George Starostin's Reviews



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DURET Fabien <> (15.11.2000)


Scuse me I'm french (so my english isn't always good).

About VDGG, I agree that their problem is a lack of virtuosity. No piece shows some intricated harmonic or rythmic structures such as the ones sometimes found in Yes, King Crimson, Magma and Genesis. VDGG's bass player is not Chris Squire. The drummer is not Phil Collins or Christian Vander or Bill Bruford. The guitar is far from the cleverness of Robert Fripp's Style. The keyboard doesn't fly high like in Genesis or Yes. The interest in VDGG is mainly Peter Hammill, his marvellous voice and the way he plays with, his melodic compositions, and also some tricks he uses, like when he sings several parts simultaneously, which contributes to create an "insane" atmosphere well suited to the lyrics and the melodies. When you like particularly these things, you find that sometimes his solo albums are much better than VDGG ones. They are in general more emotionally charged and more concentrated on sad melodies, sometimes breathtaking.

I also agree with you that Pawn Hearts is messy and is caracterised by the worst excesses of Progressive Rock. It has no structure and "plague of lighthouse keepers" has no sense. Maybe psychedelic fans would like that, but for me progressive is not psychedelic. It shouldn't be messy.

But I don't understand the comparison with Quiet Zone/Pleasure Dome, regarding the global direction. To the contrary, pieces on Quiet Zone are short, clearly separated. The tones between the two faces are pretty different, the first being more depressive, and the second having more energy. But inside each face, there's a logic that can't be found on Pawn Hearts, album which is full of nonsense thermic shocks. There are also only songs, less or more intricated. 'Plague of lighthouse keepers' is all but a song.

Also, I don't understand why you try to find in Hammill's lyrics some "poetry". If you really search that kind of things, it seems normal that you are sometimes disappointed by these lyrics. The poet and Hammill are disconnected from the bulk of the earthlings, but not in the same way. Hammill is far more pessimistic than poets in general. His despair isn't something nihilist like the "no future" of the punks, and that's why his much is far richer and melodious than the "quick-made-in-the-cave" punk records, but his despair is stronger than the poet's one because it can rarely cope with a contemplating state of mind. The lyrics or Hammill are very good for their own purpose: to show that the world, humanity and consciences are definitely rotten ("We can pack them up in the history books, but the middle ages will be here to stay" sings Hammill in the "future now" solo album), but that suicide or madness are no solutions. Take Syd Barrett, Johnny Rotten from the sex pistols, and Peter Hammill, and imagine them closed in a box, with their heads in their hands, and with the cruel but real world everywhere outside the box (look at "the wall" movie if you cannot imagine) : Syd Barrett becomes mad, Johnny Rotten commits suicide, and Peter Hammill stays alive and out of madness, but after each analysis of the facts, its mind gets darker, more free, and by this way stronger : I totally agree with you saying that he has the role of an "outside observer" ; his observations contribute to make his judgements more and more severe.

All these explanations about my own point of view on Hammill's music may explain why the "best songs" on each album are very different for me :

- On Quiet Zone, I would choose as best piece any one except "lizard play" (not real melody, and on the other hand not really violent, I like it anyway but I can't see what you find so special with this one), and "chemical word" (too mad ; I like madness, but entangled in a structure which emphasizes the mad parts). I would choose maybe "last frame" for both its violence and its sadness, "The Wave" for its excellent melodic lines and the lyricism in the voice, "Yellow fever" for the energy and the violin parts (especially the end), or "the Sphinx Returns" for its funny tricks and energy. "The Habit of the Broken Heart" is not so good but I find it far more interesting than "the lizard play"!

Seriously : you seem to like Genesis and maybe Yes. How can you find nothing catchy within "the wave" for example ?

- On H to He : this album is very good, but not for "Killers"!!!! I don't understand how you can find there's a lack of melody in "White Hammer" (that you could "write in half an hour") if you like "Killers" ? Once again, I like either the sad Hammill (slow pieces with sad melodies) or the violent Hammill (heavy and insane passages with two Hammill's voices untertwined). "Killers" lacks absolutely of melody and of cleverness. "House with no door" is far better emotionnally, "The Emperor in his War Room" far better musically (Fripp was there with a nice mad-guitar play), and ..... "LOST" is far better on all points. It's one of the best VDGG or Hammill pieces. It's long, but has a beautiful and large structure that justifies this length. It's breathtakingly sad. There are even mad dissonnant parts in the middle. In a word, I would say that "Lost" alone is sufficient to demonstrate the qualities of the first VDGG period.

Well, I'm gonna stop and start working back. Thank you for you remarks about one of the most interesting groups. There are sometimes very good analysis. I respect your point of view, but definitely, I don't understand how "killers" and "lizard play" can be preferred to pieces like "lost" and "jungle fever". Also, "scorched earth" shouldn't be for you the least interesting song in "godbluff" if you like Genesis (I've always found that this piece has a somewhat "black genesis" style).

Good Bye. I am Fabien DURET, I work on nukes safety, I also play keyboards and write compositions.

Jeremy Olson <> (03.01.2002)

I really tried to give these guys a chance. Being the huge prog fan I am, I figured I would have no trouble getting to VDGG's music. Nope. I must have listened to well over two dozen of their songs....and nothing stuck with me. I have zero recollection of anything I heard of theirs, and that is a fatal quality. Nothing in their catalog that I heard managed to make any impression on me whatsoever. Oh well, what can I say? I tried...but they just didn't do it for me.

Mattias Lundberg <> (31.01.2002)

It appears to me as if Hammill's songs work - as do those of Waters, Wilson, McCartney, Eno &c. &c. - on account of diligence rather than genius. A musical inability, and I'm not just talking about none of the guys being virtuosi, is apparent in the whole VdGG output. As for the lyrics of Hammill, I don't find them unoriginal in the slightest, and apart from some of the earliest ostentatious and inane stuff, I think they are rather good. Some of the lyrics of the 'second period' (75-78) are truly that is rare in progressive rock (and no, I don't regard opinions or attitudes as personality, these things - cultivated by Waters & co. are mere accidentals). As I see it, VdGG's music is distinguished by its idiosyncratic eminence rather than on its high quality (this is not to say that it's second rate music, but they are erratic visionaries rather than cultivated craftsmen). Nevertheless, as I implied above, the erratic ideas ARE also edited in detail - or, rather, repeatedly sifted through the erratic mind of Peter Hammill's.

Jeremy Olson <> (13.04.2002)

This is an addendum to my previous comments on earlier opinion has since changed.

OK, so I gave VDGG another chance, and I found I was quite wrong. I've found a handful of VDGG songs that I find to be exceptional, and have made quite an impression on me ("Pioneers Over C" and "The Sleepwalkers", especially).

Peter Hammill's voice and vocal delivery still grates on me a bit, but I guess it's one of the necessary evils of the listening to the band. And some of his lyrics are a little too much...but he's got the good sense to balance out pointless ramblings (like the whole of Pawn Hearts) with gorgeous ballads such as "House With No Door". Jon Anderson he's not (but I haven't decided if that's a good thing or a bad thing).

I definitely lament the lack of guitar on a number of songs; some of their stuff would certainly have a much greater punch with some electric guitar work, especially since there are no real instrumental virtuosos in the band. Dave Jackson's sax work is nice, and the keyboards are used quite well, but nothing is mind-blowing or particularly outstanding.

All in all, I now see VDGG as a decent band; some real flaws, but also some real high points. Not really a band I can become a big fan of, but they do have enough good output to keep me interested.

Steve Lawrence <> (05.08.2002)


Let's not get drawn into adoration and abasement based upon historical misconceptions about VDGG albums and let us not stigmatise certain albums (and ourselves) by bowing and scraping before some renditions (H to HE), whilst collectively "stoning" others (Pawn Hearts in particular), just for want of NOT wishing to appear to be a complete fanatic (uncool) or an outsider within the VDGG fraternity.

Not all Dali paintings are masterpieces (if you like them at all), yet he is recognised and celebrated as a tortured genius; and whilst not all VDGG tracks are "masterpieces", they (VDGG) are by definition, great, as so many of their aural pictures are actually, JUST F***KING GREAT. And here is my point; as you get in front of a picture you sometimes see more then a canvas and paint; you see the man. So, get in front of your speakers again and give your "less favoured" albums another go. Let them wash over you. Let them paint a mental picture for you that will stir your soul.

I saw the band live in the early seventies and their tour-de-force sound was as mesmeric as Tangerine Dream's "cathedral" gigs in the UK around that time. Their spirit is not fashionable, nor often fathomable, but they were greater then the sum of their parts and a legacy of the golden age of British musical inventiveness (64-79).


Steve Lawrence

Question! .....

Is the mental breakdown and eventual madness of a lonely lighthouse keeper a plague upon him; and does "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" document such symptoms in words and musical emotions so brilliantly? Or is it a load of toss (because it's on Pawn Hearts)? It is a "Rael" masterpiece or am I just a fan (oops sorry) who is out of touch with mainstream opinion?

[Special author note: Dear Steve! Answering your quadruple question. 1. Yes, the mental breakdown of a lonely lighthouse keeper is a plague upon him. 2. No, "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" does not document these symptoms brilliantly. 3. Yes, it is a load of toss, but not because it's on Pawn Hearts; it would have been a load of toss anywhere. 4. It isn't a "Rael" masterpiece, and you are definitely a fan - however, I'm not too sure what you call "mainstream opinion". If "mainstream opinion" is what you find shared between my reviews and the reader comments, I'm flattered. If it's the Rolling Stone type of mainstream opinion, then I'm afraid Rolling Stone makes no distinction between any VDGG albums, unlike this site.]

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

Hello, George. Here are my thoughts on your VdGG stuff. No intention to make you change your mind or something in your articles (Hey, have you ever changed your mind radically following someone's protest?). The only hope is that some of my words will make you think... or will be read at least. Well, writing preambles is not my strong side.

Let me begin from your definition of the style of VdGG as glam-prog. Absolute nonsense! And it's your opinion? Oh, I don't believe my eyes, it must be written by your cactus. I even doubt that 'glam' and 'prog' can be cross-bred at all; it's just like prog-punk or soul-metal. Yes, it's right, fakement and insincerity are indispensable attributes of glam, but they aren't implied in the prog at the same time. I mean, glammers are insincere by definition; it's their credo, and nobody expects from them anything else. Proggers deliver their opuses with impregnably serious miens, there is not a hint at hoax. Well, it's a moot statement, but there's a grain of truth within anyway. Themes of Hammill's lyrics are absolutely inappropriate for the glam. If you find some sci-fi fantasies there, I take off my hat, for you are able to read beyond the written, unlike me. Glam also implies made up faces, variegated costumes, frontman's clownery and so on. None of these (with probable exception of the latter) is present in VdGG output; it's easier to call glammers Jethro Tull with all those Anderson's antics and hares walking on the stage in search of their spectacles. No, I don't say Jethro Tull is glam. But it's more glam than VdGG. Genesis is more glam. It may seem that I feel a sort of preoccupation against glam but it's not so, I just point at your incorrect statement.

The question of musicianship is no question. First I would express curiosity about the meaning of word 'virtuoso'. If you measure virtuosity by the quantity of notes a man can play in a time unit, than... but no, I don't believe you think so. Then what? Soloing? Hackett has come with just a few solos, now is he a virtuoso? Fripp soloed not so frequently too, at least he's not (as stinking as) Yngwie Malmsteen in this sense. Rhythm section is often not allowed to solo at all. No, you don't think so too, right? Maybe the cleverness, appropriateness of musician's parts is the answer? Yes, it is. You don't have to be Fripp to play one-note lick in 'Starless' but probably you have to be him to devise it. As to VdGG members, well, I've already told you formerly that I consider Banton real big _organist_ (and I know shit from shinola in this field). Hammill's singing is not to be discussed - you may dislike it (I like very much) but you must confess it's appropriate for his music. Jaxon's sax playing is very skilful too, though, truth to say, I didn't hear many sax players in my life. And I could listen VdGG even if they didn't have Hammill, Banton & Jaxon for there also was Guy Evans who, unlike, say, Charlie Watts, is able not only to hold the rhythm but show some attractive ragged style with unexpected syncopation. And I disagree that VdGG music needs electric guitar - no stereotypes, man, when it does, there comes Fripp, but I would not say his work plays a big part in band's output. There is no place for electric guitar there, that's what I insist on. By the way I wouldn't mind if there were more bands with organ or winds as the leading instruments. But no, being guitar player is 'cool', and while it's so, we'll see more and more clones with lead-rhythm-bass-drums lineup.

Calling music a put-on is somewhat funny. Put-on-ness depends on what you've expected from it. If you've been said that Backstreet Boys is a prog-rock band, you'd probably feel yourself swindled after discovering who they really are. What you call 'empty sounds that mean nothing' is beyond me; and I can say where they are taken from: the heads of Mr. Hammill and gentlemen, of course. Actually the sound can mean only what we suppose it to mean. Label a tune 'catchy' or 'non-catchy' is up to listener and specific aspect of this tune which draws his attention. It's not necessarily the sequence of notes or chords that 'catches' him.

Hammill's poetry is not to be compared with I.Anderson's, Gabriel's or Reid's for these three guys were writing real poems with inherent figurativeness, imagery and, consequently, obscurity. You may laugh but Hammill's lyrics are more plain for me though I admit that it's up to listener too; I almost always understand what he's singing about and as he's accustomed to expatiate on his songs and their meanings, I can compare my view with his intention. Read Eliot and then say if you still consider Hammill's poetry too tangled. Peter's lyrics are more narrative, sometimes to the prejudice of the strict form of verses. And, well, they are more sincere. He sings what he feels and thinks, not what he thinks would sound good. And cliches... well, the line 'I've fucked a rhino' would be not a cliche, but I let you make your conclusions about its artistic value. I prefer ghost helmsmen and sci-fi visions. 'Sci-fi' isn't quite a word though for there was only one sci-fi song (and Hammill confirms it himself) - it's 'Pioneers Over c'. The rest is a standard love/solitude/relationship/whatever stuff, though expressed in somewhat non-standard manner. I particularly cannot recall any VdGG song about battles (to your statement in 'Still Life review'). 'Despotism' of Hammill is questionable too. Be he a despot, the band's music and his solo work would sound alike which is not true.

[Special author note: Let me just clear up one little thing here and leave the rest to differences in taste and interpretation. I certainly wasn't calling VDGG "glam-prog" because they used make-up or curious dancing antics in their work, and I certainly did NOT use "glam-prog" as an offensive term, so there is no need to get overheated about it. As pretty much every term in rock music, "glam" can be interpreted in several different ways, and the Gary Glitter-way of interpreting it is the most minimalistic one. However, one thing and one thing only that can be said to apply to all the bands that have, at one time or another, been called "glammy", is their theatricality - which is not quite the same thing as insincerity, although both are related. "Glam-rock" is essentially a big, pompous theater (or circus) show involving rock music - and yes, most prog rock bands of the classic period do have a glam streak to them; "glam-prog" is a perfectly vital combination, unlike "prog-punk", which I would be hard-pressed to imagine (although Nadir's Big Chance would come close - see, there's nothing impossible in rock music!). The bigger the element of the SHOW, the element of THEATER, the less concentration there is on the actual music (which can still be good), the more "glam" there is. Who is more glam - Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator? On stage, probably Genesis. On record, away from the actual costumes and make-up, definitely VdGG; their music is overall less complex and much more reliant on the strengths of Hammill as a performing showman.

And as for "moot statements", let me retort by considering this one: "Themes of Hammill's lyrics are absolutely inappropriate for the glam". WHA? "The sniper in the brain, Regurgitating drain/Incestuous and vain, and many other last names/I look at my watch it say 9:25 and I think "Oh God I'm still alive". Would you say a guy like Peter Hammill never wrote anything remotely resembling this? FYI, these lyrics come from David Bowie's 'Time', and if 1972-73 era David Bowie ain't "glam", nothing is. I don't need to tell you that themes of loneliness, isolation, vanity of existence, and overall pessimism are perfectly compatible with theatricality.

One thing I apologize for, though, is the putdown of Pete's poetry and calling it a put-on (although there are still some cases, most notably on Pawn Hearts, where I would still cling to that definition). That line was written way before I started digging into his solo career and I simply forgot to change it.]

phph <> (20.07.2003)

it is was nice to see peter hammill state recently in a print interview for a french magazine, that his music has "never" been part of the "prog" movement. (a relief) - i can't see how he gets thrown into that area all the time, i guess being on ther same label as genesis thru the 70's and touring with them people/critics couldn't help themselves.

i think everyone here would agree that most 'prog' bands are incredibly pretentious, and repetive and derivtive when you get down to it, and I'll never understand the constant mention that mr. fripp keeps getting. who hasn't he borrowed from ?

does he have more than 4 basic songs that he simply rearranges? He's a clever noodler, and good with an effects box, and a peddle board, but it wears out fast on me along with the not so interesting lyrics.

let me hear the ph guitar solos on "crying wolf" and "lost and found" anytime..

<> (13.09.2003)

the fact that almost 30yrs after much of this music was recorded we are still discussing it suggest to me that the music of vdgg was and is very important. Now let me make at least one point the musician ship on the albumbs may not be the very highest standard but this is of no real importance to the sound produced, the Beatles had the most god rubbish drummer and it matters not a jolt what is important is the music and what it effect on us is or is not.. To be honest VDGG where far from the most consistent of live performers ( I was very lucky to witness several Gigs ) but when it was good it was amazing live, I have been reduced to a blubbering wreck by VDGG and Hammil live ..stunning ! Strangely one of the best live sets for me was one of the worst recorded sets ie WORLD RECORD a recording so lacking it only gets the odd airing....So which album was best for me well that easy PAWN HEARTS and why ? because it push's the VDGG thing to the very edge and still holds up after ??yrs ..Me a FAN well if you call buying the first 3 charisma recordings as they came out then Yes i'm a fan ...H. To HE. has moments LOST is a fine track and The LEAST WE CAN DO has the best songs of the early works but PAWNS HEARTS is still the one that gets me dancing.. Need I say more NO .

angelo <> (25.03.2004)

I am italian, so my english is bad.

I don't agree at all with your idea of VDGG and i think they were one of the best band of ever.

First: they are all very good performers. Bantom (keyboards) for example: is not a "virtuoso" like Wakeman, but the sound is more clever and deep. Evans is a very versatile drummer (hear the beginning od the Lighthouse or Arrow). Etc. Hammill is an absolute genius, but he gives his maximum with the VDGG (in his solo carreer he made too many songs and some of theme are ininfluential).

Second: the music is a real progressive with all the complexity of this kind of music. What i don't like in prog is a certain "manner" (for example: Marillion. They seems to be a stupid copy of the Genesis) and the VDGG are abslotuley originals.

Songs i prefer: Darkness, Refugees, Killer, House with no door, Lost, Man Erg, Still Life, My Room.

Steve Rogers <> (05.05.2004)

Just a quick note to say it's nice to meet a mind I can relate to. I too found VdGG both excellent and dreadful. I've just this week pulled out their music again and remembered how influential some of the melodies and tone were to me when I first discovered them (I saw a Godbluff gig and bought the three albums with the triangle-V logo, then some of the older ones).

My favourite things about VdGG? Peter's strong, confident vocal delivery and expressionist lyrical style - very inspiring for an introspective middle-class guy; the strong anthemic hook-melodies of songs like 'The Undercover Man', 'When She Comes' and 'Still Life' (I can't stop humming those three!); the sax and organ playing; and I really like "Aquarian", which I've only just discovered (I didn't buy Aerosol Grey back then) - I'm thinking of rearranging it into more of a rocker and singing it myself.

Worst? The Quiet Zone's weedy acoustic guitar; World Record's tuneless electric guitar; Guy's horribly bassy snare drum; the pedestrian bass playing; the "lack of virtuosity" (I know exactly what you mean, it makes it all a bit boring and predictable); and (here's where I realised that you're my soul brother) the entire Least We Can Do Is Wave album. I don't know how Peter, with the support of all the same people that were on H to He, still failed to write even one good song that year - it's very mysterious.

Oh, and now I've listened to the entire output I still can't figure out why he sounds like he knows something important, but never actually communicates it. What a half-poet he is.

Thanks for an entertaining and outspoken read.

<> (19.05.2004)

i think that pawn hearts is a great masterpiece,and hammill is a genius.Vdgg sound is intellectual,they are great musicians,but they not play to show skill or technique,they play for the song and for the composition,their music is also inspired to avantgarde composers,like ligety or stockhausen,so the sound is not easy,but listening with attenction it sounds amazing. (sorry for the bad english,i'm italian)

ross warren <> (12.02.2006)

By the way van deer Graff generator where a competent live unit. Listen to the live version of squid octopus on the revamped he to he.World record is pretty played out, but was better live. However Pawn Hearts is arms and legs the most important record in their catalogue. Lemmings is so awesome you have to turn it up and feel the insomniac tension, Man-erg is wonderful with its superb words and monster riffling section. Perhaps the inclusion of some alternate history has not added to the album, really Hammill should in fairness has put squid octopus on this album which is a shame, also there are "missing" tracks to be certain but pawns hearts was a mad period and one not to be repeated again. The meal still is the plague of lighthouse keepers which has so many shades and goals and lovely church moments in it to last a life time. HE to he is now fully a classic with very worthwhile extras upping this recording to near 2nd favourite, however The least we can do and nic potters bass playing is something that the generator always missed afterwords. I loved this band like no other, even more than the Beatles, not because they where great musicians but because they remained true to their art often despite that art being clumsy or even nasty.I hope Virgin will now give us the early Charisma year Hammill lps without which a true history of the band cannot be traced. Hammills later offering are varied and self indulgent, more discipline would have improved later recordings. The best stuff is only to be found when the band is partly represented thus 'Black Room' is a Vander Graff Track. Whilst the later lps had far less perfect moments. Rock and Role is a great example of great work in the vdgg tradition. In Camera is the last amazingly good Hammill ,from there on its slowly downhill for the most part although Godbluff was truly special and rates as well as revolver in the Beatles canon. My room waiting for wonderland aside still life is not as exciting as GOD BLUFF the songs have a somehow sameness about them the formulary has arrived big time, even more so than Still life, God bluff is a band firing on all cannons and doing some stirring stuff into the measure. The Peak though is found all the way back during the semi psycotic Pawn Hearts period and on up to an including Still Life. World Record is really not a good LP in my opnion it seems lazys and not as happy as the two before. This has momnets of sickning pap and plain cruddy guitar riffing. The instramentals are cold and uninspired, but mostly you get the impression Hammill is growing bored, this material was much better live which is hard to imagine that this band was about to fall apart for the secound time.Prehaps like Peter I had come to a crossroads with Peter Hammill and van der graff generator but over time I lost intrest in the latest PH with one decent track with Jaxon on it. Thats the truth of it.

jc <> (05.03.2006)

I find these reviews interesting and with many strong points. I must admit VDGG is one of my favorite groups. I do not understand your reasoning behind your doubt on their musicianship. Particularly Dave Jackson, Guy Evans, Hugh banton, and Graham smith (a concert violinist). What you mean as virtuoso is purely subjective, just as my argument is that these muscicians did not offer the cliche of constant arpeggios synth fanfare, constant 5 part major minor modal vocal harmony, with dashing guitar leads and perfectly planned arrangements. These musicians played with chaos…. Truly made music with cacophony. Take Hugh banton for example…The man Crafted and made his own tones which sound unlike any of the other organists of that era which may be a good thing for some LOL (the man played with all limbs) Listen to the spiraling organ work on "Wondering"or "squid octopus" and tell me the man is not a top organist. It seems to me the musicians in VDGG held back what others couldn't and released even more at the most necessary times. That's just my opinion and I do respect yours just wanted to share my point of view writing about music is like dancing about furniture…. Fun stuff!


<> (10.02.2001)

An interesting early album, but one that is really only necessary to hardcore VDGG fans or those interested in simply collecting their entire catelogue. Put it this way: the album is entirely listenable, sometimes quite catchy, but not particularly memorable in any way and not even one of the songs is very unique. I barely ever play this CD, and it gathers dust upon my shelf, but it's not really a bad album either. A 7 out of 10.

Vasiliy Zavorochayev <> (21.11.2001)

Very good and interesting album. Some peorle think it's the 1st real art-rock album (In the Court n the Crimson King were produced some months later ). OK, their opinion has a share of sense. Though, Sgt. Pepper's..., A Piper... and Shine on Brightly were already produced. Meanwhile, Aerosol GM has brought a new fresh stream. Unlike BEATLES, PINK FLOYD and PROCOL HARUM it has more dark intonations and powerfull sound. Album has three masterpieces: 'Into a Game', 'Aquarian' and 'Octopus'.

INTO A GAME IS characterized by strong energetic sound and abrupt changes of rhythm. Very original composition!

AQUARIAN makes you feel good by gay irony and nice melody and arrangement.

OCTOPUS was the Anthem for Darkness for Hippies and Power-Flower. It has a sharp contrast of music of those period. (SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and JUMPING JACK FLASH of Rolling Stones produced in 1968 have such contrast too).

Also album has three other very good compositions: gloomy gothic ballad RUNNING BACK, medieval NECROMANCER and optimistic AFTERWARDS. Short pseudo-ragtime AEROSOL GREY MACHINE and BLACK SMOKE YEN don't add important something, but too long ORTHENTIAN ST. fades before oter monumental compositions; this song is unnecessary on album. To my opinion AEROSOL GREY MACHINE is very intellegent and rather intellectual album.

Mattias Lundberg <> (24.02.2002)

Very Barrettish, indeed. Not to say that it is very derivative nor that this would be a negative thing, because Hammill adds so much of his own matter that the result is a readily recognisable VdGG album. However, we would probably not appreciate this had we not known the later albums so I must agree with TylerDurden above: It is far from a quintessential VdGG album. 'Afterwards' is the best song in my opinion. It owes so much to that English understatement that is the spirit of VdGG; the pretentiousness of this band is very different from the 'mainstream' pretentiousness of many other prog bands. Hammill appears as a narrator and places himself outside his art, admiring its wonders together with us (very humbly, right). I don't like 'Necromancer' that much, but then again, it's impossible to listen to it with the mind of a person who hasn't been treated to decades of generic goth music a'la The Cure. Perhaps I would have loved it if I'd been around in 1969. 'Aquarian' foreshadows later VdGG albums, both musically and lyrically. 'the aerosol grey machine is a good album but I can't see why one would like it more than the three following ones.

Jeremy Olson <> (13.04.2002)

"Aquarian" is an excellent song! The lyrics may be silly and non-sensical, but they fit in well with overall happy/hippie mood of the song. It's not often that one hears an 8+ minute prog-hippie epic, and that's a shame, because if done well (as this song is), the results are well worth hearing. I cannot help but think of "Time And A Word" at the beginning, with the quiet acoustic strummings....think maybe Yes "borrowed" that idea for "TAAW" (another song in a similar vein to "Aquarian")? Could be...

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

The Aerosol Grey Machine is, indeed, somewhat Barrettish, at least in the sense of artistic delivery, this youthful maximalism with somewhat amateurish singing. Yet the subjects of the songs are very different to those of Barrett. Even the most 'psychedelic' title on the album - I mean 'Octopus' - deals with human relations rather than LCD trips. This by the way concerns all Hammill's lyrics; what you call hallucinogenous fantasies is just an eccentric way to express ordinary things. In other respects your judgement seems right to me, I would just not align 'Aerosol' with latter VdGG works for this one sounds completely different. The songs are sometimes underproduced or underrehearsed (there were only 12 hours to make a record), and the album was actually intended to be Hammill's solo, so it's NOT a good way to get acquainted with the band. I'd like also to vindicate the single tracks. I don't know what's so fucking wrong in 'People You Were Going To', it's just a little pretty tune with no trace of pomposity and 'propheticity' you frown at. 'Firebrand' also has a good melody, 'the asshole that's exchanging verses with Hammill' is probably Chris Judge Smith, and he tried singing again, like it or not. The subject of the song is an extract from Icelandic 'Brennu-Njals Saga' with Judge playing role of spectre with a firebrand in his hand screaming 'Svo er um Flosa rad/sem fari kefli'. (chapter 125, 'rad' is actually r&aacute;&eth;. Check the Russian version yourself for I don't have one). I didn't hear any Judge's solo works but he's evidently an epatage figure, suffice it to say that one of his projects was called FART (intentional abbreviation). So his singing here might as well be just another freak. I think the spectre should not sing in angelic voice anyway.


Wesleh <> (04.09.2000)

If you can write a song as good as "White Hammer", as you claim, then I will gladly poke out my eyes and send them to you as a mark of respect. However, I am confident that my good vision will continue well into my later years.

[Special author note: it all depends on what one considers 'good', you see..]

<> (10.02.2001)

Here is where we differ for the first time regarding VDGG. I find this album to be highly engaging, very memorable, very melodic, and full of great ideas. It never becomes overbearing (except maybe some sections of 'After the Flood') and Hammill sounds great. 'DARKNESS' is a spectacular song, as is 'WHATEVER WOULD ROBERT HAVE SAID' and 'OUT OF MY BOOK'. However, 'WHITE HAMMER' is by far the best song on here and one of the great VDGG tunes. Why you dislike it is beyond me. Also, I've never been particularly impressed by 'Refugees'. In my opinion, it's the worst song on this album, lacking something to hold together the melody (which isn't too memorable anyway). Sure, Peter sounds beautiful on the song, but it needs more substance. Even with that song, this is still a 9 out of 10.

Vasiliy Zavorochayev <> (21.11.2001)

I think this album is some weaker than previous. It is lacked by powerfulity and sometimes repeats ideas of AEROSOL GREY MACHINE. But after listening you would be enjoyed (of course, if you like art-rock).

DARKNESS , REFUGEES, WHITE HAMMER and WHATEVER WOULD ROBERT HAVE SAID? are equally good. REFUGEES is the clasic ballad of VDGG, one of favorite songs of PH-fans. Three other things are rather heavy, almost hard-rocky suites. OUT OF MY BOOK is less interesting, but the weakest song of album is AFTER THE FLOOD: too long suites with no interesting ideas and weak lyrics. I agree with George about shout: ANNIHILATION - it sounds stupidly. But I cannot agree with him about DARKNESS, WHITE HAMMER and WHATEVER WOULD ROBERT HAVE SAID?. Though these songs are not the masterpieces of PH-creation.

Mattias Lundberg <> (24.02.2002)

A good album, and a great progress from the earlier one. 'Refugees' is VdGG as its most generic, nevertheless it's a brilliant track. What saves it is the rendition the guys give it, Hammill's singing is gorgeous on here. I always thought they would be a good cover band, VdG-Generating other peoples music beyond recognition (I'd love to hear them tackle music by some late 60s bands). This is how 'Refugees' come across - with the character of a cover. Perhaps it's because it's a bit unidiomatic VdGG. 'After the flood' explores serialism (quite possibly for the first time ever in popular music) in those small intermedia, and I love the prophetic singing at the end. I think 'Darkness' is the weakest link of the album, it's a bit dull in a non-VdGG way. 'White hammer' and 'Out of my book' are both VdGG classics, and could well have been from the H to He.. album. I really like The least we can do... and I would have welcomed a slightly higher rating. You're right about the production though, it's a pity really. I suppose there are digitally remastered editions out by now, but who wants to listen to classic albums 'revisited'. Well at least I don't.

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

Second album (actually, first), 'The Least We Can Do...' Production is really mediocre, but your word 'atrocious' suggests some 'Earthboundish' kind of sound which is a bit too much, isn't it? 'Darkness' and 'White Hammer' are beautiful songs, George... well, I can't argue, I just like them. It must be the case when you fell into the trap of your own words: you've expressed your refusal of these tracks and so have to substantiate this statement. I think there is no need of intricate solos here and those organ grooves and 'non-soloing solos' are okay. And listen to this Potter's bass line, especially this move to third and further along with the lines 'and so the craft endured' - it's brilliant, man! Glimpses of piano in 'Darkness' sound, well, dark and it's quite suitable there. What influence could bring King Crimson to 'White Hammer' coda? The only thing in KC works that reminisces this coda a little is 'Devil's Triangle' but I'd say 'The Least...' was recorded and released earlier so it's a big question, whose influence is present. Your complaint about "now we're quiet, yet ominous ==> and now we're loud and scary as hell" development is absurd: it's just one kind of development, neither bad nor good. I think it's performed well there. 'Refugees' has slightly generic melody but this doesn't make it less excellent. ''Whatever Would Robert Have Said?' is really a step down, I guess they should rehearse it a little more. And 'After The Flood' is too long I think; however we must forgive Peter for his idee fixe of The Deluge to come. Don't lash me, guv, it's King Crimson who should be jealous of this album; melodies on 'The Least...' are more beautiful and inventive and after all there are more melodies here :P - remember those 'Moonchild' meanderings? Well, it's another story altogether.

Blake Jackson <> (25.05.2003)

I agree with most of this review....Least We Can Do is arguably the worst VDGG album.

I do disagree about "Darkness" - I think it's a great early VDGG song, with a great build-up and the ominous bassline, although it does pale in comparison with a lot of the other songs. "Refugees" is easily the best song on here - fantastic lyrics from Peter set to a wonderful musical's probably the only song here that could stand up to the cream of the VDGG/Hammill catalogue.

Everything else though, is pretty poor. "Out of My Book" is nice enough, but "Whatever Would Robert Have Said?" is unmemorable, and 7 minutes or so of "White Hammer" is completely lifeless - the only thing the song has going for it is the venomous coda. But "After The Flood" is the biggest offender - disjointed, no memorable musical ideas, and some truly terrible bits ("ANNIHILATION!!!!!!11111"). It's a pretty important song in the VDGG catalogue, as it's basically the first attempt at the "spacey/atmospheric" part of VDGG that was defined by classics like "Pioneers Over C." and Hammill's "Red Shift". But here, it doesn't get the mood at all - unlike the aforementioned two songs, it's just so unmemorable.

Overall, this album gets a 5 from me. Two excellent songs, one good song, one unmemorable song, one song that's poor for about 7 minutes of it's 8-minute time, and one very poor attempt at an extended suite.

John McFerrin <> (23.12.2003)

I just want to point out to an above commentator that, while 'The Devil's Triangle' came out after 'White Hammer' was recorded, King Crimson was doing the piece live well beforehand (under the title 'Mars'), and those performances were very well known among certain musical circles.

ross.warren <> (13.09.2006)

I really feel I must make a comment regarding the sound of this recording. I don't know what those who say its not a great sounding recording have been listening to, but can only assume they have the original CD release which was very disappointing.To be utterly cruel the re-mixed cd is only a fraction better. Indeed the very first cut of the LP was also rather poor despite the very high rate people will pay for it, especially if it includes the poster (very rare ) The 2nd pressing though ( a different mix from the first ) is utterly awesome and was among a very few lps that I would use to test hi-equipment during the early 70's. I only ever owned the pink charisma label edition of this record, so cannot vouch for later pressings. The sound was maybe by today's standard a little lacking in top end but the middle and bass was fantastic and very warm sounding.

I still have my copy although it is now somewhat worn. I put it on today and surprise surprise it still sounds fantastic. You don't get all the top end of the Cd but then you also do not get the tape hiss. The original single version of refugee is very much better than the cd which sounds as though the recording had deteriorated over the years. If you can find the original 2nd pressing in good condition buy it I am certain you will agree that this LP was a classic of the recording art.

especially when you consider it was almost all done on 8 track. Hammills Fools mate on the pink lable was also a truely special pressing and worth seeking out.


Ben Greenstein <> (02.06.2000)

Wow! This album sucks! Sorry, George, but I don't see how anyone, let alone you, can listen to this shit. For starters, songs like "Pioneers Over C" are at least four times as dissonant as anything on A Passion Play or Octopus, and they aren't even memorable! No catchy melodies, just a lot of dumb organ, bass, and sax interplay which is supposed to sound dark but really just sounds silly. Second, the lyrics are a complete joke. Sure, Jon Anderson wrote juvenile mystical garbage, but at least it fit the music! I listen to "Killer" and I squirm - the lyrics just sound so ridiculously out-of-place. Which, of course, is not to say that they would work on a better song. The only number on here that I can stand is "House With No Door," which is sort of pretty, if not also unmemorable and by-the-book. The rest is dissonant, ugly filth that has got to be the least inviting music ever made. I give this album a one! Maybe a three on a good day!

Wesleh <> (04.09.2000)

Do not listen to Mr. Greenstein. He likes Phil Collins and is therefore a twat.

<> (10.02.2001)

Goddamn right, man. This album is certainly the best of the early period, and probably the best of their albums if I had to choose. I don't see how any progressive fan could really dislike this here album. 'KILLER' is amazing--intense, truly catchy, and featuring a riff that tears Black Sabbath to shreds. 'HOUSE WITH NO DOORS'--Hammill never wrote a more beautiful melody, and I doubt he ever sang as wonderfully either. Gorgeous in every way the Refugees bores the hell out of me. 'EMPEROR IN HIS WAR ROOM': Another classic, just as good as the other two, it just takes a few more listens to fully appreciate. When that bass line kicks in about halfway through, it's prog-bliss.

'LOST': Oh man! This is epic, epic, epic progressive rock, and it contains BY FAR AND AWAY the best performance by Peter Hammill on a rock record. Theatrical, powerful, and highly listenable, this is the best song on here and probably their greatest achievement. 'PIONEERS OVER C': The albums only weak spot, which is not to say it's a bad song (not at all), it simply doesn't live up to the other four (mainly because it's so damn spacey and meandering). Still, repeat listenenings make it quitre palpatable, but it's the only track on here that I don't want to put on all the time. A whopping 10/10 for this classic album

John McFerrin <> (23.05.2001)

A 12, no more, no less. The thing is, from a melodic perspective, almost none of these songs (except 'Killer' of course) really cuts the mustard. BUT, those vocals make all the difference in the world. I guess I'm just easilt susceptible to being "sucked in" to the singer's world, because although the music doesn't really impress me at all, when Peter is singing, I cannot turn away.

Vasiliy Zavorochayev <> (22.11.2001)

Good,good...Five equally blamelessly made compositions, with no weak moments. The best record of David Jackson! His winds sounds excellent! KILLER and IMPEROR are dark unreal worlds with fantastic images. During listening it seems to me that I am killer from deep bottom or I have my own War-room. Images are very strong. Desperate-sadly THE HOUSE WITH NO DOOR and LOST percolate deep into heart. They have a great sence. Hammill is one of the great rock-poets (as Waters, Gabriel,Sinfield). PIONEERS OVER C is cosmically-extraordinary number full of different feelings, but few fans have understood it... Maybe it's better to begin listening of Hammill from this album.

Mattias Lundberg <> (24.02.2002)

You're right George, VdGG peaks here (or perhaps one should say 'peaks here for the first time'). 1970 is remarkably early for a prog band to be totally idiosyncratic. I mean it took YES at least two years to achieve that, and I wouldn't call them lot 'late bloomers'. I disagree with everyone talking about weak spots on this album, because there are none ! 'Pioneers over C' was at one time my favourite VdGG song - we even played it live in our prog band, and that says a lot, because if you're pretentious (and we sure were) you don't want to cover other people's music. The theatricality of 'House with no door' and 'Lost' just blew me away when I first heard these tracks (this was not just my first VdGG album, but one of my first prog albums altogether). 'Killer' shows once and for all that hit-potential melodies and progressive elements are not incompatible and the woodwind playing on 'The Emperor in his war-room' set a standard that David Jackson unfortunately never even came within reach of again. I glad you rated this album so high, but I think it could even make it into the Parnassum of ratings 13 or 14 (I'm never contended, me).

Jeremy Olson <> (13.04.2002)

Wow, what the hell was I smoking when I rejected this album??? 60% of this album absolutely rules; indeed, my two favorite VDGG compositions are on here. More importantly for me, this album represents the best balance between the good sides of VDGG and the bad sides. Hammill's lyrics are very good, his deliveries work, and he does his best to keep them from being too overblown. The band's playing is in top form as well; some great sax and keyboard work throughout (and adding Fripp to the mix only helps).

"Pioneers Over C" stands as my favorite VDGG song, and it fully deserves that title. What an atmosphere! Dark and foreboding, a very good sound to represent the idea of leaving Earth and venturing into the unknown of space. Sure beats the living hell out of "Rocket Man" and "Space Oddity", that's for sure!

"House With No Door" is another excellent song, one of a very rare breed: a resonant prog ballad. None bar KC "Starless" come close to accurately depicting the sense of isolation and dispair that Peter Hammill's lyrics reflect on this one. And the music helps push the idea along very well, primarily the depressing minor-key piano.

Lastly, "Killer" is quite good, but I don't think it's as good as the previous two I mentioned. I still like it immensely, but I find the lyrics to be somewhat silly (them again, it is the only song I know of about a killer shark). At least the music more than makes up for the lyrics...Dave Jackson steals the show with some great sax riffs, especially around the verses. And, yes, the "death in the sea" part rules mightily.

This album is an easy 10/12, and deserves a place among the top 20 or so prog albums ever. Considering it contains 3 of the 6 VDGG songs I really enjoy, I have no choice but to say it rules!

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

First thing about H To He is that 'c' in the last track's title is lowercase, it denotes the velocity of light. You apparently like 'Killer' but I just don't see the same old complaints about 'atmospheric' nature of the arrangements. Meanwhile that phased organ sounds not so different from that in 'Darkness'. Sax is truly convincing here; being a dilettante in wind instruments I didn't even know the sax can be played in such a way. The 'Killer' riff (I only don't know which one) as it may be read somewhere on the net was actually invented by our old friend Judge Smith for his then band's Heebalob demo song 'A Cloud As Big As A Man's Hand'. It was never released though, and the matter doesn't concern plagiarism - Smith is among the authors of 'Killer'. The desperation is really good word for the moment in 'House With No Door' when Hammill jumps an octave higher - brilliant hook! And your statements about next two tracks are correct too; I only would not say they are dominated by Fripp's guitar for Bob is present only on 'Emperor' and, truth to say, his solo is not the main zest. And I think my opinion on 'Lost' is highly biassed as I love this one deeply and it calls up my own experience of being lost in the same way... well, it brings me to tears. Never mind. But ain't this murky repetitive organ figure with chill sax rambling in 'The Dance In The Frost' perfect? 'Pioneers' is also quite a song... it turns out that I'm unable to point at any bad title here.


Paul Walker <> (10.12.2000)

I feel I must come to the defense of this album. I'm sure you know there are good parts in this album, you haven't given it 6/10 simply for "boldness and audacity" otherwise you are completely overrewarding boldness and audacity.

First of all, 'Lemmings': I think it's not a bad song. The main riff is pretty cool (i.e. the one that Hammill follows with the vocal melody) and the small build-ups of tension are pretty effective. Not a single memorable riff? Ridiculous. When I bought this I walked around humming that vocal melody and also the crazy part in 'Man Erg' for days. Also, the lyrics aren't so bad, you've just done the dirty trick of mentioning one line of awful shite (you did the same thing with 'Close to the Edge' by mentioning the 'Witches liver' or whatever. You're so underhand!) Unfortunately it suffers from the general problems which plague the album anyway: needlessly overlong, and the lack of bass and guitar simply piss me off. Man-Erg is a damn good song, from the glammy doom piano parts to the insane throbbing organ interlude, I think this is one of the best songs they've written. The mid-section is not 'silly', dammit! Well, I suppose you don't like 'Knots' and it's kind of similar. The last part ("And. I. Am. Dooooooooomed!") I find to be pretty sad and poignant. (Oh, now I've just read to the end and I find you actually like the mid-part)

We mostly agree on 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". I don't think it's 23 minutes of prime crap, I think it's about 10 minutes of COMPLETE SHITE with the rest being about 10 minutes of passable stuff, and a few minutes of palatable goodness. Unfortunately, the good parts are hidden amongst a sea of thick pigshit. Damnation on these multipart suites! For instance, the first 11 minutes are cack, but then the parts from there to about 16:30 are damn good! And as you say, the end is pretty good too.

Call me strange, but I can honestly think of at least 3 or 4 memorable riffs on this album (that is quite pathetic, I know, but there's a world of difference between no memorable riffs and 3 or 4) and there's a lot of interesting stuff going on as well. I think the riffs would be a lot more obvious and enjoyable if there was a more prominent bass and guitar presence. I give it a 7/10 and a 9/15 overall.

See? We don't disagree too much. But I mean if your mark actually mirrored your review than it would get a 2 or 3 out of 10.

<> (10.02.2001)

Once again, I strongly disagree with you George and I simply do not understand how you can like H to He so much and dislike this, its natural successor, similar in sound and melody. This album is almost as strong as the last one, and sometimes I even prefer it simply due to its scope.

'LEMMINGS': The weakest track of the three, and it still kicks ass. Some of the best Hammill lyrics ever.

'MAN-ERG:' Glorious song. I mean, really George, this is not at all different from H to He. [You must be joking. Where's Fripp? Where are the riffs? Where are the vocal hooks? Sheez, "progressive aura" alone can't do the trick - G.S.].

'PLAGUE OF LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS': I love this suite. Sure, I have no idea what it means, but it's damn entertaining, damn melodical (tell me that the themes on here aren't memorable or catchy) [Yeah, I wll. Not a single theme on 'Plague' is memorable or catchy. Not a bit. We must have different understanding of 'memorable' - G.S.] and majestic ('We Go Now' is a powerful ending reminiscent of 'Suppers Ready's "Take them to the new Jerusalem!") Great album, just a tad bit lower, so a 9.5/10

John McFerrin <> (14.07.2001)

I'd more or less have to echo Paul's sentiments here - not differing much in the rating, but having some quibbles on the details of the review.

See, I don't really like the first side much. Well, ok, I do get a kick out of the first parts of 'Lemmings', since the music really provides the vision of a bunch of cute animals going over a cliff one by one. And, ok, I guess the atmosphere of 'Man-erg' is neat, but there's no memorability.

The thing is, while I _don't_ love 'Plague', I hardly hate it, and I would definitely not say it's imageless, either in music or lyrics. See, it's about an incredibly stormy night, and a massive shipwreck that takes place. And as the waves are getting high and fierce, the 'captain' also gets visions of disembodied spectres coming in through the windows and trying to claw his soul out of his body. Eventually, his ship succumbs, and he's left stranded at the base of the lifehouse. It's dark, and he's feeling very alone.

And then he gets paranoid, because he has no idea what the hell is going to happen to him, and his fright drives him insane.

Of course, ironically, when the actual music begins to becomes pleasant at the end, the plot loses all sense of cohesion. But whatever.

Point is, 'Plague' is hardly the imageless piece of crap that I was expecting to hear when I got the album. Regardless, though, the music to it isn't that interesting, and hence I would probably end up giving it the same grade you did. Even though, again, your review would suggest that you'd give it a lower grade than what you did.

Vasiliy Zavorochayev <> (18.12.2001)

Oh, yeah! It's a really grandioso masterpiece! This album can make a shock to listener. It's a biggest pick of Hammill's creation. Robert Fripp has played all guitar parts, and I think PAWN HEARTS is the greatest project of Fripp's creation too.

Many people don't like this album (and George too). They consider that PAWN HEARTS is a sound-mixing without a sense and a sample of graphomania. But really this album is of genius (and, you know, genius is not always understandable).

My first 3-4 times of listening were very hard to me. I couldn't catch these huge diversity of melodies, sounds and feelings. It's very hard to get so many impressions in a little cut of time.

But when I've understood it I've got a shock! It was impossible! This music has disappeared the most hidden truths for me. From Autumn'99 PAWN HEARTS is my most favorite album. I listen it for several times monthly and disappear many new things again and again. This album is the one of the greatest masterpieces ever. When I listen it I'm filling with the most raised feelings and emotions. The 1st song 'LEMMINGS' is about dying out kind of animals. This very dark story is the development of KILLER-line musically. The song begins from cosmic intro transforming into hard-doomish riffs of Fripp's guitar, which is constantly drowning in arrangements and Hammill's vocal. Also you can disappear constant changes of melody and rhythm that sounds as far from Universe. In second part of LEMMINGS Hammill makes a sharp changing of musical picture singing with desperate-dreadful shouts, filling all song with black death. The 2nd song 'MAN-ERG' is maybe the most wonderful song of the most deadly-apocalyptical anthems. It?s about the battle of angel and devil sides of human nature. This song is full of philosophical sense as musically, as lyrically. Almost all the song from the beginning till the end is very beautiful and gentle with touching of devil's spirit, but mid-section is determined by a terrible wailings of guitar and saxophone (Fripp&Jackson) and satan-singing of Hammill. It gives great impressions.

The 3rd (and closing) song is the 23-minute suite called A PLAGUE OF LIGHYHOUSE KEEPERS. Visually this song is about catastrophe in the sea, but maybe really it's about total apocalypse with following rebirth. This great composition contains a lot of atonal sounds, but if you pay more attention you can hear a lot of excellent musical pictures and get a lot of fantastic impressions. The 1st part sounds like from lake bottom, with cool and gloomy atmosphere. Then some theatrical atonal pieces are following. Hammill sings by different voices ant intonations during all the song. Part-5 THE PRESENCE OF THE NIGHT/ COSMOS TOURS is the most tragic and beautiful piece on album: 'I know that there's no time/I know that there's no rhyme.../false signs find me/I don't want to hate,/I just want to grow;/why can't I let me/live and be free?/but I die very slowly alone ...'. And then is an atonal piece again with the next piano-sounding Part-6 (CUSTARD'S) LAST STAND. And the 7th part THE CLOT THICKNESS sounds as Otto von Bismark's Army is occupying the Europe with Satan's assistance? (let me such comparison).It sounds grandly and shows Hammill's 'Deutchland-mania'. And then is the closing part with powerful coda. And after all you can be sitting with widely opened eyes and mouth, because it was so impressive! Because there were so much unforgettable music!

Mattias Lundberg <> (24.02.2002)

I hate picking out points in other people's arguments and confronting them, but here I think I'll do just that, here we go:

"..refuses to present us with even a single memorable riff...": what do you think of the sax riff on 'Lemmings' ? I find it original, enthralling and highly memorable. "...with even a single impressive solo passage...": Since you appear to compare this album to H to He, where are the impressive solo passages on that album, or on any other VdGG album (we cannot expect them to employ Fripp all the time, his solos are more like a entertaining bonus superimposed than of any structural account. "...with even a single piece that would trigger one's emotions...": Well this is personal taste, so I can't argue with that. I still found it weird that you make such a big distinction between the lyrics and the atmosperic Affekten on this album and ditto from the earlier albums. It's not THAT big a deviation, and if you compare them to the second VdGG period - where obviously these things are done better - I'd thought that you'd like them. I thought you liked "embryos" more than "...the less humane 'mature' efforts..". It may seem a bit meagre just to provide single examples (which you obviously not even agree on) to my argument, but that's what you get for making these exaggerations - entertaining reading as they make. If I too am allowed to make comparisons I think that 'Plague of the lighthouse keepers' is a great deal more substantial than King Crimson's large scale works. This doesn't redeem 'Plague...' but it may put it into a context of your rating; I think people actually pay more attention to your comments than to your ratings and you should let the former reflect the latter. Sorry about being a bit upset, I'll probably regret all this in a few minutes time.

Jeremy Olson <> (13.04.2002)

This album blows. How could a band go from a masterpiece such as H To He to a miserable piece of crap such as Pawn Hearts??? It's far beyond me. Where H To He showcased all that was great about VDGG (and good prog in general), Pawn Hearts displays all that's bad about VDGG (as well as showcasing the evils of bad prog for all to see). This has definately earned a spot as one of the most hookless, non-memorable albums ever, not to mention one of the worst prog albums ever.

"Lemmings" passed me by totally. I'd love to give some sort of explanation about why it's not a good song, but I really can't recall it. Oh well.

"Man-Erg" didn't do much better in the memorability department. There might have been something vaguely interesting about this piece, because I remembered it's name (unlike "Lemmings"). But damned if I just bored the hell out of me. I guess maybe Fripp's contribution to the song may have stuck out to me, after all, it is Robert Fripp (but even he can't save a song from being boring and unmemorable).

But the worst offender of all is "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers". What's the point of making a 23 minute song if you're not going to make it musically or lyrically exciting, interesting or memorable? Was it some sort of Peter Hammill phallic symbol? "Look, I made a 23 minute song...mine's bigger than your's, ELP!!" It has no reason to exist, plain and simple.

Had VDGG not put this album out at all, and concentrated on making the follow- up to H To He another masterpiece in the same vein, it would have been a major contribution to prog rock. Instead, the band gave us this. An album that has no reason to be: no hooks, non-sensical lyrics, and pointless atmosphere and complexity. I guess it deserves a 4/6, for the effort, the few isolated spots of goodness, and, of course, Robert Fripp.

shivalwolf <> (13.04.2003)

Whether or not your rating is correct, I feel obliged to correct what you see as the theme of the entire record, most importantly, although the theme might reflect society in the first two tracks, the later "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" focuses not on society, but the protaganist's own reaction to the society which is trying to destroy him. Perhaps the theme may be apocolyptic, but it is more specfically, one person's post-apocolyptic experience. This is only important as a defense for the lyrical content, which I believe to be rather mature and at times very clever, the "'Unreal, Unreal' ghost helmsmen scream..." section of S.H.M. most notably, clearly symbolising the helmsmen's reaction to the protaganist. How can a suite written entirely in the first person reflect society? As for my own view on the album, the music is a little iffy and unmemorable mostly, but the lyrical content has matured, and is as strong, if not stronger than ever. A content 7/10.

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

Your Pawn Hearts review was a real disappointment to me. I was not so well acquainted with your stuff at the time, and most of your articles seemed reasonable at least, even if I did not agree on the certain questions. But this one... I mean, you may dislike this album, but what use of slander? You should know that Pawn Hearts was intended to be a double album, but the second disc was never released and now probably gathers dust somewhere on the shelf. So rejoice for you don't have to review yet another thing you hate. Lyrics of 'Lemmings' and 'Man-Erg' are understandable enough, you know it yourself. 'Plague' thing isn't that clear but sometimes it can be understood too, and, anyway, it HAS real imagery and atmospherics though maybe it hasn't easily penetrable meaning. As to lack of memorable riffs and passages, you contradict your own words in the next paragraphs; I guess if you dare listen this one again, you'd find even more hooks. 'Lemmings' do have distinguishable melody and I even can sing it. Those chaotic arrangements in the 'Cog' part are constructed very precisely indeed and the outro includes very impressive saxophone play. There is no sign of jamming; everything is scheduled in advance. Pointless 'progressive jams' are present in the King Crimson's output, not in VdGG's. Main melody of 'Man-Erg' is HIGHLY memorable, tell your stories to someone else, man; the mid-section is good too, and not only the part which 'kicks ass' but also the solemn sequel. Apropos of Fripp, do you know how he used to make his contributions to the VdGG sound? He was coming to the studio, putting on his headphones and starting the recording session without any rehearsals. Some might say it's professionalism; I'd call it devil-may-care attitude. And I even don't want to talk about 'Plague'; it's simply not your territory. You just don't like it, amen.

Akis Katsman <> (04.06.2003)

George, I'm sorry but I have to disagree with you. This album is a mind-blowing experience. Sure, it's pretentious, but it's good. It kicks off with the amazing "Lemmings". Hammill's sceptical lyrics combined with doomy apocalypse organ-sax sounds, create an epic and unique atmosphere. The sax riff, followed by Hammill's vocals, is great. Next is "Man-Erg", my favourite track on the album. What a melody! Hammill is an excellent singer, maybe my favourite. Also, I like the manic sax riff in the middle with the torturous vocals. And great lyrics too, among his best. A breathtaking song, overall. And last there comes "A Plague For Lighthouse Keepers", an extended suite. I can always listen to it in the whole, without being bored (except maybe for "Pictures/Lighthouse") at all. Melodies, dynamics, crazy experiments, agony, Hammill's great voice... this track has it all. And when "Land's End (sineline)" comes, it's the final catharsis. Totally AWESOME!! Oh man... this is great music. I should listen to this album again... Overall, I'd give this album a solid 9.

<> (20.10.2003)

What is there left to say about Pawn hearts? thirty years after it stands among the ten best albums of all time, no other VDGG can compare with it, maybe John Coltrane, Love's Forever changes, Trout mask Replica? I don't know, critics make me smile but no problem, they'll never recognize anything, it's not the first time

Steve Lawrence <> (25.05.2004)

Though I haven't written for ages, I visit the site occasionally and after todays visit I was much impressed by those who are now championing Pawn Hearts as a brilliant "first phase" VDGG album. It is good to see it creeping back into the conversation as something other then the album that "failed".

Like many abject of art, detracters are, over time, be drawn to conclude that it pushed its boundries and is truely a wonderful thing. Just listen to it one more time!

P.S. Question: was Theme One the first record to be played on Radio 1 in the UK, or was it once Radio 1's theme tune? (I don't know)

<> (19.06.2005)

I am rather confused as to your seemingly total disregard for this record, which I see as early Van Der Graaf Generator's premiere statement, the point at which all the strands they'd been working at in the previous two records came to a total and powerful cohesion. 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers', in general, is the ideal statement for the band: in its balancing of absolutely gorgeous passages (I'm amazed, George, that you find the opening Eyewitness theme unmemorable, or the closing We Go Now uncathartic) with horrifying ugliness and dissonance. The suite reminds me of a psychological horror film - it is so passionate and intense, so chaotic and bizarre, that it really has very little to do with bands like Yes and Genesis. I love all those other "prog' bands, but Gabriel could never frighten me the way Hammill does, he could never create such an eerie and panicky mood the way 'Lighthouse Keepers' does consistantly. I find this record and band much more unique and unimitable. Granted, this music has much less to do with immediate hooks than does H to He, but they are there, I swear to you, and if you can find your way into 'Lighthouse Keepers' (which is really the point of this album's existance, according to PH), it is so incredibly rewarding. I also don't think this album takes itself as "seriously" as you perceive: Hammill himself compared 'Lighthouse Keepers' to filmmakers like Bunuel - it's total theater, meant to project a movie in your head - it's noise and psych-drama and hightened emotions. 'Lighthouse Keepers', save for the second section (though even that grew on me), is also constant melody, chaos, and forward movement, whereas some sections of 'Pioneers in C' and 'Lost' seem less focused and a bit dull even. As a final thought, I will say that when I first heard this album I hated it. I loved H to He and hated this. I recently bought the new REMASTER supervised by Hammill, and I have never heard such a difference between an old master and a new one. It was like listening to a new album. Jackson's warped sax lines are right in your face now, the atmosphere is so much more tangible. The difference alone prompted my re-assessment of the record, and now I'm a total convert. Perhaps you'll feel the same, though it sounds like it may not be worth it to you if, as you say, you discern no interesting passages on the entire record (a total incredulity to me).


DURET Fabien <> (17.11.2000)

You should indicate in your review on godbluff what type of screamers you think are convincing. I agree with you that Hammill is not a convincing singer on "Arrow" (and also in some other ones of course), but in general I find it's one of the most convincing singers, and I particularly like the double screams on two simultaneous Hammill voices (this trick is even more present in Hammill solo records than in VDGG ones). Do you think that mindless sepultura-style singers are convincing screamers ? Your point of view is sometimes uncomprehensible for me, but understand : VDGG (and also Hammill solos which I find better) is the only group I listen that has sometimes really poor instrumentation. I find it really weak compared to King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Magma, and even Jethro Tull althought it's sometimes close to the VDGG sound, because at least Ian Anderson is a real virtuoso on flute. I can't really be surprised by a VDGG bass line after having heard the Squire line on "The silent wings of freedom" for example. The things really good in VDGG are Hammill's voice, melodies, vocal tricks, vocal theatrality, lucidity and screams ! But you may not have listened enough to his solo albums from the 70s area, which are much more refined in general (hear The Silent Corner And the Empty Stage, In Camera, and the marvellous Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night).

<> (10.02.2001)

What a masterpiece. The best of the later period albums, this is simply awesome. It sounds different from what came before, and that's a good thing. You see, the band now serves just as much a purpose as Hammill and he has adopted somewhat of a new singing style that alternates between soothing beauty and a raging, ferocious SCREAM!! that almost hurts the ears.

'UNDERCOVER MAN': Maybe my favorite VDGG song, next to H to He, it's the catchiest thing they ever wrote.

'SCORCHED EARTH': Very cool keyboard riff, and overall a spectacular song.

'ARROW': Worst track on the album, but powerful and explosive nonetheless. The jazzy introduction kicks my ass.

'SLEEPWALKERS': Not as good as some will tell you (both 'Undercover man' and 'Scorched Earth' are better) but certainly one of the band's best songs anyway. The dancehall section comes out of nowhere and makes me smile everytime I hear it. Absolutely without question a 10/10, and it's often a tossup as to what I like more: this or H to He.

Jeremy Olson <> (13.04.2002)

"The Sleepwalkers" rules mightily. If only Peter and co. could have come up with this song to take the place of some of the shit on Pawn Hearts...

Dave Jackson takes the real lead on this song. His sax playing truly adds a whole new dimension to the song; it would have been far too empty of anything but Hammill's singing to carry it had Jackson not been present. The keyboards help to fill up some space as well, but this is truly a sax party!

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

As you go to Godbluff, our opinions begin to draw together again. You are still not in great love with VdGG, it's evident; at least you've ceased to undertake your attempts to ground your wishful thinking. Almost have. But not completely. This is actually my first and favourite VdGG album. The very first thing I heard on it which caught my attention was the starting RIFF in the 'Scorched Earth'. If it's not good riff, if it's just a scrap of one, call me idiot (and then why to read my messages at all?). And that change from cha-cha-cha to more modern part with the same structure in 'Sleepwalkers' is a clever move, indeed. All in all it can only be regarded as masterpiece; it has exceptionally bleak and chilling atmosphere without giving you impression of being over-obsessed with the dark fantasies, and in the end it's full of hope. Yeah, at least the first two tracks are very optimistic; I don't know how come you cannot see it. Arrangements and instrumentation are very good too; there are no risky solos, no mannered passages; I think it was band's peak in terms of team-work, self-sufficiency and wholeness. Apart from that, I guess, I have nothing essential to object. This one shows that you can write a truthful review even if you're not enraptured with the subject.


<> (10.02.2001)

Very underrated. People write this off as a weaker version of Godbluff, and I can see that if it weren't so damn good.

'PILGRIMS': OK, this may actually be my favorite VDGG song. We agree on this masterpiece of a song, George.

'STILL LIFE': Beautiful song.

'LA ROSSA': Intense, and excellent. Why do complain about Hammill's screaming on this song and yet praise the way overscreamed 'Place to Surive' on the next records, George?

'MY ROOM': Simple as all hell, beautiful as well.

'CHILDLIKE FAITH': Weakest track of Godbluff and Still Life is still cool, but like 'Pioneers over C', it simply lacks focus and meanders a bit too much. Great album. A 9/10.

Mattias Lundberg <> (26.02.2002)

This album is formulaic but, as is often the case with such albums, it is better than its predecessor. I think Godbluff sounds less premeditated than does Still Life, but then again I've always had a penchant for the slightly contrived and self-conscious. 'Pilgrims' is a brilliant track; it could serve as the perfect introduction to the band, yet it goes deeper into all their characteristics than most of their songs do. Those syncopated hammer-blows between the two sections of the chorus make one think of how the band managed to make all things sound so VdGG. I mean, even if we've heard playing like this many times before, it sounds here as if Evans invented its very idea. And Banton again shows that he's the master of the stately 'cathedral hammond' sound. 'La Rossa' stinks ? No, comrade, I think Hammill is the most convincing shouter ever to destroy his larynx on a rock album. 'My room' is one of those songs that baffles you on account of its irregular phrasing; we don't expect this band to pull off sophisticated things like that. E.L.P., Yes or Enid, yes, but not VdGG ! And still they do, showing that natural acumen often arrive at the same qualities as educated skill, but with a much more powerful effect.

Keith Hart <> (14.11.2002)

In 1976 the world of prog had already begun to loose it's penchant for heaviness, and that dark sonorous quality that epitomized the best. The music began to get "brighter" and finding balance in a longer-song format became easier. And more banal. Van Der Graff resisted this trend and Still Life, while requiring repeated listenings, rewards the listener consistently. If you love bands that demand active listening than Hamill and company are in the front rank. The band is backing Hamill's ideas, but their committment and artistry lend critical mass to Hamill's peotry - which by itself would be at times, tedious. Their solution to the lack of up-front guitar is superbly handled. One of my new favourites.

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

On Still Life I can say even less, you've said it all before. I guess the instrumentation is weaker a bit here, this may be heard easily on 'Childlike Faith...' - I'd call it 'thin', there's something lacking in its music, I don't know what exactly. The only objection is about 'La Rossa'; the overshouting works well there, maybe it's just you turned your volume knob too high and could not make out the tune? 'My Room' is excellent... would be excellent if ended in half of minute or so after the last line of lyrics. No talking about 'Pilgrims' and 'Still Life' as you've found right words for them (though I love them more than you do). One minor note: 'Still Life' is about immortality which leads to negation of the very life - obvious reference to the struldbrug thing. 'History's end' is oversimplified, and thus wrong, interpretation.

Akis Katsman <> (04.06.2003)

Still Life... What an album! One of the best albums I have ever heard, no kidding! I love it all, from start to finish! It starts with "Pilgrims" one of the best songs Hammill has ever written. Melancholic, beautiful and powerful at the same time! Amazing! Next comes the title track, with great lyrics from Hammill, a cool funky saxophone, doomy organs and an excellent ending. "La Rossa" is next, maybe my least favourite track in the album, but still good. I like the singing of Hammill here. "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)" is a great smooth-jazz ballad, very beautiful. I think Hammill here sounds like Bowie or Nick Cave. It's very good if you want to chill-out. And finally, comes the TOTALLY AWESOME "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End", my favourite number from the album. This is one of my favourite songs EVER. If you have not heard it, you should today! I can't describe how great this song is! Dark, ethereal, apocalyptic... BRILLIANT!! Hammill's vocals are stunning. The ending is maybe the best ending I have ever heard in ANY song, only topped by "Supper's Ready". And some of the best Hammill lyrics too. This man was a genius. No more, no less. Both as a vocalist and as a lyricist. If you don't have this album, you're missing a dark and breathtaking experience! This record is unique. And it has a very strong gothic feeling, darker in mood than any "goth" group, without lyrics about vampires and blood. Buy this album, you won't regret it. A perfect 10 from me, there is no doubt about it. And it's even better than Pawn Hearts.


Tim Van der Mensbrugghe <> (05.01.2001)

Why should we mail our ideas when we agree with you? This is indeed one if the best, if not the best VDGG-record. And also the last 'real' Van Der Graaf Generator-album, as far as I'm concerned. The following two 'things' (as I wish to call them) are, well, rubbish of another group. I feel there was dropped more than just the 'Generator'.

<> (10.02.2001)

This is shit. I'm sorry George, I don't know what you're listening to. I can't even listen to this album, it just pisses me off so much.

'WHEN SHE COMES': Hammill's singing on this song is simply awful. It has a sort of decent melody- one of the only remotely interesting ones on the entire album- but is completely destroyed by the horrible performance of the entire band. What a disappointing opener.

'A PLACE TO SURVIVE': OK. Couldn't disagree with George more. Every song on Aerosol is better than this piece of trash. Their worst song, hands down. 10 minutes of annoying crap. It sounds like they want to be Aja-era Steely Dan (which this band could never be) on this song and it doesn't work at all. Not to mention the fact that Hammill's singing is atrocious beyond words and the band sounds like they're peeing while playing their instruments. [???? It has a bunch of cool sax riffs, a catchy vocal melody and atmosphere a-plenty. I could care less about anything else - G.S.]

'MASKS': I'd comment on this song if I could remember one note. Unfortunately, it's so unmemorable that I'll just say its OK.

'SONGWRITER'S GUILD': AlL right. This is the first semi-decent thing on the album. It actually contains some interesting melodies and rhythms, and Hammill sounds like his old self again, minus the god-awful harsh tone of 'Place to Survive' and 'WHen She comes'. Problem? The length. Come on, 7 minutes of a silly reggae rhythm without changing or adding a damn thing to the mix? This is the stuff that gave prog a bad name.

'WONDERING': The only really good thing on the album is still overlong (the only interesting part is the lyrics) but Hammill sounds so beatiful on this song that I just want to ask him why he had to destroy the rest of the album with that crappy tone.

This album has nothing on the beauty of Godbluff or Still Life, or the power and scope of H to He and Pawn Hearts. It sucks. a 3/10.

P.S. OK. I've changed my mind slightly regarding Van Der Graaf's World Record. I still think that the first two songs are pretty dreadful, a 'A Place to Survive' is definately their worst song. However, the rest of album is damn good. I actually really got into 'Masks' (when he stutters on masochistic mumble, it's a classic moment). 'Wondering' is still beautiful. And while it is way too long, 'Songwriters Guild' is just too cool to deny. One thing I noticed about this album, that may have turned me off to it originally: many of the rhythms come close to being danceable which is just....weird.

Jeremy Olson <> (13.04.2002)

My exposure to this album has so far been limited to one song (at least that I can remember), but what a song! I speak of "Place To Survive", of course.

Strictly speaking, this song shouldn't as good as it is. It contains all the same elements as nearly every VDGG song: the same instrumentation, Hammill's typical lyrics, etc. But yet it's not only different, it's superior to a lot of their other stuff. Why? Beats me, I guess it just is.

The instrumentation is a bit more mixed up on this one; the sax and organ occupy more or less equal space (as opposed to the excellent sax-fest "The Sleepwalkers"), and there's a cool bass groove as well. As with a number of Hammill's lyrics, I don't know what exactly he's talking about, but he makes them sound pretty convincing.

In retrospect, I still find it quite shocking that a band could create such great songs as this one, and yet produce such a terrible album as Pawn Hearts. Seriously, how uneven of a career can one band have???

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

I easily see why you give World Record such a high (for VdGG album) rating. It is by far the least prog of all their works. The tunes here are more simple, the jazz tendencies are more noticeable. Lyrics are more conventional. 'When She Comes' seems to be the best track on the album. No, I don't like 'A Place To Survive', it contains so much emptiness within, and the rhythm section looks somewhat clumsy. And after all I don't like such an organ sound - which is not to say that organ part is played badly. The main embarrassment here is 'Meurglys III'. It does have a lot of cool musical and lyrical ideas but they all can fit in the seven-minute song. The rest of the time band just potters about without any apparent purpose. Hammill's guitar licks are execrable, let alone his skills, the very sound is pure loathsome. I think, Hammill ran out of words and got tired at last, so did the other members of the band, and thus the approaching split-up was inevitable.

Gimber <> (13.03.2006)

Tsk, Tsk, no no no and no. I only could save the great "When she comes" (it could be placed on "Godbluff" or "Still Life"). The rest is a bunch of dinosauric jams ("Place to survive" ), extra-large mean guitar soloing ("Meurglys"), lazy playing ("Masks") and the worst song ever you'll have for ending a record : How I hate "Wondering".

I like Hammill when he uses the guitar on "Crying Wolf" or "Lost and Found" or even in "Imperial walls", but here ....nah. "Godbluff" will be the most succesful record of the second era. "Still Life" is more of a follow up. Everything was said in those four songs: "Undercover", "Scorched", "Arrow" and "Sleepwalkers" my favourite ever. Lots of diversity in here i can see, Huh?


DURET Fabien <> (17.11.2000)

After having re-read your review on Quiet Zone, I'm even more astonished than at the first reading. If I had made a review on this wonderful album, that you put without listening it (it seems, or you were not in good listening conditions, or the sound was bad) in the same case as Pawn Hearts, I wouldn't have even spoke about "The Lizard Play" and "Chemical World" that seem to have your preferences. I would have put them under a sentence like "there are also a few less interesting pieces". "The Wave" and "Cat's Eye, Yellow Fever" are among the best VDGG pieces in melody and structure. They may even be the prefered pieces of Hammill himself, because they are the only VDGG pieces he plays on his last recent live record. "The Siren Song", "Last Frame" and "Sphinx in the face" are also really good, and well structured ! What's the link with the mess of Pawn Hearts? Then, "The Habit Of the Broken Heart" is a bit cold like "Lizard Play", but much more melodious and progressive, and I'm afraid it DOESN'T "fall into rambling dust" after one minute !!!!

Maybe you don't smoke good products! Get them directly in Marocco.

Sorry for disturbing you, goodbye

Vasiliy Zavorochayev <> (27.11.2001)

This album is saved by Graham Smith and his violin. "Lizard Play" sounds well basiclly just by Smith. Two next songs didn't add something new, but "Last Frame" is the best song from 1st side. It sounds rich and solemn-gloomy. But the real masterpiece of album is only CAT'S EYE YELLOWE FEVER (RUNNING). Violin sounds excellent creating the magical alarming atmosphere and guitar reproducing a snow-storm is wonderfull. This music reminds me the Hans Christian Anderson's tale about Snow Queen. "The Wave", "Sphinx in the Face", "The sphinx Return" are interesting. But "Chemical World" is dull, too long and has no worthy musical theme.

Conclusion: Mr. Hammill and Co. might play better. Album rating is 7 of 10.

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

The Quiet Zone is not for diehards. It's for those who pay more respect to Hammill's solo work than to VdGG's. It really closely resembles his future solo albums. But it has nothing in common with Pawn Hearts; you say yourself that the music here is broken and rambling. Now don't try to convince me it was so on PH! Again, you may hate both, but don't lump everything together. I'd say this one is even more difficult to get into since it has no such a powerful instrumentation. Yes, the sound is 'broken', you're right, and it may be a proper art tool. 'Wave' and 'Siren Song' are quite good, aren't they? 'Chemical World' is very interesting too, I'd even call it acid. The melody at the moment 'And the sun beats down on the baking earth in the land where the lizards play' is memorable enough, and it's not the only example. In general, you have to get used to this album in order to discover its advantages. It took time even for me.


Tim Van der Mensbrugghe <> (25.01.2001)

It is almost impossible to hear Jackson's sax because of Evans' laziness. Jackson's playing was recorded on four tracks since he managed to produce stereo and other effects on stage. But, when compiling the album, Mr. Evans only found one track. So, you only get to hear a forth of the original sound. I am not saying Jackson's whole sound would have made such a big difference. But it is possible that if his playing was added fully, the album would have sounded less atrocious. But then again, we do not know.

Mattias Lundberg <> (26.02.2002)

A disappointing live recording, indeed. But then again, I wonder if the band was any better live in the earlier periods. I suspect they were never really a good live band, but some owner of 200 Pawn Hearts-period bootlegs will probably prove me wrong one day. Until then, VdGG is not a good live band. Vital is one of those albums that makes you wonder how many prospective VdGG listeners was turned off by this as their first purchase. 'Ship of fools' is a good track, but a much better version was released as a single version (sicut) easily available on a compilation released by Virgin in the nineties.

Crew Glazjev <> (02.05.2003)

And the Vital is real calamity, I fully uphold this opinion. The liability to recording company might be the only reason for its release. I only want to draw your attention once more to the version of 'Still Life'; it induces even more gloomy and morose mood than the original and is worthy thereby.

In the end I would like to explain you my attitude to Van der Graaf Generator. It should be noted that they are not my idols, so this comment isn't written by from the point of view of a VdGG fanatic, y'know. I mean, I love VdGG because of their songs, but not songs because of they're of VdGG. And if I call some song beautiful here, it doesn't mean I'm willing to contend over it; I just express my opinion which is opposite to yours. In all other respects I'm ready to argue. I hope my station's clear now.

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