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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.48 | 1998 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 27

Van Der Graaf Generator is a British band formed in 1967 in Manchester while their band members studied at the Manchester University. As all we know, the group still exists today, even after two interruptions in their musical career. The group's name was inspired in the electric equipment of Van de Graaff generator, which is a machine that creates static electricity. The group had also some changes into their line up over the years. Van Der Graaf Generator was always a different kind of a progressive band, in so many ways. They incorporate, in addition to the traditional musical instruments normally used by a rock band, the sound of saxophones and flute, which is one of the keys of their music. The other main characteristic of the band is the importance of the Peter Hammill's very intricate and personal lyrics, sung by him in a very personal, peculiar and unique way. The sound of his voice isn't for everyone.

After the release of their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts" in 1971 and due to financial problems within the group, Hammill left the band to pursue his solo musical career, putting an end in the group and making their first hiatus. After five solo efforts, Hammill re-formed Van Der Graaf Generator, and the band released their next three studio albums, "Godbluff", "Still Life" and "World Record", only in two years, between 1975 and 1976.

"Pawn Hearts", was my first review of a Van Der Graaf Generator work. As I wrote before, when I made my previous review of that album, "Godbluff" is my favourite album still "Pawn Hearts" is, for me, their best work.

"Godbluff" is their fifth studio album and was released in 1975. It's the first album that belongs to their famous trilogy, already mentioned by me. They maintained the same line up until the new breakup of the band. So, the line up on the album is Peter Hammill (lead vocals, piano, clavinet and electric guitar), Hugh Banton (keyboards, bass guitar and bass pedals), David Jackson (alto, tenor and soprano saxophones and flute) and Guy Evans (drums and percussion).

"Godbluff" has four tracks. All the tracks were written by Hammill, except "Scorched Earth" which was written by Hammill and Jackson. The first track "The Undercover Man" is absolutely an astonishing piece. It begins with Hammill's voice in a low timbre, accompanied by Jackson's flute and Evans' drums. The track develops, with a slow crescendo of Hammill's voice and Banton's organ. In my humble opinion, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever created by the band. The second track "Scorched Earth" is a more traditional band track. It's much darker, aggressive and complex, than its debut previous track. This is a track with a great work by Jackson on saxophones, perfectly well accompanied by Hammill's aggressive vocal work. This is another great track and represents the closest track to the musical style on their previous album, "Pawn Hearts". The third track "Arrow" is the most aggressive musical piece on the album. Musically, it's a very complex and strong song, with a very aggressive vocal work by Hammill. However, "Godbluff" is an album full of great vocal passages. As with "Scorched Earth", this is another song more in the vein of the classic band's repertoire. For me, these two songs, especially "Arrow", make the transition, between the previous musical era, ended with "Pawn Hearts", and the new musical era started by "Godbluff", followed by "Still Life" and ended with "World Record". The fourth track "The Sleepwalkers" is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs of the group and represents the great highlight of the album. This is the lengthiest track on the album, and is also, in my humble opinion, one of the best songs ever made. When I wrote that "Pawn Hearts" is probably the great masterpiece from the band but that I preferred "Godbluff", I was just thinking only on "The Sleepwalkers". Definitely, this is the song that makes me to tend for "Godbluff". Sincerely, for me, "The Sleepwalkers" is a truly masterpiece by itself.

Conclusion: As I said before, "Godbluff" is my favourite Van Der Graaf Generator's album. Despite I deeply love, practically all of their musical studio works of the 70's, it always had and always it will have a very special place into my heart. The only four tracks of the album showed a unity, coherence and a musical inspiration, which appear as having been cut from the same cloth. An attentive listening of the album show that the group had changed, abandoning the aesthetic of their earlier albums in favour of a more direct and streamlined approach. However and unfortunately, Van Der Graaf Generator never quite managed to make the same impact on the generality of the public of the 70's as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes, had done. They always differed from the traditional progressive rock groups. If we want to define the band, we can say that probably, they are the band that clearly defines the dark side of the progressive rock music. To finish, even if we can enjoy more or less the band, and if "Godbluff" is the best Van Der Graaf Generator's album or not, which is really truth is that "Godbluff" is one of the best albums ever made.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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