England - Full Moon 107 - 06/22/05
Van der Graaf Generator
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
+ H To He Who Am The Only One + Pawn Hearts
It's been a great spring for the old progressive organ-saxophone dominated outfit. The four members teamed up in 2004 and in late April 2005 released their first album, Present, in nearly 29 years. The following week saw a triumphant reunion on stage in London followed by other live dates in June and July. By the end of May the first bunch of remastered albums from 1970 and 71 were released with bonus tracks and copious booklets.
Well, the music is great, of course. The three albums comprise the so-called First generation of the band before it collapsed of exhaustion in 1972. They show a group of young musicians with no will to compromise and on the trail of new musical grounds at the point of intersection between pop, rock, classical, musical
and jazz. The music and lyrics might seem harsh at first; self-centred and even ominous at times, but very rewarding once you get into them, culminating with the master-monster-opus "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" on Pawn Hearts. And with a few really beautiful ballads (sort of) thrown in for good measure. I guess only King Crimson could match them on a good day, back then.
The bonus tracks are very welcomed. Pawn Hearts was at an early point planned as a double album including solo spots from the band members and some up to date (at that time) renditions of old songs that had been developed substantially in a live setting since they were originally recorded. The recordings that have survived are now included on H To He... and Pawn Hearts in addition to alternative versions or mixes of well-known songs and instrumentals originally released on these albums and singles of the same era.
The booklets are also excellent, filled with photos not seen before, anecdotes, trivia and facts from the band members to supplement the four disc compilation The Box from 2000.
Like all EMI-CDs nowadays, it seems, these discs are copy protected. Which means they have a different format compared to "real" CDs and can't be played on just any CD-player or computer. Some claims this kind of formatted discs even might destroy the equipment they are played on. I don't know. EMI hasn't even bothered to give any information about the copy protection on the covers or in the booklets.
There have been complaints about the sound quality of the discs. The band and Virgin did a great effort remastering old recordings for the compilations An Introduction and The Box in 2000. The tracks off those albums seem to me to sound very similar on the new re-releases. On other tracks there might
be some tendencies towards distortion in the louder sections. I'm not sure. It's difficult to compare to the old Charisma pink label LPs from the 1970s and the crap Virgin budget price CDs from the early 1990s.
Surely EMI could have done a greater effort with the finishing touch of these re-releases. Pity...
Copyright © 2005 JP