UMC Virgin (label)
12 January 2022 (released)
12 January 2022
Four classic albums from Van Der Graaf Generator, all remastered and including a full remix and a 5.1 DVD as well.
Bonus tracks and each set replete with an excellent booklet with a lot of ‘new’ photographs and Mark Powell essay.
Van Der Graaf Generator were (are) a remarkable band. While they would be swept up in the ‘Progressive’ genre they were anything but typical of most bands – no basis in Blues or conventional rock, elements of Jazz, atonal, avant garde around strong melodic songwriting, dark themes and musicality and an almost theatrical presence, especially around lead vocalist Peter Hammill whose multi-octave voice and occasionally raging vocal style presaged the punk and metal eras (Sex Pistols vocalist Johnny Rotten considered Hammill to be the greatest of the vocalists of the early seventies). While bands such as Yes, Genesis or Jethro Tull were selling albums in the millions, VDGG were never as accessible and found their greatest successes in Italy, Greece and across Europe.
The line up for these four sets is Peter Hammill on vocals and guitar, Hugh Banton on keyboards, Guy Evans on drums and David Jackson on saxes – no bass but the bass lines were catered for by Banton but the lack of guitar solos and bass allowed them a greater freedom to play music removed from the norm.
None of the music on these four albums is ‘comfortable’. The music challenges the listener to pick out the many different themes that are apparently working to create a cacophonous sound but it equally rewards the listener with music that has great dynamism and, once you have connected the threads, coherence.
Hammill’s lyrics are dark and often touch on mortality and clearly show his love of science fiction – Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein are among his favourite writes.
Each set comprises a remaster of the original mix, a second CD with a stereo remix by Steven W Taylor and a DVD with a 5.1 remix and the quality of the remastering is superb, opening up levels that were lost in the noise floor of the original releases, while the remix definitely brings added coherence to the music, the new mix making all the different musical themes more clear and giving emphasis on individual performances.
I would suggest that these are aimed at the VDGG fan rather than trying to pick up new listeners but anyone unfamiliar with the band would gain a great insight into their music from the packages.
As a long term fan of the band I am very happy to get reissues of this quality.