#Musicaparaelencierro. Antes que nada, tendrías que tener en cuenta que este disco está considerado por mucha gente como una de las mejores obras del rock de todos los tiempos, una maravilla sonora que puede transportarte a los límites de la imaginación y del goce musical. Y si no me crees, lee detenidamente los cometarios que incluyo en el disco. Otro gran aporte de José Ramón para volver a maravillaronos con VDGG en una de sus obras máximas, y no solamente de ellos, no solo del rock, sino de la historia de la música misma, como parte de la historia de la humanidad por esta tierra. Una obra que nunca será olvidada en el blog cabezón, de parte de una banda que quedó grabada a fuego en la biografía de la Gran Música que ha surcado este planeta de pandemias.
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Artista: Van der Graaf Generator
Álbum: Still Life
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
Género: Progresivo ecléctico
El disco es una fenomenal maestría de complejidad instrumental, intensidad, melodía, emoción y hondura lírica.
Otra obra maestra indiscutible de Van der Graaf Generator, y su disco mas famoso junto a Pawn Hearts.Ferran Lizana
Este album es todavia mas melodico y reposado que el anterior, y la cohesion instrumental del grupo es tan perfecta como Yes o ELP, aunque muchos no lo quieran ver. Pilgrims es el tema mas asequible y melodico del grupo hasta ahora, con destacable organo de Banton llenandolo todo y Hammill genial como siempre. Destacable como todo lo que hace el grupo, pero para mi no es lo mejor del album. Still Life, el tema, es una absoluta maravilla donde Hammill hace uno de sus trabajos vocales mas espectaculares, demostrando que tiene una voz verdaderamente increible, y el grupo imponiendo una vez mas deliciosas melodias y agradables ritmos. La Rossa es un tema donde contrastan partes muy suaves con otras muy rabiosas, como es habitual en el grupo, con increibles melodias de Hammill y delicioso organo de Banton. Otra maravilla. My Room es un tema relajado y melodico con estructura sencilla, y ritmo agradable donde no hay organo, y donde Hammill nos maravilla con tonos totalmente diferentes de voz. Y que podemos decir de Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End, de 12 minutos, un tremendo tema completisimo, increibles melodias, rabia a raudales, deliciosos organos y saxos, y una facilidad espectacular de pasar de la calma total, al tormento. Obra maestra.
Y he de comentar que quizás a algunos este disco y esta banda no les guste, y es previsible, no solamente porque su personal estilo solamente genera odios o amores, sino por el torrente emotivo que derrochan permanentemente, en el siguiente comentario lo explican mejor:
Hablar de Van der Graaf Generator, en especial de Peter Hammill, es hablar de emotividad. Esa es la cualidad que diferencia a unos cantantes de otros y la culpable de que dejen huellas en el público difíciles de borrar.Snowgoose
Peter no sólo destila emoción en su voz, sino en todas y cada una de sus letras. Si a esto sumamos la comprensión y la complicidad musical que le unía al resto de miembros de la banda, el resultado es un progresivo que sólo entienden (y de qué manera) aquellos que comparten el mismo tipo de emociones.
Aquella tarde noche madrileña se hacían apuestas en la mesa redonda en que cenábamos sobre qué disco de VDGG podría gustarme especialmente. Sólo sabiendo de mis gustos musicales pero, ante todo, sabiendo de mí. Ahí, Paco la acertó de pleno; sin dudar dijo que “Still life”. A los pocos días tenía el disco en casa y algo me recorrió por dentro justo antes de escucharlo por primera vez…
1. Pilgrims (7:07): El teclado y la voz de Hammill comenzaban a sonar suavemente en esta primera pieza, de tranquilo principio, con un hermoso sonido de saxo que se incorporaba casi imperceptiblemente dándole una elegancia que complementaba a la perfección su voz. De repente, la cadencia cambia y el redoble de batería da paso a un crescendo lento que desemboca en pura pasión. La voz de Hammill se eleva, perfecta y llena de intensidad; qué modo de expresar, de moverse entre fragmentos vigorosos y suaves. El saxo de Jackson siempre da una réplica perfecta, actuando de alter ego y reproduciendo el mismo sentimiento que él en todo el tema.
La letra tiene mucho de filosófico. “Somos peregrinos buscando un sueño, mirando al futuro con esperanza”. De ahí que suene como un himno en muchos instantes. Me gusta especialmente el momento en que habla de que debemos caminar como peregrinos, con propósito desconocido pero no por ello con menos valor, en soledad. Habla de esperanza en la paz dentro de una tormenta creciente, quizá pura utopía.
2. Still life (7:20): El tema empieza triste y oscuro, es la atmósfera que transmiten Hammill y el órgano. Poco a poco se elevan volumen y tono para descender de nuevo, hasta un cambio radical. La voz se vuelve rotunda, agresiva y dura, sentimientos que acentúa la percusión; el ritmo se acelera y el saxo vuelve a cobrar importancia llevando el peso de la dureza de este fragmento.
Impresiona el modo en que Peter Hammill modula su voz pasando de la tristeza y el conformismo, incluso la melancolía, a la más profunda de las rebeldías. Al final, el tema se pierde en la voz y el piano, y el resto de instrumentos acaban dándole un toque dramático al conjunto.
Uniendo la música a la letra, se nota que seguimos en una pura filosofía de vida. Confrontación vida y muerte, vida como una inercia que nos lleva a la muerte, casi sin sentido. No es suficiente lo que tenemos en vida. Expresa una desesperación ante el fin, preguntas sobre el sentido de la vida, lo ganado, lo perdido. El final, apoteósico, habla de la Eternidad como esposa… suyo para siempre, aún en vida.
3. La Rossa (9:47): Siempre me gusta encontrar esta bellísima entrada de teclados a los que se añade un Hammill irónico que vira en poco tiempo a una intensidad emotiva brutal, con unos cambios de registro vocal que me envuelven. Es un tema fuerte, intenso, con partes trepidantes y llenas de vida, a veces hasta de rabia contenida. Es rebelde, pletórico en la instrumentación, con subidas y bajadas, rapidez y lentitud, suavidad y dureza que se entrelazan, se intercambian… La parte instrumental es deliciosa, enrevesada, en ella se pierde la voz de un Hammill enloquecido al que acompañan a la perfección los teclados y el saxo.
Y es que, en esta ocasión, el tema va de cosas más “mundanas”… amistad, amor, sentimientos encontrados, cambios que provoca la confusión de los mismos. Mucho deseo contenido, también expresado. Qué intensa la estrofa final, es absolutamente conmovedor ese “give me life”, qué belleza la de las emociones que se expresan, del amor y del deseo.
4. My Room (Waiting for wonderland) (8:00): La primera vez que escuché este tema quedé especialmente implicada con él. Quizá porque tiene un comienzo excepcionalmente suave que contrasta con la agresividad y velocidad del tema anterior, quizá porque el saxofón es especialmente dulce. Soy una enamorada de los instrumentos de viento y sé la dificultad que comporta mantener un piano tan liviano en notas altas; aquí es admirable el modo en que Jackson mantiene la columna de aire a un volumen tan mínimo, dando al comienzo del tema un aire etéreo.
A medida que el tema avanzaba y me adentraba en las diferentes sensaciones que trasmite, aún sin saber nada de la letra, empecé a sentir un grado de identificación poco usual, de ese que sólo tengo con temas que se mimetizan conmigo. No me hizo falta saber de qué iba… la emoción de Hammill era la mía, lo que su voz expresaba era lo que yo sentía. El saxo y su voz son lo mismo, música y letra; van a la par expresando el conformismo, la calma suave del momento en que se tienen esas certezas tristes que ya casi no duelen, pero que siguen ahí. Cuánta belleza alcanza el tema mientras la voz sube y sube, tan suave, tan derrotada a veces.
Y, de repente, instrumento y voz cambian, se adquiere un tono amargo. El sonido del saxo se rompe, el corazón se encoge. Todo el resto del tema es rendición, impotencia agridulce. He escuchado varias versiones en directo, sin saxo, donde Hammill suena mucho más duro; sin embargo me gusta mucho más aquí, donde el viento le replica y él acaba por dejarse vencer en una dulzura que eriza el cabello, hasta que la voz se pierde y queda el resto de instrumentos atormentados, desgarrados.
Y es que, al leer la letra, se entiende la pérdida, la impotencia ante lo que ya no está, ante el amor que se marchita en el tiempo… toda me llena de emociones encontradas, pero destacaría el fragmento en el que dice algo así como:
“Me congelo en el frío de este lugar, sin una cara amable que sonría en el adiós. ¿Cómo puedes dejar que eso pase? Sueños, esperanzas y promesas, fragmentos fuera de tiempo, todo eso ya lo hemos hablado. Aún así, no entiendes lo que se siente cuando estoy esperando que sean rotas”
5. Childlike faith in childhood’s end (12:20): Es el tema más largo del disco, de una belleza inusual, rico en matices. De comienzo lento y con cadencia, cambiando de manera brusca, oscura y misteriosa a fragmentos con más personalidad y fuerza. De ahí, a un universo de notas alocadas que se vierten en pasajes lentos y calmados, casi pastorales, románticos a ratos, y de nuevo hacia arriba en un himno glorioso. Hammill alcanza una apoteosis increíble. Es un tema cambiante, tan vibrante que llega a ser agotador en cuanto a emociones se refiere. Quizá por eso, en los últimos minutos, baja de intensidad para retomar aire y acabar del modo más enérgico posible. Y es que es una canción de extremos… habla de la vida, de lo que hay más allá de ella. De la desesperanza en cuanto a la realidad actual, del miedo al silencio (ese fragmento es sencillamente grande, de piel de gallina… frightened in the silence…). Esperanza de una vida mejor más allá de la muerte, pero dudando sobre si esa otra vida existe, no ve a Dios para salvarnos.
Los niños que fuimos pasan… el Universo atrae y los hombres deben tomar su lugar. La Humanidad debe elevarse en nombre de la fe, la esperanza y el amor. Vuelve a tomar fuerza la idea de los peregrinos.
“En la muerte de simples humanos la vida comenzará”. Una dura manera de acabar un disco, un mucho para meditar.
Cuando termina la música, me siento agotada y pletórica. Demasiadas sensaciones, demasiadas emociones… progresivo puro.
“Still life” se grabó entre junio de 1975 y enero de 1976; las letras fueron compuestas por Peter Hammill, excepto en “Pilgrims”, que es de Hammill y Jackson. Hay una versión remasterizada (que no tengo) del año 2005 que contiene un bonus track grabado en directo en 1975, llamado "Gog", y que no os diré a qué suena porque no la he escuchado nunca. Como curiosidad, la fotografía de la portada es una descarga eléctrica real producida en un generador de Van der Graaf.
Y toda esa carga emotiva, impuesta no solamente en la letra y en la voz de Hammill sino también a fuego en cada acorde y nota de cada tema, es quizás lo que algunos pueden llegar a rechazar, y los otros a resultarle un incesantemente flujo de belleza poética convertida en sonidos. Por algo Hammil ha sido reconocido como maestro por artistas como, entre otros, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Marc Almond y Fish, de Marillion.
Mi disco favorito de Van Der Graaf Generator en la segunda mitad de los 70, junto con Godbluff, además de uno de los mejores en toda la carrera del grupo.Mingus
Van Der Graaf Generator siempre fue una banda con un estilo propio y característico, en el que la voz de Peter Hammill es parte fundamental de su sonido. Una voz desgarradora algunos momentos y dulce y cálida en otros. La típica voz que o te encanta o la odias.
Pero el sonido de Van Der Graaf no es solo Peter Hammill, los saxofones y flautas de David Jackson, el tétrico órgano de Hugh Banton y el baterista Guy Evans contribuyen a crear ese sonido denso y embriagador que combina psicodelia y jazz con música clásica y vanguardista. El resultado se puede apreciar en este trabajo que resulta por momentos sombrío, denso, emocionante y melódico.
En 'Pilgrims' podemos disfrutar de esta unión de elementos que forman a Van Der Graaf. 'Still Life' y 'La Rossa' son dos de los temas en los que la voz de Hammill nos da todo, sobre todo en 'La Rossa'. La música se vuelve por momentos caótica pero sin abandonar nunca una cadencia rítmica que la hace inconfundible, combinando momentos lentos con otros vertiginosos. El momento de dulzura y calidez lo pone en este trabajo el tema 'My Room', simplemente preciosa. 'Childlike Faith in Childhod's End' finaliza el album, siendo tal vez el tema más variado, donde la voz de Hammill a veces ruge de tal modo que por momentos parece llegar a romper.
Pocos vocalistas llegan a emocionarme del modo que lo hace Peter Hammill y como lo hace en muchos momentos de este disco y de otros como 'The least We Can Do is Wave...' (al que pertenecen los dos videos de abajo), 'Pawn Hearts' o 'Godblluff', en los que llega a ponerme los pelos de punta. Algunos de los mejores discos de Van Der Graaf y del rock británico.
Quizás lo que siempre caracterizó a esta banda es el nivel de oscuridad en sus canciones, la energía emotiva que destilan a cada instante, y la mezcla entre lo psicodélico y lo sinfónico, esa ausencia de bajo, la inminente presencia de los teclados, las baterías gruesas, las guitarras eléctricas estridentes de Hammill más los saxos de Jackson, conforman al fin una banda con un sonido propio inigualable; cuidado, un sonido complicado y difícil de absorver al principio, por eso consideramos que éste disco es probablemnte un lindo comienzo para aquellos que no escucharon mucho aún.
Por cambiar un poco, nos sumergimos en músicas sinfónico-oníricas, de síntesis sospechosamente lisérgicas, pero sosegadas, apropiadas para dejarse llevar… de la mano de Peter Hammill, o debería decir de la voz de éste oscuro trovador, creador de casi todas las canciones del grupo (grupo que por cierto cambiaba prácticamente con cada disco). Ya llevaba una buena trayectoria con LP como“The least we can do is wave to each other” (1970), empezaban a mostrar maneras (Refugees sobrecoge como lucimiento de Hammill); en “Pawn Hearts” (1971) tenemos su trabajo más reconocido, con la inestimable e influyente colaboración de Mr. Fripp, el mejor de sus discos para algunos (escrotolitum?), para otros lo es “The quiet zone/The pleasure dome” (1977), disco a mi parecer más conseguido que el otro, pero creo que se dispersa en la cara B (demasiado pretencioso).Talibán del rock
Yo personalmente me quedo con éste STILL LIFE, el más tranquilo y sin embargo más emocionante, con canciones realmente conseguidas a base de un equilibrio perfecto entre la sección musical y la parte vocal, historias épicas que te transportan lejos de la realidad, del jodido día a día. Y así tenemos a “Pilgrims” (nos sentimos peregrinos de causas perdidas…), con un inicio de órgano y voz meloso introduciéndose la sección rítmica progresivamente hasta el éxtasis; “Still life” comienza de forma tenebrosa, de nuevo intro de órgano con un lúgubre Hammill susurrándonos hasta que el grupo rompe la calma; en “La Rossa” nos encontramos al grupo más en forma, alegre e inspirado; “My room (waiting for Wonderland)” tiene una bella melodía de viento sobre la que no es difícil dejarse llevar, hasta que llegamos al final con la extensa “Childlike faith in childhood’s end”, épica pieza muy al estilo Van der Graaf, con múltiples cambios de ritmo y oportunidad para todos los del grupo de hacerse su ejercicio onanista musical.
Vamos con los cometarios de terceros, a ver qué es lo que dicen de este disco, pero si quieren les ahorro el trabajo, todos dicen que te lleves este disco, o al menos lo escuches para ver si va con tu onda...
As there were remaining tracks from the previous writing/recording sessions, Still Life arrived fairly quickly on the market, and what a splendid album it was! Godbluff's twin album is actually superior (and ultimately more rewarding) to it and it shows with the stunning artwork sleeve.Sean Trane
Opening Pilgrims (and its slowly solemn descending crescendo) is a sure winning salvo only topped by the lengthy La Rossa (their Italian affinities showing), while the very personal My Room (Hugh Banton on bass and Jackson's superb ambient sax, with Evans' restrained drumming) is a real contender for the best Graaf track >> not far from House With No Door. The title track is another spine-chiller, with Hammill's doomy and desperate vocals crying out in the middle of the night, before the quartet is picking up momentum and Hammill's mood changing to anger. Then comes the lengthy and awesome Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (inspiration taken from a book that was particularly well appreciated from all band members) closing off the album in a grandiose way.
While two of the five songs were written (and recorded) during the Godbluff sessions, the remaining three tracks are certainly of the same calibre if not even better, but certainly the proof that Graaf still had major things to say in the realm of prog rock. As I said before, I prefer Still Life to Godbluff for it has no weak track, but sincerely, choosing between there two is something I would rather not do.
Picking the best of this lot is not an easy task, but "Still Life" is an all time classic recording. This is VAN DER GRAAF at their best with the classic line up of musicians. The music here is deep dark and rich adding some of VDG's most notable song writing skills. "Childhood's End" is a brilliant epic tracks and one of my all time favorite VDG tracks. This band were one of the most influential in the world of Prog rock and have been praised in many circles. This album pulls all the right buttons and has a superb recording quality to it with just enough hiss to give you that classic feeling to it. Peter HAMMILL is at his finest here and sounds just superb with the rest of the band. This is a needed jem to show off to all your friends!James Unger
When Hammill decides to write a set of lyrics about a reflective subject, he gets really intense, explosive and desperate. That's because Hammill doesn't just settle down to merely stating an idea; he needs to expose the process of grasping that idea, consider and reconsider it, then draw conclusions out of it. That is particularly true concerning the lyrics of this masterpiece 'Still Life'. Their evocative power is enhanced by the melodic lines he composes, as well as his fiery singing style. Having said that, let me say that this album is quite optimistic, not from an easy-going point of view, but regarding a positive attitude Hammill now endorses: this attitude is delivered through the typical Hammill-esque intensity. 'Pilgrims' celebrates the power of solidarity, 'La Rossa' explicates the joy of a consumated love, and 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End' is an affirmation of the existence of a meaning to life, though it may be "hidden" or "elusive", yet it must be recognized by all means. Behind the gloomy portrait of a City of Immortals in the namesake track, lies the need to accept death as an integral part of life: if we denied it and miraclously eventually achieved it, we would be doomed to live pointlessly for ever and ever. Meanwhile, 'My Room' is a regretful meditation of a past time spent on fruitless lamentations. Musically speaking, this work signifies a fluid continuation of their previous effort 'Godbluff' (also brilliant), though I must say that I find the musicianship tighter and more impressive on this one. The dramatic ambience of 'Still Life', the combination of genuine energy and sophisticated complexity in 'La Rossa' and the epic splendour of 'Childhood's End' make them absolute highlights of this album, and their whole career as well. The majestic vibe that are displayed in the organ layers for the namesake number are really anthological, while Hammill sings about the lack of meaning for the Immortals' lives: the final sentences are literally deadly. Also deadly, but at the same time compellingly enthusiastic, is the manifesto of life delivered in the final lyrics of 'Childlike Faith'. I won't skip the intimate spirit of 'Pilgrims', nor the delicate beauty beneath the languid surface of 'My Room': in these two pieces Jackson delivers some of his most inspired sax parts ever. Let me finish by saying that this is my fave album from VdGG's second era, and I find it almost as enjoyable as 'Pawn Hearts' (my all-time fave from this band).César Inca
No doubt! This is a TRUE MASTERPIECE album! [IMHO. Sorry, . there is no room for me to compromise on this ..]Gatot Widayanto
This band was well known by name if only because they headlined the Charisma Records package tour at the dawn of the 70's. One of their supporting bands was a young English outfit going by the name of Genesis. Never fitting any traditional box, VdGG forged their own path, with the wailing organ of Hugh Banton and Peter Hammill's hallmark voice - described as having a multi-registered miracle - being the most distinctive features. . It was often said that VdGG music a kind of putting more emphasize on organ as the main instrument to form their music textures - replacing what was famous at the time: keyboard / moog synthesizer and guitars. Woodwind instruments, especially sax, were also used to strengthen the role of organ and sound variety. Practically, most people thought that VdGG was the band that pushed their music with the non existence of guitar in most of their compositions. Of course there were some songs with guitars, but they were not a lot of that kind.
The band's lineup changed through the formative years, even featuring Robert Fripp (King Crimson) as a guest guitarist on two of of their classic albums: "H To He Who Am I The Only One" (1970) and "Pawn Hearts" (1971). After the latter they took a break from the music business before appearing again in 1975 with the organ- driven "Godbluff".
Personally, this band has colored my life since childhood altogether with all seventies' heroes. As many people mentioned that "Pawn Hearts" is the masterpiece, I would opt to say that "Still Life" is their finest album followed by "World Record" and then "Pawn Hearts". It's probably a difference in musical tastes. But I have a compelling reason of putting Still Life as their finest. First, there is no such track out of overall five that is considered as mediocre track; all of them are excellent. Second, this album was written with a solid concept - a melodically-based songwriting - and tight composition. This is not something to do with "I like it" or "I do not like it" ball game, I'm talking about overall songwriting, composition, structure and delivery (performance). And, this album fulfills all those dimensions very well with practically no flaw at all. As I understand from my prog mates, most people found hard to get the melody line of VdGG music. But I consistently told them: "Be patient, open your mind - free your mind with any preconceptions or expectations - sit down and relax until you got the line, then the rest it will stay in your mind forever!". Then I gave them this album and ask to jump start enjoying the third track "La Rossa" where it has a solid melody.
Let's talk about this album in great details, if you want. Otherwise, just buy this album as this is a masterpiece!
"Pilgrims" begins with a nice organ sound which by in it is already a melodic and atmospheric opening, I think. This opening organ touch is really killing. The tonal voice of Peter Hammill enters beautifully with "Sometimes you feel so far away .". A fantastic opening part already. Peter has been well known for his ability to shift between angelic whispering, sultry baritone crooning and violently impassioned screaming as unnerving as it is exciting to witness. He does excellently in this opening track. The contribution of Hugh Banton on organs augmented with David Jackson's sax have enriched the textures of this song. Excellent!
"Still Life" starts off differently. Hammill starts his angelic whispering with "Citadel reverberates to a thousand voices, now dumb: what have we become? What have we chosen to be?". It's dark nuance opening and it provides a very good atmosphere setting of the song. Hugh Banton puts his thin-layered organs at the back, accompanying Hammill's singing. One-third of the song overall duration is set with this style until Guy Evans enters his drumming work. The music and the singing flows into higher register notes where Peter Hammil's singing turns screaming in some peak segments. The most interesting part is the thin-layered organ sounds (augmented with sax) that have textured the song brilliantly. The music turns to quieter passage with a piano and voice line until it ends beautifully. Brilliant composition!
Ahem . I cannot wait until this my all-time favorite track since I heard this album for the first time in 1977. Yeah, "La Rossa" is a great song with easy to digest (at least for me personally) composition. In here, I think the Peter Hammill's voice is somewhat theatrical and is a pivotal element of the song. Observe this lyrical part: "Lacking sleep and food and vision, here I am again, encamped upon your floor, ..". It demonstrates Hammil's top caliber singer as the way he sings this opening part is like mumbling but with a very strong accentuation and excellent melody. The strong accent is very obvious when he says "floor" at the end of this first lyrical part. It then continues with next lyric "craving sanctuary and nourishment, encouragement and sanctity and more.". Again, you may observe when he sass "more"; it projects a very strong accent that he repeats as he previously says "floor". Very cool. The music gradually enters in its full swing led by drum work during this lyrical part: "The streets seemed very crowded, I put on my bravest guise - I know you know that I am acting, I can see it in your eyes". It flows beautifully to higher notes with excellent singing style accompanied with wailing organ sounds and drum beats. The melody is so uplifting. The composition of this song demonstrates the band's ability to mix high and low points brilliantly. Sax fills its part nicely in between transitions or sometimes during Peter's singing. Despite all, what makes this song brilliant is that it shifts the melody-line unnoticeable as at the end part the tagline melody is completely different with the first half of the song. Well, I can talk a lot about this song as this is - for me - is a very beautiful song. But I have to stop it and put one overall comment on this song: a true masterpiece!
"My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)" is a mellow track and it starts with a baritone voice of Peter accompanied with sax at the back and some augmentation of piano sounds. I can sense the jazz influence of this song especially during the first part of the song. David Jackson is given a chance to do his sax solo in the middle of the track until Peter Hammil'ls low register voice enters the music. The tagline melody does not change much over the full stream of this song. Only at the end the piano and sax are given more roles in avant-garde jazz style to conclude the song.
The concluding track "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" starts with a dark nuance through a combination of Peter Hammill's voice and organ at the back; playing the same notes. At approx minute 2:01 the music turns into a faster tempo with Peter Hammil's singing takes the lead to lift up the tone. Saxophone provides some rhythmic sounds to enrich the role of organ. Some sax solo is also performed at approx minute 4 of the song until Peter Hammil's voice returns theatrically. It turns to a quieter passage with solid accentuation and the music turns fully symphonic. I can hear a lot of emotions involved enjoying this track. At approx min 7:30 the music shifts into a more avant- garde style with some sort of complex arrangements but still maintaining the baseline melody so when it returns back, it happens smoothly.
It's a highly recommended album as this is a true masterpiece with a progressive approach. Still Life is a good album to start for the beginners and those who start to explore progressive rock. You won't regret at all to own this brilliant record. BTW, the band will do a long awaited REUNION CONCERT this year. Visit their website for details! Keep on progging!
More aggression and jazz sensibilities from VdGG. A very organ dominated album, the saxes of Jackson are very subdued and play a much more minor role than on previous albums. Hammill's lyrics never let up, either, he's working at the same pace and with the same fury as in Pawn Hearts and their previous efforts. The rhythm unit is very tight and provide the foundation to great jazzy influenced music. There are many catchy rhythms and hooks in the music here, which was somewhat unheard of in their structure. Sure, there were some hooks in their music, but this album is filled with them. The aggression and angst that you feel in their music and from Hammill's raw and powerful voice is a very predominant force.Robert Peña
Stand out tracks are Pilgrims, which opens with some beautiful organ work and some soft vocals from Hammill. It soon evolves into a rollicking jazz jam with more great organ work from Banton and some very precise drumming from Evans. The next track that stands out in my mind in La Rossa, which begins with very emotional vocals from Hammill and organ that slowly fades into the mix. The bass work from Banton on this track is also among the best work he's done. And the final stand out track is the Still Life, which features some intricate piano work, and some very good work form Banton and Evans, as well as Jackson, who takes the forefront.
Overall, this is Van Der Graaf's second masterpiece, the first being Pawn Hearts. No fan of this group's collection is complete without this stunning collection of works that make up the album. It is my favorite VdGG album, and is a must have in my mind.
"Still Life" is probably the peak of the "second generation" VDGG career 1975-78.Sead S. Fetahagic
A true masterpiece of progressive music, slightly more accessible than, say, "Pawn Hearts", but with a genuine signature heavy sound of organ, piano and saxophones. Hammill delivers his vocal/lyrics performance with emotions and confidentiality, without compromises.
"Pilgrims", "La Rossa" and "My Room" can easily be proclaimed the top best prog compositions ever, while extended and complex "Childlike Faith in Childhoods End" offers a rare and effective electric guitar solo, atypical of VDGG music.
This album is essential for any prog collection, provided you have already acquired a taste for Hammill's dark, expressionist lyrics and his angered, frustrated and highly emotional voice.
This is a review of the remastered version of "Still Life".Peter Eisenburger
The remastering process has polished the song material of this album in a remarkable way. The republished "Still Life" has four sections.
- "Pilgrims" (Track 1) and "La Rossa" (Track 3) were recorded during the "Godbluff"-Sessions, which easily can be heard. Both are powerful songs and typical for this VDGG-phase in 1975.
- "Still Life" (Track 2) is in my opinion the best song in popular music at all and shows what an amazing man Peter Hammill is. His topic are the inevitable paradoxes of eternal life if there is such a thing. The lyrics have high literary quality and give you a shiver if you follow them closely. Peter Hammill's singing is breathtaking and the instrumentation changes between sensitiveness and power according to the respective verses. Already on Vinyl the recording technique of this song had the high standard of the follow-up "World Record" which benefits the remastered version naturally. All instruments including the bass drums and bass pedals are clear and isolated. In the calm sections of this song you can hear Peter's exquisite voice as if he sits right in front of you at his piano.
- Track 4 and 5 are a matter of taste. Personally I like the expressive and intense solo live interpretation of "My Room" (released on on "Typical") much better than the sweetish version on "Still Life".
- The bonus track "Magog" is taken from a former bootleg and has the same extreme trashy sound quality as the bonus tracks on the remastered "Godbluff".
The booklet is pretty and useful but the text has many repetitions from the "Godbluff"-booklet.
Three great songs remain. The song "Still Life" alone is worth knowing Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator.
This is one of the most interesting dark progressive works by Hammil and C., in which his lyrics (often in search of a superior artist value, above all in the development of the songs), are complex. Therefore his approach on the excellent vocalism is particular, and in spite of being not equal to his masterpieces (first of all "Pawn Hearts", then also "H to He.") it's a very deep work, both in the arrangement and in the immediate harmonic construction.in fact it's still remain as a unique and diverse episode within the career of P. Hammil, sometimes representing a true "tour- de force" by V.D.G.G., looking for a different music dimension. Of course their music is harsh, sometimes heavy in its content and quite difficult to take as well, but at the end it's their own "trademark", that you cannot emulate anyway. "Still life", in my opinion, is closer to the mood of his solo works, more than the other most successful albums by Hammil & C.: if you like his recent career the present issue is well worth checking out, as it's mainly composed by Peter.otherwise you could discover some diverse features within the dramatic compositions of V.D.G.G., depicted by means of new interesting colours both in the melody and the music harmony, even in the situation in which the stuff work is a bit inferior in comparison to the other albums. However - after all- it's a minor defect, as this work is worth to be collected; otherwise erase an half star at least, only if you're not too much into their intricate stuff!!!!Lorenzo
VdGG's second album after their glorious return with "Godbluff". The band released two of their best albums after a four year hiatus, returning to their trademark sound (slightly altered of course) The organ is much more pronounced on the later albums, with the sax being no less excellent but becoming a less pivotal instrument as it was on the earlier albums. The music doesn't suffer one bit, in fact it's a fresh change to their sound that keeps true to their earlier work yet lets the band explore more musical ideas. The album "Still Life" is one of the bands most mature releases IMO, Peter Hammill's writing style peaked during this period, his lyric work on this album is absolutely brilliant. Dense, intricate song themes that take many repeat listens to fully grasp. Whereas the earlier albums the song meanings were more literal (well as literal as Peter Hamill can get) these songs are brilliant observations of human kind, including the pursuit of immortality which eventually strips all meaning from life. The inner battle that ensues when considering destroying friendship for an intimate relationship, and ultimately where the human race is heading in this time. All superbly written backed by glorious music.Travis
"Pilgrims" opens with Banton's sublime organ, soon joined by Hammill's beautiful voice, a great composition which ties into the album's themes perfectly. A standout passage in this song is the atmospheric and menacing "Away, away, away - look to the future day for hope, some form of peace, within the growing storm." Then exploding into the uplifting chorus that reaches emotional peaks rarely heard. Fantastic opener! "Still Life" is a wonderful track that begins with Hammill's voice only: "Citadel reverberates to a thousand voices, now dumb, What have we become? What have we chosen to be?" Hugh's organ softly floating behind Hammill's mournful voice. The song gains volume until Hugh's organ, densely layered, takes off behind Guy Evan's always fantastic drumming. David Jackson again in the background of this song but definitely add's nicely to the overall texture. Great song writing!
"La Rossa" is the highpoint of this album, and one of my all time favorite VdGG songs! Complex , beautiful and chaotic, this is song writing at its absolute finest! The song is the mental debate within, deciding whether sex is worth destroying a friendship, using a clever "Organ Monkey" metaphor. Hugh's organ shimmers and swirls, complex and brilliant, all augmented superbly by David's again submerged but excellent sax performance. The song gains momentum as the debate within is eventually resolved and the song bursts into the finale "Drown me, drown me now and hold me down before your naked hunger burn me at the altar of the night - give me life!" Thrilling conclusion! "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland), a beautiful jazzy track, angelic piano and excellent organ generated bass. The song follows a similar rhythm throughout but never gets boring. This is the song that David get's to shine, contributing some impressive solos. The song almost resembles a free jazz jam near the end, quite nice!
Still Life ends in epic splendor as we reach our final track "Childlike Faith In Childhoods End" A radiant composition, and some of the best writing Hamill has done thus far! The whole band shines on this one, the interplay between Banton and Jackson is superb and wonderfully textured. The song reaches several epic peaks, musical and emotional splendor, there's really no way else I can describe it! Hamill belts out this song in an almost prophetic manner, singing as if these were his last words. Listen for David's solo during the first climax, intense! The song ends in epic brilliance, almost taking you with the human race and they are brought to the apex of the universe, naked to all, preparing for the final day's of human kind. But hope is not lost - there is something more for the human race, a more meaningful existence, a better place for all -
And though dark is the highway, and the peak's distance breaks my heart, for I never shall see it, still I play my part, believing that what waits for us is the cosmos compared to the dust of the past.
In the death of mere Humans Life shall start!
Superb closer to this masterpiece of progressive rock!
As i said on God bluff, this band means a lot to me. One of the most challenging and cerebral bands ever. Absolut marvelous album from the first note to the last. Still life is in my top 10 albums ever. I describe it like this: inventive, well played, with an enourmous feeling add to the album by this four gentlemans. For the track Pilgrims 5 stars is not enough in my opinion, the highlight here, the rest gets from me 4.5 stars. The title track is also a damn good one. A highly recommended album and band. Everything in the album will surely prove superior enough to be one of your favourite albums, and why not one of the best prog albums ever in the history of music. Still life, 5 stars, grandious as always, and for sure a masterpiece of prog, stunning album.Bogdan Olariu
This is the second album i bought from the band, just after Pawn Hearts, wich set an incredible precedent. Is it as good as the other one? Not really, but it remains a true must for any prog fan. Some songs are just incredible. The album has flaws, it's true. but let's look at it song by song. Pilgrims starts off the album in a great way, because this song is probably, at least in my case, one of the easier to get into in the whole back catalogue of VdGG. This is a good thing, because it will get you at least one reason to buy the album: listen to ''somewhat'' accessible Van de Graaf, because nothing is really accessible about this band. Then there is Still Life, wich is an ok song with incredible vocals from Peter Hammil. If only for that, this song is great. After is La Rossa, a truly great song wich you should all listen. The lrycis are great, the mood too. My room is the weakest song of the album. It goes nowhere, it is mostly too long. At least, they kept the best for the end. In fact, Childlike Faith In Childhood's End is one of the greatest song the group has ever done. An absolute gem you should love, and if you don't, I definitely do. All in all, not perfect, but awesome.Philippe Rodriguez
The best of 2nd era VDGG.Joey Kelley
Competes with Godbluff for best of the 2nd era, you really can't go wrong with either one. I find this album more complete and more polished. No one single track particularly stands out, although La Rossa is my favorite here, and the only real flaw I see is My Room.
Pilgrim is somewhat of a flashy song, with a brilliant sax line. It could easily be a song on Godbluff similar in style to Arrow and Scorched Earth. The next track, Still Life emphasizes a solemn tone, with soft organs backing Hammill's story-telling vocals. This leads to a dynamic instrumental section, and then back to a quieter, backing organ.
La Rossa is one of the few tracks with guitar by Hammill himself (rather than Fripp) that I like. My favorite part about La Rossa however is the different percussion employed to back the creative sax/organ interplay. It really helps to build the vocal sections and add another flavor to an easily recognizable classic VDGG sound. The ending here fits perfectly as well.
My Room is a bland track to these ears. It's more jazzier and laid back, Hammill's voice is deeper here as well, and it sounds more like a cafe song to me than anything else. It's a nice little track, but it doesn't do much for me.
Childlike... is one of the most disparaging tracks VDGG have written, and their have been many, so you know it's pretty bleak. Lines such as "Even if their is a heaven when we die" wouldn't be the thoughts of an optimist. This track reminds me somewhat of Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, even if the eccentricities are much more pulled back. I see it as such mainly for its structure and the importance of the lyrics to the music.
The second best VDGG album, and the place I would look to for new fans to the band. I say here, rather than Pawn Hearts, because I feel that album is perhaps most difficult to get into and most standoffish to casual listeners. Of course, this all depends on your interpretation of Hammill's intriguing vocal delivery.
After Godbluff, could VDGG strike hard again ? Well, let's hear.Daniel
As "Godbluff", I purchased it at the time of release. During these ancient times,VDGG was one of my beloved band (I still come back regularly to them, especially with this one).
IMO, it is their second masterpiece in a row. And probably their best record ever.
The title track, as opener, is a brilliant song : good keys, discreet sax and omni- presence of the smooth vocals from Peter : "What have we bargained and what have we lost ? Unlike "Undercover Man", this one is not a crescendo song. It switches straight form light to hard. From the most subtle VDGG moments to the strongest one : great keys and sax. How fabulous is Jackson again.
I can only be disappointed that I will soon see VDGG again after an enormous break in my life (just over thirty years) but without Jackson...(he will not be touring with the band in 2007). Banton is also great during the instrumental break. The "finale" is full of emotion, with Peter almost alone in command (but he is used to this). This is one of my Van Der Graaf all time fave (together with "Refugees" as you might know).
Next is : "Pilgrims" : a fresh, very emotional song full of hope; a bit like "Refugees". I quote : "I've been waiting for such a long time just to see it at last, all of the hands tightly clasped, all of us pilgrims". This quiet song for most of its duration ends in a torrid sax solo with great backings from the band. Superb. I have to admit that VDGG second generation pleases me a lot. Better than "Mark I". Their repertoire turned from quite obscure, frightening, extremely difficult to perceive into an almost light and accessible music (for VDGG standards of course).
"Pilgrims" is a marvelous song. IMO it is probably to best one of their whole career (only equalled by "Refugees"). It is amazing to notice how close they are in their atmosphere but at the same time quite far from each other in terms of release. Thank you guys to delivered such a great piece of music again.
"La Rossa" is a more classic VDGG, harder and darker with a very powerful band supporting Peter. It is the first song in which he seems tortured as he used to be. More keys than usual and Jackson more in a background mode (but this is valid for the whole of "Still Life"). It works pretty well, though. The finale is extremely powerful : the band being really strong. A great track but the less accessible of the album.
"My Room" is the darkest one on "Still Life". Quite desperate lyrics : "My lungs burst to cry: - Finally, how could you leave me here to die ? I freeze in the chill of this place with no friendly face to smile goodbye - How could you let it happen?" Brrrr.
I guess you should not listen to this song if you are in a depressing mode to avoid commiting suicide. Very slow tempo all the way long (the atmosphere of this song is pretty close to the one of the album "Berlin" from Lou Reed).
I would say, typical Hammill lyrics ("Necromancer" style). Scary, bizarre but oh ! so passionate ! Slow, very slow tempo all the way through. If you want to get the shivers on a tropical holiday, put this song on your MP3 player to cool down. Guaranteed. The whole song is harmonious. It has the (very) dark side of their first generation but with no "weird" intrumental passages. So, even if "My Room" is rather morbid, it is another great song.
The closing number "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" combines the best of both VDGG worlds : wonderful melancholic tone (typical of this album), Peter is again very passionate in his rendition, Jackson is absolutely "grand" in the backing sax. But really the whole band (including Evans and Banton of course) is really on par. This wonderful song closes the original vinyll album in such a wonderful way. Fabulous. Another highlight.
So, it seems that it's the fifth highlight so far. And it's the last track. Out of five !
The remastered CD version proposes a live bonus track "Gog" which is rather poorly recorded (specially the vocal parts : Hammill is more eructing/shouting his text than singing it). Not an essential track at all (unless you are a collectionist of their work, like I am) to get this remastered version. Since it is their most accessible album, I would strongly recommend it as an entry one if you are new to VDGG. So, yes. VDGG stroke hard. Definitely!
Ok, let me start off by saying that it is very, very rare for me to listen to a Van der Graaf album for the first time and be blown away, they usually take three listenings at least for me to say "hey... this album is pretty damn good"... with this one the very first time I was listening to it I knew I would write a 5 star review about it.Matias Boettner
And yes, ladys and gentlemen, it is really one hell of an album, all you could ever ask from VDGG is here and better than ever, music does not get much better than this... specially not the vocals!!! And I mean it, ladys and gentlemen, the vocals here are not only superb as always (it´s Hammill... what else could you expect?) but I think maese Hammill never sung with more emotion before (I do not dare to say "after", there is a lot of his material, specially solo I haven´t had the chance to hear yet). I mean, liste to the part where he sings "I climb through the evening, alive and believing in time we shall all know our goals and so, finally, home" from the opening act Pilgrims without feeling something. I mean. it´s simple imposible, this one line, this one and only line is so... so damn charged with emotions... I can only take my hat off to Hammills genius. Of course the rest of the album is just as good, specially La Rossa, which might be the strongest song of this album, and one of the top... three of their whole career or so... that´s for sure!
What more to add?... mmm, nothing really; damn, I had not written such a short review in a very long time... but there isn´t really anything more I can say... I can maybe with some synonymous to Still Life. marvellous, excellent, masterpiece, incredible, the [&*!#], extraordinary, just to freakin´good. and I could go on and on.
As others have mentioned Hugh Banton's organ work takes a more prominant role on this recording while David Jackson's sax work is reduced to more of a supportive role except for on "La Rossa". Peter Hammill's vocals really shine on this album, and his lyrics are second to none as usual.John Davie
"Pilgrim" is my favourite song on this record. The lyrics are encouraging and hopeful with the music to match. Some mellotron on this one as we get a dark section that only makes the passage before 5 minutes even more uplifting. "Still Life" has interesting lyrics about what it would be like to be immortal. Soft vocals and organ to open and the song doesn't really kick in until 3 minutes with aggressive vocals, drums and organ leading the way. Piano and reserved vocals 6 minutes in. "La Rossa" is a song that wasn't used on the "Godbluff" record. It builds to theatrical vocals, percussion and sax. Lots of vocals and sax until the song sort of takes off after 7 1/2 minutes with faster paced vocals and some great sax melodies.
"My Room(Waiting For Wonderland)" is about dealing with lost love. It's sad with sax and light drums to open. Reserved vocals arrive,but it's the higher pitched vocals 2 minutes in that are such a highlight. "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End" deals with thoughts about life. Is life and death all there is ? This is the longest track at over 12 minutes. Peter's vocals go from aggressive to passionate. I really like the drum, organ and sax melody early. Check out the powerful organ 12 minutes in. Emotional.
This is one of my favourite VDGG records. A must have for all prog heads.
This is VdGG's second album after their first break up and it arrived quite soon afterwards. Although Two of the songs are leftovers from the Godbluff sessions, I have to say I prefer Still Life to its predecessor. This album, my favourite from VdGG's second era, contains some of their deepest and most moving material. Musically and lyrically it tends to be very dark but beautiful, with an element of hope in the darkness, as if he is showing us that though life can be dark and hopeless, that if we persevere we will find light and hope. Lyrically, Peter Hammill deals with familiar subects like death, immortality, and loneliness. The standout in the department is Childlike Faith in Childhood's End, a musing on the necessity to give life meaning, and how even in the darkest times we must work to make things better for the future. The title track also excels here with its lyrics about the necessity of death and how immortality would take away our wills to survive and better ourselves. Musically, the album bears a jazz influence, mainly due to David Jackson's sax work, while still working within the structure of rock music. Honestly, this band sounds like no other so it's hard to make comparisons and state influences. Simply put, this is unique, special music. It is dark, savage, experimental, and beautiful all at once and I highly recommend this album for any fan of music. My favourite VdGG is Pawn Hearts but I'd say this could be the best album for a starter on the band, as that one is a bit further out there and this one is a bit more digestible, but still great music.Sean
Another grand album from these boys. However, compared to Godbluff, it's not quite as impressive. La Rossa and the massive Childlike Faith in Childhood's End are my favorites off this one, and I almost wasn't surprised at all when I read that they were written during the Godbluff sessions. Pilgrims and Still Life are both pretty good songs, but a bit less exciting than I was hoping for. Certainly not bad, but just not the kind of explosively surprising that I had been hoping for on account of other Van der Graaf songs. My Room has some grand saxophone work, as well.Spence
In all, a very good album, and certainly not one worth ignoring, but not necessarily as impressive as some of the others these boys cranked out. Of course, any fan of VdGG needs to buy this one, too, as it is more of them in peak form. Not great enough to merit five, but still very enjoyable.
Hammil's voice alone will floor youPatricia O'Bee
For my 200th review I thought I'd visit an old friend. That, and around the time of my 100th someone said I'd committed a sin not having reviewed Still Life yet. So here we go.
This record is, simply put, one of the best and most emotional collection of songs ever put to tape. From the opening organs to the ring of the last chord, this is an album that induces nothing but a spine numbing chill that will leave you breathless. If you're familiar with other Van Der Graff Generator [VdGG] albums, then this one won't be entirely hard to ''get'' but it will come as a shock as though you've just been defibrillated back to life. What's most noticeable about this album is a few things - yes, Hammil has always been a very emotional vocalist, and yes VdGG have always been a group of superb musicians, but something about this album just clicks.
It's been said that during the recording of Godbluff there was so much material that they simply had to make another album, Pilgrims and La Rossa were performed on stage during the Godbluff shows and it really makes sense considering how amazing each of these tracks turned out. This album is definitely not the simple off cuts of a masterpiece - it is a masterpiece in of itself as a separate entity who has much in kin with it's older brother but has coming into it's own enough to know what's up in the world.
Starting with the ever beautiful and classic Pilgrims we're treated to the same kind of VdGG we know and love. But then... something happens. As though Bruce Banner had just been belted by gamma rays this one explodes with Hammil's voice coming into the apex of the track. Not to say that the track reaches it's pinnacle early and then burns out, but who can ever forget that amazing delivery from Hammil as he screams, ''I climb through the evening, alive and believing''. From there on in the album's course is set. And ho boy, is this a good course for the band to take. The lo-key Still Life follows the opening track quite well, almost forming a cohesive suite with how well the songs segue into one another. A similar melody to Pilgrims makes for more spine chilling moments but somehow the track stays as it's own voyage.
The second of the two songs from the Godbluff sessions finally rolls around. La Rossa is an amazing track which, while not as tear jerking as the opening track is still burning powerhouse with Hammil's sharp delivery. A frantic and frenetic track, this is one that's not to be taken lightly. Typical VdGG madness molded into a very fine tune.
Coming into side 2 we have some of the finest tracks ever laid down by VdGG. Starting off is the mellow and melancholic My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) which sees Hammil tone down the grumble on his voice for a precious moment to allow this pretty track to unfold. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End however, is a bomb waiting to explode. Opening with a very calm and wispy intro the track eases along for a moment following suite of the previous track until it starts to pick up with the intro of a drum. By the time a couple minutes have passed however, this one has turned into a fast and evil track which makes use of everything done on the album and even epitomizes it in a way. Excellent solos and voicing make this one of the standouts of VdGG's career, with the ending segment showcasing Hammil's voice with excellent melodies that will get stuck in your head for ages.
There is nothing more to say about this album other than it is an essential masterpiece that demands listen after listen. VdGG fans will be blown away (if they don't already have it) and potential VdGG fans will become diehards. This is a stellar effort that has been, and should be seen as a landmark release. 5 stars, no hesitations - Recommended for all.
An oddity, 'Still Life' is an excellent VDGG album, but somewhat out of place in 1976. The band's choice of instruments was by now somewhat regressive and, like 'Godbluff', this was still VDGG without their youthful fire. They seem more dedicated to following rock music's unwritten rules than in breaking them, and by this time other bands, notably GENTLE GIANT and HENRY COW had ploughed new fields, leaving VDGG out to pasture.Russell Kirkpatrick
Nevertheless, this is as good as they got post 'Pawn Hearts', and there are some truly memorable moments here. Notably, the title track, 'La Rossa' and the sterling final track 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End' all remind one of the energy the band possess, married here with a much greater reliance on melody that had been the case earlier in their career. HAMMILL's voice is unleashed, and it has never been better than on these five tracks. He uses it judiciously, no longer solely for shock value, and at times sounds plaintive, gentle and melodious, not words normally associated with the great man. JACKSON's sax appears on occasion, but the album is dominated musically by HUGH BANTON's organ and bass pedals. His work drives the title track, for example, a short but powerful musical statement sandwiched in between reflective opening and closing sections. 'My Room' is a beautiful interlude, a fragile theme developed into a moody, powerful lyrical statement of loss, HAMMILL's favourite theme. The closer doesn't quite measure up to their glory days, but it is close.
Lyrically this album is as dark as any of their work, though more personal and self-revelatory and less reliant on metaphor. This self-revelation more than the music make the album compelling. However, at no stage is this album worthy of the tag 'heavy prog', nor is it difficult to penetrate in the way 'Pawn Hearts' undoubtedly is. It is neither unsettling nor caustic. 'Still Life' reveals a band at the peak of their powers and confidence, but some distance away from the genre-shaping music they had authored five years previously.
Still Life is the sixth studio album from Van der Graaf Generator. I´m new to the band and have listened to their albums from an end. I had a hard time appreciating and accepting the unique approach Van der Graaf Generator has to progressive rock and therefore my reviews of the first four albums weren´t as appreciative as they would be now ( I´ll redo them some time in the future). It was not until I came upon their fifth album Godbluff that I was truly intrigued or better put blown away by their innovative and experimental style and therefore I was really looking forward to listening to Still Life which is the successor to Godbluff.UMUR
Van der Graaf Generator disbanded after the tour for their fourth album Pawn Hearts and Godbluff was a kind of re-union album. The sessions for that album was a very fruitful and inspired time for the band and they wrote a lot of songs. Not all songs made their way unto that album and two of them, namely Pilgrims and La Rossa, are present here on Still Life. Van der Graaf Generator had performed both live for a while and really wanted them to be on Still Life. The three other songs on the album Still Life, My Room ( Waiting for Wonderland) and Childlike Faith in Childhood´s End was written for Still Life.
The music on Still Life is centered around Peter Hammill´s distinct vocal style and melody lines. Peter Hammill is a theatrical and emotional performer and his approach has taken me a while to appreciate, but today I regard him as one of the most original and unique progressive rock singers. His performance on Still Life is a bit more subdued than his generally aggressive style on Godbluff and due to that Still Life is a much more subtle album than Godbluff. Hugh Banton´s omnipresent organ playing is also a big part of Van der Graaf Generator´s sound while David Jackson´s sax and flute playing compliments the vocal melodies. Guy Evans is a great drummer. I really enjoy his style of playing. There are little regular bass on the album. Hugh Banton mostly uses bass pedals. The bass lines are usually pretty simple.
All five songs on Still Life are excellent progressive rock songs. Pilgrims, La Rossa and Childlike Faith in Childhood´s End are my favorites while the two more subtle songs Still Life and My Room ( Waiting for Wonderland) are still growing on me. The mood is very melancholic and the music is generally pretty dark.
The musicianship is excellent. Original and unique performances all over the line.
The production is excellent. Really enjoyable.
Still Life is one of the most unique progressive rock albums I have ever heard. Extremely emotional and cleverly composed. I´m still undecided if this is a true masterpiece and just the slightest hesitation in giving the 5 star rating means that I´ll give Still Life 4 stars. This is the kind of album that I might upgrade some time in the future though. This album just keeps growing on me the more I listen to it. Right now I think that Godbluff is a notch better than Still Life but if you enjoyed that album be sure to check this one out as well as they are like freak siblings. If you like your progressive rock dark and a bit out of the ordinary Van der Graaf Generator should certainly tickle your treat.
Still Life seamlessly continues the revival started with Godbluff.Karl Bonnet
Pilgrims and La Rossa were already recorded during the Godbluff sessions and are another proof of the huge creativity and energy that must have peaked during those sessions. The three remaining songs are a bit less rough around the edges and get to their point in more subtle ways. The combination results in a strong and varied album that boasts some of my favourite VDGG tracks (La Rossa and My Room).
Because of the slightly smoother approach the album might be a good VDGG introduction candidate for music lovers that are maybe not that much into prog. Reason is that Still Life has a broader range of appeal then what you expect to find from your classic prog dish: with their dark intensity they might win over some of the more adventurous dark wave fans (Bauhaus anyone?), with their complex song structures, absence of guitar and dominant sax/organ instrumentation they might attract an occasional jazz enthusiast and with their harsh and evil (!) atmosphere they could easily lure some metalheads into their realm.
Hey, with an album title like Still Life they should have won over all Opeth fans already!
It took me a while to get into Still Life, a long while actually. Still life is the first release after the magnificent Godbluff, and though there are some similarities between the two, Still Life is very different from Godbluff. Godbluff was full of raw power, while the strength of Still Life is not the band's fierce and angst laden sound, but the sensitive and melancholic sound.Loek
The first time I listened to Still Life, I didn't like it at all. It was the marvelous VDGG, but it was not even close to some of their other albums. For example, "Pilgrims" sounded a bit too euphoric, and songs like "La Rossa" seemed like songs not worthy enough to be on Godbluff. After a long while, my opinion has totally changed. I think Still Life is an exceptional piece of music, as it is one of the most emotional and haunting albums I've ever heard.
Still Life does not have any bad song on it, though some are really better than others. The albums opener is the mysterious "Pilgrims". The song starts kind of euphoric, but in a mysterious way. The song soon takes some turns and really becomes a diverse and brilliant piece. So is the soothing "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)". Both these song give me some feeling of relievement, very good. The title track is a very lyric driven song, as half of it is Peter singing over some very low volume instruments. The song might take a while to understand, but it's a great piece.
The two big highlights of the album are the epic "Childlike Faith In Childhoods End", a twelve minute VDGG classic, full of different riffs, moods and styles and the powerful "La Rossa". My ideas about about "La Rossa" sounding like a song not worthy enough to be on Godbluff have completely changed. In fact, "La Rossa" is one of the best pieces VDGG ever made. It's one of those songs that makes me constantly shiver and at some moments make tears appear in my eyes. This really is one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard.
Still Life is one disc full of brilliance, I have rarely heard an album as haunting and sensitive as this one. I ca't give it another rating than five stars, because it fully deserves those. This really is a masterpiece of prog, and though it might be tough to fully understand and appreciate, I would recommend it to anyone liking or wanting to like VDGG.
After having just listened to the debut of this eclectic prog band I had to release one of the classics upon my senses. There is no comparison.Scott Tuffnell
This album is truly a wonderful foray into the dark netherwold of VDGG. Ear splitting vocals and ambient keyboards are the order of the day and Hammill is a master of the insightful existential lyric. This is him at his existential best. Listen to the caterwauling of La Rossa and Still Life to hear his heartbeat and feel the tension and angst of a life dedicated to music.
My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) is an 8 minute journey into the darker consciousness of the man. This is not an easy album to digest, in fact no VDGG should be, but of the big 5 classics this is the most difficult and takes several listens to appreciate. I still cannot appreciate it as much as PH, TLWCDIWTEO, GB, or indeed HTHWATOO. However those albums are from a different era, maybe a different universe, and this is a diverse detour for the band. It does not rely heavily on heavy guitar or keys and is a lot more melancholy than any VDGG. Hammill is turned way up in the mix and the instrumentals accompany his instrument/voice on each track. It is gentle and quiet but very brooding and moody. Stunning vocals throughout and Jaxon, Banton and Evans are quintessential to the evolution of the group. Perhaps this is the best line up, no arguments there I suspect. But it is surprisingly restrained and may turn some off as there is not a shred of heavy rock unlike previous albums.
The bonus track though rocks out and is a freak out of sound - incredible. Gog! What is this? Where does it come from as no album features this in studio format. It is a wonderful raw vibrant performance from the band.
I cannot quite give this 5 stars, unlike PH, my favourite release of the band, perhaps my top 5 prog of all time is Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, but 'Still Life' must be awarded 4 stars for sheer ingenuity and audacity. A jaded album for sure, slightly twisted in places, too quiet for comfort, uneasy listening, but a very good release from VDGG.
And so just like the pilgrims we have been on a long journey through Van Der Graaf Generator's discography but now we've finally reached our goal!Alexander Peterson
Still Life is one of the essential albums in my music collection and it's definitely as great as a Van Der Graaf Generator album can ever be! All these tracks have something different to bring to the table and the end result is satisfying to say the least. The track-list does bare a resemblance to H to He, Who Am the Only One and that's not the only thing in common because Still Life basically plays the role of the older and more mature brother to that record.
Of course nothing is without its flaws. One possible problem that I can think of is the fact that most people consider La Rossa to be the albums biggest highlight but after more than 40 listens I still can't agree with that statement. The song is good but I actually prefer all of the other compositions a whole lot more!
Is this album a continuation of Godbluff? Well I certainly don't think so, in fact I find it to be a very different beast indeed compared to the rest of the band's discography. There is a much more personal and emotional touch embedded into these compositions flavored by Peter Hammill's exceptional themes and Hugh Banton's subtle but yet so powerful arrangements.
It took almost a year and more than 40 revisits for Still Life to grow on me but in retrospect it was definitely worth the investment!
Silence after the StormFriso
VdGG became one of my favorite bands in recent years. Their confronting sound and their no- consensus approach to progressive music is truly a blessing. Still Life is considered their best record by some because of its professional sound and good recording. It is also considered the last of their prime period.
I myself do not agree with the majority in this matter. Though I can understand people like the professional atmosphere of this record, but I miss the naive and psychedelic approach. Another letdown are some of the lyrics, those who also listen to Peter Hammill's solo career know that his divorce had become his main lyrical theme. I found a vinyl copy of Hammill's 'Over' which was totally ruined by this theme. On Still Life both the title song and La Rossa are about his ex-wife. I would rather have seen some fantasy story or some philosophical approaches like on the great opener Pilgrims.
Talking about the song Pilgrims, this is one of my favorite VdGG songs because of it's great vocals, musical development and lyrical message. The refrain theme is catchy and powerful, it gives me the feeling life is real and serious. Wonderful! The second track, the title track, has a great opening theme, but the couplets are a bit simple and the aggressive vocals are a bit out of place. La Rossa has a stronger composition, with more melodic development. To bad this track hasn't the strong vocals as some of the other tracks on the album and the ending section is bombastic but a bit chaotic.
On side two we begin with the excellent My Room, which could be considered to be one of the most gentle and intimate tracks VdGG ever record. This track shows the true power of the wind-section of VdGG, played by Peter Jackson. Some jazz influence were adapted for the melodic sax lines of Jackson. The changing between major keys and minor keys keep the song interesting throughout and give the vocals a boost. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End is the longest epic of the album with a lot of melodic themes and lyrics. Though most parts are interesting I do sometimes loose my attention. Luckily the "Even if there's a heaven if we die' - part has a great philosophical stream of thoughts and do I finish the album with a good feel.
Conclusion. Not my favorite VdGG, I would prefer Godbluff, Pawn Hearts, H to He and maybe even The Least we can Do over Still Life. It somehow sounds like a silence after the storm (as the Dutch say), other records of VdGG are less quiet. I will still give this record a small four stars and I must say I should listen to it more often, if only Pawn Hearts and Godbluff weren't so perfect... All fans of VdGG should own this and people interested in confronting music and eclectic prog also shouldn't skip on this one.
Hard to follow up the mammoth GODBLUFF album, but Pete Hammill and co. were more than willing to try with STILL LIFE. VdGG still goes after the heavy keyboard assault here, but this happens in fewer moments and only the Hammond organ is involved, one of the more overused instruments in prog rock. Actually, there are more quiet, softer moments (Oh, no!) here than there were on the last album. Seeing that I'm more of a fan of punchier moments, this doesn't sit well with me.David Carr
It's a rather weird, amusing side of VdGG we're seeing here, even if this is one of their better efforts. However, I don't consider ''My Room'' a VdGG highlight; it's a soft jazz track that, while not bad or unnecessary, doesn't really do anything. Much of the same goes for the first two tracks, although fans will appreciate the traditional perks. Heck, Hammill is vocally at his peak here and ''Pilgrims'' is quite memorable.
''Childlike Faith'' is the big epic on the album, and it's one of the better tracks. The best part is when the piece reaches this cathartic climax with Hammill singing in a rather scratchy tone, and then the song ends with him gasping. However, the best piece here might be the best VdGG track overall, and I'm speaking of ''La Rossa''. It carries that overt heaviness from GODBLUFF and mixes it with an ever-building middle. My only complaint is that the song dawdles for forty seconds longer than needed.
GODBLUFF holds a more favourable opinion with me because that album revitalised my interest in Pete Hammill's world. STILL LIFE is a continuation of GODBLUFF; in my mind, it's not nearly as good, but it's still a very good album that can stand up on its own, barring the soft spots.
This is one of those slow growing masterpieces. None of the tracks here really grab the attention immediately, but over repeated listens, they reveal depth and detail that truly astounds. Of all of Van Der Graaf's releases, this one is the one that I find I connect the most with emotionally. Every once in a while, I have to listen to the title track, and it can almost bring me to tears - very few songs I can say that about. And it is not even the best track on the album; I would give that honour to La Rossa, a love song that doesn't sound like anything you will hear on the radio, in part due to the darker undertones. And of course, the idea of hearing Van Der Graaf Generator on the radio is, in itself, somewhat laughable.Stephen
I'm going to keep this short, even though it's one of very few albums I've given a five star rating to so far, in part because so much has been said about this one, but also simply because this album connects with you on a strong, emotional level that no review can truly do justice to. Suffice it to say that, while this is perhaps not the most adventurous thing Van Der Graaf did, it is the most emotional.
Hugh Banton provides one of his finest organ performances on this Van der Graaf Generator album, which picks up where Godbluff left of to continue its weird and wonderful explorations of bizarre conceptual spaces. Kicking off with Pilgrims, a strident and purposeful counterpoint to The Least We Can Do's more nervous and uncertain Refugees, the album takes us through explorations of immortality, classic Arthur C. Clarke novels, wild love and lonely meditation in a murky musical haze dominated by Banton's organ and David Jackson's ever-present sax. Standout track has to be the title piece, which combines one of Peter Hammill's most fervent vocal performances with some of his most philosophically intriguing lyrics. At the same time, though, tracks such as La Ross and My Room drag on a little too long for my liking, suggesting that the band could have pushed this up to a five-star piece had they spent a little bit longer cooking up new material for it.W. Arthur
The follow up to the amazing comback album Godbluff and what an follow up to that masterpiece, this yust as good and mayby even beter. It starts of with the awsome Pilgrims it feautures realy amazing organ work from Banton yust like the whole album, as some peopel have pointed out the Godbluff album was a showcase for Jackson and his amazing sax and this album is a real gem for organ fans caus Banton got many shining moments, the song allso has an chorus that has been described as sounding like sunlight bursting through dark clouds, have to agree with that and it was for a long time my favorit tune on the album, the next song is probobly the darkest on the album and its the title song starts of realy downbeat then comes in a rocking organ riff and hammill sound realy angry on this one. La rossa is the hardest rocking song on the album and probobly the hardest rocking song VdGG ever recorded it starts off rocking and then yust builds up to a real monster track the ending alsmot blows off my head every time and there is not even any guitrars but the sax and organ is so heavy its unbeliveble a highlight amongs highlights on the album, after that brain melting thunderstorm we get a calm ballad typ of song My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) with sweet sax palying form Jackson and beautiful sining from Hammill, manys favorite song on the album i have read and its sure is nice but hard to pick a best song on this album realy, the closing song is a epic ending to the album, Childlike Faith in Childhood's End starts of very calm yust like the last song but goes trough many diffrent tempo changes and twists the most proggy song on the album, and a grand final. My 2005 remastered album got 1 bonus track Gog magog and its 100% darker and scarier then the originla version from the PH solo album "In Camera" i found myself even skiping it sometimes becuas hammill screams like a mad man but if your in the mood and if you like growling type of sining you will sure like this sometimes i like to hear it sometimes it yust gets to much for me. Anyway 5 stars for this masterpice of prog if your a Hammill/VdGG fan this is a must if your not mayby this isent the best place to start (I recomend The least we can do is weave to eachoters as the VdGG album for newbies to start with) but if you give it some time you will soner or later see its greatness.Tomas Zargus
After the sound and fury of Godbluff, you might think this is a disappointing follow-up, but no, Still Life is another excellent album. This time there is more of a focus on lyrics. Peter Hammill's voice may be at its best on this album. He effortlessly hits all of the high notes, while also providing a more calm and introspective tone. The musicians are still at the top of their game with the drum/organ combination created by Guy Evans and Hugh Banton, the bass, played by Nic Potter, and David Jackson's incredible saxophone lines.Evan Nanou
"Pilgrims" is an exciting opening and "Still Life" has a slow build that reaches a dramatic climax. "La Rossa" has all of the rage and catharsis of Godbluff, while "My Room (Waiting For Wonderland)" is a much more laid-back tune. After about 32 and a half minutes, we get to the final track on the album, and the one that I consider to be the best, "Childlike Faith In Childhood's End". The lyrics in this track detail what might happen if the human race were to end and what the last moments would be like. Again, Hammill screams with a primal roar as the album comes to a close. Truly an operatic voice.
There is also a bonus track on the remaster titled "Gog", which is a live recording, but the sound on it isn't very good. All in all, Still Life is an essential part of any VDGG fan's or progressive rock fan's collection.
"Still Life, still living."Ignacio A. García Valdivia
Van der Graaf Generator was not exactly one of my favourite bands of the moment, wayback in the 1970s (paraphrasing The Incredible String Band). I used to find Peter Hammill's singing unnatural and overacted. In addition, the dark aspects of the music were not my cup of tea, either. I wanted more light, being the Spanish scene quite a dark one after forty years of dictatorship, I guess.
Anyway, the Generator's music has grown or matured in me with time, like those sour or bitter tastes you get used to with the years and find pleasure in them as well as in the sweeter or milder ones. I guess it is a question of maturity.
So, after having revisited for some five years VdGG's oeuvre (the core of it, from "H to He..." to "Still Life", not in chronological order, though), I now own their music as an indispensible part of classic prog rock. And from all these four awesome albums, I must conclude "Still Life" their masterpiece for I find it is like a summary of all the best these four talented musicians were able to do with the exact balance of musicality, progressiveness, virtuosism and dark tones that any of the other three albums exceeded in one or other way.
Pilgrims kicks off with admirable organ phrasing and ambient which grows and grows till acquiring epic proportions and grandiose musicality, all of it repeated with variations on the second verse and coda.
The title theme begins in soft dark tones which turn into lyrical as Hammill unwraps his poetry on the text, a reflection on life's meaning. Then it changes with verse three to a more dinamic tempo and the band, mostly the rhythmic section, reach perfection. A perfect match of music to text.
I think never before has Hugh Banton's organ sounded better than in this album,and "La Rossa" is an example of it with its beautiful intro. After one minute, the band explodes and now we know we are in front of one of the strongest, more complex and achieved of the album's tracks, which means of VdGG's tracks. A (white) hot point. After six minutes, a short fugue resets us at full speed till the last cry : "Give me life!" with superb soloing from Banton and Jackson.
It is not my purpose to review every single track in the album, but I thought this incredible side A was worth reviewing. Just two tracks occupy side B, which continues in the mood of its reverse. "My Room" beeing more lyrical with beautiful jazzy arrangaments from Jackson while "Childlike Faith..." is a short epic reaching over twelve minutes which again reflects on life's basic questions. Hammill getting philosophical at full.
I guess those gap years the band took between "Pawn Hearts" and "Goldbluff" and the tour that followed that last album were the perfect conditions for the band to rebloom and provide us with a significant prog rock masterpiece.
Perhaps it's my own failure, but seeing this album as any kind of let-down, disappointment, or inadequate follow-up to the highly regarded Godbluff, is incomprehensible to me. Within this record, the listener is treated to propulsive jazz-rock riffs, memorable tagline melodies, fantastically atmopheric interplay between Van Der Graaf Generator's signature instruments - saxophone and organ, and also the less characteristic electric guitar and mellotron - and Peter Hammill's epic poetry projected with a delivery as varied as it is inspired. I shoud restrain myself from being too detailed at this point, because the element of surprise is personally one of Prog's most appealing qualities.Colton Beatty
This band embodies just about everything I love about prog. Tortured time signatures, experimental passages. Lyrics that take on heavy subjects. And original music that seems to have no barriers except to be as far from simple and mainstream as possible. These guys have such an original sound, I believe it's damn near impossible to replicate.Ster
Still Life as you all should know by now was one of their "comeback" albums after they disbanded in 1972 after the "Cosmos Tours" supporting the amazing Pawn Hearts album. Thankfully they had much another couple of masterpieces left in them. Still Life continues the leaner, harder sound evidenced on Godbluff. Although there isn't much studio wizardry and it's a low budget album that was written and recorded very quickly, there is so much creativity, detail and astounding musicianmanship throughout this album. The material itself and the execution carry this album. There are no weak moments on this album. Like any other great progressive work, it takes time to sink in. There are just plenty of stuff to marvel at that it's too much to take all in the first couple of listens.
Still Life is the cleanest VDGG album I ever heard to date. And it's my third experience from them, after Pawn Hearts and Goldbluff. But every record I heard of them has been a masterpiece. Seriously, from the distortion of Pawn Hearts to the mythic Goldbluff and this, these have everything you should hear about this great progressive band.Sebastien Parent
Pilgrims is a great opener. The first notes of organ within this song are just epic. A perfect opener from a perfect album.
The title track is beautiful and also very great musically. Everything that should be on a progressive track is there.
La Rossa has something that you never expect from a VDGG album. Worldwide influences. Especially from Italian music. It is the second best track of the album.
My Room is beautiful. The sax is just beautiful.
And finally, it is the moment to say to you everything I love about the final track. The best song of the whole album. Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. It is a Masterpiece. Everything I love about this band is here (exept for the distortion in the saxophones).
In conclusion, it is an underestimated masterpiece
It may take some time to truly love this prog gem, partly due to Hammill's voice. Once you acquire the taste, you'll live it, love it. There's no denying the ragged beauty of each song on this album, what this amazing band has (besides a singer who sings all different types of moods) is solid instrumentation throughout. Each song has a pace which builds, a wide variety of flavors which prevents any one of these songs from becoming boring or dull. The KEY to a great prog album!Brandon Raccoon
A cinema of sound, Pilgrims has a bitter-sweet loveliness to it, with vocals building up, becoming rougher and rougher. Because of this, Pilgrim's was one of Van Der Graaf's bigger hits, being played at multiple concerts. Definitely a reasonable pick, as it's one of the best song on the entire album!
One of the more calmer pieces, the album-titled Still Life is filled to the brim with intelligent lyrics to keep the listener following each word from Hammill's spoken mouth. Unlike all the other songs on this album, the beat never really increases and what's left is a story only following one storyline, nonetheless another great song.
Perhaps the most aggressive song is La Rossa, which is a constantly-changing, tempo-breaking masterpieces. Through listening to this valiant effort, it only gets better and better, this rough beauty stays fresh through the entire listen, towards the end this gem truly shines. And oh how it shines brightly.
My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) can only be described as a Van Der Graaf lullaby, not that it's boring but the utter sweetness of the drums, sax, and piano. The title tells all, as the sound resembles a dream. If I must critique, my only complaint is it's perhaps too short, Graaf could of made an entire album from this piece. Just pure brilliance.
To end the album on a high note, we're left with Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. The song really sets the tone for the whole album, a calming presence oozes out. After 2 minutes, the vocals begin to build strength as Hammill puts the listener in a vocal voyage. Like the whole album, there's touches of a jazzy feel to all of it. From soft, to sharp, to a peaceful grace this song is ever-changing. As the other review said, a perfect ending to a perfect album. Luckily this song is so long in length, leaving you with a theatrical ending instead of a quick finisher.
All together, this Van Der Graaf Generator album is by far different then any other album produced by this legendary band. (Though, each album seems completely separate, an important skill to keep the listener to buy each and every album) A much jazzier type of feel, I wouldn't say the best Graaf album, only because each album is unique and incredible. But if you're trying out the Graaf for the first time, the highest recommendation goes to Still Life.
Supposedly the lil' brother of Godbluff I originally liked the latter way over Still Life. Over the years it turned out to be almost the opposite now. Whil I connected really quickly with the Godbluff, Still Life was always a little more subtle, somewhat harder to grasp. It seemed to lack a bit of structure compared to Bluff. The positive thing about this that it got less worn out over the years. Even after numerous listens I still appreciate the little sublte things in La Rossa or the Sax towards the end of "My Room".Mexx
Pilgrims 9/10 Still Life 7/10 La Rossa 9/10 4.My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) 8.5/10 5.Childlike Faith in Childhood's End 10/10
plus some extra points for remaining so fresh over the years
What can I say? The second masterpiece.Mike G.
This second era of VDGG took longer for me to get into than the first. Probably because it is far more subtle (by VDGG standards anyway) than the first era. And compared to Pawn Hearts and H to HE these albums seemed almost tame to me. But what the first era had in flamboyance and experimentation, the second makes up for with depth and style. While certainly not a band that will ever be accused of subtlety, these second phase albums are more subtle than the first era albums, certainly.
Pilgrims and La Rossa are my favorites, displaying Hammill's way of giving everything he possibly can to the vocal delivery and then some (a fact that probably turns many people off this band). He can never be accused of not being emotional enough that is for certain. He feels every note and syllable with every fiber of his being. And these two songs demonstrate that more than any other VDGG song I can think of. Still Life is a great song as well, just more somber than those two. My Room is the only weak track, and it is still pretty good. Just not up to the standards of the rest, but not bad by any means and not enough to downgrade the rating. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End is the album's somewhat epic track, though it is really just a long song unlike Lighthouse Keepers which is a multi part epic. This is similar in style to the music of Pawn Hearts, though certainly not as experimental and complex. A great dramatic ending finishes the album in style.
This is essential for VDGG, and might even be a decent place to start for the curious. My only qualm on that score is that while the music might be less over the top and experimental than the first era of the band, the vocals are even more an acquired taste in the second era (at least to my ears). But if you already like their stuff, you must have this album.
Oh man, this album is just to good. It's one of those ones where every single moment of every single song just blows your mind. I put this over Godbluff any day. In fact, I'd call this one of my top ten favorites. The music is composed perfectly. The melodies, the interplay between all of the instruments, it's all just perfect. Lyrically, it's to good for words, "even if there is a heaven when we die, endless bliss would be as meaningless as the lie." "Ultimetly bored by endless ecstasy." It gets quoted allot! I've found the theme in the album to be about death mostly. Uncertainty about death to be more precise. This is summed up in Childlike Faith in Childhoods End, the best song off the album, and maybe Van Der Graafs best song overall. La Rossa is an odd song that really has nothing to do with death at all. La Rossa is about giving up your friendship with a woman in exchange for something more. I'd call La Rossa my second favorite song on the album, but there all great, the whole thing is great. If you're looking for a place to start with this band, I'd call this not only there best, but there most accessable as well.Nathan
OH MAN, This album I love, love, love so so so much. As I write this, it is currently my favorite album ever. It is perfect. The lyrics, the music, the singing, it is all fantastically marvelous. This is a very solid performance on VDGG's part. Just spectacular. "Pilgrims" kicks things off the right way, aggressive, catchy, and thoughtful lyrics. As the album progresses, it develops into a mighty snowball of prog! My favorite song from "Still Life" would definitely have to be "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End". I love the somewhat atheistic leanings of the lyrics (seeing as how I'm Atheist myself), very beautiful. I highly recommend this album to anybody, it is pure bliss everytime I listen to it.Alex Alvarez
1. "Pilgrims" - 10/10
2. "Still Life" - 10/10
3. "La Rossa" - 9/10
4. "My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) - 9/10
5. "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" - 10/10
48/5 = 96% = 5 stars all the way, baby
To my mind, maybe it's the "cleanest" album of VDGG, even if "La Rossa" is rougher and is crossed by some paroxystic moments of tension. Not always so still in fact, but the rythm appears to me more quiet than in preceding and following records, Jackson's sax does not often have such a pure sound ("My room") in VDGG's discography and the organ is often subtile.Frédéric
Of course, I would not say it's a peaceful record. The depth of human are always just under the surface in Hammill's words and voice. Maybe it is just a step in the maturity of the group. A splendid maturity.
VdGGs best album!Mikael
Why? The answer is consistensy. While a few other albums of VdGG have high points even higher than the ones on this album, no other album is as consistently good throughout as Still Life. Not a single weak song.
The album starts of with "Pilgrims". This track starts up quietly, and slowly builds during the entire song, into a magnificent crescendo. A powerful song. "Still Life" comes next. A haunting song. Starts off with almost nothing but Peter Hammills vocals. And what a vocal performance it is! Great mood! It then gets a little rockier, and finally slows down at the end. Another great track. "La Rossa" is a quite long and varied rocker. Good song also. "My Room" is a VdGG song of the gentler kind. One of their best actually. David Jacksons sax is simply breathtaking on this one. The only complaint with this song (and the album altogether) is that the ending of the song is too longwinded. It's just the same melody repeating itself and fading for a couple of minutes. Could have been two minutes shorter. This minor flaw is not enough to dent the album though. If you grow bored you can always hit the 'skip' button, and this is no bad thing, as it takes you more quickly to "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End", the epic of the album. This song is just great. Very dramatic (if you don't like drama, steer clear, but then again, maybe you wouldn't listen to VdGG in the first place). The song is very dynamic, and the ending is glorious.
This is the VdGG album I always return too. I'm priviliged to have heard this album. If you like VdGG, this is a must!
Still Life is second album after band's first reunion and it'a plain to me Van Der Graaf Generator were in the best condition at the time. Some people that praised Godbluff were a bit disappointed with this release but the most accepted it from the first time and agreed it's a continuation of the previous masterpiece. Album starts with mighty song called Pilgrims. Peter Hammill plays his role. That's a good term. He plays his role. He's more than just a singer. He creates a true theater and poetry. Some may say this song is filled with so much pathos and hysteria but don't forget other musicians. I think everyone is same important here, every single musician. Title song is one of my favorite Van Der Graaf Generator's tracks. It starts with gloomy vocals and pretty quiet melody but when Peter starts to sing:take away the threat of death... it changes into kind of wild rock and roll with hysterical vocals. It's amazing. There's more energy in that than in popular at the time punk rock music. Lyrics are awesome as well. It describes endless boring ecstasy of eternal life that Peter sees as a living hell. Excellent idea, excellent song. La Rossa is also a great track and it reminds me a bit Arrow from previous release. It's maybe a bit more complicated but Peter yells the same way as in that classic song from Godbluff. There's also kind of mix of English folk and hard rock which to me sounds like something between Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant. But hey, guys didn't have to copy. VDGG were same experienced as all those prog bands of that era. While Jethro Tull had an original flute player, Emerson Lake and Palmer a keyboard virtuoso Van Der Graaf Generator had Eddie Jackson and his amazing work adds very positive vibe to that sometimes gloomy keyboard sound and sadness filling every composition. Peter Hammill to me is the best vocalist in progressive rock and he proves that everytime he opens his mouth. My Room is very quiet simple piece, kind of ballad I'd say but it's more than just a few lines of love song. Especially that it's not about love. This piece it's not maybe as good as the rest of material but it doesn't matter. I never skip that song. It's a good quiet passage between wilderness of La Rossa and true epic finish called Childlike Faith In Childhood's End. It's the longest track on this album and it's also one of my favorite VDGG songs. It's built of few segments and it's a bit similar to Sleepwalkers on this level but the music itself differs. I don't know if any artist ever put so much emotions in one song. Peter Hammill did. He just put the history of all mankind in this epos. Human we can all be, but humanity we must rise above Isn't it amazing? I won't describe that song cos it's impossible to describe all the beauty it creates but I must add that a bit of rock and roll is present also in that song. You've got to hear this one...and the whole album cos it's one of the best record ever made.LSDisease
I think I may like this one better than Godbluff, but not as much as Pawn Hearts. Peter Hammill sounds really pissed off here, as does the rest of the band. Each song is strong, and it's a better idea to play this album for your friends rather than any of its predecessors (unless they are prog-inclined). I've actually had some friends ask me if it was David Bowie. No, it's better than Bowie, I reply. Highly Recommended!K.A. Bright
Picking the favorite album from VDGG is undoubtedly a tough task for many, specially considering how masterpieces such as The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other, Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, etc..., but for me Still Life is the one.Tiago Bittar
Basically the album has not a single weak song and when you start playing it, turns out to be hard to stop listening before it ends and skipping a song is really something that does not cross one's mind.
Remarkable characteristics of Still Life is Hammil's vocals - which shows up specially agressive on this album notably on La Rossa, Pillgrims chorus and Childlike Faith in Childhood's End, and the incredible Hugh Banton's work throughout the album.
The thoughtfull lyrics that VDGG shows through their carreer, shows up clearly on Still Life as well. I just love the lyrics on Pilgrims, Childlike Faith on Childhood's End and My Room. By the way, the amazing sax combined with the depressive yet just wonderful lyrics, makes My Room a unique experience.
Van Der Graaf Generator is a must have to any progressive rock fan, and listening to Still Life is clearly explains why. Strong, powerful yet emocional and reflective... Incredible album.
Another Van Der Graaf masterpiece, this album is less dark then previous great vdgg album Godbluff. And it is somewhat similar to Godbluff. Every track on Still Life is strong and as usual Peter and the boys are on top of their game. This was the third masterpiece in a row for VDGG. Some standout tracks on the album would be La Rossa, this one of my all time faves of vdg a very powerful song, and another great track is the opener Pilgrims this one kind of builds up like Undercover Man, but is less dark. And the closing track childlike faith shows Peter Hammills powerful vocals. They always know how to close a great album. Still life gets 5 stars from me and i just started listening to Vdgg recently and they are already one of my favorite bands of all time. This is a band that always delivers great music.Joshua Rocha
VDGG's second step on the mid-'70s comeback trail saw Peter Hammill attempting to meld the introspective and the cosmic throughout, though this did not stop him from taking a dead run at a grandiose concept or two -- the consequences of immortality on the title track, and the grand fate of humanity on the epic "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End." The theme of humane cooperation informs the opening "Pilgrims," while "La Rossa" is an epic tale of desire fulfilled (a story that would be concluded on Hammill's solo album, Over). The true highlight, however, is the beautiful, pensive "My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)," with its echoes of imagination and loss. Hammill did not achieve such a level of painful beauty again until "This Side of the Looking Glass" on Over.Steven McDonald
This the second Record of the second trilogy finds VDGG on top of their game. This is a more varied set than Godbluff , the material is also much more complex. Pilgrims (7:07) is a rousing anthem that starts this record off in a rocking and upbeat mood. Maybe this is not the greatest song here but it is a cracking way to start the show.Still Life (7:20) is a different beast in every respect, a sci-fi themes about an unageing but sterile future. This features a very strong melody and highlights Peters unique voice. When the band thumps it it become a heavy rocker. Still life is prehaps not to everyone's taste but it is hard to think of a better example of the darker more introspective aspects of VDGG's work. La Rossa is a more typical VDGG dark rocker, with an interesting lyric. This is quite an upbeat song dealing with passion and control, a great track. My Room (Waiting for Wonderland) (8:09) Kicks off side two. Slower and achingly beautiful this is by far my favorite cut on this record. Jaxon's sax playing is absolutely perfect on this track.Childlike Faith in Childhood's End (12:20) ends the record with a hopeful and very upbeat message about life the universe and everything. This is the most complex tune that VDGG did during their 2nd incarnation and it is a joy to listen to, it may require a couple of run troughs before this music is familiar enough to enjoy. All in all Still life is an excellent record not quite so in the moment or a fresh sounding as Godbluff but the more complex material is worth exploring. The cover art is also very good. It is hard to fault this record which has aged very well, still sounding progressive but retaining its rock roots. As an example of prog rock this must be in any serious collection and earns all five stars without difficulty. As it is this record was the peak moment in the second reincarnation, although the material on World record was pretty good it did not work as well as this or Godbluff. The bonus cut is the excellent Gog, a real brain smasher from the in camera set. However the sound quality is not terrible good. In my opinion this track would have fitted better on the box set rather than hear where the poor sound quality rather damages this near perfect set. Still its nice to own and its a great shame no other better recorded examples of Gog are available.burgersoft777
Ah Van Der Graaf Generator, c'est le groupe ultime (quasi inconnu du grand public mais référence pour beaucoup par l'honnêteté jamais mise en défaut de sa démarche artistique et son son absolument unique !) Ce son, justement parlons-en ! Trois éléments peuvent être considérés comme caractéristiques du son VDGG : d'abord le chant proprement hallucinant de son chanteur Peter Hammill (sérieux, faut écouter Still Life et là c'est la claque assurée), l'orgue très solennelle de son organiste Hugh Banton et le saxophone endiablé de David Jackson. J'ajoute à ça deux éléments, un univers sombre très personnel et un batteur Guy Evans franchement excellent. Still Life, dont il est question ici, fait partie des grands albums du groupe. Composé de cinq morceaux, d'un Pilgrims en apéritif et son refrain dantesque suivi de l'expérience hallucinante parfaite pour l'entrée Still Life littéralement portée par un Hammill au sommet de son art. La Rossa, c'est le plat de résistance, 10 minutes de feu d'artifice partant dans tous les sens, toujours un des grands classiques du groupe. My Room (Waiting For Wonderland), c'est le fromage, doux bien sûr, pas du Roquefort, on est plutôt dans le fondant et crémeux, bref c'est mélodique d'autant plus qu'Hammill se fait doux comme un agneau, que Jackson est aérien à souhait, qu'Evans est vraiment un grand batteur et que Banton délaisse son orgue pour un piano délicat... On termine avec le dessert, Childlike Faith In Childhood's End, 12 minutes au compteur pour un titre parfois déroutant, avec quelques passages grandioses et d'autres carrément inattendus... Still Life est un joyau, il ne lui manque pas grand chose pour mériter ses cinq étoiles (un dernier morceau peut être un poil plus concis) mais au delà de ça, voilà un disque sur lequel jeter une oreille m'apparaît comme étant fondamentalement indispensable !Tarjy
I seem to be in the minority in liking the third formation of Van Der Graaf Generator the best (most people classify this lineup as the second, but in fact the band broke up the first time around shortly after releasing their second single, and thus all subsequent 69-71 releases I view as belonging to the second lineup of the band). Sure, they weren't the crazy desperate longhairs who did tours of Italy three times a week, but collectively I think they learned a lot from their hiatus about making more nuanced music without mellowing out one bit. The tracks "Still Life" and "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" ponder the horrors of eternal life and the prospect of a universe without humans, respectively, and if that sounds like cheeseball stuff, well, it's done thoughtfully and with moral sophistication and aplomb. After all, these are the guys who, on their previous album, had done a song about zombies and gotten existential about it. If it had been Motorhead, "The Sleepwalkers" would have had a lot more flesh-eating, which would have been awesome in its own way, mind you, but I think it takes a lot of guts to even consider doing a song about zombies and not including graphic decapitation imagery. In summation, Still Life is one of the few prog-rock albums that works for me beyond the level of being a prog-rock album and appeals to me in the same sense that, say, a Leonard Cohen album does, or presumably would if I ever actually listened to Leonard Cohen albums.rushomancy
Despite this assessment, as always with VDGG, members of the He-Man Prog-Haters Club are well advised to stay home.
Between the Present and FutureBabe_N_Co
"Searching for diamonds in a sulphur mine, leaning on props that are rotten, hoping for anything, looking for a sign that I am not forgotten. Lost in a labyrinth of future mystery, tracing my steps, all mistaken, trusting to everything, praying it can be that I am not forsaken". With Still Life Van der Graaf Generator wove another music tapestry rich in colours and shades. Musicality and imagination are in celestial heights and refinement knows no limits. "There was a time when more was felt than known but now, entrenched inside my sett, in light more mundane, thought rattles round my brain: we live, we die...and yet?" Well, we think therefore we are.
I think it's safe to say that all six "Generator" albums are beyond amazing. They are the ultimate embodiment of sheer perfection. "Still Life" is unmitigated passion and intensity that I believe every fan of progressive rock and high quality music in general can't help but find impressive and unique at the very least.ralphcat
All 5 tracks are magnificent and showcase the talents of 4 of the most incredible musicians who ever walked the face of the Earth. The best way to describe this awesome music is "driving" heavy progressive rock replete with "driving" percussion, in your face sax wailing, dominating organ, and vocals brimming with an angst and ferocity that could slaughter an entire army. All one has to do is listen to the title track and "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" and that should get the message across loud and clear. "La Rossa" is my personal favourite cut on this masterpiece and also fits the aforementioned description. "My Room" and "Pilgrims" are also flawless in every respect as well.
Conclusion: There is no better band....period!!
Un disco sin desperdicio, redondo, que no debe perderse ningún amante de la música. Una joya del rock de todos los tiempos, maravillense...
Y que te quede claro, más allá de si te gusta o no, este disco no deja ser una gran OBRA DE ARTE.
Lista de Temas:
2. Still Life
3. La Rossa
4. My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)
5. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End
2. Still Life
3. La Rossa
4. My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)
5. Childlike Faith in Childhood's End
- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitars, pianos
- Hugh Banton / organs, bass pedals and guitars, mellotron, piano
- Guy Evans / drums and percussion
- David Jackson / saxes, flute