Last Updated on 14. July 2021 by Oliver
I admit, I had a hard time with Van der Graaf Generator for a long time. And I’m not an isolated case. From their second album onwards, the band rejected all trends and even remained an exotic part of the already exotic progressive rock scene. This was not least due to the eccentric, sometimes almost operatic singing of Peter Hammill, who founded the formation together with Judge Smith in 1967 in Manchester.
Extended instrumental sequences, as the die-hard Prog fan loves, were rarely heard at VDGG. Although the pieces often easily exceeded the 10-minute mark. That means: In addition to the excellent music – in their classical phase the group consisted of vocalist and guitarist PH, Hugh Banton (organ, bass pedals), Guy Evans (drums) and David Jackson (saxophone, flute) – lyrics and singing was way up front. And that is not to everyone’s taste (see above). In addition, David Jackson added a jazzy component with his wind instruments that you also have to like.
Van der Graaf Generators trademark: dark lyrics
In the meantime, however, I have taken the group very much to my heart. It just has to “click” at some point. It happened to me when I heard the VDGG classic “Killer” (1971) and, above all, read Hammill’s text about it. It tells the story of a mass murdering fish (hence the title) that even kills its mother, but ultimately only searches for love. It doesn’t get any more gloomy and I like that a lot.
Then I worked my way through their back catalog. But even that only works bit by bit, because at some point you need a break from the lyrical effusions.
Now the albums from the best VDGG phase from 1970 to 1978 are being re-released in an elaborate box set. The new mix by Steven W. Tayler should also be an absolute selling point for “die hard” fans who already have everything from the band. After the first three appetizers, which have already been published on the streaming portals, it is really unbelievable what the mixing genius has got out of the original multi-track tapes in stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Even in my favorite piece “Killer” I suddenly hear instruments and details that I couldn’t hear before.
Van Der Graaf Generator: The Charisma Years (17 CD- & 3 Bluray-Boxset)
Release date: 3. September 2021