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Van Der Graaf Generator

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars Peter Hammill is, in my opinion, one of the best progressive singers ever. In "Godbluff" he adds his incredible voice to the most impressive VDGG music, resulting an excellent album. Four long pieces are "agressively" beautiful, being my favorite "The Undercover Man".

Even when VDGG wasn't a "gothic-prog" band (the best definition could be a "vocals driven band"), "Godbluff" is their first realisation from the second generation, this one darker and even violent and, IMHO, the best in VDGG history. A classic album in the whole genre.

Report this review (#7906)
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars After a two and half year break spent at different projects , but all four roads kept crossing each other's, the quartet reconvened and recorded a batch of songs that ill produce not only Godbluff, but also a good deal of the following Still Life. The batch off "songs" were actually shorter, mot as intricate, but certainly more aggressive (bar the opener of this album), but this was also fully intended as they were careful not making a "son of" Pawn Hearts, however disputable this choice might have been. One of the characteristic from this era of VdGG is that Hammill will gradually pick up more and more the electric guitar as the picture on the back-cover shows.

From the absolutely stunning Undercover Man, a slow crescendo starting from an all too rare Jackson flute and drums, the progression is astounding as Hammill's voice and Banton's organs slowly fill the soundscape, until halfway through the track hit full stride with Jackson's sax, before slowly returning to the flute to the third track Arrow (the most aggressive), this album is a real stunner and would've been their best ever if the last track, Sleepwalkers (a fairly shoddy track with a completely out of place Cha-Cha-Cha ruining it further, yes colleagues I confirm this point of view ;-) had been substituted by any track from the almost perfect Still Life. But life is made out of choices, and Sleepwalker (still acceptable track, but not up to standards of the others here). If you'll pardon the pun, but Scorched Earth is also a real scorcher of a track, also full of constant tempo changes and Banton's organs pulling in its weight. Actually, Hugh Banton (for other projects were still pending) did not participate as much in this album and one can feel it. He also plays bass guitar on a track.

Except, for the closer, an all too sober/bland artwork (as well as a single sleeve design) and its short duration (the only three flaws), the Godbluff album saw the Generator return in great form, and its remastered version is a must have as it has a few bonus live tracks from Hammill's solo albums (but played with the full VdGG line-up), which were actually played in the group's sets.

Report this review (#7905)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Better than "Quiet Zone/ Pleasure Dome"; the songs are more epic. Some real jazzy parts. The keyboards are more present and better exploited. Compositions are better structured. Instruments are quite well played. But...But....the voice is, again, absolutely awful!
Report this review (#7914)
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Even though my fave Van der Graaf Generator release is 'Pawn Hearts', I must admit that I enjoy their second era better, since at that stage the band was playing at its most cohesive and had reached a perfect level of sonic violence to match the passionate lyrical imagery and delirious melodic lines delivered by frontman extraordinaire Peter Hammill. 'Godbluff' was their comeback album... and what a comeback! Instead of taking off from the exuberant psychedelic forest created by 'Pawn Hearts', the foursome decided to get rid of the paraphernalia of mellotrons, ARP synths, multiple percussive instruments, and nightmarish electric devices on sax, in order to approach the new complex compositions and arrangements in a tighter manner. Even Hammill's singing feels more focused on portraying the contemplative nature of his lyrics and less interested in enhancing the pathetic-oriented twists on vocalizations: actually he doesn't give up on his expressionist essence, but now he's assuming his singing role as such. Banton's role keeps itself subdued i nterms of soloing, but is determining in the building of textures and clever chord progressions. Most solos are left in charge of Jackson's saxes and flutes, which he plays with a somewaht down-to-earth attitude. Meanwhile, Evans displays his jazz leaning more freely than ever before, and he does so with such fluency that he seems to want to hide the fact that being a drummer in a bass-less* band that loves to stick to complex rhythm patterns is not a hard thing to do. 'The Undercover Man' kicks off the album with full splendour: its crescendo entry and its delicate balance of wind/keyboard sonic display makes it a strong starting point, despite the fact of it being basically a 7+ minute ballad. 'Scorched Earth' is the most symphonically oriented number in the album - special mentions go to the majestic interlude and the awesome closing section: in many ways, this song is quintaessentially VdGG-esque. 'Arrow' is another introspective Hammill tune that eventually ended up as a jazz-rook infected tour-de-force, allowing the lyrics to expand their imagery's power. Finally, the closing track 'The Sleepwalkers' displays an air of ironic joy sustained over a martial-like rhythm pattern, also including some proper touches of latin jazz, as well as a R'n'B oriented instrumental interlude: Evans' playing on this piece is particularly awesome, but again, this is an owesome band... right? I give it a perfect rating since I consider it one of the most brilliant comeback albums in prog history, and it also qualifies as a brilliant work in itself.

* OK, Banton plays some bass lines, and handles a mean bass pedal board as well... but you know what I mean.

Report this review (#7915)
Posted Saturday, June 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A black one, but to me more . 'Undercover Man' begins. All whispery; darkly, as though through a glass, creepy from below - flutes blow silent into that good night whilst "at the glass" there sings the Hammill . Much slowness descends upon us -soul searching. Dark still. Soon all earth is scorched. Eerie keys; militaristic and deathly is the rat-a-tat-tat from the side cracass of snare. Black night is surely a long way from home. "Too late, too late now to turn back. Too soon by far to falter" We must go on. "The past sits uneasily at his rear. He's goaded into an attack-tack-tack-tack. . ." effective upon the echoing green. . .Soon, with much Hammond-organ-eering and pan-sax-da-monium; all sevens and eleven's break loose - strangely odd and oddly strange. "Scorched Earth is all that's left when he's done". Darker grows the night. "Hood masks the eager face. Skin stretched and sallow, headlong into the chilling night, as swift as any ARROW!" All souls in turmoil, now. Searching. Existential! Textures of dark. Bleak House. No sanctuary! Lost in sea and sand as the clot thickens and the candle goes out. ". . .How dark our night is. . ." Sleepers Awake? Against one big tattoo, beaten upon skin of tom-tom, this "mindless army" marches on. . ."it's pace does not relent". Swirling; chordal. "between coma and consciousness . . ." Darkness is become the mask of time. Time to Cha-Cha! Cowbell; Sassy Sax. . Black humour, indeed. Soon, mania ensuse. Losing faith in words. This is not a love song , this has been a 'Godbluff'.
Report this review (#7920)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars The beginning of phase two and a trilogy of albums that marked the pinnacle of their career, in my humble opinion. Four epic songs, each a masterpiece, and a much tighter, uncluttered sound than Pawn Hearts. Hugues Chantraine remarks that he doesn't need cha-cha-cha on a VDGG album. Well I certainly do if they play it like that! The point is they set the listener up with a faithful lounge-style rendition and then restart the piece as a deathly, bastardised abomination that could curdle milk. They also did it to some extent with reggae on Meurglys III (from World Record). They shouldn't have stopped there in my opinion. How about 'the charleston' next or a bit of Country & Western? Could you imagine what THAT might sound like if VDGG got their dirty mitts on it?
Report this review (#7921)
Posted Thursday, November 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ahhhhhhh, this is more like it! Finally, after having several years to mature his style, Hammill is back at the helm of VDGG Mark II, and the band was never more at the top of their game. Compared to the amateur experimentation of Pawn Hearts, Godbluff is a true masterpiece album; unlike previous releases, Godbluff boasts no musical loose ends and no lyrical cliches, in other words, none of the crap which marred their earlier work. I simply adore this album- every song on this album is so well constucted and executed, I am in awe to describe it. Godbluff represents a dramatic change in approach for VDGG- a tight, clever, and more straightforward jazz rock replaces the shodily constructed drones and seemingly random, psycedelic trips of the first period, and the lyrics rely less on fiction and fantasy and more on subtle imagery and metaphor to get the point across. In short, the band were persuing a much more direct, calculating, and ultimately successful aesthetic vision. This one is a must get, if for the closing track alone. The Sleepwalkers is a truely bizarre, dark, and all-out rocking piece that captures the new VDGG at their essense. Hammill's performance on this one is stunning, and is worth the price of the record alone (but don't just download it here- the record has three other tunes which are also phenomenal). I urge all fans of clever and deep prog to get this one. Bested by Still Life? Perhaps by some tracks on that one, but without a doubt, Godbluff is the Graaf's most consistently great creation.
Report this review (#7922)
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A black cover for a black album : VDGG is the dark side of prog : dissonance and even cacophony but, most of all, true music. These guys are not the super amazing technicians you may find in modern prog but lord, what they make is far away from sterile demonstrations. You may like or not Peter Hammill's voice and the emphasis of the lyrics, but you should listen to this record. Savage riffs with jazzy sound where sax and organ dominates, a very good drumming too and ENERGY ! The quiet parts won't leave you peaceful for the dark color's still there. Arrow seems to me a little weaker inthe album. Godbluff is my favourite from VDGG with Pawn hearts, although I must make a special mention to Meurglys III (World Record) and la Rossa (Still Life) as single pieces masterpieces.
Report this review (#7923)
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Godbluff, the third album of van der Graaf Generator I got. And this is where my love for vdGG sparkled. I had H to He and Pawn Hearts first, liking H to He better at first, but slowly growing into the more coherent songs on Pawn Hearts. It was sómwhere on my favourite list of prog bands. Godbluff changed all that with a bang.

Godbluff is an album consisting of four songs of about 10 minutes. My favourtie is 'The Sleepwalkers', but there is hardly any difference in my preferance. I found all pieces to be inspiring, emotional, brilliant in composition, even more brilliant in the cooperation of instruments and most of all: moving.

Godbluff starts off with 'the Undercover Man'. Starting off quietly, the first two minutes feature Peter Hammill using his almost opera-like voice underlined by keyboards and flute that greatly add to the mysterical athmosphere. Then the song jumps into a 'spring'like section, with great fluteplaying underlining the dynamic time signatures and moving composition. Not only moving in emotional sense but also in the sense that the melody is diverse,evolving and interesting both in rythym and melody. Indeed, the interaction between bass, drums and flute are the reason I find myself moved. After this part the song takes into a sax-solo, which is a bit darker because of the organ sound. Again a rythmically genious motif is used. After the solo, the song takes up again in the up-taking way the second part started off after the first two minutes. From there it is basically a repetition, but with beautiful second voice and inspired improvisations on bass. The song ends in a crescendo which ends in the organs leading out the song a bit dissappointingly.

Scorched Earth is a more aggressive take, starting off with militaristic drumrolls. Here we hear the more aggressive thumping of the organ and after a while a more harsh sounding Peter Hammill singing about a battlefield. This turns into a part with a quite complex changing of time signatures. Throughout my vdGG experience, I have discovered they are quite subtile and genious with these changing timesignatures. A quiet passage leads into a more uptempo part, which again leads into a organ part. After this a riff which is the culmination of prog starts off. Brilliant rythym, riff and ending of this part with a more chaotic part going all over the scale and returning into the riff. Then the song picks back up again with the second part. They will interchange these parts until the ending of the song, during which some interesting parts 'outside of the song' are played by the keyboards. Listen to it and be awed how it DOES fit in.

Arrow starts off with a strange almost stoned like part. Listen for the 'war horn' in this part, I find it a genious idea to put that in there. A jazzlike saxophone solo and the music drops dead. The organ picks up with a harpschiord sound giving a flavour to this song that is almost medieval like. The next part is a quiet, laidback part, flowing into a somewhat more active part with Hammill singing. Especially 'against the horiZON' sound good to me, a good example of Hammill's virtuosity of the voice. Peter Hammill's scraping voice and the crescendo played on the instruments give the part up to the climax a greatly exciting athmosphere. Throughout the song, the harpschiord sound give the song a flavour of drama and almost digital like warzone. The end part is somewhat like that in the Undercover Man, only slower, and somehow i find that less dissappointing.

My favourite, the Sleepwalkers, starts off fast and happily. Flute greatly underlying a brilliant melody, soon followed by Hammill's pleasant almost falsetto singing. On 1:26 the song really takes off, with sax and flute working together to create a melody based on an evolving changing timesignature. This ends in Hammill working the dirt in his throat again. In between a short again more laidback part, with Hammill increasingly singing more dirty. Then follows a part with interesting second voice. This voice continues from here. But first is a part that weirds out some people on progarchives I've found. A cha-cha-cha like part that sounds almost like a carnaval. I find it a great and adding part, however, and it gives the song the air of experiment, which is something I can tolerate, especially when the carnaval like part is executed so well. After five minutes of the song, the song takes off into the bridge, more uptempo, and somewhat shoved aside(wrongly so), a great solo like improvisation on keyboards. This part is quite long, maybe too long some might think, but I think it increases the fulfillment when the song takes off into the sax-solo. Indeed, what a climax that is! And this is completed by the powerful singing of Hammill paired with that unusual but bueatiful second voice again. The song continues it's old course from here, with the cha-cha part. Then the end is slow again, with some noodling on guitar, organ and bass. Then it fades out.

I found this album to be like a travel, taking me up, a bit down, and then onto the top. The musicianship is wonderful, especially how the instruments work together to create interesting time signatures, unusual sounds and beautiful melodies. Above all this, Peter Hammill comes crashing in with his remarkable voice, working it to add to the timbre of the instruments, creating the athmosphere of the songs, with great emotion and drama. Ineed, I found vdGG to be a band working on everything, finishing all their parts so it's a big complex web, sounding treacherously easy.

Report this review (#7925)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Together with the Stilllife this one is the absolute favorite of mine of VDGGs. It is full of emotions given in perfectly balanced doses. It is full of perfect musical mastership which is being not merely exhibited but serves to reach the deepest spiritual experience. it is full of poetry, not deppressive but very imaginary. And, as it is not very usual in the music of Peter Hammill, you can taste here the traces of spicy humour. This should be a musical textbook.
Report this review (#7928)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars An obligatory masterpiece!

Van der Graaf Generator is one of those bands that have released so many good albums, and like the other prog monsters their best albums are from the 70`s, anyway i love World Record, but i mean, when a band like thes has so many good albums, somewhere in the discography must catch your attention, to the grade of love the album or songs i dont know, with me it happens with Godbluff specially, i ike the other albums and maybe Still Life or H to He could be also masterpieces, but not my favorite albums, not as the same level a s Godbluff, because it caused an immediate effect in me while listening to it, so since then i took it as my favorite VdGG album, and i actually love it and think it`s a masterpiece.

Maybe this band is not catchy to everyone, not maybe, im sure of that, and one reason could be Peter Hammill`s voice which i love and consider a very special and superb voice, dark, sensible and hard at the same time, anyone has not even an alike voice, so that fact makes this band so special and so different, also i know the music that VdGG offers is great , not totally symphonic, not totally jazzy but with hints of several genres, and all that mix and uniqueness makes this band a weird band and not everyone`s taste.

Godbluff is a superb album for me, it has only 4 songs, but them all are great, starting with the emotional and weird vocals to the exquisite music, the sound of piano , bass and trumpets or saxes is simply great. Scorched Earth is my personal favorite song, but please check Arrow , greeeat song.. actually all are almost perfect , not a bad or weak point here, the music is so enjoyable for me, and musically i think the band is awesome.

So i recommend it so much, 5 stars anytime.

Report this review (#7931)
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I think this is the best album by this band, and I would recommend it to anybody who is interested of emotional progressive rock music. Their music is quite accessible on this record when compared to their previous records, and the overall feeling is sorrowful, dark and violent. The first side of the LP consists of two tracks which are merged together, "The Undercover Man" and "Scorched Earth". Lyrics are wonderful, the music is emotional and the compositions work wonderfully. The beginner of the B-side, "Arrow", is probably their best tune in my opinion. The last song is also OK, not good as the others, but not so bad that I wouldn't dare to give this album the full score. Get it for your moody winter nights!
Report this review (#7933)
Posted Monday, April 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a four year break, VDGG returns with what many consider their strongest effort. Godbluff displays a tighter and cleaner sound than before, with a more direct yet melodic sound than before. I still prefer "Pawn Hearts" to it, but this one still ranks among their best stuff. Peter Hammill's songwriting here is even as always, with "Scorched Earth" beign my most preferred cut, but it's really no songs here that are weak. The dark sound of "H to He" and "Pawn Hearts" is not as prominent here, making this one a good starter to VDGG's music, although this band remains an acquired taste generally. A fantastic album overall. 4.5/5
Report this review (#7936)
Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars As I said in another review, this album must be called a masterpiece. There are only four songs but each one is marvellous; I would call it "four classics". My favourite track is "Arrow", with a terrific vocal performance by Hammill, great playing by all members of the band and a fantastic lyric. So, buy the CD now, and check out for "Godbluff Live 1975", a DVD featuring a Belgian concert in which this album is played on its entirety. The DVD shows us that these songs worked as well on stage as on the studio.
Report this review (#7937)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a comeback! It was as if VDGG had never been away. And of course, in a way, they hadn't. The group broke up in 1971, only for Peter Hammill to be joined quite frequently on his solo albums by the other three VDGG stalwarts, David Jackson, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans. The lads eventually decided to reform and made up for "wasting" some of their best years together with this excellent album. The second coming of VDGG may have eventually petered out but every one of the four songs on Godbluff was an important addition to the band's canon.

From its humble origins, The Undercover Man erupts into another one of the haunting, desolate VDGG ballads, with Jackson's fluttering flute and Banton's (ahem) enormous organ defining the sound while a certain Mr. Hammill wails and rails away as only he can. The song eventually becomes a monstrous rocker that sounds like the conclusion of some amazing rock opera ... except that in the case of Godbluff, the fun is just beginning.

As The Undercover Man fades away, a new monster announces itself ... Scorched Earth is a rampaging tune, with Evans let off his leash. Halfway through this discordant angry track, a steady riff establishes itself allowing Jackson and Banton to really cut loose too.

Arrow is a more basic beast that starts off with a bit of a psych jam before evolving into one of the most beautiful, sparse and haunting bits of music VDGG ever recorded (no mean feat, I can tell you!). For the most part of this lovely song, Hammill's vicious vocals are at odds with the pastoral playing of his colleagues. When the band finally breaks its restraint at around the 5:30 mark, the great riffs floating around the song convalese into a engrossing whole.

The concluding anthem The Sleepwalkers is yet another stimulating work that's initially tied to a darting medieval melody played by jackson on flute. When, on the 1:30 minute mark, the melody re-emerges with Hammill sings a verse, it really takes my breath away. Then takes a number of strange journeys, with snatches of music hall, jazz and bossa nova, finally settling down into a breezy riff, which Jackson gradually takes over. Hammill then returns while the original flute melody is hinted at. I admit that I love that melody so much that I think VDGG underuse it, but it's hard to argue with such daring composers.

One is tempted to think that Godbluff gets such rave reviews because VDGG fans were so relieved that the band hadn't lost it, but I do really think this is one of the band's finest acheivements. ... 83% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#37911)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Last of "The Fantastic Four" albuns by VDGG. This was their first group album since 1971, and shows a band which matured and developed his sound without losing any of his original characteristics. No sidelong epic this time, like "Pawn hearts"; instead, four songs, two by side on the original LP. A great album to both fans and newcomers, with probably my favourite VDGG song: "Arrow", with its electric piano-driven melody, fantastic blowing by Jackson and Evans's powerful drumming. All the other three songs are great too, but "Arrow" stands higher. As other reviewer pointed above, check out for the "Godbluff Live" DVD to listen to more powerful live versions of this album. But don't miss this CD.
Report this review (#38974)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Peter Pan
5 stars This is a review of the remastered version of "Godbluff", the darkest and hardest work of Van der Graaf Generator so far.

After the remastering the songs of this album sound as if a veil has been taken away from them (though band hiss can be heard in quiet passages). What is revealed is the sheer power, intelligence and dramatics of this VDGG-album.

Instrumentation has a much more "live" character than "Pawn Hearts" and song structures are a little more simple but still the music is sophisticated with a merging of rock, jazz and classics.

Peter Hammill's singing has again improved and has led him to being the best rock singer. His powerful and versatile voice is able to sing in captivating beautiness in the wonderful calm passages of "Godbluff". And then at the end of the lines "how long the night is - why is this passage so narrow? / How strange my body feels, impaled upon the arrow" he does a scream that makes the blood freeze in the veins.

The quality of Peter Hammill's writing has reached the level of real literature. His topic in this album are men moving on some kind of margin: refugees, persecutees, psychotics, sleepwalkers - and if you include the two songs recorded at the same time but published later on "Still Life": pilgrims, and lovers on the threshold of passionate love. Some of the songs have a kind of "dark ages" touch. The bewildering "Arrow" could be straight out of a Fantasy novel.

The booklet has the same high quality as of the first three remasters, with a little less text but friendlier to the eye because of bigger type.

Bonus tracks are two in Rimini 1975 live recorded PH songs from one of his solo albums: "Forsaken Gardens" and "A Louse is not a Home". The sound quality of these two tracks is so "extremely brutal" (Peter Hammill) that they are only of interest for hard-core fans or because of historical reasons. In my opinion songs with this sound quality should not be published on a main album.

The fav album of many VDGG fans.

Report this review (#40712)
Posted Thursday, July 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A True Masterpiece of Prog Rock!

This album remarks the comeback of the band after a four year break from the music industry. The front-man Peter Hammill released quite a number of albums during that time. They came back to the studio and recorded this wonderfully crafted album (released in 1975) that I think it's a true masterpiece. I have to admit that due to this album, my appreciation on VdGG music had grown significantly and I started to appreciate their early albums which were too dark and too depressive in mood to my personal taste. Godbluff still project the dark mood but musically it's much more mature compared to their early records. I remember vividly when this album was released, a year later I got a cassette version on this and I talked to myself: "Wow! This is the music that I'm looking for!".

Talking on a music spectrum, this album is heavily loaded with Hugh Banton's wailing organ work combined with multi-registered voice of Peter Hammill (Jeezzz!! I like his curved voice lines!) and . David Jackson saxophone work. Admittedly, I'm not a great fan of saxophone; but with this record? Oh man . this one must be treated differently! It's also the case with Dick Parry's work on Pink Floyd stuffs which I also like it. But, don't ask me to enjoy Kenny G's work man .!! No way!! Enuff .. enuff .. Back to Godbluff, the music is tightly composed with great arrangements and powerful songwriting.

The album comprises four approximately equal-length songs that all of them project a uniformity in mood and style even though the melody is totally different from one song to another. that provides the semblance of a central concept, even if there isn't one that I can see. Jackson provides flute playing to "The Undercover Man" and "The Sleepwalkers" especially on softer parts which usually are very beautiful segments to my personal taste. Evans punctuates each Jackson sax burst with a sort of rapid-fire staccato that characterizes the music of Van der Graaf Generator. At first listening experiences I tended to put my best favorite track was "The Sleepwalkers" because it has powerful pondering vocals with high energy music that combines aggressive sax work by David Jackson as well as stunning organ work by Hugh Banton. But with some more listens I felt that "The Undercover Man" which has a floating melody and accentuated vocals was becoming another favorite of mine. The list did not stop there as the other two tracks "Scorched Earth" and "Arrow" did become my other favorites as well. So, what can I say if I love all of the four tracks? Is there any favorite? I don't think so because I love all of them, finally - with the passage of time, of course. That's what might happen to you if you are newbie to VdGG music. You might like only one track but with more spins it would grow. I'm sure on this. Try it.

"Godbluff" (and "Still Life" - the follow-up that was released a year later) represents the band at their peak, with a tight composition, mature lyrical contribution from Hammill combined with the powerful songwriting the band members contributed. The combined creativity of the four musicians creates a wonderful music that uplifts our emotion whenever we listen to the album from the CD player or even whenever we sing the song inside our mind without playing the CD at all (like what I'm doing now when I'm writing this review with labor of love). Some people mention that Pawnheart was the band's masterpiece but I think they should also include these two albums as well. VdGG was one of the bands that pioneered prog rock in the seventies. Highly recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild! GW

Report this review (#41963)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another masterpiece of VDGG, not so mighty as the amazing Pawn Hearts but much better than Still Life and H to He, Godbluff manages to show again the darkness contained within this band's brilliant music and lyrics in perfect shape, courtesy of the also brilliant Peter Hammill, one of the best writers and singers of all times.

The cover says it all: this is dark, very dark stuff. The first track is a gentle intro to the crazy world showed on the following three numbers. Hammill with this not usual quiet voice that will soon range into a growl full with angst on "Arrow" opens the album together with some soft flutes by David Jackson - who is perhaps making his best performance here on both instruments (sax and flute) played by him. The overall mood of the song is a melancholic one, though. The singing sounds like a cry for help after Hammill stops whispering, but this apparent sadness becomes a sudden rage on the second song, "Scorched Earth". This track is the most upbeat one here, but soon it reaches a very dark and scary moment where Hammill begins talking in a low tone and the instrumentation gets quieter...soon getting louder and louder together with the voice bringing the upbeat section back with some more great sax work. The keyboards lead this song perfectly, and after the chaotic section we notice that Hammill starts growling...yes, i feel that in this album's first three songs we have quite a gradual development of the tone of Hammill's voice. On the first song, it is quiet, leading to some cries and his normal tone. At the second it starts normal and goes getting chaotic reaching full power on "Arrow", where the growling literally increases at each line sung. It is almost as if he was "transforming" himself during those minutes, from his most gentle side until his most angry full with angst one at the end of the third track. Sounds like an internal monster borning from the depths of your mind, reaching full power at the crying rage of the line "how long the time seems, how dark the shadow, how straight the eagle flies, how straight towards its arrow / how long the night is, why is this passage so narrow? how strange my body feels impaled upon this arrow". This song, "Arrow", is my favorite from the album, since it affects me a lot emotionally. At the ending words from the song's lyrics above quoted, i feel very moved inside - those lasting words sound like someone is feeling really disturbed looking for her/his freedom from the darkness that surround her/him. It starts with a great drum and sax jam, leading to the actual song with a rare appearance of the guitar. The song gets progressively faster and Hammill's voice follows the rhythm. A very chaotic jazzy number for sure, and the most emotional one from this album. And then we have the closing track, easily the weakest one from this superb group of four brilliant songs. But it doesn't let us down. If you are used to VDGG's surprises through songs, you won't mind the somewhat mexican section found here after some more chaotic keyboard work. It is the less accessible from the album, and even though it doesn't close it memorally like the ending of "Plague" on Pawn Hearts, it still deserves its merit due to its constant variation of moods making it perhaps the most prog of all acts here.

Overall this is an excellent album that is very essential together with Pawn Hearts in any prog collection. In my opinion both form an amazing pair like Selling England and Foxtrot do for GENESIS and WYWH and DSOTM form for the FLOYD. Get this album as soon as you can, there's a remastered version released this year containing two extra songs. Buy it and enjoy Peter Hammill's world!

Report this review (#41983)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think the second period of Van Der Graaf Generator is even better than the brilliant first period. The albums Godbluff and Still Life ranks among the very best records ever made, no matter what period of time or what genre we're including in the comparison. The intro to The Undercover Man is the absolutely best intro to any song I know (beating even Genesis' Dancing With The Moonlit Knight in that respect). Beautiful, theatrical and desperate. But talking about desperate, I do not know of the existence of anything more desperate than the song Arrow. I can understand that some people have troubles liking the voice of P. Hammill. It is as far away from a classical crooner voice as you can get. However, therein lies also the key to his voice's appeal. He does not sing for his voice to be a beautiful instrument - he lets his voice mirror the very depths of his soul - and some of his listener's souls. It took me a long time to really recognize and understand this album, but now that I do, it really should get 6 out of 5 stars.

PS! Yes, I've noticed the curious cha cha cha-section, but luckily after a while it transcends into a desperate, dark, typical VDGG-melody.

Report this review (#43592)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a 4 year hiatus, VAN DER GRAAF re-formed and began VDGG Phase II and did so with a purely stunning album in "Godbluff". Musically, the album is anchored on the heavy organ work of Hugh Banton and David Jackson's sax supported by the drumming of Guy Evans. Peter Hammill's lyrics and vocals are amongst the best he ever recorded with his deeply emotional pitch shifts and power. Without a question the one two punch of "The Undercover Man" and "Scorched Earth" will amaze all progressive rock fans. Dark yet magestic all the way thru, "Godbluff" is a riveting example of one of the ture craftsmen of this genre and IMHO an great contribution to music in general. Absolutely an essential album.
Report this review (#45853)
Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Album announced in 1975 "Godbluff". Work announced from the former work after an interval of four years. It is a heavy style. Strong, dark masterpiece. It is a wonderful work that they completely revived. All tunes are peculiar masterpieces.It is a sound of powerful instrumental that seeming is this group.
Report this review (#47228)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well what can i say its another masterpiece from the mighty Generator, lol its realy fun... while most of the so called progrockers allwayes sit and talk about Genesis and the other "big" prog names they often ignore VDGG the "real" Greatest prog band VDGG beats all other prog bands so easy its allmost pathetic they hav so many great albums the other bands culd only dream of, and Peter Hammill is far and away progs biggest genius. Lisen to some VDGG albums and Genesis "Gabriel era" will sound like some backstreet boys album. This is real progressivrock for real progrock lovers its as dark as music can get and its some of the absolut best music that has ever been created yust 4 songs 4 classics of prog. From the first Van der graaf Generator album to the last they are all great, VDGG never made a weak album. All in all another winner form the best prog band.
Report this review (#62334)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After four long years the poet is back on the machine. So you pull the record out of the black cover and you feel, this is not going to be an easy journey.The needle sets down and an echoed flute plays a slow funeral dirge, soon joined by the slow pace of the organ and the poet himself "you ask, in uncertain voice, what you should do, as if there was a choice but to carry on miming the song"... Yes it's too late to turn back and you start to shiver and while the song fades away, menacing chords on the electric piano warn you and a drum roll announces danger.

The sax and the organ start to howl and the poet spits out his anger and frustration "charging madly forward, tracks across the snow; wind screams madness to him, ever on he goes...", and you feel cold, black sweat pouring out of your body while you look over the scorched earth. And with one last feedback-scream of the guitar you cry for relieve, but it's too late... you can't move anymore, painridden you hear the whaling sound of the wah-wah sax and every note impales you deeper on the arrow and the poet screams and shrieks in agony, "how long the night is - why is this passage so narrow? How strange my body feels, impaled upon the arrow."

And the music builds up in a frenzy and when it finally stops you hear a dance tune approaching and people coming nearer, but when they come nearer in a twisted mockery dance you realize, these are the living dead, the sleepwalkers, "the columns of the night advance, infectiously their cryptic dance gathers converts to the fold - in time the whole raw world will pace these same steps on into the bitter end." and suddenly you are invited to join in for a deadly foxtrott and when the dance finally stops you look to the sky and there is not much hope, but at least you are ALIVE.

A masterpiece in poetry and music!

Report this review (#64236)
Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars GodBluff is still one of my favorite VDGG albums since 1975 when I was 15. To me the "cha cha" section on Sleepwalker sounds as 'clin d'oeil" for the music of Nino Rota, the music film composer working with Fellini. Very dark music, very profound, highly musical and complex, especially the organ parts played by H.Banton, it's very sequential and cyclic almost hypnotic. I'm always amazed how H.Banton played with the bass pedal, it's very smooth, precise and luxiourous in the mean time.

I like the way Hamill play the Clavinet to replace the guitar parts, very guttural. Still today no one had explore the voice treatment as Peter Hamill does (maybe PJ Harvey)

Guy Evans on drums and Jackson on sax are totally unchained and inspired. This is simple, this band played if they will die tomorrow, totally involved and incrusted in their musical landscape.

Godbluff is highly recommended to anyone interested in progressive music. my two "canadian" cents...

Report this review (#66588)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A few months ago, my first experience with VddG was Pawn Hearts. After a few times listening I was overblown by the musical depth, in specific the mellow Sax and the dramatic melodies. With high expectations I bought Godbluff. Godbluff's the stuff? Hell yeah. All you progheads should give this one a try. Only 4 songs, but more music than the discographies of many current rockbands. And Hammill's voice on Arrow...waaaaw!
Report this review (#69320)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.6/5.0

I thought I had listened to it all. After months of listening to 'new' stuff, I finally got to this album. Sure, I like "Pawn Hearts" and other previous VDGG albums, but WOW is the only word that comes in my mind after listening to "Godbluff".

This is awesome what those 4 guys are doing on this album. This is a perfectly balanced album, with a great flow from the beginning to the end, with some 'flamenco' touch (Hughes Chantraine does not like the "cha-cha-cha" but I personnaly think this is quite refreshing and enjoyable) and lot of emotion. And even more emotion, and yet more... A very emotional album, with absolutely gorgeous lyrics coming from Peter Hammill's warm yet distant voice.

I think this is a masterpiece of progressive music and a very important album to own if you like prog music. I never really understood all the buzz around Van der Graaf Generator before listening to this artwork. 4.6/5.0

Report this review (#73805)
Posted Saturday, April 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my first VDGG record and I have to say I'm really surprised!! This guys are excellent musicians and Peter Hamill has an excellent vocal perfomance in all the tracks. He really shows his voice at his best here. Guy Evans it's very dinamic and energetic with the drums on this record. Hugh Banton and David Jackson really show their talent, the first one with the organ in all the tracks marking the base of the melody and the other one collaborating with the main melody and the solos. With relation of the tracks, we know that are just four but who cares??? The four ones are very well elaborated and the compositon is very very good. The Undercover Man starts very quiet with a constant flute sound and Peter Hamill singing in a very low tune. Then the song it goes structuring little by little and it ends with a very nice melody and a very good vocal perfomance by Hamill. Good track!!! Scorched Earth it's a very powerful song if we are talking about symphonic prog. Very good perfomance of all the musicians. Arrow really shows Hamill's voice at his best. He it's excellent here. It starts with a jazzy improvisation (Evans really rocks here) and the song continues with a powerful melody and a killer voice by Hamill. The Sleepwalkers it's without any doubt the best track in the album. It has a lot of tempo changes and the sax solo by Jackson it's really amazing. Excellent track!!!!!!!!

I think this is a must have for any prog fan specially for any symphonic prog fan. Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music.

Report this review (#74939)
Posted Friday, April 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars First of all, this is an exceptional album. I still own the vinyl that I bought in high school, along with H to HE, Pawn Hearts and others. One of my all time favorites, The Sleepwalkers, closes this record. The time changes flow so smoothly, sometimes I forget that this piece starts out in 9/8. But, here's the real reason I'm writing this review, as a response to two other reviews. This is a perfect example of how some get this band, and others do not.

I hope [walker65] dosen't mind me stealing a bit of his review, but it is the reason I'm writing this.


"Hugues Chantraine remarks that he doesn't need cha-cha-cha on a VDGG album. Well I certainly do if they play it like that! The point is they set the listener up with a faithful lounge-style rendition and then restart the piece as a deathly, bastardised abomination that could curdle milk."

The set up is actually more of a bosanova, but thats not as important as the fact that it is a set up. The only other word I would have used to describe the second mutated version of the bosanova section would be twisted. OK, maybe mutated counts too.

Well done walker65, I think you speak for many of us here.

Report this review (#75332)
Posted Tuesday, April 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
2 stars Try as I might, I cannot seem to see what others see in this band. The music is complex, at times even slightly discordant, with some very interesting keyboards and some wild sax and fine flute from David Jackson. Indeed, Hugh Banton emerges with enormous credit as a quite superb organ player; his introduction to Sleepwalkers is a quite brilliant little motif. Guy Evans is a metronomic drummer, providing the rhythm section single-handed, since there is frequently no bass and only Banton's bass organ pedals to back him up. The rot really sets in when Peter Hamill sings; I find his voice and vocal style intensely irritating. He has a habit of hitting a note flat and slowly sliding up to the correct pitch which sets my nerves on edge after a while and his aggressive and overdramatic means of delivery ruin what could have been fairly enjoyable. The four long pieces are all intricate, jazz influenced and certainly not typical of symphonic prog. Undercover Man is the pick with Sleepwalkers close behind, but if only they had left out the silly cha cha section.

VDGG are undoubtedly an innovative and important band but their music is hopelessly flawed. Had this been instrumental, I would have given it 3* because the music is pleasnt enough, but the vocals drop it to 2*. Not recommended.

Report this review (#75612)
Posted Thursday, April 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Add another half star.

To be honest, I prefer Still Life to this album. Still, VDGG came back with a vengence on this album after a 4 year hiatus. It was only fairly recently that I purchased this album, when the latest remasters came out. However, I had heard it several times in the past. Like most VDGG albums, this has no weak tracks. The style is substantially different from the preceding albums, but it is unmistakeably VDGG (even putting aside the distinctive voice of Hammill). A great album, but no one I'm willing to call a masterpiece.

As to the Hammills singing, it is obviously a love it or hate it situation. I love it, for its rawness, dynamics, and undilluted emotion. But I can easily see how some people may never be able to take it. And for this second period of VDGG, while the music gets somewhat less frantic and chaotic, the vocals become even more harsh and biting. I think this is a good thing, but it certainly can take some getting used to for those more comfortable with singers like Jon Anderson or Greg Lake.

In any case, an outstanding album that I might even give 5 stars to if not for the fact that the following album would be even better. 4.5 stars without a doubt for this one though.

Report this review (#76482)
Posted Thursday, April 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the most challenging, inventive and cerebral bands ever walk on this planet. One of my all time favourits from prog music. This 4 gentlemans never stop to amazed me every time i listen to theyr records.Over the years they develop an unique style of composing and playing, that's made them to be unmatch in prog history. Weird or not you can still find the influences in some bands from today. About the album, i find it very true, inventive and damn good. The highlight for me is Arrow, but the rest are beyond average listner. This band is a must for every true listner in prog music. 4,5 stars, superb as allways.
Report this review (#80275)
Posted Sunday, June 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Van der graaf generator is truly a great band. I don't know much of their work or even the names of the band members, heck, i'm a total music nitwit! I own just two albums from VDGG, present and godbluff. I find the music style to be really unconventional ... if i'm not mistaking they don't use guitars? They use trumpets and stuff ... THe vocals are sexy!

I haven't really listened to the songs seperatly though ... i usually just put the CD in and get carried away. The album has the best opening i've ever heard (which i can recall). I always thought it said "Here ... at the dawn... ", but it doesn't. It says "Here at the glass - all the usual problems, all the habitual farce". This line is so groovy!

I think the album doesn't have like long build ups or anything that lead up to a big climax or anything. Each song is really filled with nice tunes that work your mind every second. They do start swinging in the Sleepwalkers though. A nice ending!

Which all makes i never turn off this album or skip a track (or even consider it).

Ah i'm not gonna go further more in details since i don't have the proper knowledge to expres what i think.

I changed my mind like 3 or 4 times wheter to give it a 4 or 5 star rating. I want to give it a 4 because it's my first review and i don't want to overrate anything, but then again i really think this is very good! And for as far as i know, they're very progressive! They certainly sound like it...

There you got it ... like 15 lines of text and no real information given. That's what you get when newbies do reviews.

Report this review (#80553)
Posted Tuesday, June 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars My first introduction to Van der Graaf Generator was through the record "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". I was intrigued, but not thoroughly knocked-out enough to buy any more of their records. One day I was in a record store, and picked up a used copy of "Godbluff" on a whim. I was BLOWN AWAY!

From the first note of "The Undercover Man", I knew that I was in for a treat. There is hardly anything that could be added to the pantheon of rave reviews seen here previously. I could literally gush on and on about this fantastic record. I only want to get the remastered CD now that it is available.

To that end, it must be said that the general level at which this record is mastered is quite low. So low, in fact, that the opening flute / organ notes are nearly buried in hiss. Overall, the sounds are recorded quite nicely. Notable is the CREEPY (!) voice processed through Leslie speaker in "Scorched Earth" ("his latest exponent of heresy...."); and the slightly dirty Clavinet, which serves a unique function here as a sort of quasi-harpsichord.

This is the only Van der Graaf album (I have them all now) that I can listen to from start to finish without ever losing interest. That is not to say that there are not others which are fantastic. But Godbluff...Godbluff is my favourite. This is Van der Graaf's "Close To The Edge" or "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"!

Report this review (#81486)
Posted Monday, June 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I really don't understand this CD. I bought it, hearing "Sleepwalkers," but I just don't understand it. I've given it about 10 spins now, and I just can't comprehend this CD. It's an interesting enough album, but it's darkness and mysticality frightens me. There are indeed some complex and interesting parts, but not enough plesant chords to intreague me. I was completely let down. I say, Listen to "The Sleepwalkers," but that's about as good as it gets.
Report this review (#84092)
Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think this is the best album I ever heard. The absolute symphonic progressive rock disc. Every track has a different style. For those who don't understand this work I suggest them to hear it three-four times before they deside about its value. VDGG's and some of Peter Hammil's music is strange at the first listening and need more attention at the listening.
Report this review (#84279)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Remember how Yes claimed they had a "ridiculously successful comeback album" with 90125? That was probably in a commercial sense. In an artistic sense, this album is probably the most deserving of such a phrase. VDGG came back from their few year hiatus and punched you right in the face at around the 4:30 mark of The Undercover Man.

There isn't a weak moment anywhere on this album. The two halves of the first track are incredible. The two halves of the second track are incredible. The three parts of Arrow are incredible, even the questionable at first mini-jam in the first few minutes. The uncountable number of parts of The Sleepwalkers? You guessed it, incredible. Much like a Foxtrot or a In A Glass House, it's wall to wall amazingness.

VDGG is often considered the ultimate saxophone-driven prog band. Another reason is record is fantastic is that going along with the previous sentence, this is probably the ultimate saxophone-driven prog album.

I believe this is one of the five best albums ever and don't recommend that you're ever apart from it!

Report this review (#84504)
Posted Saturday, July 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love, LOVE!!!! Van Der Graaf Generator. For the first 10 months of me owning "Pawn Hearts" and "H To He Who Am The Only One" I thought the music was horrid, just awful, and stupid, well boy I was wrong.

Well about a months ago, I gave "Pawn Hearts" another shot. I slipped it into my cd player, sat down in the dark, and just fell relaxed as I listen to this beautiful array of sounds. When I was done I was filled with emotion, it has beautiful arrangement, and just overall rocked! all I could say at the time was "IYYYYY!"

So, I was checking out prog archives and I remembered to check "VDGG" and I saw this album was highly ranked, so I ran out and got it the other day, and I'm listneing to it as I write this review, it's the most amazing thing I've ever listened to, maybe I'm just so in the mood for it.

"The Undercover Man" is a very strong piece, and very fun feeling and sounding.

"Scorched Early" is so rockin', I envy their complexity, and how tight they are together, this song is simple amazing.

"Arrows" starts out a tad ruff, gets sweet, then kicks out! I dig.

"The Sleepwalkers", well, thats on this site, you can come up with your own thought on that

So honestly, I think this is their strongest, best played, most exciting and produced album, I simply love everything about it, so I give it 5 stars.

Report this review (#85505)
Posted Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Van Der Graaf Generator's album in between the masterpieces Pawn Hearts and Still Life is somewhat disappointing when you compare it to the other two. It's not a bad release by any means, but it just feels like there isn't as much going on in past efforts and that the inspiration on this album was a lot less than other albums by this group. As always, the musicianship and the group is tight and cohesive, and the well structured pieces are performed with vigor and intensity (which is usually what goes into a Van Der Graaf Generator album), but there are little things that hurt the overall score of this album. Throughout the four songs presented on this album, the listener is taken through arguably the most agressive Van der Graaf Generator experience available, and for the most part I like it, but the album does have its faults.

The Undercover Man opens the album with some quiet vocals from Hammill, almost too quiet. It soon picks up and a nice organ based theme comes in. I must mention this now before I say anything, it may be just my copy (which is an original issue of the album before it was remastered), but the audio on this album is a bit subpar, everything sounds a bit muddy and the quality isn't spectacular. But that's only a minor inconvenience. Hammill's dramatic vocals range from his uneasy falsettos to his jagged lower register vocals. Around the middle of the piece, Jackson comes in with a great saxophone/flute interlude that really helps the overall atmosphere of the piece. Scorched Earth follows, and the mood and atmosphere of the piece is much like the title, scorched and jaggedy. Some interesting lyrics and vocals from Hammill are augmented by an interesting organ/sax motif that has some nice drumming on the part of Guy Evans. There's also an underlying lead guitar rhythm, but it is lost in the muddy mix. There seems to be a lot meandering riffs that add some dynamics to the music, but I must say I'm not too fond of the vocals for the better part of this song (they sound distorted and multi-tracked, but they start at different times giving the illusion of an echo that doesn't really echo).

Arrow has a bit of a jam feel to it with a solid rhythmic foundation and some saxes that have an improvisational feel (and they sound like they are going through a wah pedal). A spacey section before the vocals (that in my opinion doesn't really do anything except help fill a time void), and the song doesn't really pick up pace until around third minute, almost a third into the song. Hammill's vocals and lyrics are at their most biting and aggressive (but they sound too compressed and the organ is more dominant than the vocals themselves). It's not a bad piece, but it could have been shorter as that opening jam didn't really help the song. The ending, though, is great, with distorted and modulated organs with a raunchy sax solo on top creating a wall of sound that entangles the listener. The Sleepwalkers has some nice drumming from Guy Evans, who makes good use of the cow bell on this track. The organ arpeggios are also quite nice and fit well with the underlying saxophone motif. There's a nice middle section that offers a different atmosphere with a nice sax line until it breaks into more discombobulated and dissonant riffing. Again, there are some some sections that could have been abridged or edited, but in the end I feel it's a good ending to the album.

So in the end, Godbluff is a good album marred by two things, subpar audio quality at points (but maybe that's just my copy of the album), and some songs that could have been a little more concise rather than having meandering riffs that do nothing except create longer tracks. It's a good album, but I wouldn't consider it Van der Graaf's best and there are certainly better albums than this from the group (Pawn Hearts and their next album Still Life). If you liked previous efforts from this group, you'll probably like this one as well so fans of previous VdGG albums will like this. And if you're not a fan of the group, I don't think this album will convert you. 4/5.

Report this review (#85605)
Posted Thursday, August 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Godbluff: the second beguin of VDGG, more existencialist and terrenal. 4 musicians and 1 verb. All running damned well!. Perfect and full of fresh air. Not only progressive, jazzy or epic...simply well done without dubts and is a counterpoint of pawn hearts, The second phase of the generator is stronger and more direct than de first one. Complexity now is developped in an human nudity and the chaos is changed by an structured feeling that increases the impact on you. All compositions must be joined with the next record: Still Life. I think that would be a real number one of the top of the pops in these archives! REALLY!

Ah! Hammill´s voice is not awful my the only one that could accomplish the idea and the espirit of VDGG (Mr. Fripp has compared Hammill´s voice to Hendrix´s guitar... and Mr. Fripp is a very clever you think so...or not?

I repeat myself: if Godbluff would exist as double record with Still Life: sorry but for me would be the number one of the lists!!!

Peace,love and faith( the words?)

Report this review (#89299)
Posted Friday, September 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought this LP on my 17th Birthday as it was released. My very first impression was that it was not as interesting as Pawn Hearts. Then I listened again and again. This record is awesome stunning superb a masterpiece. Only Four cuts but not a dud in sight. In fact this was recorded pretty much as it sounds with very few overdubs and additions. This helps to give this record a live and vital feel really in your face. The Undercover Man starts side one gently and thoughtfully, Scorched Earth is the first dark rocker and once it gets started it leaves one breathless. Arrow has a great lyric and changes a plenty and is followed by the excellent " The Sleepwalkers" this tune is divided into two parts and really really rocks, Dave Jaxon has a monster solo during this number. This certainly represented a shift in direction and much of the experimentation is gone in favour of excellent dark rock. This is also the best VDGG recording of the second trilogy and remains a real favorite of mine.
Report this review (#92034)
Posted Tuesday, September 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars -Historical Information

After Van der graaf generator's fourth studio release "Pawn hearts" the band toured extensively in Italy from 1970 to 1972 (they did three Italian tours in six months). Pawn hearts, which among fans is considered to be the best Vdgg release, was really popular in Italy and held number 1 for 12 weeks in 1972. However, many factors such as the bad financial condition of the members, the lack of support from the record company as well as rioting audiences by different extremist organisations, from Red Brigade to neo- fascists lead Hammill to leave the band and continue his solo career. He recorded three albums on Charisma records, "The silent corner and the empty stage" (1974), "In camera" (1974) and "Nadir's big chance" (1975).

The other Vdgg members (Guy Evans, David Jackson and Hugh Banton) apart from appearances as session musicians in Hammill's solo releases, started a project named "The long hello". They released an album in1974 featuring among other musicians the ex-Vdgg member, bassist Nic Potter.

In 1975 Van Der Graaf Generator reform again with their classic line-up (Peter Hammill, David Jackson, Guy Evans and Hugh Banton) after numerous requests by enthusiasts and promoters. Vdgg left in May of 1975 in May for a tour in France. When they came back to Britain they recorded Godbluff. Songs from this album were played live before being recorded. Hammill once said "After Pawn Hearts the attitude was, There's nowhere else to go that's of greater academic interest, so let's just play. An act against the massed ranks of keyboards and cloaks and pomp around at the time."

-About the cd

This album was my introduction to Vdgg and I guess it couldn't have been better. After having read so many good things about them I decided to buy this cd and I have to say I'm really happy I did.

The title is really a word the band invented in response to the perennial question: "What type of music do you play?" Godbluff consists of four songs and the total time is less than 40 minutes. On the other hand all four songs are amazing. The songs are flooded with dark, powerful and memorable melodies. All four members do an amazing job. Each member has such a unique sound and at the same time such a good chemistry with each other.

Godbluff is in my opinion the best cd to get started with. It's a cd that either you love at first listen or you hate (could be for many reasons the most common of which is not being able to stand Hammill's voice). Thankfully the music attracted me from the first time and every time I listen this album I happen to enjoy it even more. One of my favourite Vdgg albums. Pure perfection!

Report this review (#94004)
Posted Tuesday, October 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I only discovered VDGG about 10 years ago after digging a bit into Peter Hammill's musical origins. Hammill is the lyricist and vocalist for the band and has a very expressive and theatrical style, not unlike Peter Gabriel, but more exaggerated. I picked up a copy of Pawn Hearts (1971) to check them out. I liked some of it immediately, but struggled with other parts. Shortly thereafter I learned from my archeology that Godbluff (1975) is considered by many critics to be VDGG's greatest album. I bought a scratchy old copy on vinyl , replacing it recently with a CD. There are 4 solid songs on the recording, each about 8 to 10 minutes long. These are well crafted , tight compositions, somewhat different than what I was used to from Pawn Hearts. The sound is definitely of its time, fitting right in with the King Crimson and Genesis sounds of the day, but also exhibits some jazz influence, perhaps coming from bands like Traffic or Soft Machine, courtesy of the sax and flute player David Jackson. If you're looking for a strong guitar sound you have come to the wrong place. While Hamill plays sparingly on the guitar, the real strengths of the work are his turn of phrase and theatrical voice, as well as Jackson's winds. The drumming and keyboards are often excellent as well. The stories in the lyrics hold one's attention, but are typical of the Progressive music in the 70s in that they are dense and sometimes excessive. The album opens with Undercover Man, a moody piece about a relationship (perhaps forbidden) in which Hammill's pleading voices intertwine with Jackson's sax creating a haunting and melancholic sound. The next two tracks both conjour images of Tolkeinesque battles. Scorched Earth is a tale of a warrior on the run, and Arrow, which as far as I can tell is about the failure of a wartime negotiation. Both are a dark and harsh, particularly Arrow, which if you don't like Hammill's screaming can be a long song. The final piece, Sleepwalkers, is the best on the album in my opinion. It has a similar dark mood as the previous two, but is mellower and maintains a kind of nimble energy from start to finish. It's lyrics, which deal with dreams and other-world experiences, are worth a few listens. Which leads me to a minor complaint, and that my copy of this album/CD came with no liner notes or lyrics. Nevertheless, this is an excellent example of the 70s Progressive genre and should be on anyone's list who is interested in the Progressive rock style.
Report this review (#95798)
Posted Thursday, October 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars So close, yet so far.

This is one of my favorite Van der Graaf Generator albums: in parts. Unfortunately, there's a section I just can't stand, and don't see how or why it was written, and I've also found Undercover Man a tad bland at times, a kind of "boring" prog if you will that competes with Genesis for utter dullness.

The highlights here are Arrow and Scorched Earth, two brilliant and dark tracks which unfold beautifully and are some of the best pieces the band has ever recorded regardless of era. We have wonderful instrumental work and some of Hammill's best vocal work, which I have always loved with the style of music VDGG play. Arrow is especially good, as it is perhaps the darkest tune here and plays well into the strengths of the band.

The ending of Sleepwalkers competes with Opeth's A Fair Judgment for the worst outro ever to an otherwise amazing song. To top it off, it's at the end of the record, making the mistake even more befuddling. It is of no surprise that a band like VDGG could make artistic mistakes given the peculiar qualities of their music, it's a style that can either produce something astounding or something very off-putting. Both styles are found in Godbluff. This is an amazing record, no doubt in my mind, but there's just those certain parts that I'd rather just skip over.

Report this review (#99389)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars There can't be doubt about it: Godbluff is the high point of VDGG's many-folded career.

The album consists of four songs that are approximately of the same length, and this gives the record a good cohesion: it is easy to put the separate works into place, and you can easily tell at what point of a journey you are in at any specific time.

The Undercover Man and Scorched Earth prepare the listener very well for the follow-up on the B-side: Arrow must be the absolute pinnacle of VDGG music/Peter Hammill poetry. The Sleepwalkers is a brilliant conclusion, where the somewhat gloomy atmosphere comes down to the earth by David Jackson's lovely easy-listen-jazz riffs.

Van Der Graaf Generator are dead serious, and they write mean and dark songs. Just imagine yourself a band, that with prog fans goes down like West Ham United, the art world nods approvingly towards, and that the punk rock generation thought very highly of. All that is embodied in Godbluff. If you haven't listened to it yet, get yourself a copy ASAP. This IS prog on the crest of the wave.

Report this review (#104170)
Posted Friday, December 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my first VDGG contemporary album. I purchased it at the time of release (1975). Before this one, I got already acquainted with their work (I had their major three albums : "The Least", "H To He" and "Pawn Hearts"). But I bought them all in 1974 (after their release) at the age of fifteen.

You can consider that I am a die-hard VDGG fan both generations, but I prefer the band after their first break (which is actually their second one if you consider that they broke already before the release of "The Aerosol..."). They will produce more accessible music, and two masterpieces of prog music, IMO.

"The Undercover Man" is one of my all time VDGG fave (all periods). Light flute in the intro, "peaceful" vocals to start. Very melodious. The rest of the band then joins : first Hugh with subtle organ in the background, then Guy with very light percussions. Vocals then turns out to be incredibly sentimental while the band plays crescnedo and reaches full power. What a great track ! A pure beauty. The middle instrumental section is very strong but never enters into this weird trip so typical of VDGG first generation. Its finale is so emotional and beautiful. I remember that I was really charmed by this song when I got the album. An absolute highlight.

With "Scorched Earth" we enter their more classical repertoire, less melodious, darker, intricated. It is a very well bulit song, with a very tortured Peter and some outrageous sax from Jackson. He is so skilled at his instrument that he (but also Peter) turned me into a fan of their music although I usually do not like sax at all. The finale is just great. Another highlight.

"Arrow" is a very complex song, wild at times and difficult to enter into. Great drumming from Evans and very strong sax from Dave (this guy is really great). This is the most reminiscent track of their first era. This makes of "Godbluff" the missing link between "Pawn Hearts" and "Still Life".

My second best here is "The Sleepwalkers" I really like it a lot. The intro is just nice and gentle, but when the vocals start, it turns out to be another scary one. We'll have a cha cha cha break for some relief before an incredible strong sax part and marvelous, melodious Peter. The instrumental break shows the whole band in its full power : Banton, Evans and Jakson accomplishing a great moment of VDGG music. Really powerful and almost sublime (really). These 10'31" summarizes very well the second era of this wonderful band. Melodious at times, just complex enough during others (it would not be VDG otherwise) ! This track is so intense with the whole band playing at his best than I just felt in love with it.

On the remastered CD, there are two bonus songs from Peter solo's repertoire (both from "The Silent Corner & the Empty Stage"). The sound quality is rather poor, but hey man, these are documents (they were recorded during a concert at Rimini (Italy) on August 9th, 1975) ! They are welcome since the original album was quite short (at least to VDGG standards).

I would of course suggest you to buy the Godbluff DVD produced by the Belgian TV and recorded in Charleroi (not the fanciest place in Belgium for a prog concert). I will tell you more about it in my review for this work though.

Five stars for this great come back and a must owned in your prog collection.

Report this review (#107672)
Posted Tuesday, January 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars After giving Pawn Hearts, World Record & the Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other 4-5 listens, I still can't find a reason to love this group. On Godbluff, they do become more interesting musically, mainly because the organist/keyboardist is playing something more than static chords (i.e. holding down X, then to Y, as a basic melody). Hammill's lyrics & singing are as good as ever. I still don't "get" the reviews where Ol' Peter's voice is called an acquired taste. And finally when I get to "the Sleepwalkers" these cats start playing. I don't want to use the term "rocking", because this is not your 3 chord boogie/blooze. But at least there's some action on the instrumental front that propulses the music. There is still a compositional sameness that I found prevalent on the above albums, but again the ensemble seems to be playing enough to stand out as players. Undercover Man is as pastoral as any VDGG I've heard. Scorched Earth recalls the earlier album, but again, with more movement to it, thoug I don't find the need for it to stretch out to 9+ minutes (check the last minute, the end comes across as Genesis-like). Arrow, except for the vocal parts, seems more a jazzy jam. Which is fine, but it doesn't stand out. And to end, well, as I said, this is where the real playing starts. This is VDGG music that I can get into. But one song out of four, it hardly makes for a classic to me. But be forewarned, for those whom VDGG clicks with, they really are different, (but not dissonant) from what is considered on PA as the pantheon of prog giants, and while I can't really get into them, I can see why they are highly regarded. Just don't ask me to play them once more.
Report this review (#115095)
Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a three years hiatus (VDGG disbanded in 1972), Van Der Graaf Generator finally reformed and released some of the most important contribution to the world of progressive rock. And in fact, Godbluff is an almost perfect prog record, not very long running time, but with a strong selection of tracks, especially for the side b which is really astonishing! Side a with "The Undercover Man" and "Scorched Earth" are very good, indeed, but a little bit weaker than those two miliar stones as "Arrow" (the most favourite of mine) and "Sleepwalkers" with its memorable 17/8 time...and its peculiar and wonderfully unespected cha-cha-cha part.

Hammil's voice is now rougher than he used to sing in Pawn Hearts. Just listen to "Arrow". Music is also harder but moments of high lyricism still remain of a fundamental importance for the band's musical conception.

Very few words really. Only my great appreciation for this unique band.

4.50 stars is my rating.

Report this review (#125599)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink

As someone who prides himself in speaking his mind, regardless of the norms, and likes to denounce hypocrisy with a little wit here and there, I obviously feel a certain proximity with people of similar characters. That is why I enjoy watching and reading British motor journalist/funny guy Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson is, as some know, an overblown, smug character, full of himself, capable of extremely unorthodox behaviour for a man his age. What saves him, making him a much better person than he looks, is the fact that he appears to be extremely self-aware of his character, and the first to ridicule his act, before he does so to others.

His rants about the world in general, and of the motor industry in particular, crack me up every time. I enjoy good-humoured people, and boy, you can't get much more good-humoured than Clarkson - on the day the Oxford Brookes University awarded him an honorary engineering doctorate, some environmentalist prick struck a cream pie onto his face. Clarkson's reaction? "Good shot!" Now, that is almost as funny as the French aristocrat who, after tripping on his way to the guillotine, turned to his executioner and commented "They say tripping is a sign of bad luck".

Obviously, I find Jeremy most at home in the show Top Gear, with colleagues James "Captain Slow" May and Richard "Hamster" Hammond (a proggy name!). Trailer destruction, rubber burning, environmentalist bashing. What else could a man want in a TV show? Playing conkers with trailers? Brilliant! Getting into fights over choice of car? Hilarious! And what breathtaking experiences must the races around Europe be! Sure they contribute to wreck the environment, but then again, who doesn't? (Let he - or she - who has not passed wind cast the first stone.)

Still, there was one series of Top Gear I eagerly followed, in anticipation of The Stig's Power Laps. Not so much for the power laps or the machines being tested, but for the soundtrack, nothing more nothing less than full blown progressive rock. We had Camel, Yes, Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, you name it. Clarkson is, as some know, a bit of a proghead. No doubt, most of these tracks were introduced into the segment by his finger, but it was also on one of the Power Laps that Jeremy lost a few points in my consideration, when he confessed he had little or no love. for Van Der Graaf Generator.

Such revelation strikes me, in a way, as odd. For VDGG too are overblown, unorthodox, in fact most of the things that made Prog so despicable a genre to many. Yet they too are fully aware of their own faults and can make the pomposity ridicule - despite all the drama and apparent seriousness, Van Der Graaf Generator, to me, is essentially FUN band to listen to - and the purported "dark" and "mystical" Godbluff is probably their most histrionic work.

Composed of four tracks all between 7 to 11 minutes long, Godbluff is a victory of eccentricity. Starting with a mellow tone, both in the piano and flute driven music, but also in voice, The Undercover Man it bursts halfway into the keyboard and sax passages that so characterize VDGG, while Peter does his part by adding some more mojo to his own special voice. Is segues quite discretely into Scorched Earth, a songs that adds a dark funkier edge to the album, with the omnipresent Jackson saxophone, the Banton organ and the quintessential vocal changes, just to finish in blissful cacophony, where we can even hear an electric guitar! (Peter's new toy at the time, if I recall). Arrow might just be the more "serious" (if we can call that to any song in this album), a feeling much granted by the theatricality of Peter's amazing pipes. Musically it has ups-and-downs. The ending is especially disappointing, but then again, who cares about that once you begin hearing the fantastic pseudo-baroque opening of Sleepwalkers? This track, the longest and best on the album, is the epitome of fun. It is more than that. It is the epitome of Van Der Graaf Generator theirselves. Baroque followed by Cha Cha Cha followed by space followed by funk followed by metal? That's all of Prog in one song. Genius. Peter sings, shouts, cries, mumbles, hits just every possible register of his voice in this one. What a rush! Sleepwalkers alone is worth the purchase, but then again the remaining material is also extremely strong. If you're new to VDGG, this is the album to get. Bloody masterpiece, this is.

Report this review (#130178)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me, Van der Graaf Generator is one of those bands which define what progressive music is all about, along with King Crimson. Their sound is totally unique in a way that not many of the classic bands can boast.

First of all, there's not much guitar in their music. Second, Dave Jackson's flute and saxes add an element of fluidity which work very well in contrast to the sometimes blocky sound of Hugh Banton's almost omnipresent organ. On top of it all, we have Peter Hammill, one of the most unique vocalists in all of prog, and certainly one of the best as well. Singers like Fish from Marillion may sound very much like Peter Gabriel in his tone, but my guess is that it is Hammill's style they all try to emulate.

But most importantly, Van der Graaf Generator is emotional music personified.

When it comes to Godbluff, the two albums i find it at all reasonable to compare with are "Pawn Hearts", which came before, and "Still Life" which is very closely linked to it in both style and time of recording.

If you liked "Pawn Hearts", you should know that a lot of the experimentation and slightly noisy avant-garde tendencies are gone with the wind. Godbluff is more melodic and word-driven than it's predecessor. More easy on the ears, if you will. Not to say it's entirely accessible, there is still no doubt that it is a progressive rock band that we are hearing.

If you have already heard Still Life, you can pretty much expect the same thing with a few minor differences. For example, it is my perception that Still Life is slightly more driven by Hugh Banton and his keyboards while Godbluff is where Jaxon gets the most time in the limelight, his solos on Arrow are especially great.

As a general rule, i tend to think that the music on Godbluff is slightly superior, while Still Life has much more to offer lyrically. Out of the four songs, "Sleepwalkers" and "Undercover man" are the only ones i can truly say i can entirely understand and that say anything at all.

My least favourite track is "Scorched Earth", and that has a lot to do with the fact that the lyrics mean absolutely nothing to me. I don't know if they are supposed to be very deep, perhaps an allegory of some sorts, but in any case, i have pretty much given up on it and just take it at face value. Best on the album is "Arrow". It might not be the most well-composed song ever, but it takes the price by sheer power. It starts jazzy and then switches style completely to something much darker. The lyrics, about war and "fickle promises of treaty", aren't as good as the ones on Still Life or even Pawn Hearts, but they suffice for what is the main virtue of the song, the vocals. Peter Hammill is a powerful vocalist, and "Arrow" is the song on which he really gives it his all. The climax is simply one of the most draining pieces of music i have ever heard, and the way he delivers the line "How long the night is, why is this passage so narrow?" always makes me wonder if he's going to explode through the sheer power of his own voice. Ranks just under Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Spring" as the most emotional vocal delivery i in my world.

The closer, "Sleepwalkers" bears some resemplance to "Childlike faith in childhood's end" in that it has the more existential lyrics which characterised "Still Life", and it also contains a strange instrumental passage which may seem out of place on the first few listens. Before, i used to want a more climactic ending to the song, rather than it just trailing off with some sounds, but after thinking about it have come to think that it might be just as well. Since the track before it "Arrow" has such a very powerful ending, maybe it is apropriate to give us this chance to wind down, otherwise they might need to put a "not for the faint hearted"-sticker on the sleeve.

No, i am not entirely sure about the rating. I am very seldom completely sure that it is a masterpiece i am listening to, because i know that tastes do change. Often and much. However, despite me liking Still Life quite a bit more, there is no way i would not recomend Godbluff to every person interested in prog music. Only gripe i have is the rather boring sleeve. I mean, the question is, how much more black can it get? And the aswer is none. None more black. No, really, a black album sleeve may seem like a cool thing sometimes, and even if you can indeed see your face in it, it takes away a certain identity from an album which may sometimes be needed for that certain extra little "Thing". Just imagine Harmonium's second album without that classiic colorful painting, it just wouldn't be the same.

Spinal Tap references aside, get this album. Don't hesitate, just make sure you get Still Life before.

Report this review (#134959)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars The band broke up in 1971 after the "Pawn Hearts" tour because of simply too much pressure from their record company who also happened to be their managment (bad situation). Oh they still got along and they all played with Hammill on his 3 solo records he would release afterwards.That was really what got them back together, they knew it would work with different managment because they were putting out great music with Peter.

"The Undercover Man" opens so quietly with flute and soft vocals. Organ and drums come in as the sound builds until it's full. The vocals, organ, flute and drums create such a beautiful sound together. Sax arrives 5 minutes in. "Scorched Earth" quickly builds as machine-like drumming jumps in and out of the soundscape. Hammill spits out the lyrics while the organ play is incredibly good. Check out the melody after 4 minutes and again 7 minutes in, simply amazing !

"Arrow" opens with drums followed by some sax melodies. It calms right down after 3 minutes.Theatrical vocals from Hammill. Actually Peter's vocals are quite rough but the soundscape is so smooth.This song can be so chaotic and yet so tranquil. "The Sleepwalkers" is my favourite track on this record. It's like the organ melodies are dancing at the beginning of this song. Check out the funny instrumental section after 3 minutes. The sax and organ absolutely shine. Theatrical vocals are back 7 minutes in.

4.5 stars and one of VDGG's best.

Report this review (#138832)
Posted Monday, September 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is by far my favorite of all the VdGG catalogue, followed closely by the more famous Pawn Hearts. It would be a dead heat if not for the fact that Godbluff brings with it several mitigating factors: 1) A more modern sound, 2) Angrier lyrical content and delivery, and 3) David Jackson's sax work isn't lost in a cacophony of organ melodies. This coming from a keyboard player. I can't say that each and every track is held dear to my heart. While I love the music in "Arrow", I just can't get past Hammil's vocals. The other three tracks are flawless. The jam toward the end of "Sleepwalkers" leading into the final verse continues to thrill me regardless of how many times I've heard it. It gets the blood pumping. Contrast that with the shy, almost hesitant start to "Undercover Man". A lovely tune full of beautiful melodies and a broad range of vocal textures. My personal favorite of the four is "Scorched Earth". Building through a quiet clavinet and drum opening... a feeling of marching off to battle with its marshall trappings... and exploding into a full-blown conflict of sound. Ahhhh... maybe its just me... but I dig that sort of thing. This album and Pawn Hears are an essential part of any true prog enthusiast's collection.
Report this review (#145426)
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was my first VDGG album and there is not one bad track on this album. Godbluff is more straight foreword than their last amazing album Pawn Hearts, and the music is more tight. Peter Hammill and crew are great musicians, their music so unique from all the others. The album kicks off great with Undercover Man. Amazing vocals and David Jacksons Sax takes over like usual, a great opener. Scorched Earth is my favorite track on Godbluff, a very powerful song and very dark lyrics. Arrow is another powerful track, a very intense vocal performance by Hammill and awesome drumming by Guy Evans. The last track The sleepwalkers ends the album just right, a epic closer. Godbluff shows VDGG at their best and each musician shines on this album. If your just getting into prog get this album, a true masterpiece by one of the pioneers of Art Rock 5 stars for sure
Report this review (#150243)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Van Der Graaf really do it here. Lyrically brilliant, musically complex, wonderfully executed. 4 tracks of deep dark music. Van Der Graaf may have matching works in their catalog but this one seems to be the most definitive of what they were doing when things were going for them the most. My personal favorite is "The Sleepwalkers" for its brilliant lyrical take on somnambulists, however the whole thing is great. A wonderful find for the genre and for a VDGG fan - a must.
Report this review (#153193)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Generator is certainly an acquired taste, but perhaps the acquisition period is shorted for this album than others. The main reason is that the boys seem to have a need to rock on Godbluff, and every song (save perhaps Sleepwalkers) has a definite direction. The result is one of those all-too-infrequent moments when you know a band is taking you exactly where they want to go, and you submit completely, knowing that you'll be rewarded (even if the entire journey is not sunny and pleasant).

The Undercover Man, Scorched Earth. Two separate songs, but one incredible epic when combined. It all starts ever-so-lightly, with Hammill whispering over echoed flute. Then things build until we reach the stately yet restrained meat of the song. Here Hamill's talent in penning a memorable phrase and delivering it with his unique cadence becomes delightfully obvious. His vocabulary is also quite impressive--How many other composers use words such as littany and fervent (just to name a few) that perfectly fit the context (and don't sound as if the lyricist simply opened up a thesaurus instead)? After the dignified opener, things really pick up steam with Scorched Earth. It begins with a menacing feel and ends with an absolutely rocking uptempo crescendo. The texture to the music, with Bantam's distorted bass pedals, Jackson's super-heavy sax, and Evan's feverishly fast drums is unique to this album (at least for me) and worth the price of admission alone.

Arrow, Sleepwalkers. The second side drops in quality a bit, but not significantly. Arrow starts with some strange fusion improv, but when it settles down into the desolate and yearning theme, things officially gets going. Hammill's voice takes on an even assault-rifle quality, and he really pushes things past his range (some may love it, some may cringe with horror). Regardless, Arrow features a great melody as well as more great textured sound, and it's difficult not to enjoy. Sleepwalkers is definitely the oddball of the album, with some strange (and less-than-effective) plays off of familiar melodies, but the Generator put enough energy into the performance to make it all work in their own unique (and slightly twisted) way. The highlight for me is definitely the rocking middle section: they set up a killer groove, and when they segue into a new melody, Jackson comes in with an absolutely perfect sax line. Let there be no doubt--these guys can rock. I only wish they did more of this stuff.

A unique and intense listening experience from beginning to conclusion, Godbluff is BY FAR my favorite Generator album. Some of the major flaws of their other albums, such as not being cohesive or wasting lots of time in mostly directionless, amusical rambling, is largely not to be found on Godbluff. A haunting, at times disconcerting, masterpiece of progressive rock.

Report this review (#156474)
Posted Monday, December 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A classic masterpiece for VDGG, this Godbluff represent the power of a great reunion. In this sense Godbluff is a sort of miracle. In general Godbluff is melodic and too much Prog for a correct value: in fact to say that Godbluff is a masterpiece is too much obvious. But today Godbluff remain a great masterpiece? For me Yes.

The bbest song is... Or better are... All 4 tracks because I never listened to an album so powerful, melodic and compact. Certainty every song possesses one own spirit but in general what I have said is worth for every song. What is merit of a new spirit? Or a merit of Peter Hammill's songs? Certainty I don't know worst song in this album that with its melodic but powerful song is great.

So if Godbluff isn't in your discography certainty you not to define you of an all great Progster.

Report this review (#156839)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Goldbluff ,, one of few progressive rock Epics )))))) Van Der Graaf Generator , what a symbolic name to use for a band in the 70's . I had all VDGG since 1974 , but i wasn't into this kind of music , extremely complexed , At first sight , i thought that this band plays German folk rock or even Hard rock . I was really into German bands like Amon duul , can , Kraftwerk and so many others , but , unfortunately their composition was nearly satisfying to my taste at that time much more than VDGG . So , what can i say about Peter Hammil's & team now , after discovering 3 of the best releases ever in the world of progressive music ( Golbluff , Pawn Hearts & H to HE ) . iF , by any means , Yes , King Crimson , Genesis , E.L.P , started a new era of progressive in the early 70's , i believe that VDGG . gave it the right blend . IMO , if i want to choose for Goldbluff another tittle , i will choose the Dark side of Progressive rock . What was really remarkable in this excellent piece of art was the perfect matching between lyrics & vocals , harmonies & performances , and after all the AMBIENT COMPLEXITY , Peter Hamill's vocal touches your feeling by getting to your brain first , by composing maybe the best lyrics for this purpose , Hugh Benton's tracks everywhere in this work , Wind instruments crying , shouting , celebrating , knocking , whispering . What a wonderful piece of art that i'm enjoying after 34years from purchase .............OOOOOUUUUUUUFFFFFFF ...... bRAVO VDGG // Tracks Toni
Report this review (#168264)
Posted Monday, April 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars My favorite Van der Graaf Generator release by a long shot. Let's take a look, shall we? I don't know much of the history of the band or any of that whatnot, but I know what the music sounds like to me.

Undercover Man is a deceptively quiet sounding song. I instantly started thinking to myself that this was the album's ballad or something, when it really isn't. It picks up substantially throughout, and motors along quite nicely. Hammill's voice does some inhumanly powerful things during the course of this nice track, the shortest on the album. And what's more, it's a perfect set up for the next song.

Scorched Earth sits at the top of my list, for certain in my top ten, of favorite songs at the moment. There is so much depth to this track that I get chills every time I hear it. The lyrics really sound spectacular to me, very poetic. Hammill's voice, especially when almost overlaid with his own, adds such an aggressive factor to this piece. What's better, the drumming near the end always gets my blood pounding. And adrenaline surges on account of a piece with this thick of ambiance and mood is a very, very rare thing. Definitely a song worth listening to half a dozen times.

Arrow starts out sounding like some sort of improvised jam piece, fading in from the silence gaping after Scorched Earth. The vocals are way, way more aggressive than any other place I've listened to with Hammill behind them. This track seems to carry a large amount of anger and frustration, but it really just flows out with the music. Great bass work on this one, too.

The Sleepwalkers closes the album, and this was the one I had listened to before I actually bought the CD. Like Scorched Earth, an absolutely stunning ambiance. The vocals continue their trend of being ridiculously amazing. A great way to close an album, though perhaps it seems a bit weaker to me than the other songs here, but that might be because I'd heard it many times before I listened to it in context.

This is one the most eye-opening, original, and unique albums I have ever bought or listened to. Just stunning, at risk of sounding redundant.

Report this review (#168639)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Bluffing God! This album is rather intense; although it doesn't spiral you into a maelstrom of dissonance like Pawn Hearts, or rev you up in an emotional frenzy like Still Life, Godbluff is certainly the middle point between these two. Godbluff has a more forward (and perhaps symphonic) approach to its song structure than anything the first generation did. Perhaps this was maturity? Perhaps it was an attempt to gain a wider audience? I don't know, but the disc is highly enjoyable, and I would say, the best place for a curious VDGG seeker to begin.
Report this review (#170372)
Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
4 stars Review 34, Godbluff, Van Der Graaf Generator, 1975


A few things to note about Godbluff:

1. It's a comeback album, and it's as good, if not possibly better than most of the material released before the band's break-up. A renewed sense of purpose, particularly in Banton's bass pedals and Hammill's rather unique, if rhythm-based, guitar ensures that the new VDGG are just as vital, experimental and interesting as the old, and they certainly haven't become stagnant by '75... even up to '77/78 they were releasing, with a couple of line-up changes, solid material. 2. It rocks as hard as any guitar band I know. Absolute fact. 3. For a VDGG album, it's pretty accessible. aheh. 4. It was my introduction to my favourite band ever. I can't be expected to be impartial, but I still think, if you want an introduction to one of the most idiosyncratic, dark and forceful progressive rock bands, this is a bloody fantastic buy.

The Undercover Man begins with something you didn't hear on Pawn Hearts... restraint. The energy-sapping, nervous bursts of flute lead, supplemented by minimalistic drums and organ, onto Hammill's low-key, careful and precisely arranged vocal, echoing out a set of haunting, insistent lyrics, with a very unusual arrangement/rhyme structure. With the vocal, Hammill, as ever, manages to pull off some very interesting emphasis, placing contrast and urgency and angst wherever it suits. At the line 'and hope that it all works out right/tonight' the instrumentation fills out with an Evans fill and a careful flourish from Banton, and from that extraordinary opening, the piece develops rapidly, but never carelessly, with some very pretty flutework from Jaxon, glittering organ parts and lush bass and piano choices. Hammill's rather excellent clean voice gets a full opportunity to shine in this part of the song. A menacing clavinet (I think) riff leads into a full bit of careful instrumental jamming, with some incredibly guitaresque licks from Jaxon and the ever-subtle Banton's talents brimming in the background. Carnivalian organ and sax, together with the world's weirdest harmony vocals, bring the song onto its intentionally dramatic climax, complete with a grandiose and bizarrely moving rhythm section. It's almost a parody in some ways, but even the parody is moving. A lush sax solo from Jaxon and more precise organ-work rounds the piece off to its incredible conclusion. Magnificent.

Scorched Earth segues straight on from this with a formidable rock edge, blaring sax-and-clavinet (or possibly guitar... with Hammill, you can't always tell), rolling, destroying, martial drumming from Evans, who manages to remain stunningly non-static in this piece. He somehow manages to avoid often repeating much of his drumming part or keeping any really conventional style of a beat, but rather taking quirky drum lines and unfulfilled beats all over the place, particularly in the more 'rock' sections. As always, the sax and organ is phenomenally tasteful and extremely powerful, with Jaxon taking the occasional solo and Banton's not-quite-classical stylings blaring away in the background. Hammill, as ever, is fantastic. He does menace, he does not-sounding-like-anyone-else, he does a sort of vicious, distorted, growling cleanness (contradiction, but there you have it), he does whimsical sound effects, and all without ever cutting off interest. Banton pulls off the most thick and vicious riff he's come up with since White Hammer, and the band goes onto some very bizarre crescendoes. The lyrics are again, unusual, but effective in their own violent way. An absolute standout performance from Hammill and Evans in particular. The least gripping piece on the album, but still excellent. The really quite interesting calmed-down-then-brought-back-to-the-boil conclusion, complete with a bit of rather nifty, though not showy, guitar.

Arrow was the song that grabbed me first time round. A squeaky, swirling jam opens it, with a wandering Banton bass part, some very sharp tinny drumming from Evans and a whirling guitar, drops into a phenomenal rolling, grinding whorl of textures, which then drops off to a desolate strummed guitar and splintering percussion. Menacing, howling sax and the repeated stress of bass-and-drum crescendoes build the atmospheric, Victorian tension up to the entrance of Hammill's ferocious vocal. Extensive vocal-sax-keyboard-melodies slowly create a ferocious, biting, teeth-grinding force as Hammill's vocals and lyrics grow increasingly dark and terrifying up 'til the feral release of his final, desperate and possessive scream. Simply incredible from an atmospheric point of view, and from a musical one, the Jaxon sax soloing has to be heard. Particularly striking lyrics here.

Sleepwalkers is plausibly the most representative track on the album, and maybe the most accessible, although the atmosphere of Arrow outdoes the considerable musicality of the grand finale (Sleepwalkers) for me. Available as a sample here, I think, at the time of writing (listen to it a few times, I suggest... not many people get VDGG right away... I certainly didn't). Possibly the organ performance of rock in general, with some amazingly classical touches, an atmospheric swirling that only Banton in the British prog scene really achieves and a fluid but very, very sharply defined tone which Emerson and Wakeman should envy. His soloing over a sax riff is clear, defined and heavily rocking. Dramatic, and again excellent, vocals from Hammill fill out the music, with a matching set of wordy and yet extremely sharp lyrics. Evans takes on more idiosyncratic drumming, at times simply not adding a continued beat, at others, adding a throbbing pulse to the piece or a classical pomp to Hammill's feverish declarations ('make reason of the sensory whorl/if I only had time'). Great performances by all involved here, and a real masterpiece, including a bit of hilarious 'cha-cha-cha' rhythm which leads into a very dark version of the same. Jaxon contributes some rather unique sax, including a triumphant, liberating blare that could well be the band's most memorable moment. The band also manages to fit a 'jam' into the middle of the song effortlessly, not separating it at all from the content... basically, this is THE organ song, in my opinion, and a fantastic closer.


Original rubbish review replaced by the above slightly better one. One of my most listened to albums. Not one you should expect to appreciate fully on the first listen. I didn't. No idea where it falls in running order of the VDGG classics... below H To He, Who Am The Only One and above The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome. A nod to the bonus tracks: both band performances of tracks from Hammill's solo album 'The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage' (worth picking up, by the way), and both exceptional songs. The sound quality is very raw, but the performances are full of verve and effect... an interesting inclusion. Depending on how you balance verve and sound quality, you will or won't like them. Anyway, great introduction to the band, great album, and a pretty much certain five stars from me.

Rating: Five Stars, 14/15 Favourite Track: I'd select Arrow or Sleepwalkers if pressed, but I love them all.

Report this review (#171458)
Posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The fifth album from Van der Graaf Generator called Godbluff swept my feet away. I have been listening to and reviewing the first four album from Van der Graaf Generator during the last half year and except for Pawn Hearts I wasn´t that impressed. I gave the first three albums 3 stars and Pawn Hearts 4 stars, but after listening to Godbluff I´m sure there must be something I have missed during my listening sessions of those first four albums because Godbluff is a sure masterpiece in my book. It´s very seldom that I after the first time of listening to an album knows that I´m gonna give that album 5 stars but it happened with Godbluff. I´ve been listening with disbelief since that first listening session as this album just gets better and better. As a consequence of this awakening I will go back and listen to those first four albums again and make new reviews if neccessary.

The first four albums were all released in the early seventies and after the tour for Pawn Hearts the band was fed up with each other and the record industry. As Peter Hammill says in the booklet to Godbluff: There were made lots of money but the band didn´t see any of them. Does that sound familiar ? Many bands in the sixties and seventies were cheated and never really made money of their hard work which is such a shame, but I guess you have to be an asshole to be a financial manager. The relationship between the members of the band were really bad on the tour for Pawn Hearts and the band members ended up driving in different cars between shows, which says it all. After the tour Peter Hammill told the other members of the band that he would quit and pursue a fulltime solo career. Peter Hammill made a lot of solo albums in the following years but still kept in contact with the other members of Van der Graaf Generator and they also on occasion joined Peter Hammill on stage. So the inevitable happened in 1975: Van der Graaf Generator was reunited and they started writing new material and touring to see how the audience would react to the new songs. After they had played the songs live for a while they went into the studio and recorded what was to become Godbluff ( and actually also some of the songs on Still Life).

The direction of the music has changed a bit since the first era of Van der Graaf Generator´s career. They have always been a very heavy and dark band but with Godbluff you can include anger and despair. This is so far the darkest album I have heard from the seventies. It makes Red by King Crimson sound light in comparison. To a metal head like myself I can hear lots of the ideas from Godbluff in heavy metal and especially Peter Hammill´s theatrical paatos must have inspired a young Rob Halford ( Judas Priest). Godbluff is not heavy metal by any means though, so don´t let the above mentioned comparisons scare you away. This is seventies prog rock, but with a dark and angry twist.

The album consists of four songs which lasts from 7 - 10 minutes. The Undercover Man starts the album and it´s probably the song from Godbluff that reminds me the most of the first era Van der Graaf Generator. It´s a really beautiful song which starts subtle and ends in a climax. Scorched Earth is where the aggressive playing and singing starts. This song is so dark and aggresssive that I am just blown back in my seat and the same can be said about Arrow. Peter Hammill uses his voice to the limit on those two songs. The Sleepwalkers ends the album and it´s a bit different and melodic when you compare it to the last two songs. Beautiful is all I can say.

The musicianship is beyond outstanding on Godbluff. The performance these four musicians put on is inspired beyond my wildest expectations. They all shine equally. Peter Hammill with his theatrical approach to singing, Hugh Banton´s omnipresent organ, piano and bass pedal playing, Guy Evan´s diverse drumming and last but not least David Jackson´s sax and flute playing which serves as lead and solo instruments most of the time. I promise you that you will enjoy the interplay between these musicians even if you don´t like the music ( shame on you).

The sound quality is definitely worth a mention too as it is one of the best seventies productions I have heard.

I can´t get my arms down. I´m so happy that I gave Godbluff a chance as it has changed my view on Van der Graaf Generator. Now I understand the praises they get on Prog Archives. This is a sure 5 star album and so far one of the best albums I have heard from the seventies. This is essential stuff don´t let this pass you by.

Report this review (#171818)
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars That period after the first re-union is my favorite period of Van Der Graaf Generator's career. Three of four albums released then are truly excellent. Here we have the first of them. Godbluff to some the best VDGG album is definitely the most condensed record in their entire career. 4 quite long pieces making king of concept are timeless classics. Album starts with very melodic Undercover Man. This song is the shortest on this release but it doesn't mean it's short. It's just kind of hit song from the band. Comparing to some of their psychedelic tracks it's definitely more subtle but it's still very emotional. Scorched Earth comes next and there's no audiable break between the songs. This time band decided to experiment a bit but only at the end of the song. The whole concept seems to be created as sort of musical patchwork and it's done excellent. Arrow starts with some jazzy sounds and that's probably the only part of the album where band went freestyle improvising a little. Of course later we have typical for that album formula based on repeating memorable fragments and it's all so damn well arranged. I remember on the early releases the moments where band seemed to drift out of arrangement and musicians played each on his own. Here all is done TOGETHER. Peter Hammill is one of the best vocalist and he proves that clearly on this song. His voive is truly mighty. The last verses he yells and it sounds a bit like something later done by death metal bands. The Sleepwalkers is opus magnum of this album. To some the best track here but to be honest all are excellent. But ok Sleepwalkers is amazing and it's definitely deserves to be a leader. It starts with a folk melody and creates incredible mood of the night. Surprisingly band played a bit of cha-cha in that song and it sounds like something jazzy from 1920s. Eddie Jackson is amazing with his sax parts and it gives you a better kick than most of noisy guitar stuff. His playing is smooth and when it needs to be agressive also. The song somehow is combined of two parts but we can recognize it only by psychedelic keyboard elements used exactly in the middle and in the end of the song. A masterpiece. Peter Hammill appeared to be the best vocalist in the wrold. To me there's no song in the history that is sung better than this one. This album needs no more words than: TOTAL KILLER WITH NO FILLER. Besides no words can describe emotions it generates but i tried for this review to do my best. It's a must for any prog fan collection.
Report this review (#172466)
Posted Thursday, May 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars A four-year hiatus removed VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR from of the front ranks of progressive rock, but this album returned them to prog rockers' consciousness, many relieved the band had reformed and had managed to stitch something credible together. In my view this is a solid rather than a remarkable album: gone is the over-the-top extravagance that endeared 'Pawn Hearts' to so many adventurous listeners. In its place is a tightly focussed band, far more competent musically, but at the cost of their point of difference, their crazy soul. Exactly the same tendency is exhibited in the lyrics, where the abundance of metaphor (sharks, lighthouse keepers, killers, lemmings) is abandoned in favour of standard prose.

For both these reasons I find this period of VDGG's output, while extremely accomplished, far less satisfying. 'The Undercover Man' underwhelms, there is nothing scorching about 'The Scorched Earth', and 'Arrow' misses its mark, despite an excellent opening freeform section and some creative singing. Only during 'The Sleepwalkers' does the album awake, if only briefly. Much of the music here is subtle, particularly on the first side. VDGG doing subtlety? Fine - but I miss the raw intensity. Four excellent tracks adorn 'Godbluff', but I have never been able to shake the feeling of disappointment when listening to this album. And certainly it did not drag progressive rock in new and darker directions, as can be said for VDGG's early career.

These four gemstones are polished, but they are only semi-precious. Worth listening to, but not a patch on 'Pawn Hearts', which is all diamond, though some of it is rough.

Report this review (#174508)
Posted Friday, June 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thank you, ProgArchives, for turning me on to this amazing band! Due to the reverence paid to VdGG here, I decided to check them out. In all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed at first, and a bit put off by Peter Hammill's distinctive, theatrical vocal style. Apparently, I'm not alone in this. But so many people have said that it takes a few listens to wrap your head around VdGG that I decided to reserve judgement until I'd given the album several listens.

Well, it's been about a week, and I am now officially a VdGG fanatic! Once they clicked for me, they clicked in a big way. I'm not sure who influenced who, but they seem to combine a lot of traits from several artists I love. There's definite musical similarities to Soft Machine, King Crimson, Genesis, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and even early Judas Priest. The songs are brilliantly composed, both musically and lyrically, the musicianship is exquisite, and what really can you say about Peter Hammill's singing other than that he is just about in a class by himself. Only Peter Gabriel can come close in terms of theatrical power, but Hammill has a stronger, more classically beautiful voice.

So, for once, the hype is true. Van de Graaf Generator belongs in the top echelon of prog bands, and Godbluff should be mentioned in the same breath as Foxtrot, In The Court of The Crimson King, Close to the Edge and other prog masterpieces.

Report this review (#175027)
Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.7 stars, rounding for 5!

Something interesting attracts me in Van der Graaf Generator. In spite of many fans of the Progressive consider their music '' indigestible '' musically, I particularly disagree. I really believe that it is, yes, difficult to undergo digestion, however, once assimilated the message and the general melody, it is very easy to notice and to observe the beauty and importance of this wonderful English band.

They were responsible for composing several wonderful and magic albums as this (''Godblufff'') and other also very good like ''Pawn Hearts'' and ''Still Life''. In this in analysis, my prominences are going to the magnificent '' Scorched Earth '' and the phenomenal '' The Sleepwalkers '' (my personally favorite). In the first, what really contaminates is the rhythm of the saxophone added to Peter Hammil's impressive and tireless fabled voice. There is a moment in that music (as well as in most of the others from the band) that I particularly call Apex, in that the band enjoys, for some seconds or minutes, of the maximum in income and musical beauty.Apex this that is quite visible in the second highlight ('' The Sleepwalkers ''), when it begins with a melodic rhythm led by the saxophone and finishes with a fabulous package of vocal energy (will it be that Peter Hammil doesn't tire?).

Finally, a magnificent album. It would recommend it to anybody that is considered a fan and/or studious of the Progressive. But remember: it can take some time for the people that never heard VDGG accustom to their sound. Besides, have fun!

Report this review (#177840)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#177851)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I honestly do not understand how this is the highest rated VDGG album on this site. I probably have a problem with this album, but after two masterpieces such as "H to He" and "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" is in my opinion a mediocre album, and here the great Hammill is really irritating for two reasons: 1) he has replaced his piano, which in the past created some great atmospheres, with a terrible Hohner Clavinet; 2) His beautiful and sweet voice is almost gone in this album, often replaced by shouted phrases. Moreover the songs have trivial construction and arrangements, and are not so progressive. The cha-cha-cha of "Sleepwalkers" is really ridiculous, while "Arrow" is for me the worst song ever written by VDGG. The only great song is "Scorched Earth", especially in the central part, that remind to a certain "Man-Erg". Ultimately a hiccup, a little later remedied by the very good "Still Life". 2,6 stars.
Report this review (#177928)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Scorched earth. That's all that's left.

Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG] have always been one of the lesser known (to the outside world anyways) progressive mammoths of the classic 70s era. Their blend of darkness and chaos have long inspired young and upcoming proggers as well as forced listeners to take cover and/or run for their lives as the black clouds gather overhead when a VdGG album starts. This album came as a surprise to many since the band had broken up after their previous album, Pawn Hearts which was deemed a masterpiece. This one, surprisingly, surpasses the previous album by miles! Even if it don't have a leviathan track to support it like A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers it does have four powerful monstrosities that will beat you up and leave you as a bloody pulp if you're not expecting it. But Peter Hammil and VdGG would have it no other way.

For those who are not familiar with the band - these guys are very unique. to say the least. Instead of a guitar as the lead instrument they use their masterfully played organs and the killer saxophone of David Jackson to lead the fray. This makes for a very interesting listen if you're not used to anything but a guitar being at the front, but if you're up for something different this is probably the way to go. Also, as mentioned before, these guys are evil. Peter Hammil's malevolent voice is one of the main features of the band as he screams, shouts and serenades his way through the tracks. He's really got a way with instrumentation and conducts the band accordingly. When he wants you to be scared, you'll be scared.

I'm sure there's been so much said about the four tracks on the album that I really couldn't add anything that would be unique, but here's a shot. The first side has the two shorter tracks, the somewhat calm Undercover Man and the cataclysmic Scorched Earth which work in tandem with one another to create one coherent, solid side of vinyl. They play as yin and yang as the opener creates a false sense of security and the second punches you in the face with Hammil's screaming chorus. It's very true when Hammil screams, ''Scorched earth - that's all that's left when he's done!'' The second side is arguably the more powerful of the two, being that it hosts what could be called the two best songs in the VdGG catalog. Arrow is a maniacal powerhouse led once again by Hammil, driving the song as the song would once again suggest, ''As swift as any ARROW!'' As the song picks up after that line it's hard not to feel a chill down your spine. Sax and Organ mix into a fine paste and it almost sounds like a very powerful and distorted guitar for a moment, well, that's the effect anyways. Sleepwalkers codas the album with VdGG's finest 10 minutes between the grooves. Chilling keys open the track as Hammil comes in once more, and as you can expect - things don't stay calm for long. This track is a furious maelstrom, which will never, ever die off. Fantastic! This is what Prog is all about.

Being considered one of THE essential prog albums of all time in just about every progressive circle it seems redundant to say that this one is really, really highly recommended. 5 scorched Earths out of 5 - an amazing, simply amazing album. May this review go on the already very large pile of reviews praising this album as though it were some kind of God - It deserves every word of praise it gets.

Report this review (#178937)
Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album (along with TN's "Live at the Target") makes me turn my attention from Heavy Metal to Pro Rock, back in the late '80s, when I listened to a Cassette tape copy that I borrowed from a teacher of Philosophy at my last year at School and I still listen to it (today one of the 3 CD editions i own of it) frequently (the Cassette was only '60 minutes long, one side with Godbluff / the other one with Live at the Target so everytime that "The Sleepwalkers" / "Sequences" passes the 5 / 10 minutes i have this strange feeling "mmmmm this is new to me"). This album opened the pandora's box in my mind, from that winter day on (back in '89), my life changed for good, Hammill / VDGG is part of the soundtrack of my life...hope to have it at my funeral too....this is the best piece of popular music recorded, ever....

A must times soft (The Undecover Man) then extra raw (Arrow)...but mainly fluid and exact (Scorched Earth & The Sleepwalkers) times jazz leathery (Scorched Earth & The Sleepwalkers), then strangely epic (Arrow)...precise (total time: 35'51") no a single second wasted...try'll love/hate it ...10 stars

Report this review (#183680)
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars My second review of a VDGG album. First was Still life and I managed with all that's in me to give it three stars as I will never be a fan of this band (to say the least). Anyway, I will have to do everything in my power once again to find as many positive elements possible.

Well, I'm not going to complain about Hammill's voice, I think that's a cheap shot. He obviously has a hate or like voice. Personally I'm not really fond of it but I have heard so many weird voices in prog through the years, I don't think his is so much worse. I will try to ignore it as much as possible and go more for compositions and instrumental aspects. What I always like about VDGG is David Jackson's contribution, what he is doing on most of the albums make listening to them bearable for me and on Scorched Earth I also like Banton's organ playing. I think the second half of the song is really great, I think all things considered this is my favourite song of the album. The opener, The Undercover Man, is quite good but less impressive.

Arrow also has very nice "wind moments" but the song is less structured than Scorched Earth in my perception. Still second favourite to me of the original 4 songs.

The Sleepwalkers is one of the many streamsongs of this band on PA and I listened to them often but never managed to get into the music. Sleepwalkers is not a good song imo. It lacks the fine instrumental contribution of the two previous tracks though second half of the song is much better than the sloppy, unimpressive first half. Forsaken Gardens is the first of the bonus tracks and I can't say this gives the album a boost really but that goes even a lot more for the terrible A Louse is not a Home, a song I already got to know by Peter Hammill solo and is one of the worst songs I ever heard in my life and is also partly responsible for my dislike for VDGG. It will probably the originality that determines the value of a song like this but it's wasted on me as for me personally melody is the main factor in music. Fortunately the band is better than Hammill solo and also this Godbluff release is not as terrible as I feared.

I think it's even somewhat better than Still Life if we leave the bonus tracks aside. Still Life was three stars rounded up from 2,7 and Godbluff is a full three for me.

Report this review (#196697)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars I am a bit surprised that this album is so highly rated here on Prog Archives. It is not a bad album. The vocals are an acquired taste, but I think they are alright. You can certainly tell that Fish of Marillion had been listening to this band. The playing is not sloppy, but hardly impressive either. The music is very vocal driven. There are a few instrumental breaks, but the vocals are up front almost all the time. This can easily be seen in the lyrics sheet - very long lyrics. Unusual ones too.

I can enjoy this from time to time, and I have given it many chances and it has grown on me. But I don't think it will grow any more than this. It is alright but it is certainly not a masterpiece.

Report this review (#200233)
Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars What can I add to what allready has been said about this album ? Well, my own opinion.

The album starts with the pastorial The Undercover Man. A hymn and one of VDGG's best ever songs. A very intense vocal driven hymn whose the staple diet of any prog rock fan. Essential and a masterpiece. Nuff said. The second song is another classic in the form of the spacy, jazzy Scorched Earth. The third song Arrow starts with a free jazz impro before it suddenly changes over to a new hymn like vocal driven song. Peter Hamill stamps his authority all over this excellent song. The Sleepwalkers is a quirky song with a little nod towards the Canterbury Scene. Excellent stuff and again a classic.

In my humble opinion, this is as close to a classic prog rock album as you can get.......without being a classic album. I find this album a bit lacking. I cannot put my finger on it, but it is not an album I play that often. I guess I find it a bit tiresome after a while. But it is still a great album and highly recommended.

4 stars

Report this review (#202614)
Posted Friday, February 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Bands like Van Der Graaf Generator make me so glad that I discovered this site because otherwise I would never have listened to this album. This album marks the return of the band after a few years of inactivity and what a return it was! This is definitely one of their best albums, for me it is hard to choose between this and Pawn Hearts, but it is definitely their most accessible album. I would recommend Godbluff as a starting point for anyone looking to get into the band or for anyone who has listened to one of their other releases and found it to be difficult listening.

The music is dark and heavy at times, jazzy at others, but overall every song on this album is a great piece of prog. Peter Hammill has a unique voice that many people seem to either love or hate, so if you have never heard anything by Van Der Graaf Generator before, listen to one of the samples on this website and make up your own mind.

All four songs on this album our excellent, and it is definitely a masterpiece of progressive music in my opinion, but I can understand why some people just don't like their music. However, I feel it is absolutely essential for any prog fan to give this band a chance and there is no better place to start than with Godbluff!

Report this review (#203625)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Headlong into the chilly night as swift as an arrow...

VDGG's supposed greatest achievement. There are but only four songs on this album, which probably won't be a problem to most people on this site, and it most certainly isn't for me.

The first thing I noticed was the pure strength and emotion of Peter Hamill. He is a vocal wizard, and along with the dark organ and saxophone lines, makes for a frightening and encompassing experience. There isn't too much guitar work here outside of laying rhythm, and I like it that way. These guys have a very unique sound, and don't pull any punches in their aural assault.

Starting off with the soft, almost warmly vaudeville Undercover Man, you'll also notice Peter Hamill's penchant for penning amazing and deep lyrics. The entire album is drenched with this fantastic sense of darkly English mysticism and fear. Following the heels of the first track is the fierce attack of Scorched Earth. Plowing into your skull and melting your mind with skillful playing and rapturous power.

Side two is lead of with the frightening Arrow. Peter rips vocally and will scare the hell out of you, assuredly. The screeching lines he lets out come out of almost nowhere. The end of the album is lead on by the equally emotional and rousing The Sleepwalkers. With some brilliant lyrics, I might add. Hamill plays with words so easily, and it astounds me each time I hear it. His dramatic vocals set the scene with soft and entrancing instrumentation backs him along. It ends this amazing album so fittingly.

I was amazed at first listen of this band, I was afraid they might not be to my liking, but I was blown away. Truly a progressive masterpiece. Five strong stars.

Report this review (#211297)
Posted Tuesday, April 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars As a VDGG neophyte, I went into this recording knowing that, as a piece of classic prog, it was likely to be met with ambivalence over its musical merit/historical significance and a dated sound which comes across comparatively underwhelming when compared to contemporary stuff. With Godbluff, each comes across strongly-- but the energy, uniqueness, and campy production make this one a true winner in the sometimes chances I sometimes take in mediocre '70's bands.

For those thinking of investigating VDGG, be prepared for a tremendous amount of enjoyment mixed with one big, gigantic, noisy, mess of a singer. Peter Hammil seems to be equally hated and loved, and I think that ultimately one's enjoyment of this album will come down to the listener's opinion of his singing. Think of him as an even more out of control version of Fish; he belts out bizarre lyrics with an almost vaudevillian exuberance, which will make many cringe or roll their eyes. I, however, think it is the most delightfully goofy example of early prog campiness, so serious in its intensity that it becomes more of a joke than anything else. Just listen to "Arrow" and you'll see what I mean.

As for the band-- top notch. Predominantly organ-led melodies and textures dominate, often shared with cool woodwind work by David Jackson. His is the one of the finest sounding saxes in the genre, and does a lot to make this album's sound unique. Guitars are present occasionally, but otherwise the listener should be prepared for synth/sax interplay. The group's songwriting is highly energetic and varied-- pretty much par for the course in terms of expectations for the genre, but is played distinctly.

For those exploring classic prog, VDGG and Godbluff is a fine addition to one's library. Its technical and vocal shortcomings are made up by strong, complex playing and unique style, which makes it stand out strongly against the other big boys of the time.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#215189)
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Godbluff is another achievement for this unconventional quartet. While there is nothing particularly complex about much of the music, and with few instrumental segments, this beloved album from Van der Graaf Generator is largely a Peter Hammill affair, laden with lyrics as it is. While a relatively short record, there's plenty of creativity, and I think this album my be their strongest work musically. It's just that Hammill can be a real pest.

"The Undercover Man" Scarcely audible pipes and Hammill's low, dark voice begin this first and shortest piece. The instrumental segment is one of the best moments on the album, with an excellent yet easy to follow riff and David Jackson's skillful saxophone playing. As usual, the hardest part to follow is Hammill's wandering voice, which rises to falsetto rather often. After several listens, though, the unnatural becomes natural, and his meandering vocals become an integral constituent of the work.

"Scorched Earth" Continuing directly from the previous track with a dirge-like organ, this piece delivers a change of flavor, with a heavier reliance on Hugh Banton's organ, and a heavier feel altogether. Hammill's vocals are as dramatic as ever, with several great examples of his creepy lyrical mastery. Guy Evans' drumming is spectacular during the last few minutes, which is one of the best parts of the song. The noises that conclude the piece are perhaps artistically warranted, but hurt my ears. Overall, the music is dark, and it reminds me very much of the over-the-top segments of "The Knife" by Genesis.

"Arrow" This is more jazz-oriented fare, with Evan's creative drumming, some intriguing bass work from Banton, and strange saxophone business courtesy of Jackson. It quickly becomes a melancholic piece, with mournful wailing and eerie bass playing. Hammill's denigrating voice is as vitriolic as I imagine it can be. The final instrumental moments are very good, if only because Hammill is no longer ruining it with his craziness.

"The Sleepwalkers" The lengthiest track on the album opens with a highly memorable riff on organ and saxophone. Hammill loosely follows this melody. An unexpected Latin section is a strange inclusion in this spectacular piece of music, but it is fortunately short-lived. Banton's organ at almost halfway through is absolutely impressive, almost magical, as is Jackson's forceful saxophone. The last several moments are an artistic layering of hypnotic sounds.

Report this review (#218798)
Posted Friday, May 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Godbluff! Blam!

Well Godbluff has a power and an attack that the earlier VdGG releases just don't have, and the combination of an agressive, tight sound and reflective, intelligent lyrics (not to mention inspired, excellent vocal delivery) makes this (for me) the best VdGG album, bar none.

The album has four tracks, the first two being two halves of a whole, and they all hold together remarkably well, definately crossing the line from a collection of songs to very much an album. Not many bands can do this well, it should be mentioned, and that is what contributes to this being such a masterpeice. Sometimes I could hardly contemplate listening to a Godbluff track in isolation, the running order & production being so perfect!

So, fans of Pawn Hearts might be oversome by the blatent agression, and they might say that Godbluff is dissapointing because it is less complex or dynamic. Tosh! Just because it doesn't have a multi-part suite as its flagship track, doesn't make it any less cerebral or deep. It just has the kind of music that you could rock out to if you're not feeling as intellectual as usual, and it has much, much more singable songs on it- I find myself singing along all the way through, from Undercover man to Sleepwalkers, wheras on Pawn Hearts I'd probably just sing along to Man-Erg. This is possibly a moot point as we are discussing prog not pop, but I find the more impressed I am with a piece of music the more likely it is to stick in my head.

This album is possibly the number one reason that I know of the existence of an instrument called the "Clavinet" (number two being Stevie Wonders' "Superstition", hah). Hammil's use of the instrument to carve out hammering distorted rhythms in leu of guitar is inspired and incredible to behold. Could you imagine Scorched Earth or the jam in Sleepwalkers without it? I think not.

Of course I should mention at this point that I belive that all the members of VdGG have thier best playing to date on this album, best organ playing, best sax, best drumming, best vocals. But that is kind of implied when I said Godbluff is (IMHO) their best album. I just wanted to drive home the point that Godbluff is bloody fantastic!

It causes me great distress when I listen to this album and realise that although Pink Floyd are known to everyone, even prog fans have never heard of this classic!! One reason why I got myself a Godbluff T-shirt (yes, they do exist if you look hard enough).

If I had to pick a favourite track, it would be (shock horror!) Sleepwalkers, and I would recommend this album to anybody with ears. Even metalheads could get something out of this one. Possibly not to people who like a more serene listen, but that's their loss.


Report this review (#231882)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
5 stars After a four year break, Van Der Graaf Generator reunited to make more music in a way they had never done it before. Godbluff is very different from Pawn Hearts, released in 1971. Where Pawn Hearts has a lot of unexpected actions, Godbluff seems more controlled and a bit more straight forward. This doesn't mean VDGG has lost their unique style, as they are as exceptional as ever.

Godbluff opens with "The Undercover Man", which is a song that could remind one of the earlier VDGG. "The Undercover Man" starts with soft flute playing by David Jackson, and is soon joined by Peter Hammill soft and emotional vocals. After this first section, the song starts to get more bombastic, as organs and drums enter and Peter Hammill delivers some striking and hauntingly powerful vocals. "The Undercover Man" is an exceptional song for sure. It is probably the most emotional and astonishing piece on Godbluff.

A short interlude lead by Peter Hammill on the clavinet takes us from "The Undercover Man" to "Scorched Earth". "Scorched Earth" is full of power and anger, and is the most bombastic on the album. The song exists out of several very well composed riffs, all equally powerful and stunning, and has some of the best vocals I've heard from Peter Hammill ever. This brilliant piece of music might be a bit more straight forward than most of the other songs on the album, but it's a fantastic piece.

The third song on the album is the anger laden "Arrow". The song starts with a short jazz improvisation, which is good, but doesn't really fit in with the other songs on the album. As Peter Hammill's vocals come in the song will become a frightening piece of music. Definitely the chorus is haunting, while at the same time being pretty catchy. Apart from Peter's extraordinary vocals, I find the instruments here a bit less interesting. They just can't seem to deliver the power that they do deliver in for example "Scorched Earth". In the end "Arrow" is a very good song, though not as interesting as the other music on the album.

"The Sleepwalkers", where the undercover man becomes a lunatic, is the albums epic ending. The song starts with a catchy organ riff, and as Peter's vocals make their entry you'll know this is going to be a powerful song. After the first several minutes, the song goes from the powerful organ riff to absolute lunacy in the form of a cha cha cha part. Many people don't seem to like this part or they think it doesn't fit in with the other music, but I think this really does resemble the insanity of the sleepwalker. The second half of the song is much more bombastic and more straight forward, still excelent, though. "The Sleepwalkers" is an incredible song, it's the perfect way to express the insanity of the sleepwalker.

Godbluff for sure has some of VDGG's best music on it. I don't think it's perfect, but it surely isn't far from perfect. Godbluff really is essential to the collection of a Van Der Graaf fan or any prog fan. The music isn't as extraordinary and memorable as Pawn Hearts, but it is a fantastic experience indeed.

Report this review (#233773)
Posted Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars After 4 years silence, VDGG came back with a mission and wrought one of the darkest and harshest album in progressive rock history. Needless to add it's almost one of my favourites.

Following some of the experiments with punk on his solo albums, Hammill has adapted a gruff and aggressive singing style. Gone are the high and clean register he used 4 years earlier. The man means business now and sings as if life itself depended on it. The band follows in similar fashion, the rhythms are jagged, the organ heavy and stark, the saxophone almost insane.

Also the songs have become more desolate, bare and uncompromising. Even when they have a go at a playful dance halfway through Sleepwalkers it still sounds menacing. All four tracks are instant classics and cover a wide and wild range of musical styles and moods. There's so much going on in fact that, even with a length under 36 minutes, the album doesn't feel too short at all. There's not much more darkness you can have in one go.

If Pawn Hearts was VDGG's finest hour then Godbluff is certainly their most stirring. 'Fine' is a word that is completely out of place here. This is one of the best examples where progressive rock goes hand in hand with a disciplined performance and remorseless passion.

Report this review (#236923)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Very good staff. This is how a really masterpiece should go. The beginning is wonderful, from very pace to very high atmosphere. The vocals of Peter Hammil are just marvellous. The rest of the music is really good too, I specially like the interplay of the organ and the saxo. This is of course a "must have" in any prog collection. The music is very subtle. Indeed, the remaster version sounds much better. In addition it has some bonus tracks that I do not like at all, but that is O. K., since it does not refrain me to give the maximum value. What old times!!!
Report this review (#239786)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
5 stars Perfection in madness

Let me start by saying that, from a VDGG 'newbie's' point of view, GODBLUFF is an accessible album. I personally discovered VDGG from a few samples here in PA. As it usually happens in this cases, you visit a record store and - oh, what a surprise! - a record with the name GODBLUFF appears in front of you. You then remember those interesting samples and decide to give it a go.

As most has been said about this record, I will briefly provide my two cents. GODBLUFF consists of four relatively long compositions which flow in slow to medium tempo. The presence of sax, flute and organ give the album this distinct touch that puts VDGG on a genre of its own. The strange, eclectic voice of Peter Hammill (irritating or even prohibitive for some) also adds to the unparalleled character of this album. Although GODBLUFF does not consist of extremely complex compositions and virtuosic solos, it radiates a feeling of maturity, patience and self-awareness.

The elements that help rank this album high in my books are the striking melodies (although set in a mad, bizarre fashion), the overall heaviness in the sound and the obscure atmosphere. Saying that, there are moments where the music turns into jazz, fusion or funk which surprisingly changes the odds. The highlights and memorable moments are numerous, starting from the use of the instruments to produce novel melodies to whole tracks of monumental quality. Personally I feel that the main theme of Arrow is the most memorable moment with Scorched Earth being the least observable, but not lacking in quality whatsoever.

In terms of composition in overall, The Undercover Man and Sleepwalkers seem to be the most complete. The opening track flows in a relatively relaxed tempo while the closing builds up as it progresses with fantastic saxophone work.

To sum up briefly, GODBLUFF is one of those few eclectic progressive albums that can be classified as masterpieces. I could unreservedly recommend it to all prog fans and particularly to friends of heavy and dark prog rock and metal.

Report this review (#240513)
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Probably even 4.5 stars.

Wow! Somehow, I had never listened to a Van Der Graaf Generator album. When you find yourself listening to a classic group that you had missed, its kind of exciting. Will you like them? And especially if you do, how will it change your view of the other music that was being played at the time and that came afterward?

Godbluff is a kind of voice driven, rough progressive music which I find very different from the other music out at the time. And while Godbluff certainly holds up well on its own after all of these years, especially the organ work, it is really the vocals that amaze.

Godbluff is one of the highest rated albums on this site. I am happy to have enjoyed it so much and to add VDGG to the ranks of the great progressive groups of the 70s.

Report this review (#243024)
Posted Monday, October 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
5 stars OK, I'll pass. If somebody wonders why I gave (and will give) about 80% of 5-star ratings today, it's because I'm ruining old stash of my beloved records, desperately trying to seek for something well known (for me).

As it's with this album. Funny thing is that for a long time, I though it's "GOLDbluff", but I know do know where truth lies. After all, it's easy, this album is masterpiece, that eases it all. Ever-present motif through the entire album is Peter Hammill's singing/non-singing, which is really unique (you know him). Also, first and last track are optimistic ones, second and third are more dark. Not bad, of course not. Undercover Man, its flute and nice melody suggest something beautiful and in some sense of this word, it truly is. But no way it's normal song. Nothing here is normal, as it's (for me at least) archetypal VDGG album. This means that this will be different from everything else. Not as Zeuhl, or RIO prog, it's still quite listenable and by my opinion very (VERY) accessible. There are things, little things through these songs that makes it more interesting (and so, repeated listens are very much suggested, something like necessary).

5(+), to be honest, I first hated everything here except first song. But I learned how to understand it. How to feel it, appreciate, embrace it with all my senses (probably even with sixth sense that I didn't know that I have at all), even (mostly) Arrow is using all tricks of Peter's aggressive voice (which can be little bit terrifying for starters).

Some albums simply stood the test of time.

Report this review (#252613)
Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars PAWN HEARTS was my very first taste of Van der Graaf Generator; let's just say that album gave me more than my share of hissy fits trying to understand it. Eventually, the lyrics kind of guided me into how the music works. So here on GODBLUFF, I'm met with a similar predicament in a sense that Pete Hammill's lyrics are this dense poetry, lugubrious as ever with a requirement of dictionary just to understand what some of the words mean. I still don't quite get the lyrics.

So why the masterpiece rating, you ask? The music.

It didn't take as long for the music to sink in here. The one thing that impressed me here was how heavy this album is, almost hard to believe since I can't remember any instance of a guitar anywhere on GODBLUFF (though Hammill is credited with playing it). That really thick, heavy sound that comes to the fore on ''Arrow'' has to come from a keyboard instrument, not the first thing you think of when you hear the term ''heavy music''. That heaviness makes the music much more engaging to my ears.

They also kept the compositions shorter here than on PAWN HEARTS, meaning that there isn't a whole lot of room to wander around. They try to wander on ''The Undercover Man'', but it's not for long and the band gets back into focus. All pieces have engaging bits layered with Hammond and saxophone, two instruments that will make any progster sleep better tonight, all under Guy Evans's subtle yet ferocious drum work.

Don't let the bland cover lead you to believe it's filled second rate horror movie music; this is the real deal, a great masterwork of prog rock. It got me back on track with Van der Graaf Generator after a year of road construction (metaphorically).

Report this review (#253565)
Posted Sunday, November 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Van der Graaf Generator- Godbluff (1975)

After the short brake-up of VDGG Godbluff came to be in 1975. The style of the band had changed a bit at the time the record was recorded. The vocals are less dominant on the foreground (Hammill is still screaming and growling from the back) and the compositions got 'mature'. No random sounds any-more, no out of key disturbances (I used to like..) and no psycho wind jams like on H to He and The Least. Instead VdGG is more concentrated, dosed and a bit distant. The whole album feels like a cold Sunday morning in November. Still VdGG is recognisable for it's anger moments, the subtle lyrics and vocals of Hammill, the great drums by Guy Evans and the wind-section by David Jackson (family?). The album has four tracks of seven to ten minutes.

The Undercover Man is an intimate theatrical opening with mainly vocals by Hammil and devoted chord progressions. The feel is very strong here and the tension in the song is strong. The moment of release is however in the great follow-up Scorched Earth. This is VdGG striking in the living room! Your family flees and you pets hide. The vocals of Hammill are extremely intense, but not very beautiful. At these moments the recording lacks the quality of Pawn Hearts. The great instrumental sections on the last part of the songs are great. This might be one of my favourite VdGG tracks, but the recording is not really helping here. Arrow has elements of the first two tracks of the album, though is also has a lot of silent moments. The Sleepwalkers is a also a very intense track. The main theme is as strong as it can get and the composition is very high throughout. In the ending the recording is again not very helpfull during the intense moments with powerfull vocals of Peter Hammill.

Conclusion. An album with four great progressive epics with only one real problem: the recording of the vocals and the intense moments of the music in general. Still this is one of the most important VdGG albums. It is an excellent addition to any prog collection, although it's not very accessible like most VdGG albums. INMHO it's less good then Pawn Hearts and H to HE, so I'll rate it four stars. 4.3 that is!

* I've listened a lot to this album lately and I must say this must be one of THE masterpieces of progressive rock. It is such an intense experience. Five stars.

Report this review (#253961)
Posted Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After originally being somewhat discouraged by what I heard on Pawn Hearts I still decided to give Godbluff a shot. I'm glad that I did since it became my gateway to this quite spectacular band!

It's interesting that Van Der Graaf Generator pretty much missed out on progressive rock's golden year's and still managed to regroup towards the second half of the 70's and record four more albums before splitting up. Just imagining doing all this in less than a decade is mind-boggling and still the result is right in front of us! On top of that Peter Hammill had his steady stream of solo material which has pretty much lasted up to the beginning of the previous decade, but I digress.

When the band recorded this album there was so much creative magic in the air that some of it has even made it to the CD I have at home! The Undercover Man starts things off nicely with the most atmospheric intro the band ever featured on an album. The whole piece leaves me screaming for more and fortunately the wait is not long since Scorched Earth is almost as enjoyable as it's successor but with somewhat less momentum. The Sleepwalkers finishes the album on another highlight and although the main melody section is quite repetitive I've always been a sucker for intricate melodic arrangements so I don't mind that it's repeated for almost 9 minutes straight!

After all this praise I still hesitate giving this album my highest regards. This reason is based entirely on the fact that Godbluff hasn't really grown so much over the years and although my first impression was spectacular I was hoping that the album would have opened itself up even more but surprisingly it actually had the opposite effect so far. A great introductory album but you should search elsewhere for the higher dosage of that Van Der Graaf Generator sound!

***** star songs: The Undercover Man (7:25) The Sleepwalkers (10:31)

**** star songs: Scorched Earth (9:48) Arrow (9:45)

Report this review (#266789)
Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is Van Der Graaf Generator's first album after their short break-up. What a comeback! The 4 songs on the album are arguably the bands best work yet. The album more or less continues the signature style of prog created on their previous three albums, but it brings Peter Hammill's vocal melodies and David Jackson's saxes to a new hight. All four songs are absolute masterpieces of prog and are must-listens. My personal favorite track is "The Undercover Man". The songs have many deep and complex parts which make the album always feel fresh. Every new listen brings something new. It is an album for a lifetime. Highly recommended!
Report this review (#273536)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought this album 5 years ago. It's my first VDGG i bought, and i've never heard them before. This album changed my life, It's dark sound and Hammill's creepy yet unbelievably beautiful voice captured and i've entered the world of VDGG. I bought every album and Hammill's solo work. Every song here is a masterpiece of its own, its short yet dangerous journey to the depth of the human soul, only four songs(with the 2005 remastered version you even get a live version of two great hammill songs!!) . Dark Progressive at its best, The Devil himself wrote this album.

its a must have for any man alive.

Report this review (#282897)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I couldn't really imagine what Van Der Graaf Generator could do after Pawn Hearts, an album which has since become one of my top albums of all time. In this sense, I consider us blessed that afterwards, the touring became too intense and the band decided to call it quits. Because this gave them enough space away from the music, enough time to mature without trying to top Pawn Hearts, that when they returned with Godbluff, they were saying something new again. (Not that Van der Graaf seem like a band likely to repeat themselves).

So three years after the masterpiece that was Pawn Hearts, we receive this excellent follow up album that features the classic four piece lineup of Hamill, Evans, Banton and Jackson.

The sound is both recognisable and changed. The band played the songs live and developed them, instead of using studio trickery to develop their sound. As a result, the music has a decidedly rawer edge. Fans of Pawn Hearts' dissonance, such as the studio effect of having 23 different VDGG recordings playing at once, will find that such effects are not used here - the rest can all take a sigh of relief. (That doesn't include me because I found that the dissonance in Pawn Hearts was part of what made it so magical).

Despite the years between the last recording and this one, the band sounds at least as tight as they ever did. The 35 minutes on this album don't have a single dull moment. The album is full of sharp edges and aggression.

While the album was selected from a series of tracks that were recorded together, including some that would later end up on Still Life, it feels like they all have a cohesive theme. References to war exist on the majority of the track, although The Undercover Man seems to hint at the feelings of isolation and insanity that made the previous two albums so intriguing.

Highlights: Scorched Earth describes the sound of the track as much as it does the lyrical content, with dark lyrics that continue to hint at the aforementioned themes. (In many ways, it's not too thematically different from Emperor off of H to He). In Arrow, Peter's vocals reach a new level of intensity. Long gone are the sweet, high pitched sounds he made on Pawn Hearts, here we basically have screaming vocals, with an intensity that matches the song's content quite remarkably. The Sleepwalkers is probably the catchiest part of this album, and at least as enjoyable as anything else.

There are really no downsides to this record, and it has earned its reputation as one of the best Van Der Graaf albums. It shows the band taking their music in a new direction, which they would continue for the next two albums. The only thing holding it back from reaching 5 star status is that, despite it's very sturdy foundation, the album doesn't quite reach the same heights as the best moments on H to He, Pawn Hearts, or Still Life.

Report this review (#283928)
Posted Friday, May 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.5 stars for Godbluff by Van der Graaf Generator.

Godbluff: my introduction into the majestic world of Van der Graaf Generator. Though I was deteremined to shoot down this album after a few careful listens, it started to really grow on me; of this I am very fortunate. What is held within the disc encased in quite plain black artwork and plastic is amazingly good, and quite addictive, I might add! 'Undercover Man' starts the album off quite eerily, yet very strongly. "Arrow" is a strong, aggressive number that usually brings the hairs on the back of my neck up when Hammill screams, "impaled upon the arroooooww!" A mind-numbingly good track that makes the album for me. The only track that I have not become very fond of is the closer, "The Sleepwalkers." It's a bit repetitive and simply not as strong as the other tracks, despite its length. "Scorched Earth" is a lyrically-driven song, but boasts some very entrancing instrumentation. A smooth melody gives a hint of darkness to the track, which is bookended by more great instrumentation.

Hammill's lyrics are flawless and extremely creative and diverse. They create a very clear yet angst-full mental picture. The music matches the lyrics in ways I've never seen/heard before. Hammill is clearly a master with words, weaving them carefully to fit his vision.

Though guitar is almost non-present throughout the whole album, it is not needed. Hammill's distinct vocal theatrics are clearly an instrument, and a very strong one. The album is darker than I expected it to be, but there are moments of uplifting jazzy instrumental sections that act as the glue to Hammill's narration. The quartet of Peter Hammill (vocals, guitar), Guy Evans (percussion), Hugh Banton (organs), and David Jackson (sax & flute) are one of the tightest bands from the 70's that I've ever heard. They all seem to think on the same level musically, and the output strength is high in quality. Banton and Evans create a very smooth rhythm section while Jackson and Hammill give full life to each track. The best thing that I've discovered about the album in recent listens is the lack of pomposity, which seems to ruin many albums for me. The tracks are 97% flawlessly executed and very well written. A recommendation for anyone at all who doesn't have this album yet. Give it at least 3 listens before you judge it though. The 2005 remaster, by the way, is the way to go: crystal clear sound and yet it preserves that classic retro sound we all love.

Report this review (#290476)
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Part of my "desert island" collection

Yes, if I was to take 5 albums and only 5 albums to a desert island, this would most certainly be in my collection. One of my favourite albums of all time, it is just amazing...

A description of the music: "The Undercover Man" starts out very quietly and creepily, but eventually picks up into a great melodic ballad track. A beautiful track. It flows directly into "Scorched Earth" which is a louder track with a repetitive but still fun instrumental section. Probably the weakest track, but still great. "Arrow" contains amazing drumming and some angry and odd sounding vocals from Hammill, who sings with his usual extreme emotion. A constantly entertaining one. Then comes one of VdGGs definite best, "The Sleepwalkers." It contains all around amazing vocals, amazing melodies, and amazing lyrics. The song seems to have a constant happy tone, with an elevator music section, a great but short sax solo that flows into a chorus of shouting vocals. Amazing song...


Vocals: Peter's vocals may not be for everyone, but they are definitely great to some. He sings with so much emotion and power that every track has the maximum effect possible.

Saxophone: The saxophone has many great bits here. "The Sleepwalkers" contains overall amazing sax work and the best on the album.

Controlled: This album is a lot more controlled and less chaotic than the bands previous albums, which worked as a great improvement for them.

Constistency: Every track on this album is amazing. There is nothing really wrong with them at all.


Vocals: As I said. Hammil's vocals may be pretty odd to some and they may not receive it well.

Song ratings: The Undercover Man: 10/10 Scorched Earth: 9/10 Arrow: 9.5/10 The Sleepwalkers: 11/10

Recommended for: VdGG starters. People who love a little oddness.

My rating: 5 stars. A definite masterpiece and one of my favourite albums of all time.

Report this review (#292886)
Posted Saturday, July 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars After splitting up for a few years, Hammill put out some solo albums. These are quite good and show the huge difference between Hammill solo and VDGG. It illustrates, essentially, that VDGG is NOT just Hammill. They got back together and started their second phase. This phase is much smoother, with easier to listen to music and lyrics that are much more personal than the metaphorical mystical stuff Hammill was spewing before. However, it can't be termed a sell out: who in the world would sell out with an album like Godbluff? Four songs on the albums with themes of betrayal, sleep walking (!) and even (typically) death. It's also on par with H to the He and matches it in quality in different ways.

A quiet flute part starts Undercover Man. Long time listeners will note the difference in the album right away: Peter whispers quietly and the band plays more smoothly. The changes in the song seem more organic and less violent. They still get loud but it all builds gradually into multiple climaxes. Peter's screams are more in control: the dissonance is almost gone. There are no special effects. The band seems to playing right in your living room. The lyrics are personal and very expressive. The melodies stick in the mind. Hardcore fans might still accuse the bands of selling out but this is simply well done composer craft. Good melodies should stick with the listener and they do on this track.

My personal favorite track, Scorched Earth comes next. The build up in this song is incredible: the way the organ, saxes, drums and bass interact in the introduction builds an incredible tension that only relieves at the end of the song. The song isn't even incredibly complex, the way the older stuff was: much of Hugh's organ work tends to be of the "drone" type but it really works here. Hammill has a virtual fit.

Arrow was a difficult track for me to get into and its still my least favorite on the album. However, it starts out very intriguingly: very free, very uncontrolled but in a different way than the past VDGG. It has a bit of a jazz feel to it, but it's just a feel: no real jazz fan would be impressed here. However, it's pretty good for a rock band. Eventually, the song settles into a strange groove, fairly dissonant with Hammill screaming "ARROW!!!" in an incredibly harsh (even for him) manner that never fails to impress me. The song really works but it misses out on the incredible riffs and melodies of the rest of the album.

Did I mention the riffs? Hammill has never been a riff master: I can count the masterpiece riffs of his on one hand: for example, I adore H to the He and it has really only Killer as a masterpiece and Pioneers of C as being great. Naturally, not all music can be measured by riffs but it definitely helps. However, I'd say this album has one of Peter's all time best riffs: Sleepwalker. That introduction, with that incredible riff dancing around the drums, bass, organ and sax as Peter sings an unforgettable set of lyrics to an incredible vocal melody: that sticks with me. The fact that the song mostly rides that riff to the end doesn't change how incredible it is. The song does take some strange detours into nearly comical music, showcasing a lighter side of the band rarely shown. It ends what I consider to be their most listenable yet still captivating album.

What makes this album so great is that it creates a quiet, contemplative mood while still maintaining the attack of VDGG. This isn't a compromised album: the band simply edits out the noise, focuses on the music and lets it go. There are few if any sound effects here, the arrangements remain clear and uncluttered and the band plays with a confidence and agility never seen in their wilder but more "clunky" early days. Quite a great start for the "new" VDGG and one they never really beat.

Report this review (#300022)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Did he just rhyme 'akimbo' and 'limbo'? I didn't know those were even real words!", you might say. Well, let me reply: you will hear many beautifully interwoven words, besides these, narrating this haunting musical experience. The lyrical and vocal aspects of the album are courtesy of Mr. Peter Hammill, and while these are completely awesome, they are only the beginning. The sax-riddled, bass and keyboard grooves often seem to rise and swell as one instrument and actually feature very little guitar at all. Each of the four tracks seem incredible in their own respects, but flow together very well. From the soft, delicate passages to the screeching in "Arrow", Hammill's voice is really what holds the album together, and he performs excellently throughout. Overall, this is an essential progressive rock album, and VDGG sounds unlike any other band.

Rating 10/10

Report this review (#303027)
Posted Saturday, October 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A 'comeback' album for VDGG. Before Godbluff, there wasn't a clear seperation between VDGG albums and Peter Hammill's solo albums. Some of VDGG's earliest albums were originally intended to be Hammill solos; his early solo albums feature members of VDGG on them. Starting in 1975, with Godbluff and Nadir's Big Chance, there was a clear seperation of what was a "Peter Hammill' record and what was a 'Van Der Graaf Generator' record.

This album starts with the weakest song and ends with the strongest. Here you have the usual organ/drums/sax but there is also some clavinet and flute. The bass parts are played by keyboardist Hugh Banton. "Undercover Man" begins with some flute. This is the most accesible track on Godbluff. Later on there is sax and clavinet. "Scorched Earth" is the closest to sounding like Pawn Hearts. This is the only song not written by Hammill alone. The whole album has great lyrics but this song has one of the best lines: "nowhere to turn, unless it's to stone". Hammill's clavinet playing sounds like a guitar on "Scorched Earth". Before 3 minutes his vocals are modified by studio effects. Before 8 minutes the music gets more intense with some great drumming.

"Arrow" starts with very jazzy drumming. Some weird vocals and jazzy sax. After the vocals start there is a nice clavinet/flute part. Things pick up with a steady drumbeat around 5 1/2 minutes. Peter does some of his most intense singing on this song. Some nice wah-sax here as well. "The Sleepwalkers" is the best song on Godbluff. Some good cowbell in this song; even VDGG could not resist the temptation of the cowbell. After 3 minutes there is a great part that doesn't last very long. What do you call this kind of music? Tango? Bossa Nova? Latin jazz? I don't know but it sounds great and works really well within the context of the song. Around 4 1/2 minutes there is some really great organ playing. This leads into a great rockin' groove. There are overdubbed Peters singing. At the end the clavinet almost sounds like an acoustic guitar.

Although Pawn Hearts is their masterpiece, this or H To HE... would make a better introduction to the band. They would never make an album quite as strong as Godbluff again. The following albums are still great just not as great as this. 4 stars.

Report this review (#308984)
Posted Tuesday, November 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars My second Van der Graaf album, Godbluff is a seamless journey like its predecessor Pawn Hearts. Peter Hammill delivers possibly his best vocal performance here, singing with great emotion and furious expressions. One of the best parts of the music, and VdGG in general, is that the music really is like a journey. Though heavily reliant on vocals, the music really is not only the sum of the parts, but the story they tell. More than any other band, even Genesis, VdGG manages to implant images and express complex ideas and concepts fluidly. This album is no exception. There is no flowing concept of which I know, yet the music seamlessly flows. The imagery lies throughout the work, and as it progresses, it becomes even greater. The songs standout solo, but the true value is the sum of the parts. Regardless of how one listens to this album, it still has several elements that are accessible, and others that are not so accessible. To fully appreciate this album, several listens may be needed. The Undercover Man, in my opinion, remains the weakest song on the album, yet is not bad by any means. In fact, it's still nearly flawless in its delivery. The next two songs are of similar quality, and they each are fantastic. The finale, The Sleepwalkers, is my favorite, containing everything for which a prog fan could possibly ask.
Report this review (#319759)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars So haunting, beautiful, eclectic and really perfect. Without a doubt is Hamill the leader of this combo and his personality, writings and vocal performance envolves each and every song. The aura has some kind of mystical, philosophical.

Every musician does here a great contribution in each piece, being the pedal bass and keyboards of Banton and the dynamically and heavenly drums by Evans the real deal. I find David Jackson's sax here and there a great addition to the songs but not so essential as the other ones.

The four songs here are perfect VDGG and in no other record they reach the level of creativity and passion they deliver here.

I really love The Undercover Man and Arrow, they are really mesmerizing. I used to prefer H To He, Who Am The Only One as my favouorite VDGG album, but in the last years Godbluff has been revealed in a clearer way to me. This is a must for every prog rocker, 5 solid stars!

Report this review (#320077)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Van Der Graaf Generator is that kind of band you will probably not enjoy in the first place. This one in particular is a bit hard to get into but in time I learned to appreciate it at his true value. I don't consider it their best but it is a classic and has for sure that VDGG flavor and elegance I like.

We have 4 songs. All of them are good but the last one "The sleepwalkers" is probably the best and most inspired. It contains probably the most amusing piece of music ever written by VDGG sometime around third minute of the song. Being a sleepwalker is not amusing but I find that particular piece in the way I mentioned.

Another interesting fact here is the jazzy start up from the third song "Arrow". A bit unusual for them. Some great jazz fusion albums were already released at that time after their '75 reunion and must have had some influence on their songwriting approach. David Jackson is one of my favorite sax player from the progressive genre and this song has some really nice sax interludes. Peter Hammill's voice is great, unmistakable and theatrical as always. He is keeping the flag up on this one for sure.

The reason I don't give 5 stars for this one is that the songwriting didn't evolved as I would expect considering the big gap in between. As I mentioned there are some changes but pushing a little the boundaries would have been better.If you are not familiar with VDGG music than probably is not a good idea to start with this one. Some of their earlier release are more appropriate.

Report this review (#347264)
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the first album i heard from VDGG and i was blown this album is truly a masterpiece first we have The Undercover Man which is my favourite with great vocals of one of the best progressive rock singers and a great melody. its really fabulous how you can make a song with some simple chords. and then we have Scorched Earth which is a really great song with some jazz fusion stuff. and arrow is a great jazzy song at first but when the rhythm comes thats where the song proves itself and about the lyrics in The Undercover Man i think Peter talks about how our days are all the same and its pretty obvious what he wants to say the part where he says:"all the usual problems, all the habitual farce..." and how there is no way out of it but to carry on i think the whole album lyrically discusses the humans problems

this album is a 5star for me a masterpiece of progressive rock genre.

Report this review (#377430)
Posted Sunday, January 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the first times I listened to Van Der Graaf Generator was when I went down the "PA Top Prog Albums" list in search for good music. I came to Godbluff, and after listening to the first minute of the "Undercover Man", I moved on to the next album. It's hard to explain what exactly it was that hadn't made me appreciate the album, but it is now one of my favorites, and Van Der Graaf Generator is currently one of my favorite bands. I guess it was Hammil's voice that was a turn-off for me, but it definitely was something that I acclimated to. It's music that I wasn't used to hearing. But I love it now for its sophistication and intelligence, and most importantly and simply---for the enjoyment of listening to. They have a really jazzy sound. To me, one of the jazziest progressive bands that I know. I mean, you can say that King Crimson is a jazzy band, but there were many other influences involved in Crimson's music, including classical. VDGG for me, was heavily jazz influenced.

Van Der Graaf Generator is recognizable. I don't notice too much guitar involved in the music (mainly saxophones and piano related instruments). The musicianship is great. What I enjoy when listening to them is how they compose their songs, and how they transition from one part of a song to the next part. One instance, they'll be playing mellowly and the next it is aggressive, powerful, and groovy. Also, I enjoy when they introduce a subtle rhythm and then later, they'll progress to a point where they'll play the same rhythm, but it will be more powerful and reminiscent of what they previously played (Example: "Scorched Earth" when Hammil sings,"This latest exponent of heresy is goaded into an attack". You can hear the beginning melody of what they'll repeat as they progress in the song). Now that I have brought up a lyric, I want to add that Peter Hammil did some brilliant writing for their music. I would say that the writing is one of the stronger features of the band, next to the singing.

I strongly recommend people to give VDGG's Godbluff a shot. It might take getting used to for some people, but after a while try it again for another listen and your opinion could change, just like it changed for me.

When you've finished Godbluff, listen to Still Life.

Report this review (#410440)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is definitively the masterpiece of VdGG.

I had heard the two albums prior to that of VdGG H to he, who i am the only one(probably the album winner of the "most bizarre title") and Pawn Hearts. They were good albums, but had the feeling that something missing. With Godbluff my hopes for this band has finally materialized.

4 years had passed since the band released Pawn Hearts. This time the members have embarked on solo projects, especially Hamill. Now they come back better than never.The album is jazz-fusion significantly more than the previous ones, and each member (especially Hamill) plays his part very well in the musicality in band. All the tracks are great, although Sleepwalkers is still ambiguous to me (but the use of sax here is very good).

4,5 stars for sure!

Report this review (#418208)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Been trying to get into/appreciate VDGG for years. Just don't get the attraction to PH's voice/singing. Plus, I am not a lyric-conscious music listener and VDGG/PH are definitely lyric-driven songwriters. Still, Godbluff does have two very amazing songs in the intense and emotional howitzer "Arrow" and the surprising, diversified, and instrumentally fun 'jam,' "The Sleepwalkers." A great song which does not give as much forefront to PH's vocal (it's actually mixed quite far back into the mix for a good portion of the second half of the song--and there is a length instruments-only section in the middle containing many fun and even beautiful mood, style, sound, and instrumental shifts). "Undercover Man" is just plain boring music (I get very tired of church organ playing). "Scorched Earth" is somewhere in between--a step above because the clavinet and sax sound pretty good together. Also, I like some of the unusual vocal effects, layering and b-vox. I usually don't like sax--period--but it's actually okay in this mix--even the soli. I guess my main complaint here is the length and repetitious A-B-A-B-A-B-A-B . . . Still, what do you people see in PH's voice? I can't seem to feel it-- and I've been trying since 1977-8 when I picked up In Camera, The Silent Corner . . . , and Over. And I'm still trying!

In summary: "Arrow" and "The Sleepwalkers" are definite masterpieces of progressive music; "Scorched Earth" is memorable; "Undercover Man" is a song for the 'torture your mother-in-law' bin. I guess it's and excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. Maybe not every prog lover's music collection. 3.5 stars rated up cuz I respect the talent here and the choices of others. Top 10/20 prog albums ever made? Wouldn't even make my Top 100.

Report this review (#424857)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Not my cup of tea, but the music is outstanding

I must be honest, after listening the first disappointing VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR albums,, decided to give "Pawn Hearts" a chance, but even when I found it slightly better than the previous, it was only slightly above the average in my opinion.

After all this failed attempts to like VDGG, when "Godbluff" was released, I wasn't ready to listen it with impartiality due to my prejudice about the band, so bought it, heard it several times (with little emotion) and send it to the box of albums that didn't planned to listen in the rest of my life, where kept gathering dust for a couple of decades.

But last week there was a thread in the ProgArchives Forum asking us to compare this album with the GENESIS masterpiece "Nursery Cryme", my reaction was to vote immediately for the GENESIS album, but after a short debate, decided to give "Godbluff" a new chance, so after several hours re-listening the album, here I am trying to review it.

The album is opened with "Undercover Man"and after a good dramatic soft vocal and keyboard intro, the band manages to wake my curiosity and keep my attention. My first impression is that I'm listening "David Bowie" singing something from his second album, not only because the amazing similarity between David and Peter Hammill's vocal range, but also a more than casual similarity with the "Space Oddity" track.

But lets be honest the structure and performance is impeccable, the song goes constantly "in crescendo" generating expectation in the listener, with radical changes and an impressive keyboard performance by Hugh Banton in the organ. The vocal work is good, (hey I like Bowie) but excessively derivative in the vocal part despite the excellent lyrics. I believe it's a solid track to open the album, by this point, I'm far more interested than I ever was before in any track by the band.

In "Scorched Earth" seems as we were before another vocalist, even when the range can't change too much, the style is clearly original and unique, sadly the song is not remotely as strong as the previous one, I believe "Hammill" and company decide to forget the melody in order to experiment more. Still the complex choral arrangements are simply amazing, unlike GENTLE GIANT, this guys have perfect control over the dissonances. A bit to over elaborate for my taste, but still good, and again Banton proves how good he is.

"Arrow" begins with a jazzy drumming section that starts to morph into something extremely complex and very imaginative and frenetic, but around 1:37 minutes, the change is really dramatic. The music is incredibly mysterious and haunting (as I like) and the progression is just impressive. The guitar work and flute by Peter and Jackson are the stars of the song and the strong vocals are just breathtaking. From this moment the song doesn't change too much and the finale would be much better if they would not had used saxophone that seems out of place. But again a very solid track.

The original version of "Godbluff" (ends with the outstanding "The Sleepwalkers", some sort of Medieval Jazz fusion, but after the first vocal section, you can expect almost anything, from Heavy Rock to elaborate Prog and Jazz. The best track I ever heard by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR.

My version has two extra songs, but as everybody who knows me, I only review an album according to the original version, being that this is the way the authors created it.

When I rate an album like "Godbluff", I always have the same problem. From the start I knew the only really fair rating would be 3.5 stars, but being this impossible in our system, I have to choose between 3 and 4 stars.

In this case I was almost decided to go with 3, but after listening "The Sleepwalkers" and even when I still believe 3.5 is the most accurate rating, I had to go with 4 stars,. because despite the fact that i'm not a fan of the band at all, the album is extremely solid.

Report this review (#426711)
Posted Saturday, April 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Godbluff is my third VDGG experience, and it wasn't as good as Pawn Hearts, but definitely better than H To He. Again, the music here is basically dark and gloomy jazz inspired progressive rock with insufferable vocals.

"Undercover Man" is a song that doesn't really stand out to me. I've listened to it over and over again on repeat to find some kind of passage or anything at all about it that stands out, but it really does just seem bland. It's a very subdued, decently dark track dominated almost entirely by those "interesting" vocals. The music itself is slightly soothing at best, but not much more.

The music on "Scorched Earth" starts off sounding like Camel, in my opinion, but that doesn't really last. There is a memorable dark jazz instrumental break in the middle section of the song that I find to be quite enjoyable.

"Arrow" begins with a sound not unlike post-bop jazz, but of course it is darker, and eventually gives way to a dark King Crimson sounding passage. But, lo and behold, the vocals kick in and give me a headache. This track does have a nice groove to it, and has a powerful jazz feel that is really enjoyable, and this is probably the best track on this album.

"The Sleepwalkers" is another track that sounds like Camel at its inception, but the goofy vocals are the goofiest since some of the vocals on H to He, sounding not unlike sing-alone bafoonery. There is a fantastic jazz and blues inspired instrumental passage near the end of the track, but everything besides just seems to be ultimately forgettable.

Not quite as good as Pawn Hearts but definitely miles better than H to He, I'd have to recommend this mildly. Again, the vocals keep me from enjoying this album too much. If you can get past them, then you will find much to love here.

Report this review (#431091)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Never heard anything like this.

In 20 years of listening progressive music, I voluntary never got acquainted with Van der Graaf. 'Why' you ask? I'm quite allergic to the 'mal de vivre' in general, and so caracteristic of Peter Hammill's work. Everytime I saw someone who really liked the band, they always had that point in common: a tendency to be depressed. No kidding, they all without exception showed signs of mood swings. Nothing to reassure me, indeed.

But of course, that was a decade ago. Time changes everything, and I do (sometimes) appreciate the tension-releasing anger and screaming madness of VDGG. It's my first toe- tipping into this bizarre world and it's a disturbing record I must say. A blend of intense saxomofone, mental insanity and deep heartbreaks. Woah, your wife won't like it for sure.

The poor guy looks like he's in a lot of pain, with a tortured (but pleasant) voice that recalls a satisfying cross of Peter Gabriel and David Bowie. It must be very difficult to sing an entire show like this, since the voice is going from here to there in many tones, always in a VERY theatrical way. The drumming is stellar, and I mean it like Giles-from-King-Crimson-good . Sometimes it reminds me of Gentle Giant, with a dirty saxomofone giving the bass an appreciable edge. On the rythm section, no big drum fills, but a solid use of ride, snare and bass drum. Not the most inventive or varied organ sounds around, but since the vocals takes so much space, everything is in place nor the less; but without those insane vocals, the music would be rather ordinary except for Sleepwalkers. I'm so speechless, this music is reaching something painful inside of me and tries to bring it back to the surface. Am I the only one feeling this? Addictive and disturbing!

Stone me if you will, but the general feel is close to insanity: borderline-manic-depression- under-pressure, call it what you will; to me Mr. Hammill is not a well man. If it's part of his act, we have here a fantastic comedian!

This is definitely a soundtrack for your nightmares.

Report this review (#434530)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After a 3-year hiatus, VDGG returned to the scene and what a return it was! The previous album "Pawn Hearts" was a studio-oriented ambitious work, which despite its obvious qualities I often considered a bit impenetrable. Although "Godbluff" is hardly more pleasant or cheerful to listen (indeed it is one of the darkest and gloomiest records I ever heard!), it is nevertheless more consistent piece of art. No wonder they extensively played "Godbluff" material on tours before setting in a studio to record the work. The performance of these 4 tracks is perfect in every sense, and you can feel a "guiding hand" connecting all of these into one coherent whole, although it is far from by that time already worn-out template of "concept albums".

If I am correct, this is the first VDGG album featuring Hammill on electric guitar, besides his usual piano/electric piano instrumental contribution (here it is mainly Hohner Pianet but you can also hear many moments sounding like there is a Clavinet too). He was obviously still very shy playing it (in contrast to acoustic guitar) since it can be hardly detected on few moments on the B side of the record. Still, it is nice to see him holding a Strat on the back cover photo. Banton-Evans-Jackson trio is in full throttle providing a dense aural landscape filled with brutal heavy rock attacks, jazzy improvisation and extremely unconventional (even for "progressive rock") arrangements and melodies.

Personally, I owned this album since 25 years ago and despite being a young fan of VDGG I could not always fully enjoyed it. It grew slowly over time with many listens and now I can safely declare it one of top 20 if not even top 10 of the best progressive rock albums of all time! So, in case you are a newcomer to "Godbluff", please keep this in mind.


Report this review (#505244)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Refreshed after a break from recording and touring under the group banner, and having picked up a wild, aggressive energy during the recording of Hammill's punk-predicting Nadir's Big Chance, Van der Graaf Generator's official return to active duty is a dark, volcanic, furious ball of energy in the shape of an album. From the mysterious and foreboding opening of The Undercover Man (opening the album with some great flute from David Jackson) to the apocalyptic nightmares of Scorched Earth and Arrow to the existential horror of The Sleepwalkers, Van der Graaf Generator take the listener through a twilight world of demented saxophone, brooding organ, and impassioned vocals from bandleader Hammill. If the band needed to split up for four years after Pawn Hearts to muster the energy to deliver this unto the world, I say the wait was more than worth it.
Report this review (#544339)
Posted Thursday, October 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "As swift as any arrow..."

Within the world of prog, VDGG are often associated with the so called 'big six' English bands of the '70. Of the six, I found VDGG to be the hardest to get into, and this particular album has taken me two whole years to fully appreciate. It was recorded shortly after the band reformed in 1975, following a handful of quality solo releases from band leader Peter Hammill. I won't profess to know anything about it that hasn't been noted by other reviewers, so all I can give you is my personal opinion.

It's almost impossible to compare the sound of VDGG to any other bands of that era, they were of course pioneers within own little corner within music, but uniqueness doesn't necessitate quality so what makes VDGG, and in particular 'Godbluff', so special? Its not just the eclectic songwriting, the intriguing lyrics, the bombastic vocals, the unusual keyboards, or the excellent drumming, the answer lies within the perfect balance it presents. When compared to its predecessor 'Pawn Hearts' (jarring) and its successor 'Still Life' (calming), for me the sound of 'Godbluff' (exciting yet refined) sits somewhere in the middle. These are of course only very loose descriptions based on an overall impression, but its almost feels like the best of both worlds.

Another thing that stands out for me is the use of saxophone, especially on Scorched Earth. Its an instrument which often falls into two extremes, the avant-garde meanderings of King Crimson or Naked City, and at the other end of the scale, super cheesy pop melodies or lounge jazz. Once again, 'Godbluff' strikes a nice balance and the employment is not only tasteful, but also a key component towards my enjoyment of this particular piece. Incidentally, Scorched Earth has always been my favourite track on the album, but more recently I have grown quite fond of The Sleepwalkers which pays testament to the depth and endurance this record has to offer.

The Verdict: Absolutely essential.

Report this review (#594798)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Dear God & all the VdGG admirers, please forgive me for what I am going to do right now ..

I have an odd and rationally inexplicable relationship with two singers who are classified at Prog Archives as "eclectic prog". One of them would be, appropriately for this review, Mr. Peter Hammill (the other one being Ms. Björk). It's like a musical equivalent of scab picking.

I know from experience that within 10 minutes of my listening to either of these singers my blood begins to simmer with indignation. Yet, once in every few months I pull them out and give them a spin .. Invariably with the same predictable result.

VdGG are actually not so bad as a band. With a little tailwind many of their songs could hit the the solid 3.0-3.5 star range. I'd even say this: If King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and a few other true giants of the genre had not accomplished the "prog" revolution of the late 1960s - early 1970s, the 1975 Godbluff might even have passed for an innovative work. Might have, if ..

Enter Mr. Hammill, with his peculiar vocal demeanor ("peculiar" as in grotesquely farcical, pretentious and completely dissociated from what the band is trying to play), and thus the song/album mutates into a confused bungle. 1-1/2 stars, rounded up to 2.

Report this review (#777076)
Posted Monday, June 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars As most prog fans know by now, this is VDGG's big comeback album after their breakup in '72. Although Peter Hammill released a series of solo albums in the interim featuring his old band mates, there were only a few spots where the songs sound like a band collaboration. Where they did was incredible and only added to the excitement of a possible reunion. You could also get a decent idea of how the band grew during the time of the split. Their playing sharpened and they became much tighter as a unit. Thankfully by the time Godbluff came out, the band was all about a new direction that was just as or arguably more creative than the last time they were together.

Contrary to Pawn Hearts, VDGG use very little studio effects and since all are much better players the quality of the music is based on the dynamics and the creativity of the playing and songwriting. Four bona-fide VDGG classics were created for this masterpiece of progressive rock.

The Undercover Man starts with a pulsating flute then organ as Hammill joins in with a whisper. To me lyrically this song is like a realization that's built from "House With No Door" and "Man-Erg". Nice instrumental parts where Jaxon shows off his skills and Hammill provides augmentation through the use of a clavinet. Great song and a great opener.

Scorched Earth, one of the greatest VDGG tunes no question, Hammill's gravelly voice spits out an ode to the destruction/progress of man as the band takes you through many twists and ultimately an incredible finale. A wild 10 minute ride.

Arrow. A very unusual opening to this unusual song has the band, with Banton on bass guitar, in jazz improv mode. Likely due to their continued confidence in their musical skills that have grown by leaps and bounds. Hammill's voice at its most extreme. A crazy wild song.

Sleepwalkers. My favorite VDGG tune probably. The whole band just does an incredible job painting the imagery of "Zombies" . I get the chills every time I hear that sax scream during the sax solo when the whole band starts rocking out. Banton's keyboards provide amazing imagery throughout.

On a side note, I am always amazed at Guy Evan's drumming. Providing some kind of timing around Hammill's lyrics and all of the twist and turns of the music is absolutely sick. Guy is one of the all time great prog drummers.

God bluff another major winner for VDGG.

Report this review (#871424)
Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Usually after I hear an album a few times, I start to think about little things that I might have liked to have heard that would make an already solid release stand out just a little more. I know this is something a lot of listeners do, whether they're musical or not, according to their own subjective preferences. It's a natural process that occurs as you become comfortable with an artists material and is very common, even with some of your favorite works. For me, Godbluff is a monumental exception to that rule.

As an album, Godbluff is unique in the sense that not only is the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but every track is a masterpiece in its own right. Each one has an atmosphere and energy all its own, but they all relate to each other in an undeniably gratifying manner. A commonality in each track is an all-pervading darkness and depth of emotion. Each song's lyrical theme reflects extreme circumstances within one's life and a state of conflict, either internal, external, or both. The music compliments these ideas most effectively, as each part contains a subtle sense of driving agitation that propels the listener forward without detracting from the calmer passages. Everything from the notes themselves to the shifts of key, mood, and time signature to the instrumental timbre itself communicates artistic inspiration and emotional depth, creating an atmosphere unique to the album that haunts and enthralls the listener while augmenting the message and the fervor of the lyrics without detracting from them in any way. In short, this album contains a balanced symbiosis independent of compromise, a rare and admirable in creating album- oriented music to say the very least.

The Undercover Man is a fantastic opener. Starting softly and building progressively in texture, dynamics, and emotional fervor, Hammill leads us through a theatrical coming-of- age song that has a form more reminiscent of an overture or theatrical piece than your run- of-the-mill song. The instrumental sections help delineate the vocal passages and offer a solid contrast that renew the song's energy with each shift. By the time it concludes, you feel empowered by the dark, yet paradoxically positive energy offered by each member. Intriguing, yet inviting, this is an inspired choice for a first track.

Scorched Earth is a track of true bombast and strength. The energy of this track is very direct and engaging, even aggressive and intimidating. I believe this to be one of their strongest tracks. Complex, shifting, varied, and instrumentally demanding, this is a dense track, one you cannot hope to digest completely on the first listen. But with repeated listens comes much discovery and reward. The vocals here are more assertive than the previous track, and the empowering sensation one gets from them is more akin to the charge of battle than the uplifting perseverance through life's many changes, which is appropriate considering the track is about a soldier on the battlefield who knows nothing more than conflict any more. Truly an essential track with wonderful instrumental work, both individually and collectively when the band syncs up.

Arrow is a song that is in a constant state of evolution from the beginning jam to the slow tapering of sound as the action dies away before one final forceful cadence within the track's final moments. Hammill's most tortured vocal delivery ever suits the text so well. The lyrics depict a man running from an assassin, only to be denied shelter and brutally murdered. The darkest track on the album by far, but one of the most intriguing in the band's entire catalog. The main motive of the song is constantly developed and manipulated as the story unfolds, building to a dizzying climax as Jackson cuts loose in an instrumental depiction of the character's suffering as Hammill screams the lyrics telling of one's untimely demise. The instrumental textures here are haunting, and Hammill's punchy keys here are the perfect standout voice. I can't explain why, but the sound of that instrument alone seems to add a menacing, magical quality to the track that I feel is truly indispensable.

The Sleepwalkers has a much more mystic energy about it. Starting out playfully, the enigmatic organ drone under the bouncing soprano sax and tom hits start the song off directly and engage the listener's attention quickly before Hammill enters with his first lyrics. A song reflecting on the world around you and the people within it morphing and distorting beyond your control, the music reflects this idea by changing moods and themes with calculated regularity. These transitions, however, are seamless and natural, never seeming forced or contrived based on some arbitrary formula. The textures in some passages are lighter and more whimsical, but this deception is revealed as the next, more chaotic passage breaks loose and shatters the listener's expectations and sense of stability, in the most rewarding way possible, of course. After an ethereal moment of keyboard flourishes, the section that follows introduces a sense of tightened focus. It crescendos with each passing measure, re-energizing the listener and building up to one of the most climactic moments of the albums. Jackson soars above the other members with a fantastic solo that compliments the mix so well. No unnecessary or unjustified virtuosity in his playing; every beat of every note is truly powerful, as the strength of his playing here is the sheer edge in his tone. You don't get that kind of expression out of thirty- second note noodling and glissandos. Then Hammill reenters, forcefully delivering one of the most emotionally charged lyrical passages of the album. His screams here are truly bone-chilling. Not the kind of tortured, terrified shrieks of the previous track, but the kind of forceful shouts that will surely put a smile on your face. The original atmosphere penetrates the mix again as previous themes are reprised, Hammill reflectively delivers the final lyrical passages, and the keyboard flourishes before the driving passages return to signify a departure from the world as depicted within the lyrics, as well as a gentle awakening from the mystical world in which the song envelops the listener.

This album, according to my tastes and preferences, is one of the few albums I would regard as absolutely perfect. There is literally no conceivable change I would want to impose on any moment to alter this already strikingly beautiful formula. This album is so consistently good from track to track that I can't even conclusively select a favorite, which to me is a testament to its strength of consistency and the band's overall compositional talent. Each of these four remarkable songs is an adventure into some of the darkest textures progressive rock has ever offered, and I revel in every second of it! This is in my top 3 albums of all time, alongside Red and Selling England By The Pound. This is a masterpiece that more than deserves to be counted with the rest of the essential prog albums out there from all periods of the genre's existence, and for that reason, I award it an emphatic 5 stars along with my undying gratitude for having the pleasure of hearing this truly phenomenal music from my favorite band.

Report this review (#911225)
Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Godbluff" is the last of 3 masterpieces by VDGG in my opinion. Although not being as musically advanced as its predecessor "Pawn Hearts", it has a much stronger atmosphere due to the increased spent recording (therefore, less time to write). This is probably due to Peter and the band not wanting to make a "Pawn Hearts" child, but to expand into different key areas of prog rock to broaden the range of their music - almost creating a whole new signature sound.The album undeniably is incredibly consistent, and does explore some new areas of progressive music - the saxophone solos appearing throughout, lengthy drum solos on "Arrow", and some of Peter Hammill's best moments regarding vocal delivery. Overall, just about takes 5 stars from me, because its "listenability" makes up for the absence in music. An excellent album to be introduced from symphonic bands like Yes and Genesis, into the band's discography, and other eclectic groups alike.

"Undercover Man" immediately puts you in a very intense state, with Peter's personal whisperings, reaching wonderful climaxes ("Panicking you burst for air") but otherwise not as adventurous as expected from an "eclectic prog rock" band. "Scorched Earth" is probably my favourite song on the album: brilliant melodies, instrumentalism, chemistry between the band, but more importantly willing to explore the progressive elements (especially time signatures and rhythms, plus chord progressions). "Arrow" once again includes some great little rhythms, and allows the band to stretch out for longer, as the tracks grow and grow on "Godbluff". Finally, "The Sleepwalkers" is an outstanding work up to just over half way, but I don't really think the last 4 or so minutes were entirely necessary. Otherwise includes all of the essential products of progressive music and a gorgeous drowsy interlude around the 3 minute mark contrasted by an abrupt shaken saxophone riff.

A-: Definitely a masterpiece, but could have been a lot more audacious, and could have been a timeless magnum opus.

Undercover Man: ***** Scorched Earth: ***** Arrow: **** The Sleepwalkers: ****

Report this review (#984559)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars With Godbluff, the band has comfortably settled into the sound which defines their stronger early period. The first thing one might notice is the relative shortness of the album, coming in at only 37-minutes. But this should not be considered a negative; the brevity lends the album a more concise nature, and along with the songwriting that rivals that of Pawn Hearts, makes this album both exciting, and accessible.

The album only contains four songs; which are a bit harder to differentiate than on previous albums, if only for the more consistent nature of them. However, the diversity is certainly seen within the individual song structures. This, along with the careful repetition and development of its melodies are the greatest things about this album, and the band in general. The songs 'Scorched Earth' and 'The Sleepwalkers,' for example, introduce some killer melodies, and repeat them constantly throughout, often in different ways, yet never sound stagnant or over- repetitive. Besides this, any fan of the band probably won't find too much different here than on any previous album, except for perhaps the stronger songwriting and cohesiveness. The same general principle of technical musicianship, constant intensity, tempo, and time signature changes, and an overall experimental sound still applies to this album. Loather's of the vocal style such as myself won't find any change in that department, though I do praise Hammill on 'The Arrow,' which is easily his best vocal work.

With all that said, Godbluff is certainly the best VDGG album, above even the wonderful Pawn Hearts, if only for the more finely crafted and cohesive nature of it, and is certainly one of the essential albums in all of progressive rock.


Report this review (#1009673)
Posted Thursday, August 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This record was a change in style for VDGG. Instead of the gloomy atmospheres of some of their previous records such as Pawn Hearts, the band goes for an all-out attack, sounding more like an avant-garde jazz band as well.

"The Undercover Man" opens the album quietly and with restraint, until it grows more dramatic in the mid-section. "Scorched Earth" is one of the darkest tunes made by the group. The instruments continue to build on one another, until the song ends with feedback. "Arrow" starts with an improvisation and gradually builds. Peter Hammill gets some good screams on this track. "The Sleepwalkers" is the choice cut from the album. There's a good organ and saxophone combination throughout, and the tune slowly drifts away at the end, creating a wall of sound with keyboards.

It might seem like a mess to listen to at first, but if you return to Godbluff, you might find new things to be uncovered. For all of its noise and power, Godbluff is essential listening.

Report this review (#1194924)
Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Is there a perfect record? One that grabs the listener from the very beginning into a breathless journey without detours, distractions or waste of time? If there is such a record it is this one. Writing a review is rather simple: no week points, no negative remarks, it is just pure excellence. It just happens that this is not any ordinary kind of music: eerie sounds from an unconventional set of instruments topped by disgruntling vocals and outstanding lyrics. But it all works together remarkably well, with the sum of its several parts reaching far beyond their individual value. An unrepeatable moment in the history of music. A record without peer.
Report this review (#1218908)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR are one of those classic prog bands that must be in any decent prog collection. I believe this now with affirmed feelings. Yet early on I had a difficult time finding something to appreciate in the music. Whenever I gave a listen, it was Peter Hamill's vocals that quickly put me off. The music may have had a genius quality but Hamill was more of a madman. How was that singing? He'd have done better by talking.

Well, one day I noticed that I was slowly acquiring and enjoying most of the albums on the PA top 20 of all time and so I figured I'd just order "Godbluff" and give it a good listen. And well that I did.

"The Undercover Man" begins slowly and the music is easy to get into because it is not weird and builds very nicely as the song progresses. Peter Hamill sounds like he's reading a book and singing the odd word here and there. If I had never been able before to imagine the concept of someone singing without a tune or melody then I sure can now. But soon I seem to get what Hamill is doing. He's singing poetry. And actually it's not that bad.

"Scorched Earth" begins without me even noticing the first time because it seems to just be another part of "The Undercover Man". But the music turns more energetic and aggressive and there's a new twist to the sung poetry. This is getting interesting now. The song has edge and the music is pleasantly powerful. This I can dig.

The album continues to impress on side two with a great drum and bass intro to "The Arrow". A saxophone comes in and I am trying to imagine what image this music can conjure in my mind's eye. I settle on ghost ships appearing through the fog. The song rolls with that keyboard sound and Hamill delivers the lines with a rough edge to his voice at times. All right. So two very good songs so far and one that's interesting enough to be worthy of repeat listens.

And then we reach the climax of the album and for me THE VDGG song to have me hooked: "The Sleepwalkers". The song begins just as good as anything I've heard so far. I am really surprised that I am enjoying music without electric guitar this much. There's this wonderful bit that sounds like living room dance music for my dear grandmother's generation, with images of barrel-bodied seniors in brown pants and knit one- piece sweater/skirts dancing joyously in the living in the 1970's. Love it! Then the first part wraps up and morphs into a spacey organ bit that goes on a bit longer than I'd like. But that's OK because presently a serious rock section begins and my ears are soaking in all in. This is really good music. The sax and organs along with an acerbic Peter Hamill screaming the lyrics as well as any punk rocker is just bliss. And again I notice that there's no electric guitar and I am loving the saxophone. Fantastic!

Based on the sheer joy of listening to the music on "Godbluff", I bought "Still Life" but was disappointed. Later I bought "Pawn Hearts" and though I like it now, it took some time to appreciate. But "Godbluff" is quite a package of music. It sure deserves it's place among the top albums of progressive rock. Certainly, VDGG is not for everybody and if the music isn't too hard to swallow then Peter Hamill's voice might be the clincher. More than a singer, I would call him a theatrical vocalist. But if you can "get" this then this album should really please. One thing I really appreciate is that I can listen to the whole thing through and keep my interest, and as well, I can pick two or three songs to put on mix playlists. These are two of the traits of a great album for me.

Report this review (#1275350)
Posted Friday, September 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nş 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*)

Report this review (#1477183)
Posted Monday, October 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars My ALL-TIME Greatest #8

Although my first love was the former Pawn Hearts it's this one, born 4 years later, that has made me since then continuously and unfailingly happy. My friends, these are the big Dinosaurs, the Velocyraptors of Prog, and this is their Opus Magnum!

Global Appraisal

The whole, as often said, is bigger than the sum of the parts; no band - not even them - has or would ever sound like on this one, a gigantic landmark of inventive, innovative, inimitable music.

A band that is reputably a boundaries pusher and has produced a body of work of the greatest magnitude (5 albums in a row with a rating here on PA of 4 plus) created in only 35 minutes what represents a monument and a legacy of historical dimensions.


Peter Hammill voice, formidable, at the height of his expression powers.
Hugh Banton a master at the keys, one has to hear to believe the way he plays the organ, be it prepared or not.
David Jackson blows the saxes, sometimes even simultaneously, like his life depends on it.
Guy Evans developed a personalized drumming style that imprints here a signature sound; outstanding!
The lyrics are a remarkable example of PH renowned poetic skills, permeated with a pathos that at times will give you shivers, really.

Report this review (#1490189)
Posted Friday, November 20, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars The resurrection of Van Der Graaf Generator

Fans of alternative prog, rejoice! After four years of silence, Peter Hammill, David Jackson, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans unexpectedly reunite in 1975 and simply offer one of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's best albums! "Godbluff" inaugurates the band's second era in the mid-70's and proves that miracles exist. After "Pawn Hearts", Hammill started a solo career and his works were a bit different from VdGG's style. Same goes for the other members, who released average jazz-rock albums, under the name "The Long Hello", without their singer. These three separation years thus demonstrates that Peter Hammill is not VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR all by himself, and, vice-versa, that VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR cannot exist without its lead vocalist.

Composed of four mini-epics, "Godbluff" is their first self-produced opus, as well as their most accessible. Again, the music, somber depressive, tortured and dominated by keyboards and saxophone instead of guitars, investigates the depths of the human mind. This time, the atmosphere is maybe even more bitter and aggressive than on "Pawn Hearts". In addition of his raging and theatrical voice, Hammill makes an important usage of clavinet and Jackson's saxes are literally possessed here. Also featuring various changes and complex rhythms, the songs are perhaps a little less demanding than those of VdGG's first era, but still as interesting, creative and touching.

Opening with whispering vocals and saxophone, "The Undercover Man" is sad and beautiful. Melodies to cry for. The tension then rises with the raging and somber "Scorched Earth". After its heroic overture, the music goes crescendo, stronger to conclude with a surprising distorted guitar section. A powerful track, driven by the organ and Jackson's demented sax.

Do not trust the ambient free jazz introduction of "Arrow": this song is the most violent and darkest of the record, but also the maybe the most heartbreaking. A magnificent explosion of mastered wilderness! Back to calm with the more melodic "The Sleepwalkers" and its strange bossa-nova interlude. This ethereal ender contains also quite spacey keyboards and a grandiose finale. Epic!

Out of time, "Godbluff" is much more than just the return of a major progressive band, it's a miraculous resurrection, a musical black meteorite darker than most other disc of the same time-period. Each track is superb and offers its own variety of ambiances. A little gem of tortured and frightening impressions, so human...

Most accessible record from the band, this fifth opus is definitely the one to start with for newcomers. "Godbluff" is a masterpiece of depressive prog, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's creative peak, with "Pawn Hearts" of course...

Report this review (#1601302)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'll be honest. I don't really get this one. I find myself really only digging the first era of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR records, even though I've tried and tried to dig this one. The production's cleaner this time around, but I kinda liked it muddier. Peter Hammill's voice is more acrobatic, but that's more of a curse than a blessing. The instrumentation may not be as complex, but it's certainly more lush. However, I'm as of yet unconvinced that that alone makes for a better record. The only things, I think, that this record has over something like "Pawn Hearts" is that the songs are a bit more manageable and the scope of influences is greater, which is really saying something. As a whole however, it doesn't beat their early work, though the attempt is certainly dazzling on its own. Definitely give it a listen, but I'm not ready to call it excellent, much less essential.
Report this review (#1638909)
Posted Friday, November 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR became quite the rage in the most extreme circles of the prog world in the early 70s having pushed the boundaries exponentially on their critically acclaimed combo pack of 'H To He Who Am The Only One' and 'Pawn Hearts,' the latter of which was so stuffed with musical mojo that even nearly 50 years after its creation still stands proud above the decades of recordings that have followed in its wake and requires some serious dedication to penetrate. So ambitious was the classic VDGG lineup of Peter Hammill (vocals, keyboards), Hugh Benton (organs, bass, bass pedals), David Jackson (sax, flute) and Guy Evans (percussion) during these years that the band literally caved in under the strain of an exhaustive workload that included not only incessant recording schedules but extensive touring that took them on the road in their native UK and across the entire European continent (with Italy proving to be their biggest success).

Having completely burned out, Hammill, the undisputed leader of the band decided to call it quits which essentially dissolved the great VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and instead focused on his solo career and released a series of solo albums. Saying the band broke up altogether would be somewhat of a misnomer since the entire VDGG team played on Hammill's first three solo albums 'Fool's Mate,' 'Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night' and 'The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage.' In fact, tracks like 'A Louse Is Not A Home' from the latter was initially intended to fit in on a VDGG album but adapted to Hammill's more intimate and less psychedelic band efforts. All was amicable. VDGG was not a band of drama and exuded a sense of professionalism rarely found in the music industry. And although the focus was on Hammill's solo career, recordings have emerged that were intended to be possible VDGG material from this era.

After a few years off, the quartet was getting the VDGG bug again. The band's first phase final effort 'Pawn Hearts' was released in 1971, just as the prog rock scene was really getting started so the temptation to reconvene in the ever more crowded scene must've been irresistible especially since the band hastily broke up at their creative peak. While 1975 was a year that saw the prog scene beginning to wane, VDGG were just getting ready to begin the second chapter of existence. The year was spent crafting the first self- produced album and fluffing audiences in live settings to prepare them for the band's long-awaited fifth album GODBLUFF which emerged in October. Having decided to move on stylistically and create a second phase of the band's sound, the four struggled at first to reinvent themselves but in the end found yet another successful formula that was built around Hammill's singer / songwriter skills.

It doesn't take too long to figure out that GODBLUFF isn't merely a continuation of 'Pawn Hearts' but rather more akin to the Hammill solo albums. Gone was the focus on the multitude of studio effects and psychedelic escapades and in was a more cohesive band sound that still focused on the melodic vocal / keyboard riffs as the main underpinning but found new ways to tease out the multitude of variations in an instrumental band effort that eschewed side long tracks divided into suites and instead created a strong collection of only four tracks that all hovered around the seven to ten minute mark. With the psychedelic and improvisational meanderings out of the picture, the emphasis is placed on Hammill's dark and mysterious lyrical content that tells the tales of tortured minds, ancient battles and fantastical progressive rock escapism in near perfect poetic deliveries.

Perhaps the most psychedelic part of GODBLUFF is the very first notes of 'The Undercover Man' which insinuate a continuation of where 'Pawn Hearts' left off with an echoey flute oscillating into the limelight followed by Hammill's almost whispered vocals, however as the track continues it doesn't drift into psychedelic haze or completely unrelated musical motifs but rather takes the more commercial aspects of verses, choruses and bridges and puts them on steroids to create a revolving door effect of the various melodies that are teased out to the seven minute mark. Likewise the following 'Scorched Earth' finds a more feisty Hammill screaming the lyrics as well as adding those satisfying word extensions while the musical riffs create a repetitive cushioning for them to lay upon. While lyrically driven, the instrumental section finds brilliant ways to express their progressive leanings with time signature rich deviations and instrumental interplay.

'Arrow' begins with a percussion rich jazz motif with resplendent sax squawks before ceding to the melancholic organ and piano melodies that slow things down considerably before Hammill breaks in with a series of call and response effects between the vocals and instruments. This track has an addictive melodic build ups that ultimately reach dramatic climaxes with Hammill finding new ways to torture the word 'Arrow' which reaches some of the most visceral emotional outbreaks on the entire album. The closing 'Sleepwalkers' is perhaps the most seductively sinister as the organ and sax riff slink around and create one of the most memorable tracks in the entire VDGG canon. Hammill's lyrics about some sort of zombie state of humanity manipulated by unknown masters finds his vocal prowess reaching new heights as the band effortlessly augments and outlines the main melodic drive in a progressive rock manner and sounds like no other. This track even adds the surprise of drifting off for a short while into some sort of cha-cha- cha Latin music.

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR was back and proved that not only did this creative band still have yet another masterpiece in them but that these guys were able to create another chapter of their established sound without repeating the studio tricks and trinkets stuffed obsessions of the earlier albums. GODBLUFF not only comes off as more focused but also displays VDGG's ability to create lengthy tight-knit and well-crafted tracks that display the intricacies of Hammill's dark lyrical content into perfectly performed by the instrumental and vocal weavings. While a few naysayers like a review in the Lancashire Evening Post panned the album as being an inferior specimen compared to other similar acts and that Guy Evans couldn't drum his way out of a paper bag, GODBLUFF has stood the test of time and decades of accruing fans to the club. Castigating this album for its lack of Yes-like virtuosity or Pink Floyd lysergicism and not accepting the album on its own terms is missing the point as it is a vocal / lyrical driven album that takes the singer / songwriter approach into the realms of progressive rock. For many of us, this is yet another perfect album and VDGG couldn't have crafted a better followup to their brilliant 'Pawn Hearts.'

Report this review (#2120393)
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars

This album remarks the comeback of the band after a four year break from the music industry. The front- man Peter Hammill released quite a number of albums during that time. The quartet (Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, David Jackson, Guy Evans) reconvened and recorded a batch of songs that would produce not only Godbluff, but also a good deal of the following album Still Life. I think this is the best album by this band, and I would recommend it to anybody who is interested in emotional progressive rock music. Their music is quite accessible on this record when compared to their previous records, especially Pawn Hearts. The overall feeling is sorrowful, dark and violent.

'The Undercover Man' kicks off the album with full splendor: its crescendo entry and its delicate balance of wind/keyboard sonic display makes it a strong starting point, despite the fact of it being basically a 7+ minute ballad. "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. "Scorched Earth" Continuing directly from the previous track with a dirge-like organ, this piece delivers a change of flavor, with a heavier reliance on Hugh Banton's organ, and a heavier feel altogether. Hammill's vocals are as dramatic as ever, with several great examples of his creepy lyrical mastery. Guy Evans' drumming is spectacular during the last few minutes, which is one of the best parts of the song. The third song on the album is the anger laden "Arrow". The song starts with a short jazz improvisation, as Peter Hammill's vocals come in the song becomes a frightening piece of music. The chorus is haunting, while at the same time being pretty catchy. Peter's extraordinary vocals really stand out on this track. The last track on the album is "The Sleepwalkers" I really like it a lot. The intro is just nice and gentle, but when the vocals start, it turns out to be another scary one. The instrumental break shows the whole band in its full power. This track is so intense with the whole band playing at its best than I just felt in love with it.

The musicianship is wonderful, especially how the instruments work together to create interesting time signatures, unusual sounds and beautiful melodies. Above all this, Peter Hammill comes crashing in with his remarkable voice, working it to add to the timbre of the instruments, creating the atmosphere of the songs, with great emotion and drama.

A true masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Report this review (#2169758)
Posted Saturday, March 30, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Godbluff is not a Peter Hammill solo album, but the weirdness of his lyrics and the oddness of his delivery of those lyrics almost suggest a singer-songwriter album. Actually, there's more to it than that. There's a strange consistency in characterization across the four lyrical pieces. There are three principal characters - - me, you, and him, but often they're blurred to the point that they're hard to separate. 'I'd like to help you somehow, but I'm in the self-same spot,' Hammill sings on 'Arrow.' And on 'The Undercover Man,' he refers to 'you, my constant friend, ever close at hand.' Especially given Hammill's often-conspiratorial tone, the 'you' character seems not to be an unseen second person, but you, the listener - - except when Hammill seems to be speaking to himself (i.e., 'me' = 'you'). Indeed, mental instability seems to lie beneath every other line. In the middle of 'Arrow,' after this passage - -

'Sanctuary!' cracks a voice, half-strangled by the shock of its rejection

Shot the bolt in the wall, rusted the key

now the echoes of all frightful memory intrude in the silence.

- - we discover that the owner of that half-strangled voice is you. Similarly, only at the end of 'The Sleepwalkers' is it clear that the protagonist is himself part of 'this mindless army' which 'advance(s) against the darkness.' Prior to this, he seems to be observing the fearful scene of murderous, unthinking zombies. And yet he is'an unthinking zombie, simultaneously thinking the thoughts we hear him sing? Or he is one of the 'converts' gathered 'to the fold'? Perhaps the lyrical kernel of Godbluff'in encapsulated in this line from 'The Undercover Man:' 'When the madness comes, let it flood on down and over me sweetly.'

The music on Godbluff is as mercurial as the lyrics, but within constraints which make it somewhat more consistent than Pawn Hearts, the band's prior effort. The standout here is 'Scorched Earth,' the only track not written solely by Hammill (saxophonist David Jackson is listed as a co-writer). The sound (I'm reviewing the 2005 Charisma remaster) is also very good.

Godbluff is twisted, but I think I'm discovering that much of Van Der Graaf Generator's music is twisted - - or maybe it's just Hammill? For most listeners, Van Der Graaf Generator will be an acquired taste, and given the hundreds and hundreds of great bands and albums most of us have yet to discover, it makes sense to me that if you don't like it at first, you move on to something else. 'Appreciating' Van Der Graaf Generator isn't so important that anyone should have to keep relistening until they've acquired the taste. But there was something about the song 'Killer,' and then the album Pawn Hearts that compelled me to keep listening to this weirdness.

Anyway, Godbluff is a very good album, but not one I'd recommend to someone new to the prog-rock genre. Try out Yes, Genesis, Rush, Jethro Tull, etc. first. But if and when you're ready for something a bit off-the-wall but (mostly) self-serious, give Godbluff a spin.

Report this review (#2189857)
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator disbanded after the Pawn Hearts tour, in 1972, they disappeared when prog-rock exploded, spread: the years 1972, 1973 and 1974 are dominated by progressive rock, and they are not there: they return in 1975, when the prog movement is now the straight of arrival, it is leaving the scenes to punk; as if primitive dinosaurs that appeared in the Triassic disappeared throughout the Jurassic and then returned to the end of the Cretaceous, just before extinction. VdGG returns in a more stripped-down robe (without the mellotron and synths and terrifying sound orgasms of the past), a drier, almost live sound, where the drums are too prominent, and with more linear but still prog songs that are long , with changes in time and atmosphere, and instrumental variations on the theme.


Side A. 1) The undercover man (8+): Slow beginning with a soft, very expressive singing, followed by a beautiful melodic progression dominated again by Hammill's singing (and here it feels like the complex sounds more calmly and more linear than in the past, according to the more classical schemes of a song), then finally comes the instrumental piece and the epic ending ? but the performance does not touch those very high expressionistic summits of pathos of the past.

2) Scorched Earth (8.5/9): More gritty song than the previous, more expressionist, masterpiece of the album, with frightening sound passages reminiscent of the golden days. Hammill's voice does its part, it is the music that does not have the charge of the past, but is unleashed in the paroxysmal ending. Dark and hallucinatory atmosphere.

Side B. 3) Arrow (8+): It starts with a beautiful jazzy instrumental passage (great Banton on the bass guitar), then comes the sound characterized by a rabid, almost snarling chant of Hammill. Throughout the record is missing the wonderful singing on the high, elegiac notes of Hammill, who prefers here to perform in a raucous rant that is not up to par. The atmosphere, in fact, is more of anger than anguish.

4) The Sleepwalkers (8): Song with a sarcastic atmosphere, the only theatrical, with continuous changes of rhythm, at times ironic as a popular dance, sometimes obsessive. It's fine as a final piece to lighten the atmosphere and close in a pyrotechnic way; it is the longest and lightest piece of the album pleasant, even if it lacks a real direction.

VdGG returned to the scene by churning out an album with a very different sound from the previous ones, as did King Crimson with LTIA, overall rough, sober and fuzzy, where Hammill's voice and Banton's keyboards are less prominent. The arrangements and melodies are all too homogeneous and paint a desolate picture of the loss of hope. The four songs all look a bit like each other in various passages. The pieces are all solid and more than good, if not excellent, and on them hovers an existential nightmare, especially in Scorched Earth and Arrow, and only the last song has slight passages. VdGG do not betray themselves, they reproduce with songs inspired and easier to access than in the past but they do not play and no longer sing with that existential urgency of the beginnings, and this partly affected the pathos transmitted by the music, which still remains well present (O God, compared to Yes, EL&P, Genesis the pathos is always very high) but it does not reach the heights of which they are capable.

Average: 8.15 Great album, small masterpiece, five stars.

Report this review (#2250320)
Posted Monday, September 9, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well lets talk Van Der Graaf Generator.

When I was first getting into prog, my friend lent me a stack of albums, one of those albums was Pawn Hearts. I gave it a spin and well.... I hated it.

But I eventually came back around to VDGG and grew to appreciate lemmings, and then the rest of the album which I now consider a 10/10. I had always seen Godbluff on Progarchives but slept on it for months and months. I finally blind purchased a copy of discogs and after dozens of listens, I can safely say this is very much worthy of its rating on this site.

The pure amount of creativity and detail is mind-boggling. Peter Hammill uses his voice as if it was a lead instrument. His delivery is just so terrifyingly creative that I cant get enough of it. This band is almost too prog to be considered prog. This album comes after a long four year hiatus where Hammill went ham (no pun intended!) on the solo albums with the other band members joining him on those albums. The album follows a structure that is essentially four similar length songs ranging from 7:00-10:26 minutes. It's brimming with layers of Organ and Saxophone with a prominent jazz influence that really creates a unique sound for this album.

"The Undercover Man" starts the album off a bit more mellow. There is amazing depth to the instrumentals creating a vast soundscape throughout the song. It is perhaps my favorite on the album. "Scorched Earth" seems to fade together nicely with The Undercover Man. It a bit more on the intense, heavier side of things. Around 3:40, a really sick heavy groove kicks in that is eventually reprised near the end of the song. The third song titled "Arrow," is the other contender for favorite song. We are treated to a nice extended jazzy jam that opens the song getting things going. Once again, this song has a really cool dark groove for the verse that is established by whatever tone Hammill is using on the keys. Along with the verse, the chorus is a highlight of the song. It builds up to an amazing crescendo where Hammill shouts, "swift as any ARRROOOOWWW!" Yeah great song. The final track, "The Sleepwalkers" makes me envision chaotic evil circus music. There's one section that stood out to me right from first listen and its the part around 3:00 minutes in that sounds like surf music for a moment. In typical Van Der Graaf style, it quickly turns dark and speeds up creating one of my favorite moments throughout the album. It is such a complete 180 from everything else on the album that I can't help but adore it. There is an abundance of detail throughout the song that has given me something new to hear on every repeated listen.

The Undercover Man 10/10 Scorched Earth 9/10 Arrow 10/10 The Sleepwalkers 9/10

This album is perfect and an easy 5-Star rating for me.

Report this review (#2282194)
Posted Sunday, November 17, 2019 | Review Permalink

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