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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Van Der Graaf Generator biography
Formed in 1967 in Manchester, UK - Hiatus from 1972 to 1975 - Disbanded in 1978 - Reunited in 2004

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is an English eclectic progressive rock band with front man Peter HAMMILL from 'the classic period' that has proven be one of the most important bands of the progressive genre.

In England, 1967 Chris Judge SMITH formed 'VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR', but after his departure it was up to Peter HAMMILL (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Hugh BANTON (organ, bass on organ), David JACKSON (sax, flute) and Guy EVANS (drums) to become one of progressive rock most proliferate and unique bands as well as the first band to be signed to the Famous Charisma Label. The band was named after the scientific instrument 'the Van de Graaff generator', which is used for accumulating high voltage bolts. VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (VdGG for short) is known for its extrovert dynamics (ranging from slow, calm & peaceful to fierce & heavy), its intense and emotional 'love it or hate it' vocals by Peter HAMMILL, its celebrated contribution to extended progressive songwriting and its combination of psychedelic, jazz, classical and avant-garde or even acid influences. Moreover, VdGG can be seen as the first band that was to combine the very progressive with the very personal, whereas other bands used to work with abstractions and fantasy. Peter HAMMILL has a talent for singing out intense graving, anger, panic and confusion whilst still being able to sing warm and caring in other passages. The band never really fitted in the symphonic progressive rock subgenre because of its widespread influences and unique style, though the band would have symphonic leanings throughout it's career. Unusual for the time was the focus on organ, drums and sax, whereas in the sixties the guitar and the bass guitar had played a major role.

The band had a leading role in the very first progressive phase releasing high-rated albums from 1970 to 1975. The strong conceptual 'H to He Who am the only one' (1970), the intense and highly innovative and daring 'Pawn Hearts' (1971), the bleak and ever evolving 'Godbluff' (1975) and the matured 'Still Life' (1976) are often cited as masterpieces of the progressive genre. Alongside VdGG there would be a very interesting solo-career for Peter HAMMILL who frequently invited members of the band to come and join on his seventies rec...
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Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
$5.15
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The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each OtherThe Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Extra tracks · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
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H To He Who Am I The Only OneH To He Who Am I The Only One
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline World Service 2005
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$9.67 (used)
Do Not DisturbDo Not Disturb
Esoteric Antenna 2016
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The Aerosol Grey MachineThe Aerosol Grey Machine
Fie 2005
$10.50
$41.02 (used)
Aerosol Grey Machine: 50th Anniversary EditionAerosol Grey Machine: 50th Anniversary Edition
Esoteric 2019
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After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77After the Flood-The BBC 1968-77
Universal 2015
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Godbluff LiveGodbluff Live
Vivid 2017
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$30.40 (used)
Live in Concert at Metropolis StudiosLive in Concert at Metropolis Studios
Box set
Conveyor 2012
$11.43
$9.99 (used)
GodbluffGodbluff
Remastered
Caroline 2005
$5.14
$7.64 (used)
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.28 | 610 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.07 | 1001 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.31 | 1572 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 2091 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.48 | 1969 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.29 | 1441 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.83 | 733 ratings
World Record
1976
3.66 | 621 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.61 | 488 ratings
Present
2005
3.50 | 464 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.44 | 462 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.48 | 225 ratings
ALT
2012
3.59 | 153 ratings
Do Not Disturb
2016

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.83 | 264 ratings
Vital
1978
4.09 | 130 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.09 | 177 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.65 | 80 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.60 | 43 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012
3.85 | 50 ratings
Merlin Atmos
2015
4.25 | 42 ratings
After the Flood: At The BBC 1968 - 1977
2015

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.15 | 109 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
4.31 | 13 ratings
Masters From The Vaults
2003
3.17 | 27 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.29 | 9 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
4.00 | 58 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.54 | 37 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.57 | 34 ratings
68-71
1972
3.25 | 5 ratings
Repeat Performance
1972
3.13 | 5 ratings
Reflection
1975
2.21 | 5 ratings
Rock Heavies
1978
2.34 | 58 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.42 | 63 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.36 | 46 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.14 | 39 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.30 | 54 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.94 | 68 ratings
The Box
2000
3.32 | 21 ratings
An Introduction
2000
3.25 | 5 ratings
First Generation / Godbluff
2012

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.57 | 18 ratings
People You Were Going To / Firebrand
1969
4.08 | 21 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
4.49 | 29 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.51 | 32 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.88 | 17 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.50 | 18 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
4.16 | 19 ratings
Cat's Eye
1977
1.72 | 18 ratings
The Masters
1998
3.25 | 8 ratings
Highly Strung
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Rock Heavies by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1978
2.21 | 5 ratings

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Rock Heavies
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Review N 276

"Rock Heavies" is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1975. This is a compilation that includes tracks from four studio albums of Van Der Graaf Generator. So, it includes one track from their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts", released in 1971, one track from their sixth studio album "Still Life", released in 1976, one track from their seventh studio album "World Record", released also in 1976, and three tracks from their eighth studio album "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome", released in 1977. Their album "Pawn Hearts" belogs to what is usually considered their first musical era and the other three belong to what is considered their second musical era.

"Pawn Hearts" is with "The Aerosol Grey Machine", released in 1969, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", released in 1970 and "H To He, Who Am The Only One", released in 1970 too, one of the four albums that belong to their first musical period. "Pawn Hearts" is with "H To He, Who Am The Only One", the two best albums of that era and two of their best albums ever. Of their second musical era, with also four studio albums, only lacks their fifth studio album "Godbluff", released in 1975, to be joined to "Still Life", "World Record" and "The Quiet Zone/ The Pleasure Dome".

So, we have represented here one of their best albums from their first musical era "Pawn Hearts" and represented also one of their best albums of their second musical era "Still Life". But unfortunately, we don't have tracks from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", from their first era and tracks from "Godbluff" from their second era. That is really a pity, because "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" and "Still Life", are generally considered their greatest four masterpieces. Furthermore, the representativeness between both eras is somehow unbalanced, really.

"Rock Heavies" has five tracks. The first track "Lizard Play" was released on "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". "Lizard Play" is a song with some very peculiar rhythm and with a very interesting violin work. "Lizard Play", with its infectious rhythm section is one the biggest standout on the first side of that album. It has a laid back and the pacing and sharp delivery makes for a very interesting contrast with the strings which are quite nice to hear. This is a good song to open that album and this compilation too. The second track "The Habit Of The Broken Heart" was also released on "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". "The Habit Of The Broken Heart" is also a good track and is essentially an acoustic song commanded by acoustic guitar, but the bass becomes the real driving force of the song. The sound of the organ is very subtle, quiet and nice. The middle of the song consists of a fast tempo, book- ended by slower and gentler passages. This is also a very nice track. The third track "Lemmings (Including COG)" was released on "Pawn Hearts". "Lemmings (Including COG)" has very powerful vocals with different harmonies and strange vocal passages, and musically, it has parts with extended saxophone work, keyboards and guitar passages. The track is pretty calm but contains some long musical dissonant parts, but is very pleasant to listen to. This is the weakest song on that album, but it manages to be a very good composition, with all the essential characteristics of the band. The fourth track "A Place To Survive" was released on "World Record". "A place To Survive" is probably the most standard Van Der Graaf Generator's track on that album. This song is about we are alone in this solitary world, after the breakup of a close relationship, and trying to find a place and a way to survive in this hostile world. This is one of the better tracks on that album with some great Hammill vocals and a great instrumental break with scorching blasts of sax and organ. The fifth track "La Rossa" was released on "Still Life". "La Rossa" is an epic tale about a desire fulfilled. It's a very powerful song, is the hardest rocking song on that album and is one of my favourite songs of the band, a real highlight. "La Rossa" combines a magical groove with imaginative shifts in texture and mood. On "La Rossa" and "My Room", another track of that album, Jackson delivers some of his most inspired saxophone performances ever made by him.

Conclusion: So, "Rock Heavies" has a track from one album that belongs to their first musical era, 1968-1972, "Pawn Hearts", and four tracks from three albums that belong to their second musical era, 1975-1977, "Still Life", "World Record" and "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome". So, we can say this isn't a well balanced compilation album by two reasons. First, of their first era only one album was represented, while from their second era there are three. Second, and above all, some of the best representative albums of both eras aren't represented, even of their second era. It's absolutely incomprehensible that from their first era, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and "H To He, Who Am The Only One", aren't represented with any track. The same goes to their second era. I can't believe that any track from "Godbluff" wasn't chosen. Besides, "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Pawn Hearts", "Godbluff" and "Still Life", are usually considered the great four masterpieces of the band. Finally, why two tracks from "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome", an atypical album and one of their weaker. So, this isn't a well representative compilation of the band.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 2091 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars In September 1971, VdGG finished recording what critics consider their masterpiece, their artistic peak: "Pawn Hearts". it consists of two songs in the first facade and a suite in the second, thus following the fashion inaugurated by Kin Crimson (Lizard) and Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother) in 1970, and continued by EL&P (Tarkus) in 1971.

Side A. "Lemmings". In this song the narrator ascends the hill and sees people jump into the sea, committing suicide like lemmings. The beginning describes this situation with a vocal instrumental crescendo, then the music gets gloomy, Hammill's voice more cavernous because to speak is a person of this people who is committing suicide, who explains his reasons, and concludes by asking "What cause there left but to die?" The music follows the lyrics perfectly, becoming more and more distressing, and the initially grave singing becomes increasingly angry and desperate. The sound is thick, there are keyboards and electronic effects that describe a desolate lunar landscape beaten by winds and misfortunes, and only the acoustic guitar gives some sign of light. Evans's drums combined with the electronic sounds of Banton and Hammill, and Jackson's excruciating saxophone, create an end-of-the- world atmosphere, and one wonders what would add to all this sound, sometimes cacophonous, Potter's bass, whose absence makes the music more silt dry, naked, especially the drums played by Evans. Yet, always with this distressing background, Hammill responds to the suicidal people that lemmings teach nothing and that the only thing left is to live, or at least try. It is a message of hope that arises from despair and therefore is proposed with the same apocalyptic atmosphere but the ending takes place with slow fade, and Gothic mood with flute in very suggestive evidence. First masterpiece, rating 8,5/9.

"Man-Erg". Hammill sings: The killer is inside me, but the angels are also inside me, and I myself are, I do not know who I am and I contain inside me everything, angels and demons. An existentialist text hovers along with an epic piano music from the first note, more melodic than the previous one. Hammill's charge of pathos with his singing making it sublime until Banton fills it with sound effects similar to terrible screams (and perhaps playing bass guitar in the background), and an atmosphere worthy of a horror movie, very rhythmic and menacing thanks to Evans's work, is filled by Hammill's voice with echoes that asks how to be free. It is an artistic moment of the highest of contemporary music. After the fear, returns the melody and the singing of Hammill confirms his path of awareness between epic flashes and menacing progressions, and finally creeps behind the melody the frightening rhythm, which rises in crescendo creating a music on two layers, that melodic-sublime-epic and percussive- looming- terrifying and so Hammill succeeds in the miracle of unifying, to make synchronous two antithetic music, manages to express at the same time and in an intense way, a pathos composed of the two opposite poles: ecstasy and anguish. In my opinion, Lemmings is maybe the most beautiful songs ever composed. Rating 10.

Side B. "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", suite formed by ten movements. The lighthouse keeper inaugurates the album suite prophesiing disasters, encrusted with seaweed. behind a melody on the piano that quickly becomes a rabid cry, followed by port noises, perhaps even trains, artfully created by Banton and Jackson: we are in full avant-garde and concrete music, then a solo of organ fades and with the third movement resumes the melody and again the rabid progression, until it begins a much more powerful music in rhythm (S.H.M.) where again the Gurdian-witness growls his despair. Then follows a pause in the music, a suspended moment where Banton is also heard on bass (mixed however always low, not as powerful as Potter used to do), but this is the prelude to the most distressing progression, sung with more pathos than the whole suite, followed by a cacophonous sound orgasm that makes this movement (Kosmos Tour) the most enthralling in the suite. And after the storm returns (for a short time) the serene (Last Stand) with a melody similar to the initial, but this melodic passage, as often happens, is the prologue to the most desecrated and grotesque piece of the record, associated with questions about God as a guide, piece that it ends again in a cacophony similar to the previous, at the end of which Hammill's voice and piano return, which always mark the resumption of the narrative after the storm and the last two movements arrive where hope rises again in the lighthouse keeper, after touching Land's End.

This suite is much more sophysticated and avant-garde than those mentioned at the beginning, which preceded it, and also compared to those of Yes (Close to the Edge) and Genesis (Supper's Ready), released in 1972. This is a real literary poem translated into music, has no refrain, has an unpredictable development that follows Hammill's singing, and can be ardous to listen in various passagess. Compared to the two mini-suites in "From H to He" (Lost and Pioneers), also able to go hand in hand with Hammill's lyrics, this suite has no musical themes that come back, it has no repetitive structures, it is an ever different unfolding, which requires more effort because Hammill's changes in pace and mood can sometimes be exasperating. Rating 9+.

The music of the whole album, characterized by the absence (or almost) of the bass guitar, is much more homogeneous than in the past, and in general the atmospheres of the Lp are less varied: we are faced with the refinement and intensification of a precise songwriting and sound arrangement, which comes here to touch peaks beyond which it would become hyper-accentuated. For all these reasons, I think it is debatable that "Pawn Hearts" is the absolute masterpiece composed by VdGG because "The Least We Can Do" (the most melodic and varied, where the pathos comes directly to hit the listener) is at the opposite pole of "Pawn Hearts" (the most sophisticated and varied in-depth, where the pathos is more filtered and insisted towards a precise sound) but in their complementarity they reach artistic peaks of similar quality, and "From The H to He" possesses intermediate qualities between the two. Therefore, it is difficult to uniquely choose the best masterpiece, among these three artworks, three gigantic operas baked by Hammill and Co. in less than two years: I know no other artist capable of doing the same.

Absolute masterpieces of contemporary music. Rating 10/10. Five stars (and more).

 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.31 | 1572 ratings

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H To He, Who Am The Only One
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars After a few months from their progressive debut, Van Der Graaf Generator released a new album that is similarly based on the two sides of "The Least We Can Do": 1) anguished/scary song 2) melodic ballad 3) dramatic song or suite with many changes. In the second side of "From H to He", however, "Lost" summarizes the distressing and melodic song before "Pioneers", that is a mini- suite, arrives.

Side A. "Killer" is a powerful song, very rhythmic and aggressive, very structured (verse-chorus), with an instrumental interlude where we listen to a throbbing solo of Jackson's electronic sax, that are sounds that are unparalleled in progressive. Hammill's extraordinary voice and Evans's overflowing drums do the rest (Banton is on the bass but here Potter would have done better). After Darkness (The Least We Can Do), again an absolute masterpiece as incipit. Rating 9.5.

"House With No Door" is a wonderful piano ballad, with melodic openings to the flute, and with a certain prog restlessness that has the merit of not making it monotonous; in the ending Hammill's voice touches more acute notes, the listening becomes sublime and gives way to the beautiful tail with the variations of the piano. Gorgeous, masterpiece, as far as it doesn't reach the superlative level of Refugees. Rating 8.5.

"Emperor" has got verses with dreamlike atmosphere punctuated by organ and flute that create a very beautiful space-rock mood, it seems to be suspended in space, then chorus with rhythmic progression and dramatic voice by Hammill, which are repeated twice, then bridge, then again verse and chorus that are repeated twice, and new bridge, then variation with largely instrumental interlude where you finally hear Fripp's electric guitar and Banton's overflowing drums, but to punctuate the rhythm there is always the mighty bass played by Potter, then the verse and rhythmic progression with Hammill's voice becoming more dramatic, and a greater sound orgasm, until the slight ending. Very studied and structured song in a controlled way. Rating 8.5.

Side B "Lost" begings well rhythm, with great work by Banton, followed by a wider part, where Hammill shows off his expressionist singing, let's call it chorus, then another verse and chorus, then instrumental variation dominated by Jackson, I would say almost bandistic; it returns Hammill's dramatic voice, the an interlude with Hammill touching the high notes, it follows pause with organ and sax (we are halfway, 5'30''), Hammill expresses his solitude ("truly lost") and returns to sing with an unfolded voice, it seems we are coming to the climax but... this is prog, and then again the instrumental banding digression comes back that extinguishes the emotion for give pleasure to the brain, until finally the voice of Hammill returns that concludes this tiring epic by desperately singing " love you" It's a melodic song of love, dramatic, potentially with a lot of pathos, which could have been developed more linearly reaching probably a greater intensity and instead Hammill wanted to offer these continuous variations in prog style that take away some of the emotional intensity but that in a certain way go hand in hand with the emotional ups and downs of the artist, of the lyrics, making the emotional experience more complex and articulate. Rating 8.5/9.

"Pioneer over the C" starts slowly, starring Banton, then Hammill explains that the pioneers who travel beyond the speed of light left Earth in 1983, and then the bass, here again played by Banton, inaugurates a new passage where Hammill sings "It's all dark around" and the music, like a symphonic poem, describes well the emotional state of the singer, with all his ups and downs; the rhythms change continuously while Hammill proclaims "We are the lost ones, we are the pioneers", Hammill's astral journey traces his solitude in the world, Banton's bass returns for another progression that leaves space for new atmospheres suspended in the space followed by dissonances and here the piece becomes a suite that, like the last song of The Least We Can Do, constitutes the sum of the whole record, summing up the whole music heard so far in a synthesis that also assumes avant-garde connotations thanks to experimental sounds to the sax, atonal, followed by a jazzed space-rock diversion, which fades while the voice of Hammill returns; finally, for the third time the bass turn, confirms that this piece must be heard as a sung symphonic poem, until the dissonant ending arrives. Rating 9.

"The Least We Can Do" and "From H to He": We are facing the second consecutive absolute masterpiece by Van Der Graaf Generator (difficult to choose which is the best), surely, in my opinion, the two best English albums released in 1970. Compared to "The Least We Can Do", compositions are on average less melodic and more elaborate, i.e. progressive. We have seen in this album, starting from the first two pieces, the deconstruction of the song form to arrive at increasingly longer and more articulated pieces, composites, with various melodic and instrumental passages assembled together to finally arrive with "Pioneer over the C" to the mini suite that describes a journey with music and lyrics representing a program music, a symphonic poem sung. Hammill marvels at his state of inspiration, his ability to transform in music the mood of his verses and confirms himself as one of the most gifted songwriters of all time, with exceptional intelability and depth.

Rating album 10/10. Five stars (and more).

 The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.07 | 1001 ratings

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The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars After the shy but beautiful debut album, psychedelic and acoustic, Van Der Graaf with Nic Potter on bass and Dave Jackson on sax and flute, they churn out a second album light years away from the first, and representing in my opinion one of the greatest rock albums (not only of progressive-rock) of all time. Everything on this album is exceptional: the beauty of the melodies, the complexity and quality of the musical score, the arrangement, the performance of the musicians and the singer, the lyrics, the variety and quantity of the musical material offered in only six songs.

The first, "Darkness", which opens with the roumors of the wind, is emblematic of a sound, a mood, an atmosphere: it is the emblem of Van Der Graaf's music: powerful, epic, threatening, gloomy, frightening, distressing, existential. There is no space here for the sounds and phony lyrics of King Crimson, Genesis, Yes contemporary albums. Van Der Graaf, namely Hammill, confronts the solitary and alienated existential condition of modern man. And so we hear a desperate voice hovering above the din of a distressing music where the bass infuses terror with its cadence, where the sound of the sax is excruciating, it is a scream that invokes hope. Hammill stages an expressionist theatrical music that reaches, with the synergy of musical instruments, voice and text, heights of pathos very high and unmistakable and unforgettable. Absolute masterpiece. Rating 9.5.

"Refugees" begins with a church organ that brushes a delicious, wonderful, hypnotic melody of those that enter your head and heart and leave you astonished, infleve into you enveloping you, imposing yourself, possessing you, to lead you to the heights of poignant, melancholy, elegiac beauty. Banton is the decisive element: in this song he uses three different keyboards (and Hammill plays the piano), creators of the melody, but fantastic is the orchestral arrangement with cello (Mike Hurwitz) equally important, and then the flute, bass and drums. Hammill's voice is sweet as it will hardly be yet in the future, but the piece also contains melodic and rhythmic changes that have the merit of not being pedantic and not dispersing the hypnosis of melody, which leads you to ever deeper melancholic emotions. Absolute masterpiece. Rating 9.5. I don't know if I know another album with the first two songs of such high quality, and of so complementary mood and pathos.

The third song, "White Hammer" brings the album back to normal: it is a great piece, which for many other artists would be the masterpiece but that here, in the presence of two songs worthy of entering the rock olympus, is just a small masterpiece. The song has a menacing incest as the first, but the arrangement is less condensed, leaving more space for keyboards and bass, which paint large spaces; in particular, it is the cornet (Gerry Salisbury) that give a martial sound to the song. But when Hammill's vocals come in and Guy Evans' drums, which has so far remained "quiet" (but they will become more and more overflowing in upcoming albums), explode, there is an excellent rhythmic progression, relentless, enthralling. Then there is the final tail, a stroke of genius, which makes the first side finish in a grandiose way, with a frightening sound. Rating 8.5.

What a first side! Listening to such a beauty raises the fear that the second part is not up to scratch.

The first song of the side B begins with a solo on Evans' drums, accompanied by Jackson's sax, which then leaves space for the vocals and guitar, first acoustic (Hammill) and then electric (very acidic, played by Potter). It returns to the climate of terror of the first facade but not so obsessive; in addition, here you can hear pieces played by the electric guitar and sung by choirs that seem to evoke a psychedelic atmosphere. Hammill continues to show off a very high-level expressionist singing, which makes him one of the greatest singers in the history of rock (again: not only of progressive rock). The instrumental moment sees acid guitar, Jackson and Evans do virtuosity, orgasm sound from terror, then end with Hammill, tender voice and acoustic guitar... and again ending with terror atmosphere with acidic sounds. We're at the fourth masterpiece on four songs. Rating 8.5/9.

The fifth song (Out of my Book") is prog-folk, dominated by organ and flute, with almost no drums (it doesn't beat on the snare), bucolic folk melody, vaguely acidic-folk. It serves to catch your breath from the terrifying and claustrophobic atmospheres heard so far: this song is sunny, airy, almost pastoral, evokes wide spaces, or perhaps gardens among the meadows, but always with a fundamental restlessness: the song is well riteed and the bass of Potter is always looming. It is the shortest track and, like the second of the first side, has the function of attenuating the terrifying mood of the songs alternating with a lighter and melodious one. These last two songs contain psychedelic reminiscences of the psychedelic reminiscences of the first album. This piece is good but not a masterpiece. Rating 7.5/8.

The last song, "After the Flood", opened and concluded with "This is the ending of the beginning", alternated with acoustic guitar and organ, has an unfolding verse-chorus, in which are interspersed pieces of instrumental jam that make it the first real mini-suite by VdGG and the more experimental song on the album, more progressive, in a certain sense... what sense? In the sense that it is the most elaborate, the longest, the one with the most instrumental variations on the theme, with changes of time and musical arrangement. But is that good? For a group capable of producing beautiful melodies and touching a huge pathos, arousing emotions, like VdGG, isn'nt always good, because it means hitting the listener more to the head than to the heart, with the risk of distracting him from fully enjoying the pathos that music can create. This song is the summa of VdGG's music, their manifesto, because it includes all the elements of their sound, of Hammill weltanschauung. Rating 9. In terms of music quality, there is just a slight drop in the second side.

Van Der Graaf with this record have already given all the best of their repertoire: lyrics and existentialist music, epic and terrifying atmosphere, flashes of beautiful melancholy melodies, arrangements that reach a cacophonous paroxysm, with saxophone excruciating and mighty bass, overflowing drums and organ to contain all this, theatrical singing, expressionist by Hammill. How can we do more? In the next two albums, Van Der Graaf, to do more, will focus on producing longer, more elaborate, more distressing songs, but what they will gain in cerebral and paroxysm, will lose in melody and immediacy. The pathos and theatrics will always remain very high, but more facing gloomy nightmare atmospheres.

Rating album: 10/10. Absolute masterpiece of rock music. Five Stars (If I could, I'd give six stars).

 Reflection by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1975
3.13 | 5 ratings

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Reflection
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review N 272

"Reflection" is a compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and was released in 1972. This is a compilation that includes tracks from three studio albums of them. It includes two tracks from their debut studio album "The Aerosol Grey Machine", released in 1969, three tracks from their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", released in 1970, two tracks from their third studio album "H To He, Who Am The Only One", released also in 1970, and one track which wasn't original released on any studio album of them. It was originally released as a single.

So, "The Aerosol Grey Machine", "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and "H To He, Who Am The Only One" belong, with their fourth studio album "Pawn Hearts" which was released in 1971, to their first musical period. Two of these albums are, without any doubt, two of the best three albums of that musical period. I mean, "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other" and "H To He, Who Am The Only One". The third is "Pawn Hearts". However, despite "The Aerosol Grey Machine" can't be considered at the same quality level of the other three, still is a very good album, too.

"Reflection" has eight tracks. The first track "Afterwards" was released on their debut studio album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is a great opener to that album. It's a very simple and nave song, very beautiful, one of the most beautiful and simple songs composed by Hammill in his entire and fantastic musical career. It's one of the best tracks on that album. The second track "Boat Of Million Of Years" was never released on any studio album of them. It was written in 1970, the time when they released "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It was probably made to be part of that album but it was only included later on that album, as a bonus track. It was released as the B side of the single "Refugees". This isn't a bad song, but as a leftover, it doesn't represent one of their best moments. Still, it represents a great rarity. The third track "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" was released on their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a good track with different passages and different rhythms. This is one of the most progressive tracks of that album. Still, it isn't as good as some other tracks. So, it isn't one of my favourite songs. The fourth track "Lost" was released on their third studio album "H To He, Who Am The Only One". This is a brilliant track. It's a song about loneliness, lost, love and madness, and it has also very good lyrics. There is a lot of variety in this piece. "Lost" is one of the most depressing pieces ever written by Hammill. The fifth track "Necromancer" was also released on their debut studio album "The Aeerosol Grey Machine". It's a very bizarre, obscure and deep song with scary lyrics. This is a song with a superb Hammill's voice and with a good and melodic chorus. I think this is another very interesting song on that album. The sixth track "Refugees" was also released on their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It represents the most sentimental moment on that album. It's a very beautiful song, very melodic and peaceful with a nice flute work by Jackson. It's a song that reminds me very much "Running Back", the third track of their debut album "The Aerosol Grey Machine". This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Hammill. The version on this compilation is the single version. The seventh track "Darkness" was another track also released on their second studio album "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". It's a great opener for that album and is also one of its best tracks. This is a song dominated by the continued presence of the keyboards of Banton and by a very good and strong bass line. It's the song where we can hear, for the first time, the incredible and unique sound of the saxophones of Jackson. The eighth track "Killer" was also released on their third studio album "H To He, Who Am The Only One". It's a catchy and beautiful dark song. The saxophones of Jackson and the organ of Banton are present continuously and are very well supported by a brilliant rhythm section by Potter and Evans. This is one of my favourite songs of them. It shows the great atmosphere so typical of their sound.

Conclusion: "Reflection" is a good compilation of Van Der Graaf Generator and a great window to their first musical years. It has songs from their first three studio albums that belong to their first musical era, from 1968-1972. However, it lacks to it songs from their fourth and best studio album "Pawn Hearts". Relatively to the selection of tracks, "Afterwards" and "Necromancer" from "The Aerosol Grey Machine" both are two great tracks and represents the two best moments on that album. About the three tracks selected from "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other", "Darkness", "Refugees" and "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?", are all also three great tracks and represents three of the best tracks on that album, especially the first two ones, which are probably the two best tracks on that album. In relation to the two tracks chosen from "H To He, Who Am The Only One", "Killer" and "Lost", both are great tracks too. The last track, the track previously unreleased it's not a bad track but it has nothing to do with the others, in terms of quality. In short, we can say that the final result of this compilation is good. So, I think 3 stars is the right rating to it.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Theme One / W by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
3.51 | 32 ratings

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Theme One / W
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by patrickq

2 stars Charisma ‎CB 175 was a UK single with two non-album sides, "Theme One" and "W." The same two songs were released as a single in Australia, France, Germany, and Italy.

This version of "Theme One" is a different (and inferior) recording from the "original version" released on the 2005 Virgin/Charisma remaster of Pawn Hearts. (There's also a different version on the 2003 Virgin compilation The Best Prog Rock Album in the World ? Ever.) As far as I know, this is the only cover song in the band's 1969-1978 period, and I wonder whether that's why the band wanted to leave this nice little tune off the album. The song was written by Beatles producer George Martin as theme music for BBC Radio 1.

On the flip side, "W" is boilerplate Van der Graaf Generator, and I mean that in two ways: as a composition, it's kind of generic, as far as VdGG songs go; but it also feels a bit perfunctory, as if the band had to come up with something that sounded like themselves. Of course, a band could do much worse than sounding like early-1970s Van der Graaf Generator.

Since higher-quality versions of both of these songs are available on the Pawn Hearts remaster, I expect that only VdGG completionists will want a copy of "Theme One" / "W."

 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 2091 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars "The voice"

In the second part of the Seventies I was part of a small but fanatic group of symphomaniacs, we had discovered Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Camel, and we wanted more. One day a member of that group was very willing to play Pawn Hearts from VDGG for us. For most of us the music evoked very mixed feelings: interesting but quirky, and the Peter Hamill vocals were not very much appreciated. That member and one other became huge fans of Peter Hamill, bought his solo albums and attended all his concerts. The other lost their hope for VDGG, and focussed on less quirky prog, and prog with a less expressive singer. Today, more than 40 years later, I decided to listen to that album again. I found it on the Internet and also stumbled on a lot of euphoric quotes from fans, under the section where you could click on listening to the entire album. One emotional example of those quotes: "Why isn't Peter Hammil as well known and loved as Bowie and Gabriel? It's a mystery."

During my first listening session today I come to the conclusion that the varied, adventurous but also quirky unique VDGG prog must have influenced a lot of early Italian bands, like Il Balletto Di Bronzo and Osanna. The compositions alternate between symphonic rock and avant-garde, with lots of interesting musical ideas, wonderful work on keyboards (from sensitive piano to bombastic Hammond), powerful and inventive guitar play, and of course the unique Peter Hammill vocals. To me he sounds like a vocal acrobate, the one moment tender, the other moment delivering screamy or theatrical outbursts, very expressive. The quirky factor of VDGG and the sometimes too expressive vocals by Peter Hammill are due to the fact that I have not become a VDGG fan, and I never will be. I simply don't feel at ease with their music, and Hamill his voice (like a nervous Bowie as I stated in an earlier review). So it is interesting or VDGG is a band to recommend when progheads are discovering the amazing and varied world of the progressive rock. In comparison with 40 years ago now there is the extended world of the Internet. There you can easily find your way to prog when you stumble upon the legendary and known names, while reading reviews on websites like Prog Archives, good luck with your prog quest.

P.s.: Apart from my critical notes, I consider this album as a well deserved 4 star effort. But not at the masterpiece level of CTTE from Yes, Foxtrot from Genesis, the first ELP, Red from King Crimson, Mirage from Camel, or The Wall from Pink Floyd.

 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.48 | 1969 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by patrickq

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.

 Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1970
4.49 | 29 ratings

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Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by RossJWarren

4 stars The A-Side Refugees is a somewhat different mix to the Album version. To be honest i find it a more muddy sounding affair, but it is interesting to hear the many slight differences. Finding a copy of this single is hard but the single version (not an edit) is found on the remaster of "The least we can do is wave at each other". The B-side "The Boat of Millions of years" is a very decent early VDGG song, with a very spacy mood. This track is also on the expanded remaster, and is also on the Box and at least two other compilations. All in all a very decent addition to any collection.
 The Aerosol Grey Machine by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.28 | 610 ratings

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The Aerosol Grey Machine
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

4 stars REVIEW N. 101. Let's start the second hundreds of reviews with (finally!) my favorite artist: Peter Hammill & Van Der Graaf Generator. Published in the same year of "In The Court of..." by King Crimson, "The Aerosol Grey Machine" is still made by psychedelic pop-folk-rock music, but very different for both music and texts from all that appeared in the English landscape (Family, Nice, Procol Harum, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson) in 1969; only Pink Floyd can be matched to this record. Largely acoustic, having been born as Hammill's solo record, the Lp contains excellent songs and is wrongly underestimated.

"Afterwards (4:58)" is a musingly psychedelic song dominated by the organ of Banton, with an excellent singing of Hammill, which here for the first time showed its splendid voice, and a baroque piano solo. Rating 7,5/8.

"Orthenthian St. (Part I) (2:23)" is an acoustic rock piece, quite conventional, but with a percussive piano part and very insisted drums, which finally fades. Hammill is in search of the pathos that he will find in the next records. Uncompleted song. It would have been better to attach it to the second part and make it a less repetitive synthesis. Rating 6.5. "Orthenthian St. (Part II) (3:53)" is longer and resumes the same acoustic theme. and develops it more heat in interpretation. The songs remain intimate for the Spartan arrangement and the atmosphere Contrite. Rating 7.

"Running Back (6:32)" is a melancholy folk ballad with flute (Jeff Peach). The long instrumental piece is proto- progressive. Hammill expresses here to the best his existential spleen. Rating 7.5/8.

"Into a Game (6:56)" is very sustained, and the drums/acoustic guitar progression reminds me of a melody present in "Tommy" (Who, same year, 1969). It feels good also the bass of Keith Ellis. Towards the fourth minute the song ends but then a two-minute instrumental queue starts. Strong song, full of character. Rating 7,5/8.

"Aerosol Grey Machine (0:56)" is a short joke, style of variety acronym. Useless. No rating. "Black Smoke Yen (1:18)" is a short psychedelic instrumental piece. No rating. These two short tracks are useless. They create confusion without a sense. Weak part of the Lp. On the whole, rating 6,5. "Aquarian (8:27)" is another psychedelic ballad, with a good rhythms and and very refined harmonic variations at the singing. The structure is that of a song pop with verses and chorus, the arrangement recalls that of the first Pink Floyd, only that Hammill is not Barrett: he is more serious and dramatic, less surreal. Soon he will have to dissolve the contradiction of wanting to make existential songs with psychedelic music. In the ending we can see a distressing instrumental crescendo like that more developed present in their successive masterpieces. Long song but successful. Rating 8.

"Necromancer (3:30)" is the most extroverted and rhythmic song, which participates in this crackling finale, with a crescendo of intensity and quality. Rating 7,5/8.

"Octopus (7:41)" is a rock ballad with a spectral and psychedelic organ and a anxious voice that creates a very solemn and even obsessive mood, creating the final thriller that will be the trademark of the group. Rating 8+.

On the whole TAGM is an album of psychedelic rock, with folk inflections and with some progressive passages, formed by 8 long songs (plus two short tracks), very elaborate but simple in the arrangements, demonstrating the great quality of the songwriting of Hammill, outstanding composer and vocalist, who in some traits shows the existential pathos and spleen that will become apocalyptic nightmares in the coming records. It is a Lp that already shows a clear identity, which rests on voice, keyboards and acoustic guitars, a melancholy atmosphere or dramatic or distressful or surreal atmosphere. In the records to come the psychedelic part will not be lost but be integrated within a spectral apocalyptic rock where the existential anguish will be very real, and little psychedelic/surreal.

Average quality of the songs: 7,47. Rating: 8+/10. Four Stars.

Thanks to Ivan Melgar M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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