#Musicaparaelencierro. Es muy fuerte el título: la farsa de Dios. Una tapa absolutamente negra... Un álbum absolutamente esencial (como dato al margen, pueden ver la cantidad de comentarios en Progarchives donde califican a este disco con el puntaje máximo que puede tener un disco) en el que unos músicos inspiradísimos desarrollan un estilo único tanto en la composición como en la instrumentación y que les ha dado un lugar en la historia mayor del rock prog. Se lo recomiendo a cualquiera pero sobretodo a aquellos que estén más interesados en el aspecto más emocional del rock progresivo. Y sigue el festival de Van der Graaf Generator, creadores de algunos de los discos más emotivos y representativos del mejor del rock progresivo, que mezcla saviamente el virtuosismo instrumental y compositivo, las buenas ideas, excelente poesías en su lírica, conceptos arriesgados (la vida de los que quedaron fuera del sistema, los marginales, los vagabundos y sin techo) y gran carga emocional. Y este disco, en lo personal, es lo más! Otro tremendo aporte de José Ramón para un disco que no debe faltar en el blog cabezón.
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Cuando presenté por primera vez a VDGG en el blog cabezón, había caído en cuenta que dentro de la "escuelita de rock" faltaba presentar a este grupo fundamental dentro de lo que se conoce como "art rock", "rock experimental" o "rock progresivo" y cualquier mote que se le quiera poner, porque en definitiva de lo que se trata es de hacer buena música, y dentro de esa buena música nosotros elegimos la más desafiante, arriesgada e irrevetente y la compartimos con todos ustedes. Hoy le toca el turno a un grupo liderado por ese genio (no sólo musical sino también lírico) que es Peter Hammill, un grupo que desarrolla un rock oscuro, complejo, poético, duro y sensible al mismo tiempo, logrando unir a la perfección lo que es para mí una de las mejores expresiones del mejor rock progresivo: la complejidad musical junto con la extrema belleza melódica y lírica, uniendo lo mejor de todos los mundos en una demostración de fineza, virtuosismo, sensibilidad, dramatismo, inteligencia y temeridad musical.
Aclaro que esta versión del disco incluye dos temas en vivo agregados en la remasterización del 2005 que la verdad para mí empañan un poco un disco cortito pero redondo, yo lo habría dejado con sus 36 minutos originales.
Otro grupete de ingleses atrevidos que cambiaron la historia de la música adentrándose en la Psicodelia y lo Experimental, para decirlo en pocas palabras, le dieron clases a casi todos, sin contar el hecho de que por sus filas pasaron gente de la talla de Peter Hammill (como miembro fundador). Una banda que todavía hoy no llega a tener el reconocimiento que se merece.Alejandro Batista
Y no sabía bien que disco traerles para presentar a la banda, que dicho sea de paso la considero subestimada dado el nivel musical alcanzado en algunas obras, siendo una de las bandas más desafiantes, inventivas, emocionales y cerebrales de todo el espectro musical. Y me he decidido por éste disco (ojo que podría haber sido otro, tiene varios excelentes discos), cortito y con sólo cuatro piezas largas que son "agresivamente" hermosas, oscuras, sensibles y duras al mismo tiempo, un álbum clásico del género que precedió a obras de similar calidad musical como fueron "Foxtrot" de Genesis, "Larks Tongues In Aspic" de King Crimson, "Close To The Edge" de Yes, entre otras obras mayores de la vanguardia rockera de la época. Este es quizás el trabajo más oscuro y más duro de VDGG, violencia sónica enredada en la imaginería lírica apasionada de Hammill (uno de los mejores poetas del rock de todos los tiempos) y líneas melódicas complejas que enmarcan el concepto del trabajo, centrado en la vida de aquellos que quedan al margen, al margen del sistema, de la sociedad, de la vida; los refugiados, los perseguidos, los piruchos (perdón, dementes, debo tratar de no usar tanto argentinismo) y hasta los enloquecidos por el amor o la religiosidad. "Godbluff" es un ejemplo fascinante de artesanía musical, con un sonido no totalmente sinfónico, no totalmente jazzero, pero con toques de muchos géneros y a veces al mismo tiempo y en un mismo momento, creando así su propio sonido singular que hace que esta banda suene extraña y que no le guste a todo el mundo. Tal vez esta banda no es pegadiza ni es la indicada para todo el mundo, en todo caso, si es que no la conoces, tendrás que escucharla para averiguar si su sonido y propuesta musical te cuadra y encaja.
En mi humilde opinión VDGG es una gran contribución a la música y al arte en general, mientras que "Godbluff" es una obra maestra que entremezcla y une la poesía con la música como pocos lo han logrado. En el siguiente video pueden ver la traducción de este tema que habla descarnadamente de las personas en situación de calle...
El sonido de Godbluff es difícil de definir. Algunos dicen que es el espectro negro y oscuro del rock progresivo de la época junto con King Crimson. Y sí, la verdad es que si comparamos con Yes o Genesis, Van der Graaf generator es gótico. Pero sólo si comparamos. No explicaría la sonoridad del grupo así. Yo más bien diría que es un ejemplar de rock progresivo puro con voces violentas aportadas por el maravilloso Hammil, sintetizadores clavinet endemoniados y saxos modificados que cumplen la función de la guitarra, y que si bien es algo oscuro, sobre todo si lo comparamos, no llega a ser gothic rock.Strauss_14
La guitarra, como esbocé en el párrafo anterior, se ve casi completamente suprimida en este disco. Hammil no las necesitó y en vez de utilizarlas, usó saxos, teclados y a veces flautas, cosa que le da un tinte muy especial al sonido del Generador de Van der Graaf.
The undercover man empieza sigilosamente con una flauta traversa y una voz cruda y susurrante que luego se hace melódica y nos eleva increíblemente (¡Como amo a Hammill!). Las melodías en este tema son hermosas, y demuestran que Peter también tiene un lado alegre. Las paredes de sintetizadores que acompañan y se presentan a lo largo del disco, me encantan. La voz es el elemento predominante en esta canción, salvo al final cuando el saxo ejecuta un solo corto que da por terminada la canción, cosa que hace que si quieren escuchar un buen rock progresivo melódico es esta canción la que deben elegir.
Scorched earth tiene también énfasis en la voz, y posee características muy parecidas a su predecesor, nada más que las melodías en este son más siniestras y Hammil se desgarganta cantándolas apasionadamente. Eso es en un principio. Luego del minuto 3, se escucha un corto instrumental buenísimo, con unos teclados y un saxo cargados de pasión. Lo mejor es el final, cuando todo se va acelerando lentamente y el baterista se descontrola totalmente y golpea sin parar, acompañando a los saxos y los teclados.
Arrow comienza con un in crescendo improvisado que luego se transforma en un emotivo pasaje tecladístico al que se le suma un saxo soprano melódico. Peter ya parece un demonio cantando, con esa voz desgarrada, esos gritos desesperados y esos graves tajantes. Los saxos rockeros se presentan interpretando una melodía e improvisando mientras Hammil vocifera sus notas paranoicas. Lo más violento y siniestro del disco.
Arrow culminó épicamente. Parecía que el disco iba a terminar (si hubieran puesto el tema anterior como último, sería un final magnífico), pero en la suite The sleepwalkers un saxo se acerca soplando un riff con una batería acentuada y una voz esta vez más melodiosa. Las melodías son excelentes y los cortes circenses en los que Peter se enloquece como mágicamente y grita como el diablo me gustan cada día más. Es en ésta canción donde se encuentran los mejores arreglos de saxo: ¡Escuchen ese riff en el minuto 3! Al principio parece propio de un circo, y luego se transforma en un caudal gigantesco de saxos y teclados penetradores. También me gusta mucho como cambia en la mitad, lugar en el que se interpreta un ostinato ultra rockero con un hammond improvisando detrás del saxo y el teclado, al que se le aproxima un saxo soleando descomunalmente, con una voz caudalosa muy propia de Hammil, desgarrando sus cuerdas vocales y haciéndonos erizar la piel. Lo mejor del disco… ¿Les queda duda?
Ya quedó claro mi absoluto rendimiento hacia Peter Hammil, que es sin pensarlo el mejor músico del disco. Tiene una voz que recorre desde lo melodioso hasta lo más endemoniado y enloquecido que podamos imaginar, y una capacidad en los teclados que si bien no es igual a su nivel como cantante, logra ejecuciones muy buenas. Uno de los mejores vocalizadores del rock progresivo, sin dudas. Los demás músicos tienen sus momentos destacables, pero ninguno es demasiado sorprendente. Jackson es el peor, ya que muchas veces su sonido en el saxo es poco consistente y no alcanza a destacarse muy bien entre los teclados.
En los primeros momentos de este blog nuestra querida y desaparecida Augustita había realizado la entrada de este disco, que me tomo el atrevimiento de reemplazar por este que estoy creando aquí, pero allí la idearia primogénea de este espacio había escrito lo siguiente:
"Hagamos memoria" y ubiquémonos en los comienzos del segundo lustro de los 70 en Gran Bretaña: Floyd copó el mainstream con "Dark side" hace un par de años y "Wish you were here" estaba en plena construcción, Crimson dijo hasta luego por un ratito dejándole "Red" al mundo, la era Gabriel en Genesis culminó con el excelente "The lamb lies on broadway", Yes y ELP también hacen de las suyas. Claramente es una época demasiado fructífera para nuestro querido Rock Progresivo. Más allá del buen momento de las grandes potencias mencionadas, otra de las bandas que ocupó un breve lugarcito en la escena Inglesa años atrás volvía a renacer...Augustita
Van der Graff Generator fue uno de los grupos más importantes del rock progresivo inglés, formados a finales de la década del 60 en la ciudad de Manchester. Siempre liderada por el vocalista Peter Hammill la banda sufrió modificaciones en su alineación en los primeros años, época donde grabaron sus tres primeros discos titulados The Aerosol Grey Machine (1969), The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other (1970) y H to He, Who Am the Only One (1970).
Tras su brillante cuarto álbum de estudio llamado Pawn Hearts en 1971 y su posterior separación en 1972, Hammill inició una breve carrera como solista. Pasado algunos años, más específicamente en 1975, vuelven a reunirse para lanzar un nuevo trabajo discográfico en conjunto debido a que los integrantes mantenían una excelente relación: Se titula Godbluff y a mi gusto es EL disco de VdGG ! Dividido en cuatro épicas que rondan los diez minutos y con la exquisita voz de Don Hammill como guía, cada una de las canciones nos lleva a explorar diversos paisajes musicales fantásticos por donde se los mire (O se lo escuche, claro).
Resulta al menos curioso ver como VDGG ha permanecido aislado del contorno del art-rock. Catalogado como anticomercial, ha carecido a lo largo de su historia de los favores de la crítica especializada y de los distribuidores de la industria del disco. Sin embargo, a cosechado en todo el mundo un ejército fiel de seguidores, conviertiéndolos no solamente en un grupo de culto sino también en leyenda. Y a diferencia de otros dinosaurios del prog, nunca renunciaron ha sus postulados musicales, nunca comprometieron su creación enfocados hacia el éxito comercial en un desmedido afán por masificarse. Fieles a sí mismos, hoy en día no debe existir un aficionado de este género que no tenga varios de sus discos y es hora de que también los conozcan las nuevas generaciones. Sus increíbles pasajes cambiantes, pausas, efectos, improvisaciones, melodías, su paranoia lírica y soberbia musical, siendo pocas las bandas que se haya atrevido a tanto por tanto tiempo, transitando permanentemente por caminos inhóspitos, difíciles para el oido humano, donde se requiere participar activamente de la música que uno escucha. Como dice Fripp (más o menos, no lo recuerdo textual) esta es una música donde para encontrarle el sentido debemos participar, buscar, bucear en ella, en su lírica y en sus melodías, algo que seguramente en nuestros días de comida rápida e instantaneidad y simplismo seguramente incomoda. Y es que VDGG no es para todos, como tampoco lo es la mayoría de la mejor música. Pero para aquellos que decidan ir mas allá de la simpleza, de las comodidades, de ser solo un receptor de la imposición mercantilista, aquí tienen arte hecho sonido.
VdGG es uno de los referentes clásicos y "obligados" del Rock Progresivo. Algo insoslayable, para empezar a hablar de este grupo es su extrema originalidad. La banda es dueña de un sonido tan propio que no creo haber escuchado bandas que hayan podido imitarlo (si hay a las que influenció, pero no bandas que suenen a VdGG como si hay bandas que suenan a Genesis). Esta autenticidad se basa, en el (y este es un adjetivo que suelo guardármelo para muy pocos) genio descomunal de Peter Hammill: una de las más exquisitas figuras del rock progresivo, y una de mis voces favoritas de cualquier estilo musical.Musical Communion
En mi anterior blog había posteado este mismo disco, y vuelvo a traerlo (y no a elegir otro de los buenos discos de este grupo) por la simple razón que lo considero un disco obligado de su género. De hecho, lo considero entre los 10 mejores discos de rock progresivo y en ese (cuestionable) sitio de referencia del rock progresivo que es ProgArchives, también lo ponen décimo en su ranking.
¿Qué tiene Godbluff para que se le tenga tan alta estima? Tiene a Hammill en su más alta expresión. Tiene a uno de los mayores genios del prog brillando como nunca. La voz de Hammill es descomunalmente versátil, histriónica como pocas y expresiva como ninguna. Tiene la capacidad de variar registros, colores de voz, tonos y emociones transmitidas con una naturalidad única. En The Undercover Man siempre me imagino a un actor diciendo semejante letra (semejante libreto) debajo de un reflector en un monólogo de teatro dramático. Es impresionante lo que Hammill logra en esa canción.
El excelente nivel vocal de Hammill es acompañado por los ambientes de teclado tan distintivos y difíciles de imitar de VdGG. Atmósferas oscuras, densas y profundas, que apoyan esa imagen teatral dramática y oscura con un solo reflector y si se me permite: con algo de bruma y neblina también. Los trabajos de Saxofón de David Jackson, así como sus flautas son el complemento perfecto para esta oscuridad teatral excepcional de VdGG.
Dejo de desvariar sobre mis impresiones sobre la teatralidad de este disco del grupo, pero termino diciendo algo como yapa: Godbluff tiene una de las 5 mejores canciones de la historia del rock progresivo (clásico, al menos) que es The Sleepwalkers. Donde una invasión de zombies es musicalizada por un solo de saxo excepcional y relatada por los gritos desgarradores de Hammill.
Para ir cerrando la idea que quería transmitir, están en presencia de un disco que quizás logre la titánica tarea de resumir todo lo que el rock progresivo fue capaz de aportar a la música en general, un compendio de maravillas que dá la pauta a muchas bandas para que no se olviden que la música no debe estar sujetas a fijezas, a reglas melódicas, a limitaciones impuestas, ni a convenciones generacionales ni zonales. Puede no gustarte, o sí, pero ello no quita el mérito de semejante obra como la que tienen ante ustedes.
Están invitado a conocer música revolucionaria, áspera, dura, emotiva y bella... y desde ya que se les gustaron los tanos de Areknamés, esta es una cita más que obligada.
Ahora les dejo otros comentarios en inglés... por si hace falta y no les alcanzó lo que les dije...
Peter Hammill is, in my opinion, one of the best progressive singers ever. In "Godbluff" he adds his incredible voice to the most impressive VDGG music, resulting an excellent album. Four long pieces are "agressively" beautiful, being my favorite "The Undercover Man".Marcelo Matusevich
Even when VDGG wasn't a "gothic-prog" band (the best definition could be a "vocals driven band"), "Godbluff" is their first realisation from the second generation, this one darker and even violent and, IMHO, the best in VDGG history. A classic album in the whole genre.
After a two and half year break spent at different projects , but all four roads kept crossing each other's, the quartet reconvened and recorded a batch of songs that ill produce not only Godbluff, but also a good deal of the following Still Life. The batch off "songs" were actually shorter, mot as intricate, but certainly more aggressive (bar the opener of this album), but this was also fully intended as they were careful not making a "son of" Pawn Hearts, however disputable this choice might have been. One of the characteristic from this era of VdGG is that Hammill will gradually pick up more and more the electric guitar as the picture on the back-cover shows.Sean Trane
From the absolutely stunning Undercover Man, a slow crescendo starting from an all too rare Jackson flute and drums, the progression is astounding as Hammill's voice and Banton's organs slowly fill the soundscape, until halfway through the track hit full stride with Jackson's sax, before slowly returning to the flute to the third track Arrow (the most aggressive), this album is a real stunner and would've been their best ever if the last track, Sleepwalkers (a fairly shoddy track with a completely out of place Cha-Cha-Cha ruining it further, yes colleagues I confirm this point of view ;-) had been substituted by any track from the almost perfect Still Life. But life is made out of choices, and Sleepwalker (still acceptable track, but not up to standards of the others here). If you'll pardon the pun, but Scorched Earth is also a real scorcher of a track, also full of constant tempo changes and Banton's organs pulling in its weight. Actually, Hugh Banton (for other projects were still pending) did not participate as much in this album and one can feel it. He also plays bass guitar on a track.
Except, for the closer, an all too sober/bland artwork (as well as a single sleeve design) and its short duration (the only three flaws), the Godbluff album saw the Generator return in great form, and its remastered version is a must have as it has a few bonus live tracks from Hammill's solo albums (but played with the full VdGG line-up), which were actually played in the group's sets.
Even though my fave Van der Graaf Generator release is 'Pawn Hearts', I must admit that I enjoy their second era better, since at that stage the band was playing at its most cohesive and had reached a perfect level of sonic violence to match the passionate lyrical imagery and delirious melodic lines delivered by frontman extraordinaire Peter Hammill. 'Godbluff' was their comeback album... and what a comeback! Instead of taking off from the exuberant psychedelic forest created by 'Pawn Hearts', the foursome decided to get rid of the paraphernalia of mellotrons, ARP synths, multiple percussive instruments, and nightmarish electric devices on sax, in order to approach the new complex compositions and arrangements in a tighter manner. Even Hammill's singing feels more focused on portraying the contemplative nature of his lyrics and less interested in enhancing the pathetic-oriented twists on vocalizations: actually he doesn't give up on his expressionist essence, but now he's assuming his singing role as such. Banton's role keeps itself subdued i nterms of soloing, but is determining in the building of textures and clever chord progressions. Most solos are left in charge of Jackson's saxes and flutes, which he plays with a somewaht down-to-earth attitude. Meanwhile, Evans displays his jazz leaning more freely than ever before, and he does so with such fluency that he seems to want to hide the fact that being a drummer in a bass-less* band that loves to stick to complex rhythm patterns is not a hard thing to do. 'The Undercover Man' kicks off the album with full splendour: its crescendo entry and its delicate balance of wind/keyboard sonic display makes it a strong starting point, despite the fact of it being basically a 7+ minute ballad. 'Scorched Earth' is the most symphonically oriented number in the album - special mentions go to the majestic interlude and the awesome closing section: in many ways, this song is quintaessentially VdGG-esque. 'Arrow' is another introspective Hammill tune that eventually ended up as a jazz-rook infected tour-de-force, allowing the lyrics to expand their imagery's power. Finally, the closing track 'The Sleepwalkers' displays an air of ironic joy sustained over a martial-like rhythm pattern, also including some proper touches of latin jazz, as well as a R'n'B oriented instrumental interlude: Evans' playing on this piece is particularly awesome, but again, this is an owesome band... right? I give it a perfect rating since I consider it one of the most brilliant comeback albums in prog history, and it also qualifies as a brilliant work in itself.Cesar Inca
* OK, Banton plays some bass lines, and handles a mean bass pedal board as well... but you know what I mean.
Van der Graaf Generator is one of those bands that have released so many good albums, and like the other prog monsters their best albums are from the 70`s, anyway i love World Record, but i mean, when a band like thes has so many good albums, somewhere in the discography must catch your attention, to the grade of love the album or songs i dont know, with me it happens with Godbluff specially, i ike the other albums and maybe Still Life or H to He could be also masterpieces, but not my favorite albums, not as the same level a s Godbluff, because it caused an immediate effect in me while listening to it, so since then i took it as my favorite VdGG album, and i actually love it and think it`s a masterpiece.Guillermo H. Urdapilleta
Maybe this band is not catchy to everyone, not maybe, im sure of that, and one reason could be Peter Hammill`s voice which i love and consider a very special and superb voice, dark, sensible and hard at the same time, anyone has not even an alike voice, so that fact makes this band so special and so different, also i know the music that VdGG offers is great , not totally symphonic, not totally jazzy but with hints of several genres, and all that mix and uniqueness makes this band a weird band and not everyone`s taste.
Godbluff is a superb album for me, it has only 4 songs, but them all are great, starting with the emotional and weird vocals to the exquisite music, the sound of piano , bass and trumpets or saxes is simply great. Scorched Earth is my personal favorite song, but please check Arrow , greeeat song.. actually all are almost perfect , not a bad or weak point here, the music is so enjoyable for me, and musically i think the band is awesome.
So i recommend it so much!
I think this is the best album by this band, and I would recommend it to anybody who is interested of emotional progressive rock music. Their music is quite accessible on this record when compared to their previous records, and the overall feeling is sorrowful, dark and violent. The first side of the LP consists of two tracks which are merged together, "The Undercover Man" and "Scorched Earth". Lyrics are wonderful, the music is emotional and the compositions work wonderfully. The beginner of the B-side, "Arrow", is probably their best tune in my opinion. The last song is also OK, not good as the others, but not so bad that I wouldn't dare to give this album the full score. Get it for your moody winter nights!Eetu Pellonpää
This is a review of the remastered version of "Godbluff", the darkest and hardest work of Van der Graaf Generator so far.Peter Eisenburger
After the remastering the songs of this album sound as if a veil has been taken away from them (though band hiss can be heard in quiet passages). What is revealed is the sheer power, intelligence and dramatics of this VDGG-album.
Instrumentation has a much more "live" character than "Pawn Hearts" and song structures are a little more simple but still the music is sophisticated with a merging of rock, jazz and classics.
Peter Hammill's singing has again improved and has led him to being the best rock singer. His powerful and versatile voice is able to sing in captivating beautiness in the wonderful calm passages of "Godbluff". And then at the end of the lines "how long the night is - why is this passage so narrow? / How strange my body feels, impaled upon the arrow" he does a scream that makes the blood freeze in the veins.
The quality of Peter Hammill's writing has reached the level of real literature. His topic in this album are men moving on some kind of margin: refugees, persecutees, psychotics, sleepwalkers - and if you include the two songs recorded at the same time but published later on "Still Life": pilgrims, and lovers on the threshold of passionate love. Some of the songs have a kind of "dark ages" touch. The bewildering "Arrow" could be straight out of a Fantasy novel.
The booklet has the same high quality as of the first three remasters, with a little less text but friendlier to the eye because of bigger type.
Bonus tracks are two in Rimini 1975 live recorded PH songs from one of his solo albums: "Forsaken Gardens" and "A Louse is not a Home". The sound quality of these two tracks is so "extremely brutal" (Peter Hammill) that they are only of interest for hard-core fans or because of historical reasons. In my opinion songs with this sound quality should not be published on a main album.
The fav album of many VDGG fans.
This album remarks the comeback of the band after a four year break from the music industry. The front-man Peter Hammill released quite a number of albums during that time. They came back to the studio and recorded this wonderfully crafted album (released in 1975) that I think it's a true masterpiece. I have to admit that due to this album, my appreciation on VdGG music had grown significantly and I started to appreciate their early albums which were too dark and too depressive in mood to my personal taste. Godbluff still project the dark mood but musically it's much more mature compared to their early records. I remember vividly when this album was released, a year later I got a cassette version on this and I talked to myself: "Wow! This is the music that I'm looking for!".Gatot Widayanto
Talking on a music spectrum, this album is heavily loaded with Hugh Banton's wailing organ work combined with multi-registered voice of Peter Hammill (Jeezzz!! I like his curved voice lines!) and . David Jackson saxophone work. Admittedly, I'm not a great fan of saxophone; but with this record? Oh man . this one must be treated differently! It's also the case with Dick Parry's work on Pink Floyd stuffs which I also like it. But, don't ask me to enjoy Kenny G's work man .!! No way!! Enuff .. enuff .. Back to Godbluff, the music is tightly composed with great arrangements and powerful songwriting.
The album comprises four approximately equal-length songs that all of them project a uniformity in mood and style even though the melody is totally different from one song to another. that provides the semblance of a central concept, even if there isn't one that I can see. Jackson provides flute playing to "The Undercover Man" and "The Sleepwalkers" especially on softer parts which usually are very beautiful segments to my personal taste. Evans punctuates each Jackson sax burst with a sort of rapid-fire staccato that characterizes the music of Van der Graaf Generator. At first listening experiences I tended to put my best favorite track was "The Sleepwalkers" because it has powerful pondering vocals with high energy music that combines aggressive sax work by David Jackson as well as stunning organ work by Hugh Banton. But with some more listens I felt that "The Undercover Man" which has a floating melody and accentuated vocals was becoming another favorite of mine. The list did not stop there as the other two tracks "Scorched Earth" and "Arrow" did become my other favorites as well. So, what can I say if I love all of the four tracks? Is there any favorite? I don't think so because I love all of them, finally - with the passage of time, of course. That's what might happen to you if you are newbie to VdGG music. You might like only one track but with more spins it would grow. I'm sure on this. Try it.
"Godbluff" (and "Still Life" - the follow-up that was released a year later) represents the band at their peak, with a tight composition, mature lyrical contribution from Hammill combined with the powerful songwriting the band members contributed. The combined creativity of the four musicians creates a wonderful music that uplifts our emotion whenever we listen to the album from the CD player or even whenever we sing the song inside our mind without playing the CD at all (like what I'm doing now when I'm writing this review with labor of love). Some people mention that Pawnheart was the band's masterpiece but I think they should also include these two albums as well. VdGG was one of the bands that pioneered prog rock in the seventies. Highly recommended.
Another masterpiece of VDGG, not so mighty as the amazing Pawn Hearts but much better than Still Life and H to He, Godbluff manages to show again the darkness contained within this band's brilliant music and lyrics in perfect shape, courtesy of the also brilliant Peter Hammill, one of the best writers and singers of all times.Bruno Éttori
The cover says it all: this is dark, very dark stuff. The first track is a gentle intro to the crazy world showed on the following three numbers. Hammill with this not usual quiet voice that will soon range into a growl full with angst on "Arrow" opens the album together with some soft flutes by David Jackson - who is perhaps making his best performance here on both instruments (sax and flute) played by him. The overall mood of the song is a melancholic one, though. The singing sounds like a cry for help after Hammill stops whispering, but this apparent sadness becomes a sudden rage on the second song, "Scorched Earth". This track is the most upbeat one here, but soon it reaches a very dark and scary moment where Hammill begins talking in a low tone and the instrumentation gets quieter...soon getting louder and louder together with the voice bringing the upbeat section back with some more great sax work. The keyboards lead this song perfectly, and after the chaotic section we notice that Hammill starts growling...yes, i feel that in this album's first three songs we have quite a gradual development of the tone of Hammill's voice. On the first song, it is quiet, leading to some cries and his normal tone. At the second it starts normal and goes getting chaotic reaching full power on "Arrow", where the growling literally increases at each line sung. It is almost as if he was "transforming" himself during those minutes, from his most gentle side until his most angry full with angst one at the end of the third track. Sounds like an internal monster borning from the depths of your mind, reaching full power at the crying rage of the line "how long the time seems, how dark the shadow, how straight the eagle flies, how straight towards its arrow / how long the night is, why is this passage so narrow? how strange my body feels impaled upon this arrow". This song, "Arrow", is my favorite from the album, since it affects me a lot emotionally. At the ending words from the song's lyrics above quoted, i feel very moved inside - those lasting words sound like someone is feeling really disturbed looking for her/his freedom from the darkness that surround her/him. It starts with a great drum and sax jam, leading to the actual song with a rare appearance of the guitar. The song gets progressively faster and Hammill's voice follows the rhythm. A very chaotic jazzy number for sure, and the most emotional one from this album. And then we have the closing track, easily the weakest one from this superb group of four brilliant songs. But it doesn't let us down. If you are used to VDGG's surprises through songs, you won't mind the somewhat mexican section found here after some more chaotic keyboard work. It is the less accessible from the album, and even though it doesn't close it memorally like the ending of "Plague" on Pawn Hearts, it still deserves its merit due to its constant variation of moods making it perhaps the most prog of all acts here.
Overall this is an excellent album that is very essential together with Pawn Hearts in any prog collection. In my opinion both form an amazing pair like Selling England and Foxtrot do for GENESIS and WYWH and DSOTM form for the FLOYD. Get this album as soon as you can, there's a remastered version released this year containing two extra songs. Buy it and enjoy Peter Hammill's world!
After four long years the poet is back on the machine. So you pull the record out of the black cover and you feel, this is not going to be an easy journey.The needle sets down and an echoed flute plays a slow funeral dirge, soon joined by the slow pace of the organ and the poet himself "you ask, in uncertain voice, what you should do, as if there was a choice but to carry on miming the song"... Yes it's too late to turn back and you start to shiver and while the song fades away, menacing chords on the electric piano warn you and a drum roll announces danger.Martin Horst
The sax and the organ start to howl and the poet spits out his anger and frustration "charging madly forward, tracks across the snow; wind screams madness to him, ever on he goes...", and you feel cold, black sweat pouring out of your body while you look over the scorched earth. And with one last feedback-scream of the guitar you cry for relieve, but it's too late... you can't move anymore, painridden you hear the whaling sound of the wah-wah sax and every note impales you deeper on the arrow and the poet screams and shrieks in agony, "how long the night is - why is this passage so narrow? How strange my body feels, impaled upon the arrow."
And the music builds up in a frenzy and when it finally stops you hear a dance tune approaching and people coming nearer, but when they come nearer in a twisted mockery dance you realize, these are the living dead, the sleepwalkers, "the columns of the night advance, infectiously their cryptic dance gathers converts to the fold - in time the whole raw world will pace these same steps on into the bitter end." and suddenly you are invited to join in for a deadly foxtrott and when the dance finally stops you look to the sky and there is not much hope, but at least you are ALIVE.
A masterpiece in poetry and music!
I thought I had listened to it all. After months of listening to 'new' stuff, I finally got to this album. Sure, I like "Pawn Hearts" and other previous VDGG albums, but WOW is the only word that comes in my mind after listening to "Godbluff".belz
This is awesome what those 4 guys are doing on this album. This is a perfectly balanced album, with a great flow from the beginning to the end, with some 'flamenco' touch (Hughes Chantraine does not like the "cha-cha-cha" but I personnaly think this is quite refreshing and enjoyable) and lot of emotion. And even more emotion, and yet more... A very emotional album, with absolutely gorgeous lyrics coming from Peter Hammill's warm yet distant voice.
I think this is a masterpiece of progressive music and a very important album to own if you like prog music. I never really understood all the buzz around Van der Graaf Generator before listening to this artwork.
Van Der Graaf Generator's album in between the masterpieces Pawn Hearts and Still Life is somewhat disappointing when you compare it to the other two. It's not a bad release by any means, but it just feels like there isn't as much going on in past efforts and that the inspiration on this album was a lot less than other albums by this group. As always, the musicianship and the group is tight and cohesive, and the well structured pieces are performed with vigor and intensity (which is usually what goes into a Van Der Graaf Generator album), but there are little things that hurt the overall score of this album. Throughout the four songs presented on this album, the listener is taken through arguably the most agressive Van der Graaf Generator experience available, and for the most part I like it, but the album does have its faults.Robert Peña
The Undercover Man opens the album with some quiet vocals from Hammill, almost too quiet. It soon picks up and a nice organ based theme comes in. I must mention this now before I say anything, it may be just my copy (which is an original issue of the album before it was remastered), but the audio on this album is a bit subpar, everything sounds a bit muddy and the quality isn't spectacular. But that's only a minor inconvenience. Hammill's dramatic vocals range from his uneasy falsettos to his jagged lower register vocals. Around the middle of the piece, Jackson comes in with a great saxophone/flute interlude that really helps the overall atmosphere of the piece. Scorched Earth follows, and the mood and atmosphere of the piece is much like the title, scorched and jaggedy. Some interesting lyrics and vocals from Hammill are augmented by an interesting organ/sax motif that has some nice drumming on the part of Guy Evans. There's also an underlying lead guitar rhythm, but it is lost in the muddy mix. There seems to be a lot meandering riffs that add some dynamics to the music, but I must say I'm not too fond of the vocals for the better part of this song (they sound distorted and multi-tracked, but they start at different times giving the illusion of an echo that doesn't really echo).
Arrow has a bit of a jam feel to it with a solid rhythmic foundation and some saxes that have an improvisational feel (and they sound like they are going through a wah pedal). A spacey section before the vocals (that in my opinion doesn't really do anything except help fill a time void), and the song doesn't really pick up pace until around third minute, almost a third into the song. Hammill's vocals and lyrics are at their most biting and aggressive (but they sound too compressed and the organ is more dominant than the vocals themselves). It's not a bad piece, but it could have been shorter as that opening jam didn't really help the song. The ending, though, is great, with distorted and modulated organs with a raunchy sax solo on top creating a wall of sound that entangles the listener. The Sleepwalkers has some nice drumming from Guy Evans, who makes good use of the cow bell on this track. The organ arpeggios are also quite nice and fit well with the underlying saxophone motif. There's a nice middle section that offers a different atmosphere with a nice sax line until it breaks into more discombobulated and dissonant riffing. Again, there are some some sections that could have been abridged or edited, but in the end I feel it's a good ending to the album.
So in the end, Godbluff is a good album marred by two things, subpar audio quality at points (but maybe that's just my copy of the album), and some songs that could have been a little more concise rather than having meandering riffs that do nothing except create longer tracks. It's a good album, but I wouldn't consider it Van der Graaf's best and there are certainly better albums than this from the group (Pawn Hearts and their next album Still Life). If you liked previous efforts from this group, you'll probably like this one as well so fans of previous VdGG albums will like this. And if you're not a fan of the group, I don't think this album will convert you.
This was my first VDGG contemporary album. I purchased it at the time of release (1975). Before this one, I got already acquainted with their work (I had their major three albums : "The Least", "H To He" and "Pawn Hearts"). But I bought them all in 1974 (after their release) at the age of fifteen.Daniel ZowieZiggy
You can consider that I am a die-hard VDGG fan both generations, but I prefer the band after their first break (which is actually their second one if you consider that they broke already before the release of "The Aerosol..."). They will produce more accessible music, and two masterpieces of prog music, IMO.
"The Undercover Man" is one of my all time VDGG fave (all periods). Light flute in the intro, "peaceful" vocals to start. Very melodious. The rest of the band then joins : first Hugh with subtle organ in the background, then Guy with very light percussions. Vocals then turns out to be incredibly sentimental while the band plays crescnedo and reaches full power. What a great track ! A pure beauty. The middle instrumental section is very strong but never enters into this weird trip so typical of VDGG first generation. Its finale is so emotional and beautiful. I remember that I was really charmed by this song when I got the album. An absolute highlight.
With "Scorched Earth" we enter their more classical repertoire, less melodious, darker, intricated. It is a very well bulit song, with a very tortured Peter and some outrageous sax from Jackson. He is so skilled at his instrument that he (but also Peter) turned me into a fan of their music although I usually do not like sax at all. The finale is just great. Another highlight.
"Arrow" is a very complex song, wild at times and difficult to enter into. Great drumming from Evans and very strong sax from Dave (this guy is really great). This is the most reminiscent track of their first era. This makes of "Godbluff" the missing link between "Pawn Hearts" and "Still Life".
My second best here is "The Sleepwalkers" I really like it a lot. The intro is just nice and gentle, but when the vocals start, it turns out to be another scary one. We'll have a cha cha cha break for some relief before an incredible strong sax part and marvelous, melodious Peter. The instrumental break shows the whole band in its full power : Banton, Evans and Jakson accomplishing a great moment of VDGG music. Really powerful and almost sublime (really). These 10'31" summarizes very well the second era of this wonderful band. Melodious at times, just complex enough during others (it would not be VDG otherwise) ! This track is so intense with the whole band playing at his best than I just felt in love with it.
On the remastered CD, there are two bonus songs from Peter solo's repertoire (both from "The Silent Corner & the Empty Stage"). The sound quality is rather poor, but hey man, these are documents (they were recorded during a concert at Rimini (Italy) on August 9th, 1975) ! They are welcome since the original album was quite short (at least to VDGG standards).
I would of course suggest you to buy the Godbluff DVD produced by the Belgian TV and recorded in Charleroi (not the fanciest place in Belgium for a prog concert). I will tell you more about it in my review for this work though.
Five stars for this great come back and a must owned in your prog collection.
As someone who prides himself in speaking his mind, regardless of the norms, and likes to denounce hypocrisy with a little wit here and there, I obviously feel a certain proximity with people of similar characters. That is why I enjoy watching and reading British motor journalist/funny guy Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson is, as some know, an overblown, smug character, full of himself, capable of extremely unorthodox behaviour for a man his age. What saves him, making him a much better person than he looks, is the fact that he appears to be extremely self-aware of his character, and the first to ridicule his act, before he does so to others.João Cotrim
His rants about the world in general, and of the motor industry in particular, crack me up every time. I enjoy good-humoured people, and boy, you can't get much more good-humoured than Clarkson - on the day the Oxford Brookes University awarded him an honorary engineering doctorate, some environmentalist prick struck a cream pie onto his face. Clarkson's reaction? "Good shot!" Now, that is almost as funny as the French aristocrat who, after tripping on his way to the guillotine, turned to his executioner and commented "They say tripping is a sign of bad luck".
Obviously, I find Jeremy most at home in the show Top Gear, with colleagues James "Captain Slow" May and Richard "Hamster" Hammond (a proggy name!). Trailer destruction, rubber burning, environmentalist bashing. What else could a man want in a TV show? Playing conkers with trailers? Brilliant! Getting into fights over choice of car? Hilarious! And what breathtaking experiences must the races around Europe be! Sure they contribute to wreck the environment, but then again, who doesn't? (Let he - or she - who has not passed wind cast the first stone.)
Still, there was one series of Top Gear I eagerly followed, in anticipation of The Stig's Power Laps. Not so much for the power laps or the machines being tested, but for the soundtrack, nothing more nothing less than full blown progressive rock. We had Camel, Yes, Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, you name it. Clarkson is, as some know, a bit of a proghead. No doubt, most of these tracks were introduced into the segment by his finger, but it was also on one of the Power Laps that Jeremy lost a few points in my consideration, when he confessed he had little or no love. for Van Der Graaf Generator.
Such revelation strikes me, in a way, as odd. For VDGG too are overblown, unorthodox, in fact most of the things that made Prog so despicable a genre to many. Yet they too are fully aware of their own faults and can make the pomposity ridicule - despite all the drama and apparent seriousness, Van Der Graaf Generator, to me, is essentially FUN band to listen to - and the purported "dark" and "mystical" Godbluff is probably their most histrionic work.
Composed of four tracks all between 7 to 11 minutes long, Godbluff is a victory of eccentricity. Starting with a mellow tone, both in the piano and flute driven music, but also in voice, The Undercover Man it bursts halfway into the keyboard and sax passages that so characterize VDGG, while Peter does his part by adding some more mojo to his own special voice. Is segues quite discretely into Scorched Earth, a songs that adds a dark funkier edge to the album, with the omnipresent Jackson saxophone, the Banton organ and the quintessential vocal changes, just to finish in blissful cacophony, where we can even hear an electric guitar! (Peter's new toy at the time, if I recall). Arrow might just be the more "serious" (if we can call that to any song in this album), a feeling much granted by the theatricality of Peter's amazing pipes. Musically it has ups-and-downs. The ending is especially disappointing, but then again, who cares about that once you begin hearing the fantastic pseudo-baroque opening of Sleepwalkers? This track, the longest and best on the album, is the epitome of fun. It is more than that. It is the epitome of Van Der Graaf Generator theirselves. Baroque followed by Cha Cha Cha followed by space followed by funk followed by metal? That's all of Prog in one song. Genius. Peter sings, shouts, cries, mumbles, hits just every possible register of his voice in this one. What a rush! Sleepwalkers alone is worth the purchase, but then again the remaining material is also extremely strong. If you're new to VDGG, this is the album to get. Bloody masterpiece, this is.
The band broke up in 1971 after the "Pawn Hearts" tour because of simply too much pressure from their record company who also happened to be their managment (bad situation). Oh they still got along and they all played with Hammill on his 3 solo records he would release afterwards.That was really what got them back together, they knew it would work with different managment because they were putting out great music with Peter.John Davie
"The Undercover Man" opens so quietly with flute and soft vocals. Organ and drums come in as the sound builds until it's full. The vocals, organ, flute and drums create such a beautiful sound together. Sax arrives 5 minutes in. "Scorched Earth" quickly builds as machine-like drumming jumps in and out of the soundscape. Hammill spits out the lyrics while the organ play is incredibly good. Check out the melody after 4 minutes and again 7 minutes in, simply amazing !
"Arrow" opens with drums followed by some sax melodies. It calms right down after 3 minutes.Theatrical vocals from Hammill. Actually Peter's vocals are quite rough but the soundscape is so smooth.This song can be so chaotic and yet so tranquil. "The Sleepwalkers" is my favourite track on this record. It's like the organ melodies are dancing at the beginning of this song. Check out the funny instrumental section after 3 minutes. The sax and organ absolutely shine. Theatrical vocals are back 7 minutes in.
4.5 stars and one of VDGG's best.
The Generator is certainly an acquired taste, but perhaps the acquisition period is shorted for this album than others. The main reason is that the boys seem to have a need to rock on Godbluff, and every song (save perhaps Sleepwalkers) has a definite direction. The result is one of those all-too-infrequent moments when you know a band is taking you exactly where they want to go, and you submit completely, knowing that you'll be rewarded (even if the entire journey is not sunny and pleasant).Chris
The Undercover Man, Scorched Earth. Two separate songs, but one incredible epic when combined. It all starts ever-so-lightly, with Hammill whispering over echoed flute. Then things build until we reach the stately yet restrained meat of the song. Here Hamill's talent in penning a memorable phrase and delivering it with his unique cadence becomes delightfully obvious. His vocabulary is also quite impressive--How many other composers use words such as littany and fervent (just to name a few) that perfectly fit the context (and don't sound as if the lyricist simply opened up a thesaurus instead)? After the dignified opener, things really pick up steam with Scorched Earth. It begins with a menacing feel and ends with an absolutely rocking uptempo crescendo. The texture to the music, with Bantam's distorted bass pedals, Jackson's super-heavy sax, and Evan's feverishly fast drums is unique to this album (at least for me) and worth the price of admission alone.
Arrow, Sleepwalkers. The second side drops in quality a bit, but not significantly. Arrow starts with some strange fusion improv, but when it settles down into the desolate and yearning theme, things officially gets going. Hammill's voice takes on an even assault-rifle quality, and he really pushes things past his range (some may love it, some may cringe with horror). Regardless, Arrow features a great melody as well as more great textured sound, and it's difficult not to enjoy. Sleepwalkers is definitely the oddball of the album, with some strange (and less-than-effective) plays off of familiar melodies, but the Generator put enough energy into the performance to make it all work in their own unique (and slightly twisted) way. The highlight for me is definitely the rocking middle section: they set up a killer groove, and when they segue into a new melody, Jackson comes in with an absolutely perfect sax line. Let there be no doubt--these guys can rock. I only wish they did more of this stuff.
A unique and intense listening experience from beginning to conclusion, Godbluff is BY FAR my favorite Generator album. Some of the major flaws of their other albums, such as not being cohesive or wasting lots of time in mostly directionless, amusical rambling, is largely not to be found on Godbluff. A haunting, at times disconcerting, masterpiece of progressive rock.
My favorite Van der Graaf Generator release by a long shot. Let's take a look, shall we? I don't know much of the history of the band or any of that whatnot, but I know what the music sounds like to me.Spence
Undercover Man is a deceptively quiet sounding song. I instantly started thinking to myself that this was the album's ballad or something, when it really isn't. It picks up substantially throughout, and motors along quite nicely. Hammill's voice does some inhumanly powerful things during the course of this nice track, the shortest on the album. And what's more, it's a perfect set up for the next song.
Scorched Earth sits at the top of my list, for certain in my top ten, of favorite songs at the moment. There is so much depth to this track that I get chills every time I hear it. The lyrics really sound spectacular to me, very poetic. Hammill's voice, especially when almost overlaid with his own, adds such an aggressive factor to this piece. What's better, the drumming near the end always gets my blood pounding. And adrenaline surges on account of a piece with this thick of ambiance and mood is a very, very rare thing. Definitely a song worth listening to half a dozen times.
Arrow starts out sounding like some sort of improvised jam piece, fading in from the silence gaping after Scorched Earth. The vocals are way, way more aggressive than any other place I've listened to with Hammill behind them. This track seems to carry a large amount of anger and frustration, but it really just flows out with the music. Great bass work on this one, too.
The Sleepwalkers closes the album, and this was the one I had listened to before I actually bought the CD. Like Scorched Earth, an absolutely stunning ambiance. The vocals continue their trend of being ridiculously amazing. A great way to close an album, though perhaps it seems a bit weaker to me than the other songs here, but that might be because I'd heard it many times before I listened to it in context.
This is one the most eye-opening, original, and unique albums I have ever bought or listened to. Just stunning, at risk of sounding redundant.
The fifth album from Van der Graaf Generator called Godbluff swept my feet away. I have been listening to and reviewing the first four album from Van der Graaf Generator during the last half year and except for Pawn Hearts I wasn´t that impressed. I gave the first three albums 3 stars and Pawn Hearts 4 stars, but after listening to Godbluff I´m sure there must be something I have missed during my listening sessions of those first four albums because Godbluff is a sure masterpiece in my book. It´s very seldom that I after the first time of listening to an album knows that I´m gonna give that album 5 stars but it happened with Godbluff. I´ve been listening with disbelief since that first listening session as this album just gets better and better. As a consequence of this awakening I will go back and listen to those first four albums again and make new reviews if neccessary.UMUR
The first four albums were all released in the early seventies and after the tour for Pawn Hearts the band was fed up with each other and the record industry. As Peter Hammill says in the booklet to Godbluff: There were made lots of money but the band didn´t see any of them. Does that sound familiar ? Many bands in the sixties and seventies were cheated and never really made money of their hard work which is such a shame, but I guess you have to be an asshole to be a financial manager. The relationship between the members of the band were really bad on the tour for Pawn Hearts and the band members ended up driving in different cars between shows, which says it all. After the tour Peter Hammill told the other members of the band that he would quit and pursue a fulltime solo career. Peter Hammill made a lot of solo albums in the following years but still kept in contact with the other members of Van der Graaf Generator and they also on occasion joined Peter Hammill on stage. So the inevitable happened in 1975: Van der Graaf Generator was reunited and they started writing new material and touring to see how the audience would react to the new songs. After they had played the songs live for a while they went into the studio and recorded what was to become Godbluff ( and actually also some of the songs on Still Life).
The direction of the music has changed a bit since the first era of Van der Graaf Generator´s career. They have always been a very heavy and dark band but with Godbluff you can include anger and despair. This is so far the darkest album I have heard from the seventies. It makes Red by King Crimson sound light in comparison. To a metal head like myself I can hear lots of the ideas from Godbluff in heavy metal and especially Peter Hammill´s theatrical paatos must have inspired a young Rob Halford ( Judas Priest). Godbluff is not heavy metal by any means though, so don´t let the above mentioned comparisons scare you away. This is seventies prog rock, but with a dark and angry twist.
The album consists of four songs which lasts from 7 - 10 minutes. The Undercover Man starts the album and it´s probably the song from Godbluff that reminds me the most of the first era Van der Graaf Generator. It´s a really beautiful song which starts subtle and ends in a climax. Scorched Earth is where the aggressive playing and singing starts. This song is so dark and aggresssive that I am just blown back in my seat and the same can be said about Arrow. Peter Hammill uses his voice to the limit on those two songs. The Sleepwalkers ends the album and it´s a bit different and melodic when you compare it to the last two songs. Beautiful is all I can say.
The musicianship is beyond outstanding on Godbluff. The performance these four musicians put on is inspired beyond my wildest expectations. They all shine equally. Peter Hammill with his theatrical approach to singing, Hugh Banton´s omnipresent organ, piano and bass pedal playing, Guy Evan´s diverse drumming and last but not least David Jackson´s sax and flute playing which serves as lead and solo instruments most of the time. I promise you that you will enjoy the interplay between these musicians even if you don´t like the music ( shame on you).
The sound quality is definitely worth a mention too as it is one of the best seventies productions I have heard.
I can´t get my arms down. I´m so happy that I gave Godbluff a chance as it has changed my view on Van der Graaf Generator. Now I understand the praises they get on Prog Archives. This is a sure 5 star album and so far one of the best albums I have heard from the seventies. This is essential stuff don´t let this pass you by.
Progressive rock seems to have peaked in the mid 70s for 1975 boasted some of the most endearing prog classics and Godbluff is one of them. Van der Graaf Generator, the pioneers of prog at its most dark and off kilter, made a massive comeback with this release and it is surprisingly as good, if not better than their classic early releases. The first thing one notices is the almost maddening patience the band has as it introduces each of the 4 tracks. But there are always moments of brilliance with each track the pace ranges from slow to breakneck, and the time signatures change throughout, not only with the instruments but with Hammill's incredible vocal delivery.Scott Tuffnell
'Undercover Man' is an instant classic and celebrated as a concert favourite. It begins with a minimalist approach of a single flute over almost whispered vocals. But it is not long until the saxophone and Hammond kicks in, interwoven with strange percussion patterns. At times the song seems standard but then moves into jazz fusion blended with staccato riffs and killer bass impulses.
'Scorched Earth' is another of the great VDGG tracks. The percussion is notably off kilter as are Hammill's vocals: "Just one crazy moment while the dice are card, he looks into the future and remembers what is past..." The conviction in Hammill's tone is as definitive as ever, and he has not lost momentum as one of the leading prog vocalist legends. There is a great instrumental break with saxophones shining with weird time signatures where a beat is missing then replaced and then removed again. Then it all moves back to the original tune. Simply fantastic.
'Arrow' is another reason why these progenitors of complex rock are infamous and highly revered as pioneers and visionaries. Hammill's vocals are more tortured and raspy on this track and are a surprising contrast to the smoothness on previous tracks. The track begins with a percussion and saxophone improvisation that reminds one of the early King Crimson years. The track relies highly on saxophone and Hammond but the understatement of the bass is admirable and knits it all together perfectly.
'Sleepwalkers' is the sleeper on the album (no pun intended) and is not so much about somnambulism but about zombies, almost a precursor to the 'Thriller' film clip of Michael Jackson, or George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". It is an energetic track that even features a bizarre Zombie Calypso, or a tango of sorts, certainly an ear opener and all the more chilling for it's content. We even hear zombie screams, and there are high pitched atmospheric keyboards throughout. An amazing track designed to awaken the dead. The lyrics include a jaded sense of humour as Hammill muses on "the dancing dead", but interjected within there are dark undertones as we are asked to, "make reason of the sensory world, if I only had time, but soon the dream is ended." the instrumental break is hypnotic and jazz influenced, and it increases in momentum exploding into the chaotic climax. One of the highlights of the album.
Overall the 4 Godbluff tracks are classic VDGG and a must for anyone interested in early dark prog and jazz inspired psycho spiritual music. It is as weird as it sounds and it is as brilliant as I have said. Wonderful headphone music and an essential purchase without doubt.
Scorched earth. That's all that's left.Patricia O'Bee
Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG] have always been one of the lesser known (to the outside world anyways) progressive mammoths of the classic 70s era. Their blend of darkness and chaos have long inspired young and upcoming proggers as well as forced listeners to take cover and/or run for their lives as the black clouds gather overhead when a VdGG album starts. This album came as a surprise to many since the band had broken up after their previous album, Pawn Hearts which was deemed a masterpiece. This one, surprisingly, surpasses the previous album by miles! Even if it don't have a leviathan track to support it like A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers it does have four powerful monstrosities that will beat you up and leave you as a bloody pulp if you're not expecting it. But Peter Hammil and VdGG would have it no other way.
For those who are not familiar with the band - these guys are very unique. to say the least. Instead of a guitar as the lead instrument they use their masterfully played organs and the killer saxophone of David Jackson to lead the fray. This makes for a very interesting listen if you're not used to anything but a guitar being at the front, but if you're up for something different this is probably the way to go. Also, as mentioned before, these guys are evil. Peter Hammil's malevolent voice is one of the main features of the band as he screams, shouts and serenades his way through the tracks. He's really got a way with instrumentation and conducts the band accordingly. When he wants you to be scared, you'll be scared.
I'm sure there's been so much said about the four tracks on the album that I really couldn't add anything that would be unique, but here's a shot. The first side has the two shorter tracks, the somewhat calm Undercover Man and the cataclysmic Scorched Earth which work in tandem with one another to create one coherent, solid side of vinyl. They play as yin and yang as the opener creates a false sense of security and the second punches you in the face with Hammil's screaming chorus. It's very true when Hammil screams, ''Scorched earth - that's all that's left when he's done!'' The second side is arguably the more powerful of the two, being that it hosts what could be called the two best songs in the VdGG catalog. Arrow is a maniacal powerhouse led once again by Hammil, driving the song as the song would once again suggest, ''As swift as any ARROW!'' As the song picks up after that line it's hard not to feel a chill down your spine. Sax and Organ mix into a fine paste and it almost sounds like a very powerful and distorted guitar for a moment, well, that's the effect anyways. Sleepwalkers codas the album with VdGG's finest 10 minutes between the grooves. Chilling keys open the track as Hammil comes in once more, and as you can expect - things don't stay calm for long. This track is a furious maelstrom, which will never, ever die off. Fantastic! This is what Prog is all about.
Being considered one of THE essential prog albums of all time in just about every progressive circle it seems redundant to say that this one is really, really highly recommended. 5 scorched Earths out of 5 - an amazing, simply amazing album. May this review go on the already very large pile of reviews praising this album as though it were some kind of God - It deserves every word of praise it gets.
Y podría copiar muchos más comentarios, pero ya me cansé... y ni falta que hace.
Imagino que después de todo lo que escribí está demás decirles que esto es imperdible. Eso sí, antes de darle un veredicto, escuchenlo varias veces!
Lista de Temas:
01. The undercover man
02. Scorched earth
04. The sleepwalkers
05. Forsaken Gardens (live - Bonus track)
06. A Louse is Not a Home (live - Bonus track)
01. The undercover man
02. Scorched earth
04. The sleepwalkers
05. Forsaken Gardens (live - Bonus track)
06. A Louse is Not a Home (live - Bonus track)
- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitars, piano
- Hugh Banton / organ, bass
- Guy Evans / drums and percussion
- David Jackson / saxes, flute