The first Van Der Graaf Generator album, originally released in September 1969, is shared again with the world 50 years later, in expanded format as two CDs via Cherry Red/Esoteric. A vinyl version is also released.
The album was originally intended as a solo debut by the band’s lead singer and main songwriter, Peter Hammill via Mercury. When the band signed with Charisma Records,an accommodation was reached whereby The Aerosol Grey Machine would be released under the Van der Graaf Generator name, in return for Mercury releasing Hammill from his contract.
The difference between this debut and the second album “The Least We Could Do Is Wave To Each Other ” is palpable with the band shifting considerably at the turn of the decade between Hammill’s song bound approach and the progressive structured approach of the sophomore effort.
There is something very “60s” about the tunes until about two thirds of the way through the album when the stirrings of what was to follow begin to emerge. The song based approach reflects Hammill’s subsequent solo work although there are less references to some of the more mystical elements in the earlier releases of his canon of work.
The first CD in the set is exactly the same as the 1997 Fie! edition which includes Ferret & Featherbird which was not on the original album version (and was subsequently remade by Hammill for his “In Camera” album four years later).
The additional material on the second CD includes two previously unreleased demos of “Sunshine” and “Firebrand”, four BBC Top Gear Session tracks from November 1968, three of which were previously released on “The Box” (2000), and the singles “People You Were Going To” and “Firebrand”.
Ardent Hammill and VDGG fans will have the bulk of this material already so it’s debatable whether the two additional tracks are worth the price of admission. Those who have not ventured here before will find something entirely unique, particularly English, somewhat quirky in places, and also demonstrating the proto-prog that would dominate the full bands agenda, at least in it’s first phase.
To be featured on Aural Delights 328