992 it was re-released on CD. The album contains out-takes and rehearsal recordings from the period between 1972 and 1975, when the band was on a hiatus. The recordings aren't studio quality recordings. Among others, it contains the first rehearsals by the reformed Van Der Graaf Generator from 1975, and some pieces originally intended for their next album in 1972.

In reality, this is a collection of demos and rough mixes recorded by the "classic" Van Der Graaf Generator's line up, Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, David Jackson and Guy Evans, between 1971 and 1975 in the "lost" period of the band, post "Pawn Hearts" and pre "Godbluff". So, "Time Vaults" aren't studio quality recordings. It was stressed by Hammill that "Time Vaults" was intended to be only for those who are already Van Der Graff Generator's fans. So, these recordings were first released for their fans on cassette, before being reissued several times by several record labels.

About the tracks, the pieces here range from songs in the typical Van Der Graaf Generator's style like "Liquidator" and "Roncevaux", to session like instrumentals like "Tarzan" and "Coil Night", to completely free sound collages like "Drift". The recording quality is sometimes quite modest. It only sounds good just in some of the most interesting pieces, such as the orgiastic "Roncevaux", the surprisingly psychedelic "It All Went Up", or the very badly "Black Room", the original form of a later Hammill's solo piece, rather dull, and where are strong overdrives and distortions. "Coil Night" has Peter Hammill playing bass guitar and Jackson playing the piano. "Rift Valley" contains a passage from "Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild". "Faint And Forsaken" introduces various themes from "Godbluff". A different version of "Black Room" appeared on Hammill's solo album "Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night". "Faint And Forsaken" is a combination of "Forsaken Gardens" and "Faint-Heart And The Sermon" that are different versions which appeared on Hammill's solo albums "The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage" and "In Camera", respectively.

Conclusion: Since bootleggers were fetching high prices for Van Der Graaf Generator rarities compilations from fans, band's leader Peter Hammill decided to compile ten of the best tracks and give them an official release. Since some of the tracks were never even completed, some present day overdubbing was required, but according to Hammill in the liner notes, all dubbing was completed in nine hours, in order to stay true to the spirit of the venture. And, although the listener is warned that these aren't studio quality recordings, the overall sound is good enough. Besides, most of the people who would buy this album, in the first place they're Van Der Graff Generator's fanatics, who will be happy just to acquire this material. So, this collection is clearly aimed only to die-hard fans, to which the band practically presents themselves in their "raw state". If you want to get to know the band as a beginner you must start by their studio albums.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 2/5 |


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