Being a music geek myself, has always been searching for hidden treasures that have always get me interested on bands that would be my cup of coffee. And the recommended albums that would take note on which to start off with and working your way up. And one of the bands that I’ve been a fan of for ten years since discovering their music on the Prog Archives website is, Van Der Graaf Generator.
Championed by Mark E. Smith of The Fall and John Lydon of the Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd, Van Der Graaf Generator had more of a darker sound than what Genesis were doing. Peter Hammill’s lyrics dealt with dystopian stories, suicidal lighthouse keepers, monsters living at the bottom of the sea ready to attack on its prey, and the mindless army of the walking dead ready for war.
That and this 2-CD set which covers the BBC sessions they did for the late great John Peel in which he was an admirer and supporter of the band’s music on for sessions for Top Gear, John Peel Concert for BBC One, and a session on Sounds of the Seventies, shows VDGG at their peak when they went into a twisted and sinister level like no other! The 23-page booklet contains liner notes by Esoteric Recordings founder, Mark Powell talking about the history of the band and interview with Peter Hammill during their time for the BBC from 1968 to 1977.
When you listen to the CDs, you can close your eyes and yourself sitting in the audience during one of the Peel sessions being in awe and stunned of what was happening before your very eyes. The blaring of David Jackson’s sax with a screeching attack, Hugh Banton’s dooming and eruptive keyboard work, Guy Evans going into a ripping groove on his drumkit, and Peter Hammill nailing it on his vocals almost at times using the Dalek voice as if they had recorded a score for one of the episodes of Doctor Who.
Unlike other Progressive Rock bands that were ridiculed as dinosaurs, Van Der Graaf’s music was like a volcano waiting to erupt at the right moment at the right time for Hugh and David to hit the right note at the exact spot to go into total annihilation. From the psychedelic touches and militant beat of People You Were Going To, Afterwards, and the Necromancer, to the attacking exploding notes coming down at you with reining roars of Man-Erg and Killer.
Choosing the life of betrayal, but not the direction you want to go in on Darkness (11/11), the Girl promising you a way out, but there’s a dark side to her that he doesn’t know about like something out of Edgar Allen Poe on When She Comes, their mind-blowing take of George Martin’s fanfare for the BBC of Theme One, and the hope for finding old friends lost in the utopian world without a home as Refugees.
But the daring versions of Sleepwalkers, Cat's Eyes/Yellow Fever, the split personalities for the Masks, and the abridged version of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, makes it a crowning achievement. I had a blast listening to the 2-CD set and the quality is from “A” to “B”. And I bet it was a painstaking process for a restoration on the sessions, but if you are a true admirer of VDGG, then this you need in your collection worth exploring how much they were overlooked and ahead of their time.