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Van Der Graaf Generator - Present CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.61 | 490 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It's tempting to get totally euphoric about this album. After all, when it was announced that the classic VDGG line-up would hook up for their first album in nearly three decades, it seemed like a gift from the Gods. And when Hammill works his way slowly through the opening of the sublime first song Every Bloody Emperor, the band really roll back the years. This absolute explosion of joy reaches its zenith halfway through the biting third song Nutter Alert, when David Jackson and Hugh Banton exchange solos ... creating what seems to an absolute masterpiece of an album.

Unfortunately, it proves to be beyond the reformed VDGG to maintain that exquisite level of composition and by the end of the second disc, and a full 16 tracks, one could very easily conclude, as I have, that this album's greatest moments are its opening four tracks ... the visceral power of Nutter Alert and sublime mixture of political satire and despondency that is Every Bloody Emperor being complimented by the energetic instrumental Boleas Panic and the jazz-rock savoir faire of Abandon Ship!.

After those tracks though one clearly gets the impression that this wonderful band gradually runs out of steam. There's nothing really bad about In Babelsberg and On The Beach but I feel these songs take the album to the "wrong place" ... and then before there's time to restore the momentum, we are taken to the giddy second disc, which contains a whole hour from improvised music by Hammill, Banton, Jackson and Evans.

Even allowing for the strength of some of the jams (the menacing Slo Moves, fervent Spanner and darkly funky The Price Of Admission are my standouts), I can't help feeling that the second disc gives Present a distinctly imbalanced feel. The "planned" studio disc runs for less than 40 minutes while the improvised section clocks in at more than 65, and the similarity of the avant-jazz jams can wear even down the most fervent VDGG fan (in fact I dare say that part of it is more Henry Cow than classic VDGG). I'd like to have seen this portion of the disc trimmed down ... maybe even have some of the improvisations incorporated into the structured studio songs to create an epic!

Still there's definitely about an hour's worth of quality VDGG music on offer here, and for that alone I am eternally grateful. It may be too early to pass judgement on this album, but I have no doubt that this is the group's strongest effort since Godbluff ... they've clearly mastered the art of making a comeback album! ... 65% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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